Depending on what sites you visit, you may or may not know that several sites have shutdown today, or have modified their logos, to protest SOPA/PIPA. These are bills before the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, that would have a crippling effect on web sites that support user-uploaded content. Sites like Reddit, Youtube and Tumblr are just a few.
If you are concerned about Internet freedom, write your Congressmen. I just wrote both my Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, and my “representative” in the House, Rob Woodall. Here’s what I said (with SOPA and PIPA exchanged depending on the recipient):
I do not have a form letter or an eloquent defense of why you shouldn’t support PIPA. But from what I have read about PIPA (and SOPA, in the house), it is bad news for web sites that support user-uploaded content. In an effort to stop “piracy” of content, it places an undue burden on site owners that will cripple and/or shut down many sites. I am not saying piracy is not a problem or that it doesn’t exist. It does. But this bill is not the way to solve it.
Please do not support it.
I don’t really think that sites like Reddit, “going dark” for a day or Google slapping a black box over its logo will have much effect. Millions of people writing their Congressmen should have an effect, though without millions of dollars for lobbying, it remains to be seen how much of an effect it will have.
01/18/2012 1:13 PM Update: I just received this response from Senator Isakson’s office.
Dear Mr. Gibson:
Thank you for contacting me regarding intellectual property theft. I appreciate hearing from you and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.
S.968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011, was introduced by Senator Leahy (D-VT) on May 12, 2011, and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. On May 26, 2011, it was reported out of Committee and is currently pending in the Senate. The bill targets websites, particularly those registered outside of the United States, which are “dedicated to infringing activities.” These rogue websites typically offer unauthorized downloading or streaming of copyrighted content or the sale of counterfeit goods including music, movies, and pharmaceutical drugs.
Websites targeted by this bill are foreign owned and outside the reach of U.S. laws despite the fact U.S. intellectual property is being infringed upon and U.S. consumers are the targets. Rogue websites cost American workers jobs and cost businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue. As online technology and commerce advances, we must see to it that injured parties have the ability to stop infringers from profiting from counterfeit products. For example, a victim of infringement will have the authority to file a civil action against the owner or registrant of a rogue site. If an order is granted by the court, third parties will be required to stop processing payments from the infringing sites, therefore, preventing infringers from collecting payments. I will work to ensure that our laws our modernized to protect intellectual property, and will keep your thoughts on this bill in mind should it come before the Senate for a vote.
United States Senator
01/20/2012 4:40 PM Update: Today I received an email from Saxby Chambliss’ office. Here it is. Notice the bold text, which I added for emphasis:
Dear Mr. Gibson:
Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 968, the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP),” and H.R. 3261, the ”Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).” It is good to hear from you.
S. 968 was introduced on May 12, 2011, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. On May 26, it was reported out of committee and placed on the general legislative calendar. If enacted, S. 968 would amend federal copyright law to authorize the Attorney General to file civil action against violators of copyright infringement law.
H.R. 3261 was introduced on October 26, 2011, and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. On December 16, it was considered before the full committee; however, the bill was not voted out for consideration by the full House. If enacted, H.R. 3261 would authorize the Attorney General to seek a court order against a U.S.-directed foreign Internet site committing or facilitating online piracy.
On January 23, 2012, a procedural vote on S. 968 was scheduled in the Senate; however, Majority Leader Reid announced that this vote will be postponed in order to allow for modifications to the bill to be made. Furthermore, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith announced that further consideration of H.R. 3261 would be postponed indefinitely.
It was always clear that SOPA and PROTECT IP needed to be perfected, and that legitimate concerns needed to be addressed before these bills could move forward. Given this and my constituents concerns, it was always my intention to oppose moving forward until concerns had been addressed. With the majority leader’s decision to postpone the cloture vote on the PROTECT IP Act originally scheduled for January 24, I withdrew my co-sponsorship to await the resolution of the outstanding issues.
I believe that online theft is a serious issue, and that Congress needs to make certain that our laws adequately protect the interests of rights holders. When $58 billion in economic output is lost to the U.S. economy annually due to copyright theft of movies, music, packaged software and video games, and about one-quarter of all internet traffic is copyright infringing, there is a real problem that needs to be addressed. I have complete faith that we will be able to work out a compromise in the future that addresses this, while still promoting free and open access to the internet. Should a bill addressing this topic come before the full Senate for consideration, I will keep your thoughts in mind.
If you would like to receive timely email alerts regarding the latest congressional actions and my weekly e-newsletter, please sign up via my web site at: www.chambliss.senate.gov . Please let me know whenever I may be of assistance.
The bold part is interesting because he claims that he knew both bills were flawed and that he “always intended” to oppose “moving forward” until they were fixed. Given that he was a co-sponsor of PIPA, I don’t really think he’s being honest here. It seems a bit odd to be a co-sponsor of something you think is flawed.
Still, he’s withdrawn himself as a co-sponsor now, which is a good thing.