Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Fred Upton (R-MI)

The online censorship bills SOPA and PIPA, currently under consideration by the federal legislature, represent real dangers not only to our core constitutional values, but to the free and open marketplace that you yourself have spoken so passionately about in the past. While piracy is an important issue and should be addressed, draconian censorship practices that affect the access of millions of Americans to detailed information about the world are an entirely inappropriate response to what is, essentially, a civil matter that should be handled through our court's adversarial process.

In addition to the inappropriate overreaching tactics in this bill, there are real dangers that the provisions of the bill could be used to create an anticompetitive atmosphere online for entrepreneurs and existing corporations. Already, there are copyright trolls that are seeking to take advantage of the DMCA's anti-due process provisions in order to extract out-of-court settlements from honest bloggers that adhere to existing definitions of fair use when citing source material. In addition to that, there are corporations based outside of the United States which take advantage of attempts by media companies (such as Google's YouTube) to launch false copyright complaints that essentially allow them to steal the advertising revenue for content that they did not create.

I agree that this country's intellectual property laws are broken, but the previous attempt to shore up these laws by shortcutting the legal process (the DMCA) proved to create a backlash of anti-competitive measures and short-con "businesses" that are abusing the intended remedies provided in the law, AND it was completely ineffective at its goal (protecting intellectual property online). How is it reasonable to assume that undermining our legal process further will provide us with a solution to these problems? It seems, if we are to pay any attention to the DMCA as an example, as if it will only break the system further, hurting the profits of existing business entities and hobbling entrepreneurs in their attempts to break into the market.

Please take these concerns under consideration as you weigh the costs and benefits of this bill, and remember--I vote for due process and the constitution, and so do many of your other constituents.

(This letter was also sent to his contact information at congress.gov.)