Senator Franken - This Means You
I have been corresponding with Senator Al Franken in regards to PIPA for awhile now. Here is his latest lukewarm missive about the issue. My response can be found directly below it. Sadly, I still do not think he really gets it.
Thank you for contacting me about S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (the PROTECT IP Act). I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me on this important issue.
As you may be aware, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided to shelve the PROTECT IP Act. I wanted to take a moment to share why I support copyright protection legislation—as well as why I believe holding off on this bill is the right thing to do.
I understand as well as anyone the importance of keeping the Internet free from undue corporate influence. I've been a champion of net neutrality, which I believe to be the free speech issue of our time. At the same time, there are millions of Americans whose livelihoods rely on strong protections for intellectual property. If we don't protect our intellectual property, criminals will continue to profit from their work. We cannot simply shrug off the threat of online piracy. We cannot do nothing.
Right now, a company has no way to enforce its rights if it finds that its products are being pirated or counterfeited on a website hosted overseas. The PROTECT IP Act was designed to give the Attorney General and private companies a way to cut off the flow of money to these foreign sites. We can't force those sites to stop infringing our copyrights and trademarks because they're not subject to our courts, but we can make sure they don't make money in the process.
I strongly believe in protecting American intellectual property, but I also heard from many Minnesotans who were concerned about the possible effects of the PROTECT IP Act on the Internet. Frankly, there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there: If this bill really could do some of the things people have heard it would do (like shutting down Wikipedia or YouTube), I'd never support it. But even so, I believe we need to seriously consider the many concerns that constituents have shared.
As I said, I support copyright protection legislation, but I also believe in the value of the Internet as an engine to enable free speech, new business models, and economic growth. If holding off on this legislation gives us an opportunity to take a step back and try to bring everybody back to the table, I think it's the right thing to do. It's worth getting this right. And while I work to get it right, I will keep your concerns in mind.
Thank you again for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to do so in the future on this or any other issue that may be important to you.
United States Senator
United States Senator
I have been corresponding with you regarding internet freedom and the bills that are putting it in jeopardy. I realize you personally will likely not read this but perhaps one of your staffers will. Senator Franken when I voted for you it was based on a trust I had that you would represent me. The cheesy old teacher ads aside, I did feel you understood the Democratic party and it's ideals. NOT ONCE in all the time you were running for office did you EVER mention internet regulation in any of those ads. I did not send you to the senate to work against my own convictions on this issue. In fact, you never brought it up at all in your campaign that I can find.
This rebranding of copyright infringement to piracy is annoying. What is also annoying is your utter disregard for the future of a free and open internet. Senator Franken. PIPA had a SEVEN MINUTE debate. Can you explain to me how exactly the American people are being represented in this process by a SEVEN MINUTE debate? Once I was made aware of this issue, I contacted you. Your responses have been full of more rhetoric and no real genuine concern.
I told you the story of how through a women's rights page on the internet I became acquainted with the plight of Afghani women under the Taliban. If those women had mistakenly used copyrighted materials under these laws, I would never have seen that website. It is not up to our government to decide for me as a citizen what websites I can or should view.
The other concern I have is with the less savory aspect of this politically. Chris Dodd, on national television basically blackmailed all of the politicians he has "donated to" and warned them to stay "bought". So tell me Senator Franken, have you been bought and if so will you "stay bought "? There are so many things I hoped you would be able to accomplish when I voted to send you to the senate. Heal the economy, work in harmony with the president, protect women's and civil rights. The internet has been a great equalizer for the common man. To treat it so carelessly is appalling.
Your latest letter to me on the third still indicates you would basically sign anything that was brought to the floor with the word piracy in it. You repeat the same baseless argument about the cost of piracy. The argument is flawed on so many levels. There is no independent research to justify these claims.
Copyright infringement is a service issue. The old guards demand/scarcity business model is not working for them. That is their problem. If the content industry refuses to embrace new technology and work towards solving their own problems, then they deserve to fail. Legislating for a failing business model does nothing but hold our country back.
One last thing, the last line of your letter said something about bringing everyone to the table. Senator Franken, you better buy a very big table. What the proponents of this type of legislation fail to understand is that this is not a traditional two sided argument. It is not Silicon Valley versus Hollywood. It is THE INTERNET versus old media. We are not misunderstanding anything. We understand exactly what RIAA and MPAA want. They will not get it. Even if that means I have to vote an otherwise ok senator out of office.
Senator, we agree on so many things. Please do not waste your chance to be a force for good in our country.
Update 2/8/11 If you do not follow Mike Masnik's Blog at Techdirt.com , you should. Point for point, lie for lie, Masnik obliterates "piracy" bills.