Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA, PROTECT-IP, and Legislative Position Statements

At the end of December 2011, I wrote to my federal representatives regarding my opposition to SOPA (US House) and PROTECT-IP (US Senate) legislation that portends to reduce piracy and theft of intellectual property.

Today, many websites are protesting these bills. Wikipedia and others have decided to shut down for the day (or part of the day).  Google and others have decided to alter their homepages.

I encourage you to view the legislation via the links above for a Wikipedia summary, then follow the 'External Links' to the text of the bill and develop your own opinions.  If you wish to oppose it, Google has a petition online that you can sign.  In either case, you should also write your representatives directly.  Hopefully, you will get a useful response.

Senator Toomey (R-PA) only responded to me with a confirmation that the legislation does, in fact, exist.  I did make specific references to provisions in the bill, so it is obvious that I already knew this. A follow-up did not result in an actual reply regarding the Senator's thoughts on this bill.  Senator Casey (D-PA) and Representative Altmire (D-PA) both failed to respond to my email.  I only give minor props to Toomey for responding at all, however, all three of my representatives get failing grades for their lack of adequate response.  

Even if my representative has opposing viewpoints or is projecting a vote contrary to my opinion, I believe it is their responsibility to have and disseminate intelligent position statements on each piece of legislation pending in their chamber and inside any committee that they are a member of.  An intelligent position statement is one that is published within 48 hours of the bill successfully leaving the committee and would include all of the following elements:
  • A link to the full text of the bill, including chronological history of successful amendments with time stamps.
  • If the vote were held today, based on version at timestamp ???, I would vote (yea/nay/uncommitted)
  • In the words of the representative, a summary of the intention of the bill.
  • List of elements that the representative supports and believes critical to the success of the bill.
  • List of elements that the representative opposes.
  • List of elements that require additional flushing out or personal research.  This list would be required if 'uncommitted'.
  • List of bills pending in committee or in the queue for a floor vote that portend to address the same concerns.
  • List of existing legislation on this topic and established case law that covers (or fails to cover) the subject matter of the new bill.
  • Media reports, studies, corporate statements, lobbyist groups, etc. that advocate for the need of the new law.
Update 1/18/2012: Sen Toomey released a statement that he does not support SOPA or PROTECTIP "in their current forms", yet he fails to make any statement as to what specific portions of it he takes issue with.  This statement is clouded in doublespeak.  Please keep the pressure up to get him to explain his position.