12.15.2011 0

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith Calls Internet Censorship Opponents Liars

Rep. Lamar Smith is attacking opponents of a free and open Internet by calling them liars. Just look at this press release from the official House Judiciary Committee website:

Chairman Smith responded today to a letter that appeared in several newspapers from founders of Internet companies like Google, Twitter, and eBay regarding criticisms of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Many of the claims in the letter are erroneous and simply restate concerns that were actually addressed by the manager’s amendment released on Monday.

Chairman Smith: “It’s disappointing that some critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act do not understand what the bill actually does.  The manager’s amendment introduced earlier this week narrows the scope of the bill to ensure that it only applies to foreign rogue websites.  The bill defines rogue sites as foreign websites primarily dedicated to the sale and distribution of illegal or infringing material or foreign websites that market themselves as websites primarily dedicated to illegal or infringing activity.  Lawful companies and websites like Google, Twitter, Yahoo and Facebook have nothing to worry about under this bill.

“Unfortunately, that has not stopped some of the bill’s critics from spreading lies about the legislation in an attempt to stall efforts by Congress to combat foreign rogue websites.  Companies like Google have made billions by working with and promoting foreign rogue websites so they have a vested interest in preventing Congress from stopping rogue sites.

“In August, Google paid half a billion dollars to settle a criminal case because of the search engine giant’s active promotion of foreign rogue pharmacies that sold counterfeit and illegal drugs to U.S. patients.  Their opposition to this legislation is self-serving since they profit from doing business with rogue sites that steal and sell America’s intellectual property.

“American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs to the U.S. economy and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports.  Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while some of America’s most profitable and productive industries are under attack.”

Background information on the Stop Online Piracy Act:

The Stop Online Piracy Act targets foreign web sites that steal and sell America’s intellectual property and keep the profits for themselves.  The manager’s amendment, introduced on Monday, addresses technical concerns with the first draft of the bill and is the result of conservations with additional stakeholders like Facebook and Microsoft.  The bill takes legitimate concerns into consideration, while still providing strong tools to fight foreign rogue sites.  The manager’s amendment improves the legislation, increases industry support, and ensures the protection of American innovation and jobs.

Specifically, the manager’s amendment: >

Clarifies that provisions of the bill apply only to foreign rogue websites.

Removes language that would have required redirection when users try to access an unlawful site.

Includes a savings clause that disallows a court from issuing an order that would harm DNS.

Makes sure that service providers have the ability to determine the best method to ensure compliance and prohibits courts from imposing any additional obligations on service providers.

Commissions an inter-agency expert study on any impact of the bill’s remedies on the DNS.

Makes clear that in an action by the Attorney General, service providers will not be required to block subdomains.

Narrows definitions in the bill.

Narrows the definition of rogue websites dedicated to illegal or infringing activity to ensure that monitoring is not required.

Narrows the definition of search engines to clarify that only services that operate primarily as search engines are covered, not search functions on other services or services powered by third parties.

Narrows the definition of payment processors to ensure that banks and credit unions are not included as such.

Narrows the definition of advertising networks to clarify that the bill covers entities directly involved in serving ads to foreign rogue websites.

Removes the “voluntary notice” section for rights holders.  This means rights holders are no longer required to provide notice to payment processors and advertising networks as a precondition to seeking judicial relief. Victims of IP theft will continue to use current voluntary market-based systems to address counterfeiting and piracy.  The bill maintains immunity for financial institutions and online ad service providers.

Now, check out the truth:

Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today urged members of the House Judiciary Committee to reject HR 3261, warning the legislation would “take the mind of throwing the book at alleged offenders, shutting down their websites, cutting off their revenue streams, locking them up and asking questions later.”

Wilson warned in his letter, “It is un-American to set up a situation where people are guilty until proven innocent.”

The letter points to existing provisions of Copyright Law, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and Fair Use doctrine, wherein “Internet users can receive a cease-and-desist takedown notice prior to civil action being taken by an [intellectual property] holder.”

Wilson called these protections “adequate” for intellectual property (IP) holders, and said the new law would undermine “safe harbor provisions that allow users to be notified of any instances of infringement to provide an opportunity to have them removed without penalty.”

Wilson said the legislation “completely averts that process,” warning the first notification a webmaster could receive would be the website being shut down, getting served with a massive fine, or “being arrested under criminal charges for having anything infringing up on the web for longer than 180 days, even if (s)he was unaware of any violation of IP.”

“Such outcomes appear to be rather draconian, and will most certainly have a chilling effect on what is in effect cyber speech: on uploading, posting and sharing files. Existing laws protect copyright and protect innocent users of the Internet,” Wilson explained.

The letter urged members to consider how the new law would affect millions of their constituents: “In the digital age, with the ease of sharing files, images, videos and music, nobody should be served with criminal or civil action for copyright infringement without first being notified of that infringement, and being provided an opportunity to correct it.”

HR 3261 is scheduled for markup in the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 15.

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