Are There Any Politicians Who Know What PROTECT IP Is About? Senator Hutchison Thinks It's About Net Neutrality

from the worse-and-worse-and-worse dept

Okay, this is just getting ridiculous. Last week, we wrote about Mark Lemley sending a letter to Rep. Anna Eshoo about the problems of PROTECT IP, and rather responding about that, Eshoo wrote him back about immigration. Then, we had another story about Senator Kristen Gillibrand receiving a similar letter complaining about PROTECT IP… and she sent back a letter talking about the unrelated “internet kill switch” legislation. And, in the comments to that post, Paul told us about his own letter protesting PROTECT IP, which was sent to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison… and she wrote back about net neutrality:

Dear Friend:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s actions relating to the openness of the Internet. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

The Internet is a valuable tool that facilitates business, education, and recreation for millions of Americans. In 2009, an estimated 198 million Americans had access to the Internet. I am committed to ensuring that consumers continue to benefit from the Internet as an open platform for innovation and commerce.

Instrumental to the success of the Internet is the long-standing policy of keeping the Internet as free as possible from burdensome government regulations. Increased investment in upgrading and expanding America?s communications infrastructure, and, in particular, new broadband networks, will ensure that all Americans have access to affordable high-speed Internet. However, in my judgment, intensified regulation of the Internet, such as government-mandated treatment of data, would stifle competition and would decrease the incentive for network operators to invest in critical infrastructure.

The case for additional broadband regulatory authority, or ?net neutrality,? has not effectively been made. Broadband investment began to truly flourish when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a decision in 2002 to remove advanced communications technologies from the antiquated common carrier regulatory framework. However, advocates of a larger regulatory footprint have continued to call for net neutrality since 2006.

Unfortunately, the FCC chose to respond by beginning a new proceeding that would reverse the 2002 decision to treat advanced communications services with a “light touch” regulatory approach. On December 21, 2010, by a 3-2 vote, the FCC adopted new rules meant to impose a net neutrality regime on broadband services. I believe these new regulations represent an unprecedented power grab by the Commission to claim regulatory jurisdiction without Congressional authority. This FCC action threatens investment and innovation in broadband systems, places valuable American jobs at risk, and may subject communications companies to new legal liability in the management of their networks.

In response to the FCC’s heavy-handed order, I intend to explore every option available to me to keep the Internet free from such burdensome regulations, including introducing a resolution of disapproval in an effort to repeal the new rules. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC, I will continue to work to prohibit further net neutrality-based regulations.

I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

Is it really that hard to expect that, when we write our elected officials, they at least take the time to hear what we’re saying? It seems like the staffers in these officials offices briefly skim the letters to see if there’s a keyword they can hit on (or do they have software for that?), and then send back a form letter related to what they think the letter is about, rather than taking the time to figure out what it’s actually about.

Can we actually expect any sort of informed debate and discussion on the serious problems of PROTECT IP when so many of our elected officials don’t even seem to know what it is, and most certainly don’t seem to want to hear from their own constituents about it?

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Comments on “Are There Any Politicians Who Know What PROTECT IP Is About? Senator Hutchison Thinks It's About Net Neutrality”

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Jay (profile) says:

I wonder...


Mike I have to wonder about this. I wrote in about the same issue and was given a different form letter, which I responded to with my post.

Although, John Cornyn’s was more egregious in not responding to anything posted:

Dear [Jay],

Thank you for contacting my offices. Your correspondence has been received, and we will respond to you as quickly as possible. A copy of your message is attached below for your records.

If you need immediate assistance regarding an urgent problem you are experiencing with the federal government, visit the “Help With Federal Agencies” section of the website for details on how to proceed so that your difficulties are brought to my attention as soon as possible.

If you are seeking information or services from my offices that are NOT related to my Legislative duties, please visit my “Services For Texans” section for more information.

Warmest Regards,
U.S. Senator John Cornyn

I received the correspondence 6 (Jul 14th) days ago with no replies other than this.

Here is what I wrote on popvox:
07/12/11. I oppose S. 968: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act … because… I believe in every way S 968 along with the likes of S978 are misguided attempts at affecting economic change in the United States. The economic evidence as found in books such as “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies” (Karaganis) or “Moral Panic and the Copyright Wars” (Patry) conclude that the only thing this bill will do is create ill will with our foreign neighbors. Having the Attorney Generals involved in copyright infringement is a stretch. But also proceeding with the questionable domain seizures, taking away the due process of the judicial branch, and enforcing other criminal punishments on people that can barely defend themselves is beyond questionable for our government. I also stand opposed to extradition of foreign nationals for civil “crimes” such as copyright infringement, merely for posting links. I ask, Mr. John Cornyn, that you oppose this legislation, even though you have cosponsored it. We are supposed to be a free nation, not one to impose tyranny on others.

Paul (profile) says:

Re: I wonder...

In my experience, John Cornyn tends to take a long time to respond, but he does eventually. I sent a protest to him on June 17. On July 7 I got the (more on topic) reply:

Dear Mr. XXXX:

Thank you for contacting me about Senate Bill 978 (S. 978). I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this matter.

As you may know, S. 978 would update federal criminal copyright statutes to address technological advancements that have been made since these laws were originally enacted in 1976. Under current law, individuals can be prosecuted for a felony for copying and selling ten digital copies of a copyrighted movie or record totaling at least $2,500. However, if the copyrighted content is distributed over an Internet stream, that same individual can sell thousands of copies, totaling millions of dollars, and yet only be prosecuted for a misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, federal prosecutors have little incentive to pursue misdemeanors, and as a result these crimes largely go unpunished. S. 978 would address the recent proliferation of intellectual property theft of copyrighted content over the Internet without expanding the scope of what is considered criminal activity. Instead, S. 978 corrects the disparity between copying and streaming crimes and will help safeguard the valuable intellectual property of creators, artists, and others who contribute so much to America?s economy. It is important to note that this legislation does not penalize the simple sharing or viewing of videos or linking to other websites with copyrighted content. S. 978 is narrow in focus and individuals cannot be prosecuted unless they are profiting from the dissemination of copyrighted content.

I appreciate having the opportunity to represent Texans in the United States Senate, and you may be certain that I will continue working with my colleagues to pass common sense legislation that protects those who contribute to the growth of our economy. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

United States Senator

517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856

Please sign up for my monthly newsletter at

Due to the nature of electronic communication, if you did not receive this e-mail directly from my office, I cannot guarantee that the text has not been altered. If you have questions about the validity of this message, or would like to respond to this message, please use the web form available at my website,

Anonymous Coward says:

Your letters are read by 20-something year-old interns

Your letters are letters are read by 20-something year-old interns. And those interns live in PARTY-TOWN CENTRAL, USA.

If you want your letter read by someone a little older, and a little higher up in the ranks, someone a little more sober… Well… You need to attach a check to your letter.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Your letters are read by 20-something year-old interns

Washington DC is NOT the Party town central… But you are correct that the interns probably know more about the issues. I recall that I was given an opportunity to be a Congressional aide having lived in other countries when I was young. Sadly, I didn’t follow through on the opportunity, but aides do tend to be young. The problem appears to be a generational gap however, because the aides might be more likely to these issues and try to influence a congress(wo)man.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Your letters are read by 20-something year-old interns

“The problem appears to be a generational gap however, because the aides might be more likely to these issues and try to influence a congress(wo)man.”

I hate to tell you this … /sarc

It’s not a generational gap, it’s that the interns, and younger staffers are not listened to in any meaningful way. Most of the younger staffers read blogs, surf the web, know whats going on, and know what PROTECT IP is. It doesn’t matter though, they aren’t heard. They are nothing more than a buffer zone between “we the people” and the politicians.

With out the population actually getting so fed up, or the population actually getting informed, and voting them out, there is nothing that can be done.

Nathan F (profile) says:

Informed debate and discussion? Why should our congresscritters do any more debate and discussion after the campaign checks from the Copyright Industry supporters clears?

Really though, if one of these offices is anything remotely like a doctors office.. then these congresscritters need better staff. They are an embarrassment to Administrative Assistants everywhere.

jackwagon (profile) says:

Senator Hutchison

Someone updated Senator Hutchison on the bill between the time Paul sent the EFF form and when I did:

Dear Friend:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the protection of intellectual property rights. I welcome your thoughts and comments on this issue.

I believe copyright protection is a foundation for innovation. Intellectual property, which covers industrial property and copyright, is the creative core of the information age. Patent and intellectual property ownership gives inventors and thinkers security in their work. It has the ability to motivate creative minds and spur growth.

Protecting content in a high-technology age is a new and daunting problem, and copyright protection is an important challenge as the broadband revolution offers even more far-reaching possibilities and opportunities. With new speed and interactivity, the entire store of movies, music, books, television and raw knowledge can be made widely available.

Copyright law must protect the best interests of consumers. Originators of a work should be secure that they have rights to the work they fashioned.

Should legislation regarding the protection of intellectual property rights come for consideration before the full Senate, you may be certain I will keep your views in mind. I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

Atkray (profile) says:

As near as I can tell the only benefit of writing your congress person is that if you do it enough you seem to get moved to a list where they email you when they are having their telephone town hall meetings. If you phone in to that you have the outside chance of actually speaking to them and at the end you have the opportunity to leave a voice message.

I’m not saying they will listen, but it is a step closer.

MrWilson says:

This all serves as a good illustration of the pointlessness of the suggestion by those who tout that, “the law is the law,” that we should,” talk to [our] congressman,” if we don’t like it.

It shows more clearly how little our interests are taken into account and how much of a myth representation is. If you have no representation in a government that purports to work for you, are you ethically bound to respect the laws it passes?

Anonymous Coward says:

Attach a check to a letter? Don’t they attach a tax to your paycheck without a letter every time you get one? Why is that possible? Because you are supposed to be REPRESENTED for that taxation. This hardly sounds like anything you could call represented when your return answer, mandated by law to be done, doesn’t address your concern nor issue.

Honestly when we see the stretch that vague laws are put to, this is a very good case why we as citizens are not subject to being taxable. While I am sure it would go nowhere in court, it’s been proven over and over that the court of public opinion might say differently.

This court of public opinion, however gauzy in substance it might be is used every time there is a crime committed where the officials want to make it look like they are earning and spending the tax dollars wisely. The street value for whatever is claimed to be the confiscated goods is always inflated to make it sound like they have lassoed a major criminal. Does anyone actually buy that hokum any more than they buy the idea you can contact your representative with your concerns and get the message through?

All these refusals to actually address the issue you are concerned enough with to write a letter tells me that we still have the best laws money can buy. Only they aren’t in your interests nor the countries if you aren’t forking up the money.

It’s seriously time for major changes to group of thieves we have in office in Washington today. They are so busy they playing these games they can’t even sit down to agree to budgeting that the country requires to run!

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s weird. We live in an era where it’s increasingly easier to keep in touch with people. We’re already sick to death of stories about how someone posted a complaint on Twitter, and the company president or whoever replied and cleared up the issue or somesuch.
But that never happens with political stuff like this. These Senators are all divorced from reality, their only tenuous link an intern who sends canned responses to incoming mail.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Communication

I’ve tried twitters. I’ve tried email. Hell, I’ve even tried snail mail.

Once they’re in office they insulate themselves and put up armor for the mountains of mail they receive. All I would like is some kind of release or some way to show my position on the various issues they vote on.

John Cornyn is probably the worst one though… He votes the most with his party, even though his constituents suffer from those votes! It’s quite annoying that with so many ways to communicate, our politicians choose NONE of them to assuage grievances from their stated positions.

Havoc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Communication

Well, you’ve answered my main question about all this discussion: It’s common now for people to say “I wrote” when in fact they mean “I emailed”. I NEVER expect to get anything more than a canned response when emailing- the volume’s just too huge. Anything that matters- really matters- deserves a letter, and we deserve more than a canned response from our elected representatives.
I get the occasional letter from my elected idiots, even though I REFUSE to give any money to re-elect anyone, but I write at all levels. I just don’t expect to get email responses from anyone at any office higher than county.

Not That Chris (profile) says:

My Reply

Here’s the reply I got from my Senator, who at least seems to have a little bit better of an idea what the deal is:

Dear Mr. [NTC],

Thank you for sharing with me your opposition to S. 968, the Protect IP Act of 2011. I appreciate having the benefit of your views.

The widespread use of digital media is still a relatively new phenomenon, and the law has not caught up with all the capabilities available to anyone with a computer and Internet access. This has prompted a vigorous debate on how digital copyrights should be protected, particularly with respect to the ongoing conflict between the rights of artists and producers to protect their intellectual property versus the recognized right of consumers to make recordings for personal use.

While I believe that we must ensure the continuing integrity of our important copyright laws both domestically and abroad, I agree that enforcement must take place in a manner that protects the rights of all parties involved. I will closely follow consideration of S. 968 in the Senate Judiciary Committee with your concerns in mind.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Knowing your concerns is helpful to me.

Richard G. Lugar
United States Senator

Pjerky (profile) says:

I have this theory...

Really its more of an idea for a new law. We should make it ILLEGAL for politicians to vote on anything they don’t understand or have not researched fully with the advisement of people representing both sides of the argument along with a representative of those that would be affected.

I am sick and tired of politicians making decisions about industries and fields that they know little to nothing about. They are continually making things more of a mess because they have absolutely no real understanding of how things work. Its like asking a 2 year old to make decisions about the economy and on automotive laws. They have no place making these decisions.

They need to go back to bed and let the adults make the decisions here. ** Ok, I am off my soapbox **


How the USA can save money

buy as many japanese robots that walk and just put a yes sir program for voices so that the mpaa and riaa and truly do what they really want….have all file sharers put to death in the usa. think of all the peopel that will then buy the products instead a pirate ( ROFL ) oh wait none will be left , and the tax base will be destroyed…ya on that tax base maybe instead of criminalizing pot you could tax it like beer, and smokes and um er…ya know …maybe take a hlaf million peeps out of the army and stop buying expensive equipment for them might help….

MAKIGN it illegal to outsource would immediately have a massive affect in jobs , and down the long haul would “correct” the chinese economic terrorism.

Nicedoggy says:

And this is why exactly you don’t need to care who you put in congress.

What people should care is how the laws are made and debated, not whom will vote for them, those people there demonstrate total ignorance of what they vote for.

So a better form is to create the laws outside and send them to people who were put there to vote on them with the outside support of a larger group.

That is why people need to start creating the tools to create drafts, debate them and vote them outside of congress and put there someone that will follow those directives.

Paul L (profile) says:

Response from Senator Jack Reed


Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, S. 968, which was introduced by Senator Leahy, would authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to take legal action to combat online piracy and counterfeiting. This legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 26, 2011, and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

You may be interested to know that the Senate Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing titled ?Oversight of Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Efforts.? To view this hearing, please visit

Again, thank you for contacting me, and do not hesitate to write, call, or visit my website,, in the future for information regarding this or any other matter.


Jack Reed
United States Senator

Jason Harris (profile) says:

Response from Diane Feinstein

I wasn’t thrilled with the reply but it’s not uninformed:

Dear Mr. Harris:

I received your letter expressing your opposition to the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act,” commonly known as the “PROTECT IP Act.” I appreciate knowing your views on this matter.

America’s copyright industry is an important economic engine, and I believe copyright owners should be able to prevent their works from being illegally duplicated and stolen. The protection of intellectual property is particularly important to California’s thriving film, music, and high-technology industries.

The “PROTECT IP Act” (S. 968) would give both copyright and trademark owners and the U.S. Department of Justice the authority to take action against websites that are “dedicated to infringing activities.” These are websites that have “no significant use other than engaging in, enabling, or facilitating” copyright infringement, the sale of goods with a counterfeit trademark, or the evasion of technological measures designed to protect against copying. The bill would not violate Internet users’ First Amendment right to free speech because copyright piracy is not speech. On May 26, 2011, this legislation was reported favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration by the full Senate.

I understand that you oppose the “PROTECT IP Act.” While I supported reporting the bill to the full Senate, please know that, prior to the close of the 111th Congress, I worked with California high-technology businesses and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to improve upon language from previous versions of the bill and to address the concerns of legitimate high-tech businesses, public interest groups, and others. However, I recognize that the bill needs further work to prevent it from imposing undue burdens on legitimate businesses and activities, and I will be working to make the improvements, either by working in cooperation with Chairman Leahy or by offering amendments on the floor of the Senate. Please know I will keep your concerns and thoughts in mind should the full Senate consider the “PROTECT IP Act.”

Once again, thank you for sharing your views. I hope you will continue to keep me informed on issues of importance to you. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

jonvaljon says:

I used to work for a state senator, and yes, they have software that answers a ton of crap for them. Its the Microsoft contact managing software, that plugs into outlook. It looks for a few key words, and then can fire off a form letter in response, that is usually vague and pointless.

But… on top of that.. no, half of them dont even have a clue what they are voting on. The level of knowledge outside their very tiny, fancy, worlds, is almost non-existant, unless they happen to have a good staffer or two who does the heavy lifting. Id be curious how many senators could even wire their own home networks… so it would make sense that they decide the future of OUR internet for us, right?

For reals, try and engage your local reps and senators, and see if you can even get a coherent resposne back. As for those of you in the know on these matters… get your butt into your elected official’s office and give them a bit of advice, they like the face time with their voters, and who knows, they might actually listen to you!

Jim L (profile) says:

A little late

Mine gets it (I hope)

Dear Mr. Lillicotch:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about the Protect IP Act, S. 968. I’m glad to tell you that we share many of the same worries. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you likely know, the Protect IP Act attempts to limit online intellectual property violations by targeting websites that host pirated content. Like you, I am also worried about attempts to restrict free speech and innovation online by restricting public access to certain websites. As you note, such restrictions can potentially go too far if they result in limiting online traffic to other portions of those websites, where legal content is displayed. You might also be aware that a group of companies including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and others recently made a voluntary commitment to warn or suspend service for customers who might be using pirated content.

You might also be pleased to know that for a long time, I have been a strong supporter of “fair use,” the limited use of copyrighted content without permission from the rights holder. I believe it is important for the federal government to evaluate closely the harms to freedom of access and innovation that might result from prosecution of online intellectual property violations.

S. 968 is legislation that was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Ore.). The House Judiciary Committee is now working on counterpart legislation and has held hearings to examine this important issue. I do not serve on that committee, but please be assured that I will share your concerns with my colleagues who do, and will keep your views in mind when legislation comes to the House floor for a vote.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to get in touch in the future if I can be of any assistance.


Mike Doyle
Member of Congress

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