PIPA/SOPA: This thing is messed up.

January 18, 2012

This isn’t a political blog, and I don’t intend for it to become one. That said, I will post about this issue whenever I see fit.

So, Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, the internet collective are all in an uproar today about how the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate will endanger the free flow of information online and allow for sites being blocked without due process. I don’t want to go into the whole thing because it’s been said better elsewhere.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I sent a letter to Claire McCaskill my favorite Missouri Senator voicing my concerns about this legislation (unfortunately, I didn’t save what I sent). I was unsure and was having trouble finding information about where McCaskill stood on the issue, and I received this response from McCaskill / her office last night. I thought I’d share it as a resource for others who may be curious about the same thing.

If you are looking for the short version, it sounds to me like she is leaning toward supporting it but could be on the fence. So… contact her!

For everyone else, here’s the entirety of the email I received:

January 17, 2012

Dear Mr. Becker,

Thank you for contacting me regarding online piracy. I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

American companies rely on strong intellectual property (IP) protections and enforcement so that they can benefit from the inventions and products they create. The work of American companies and inventors, however, is often threatened by online piracy. An increasingly large number of both U.S. and foreign-based websites provide access to unauthorized downloads or sale of copyrighted content such as new movies, music releases, computer applications, and pharmaceutical drugs. There is a clear need to better protect the IP rights of American businesses and innovators, although it is critically important that any effort to do so be balanced and appropriate.

To address online infringement by foreign-based websites, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has introduced the Protect IP Act, S. 968. If enacted, this legislation would, among other things, allow the U.S. Department of Justice to require search engines, advertising networks, and Internet service providers to reduce access to foreign websites that are illegally providing or selling copyrighted content. The legislation would also create protections for websites and other online companies that voluntarily reduce their engagement with websites participating in online infringement.

I understand that important concerns have been raised regarding efforts, like those embodied in the Protect IP Act, to combat online piracy and infringement. Some are concerned that website operators who operate in good faith and proactively process copyright infringement notices will be shut down. Others are concerned that the Protect IP Act would allow private parties to initiate enforcement actions against competitors without proper oversight, infringe on free speech rights, or alter the way domain names are queried.

As a strong advocate for civil liberties and the free flow of information, I take these concerns seriously. IP laws must strike the right balance to effectively combat online piracy while protecting free speech rights and the work of honest innovators. Moreover, any legislation that is considered must not restrict access to information that is currently lawfully available on the Internet. Please know, I will keep your views in mind as the Protect IP Act receives further consideration in the Senate.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.

Sincerely,

Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

P.S. If you would like more information about resources that can help Missourians, or what I am doing in the Senate on your behalf, please sign up for my email newsletter at http://mccaskill.senate.gov.

Update, 2:26pm Central Standard Time, Jan. 19, via Twitter

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