By MCN Editor

NetCoalition, CEA, and CCIA Respond to Members of Congress On Stop Online Piracy Act

Letter to Members of the House of Representatives

October 31, 2011

Dear Member of Congress:

Last week, Representatives Lamar Smith, Bob Goodlatte, John Conyers, Howard Berman and eight others introduced H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (“SOPA”). This legislation has been framed by its sponsors as a vehicle to protect U.S. trademarks and copyrights from foreign “rogue” websites. While we support this concept, H.R. 3261 puts lawful U.S. Internet and technology companies at risk by creating new liabilities, opening the door for vague new technology mandates, imposing significant costs on small businesses, and would create a new unprecedented private right of action regime for intellectual property.

Under this bill, a foreign or domestic Internet site that has broken no U.S. law can nevertheless have its economic lifeblood cut off upon a single notice from a copyright or trademark owner (or perhaps an owner of a patent or trade secret, or possibly even a celebrity with a right of publicity) who alleges that a single page of the site “enables or facilitates” illegal activity by third parties.

Moreover, a court can second-guess whether an Internet advertising network is taking all technically feasible and reasonable measures to prevent the placement of ads on a site that has not been found to infringe an existing intellectual property right.

As currently drafted, we believe SOPA is an alarming step backwards in Internet policy creating  a thicket of Internet regulations containing 16 new legal definitions for evolving Internet technology (including a definition for the word “including”). Further, the definition of “dedicated to theft of U.S. property” is so broad it would unduly ensnare legitimate companies’ websites, products and services.

For example, SOPA would:

  • Effectively undermine provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Supreme Court jurisprudence that have promoted electronic commerce, cooperation between intellectual property holders and Internet companies, and user privacy. In so doing, SOPA creates a litigation and liability nightmare for Internet and technology companies and social media;
  • Create new litigation risks for cloud computing, social networks, and other new technologies that simply have the potential of being misused by consumers. Virtually every Internet site that allows user generated content can be subject to suit under SOPA and the bill could force Internet companies to police their users’ activities;
  • Allow intellectual property owners to seek actions including the termination of advertising and payment services for an entire site even if there is only one page of unlawful content on a site that has millions of pages;
  • Institute a regime for Internet censorship by both law enforcement and private actors, undermining the U.S.’s ability to oppose Internet censorship by oppressive, undemocratic countries;
  • Allow law enforcement and judges to impose technology mandates on Internet companies to prevent their products and services from being used for illegal conduct by third parties;
  • Introduce serious security risks to our communications infrastructure and the critical national infrastructure that depends on it;
  • Incentivize ISPs, registrars, registries, ad networks, payment processors, and search engines to take action against a domestic or foreign site when prompted by a rightsholder by providing complete immunity for taking such action while exposing those intermediaries to potential liability if they do not take such action.  The property rights of the accused site are tossed away with no recourse and remedy for harm by the website owner;
  • Provide for monetary sanctions against intermediaries (payment processors and ad services) in suits initiated by private actors (i.e. private right of action).

In short, this is not a bill that targets “rogue foreign sites.” Rather, it allows movie studios, foreign luxury goods manufacturers, patent and copyright trolls, and any holder of any intellectual property right to target lawful U.S. websites and technology companies.

Our industry has and will continue to suggest alternative approaches that would target unlawful, foreign sites without the collateral damage inflicted by the proposals in H.R. 3261.

For the reasons above, we respectfully ask that you do not cosponsor H.R. 3261.  A more detailed and substantive analysis of SOPA’s most critical defects and impact on legitimate companies is forthcoming.


One Response to “NetCoalition, CEA, and CCIA Respond to Members of Congress On Stop Online Piracy Act”

  1. Mike Smullin says:

    Tell your representatives: “NO CHINA-STYLE BLOCKLIST HR 3261 — US Rogue Websites Bill aka SOPA, Protect IP, E-PARASITE, etc.”

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

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