Public Knowledge Disappointed With House Intellectual Property Hearing

The House Judiciary Committee today held a hearing on HR 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). 

The following is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:

“This hearing was a great disappointment to those of us who work to achieve a balanced copyright policy.  The comments of the vast majority members of the Judiciary Committee clearly reflected the views of only one industry – the big media companies which are pushing this bill, yet another piece of legislation to impose Draconian measures on the technology sector – the fastest-growing and most productive part of our economy.

“By focusing solely on those concerns, the Committee overlooked real and substantive objections from interests ranging across the spectrum from human-rights groups to entrepreneurs to Internet engineers to civil libertarians.  No one from these communities was invited to testify today.

“As a result, members of the committee did not have the benefit of the wisdom of those groups.  They overlooked or brushed aside issues embodied in the small print of the bill which invest enormous power in big media and telecommunications companies. 

“It was particularly egregious that none of the distinguished Internet engineers who warned of the dangers contained in the bill about the destabilization of the Internet were a part of the panel of witnesses.  The cybersecurity concerns should not be dismissed lightly.  We commend Rep. Zoe Lofgren for pointing out those shortcomings.

“Perhaps most disappointing was the testimony of Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante.  She reversed many of the positions on the issue that she took in March when she testified before the House Intellectual Property Subcommittee.  The SOPA legislation is in no way ‘measured,’ as she said today. 

“In March, she raised concerns about that legislation should not “unnecessarily jeopardize the efficient operation of the Internet” while endorsing a ‘follow-the-money’ approach to shutting down rogue sites. Today, she supported SOPA without qualification and failed to address the harms to cybersecurity and the Domain Name System she feared not a few months ago, while minimizing the value of the ‘follow-the-money’ approach.

 “We hope the Committee will take the time to hear the objections of other communities of interest to remedy the serious situations this bill would create before moving it to the House floor.”

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