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This letter was sent by OpenCongress user bschm on January 12, 2012 in opposition to H.R.3261 Stop Online Piracy Act.
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H.R.3261 Stop Online Piracy Act

I am writing as your constituent in the 4th Congressional district of Washington. I oppose H.R.3261 - Stop Online Piracy Act, and am tracking it using OpenCongress.org, the free public resource website for government transparency and accountability.

99% of users on OpenCongress.org, a free, non-partisan resource, oppose H.R.3261.

Here's a summary from OpenCongress.org:

This bill would establish a system for taking down websites that the Justice Department determines to be dedicated to copyright infringment. The DoJ or the copyright owner would be able to commence a legal action against any site they deem to have "only limited purpose or use other than infringement," and the DoJ would be allowed to demand that search engines, social networking sites and domain name services block access to the targeted site. It would also make unauthorized web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a possible penalty up to five years in prison. This bill combines two separate Senate bills -- S.968 and S.978 -- into one big House bill.

For an excellent overview of the issue of intellectual property in the Internet age along with historical context, I would suggest that you and your staff download (using BitTorrent) and watch the documentary: Steal This Film II. It can be found: http://www.stealthisfilm.com and will only require 45 minutes of your time.

Sincerely, Bruce Schmoetzer

This letter was a reply from the office of Maria Cantwell on January 18, 2012.
From the Office of Senator Cantwell

Dear Mr. Schmoetzer,

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.

Sincerely, Maria Cantwell United States Senator

For future correspondence with my office, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov/contact/

This letter was a reply from the office of Maria Cantwell on January 20, 2012.
From the Office of Senator Cantwell

Dear Mr. Schmoetzer,

Thank you for contacting me this week about the internet streaming of copyrighted material. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.

I would like to give you an update as to where the proposed legislation is in the process. The Protect IP Act was scheduled to go to the Senate floor for a procedural vote on January 23, 2011. Due to the effective grassroots advocacy and public outcry against the bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has pulled the proposed legislation from the floor calendar.

I appreciate Senator Reid's decision to postpone a vote on the PROTECT IP Act. America's economy thrives on innovation and freedom of speech. We can't afford to rush an Internet policy that could trample on our innovation economy. This week, the American people clearly spoke and their voices were heard. As we move forward, I'll continue to advocate for a policy that protects both creative content and online freedom of speech.

Now, I encourage Congress to consider the OPEN Act, which addresses illegal piracy and security while keeping the Internet open for free speech and innovation. The OPEN Act would build on the existing legal framework for resolving unfair acts in the importation of articles, including those that infringe a valid and enforceable U.S. patent, copyright, or trademark. Through the International Trade Commission, violations of digital trade can be investigated and websites found to be "willfully" and "primarily" infringing on copyright material can be shut down. The ITC will create a transparent and adversarial process where all parties would receive due process and IP rules can be consistently applied. Neither the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House nor the Protect IP Act in the Senate allow for similar due process.

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.

Sincerely, Maria Cantwell United States Senator

For future correspondence with my office, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov/contact/

This letter was a reply from the office of Patty Murray on February 24, 2012.
Response from Senator Murray

Dear Mr. Schmoetzer:

Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts about online piracy. I appreciate hearing from you on this important subject.

As you may know, S.968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, was introduced in the Senate early last year. Companion legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act was also introduced in the House. Both bills attempt to address the problem of foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies, music and other products.

While I support the goal of tackling online piracy, I have real concerns with both of these bills as they are presently written. Protecting intellectual property is vital for job creation and our economy in Washington state, but elements of this legislation could hamper innovation through increased legal burdens and costs. Additionally, I have concerns about the legislation's potential to reduce freedom of expression and unintentionally weaken our cybersecurity.

Earlier this month, millions of Americans spoke in opposition to these bills, and I heard your concerns. Now, we should continue our work to protect intellectual property and stop online piracy, while continuing to support a free and open Internet.

Again, thank you for writing to me about this important issue. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for my weekly updates at http://murray.senate.gov/updates . Please stay in touch.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray United States Senator

Note to Congressional staff & elected officials reading this: this letter was sent through Contact-Congress features on OpenCongress.org, a free public resource website, but in the future we seek to compel the U.S. Congress to adopt fully open technology for constituent communications. For more information how your office can better handle public feedback through an open API and open standards, contact us -- even today, there are significantly more efficient and responsive ways for our elected officials to receive email feedback than the status quo of individual webforms. For greater public accountability in government, we must make the process of writing one's members of Congress more accessible and empowering. Looking ahead, we will release more data from Contact-Congress letters and Congressional response rates back into the public commons. This will result in a new open data source on bills & issues people care about, as well as encourage best practices in constituent communications and make it possible to grade members of Congress on their responsiveness & citizen satisfaction.