Archive for February, 2012

Congressman Schiff’s SOPA Response

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

In my previous post, I mentioned SOPA and how deleterious it would be. I sent emails to my Congressmen and Senators. Congressman Schiff replied, in a well thought-out mass email:

Dear Adam:Thank you for contacting me regarding your opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome your input.

As you know, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are bills introduced in the House and Senate respectively to provide new legal mechanisms to crack down on foreign websites that illegally offer copyrighted content. Questions were raised about the unintended consequences of both bills and whether legitimate websites, as well as potentially user security, could be damaged. I take those questions very seriously and it’s apparent that thousands of Internet users in our region do as well.

The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has announced that SOPA will not be considered by the committee until there is broader agreement on how to address the problem of online piracy. Similarly, a scheduled vote that would have opened the door to debate of PIPA on the Senate floor has been canceled. While I believe the problem of foreign websites pirating the work of US creators is a serious one that needs Congressional attention, I agree that it is appropriate to take a step back and listen to input from all parties to try and reach broader consensus.

Your support for an open Internet is well-taken and I share it. The open architecture of the Internet has long been its strongest feature and what has allowed it to thrive as a force for free speech in the United States and around the world. I am a longtime supporter of Net Neutrality in the United States, and I want to keep the Internet free from censorship.

At the same time, I don’t believe that we can turn a blind eye to illegal acts,¬†including piracy,¬†if only¬†because they occur on the Internet rather than on a street corner. The creators most damaged by rampant piracy are small to midsized entities that can’t afford to hire teams of lawyers or spend millions on marketing. A small filmmaker or software developer or artist just doesn’t have those resources. They hope that their work will generate positive attention through word of mouth and that they can realize a profit for their investment of time and money. The system breaks down when their work is made immediately available for free on rogue websites. In Los¬†Angeles, Intellectual Property industries are the lifeblood of our economy,¬†and employ many of our friends and neighbors. When the intellectual property of our citizens is stolen and made available for a profit by overseas websites, it has a real impact on families in our region.

Theft of intellectual property has become¬†particularly problematic in light of the proliferation of websites hosted overseas that derive large profits from offering pirated content. If these sites were based in the United States, there would be no question ‚Äď they could be sued for infringement, their assets seized, and their owners sent to prison. Yet they attempt to structure their operations to be beyond the reach of U.S.¬†law while simultaneously engaging in commerce in the United States.

There is significant agreement that something must be done. In fact some of the most outspoken critics¬†of¬†SOPA¬†in Congress¬†have supported legislation called the OPEN Act that would create mechanisms for rights holders to “follow the money”¬†to¬†payment processors and advertising networks when rogue websites are identified. That is a model that deserves further debate and study.

These issues of protecting economic growth and ensuring a thriving Internet are vitally important to the future of our nation. We need to take the time to get them right. That’s why I so appreciate your engagement in this issue. I’m interested to know more about your thoughts. What should be done about foreign based websites that infringe on U.S. intellectual property? I hope you will stay in touch as we¬†continue to debate these issues and let me know your thoughts.

An on-going job of a Representative in Congress is to help constituents solve problems with federal agencies, access services, and get their questions answered promptly.  On my website, I offer a detailed guide to the services my office can provide to you as a constituent.  I also encourage you to subscribe to the Washington Update, my email newsletter which contains information on local events, my work in Washington, and even lets you weigh in on important issues through online polls.  Visit me online at http://schiff.house.gov to subscribe.  Please know that you can always reach me at (626) 304-2727 or via my website if I can ever be of additional assistance.

Thank you again for your thoughts.  I hope you will continue to share your views and ideas with me.

Sincerely,
Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress

I like how he engaged me: “What should be done about foreign based websites that infringe on U.S. intellectual property? I hope you will stay in touch as we¬†continue to debate these issues and let me know your thoughts.” You know, I don’t know the answer. Personally, I think that piracy is a great metric of popularity, and in some cases, a driving force of innovation. Sure, it’s horrible when someone steals software, movies, or music, but perhaps the issue shouldn’t be preventing piracy, but instead pushing content creators to find a new revenue stream. Enhance technology so that copying the content doesn’t actually reproduce the experience (eg, 3D movies vs 2D movies). Software could require a subscription for use. Encourage open sourcing content at some point. I would like to read more about who is losing money from pirating, and what, aside from changing laws, can be done to prevent it, or redirect it. Music producers make more money from concerts than albums. Perhaps movie studios should host special “movie concerts” with the same idea–non-reproducible events that cannot be pirated. And let’s be honest here–laws that restrict communication are bad news. Let’s change how we address these issues.

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