A SOPA Plea to Rep. Austin Scott [GA-8] [UPDATED]

One of my friends passed on to me this letter that they had written to their representative on the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261). It was sent Thursday December 15th 2011, to the office of Representative Austin Scott, of Georgia’s 8th District.

UPDATE: He responded

To give some background, Austin Scott is a freshman Republican Congressman, who replaced Jim Marshall, a two term Democrat, in the 2010 elections. He is a former businessman, with a degree in Risk Assessment, as well as a member of the NRA.

But to the letter.

Dear Rep. Scott,
I am writing to you to URGE you in the strongest possible terms to vote AGAINST HR.3261, the misleadingly named ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’.

To say that this is an absolute travesty understates things. It is perhaps one of the worst possible examples of corrupt legislation I think it is possible to have.

It’s a bill to give wide-ranging powers to appease a group that has for decades, railed against every technological progress that has come along. The Printing Press, Radio, Television, the player-piano, phonograph, CABLE television, the cinema, photocopiers, reel-to-reel tape, audio cassettes, VCRs, mimeographs, and now the latest ‘scary threat’, the Internet. In every one of these, the claims of ‘great harm’ have been rejected by legislators who have examined the facts and found their claims laughable. In the last decade, however, we have seen a steady erosion of support for the facts, under a torrent of lies from those that seek to control information.

In 1982 MPAA Chairman Jack Valenti told Congress that the VCR is to the US film industry what the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone. In 1987, over 55% of Hollywood’s income came from VCR sales. In 2005, the MPAA released a study claiming that Piracy worldwide brought a $6B loss to the US economy. In 2005, Blockbuster Inc. had over $6B in turnover in the US. Just one company, that the lobby group had tried to outlaw not 25 years earlier, had offset ALL the losses they claimed.

Other claims include the MPAA president, former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, and his recent claims that the movie industry employs 2.2 million people, and they’re losing 373,000 jobs every year. Unfortunately, the Congressional Research Service shows that the ACTUAL number employed in that industry is 374,000, meaning that next year, the only people employed will be those who have actively directed 2 or more TV episodes in the US in the past year. This, like most other claims in support of SOPA is a lie, and one they hope you are stupid enough to fall for.

This bill is nothing but corporate welfare for a group that refuses to move with the times, to innovate and compete. It is a situation that I know well. Until this summer, I was a graphic artist working for a book company, in Athens. I was laid off when the company started downsizing. It downsized because the company had become too entrenched and too comfortable in its niche to keep up and innovate. When one of its big contracts, with UGA, was up for renewal, they failed to get it because they had not innovated.

Hollywood and the music industry can continue to point fingers and claim that it’s losing out because of piracy, but because they claim it does not make it true. In reality, they are improving, when logic says, all things being equal, luxury goods sales should fall. Unit sales of music are up; box office revenues have been climbing for the past few years, and broke records in the years 2007-2010.

This bill is not about economic losses, or jobs, then. It’s about one thing. Control.
The bill gives them the ability to take down any content, including that of their competitors, just by making an allegation. At the same time, they can also freeze their accounts, and kill any attempt at competition. I should put it in terms you might experience if the bill is passed.

When you run for office again next year, your opponent decides to utilize SOPA for his own gain. He makes the claim that you have infringed his copyright. He can take that claim, and FORCE your campaign website to be taken down. He can FORCE your campaign accounts to be frozen. He can have any promotional content of you on the internet taken down. All of a sudden, you have no campaign, at least until you can get things straightened out, which will take a lot of time. That is the reality of this bill. It is why it is considered a censorship bill, and has received strong support from the Chinese Government.

If you think this wouldn’t happen, you’ve maybe missed similar abuses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That act, passed in 1998, has similar takedown provisions for online content based on a notice – counter-notice system, and requires that any claim be made under penalty of Perjury.

The first case to deal with a false notice has been winding its way through the courts since 2007, in Lenz v Universal. It’s still not settled. In the past week, however, Universal Music Group has upped the ante, issuing countless takedown orders under the DMCA for a music video where all the copyrights are owned by another company, MegaUpload. The most accurate estimate so far is that UMG has committed at least 50 acts of perjury (through false DMCA notice) in this case alone, including takedown requests on a daily news video which referenced the case. Federal Judge Claudia Wilken has given UMG today to explain these takedowns.

And of course, there’s the simple fact that this bill was written by the technically inept. It was a lobbyist wish list converted into a bill without any input from experts in the field, who would have told them that this is a disastrous bill, and not feasible without severe impacts on civil rights. The Constitution says that copyright exists for ‘the progress of science and the useful arts’. It does NOT say ‘to protect the profits and business models of the incumbents in the field’, yet that’s what we’re going for.

Finally, let me leave you will another example. Say that instead of digital information under the allegation of piracy, we were talking about guns and allegations of gun crime. That someone could accuse you of armed robbery, and so your guns would be taken from you, your bank accounts frozen (proceeds of crime!!!!) and then you would have to prove your innocence. And all because a union or two claimed it would ‘help’ things. The unions are the parasitical lobby group; instead of an actual serious crime, we’re talking about the civil matter of copyright infringement (to which no independent study has found caused any harm, and has in some instances been a BENEFIT); and your First Amendment rights are being targeted, instead of your second.

No matter how you look at it, it’s still an extra-judicial process based solely on an accusation, with no penalties for false claims, or even a requirement for any evidence. A bill based on lies and claims that do not stand up to any sort of scrutiny. While I’m aware that you would not intentionally break your oath of office by defending, or supporting this bill, I wanted to make sure that you were aware of all the facts concerning this legislation, and ensure you were not misled into voting for this disgusting, anti-American bill.

Yours,
Name Withheld

No response has yet been received beyond an acknowledgement of receipt, but when one has, this will be updated.