Press Releases

Conyers: The Stop Online Piracy Act Protects American Jobs and Prevents Theft

Washington, DC, November 16, 2011

Today, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act.”  The bill protects American jobs by modernizing criminal and civil statutes to meet new intellectual property enforcement challenges presented by the proliferation of websites dedicated to intellectual property theft and fraud.  Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) made the following statement after the hearing:

I have always stood by artists, and it is for this reason that I want to see the Stop Online Piracy Act become law.  The bill is of vital importance to protecting American jobs and artisans, protecting the American consumers from dangerous counterfeits, and ensuring the very vitality of American culture.

I applaud the voluntary activities that aim to stop online intellectual property theft and fraud – programs that have been announced by leading Internet Service Providers and rights-holders and the best practices standards that are being developed within the advertising network and payment processing companies.    

But, it is clear that private cooperation will not be enough.  Studies have indicated that upwards of one-quarter of all internet traffic is copyright infringing.  To those that say that a bill to stop online theft will break the Internet I would like to point out that one-quarter of Internet traffic is dedicated to crime.

Laws govern the brick and mortar world, and the Internet can be no different.  We cannot allow technology to shield criminals in anonymity and, as some have asserted, deny law enforcement and rights-holders the technological tools to use to stop crime.

I believe that every player on the Internet has a role to play in protecting America’s property.  Users connect to the Internet through service providers.  By most accounts, Google’s search engine connects users to Internet content more often than any other and places the most advertisements.  As users surf the web, their computers connect with Domain Name Servers to resolve the site name that they type into their browser and its location on the web.  Domain Name registries and registrars sell domain names to site hosts, and payment processors facilitate the exchange of money online.  Each one of these entities can have a role in protecting American consumers and American property.

As we learned today, the Stop Online Piracy Act has met a range of reactions.  Some rights-holders have said that the market based process outlined in Section 103 of the bill does not go far enough and immunizes too many players who profit from piracy.

On the other hand, some in the technology sector have said that the bill will “break the Internet” and strangle start-ups and Silicon Valley giants alike.  I look forward to working with stakeholders – especially the ones not appearing before us today – on improving the bill while achieving its aims.

Finally, I see several areas where the bill can be clarified.  The standards and rogue site definition in the market-based section may need clarification to ensure that legitimate, legally operating sites are unequivocally excluded as we intended.  I would also like to revisit how the proposed time-lines in the bill will actually function in the digital world as well as who qualifies as a plaintiff in the process to prevent abuse of the system.

To the claim that the bill will stifle innovation and e-commerce, we have heard similar arguments in the past.  Before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of rights-holders in the Grokster case in 2005, in which the court held that file sharing sites were liable for inducing copyright infringement,  the Consumer Electronics Association said, “We may witness the end of the Internet itself” while the Electronic Frontier Foundation said such a ruling “will chill innovation and retard the entire sector.”  Six years later, the industry is more vibrant than ever.

I am hopeful that we can forge a rational, effective compromise to stop online property theft and fraud – both through the legislative process and through industry cooperation.  I am convinced that those of us that wrote and introduced this bill can stop online intellectual property theft and fraud by making the law stronger as we do here and through increased industry cooperation.

We can protect and promote American jobs, perhaps millions of them, by getting a bill like this to President Obama’s desk for his signature as soon as possible.