I did my part, have you?
January 20, 2012
Thank you for contacting me regarding the protection of intellectual property, online privacy, the internet, and legislation addressing these issues. I sincerely appreciate the benefit of your views and it is an honor to serve as your Representative in Congress.
On October 26, 2011, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). According to its sponsor, this legislation seeks to "promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes." However, this bill, and its Senate companion bill, S. 968 (the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act), would also give the U.S. Attorney General (USAG) authority to seek an injunction from a federal court against domain names used by foreign websites that actively promote or distribute counterfeit goods, as well as permitting content owners to sue the intermediate service providers that support websites hosting pirated content.
Both of these bills would give the USAG unprecedented authority to seek out court orders against foreign internet sites that have been accused of copyright infringement. This includes websites that host user-submitted content, such as the popular websites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These and any other websites that allow comments would now be responsible for screening any and all user activity for potential infringement. This discourages innovation in the world's most fluid industry, and the United States' economic strength is dependent on its citizen's ability to create, innovate and become entrepreneurs in various industries.
In addition to the costs of content screening, online search engines will be forced to remove the accused website from displayed search results, online advertising companies will be forced to break contracts with accused hosts, and online payment processors will be forbidden from engaging in any further transactions with the accused host. This is all carried out without any of the due process offered in present copyright infringement cases.
The legislation is intended to protect the consumer from fraudulent medicine, counterfeited goods, and pirated data (music, photos, movies), but is too broadly written without regard for the unintended consequences. Both of these bills stand in direct conflict with established U.S. policy of internet openness and will have little impact on actual criminal online piracy, which is the target of both pieces of legislation.
H.R. 3261 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further review and S. 968 is awaiting consideration before the full Senate. Should either of these pieces of legislation reach the House floor, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.
Hearing the views of all Georgians gives me the opportunity to better understand how important issues could impact the people of Georgia and the future interests of the nation. In that regard, your input is most helpful. For additional information regarding current legislation and my representation of the Third District, I invite you to visit my website at http://www.house.gov/westmoreland
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Lynn A Westmoreland
Member of Congress
P.S. Please do not reply to this email, this is an unattended mailbox. Due to the large number of constituent emails received each day, all electronic constituent comments must be entered through my official website. Replies to this email address will not receive a response.