Oklahoma lawmakers oppose Internet anti-piracy bills

Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation aren't ready to support legislation that has spawned mass online protests and attacks by groups that say anti-piracy bills threaten free speech and the vitality of the Internet
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Published: January 22, 2012
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For Rep. Tom Cole, the math was pretty simple.

He had received hundreds of contacts in his office opposing legislation aimed at curbing online piracy but no letters backing the bill.

Supporters, he said, “are not making their case, whatever that case is.”

So Cole, like the other members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation, isn't ready to vote for legislation that has resulted in online protests and a steady stream of attacks from groups that say it threatens freedom of speech on the Internet.

The House bill has yet to clear a committee, and there's no timetable for a full House debate. In the Senate, a test vote on a similar bill that was scheduled for Tuesday was postponed, after some co-sponsors defected in the wake of the grass-roots opposition.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee said he couldn't support the bill as it is currently written.

“You've got to stop online piracy, but you've got to do it in a way that doesn't affect First Amendment rights,'' he said.

But Coburn said many of the claims about the legislation's impact have been overblown and noted that the target is foreign websites that traffic in content — including movies, music and books — that essentially has been stolen.

Lost revenue

The theft represents billions of dollars in lost revenue for the owners of the intellectual property and thousands of lost jobs, Coburn said.

Still, Coburn has his concerns with the approach taken in the Senate bill. And he insists, as he does with all legislation, that its costs be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget; the Senate bill, he said, carries an estimated $45 million in federal enforcement costs.

The NetCoalition, which includes such companies as Google, Yahoo! and Wikipedia that oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act — known as SOPA — in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate, contends the bills would violate constitutional protections of free speech and due process.

Internet service providers would be required to block suspected rogue websites based only on allegations, and entire websites could be shut down even if only a tiny fraction of the content is suspected of copyright infringement, the coalition says.

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at a glance

What lawmakers said

Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation commented last week on House and Senate bills to combat international Internet sites that traffic in copyrighted music, video and other content, or intellectual property.

The bills are known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa

“While I believe that the intellectual property rights of American companies deserve substantial protection under the law, S. 968, the PROTECT-IP Act, is not the answer to the problem of online counterfeiting and piracy.

“I share the concerns of America's technology companies, industry leaders and the many citizens who have voiced their concerns to my office. It is clear to me that this bill will inflict too heavy a burden on third-party non-infringing entities and could do serious harm to one of the last vestiges that is relatively free from government regulation, the Internet.”

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne

“I cannot support H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act of 2011 in its current form. While I am a strong advocate for protecting intellectual property, I believe this bill allows the government to overstep its authority, and I have my doubts that this legislation will effectively protect intellectual property rights without compromising American's First Amendment right to free speech.”

Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa

“I have heard from hundreds of my constituents over the past several days about their concerns with this legislation. As currently drafted, I have significant concerns that SOPA may limit free speech on the Internet. As we address legislation to protect intellectual property rights, Congress must be mindful that the bills intended to protect honest, American innovators are not doing more harm than good.”

Chris Casteel, Washington Bureau

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