Senator Patty Murray
Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Patrick Leahy
Representative Jim McDermott
I am writing to express my concern about the SOPA and PIPA. These pieces of legislation, while well-intentioned, would have extremely negative consequences for me, my employees, our struggling economy, and our American free society.
Since 1994, I have been fortunate to run a small business that develops and hosts web sites. The pending legislation would most likely put my company out of business, since we would not have the resources to comply with its provisions. Such a scenario would have major negative impacts on my employees, and on my clients. It seems to be classic case of "throwing the baby out with the bath water."
The websites my company create allow small businesses and nonprofit organizations to communicate effectively with their customers and stakeholders. The internet has also made it possible for smaller organizations, and those in rural areas, to compete effectively with larger organizations, and those in metropolitan areas. My nonprofit clients also depend on the internet to raise funds, which has been a lifeline for them in these difficult economic times.
I have been able to create reasonably well-paying jobs for myself and my staff which would not have been possible only a few years ago. And we are able to work from our homes, meaning that we are reducing our environmental impact. As I write this, it's snowing in Seattle, so much commerce will not be happening today, but thanks to the internet, many of us will continue to be able to work, shop and communicate.
I have many friends who work in the media, music and entertainment businesses. They tell me that their businesses have had to adapt to the changing landscape, but that the internet has provided them with new opportunities and made possible much innovation. Piracy is, of course, an issue, but there are existing laws and technologies that are effectively minimizing its impact.
I urge you to oppose the SOPA and PIPA legislation. Senator Leahy, I no longer live in your district, but I grew up in Vermont, and I still have many friends there who will be negatively affected, so I urge you to end your sponsorship of this bill.
Founder and Co-Owner
CHCS.com Internet Development
UPDATE: Senator Cantwell replied as follows:
Dear Dr. Hamilton,
Thank you for contacting me about the internet streaming of copyrighted material. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.
On May 12, 2011, Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act. While I am supportive of the goals of the bill, I am deeply concerned that the definitions and the means by which the legislation seeks to accomplish these goals will have unintended consequences and hurt innovation, job creation, and threaten online speech and security. On November 17, 2011, I signed a letter along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) objecting to the bill as it is currently written.
On December 17, 2011, Senator Wyden introduced the "Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade" (OPEN) Act (S. 2029), of which I am an original co-sponsor. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it is currently awaiting further review. The OPEN Act is a more effective approach to stopping foreign web sites that are found to be primarily and willfully used to infringe intellectual property rights. The OPEN Act builds on the existing legal framework used by the International Trade Commission for addressing unfair acts in the importation of articles into the United States, or in their sale for importation, or sale within the United States after importation.
Our trade laws have yet to catch up to deal with the global digital economy. The OPEN Act recognizes that the Internet has created new opportunities for foreign products to reach the U.S. market and that there is little difference between downloading a pirated movie from a foreign website and importing a counterfeit movie DVD from a foreign company. For those foreign web sites that are determined after an investigation to be primarily and willfully infringing, the International Trade Commission will issue a "Cease and Desist" order. The "Cease and Desist" order may also be served on financial intermediaries that provide services to that foreign web site, compelling financial payment processors and online advertising providers to cease doing business with the foreign site in question. This would cut off financial incentives for this illegal activity and deter these unfair imports from reaching the U.S. market.
The OPEN Act addresses the same challenges as the PROTECT IP Act, while protecting freedom of speech, innovation, and security on the Internet. The challenge of rogue web sites is one that many nation's face. The United State has always been seen as a leader on Internet issues. Laws we establish in the United States regarding the Internet are likely to be used as models around the world. And because the Internet is global in nature, it is important that we carefully consider how the laws and policies we adopt in this area may be received and translated by other countries.
Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.
United States Senator
I am pleased that Senator Cantwell recognizes the difficulties with PIPA. The OPEN Act has some problems, too, but it is definitely a better alternative.