Jan 24 2012
Last week, our country witnessed democracy in action. After millions of Americans rose up in opposition to the misguided Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) being considered by the Senate and House respectively, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) withdrew his plan to consider PIPA this week. This was the outcome U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and I have been working to achieve.
As the lead Senate Republican in opposition to PIPA, I am grateful that citizens across this country – including thousands of Kansans – had their voices heard. PIPA had the support of many influential senators and powerful interest groups, but the Majority Leader’s decision to withdraw the bill demonstrates the power of engaged citizens using the open internet.
In our increasingly global economy, the open internet has become a driving force behind economic success. Whether you are a high-tech entrepreneur, a small business owner, or simply a Kansan with an idea, the open web facilitates innovation as a marketplace for ideas, goods and services. I share the goal of stopping intellectual property theft – but success cannot come at the expense of American innovation, internet security, and freedom of speech. Our country needs smart public policy that reflects the evolving nature of the internet, while at the same time, protects the creative rights of innovators.
In November, I joined Senator Wyden in notifying Majority Leader Reid of our strong opposition to PIPA and SOPA. In fact, our concerns were so significant that we were prepared to filibuster this flawed legislation to prevent it from becoming law.
Both PIPA and SOPA tamper with the vital technologies that prevent fraud and protect consumers on the internet – specifically the Domain Name System (DNS). Internet engineers have worked for 15 years to develop DNS security technology, which authenticates the web sites we visit to make sure they are secure. The DNS filtering proposed in SOPA and PIPA would not actually remove fraudulent content, but just block the web address. The rogue foreign websites dedicated to infringement would still be accessible via IP address, which can easily be changed or replicated on servers, and users would have no way of knowing whether or not they were visiting a secure website. At a time when the United States faces an increasing number of cyber-attacks from abroad, the nation’s leading technology and security experts, including our own government’s national security experts, say the DNS filtering provisions in PIPA and SOPA would kill our best hope for actually making the internet more secure.
Additionally, both PIPA and SOPA would create new liabilities for businesses due to definitions in the bills that could drag companies into unnecessary legal battles. Both bills take an overreaching approach at policing the internet and give the Department of Justice the ability to block websites, without notice or a proper hearing, simply because a third-party posts a link to counterfeited goods on the site. Congress should not put into place a system that could force law-abiding innovators to utilize their limited resources in the courtroom, rather than invest in their company and hire new workers.
Finally, legal and human rights experts caution that the PIPA and SOPA bills enable the silencing of speech. The overreaching approach of PIPA and SOPA would not only trample our Constitutional rights, but they would give foreign regimes the license to further censor the internet for political and other reasons.
The goals of PIPA and SOPA can be achieved without doing serious damage to cyber security, job creation, and our right to freedom of speech. Sen. Wyden and I have introduced an alternative proposal called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN). The OPEN Act creates uniform and targeted online infringement policies that will help protect intellectual property rights – without threatening internet safety and the thriving internet marketplace. Please visit www.KeepTheWebOpen.com to learn more about the OPEN Act
I stand with millions of Americans in opposition to PIPA and SOPA. As the debate over the best way to address intellectual property theft moves forward, I will remain vigilant in making certain that any bill brought to the Senate floor fosters the American values of innovation and entrepreneurship, while protecting a free and open internet.
# # #