The following was received via email from Senator Kyl on February 17, 2012.
Thank you for contacting me about the legislation before Congress intended to combat foreign Internet trafficking in counterfeit and pirated goods.
As you know, there has been intense debate over this legislation. Many are worried about the government intruding on the freedom of the Internet, and I understand and appreciate that concern. I am a natural skeptic of government intervention, believing that it should only intervene when there is a demonstrated, compelling reason to do so. In this case, I believe defending American property – especially intellectual property – against the threat of foreign online theft more than meets this threshold and merits congressional action. I appreciate the opportunity to explain why.
There is a reason why the United States has led the world in technology, medicine, software, electronics, and so many other innovation-heavy industries for so long; we have one of the freest economies in the world, we have some of the smartest, most hard-working people, and we have always strongly protected intellectual property rights. This imperative was recognized by our Founding Fathers, which is why Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution tells Congress to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
American laws are violated every time a copyrighted movie, song, book, or other material is stolen, reproduced, and sold or distributed to buyers without permission. Thus, I believe legislation should be enacted to prevent foreign websites whose primary business is trafficking in infringed goods from doing business with Americans. These websites not only harm the American companies that own the trademarks and copyrights that are infringed; they also harm the American purchasers of counterfeit goods (which are usually of markedly inferior quality, and are sometimes dangerous to the consumer).
It’s clear that we can no longer ignore this growing problem. To do so would reward foreign pirates at the expense of American innovators, and it would risk ceding our pre-eminent position in the world economy to places like China and Russia. Laws have already been in place for many years to fight domestic intellectual piracy; it only makes sense, then, to extend that same protection to the fight against foreign online counterfeiters.
To be sure, some of the bills that have been introduced to address this issue (such as S. 968 and H.R. 3261) are not perfect. I have some concerns myself. For instance, companies doing business on the Internet might incur new costs to comply with some of the requirements. But that does not mean we simply should abandon our efforts to combat foreign Internet piracy. While Senator Reid has pulled S. 968 from Senate consideration for now, I am working with the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and senators from both parties to negotiate a compromise bill that can appropriately balance the need to address this issue with the importance of keeping the Internet as free and open as possible (and, in many ways, combating foreign piracy helps to do just that). I am hopeful that we can be successful.
I appreciate your taking the time to write on this important issue.