Monday, January 23, 2012

Sen. Kirk's response on SOPA and PIPA

I wrote recently to Senator Kirk, urging him to vote against internet censorship and received the following response:

Thank you for contacting me about the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), S. 968, and its House of Representatives companion, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I appreciate your input and want to let you know my view on this important issue.
I stand with those who stand for freedom in opposing PIPA in its current form. Freedom of speech is an inalienable right granted to each and every American, and the Internet has become the primary tool with which we utilize this right. The Internet empowers Americans to learn, create, innovate, and express their views. While we should protect American intellectual property, consumer safety and human rights, we should do so in a manner that specifically targets criminal activity. The extreme measures taken in PIPA not only stifle First Amendment rights but also hamper innovation on the Internet. 
S. 968, as currently written, allows for abuse of our Constitutional rights, giving the Attorney General sweeping powers to block domain names of websites they deem "dedicated to infringing activities". Under current law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires service providers to block access to only infringing material, but S. 968 would block access to entire websites that may carry a page containing infringing material generated by a third-party user. In my view, this is an unacceptable violation of our First Amendment rights. I also worry this type of censorship will be used as a model for foreign repressive regimes to censor the web within their own countries.
S. 968 also places too great a burden on small Internet startups, as the bill would provide a private right of action to copyright owners. Since the bill would force the takedown of an entire site, not just the specific infringing page, it would hold user-generated websites liable for any content posted. This fear of liability and resulting uncertainty will cripple innovation on the Internet, one of our greatest economic engines.
I am also concerned about the bill's provisions that would undermine the security of the entire Internet. Network engineers and cybersecurity experts warn the technical implementation of the Domain Name System blocking requirement cannot function with the new security protocols, also known as DNSSEC, currently being implemented across the worldwide web.
While I support the underlying goals of the bill to crack down on online intellectual property theft, I believe PIPA in its current form is unacceptable. It will have widespread unintended consequences that will stifle freedom of speech and Internet innovation across the globe. This bill places far too much regulation on the Internet and will impact more than just those foreign "rogue" websites for which it is intended. I cannot support a bill that recklessly tampers with the Internet and our inalienable rights as citizens of a free nation.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me on this issue. 

While I don't agree with his positions on many issues, I appreciate this thorough and well considered response.  I was sorry to hear today's news about the stroke he suffered over the weekend and I hope that he's able to make a full recovery.

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