A Response from Senator Maria Cantwell Regarding SOPA/PIPA

As many of you know, ÜberSciFiGeek participated in the recent SOPA/PIPA protest by “Going Dark” for a day. All content was blocked and was replaced with information about why we were protesting and how you could learn more. I also took the time to contact my representative via several of the contact forms available through sites like Google and Wikipedia. Today I received a response from my Senator, Maria Cantwell. I felt I should share this with those of you who are following the issue and would like to know where things currently stand.

Thank you for contacting me about the internet streaming of copyrighted material. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.

On May 12, 2011, Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act. Under current federal law, U.S. law enforcement officials and holders of copyrights, trademarks, and patents, have limited legal remedies available to combat internet websites that are registered in foreign countries but operate in the United States by selling products, services, and/or content that violates U.S. intellectual property law. If enacted, the proposed legislation would create an expedited process for the Department of Justice and intellectual property rights holders to shut down through a court order these websites by targeting the owners and operators of the Internet site, if known, or the domain name registrant associated with the Internet site.

While I am supportive of the goal of protecting intellectual property, I am deeply concerned that the definitions and the means by which the legislation seeks to accomplish these goals will have unintended consequences and hurt innovation, job creation, and threaten online speech and security. On November 17, 2011, I signed a letter along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) objecting to the bill as it is currently written.

On December 17, 2011, Senator Wyden introduced the “Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade” (OPEN) Act (S. 2029), of which I am an original co-sponsor. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it is currently awaiting further review. The OPEN Act is a more effective approach to stop foreign web sites that are found to be primarily and willfully used to infringe intellectual property rights. The OPEN Act builds on the existing legal framework used by the International Trade Commission (ITC) for addressing unfair acts in the importation of articles into the United States, or in their sale for importation, or sale within the United States after importation.

Our trade laws have yet to catch up to deal with the global digital economy. The OPEN Act recognizes that the Internet has created new opportunities for foreign products to reach the U.S. market and that there is little difference between downloading a pirated movie from a foreign website and importing a counterfeit movie DVD from a foreign company. For those foreign web sites that are determined after an investigation to be primarily and willfully infringing, the International Trade Commission will issue a “Cease and Desist” order. The “Cease and Desist” order may also be served on financial intermediaries that provide services to that foreign web site, compelling financial payment processors and online advertising providers to cease doing business with the foreign site in question.  This would cut off financial incentives for this illegal activity and deter these unfair imports from reaching the U.S. market.

The OPEN Act addresses the same challenges as the PROTECT IP Act, while protecting freedom of speech, innovation, and security on the Internet. The challenge of rogue web sites is one that many nations face. The United States has always been seen as a leader on Internet issues. Laws we establish in the United States regarding the Internet are likely to be used as models around the world. And because the Internet is global in nature, it is important that we carefully consider how the laws and policies we adopt in this area may be received and translated by other countries.

The Protect IP Act was scheduled to go to the Senate floor for a procedural vote on January 23, 2011. Due to the effective grassroots advocacy and public outcry against the bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has pulled the proposed legislation from the floor calendar.

I appreciate Majority Leader Reid’s decision to postpone a vote on the PROTECT IP Act. America’s economy thrives on innovation and freedom of speech. We can’t afford to rush an Internet policy that could trample on our innovation economy. The American people clearly spoke and their voices were heard. As we move forward, I’ll continue to advocate for a policy that protects both creative content and online freedom of speech.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,
Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

For future correspondence with my office, please visit my website at
http://cantwell.senate.gov/contact/

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