Letter to the Senator

Yesterday, along with the rest of you, I protested SOPA and PIPA by blacking out my website. I also wrote this letter to Senator Sherrod Brown a Democrat from Ohio and cosponsor of PIPA:

I am writing as your constituent in the 12th Congressional district of Ohio.  I oppose S.968 – PROTECT IP Act of 2011, and am tracking it using OpenCongress.org, the free public resource website for government transparency and accountability.

I can reference the data showing how much money you have taken from interest groups that support  S.968, but instead of guilt tripping you, I’m going to try to appeal to your rationality.

This bill will take away first amendment rights, negatively affect the economy, innovation and the USA’s ability to compete in the global technology market. It will take away the people’s ability to be creative and share knowledge. The US has criticized China, Iran, and Syria for this kind of censorship.

Google, Yahoo, Human Rights Watch, the EFF, Mozilla, Wikipedia and a mess of other companies that have changed the way we live and work in the Digital Age oppose this bill and so should you.

I don’t care how much money or what kind of perks the lobbyists are throwing your way. You have a responsibility to us, the people. Please vote no on S.968, for the good of the Internet and our way of life.

Sincerely,
Laura Hilliger

I received this response, which wasn’t all to comforting to me. Sounds pretty non committal:

Dear Mrs. Hilliger:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about legislation to combat online infringement and digital theft.

Last Congress, the Senate considered, but did not pass, legislation entitled the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).  The aim of this legislation was to assist the Department of Justice in tracking and shutting down “rogue websites.”  These sites provide unauthorized downloads, streaming, or direct sale of copyrighted material.  Similar legislation, entitled the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act, has been introduced in the Senate.  The PROTECT IP Act narrows the definition of “rogue website” in an effort to target only the most egregious purveyors of digital theft and counterfeit crime.

In an age of advancing technology, it is critical we have laws that protect internet users from unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent marketplace practices.  Too many consumers today purchase goods over the internet that may pose a significant threat to their health and wellbeing.   For example, a consumer may unknowingly purchase counterfeit prescription drugs online that contain incorrect amounts of active ingredients, and thus pose a serious risk to ill individuals.

Additionally, illegal file sharing and unauthorized copying of digital material prevents musicians, producers, filmmakers, software designers, and many others from reaping the fruits of their labor.  Such activity has the potential to stifle artistic creativity and compromise electronic innovation.  Ultimately, intellectual property theft costs our economy billions of dollars and can result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.

However, I have also heard from individuals with concerns about the scope of this legislation, as well as its First Amendment implications.  I take these concerns seriously.  Should this legislation come before the full Senate for a vote, I will keep your views in mind.  Thank you again for getting in touch with me.

                         Sincerely,

                         Sherrod Brown
                         United States Senator

I urge you, especially Ohioans, to call your Senators and let them know your views.

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