While we're likely not going to post every letter we get from readers who receive some sort of response from their elected representatives concerning SOPA and Protect IP, the following response received by ECA president Hal Halpin from congressmen Jim Himes (D- Connecticut’s 4th District) is worth reading – only because it strikes a balance between thinking free speech and rights (like due process and fair use) should be protected with copyright holders' interests.
Sure, it's probably a form-letter response written by an intern or a junior staffer (and it contains some language we’d expect to come out of the mouth of a lobbyist representing Hollywood), but at least Himes is talking the measured and reasonable talk. Read the response letter below in its entirety:
Dear Mr. Halpin,
Thank you for contacting me about issues related to internet safety and internet protocol (IP) protections. I appreciate your comments and am grateful that you took the time to contact me.
Currently, there are a number of bills in Congress that aim to address safe internet practices and copyright issues as they relate to web usage. Everyone knows that the Internet harbors bad faith actors who infringe upon U.S. copyrights. Often located offshore, these operators target American consumers and facilitate transactions using the services of search engines, advertising networks, and credit card companies. While reasonable protections are in place for taking down rogue websites or content hosted within the United States, it is less clear to lawmakers how to regulate this type of activity when it originates offshore.
Among the various pieces of legislation targeting this type of illegal activity, H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), has generated the most intense debate, with active advocacy groups on both sides of the bill. SOPA would allow the Attorney General to seek injunctions against foreign websites that steal and sell American innovations and products. The bill increases criminal penalties for individuals who traffic in counterfeit medicine and military goods and increases coordination between IP enforcement agencies in the United States.
Proponents of SOPA, including the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, believe that the bill protects American jobs and American intellectual property, in this case, content that illegally appears on the internet. To these parties, online content theft means declining incomes, reduced health and retirement benefits, and lost jobs.
Opponents of the bill support SOPA's stated goal of providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign rogue websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement and counterfeiting, but do not support the bill as written, believing that it would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that could require monitoring of web sites and social media. These groups, which include Google, Facebook, AOL, Twitter and Yahoo, are concerned that the bill sets a precedent in favor of Internet censorship and could jeopardize our nation's cybersecurity.
I agree that while the bill may be well intentioned, we need to do more to ensure that this legislation does not expose companies to new liabilities or infringe upon Americans' first amendment rights, or threaten the vitality of the internet.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SOPA on November 16, 2011, with witnesses testifying on behalf of both the content providers and the search engines. While I do not sit on this Committee, I followed this hearing closely as I understand how important both internet safety and freedom of speech issues are to my constituents. I will continue to follow this matter, and will be certain to keep your views in mind when this bill, and others like it, come before the full House of Representatives for a vote.
If you have any additional questions regarding this or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office. You can sign up for my newsletter and find more information on my views and my work in Congress by visiting my official website at himes.house.gov.
Member of Congress
Let's all hope that more members of congress are thinking the way Himes is about our rights online, and let's also hope that Himes will walk-the-walk to match that talk when it comes time to make a decision on this or any other bill related to this hot-button issue.