By Jay Hansen
This is Senator Jim Inhofe’s response to my most recent letter I wrote him about SOPA and PIPA, which you can read here (read my original letter, and Inhofe’s initial response). Inhofe and I now agree on this legislation, so my correspondence with him on this issue will end. I initially received this letter Monday, January 30th.
Summary: Senator Inhofe is fully opposed to PIPA, largely because of its dangerously broad language and the power it gives to the Attorney General and Justice Department.
Dear Mr. Hansen:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Preventing Real Online Threat to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP). As your voice in Washington D.C., I appreciate being made aware of your views.
As you are aware, the Internet has become a central part of the American economy. However, the free flow of information has created problems with copyright and trademark infringements. It is estimated that the unauthorized sale of copyrighted and counterfeit goods costs the U.S. billions of dollars per year, and results in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
In an effort to combat online piracy, S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act was introduced on May 12, 2011. The Senate was scheduled to vote on a procedural motion to begin consideration of the bill on January 24, 2012. However, Senator Harry Reid (D –NV) delayed the vote . The Act includes provisions that would give the Justice Department the ability to demand that search engines remove links to allegedly offending websites. Critics have argued t he act would potentially give the U.S. Attorney General unprecedented powers of censorship and, unwarranted le verage over innocent, privately operated companies.
I am concerned with the broad definition of the term “Internet” in the bill. I believe that the broadness of the definition could infringe our freedom of speech, by giving government the ability to regulate, and in some instances block access to, some Internet sites . Secondly, concerns have been raised that suggest the bill may affect the integrity of the Internet, affecting the I nternet’s reliability, security, and performance. Lastly, some lawmakers are concerned that content owners will use private rights of actions to stifle Internet innovation and protect outdated business models, disrupting the traditional business model for reasons having nothing to do with infringement.
The Protect IP is not the answer to the problem of online counterfeiting and piracy. I share the concerns of America’s technology companies, industry leaders, and the many citizens who have voiced their concerns to my office. It is clear to me that this bill will inflict too heavy a burden on third-party non-infringing entities and could do serious harm to one of the last vestiges that is relatively free from government regulation, the Internet. When addressing intellectual property rights, Congress must be careful to also protect the freedom of speech and flow of information that the Internet provides.
I am glad you took the time to let me know just how important this issue is to you and to explain your thoughts and concerns. As your Senator, I seek to ensure that Oklahoma’s values and needs are priorities here in Washington.
I will continue to monitor this legislation, and again, thank you for sharing your concerns.
James M. Inhofe
United States Senator