I wrote a long letter that began like this:

“Dear Mr. Joe Barton,

I appreciate your work at our Texas Congressman, 6th District. I thought you would like to know why I oppose SOPA and PIPA proposals that burden internet host sites, instead of only limiting illegal access of particular materials.

…”

The rest of my letter, and Mr. Barton’s reply are in the comments section below.

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3 thoughts on “Occasionally, I write to my Congressman

  1. I just received this response from Congressman, Joe Barton, TX:
    Dear _____’LucyJartz’_____:

    Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts on H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). I consider it an honor to represent you in Washington D.C., and I appreciate the opportunity to hear from you.

    I believe that piracy is piracy, whether it is practiced by Somali terrorists in the Indian Ocean, or Chinese plagiarists on the internet. American innovators and artists deserve to have their intellectual property protected on the web, just like American companies deserve to have their property protected in the oceans’ shipping lanes.

    In response to legitimate concerns regarding the unintended consequences of SOPA, the House Judiciary Committee has postponed consideration of this bill until the contentious issues are addressed. The Senate has also postponed a vote on their anti-piracy bill, the Protect IP Act. While it is vital to protect American made intellectual property, I respect and understand worries that SOPA could lead to too much government interference, suppression of innovation and censorship of free speech. As this concept moves forward, I am committed to working with my colleagues to create legislation which protects American property while addressing these valid complaints.

    I believe the internet should be as open as possible and I have played an active role in supporting policies which limit its regulation. As a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce I have fought against net neutrality, a principle I believe replaces free market competition with government regulation. I am an original co-sponsor of H.J.Res.37, a formal disproval of the FCC’s internet regulation rule, and I will continue to advocate for policies which support an internet governed by the principles of the free market, not federal regulations.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I hope you will continue to keep me updated on issues that are important to you.

    Sincerely,
    Joe Barton
    Member of Congress

  2. This is the complete version of the (really long) letter I wrote to protest SOPA & PIPA.

    January 18, 2012

    Dear Mr. Joe Barton,

    I appreciate your work at our Texas Congressman, 6th District. I thought you would like to know why I oppose SOPA and PIPA proposals that burden internet host sites, instead of only limiting illegal access of particular materials.

    Imagine driving through your town if there were to be a vehicle inspection for possible contraband at every traffic light. Obviously, only suspicious individuals should be detained, so others may freely go about their business. I am against legislation that causes roadblocks at sharing/host sites, or tolls for every journey. Legitimate material that is offered would also be overburdened by these measures and shut down.

    For example:

    I post my own original animation and movie works on the internet, and I use host sites to make them more available. I research samples of movies to see a complete scene of a work referenced by my teachers at college (often movies are cut into pieces because they contain huge amounts of data). I own a Netflix account to watch legal, high quality, movies and TV shows. I use MIT open courseware and other educational video sites like Learner.org (Annenberg CPB), and I access library content through my college and through public sources.

    The internet is an enormous resource library and research tool for students, but it also improves the cultural access of non-academic people. We appreciate its value; many of us pay for access to ISPs and access to content providers in our homes. Communities consider the wide range of content valuable enough to purchase computers and peripheral equipment, internet access, and subscriptions to content for schools and free public libraries.

    I oppose SOPA and PIPA because these bills will cause many informative sites to close down; it would be impossible to continue as free and low-cost repositories, because of extensive policing of outside content. They would be forced to close preemptively or deal with an expensive backlog of labor hours reviewing all of the offsite submissions.

    What if our businesses and citizens could no longer get a snapshot on Wikipedia or “Google it” to see who, what, where, why and how?

    Clearly, those who sell content that they do not own are stealing. However, this legislation impacts free resources too. I believe the individuals who upload illegal content should continue to be required to remove items or obtain permissions, but not the hosting sites. This type of rerouting to original sources happens now on sites like YouTube, and it works well, as long as the owners of content provide alternative access to their files – in order to replace the information that they want blocked. It would not make much sense for a studio (or other author) to remove illegal content without providing a legal source. Free access to information is important in extracurricular education, and cultural enlightenment.

    Many times I will search for a movie, and be informed that it is available for sale, or available with advertising, or only selected segments are available. I am willing to pay nominal research fees or watch advertising or preview a lower quality version- to retain the richness of content on the internet. Most of us avoid dubious content to avoid harmful exposure to viruses, the same way we avoid unclean restaurants for a more enjoyable dining experience.

    Free hosting does not hinder the sale of original material, but promotes it. Just as free public libraries do not stop people from buying and collecting and recommending books, free public access to information on the internet does not stop people from buying and collecting and recommending the multimedia content they see. Broadcast TV informs people of what is available, but does not give them the full experience of owning the original artwork, or going to the theatre, or holding a book in their own hands. Radio does not stop us from wanting CDs and subscriptions to premium media services.

    If the content is good, people will want to own the full version, because even though they can download a preview version, the highest quality experience with all of the associated media is only found through the purchased original sources. (Compare a greeting card with a Mona Lisa printed on it to actually visiting the Louvre in Paris). Almost everything is highly compressed for internet viewing, and without this it would not be accessible to homes, businesses, and schools.

    For a more educated public, free information needs to be available, and if the highway is penalized for every vehicle that travels it, then the highway itself becomes impassable.

    Please look at other ways to protect businesses that wish to sell high quality content, but please encourage affordable outlets for average people (I make less than $25,000 a year, and my college expenses reduce my living capital to half). Fight to keep free resources open to the public. Even a cheap paperback of Hamlet is better than never reading Shakespeare at all.

    We citizens do not see every item that you vote on in our behalf, but I do believe that if you know why we speak out then you will be a better informed advocate of our many needs, even on items when the pros and cons are less available to the public.

    Thank you for your time and consideration of my perspective.

    Lucy J. Hanson

    USMC Vet
    Army War Vet
    Mother of two children (one in college)
    Adult College Student (First in Family)
    Hard-Working
    American

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