Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011, and H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.
S. 968 was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont on May 12, 2011. The PROTECT IP Act would allow the Attorney General and property rights holders to take legal action against only foreign-based websites strictly dedicated to copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. After legal action is taken and a judge finds the particular foreign-based website guilty of being dedicated to intellectual property theft, payment processors such as credit card companies and other payment systems would no longer be allowed to process payments to that illegal foreign site. It would also allow the Attorney General and intellectual property holders to seek a court order to shut down websites engaging in piracy.
S. 968 was voted out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary unanimously on May 26, 2011. A version of this bill, H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas on October 26, 2011. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where hearings were held.
Over the past several months, I have heard from numerous groups and individuals concerned that internet piracy destroys American jobs, threatens public safety—for example, through the sales of counterfeit pharmaceuticals—and violates the intellectual property rights of creative and innovative American artists, inventors and entrepreneurs. These diverse groups strongly supported the bill as a means to shut down foreign rogue websites that are dedicated exclusively to intellectual property theft.
More recently, I have heard from individuals who are concerned that these bills violate their right to freedom of speech, as well as from constituents concerned that they would shut down sites like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube. I take very seriously concerns about censorship and infringing freedom of speech. Accordingly, I was pleased that the bills were removed from the Senate calendar so that further consideration could be given to these concerns.
At this point, I think it is important for all interested parties—including Internet users, technology companies and intellectual property holders—to take a step back and begin a dialogue on how to protect the legitimate rights of innovators and creative artists, and protect public safety in the face of counterfeit products, while at the same time assuring that First Amendment rights are not infringed and the further development of robust internet is not inhibited. I also look forward to new legislation being developed that appropriately balances all of these objectives. Please be assured that as this process advances, I will have your views in mind.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.
I encourage you to visit my website, http://casey.senate.gov. I invite you to use this online office as a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office, or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.
United States Senator