Series of PIPAs

Sen. Schumer’s Office Says He’s Still Carefully Considering PIPA

Retracts dreaded "c-word."
chuck schumer Sen. Schumers Office Says Hes Still Carefully Considering PIPA

Sen. Schumer. (

Earlier today, Amanda Peyton (Y Combinator alum, Makery/Bnter resident and local Woman About Tech) posted a transcript of a conversation she had with a rep for Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who used “the c-word” in reference to the Protect IP Act, the Senate version of the Stop Online Piracy Act. “Censorship,” that is.

Both Ms. Peyton and Betabeat (we picked up the story) received calls from energetic staffers, eager to run, not just walk, the quote back. “It is absurd to suggest that Sen. Schumer, who led the charge against the assault on net neutrality, would support censoring the Internet; he unequivocally does not,” said Mike Morey, a spokesman for Sen. Schumer’s office.

Staffers from Sen. Schumer’s office got on the phone with Betabeat late Friday to go into more detail on the senator’s position on the bill, which they said had first been presented by a coalition of representatives from different industries more than a year ago. The industries represented including pharmaceutical companies, apparel manufacturers and more, in addition to the purveyors of movies and music who have emerged as the evil villains in the internet’s backlash against the legislation.

The bill is also targeting counterfeiters and fake drug makers, the senator’s office said, and will allow companies whose intellectual property is being infringed to sue websites and have courts take action—essentially making something that is already illegal, also enforceable. The senator believes that legal activity on the internet should be “inviolate,” staffers said, but illegal activity should not.

During the markup of PIPA, staffers said, there was no outcry from the tech industry beyond tempered concern. It was only after the House version, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was farther reaching, that opponents’ voices began rising. UPDATE: Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures disputed this in the comments. “Our firm and others were very vocal with the Senator and his staff as early as the middle of last year,” he wrote, “that this was bad legislation and that the tech industry was going to fight it and fight it hard.”

Part of SOPA and PIPA’s problem is the perception that the bills are being written by older, out of touch Congressmen and women who don’t spend much time with the internet and don’t really understand how it works, a la the late Senator Ted Stevens and his famous “series of tubes” remark.

For the record, at least one staffer we spoke to in Sen. Schumer’s office had a firm handle on the technicalities of the bill, including the provisions that would allow IP owners to ask a court to order Internet Service Providers and search engines to block certain sites, arguably the two most controversial aspects of the bill.

Now that more people in the tech industry are speaking out against the bill, the senator is carefully considering his position, his office said. He does not 100 percent support the bill as written, his office said, and is taking more time to research its effects and talk to interested parties in order to ensure the bill does not have unintended consequences.

According to staffers, the senator wants to be sure that sites like Twitter and Facebook (and hi, Tumblr, hey, Reddit) which may have infringing content, but are not primarily in the business of selling illegal stuff, are not harmed. The bill is supposed to target websites that exist mainly to traffic in counterfeited or pirated goods or content, allowing IP owners to sue a website and potentially earn a temporary or permanent shutdown, depending on standards they must meet before the court, with the ability to target enablers like ad networks, payment providers, and as it now stands, search engines and ISPs.

(Homepage image credit: dpape)

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  1. Dave K says:

    I am his constituent and I have voted for him in the past.
    If he doesn’t drop this bill I will make sure that he and his girlfriend Kirsten Gillibrand get thrown out their asses when the next election comes. You want my vote? First  rule, LEAVE THE INTERNET ALONE!!!

  2. Siria says:

    There is something more concerning about SOPA/PIPA than the fact that the legislation is being written by clueless legislators who don’t really understand the issues.

    The RIAA and MPAA haven’t learned from the PR backlash of suing so many thousands of their own customers; it’s always the evil Internet boogeyman’s fault for ruining their profits. They ignore that iTunes, Netflix, etc. have proven that adopting the Internet as the new distribution medium is a very profitable opportunity.

    The real problem here is not the clueless legislators, but the fact that the executives of the music and video industries have an outdated business model and refuse to adapt to changes in technology. Instead of investing in a transition to the new medium they’re instead investing in Congress, hoping Congress might make the new business models that are eating away at their profits illegal.

    SOPA and PIPA are, consequently, a flagrant attack on the merits of capitalism–An attempt by the big factory owner to legislate his competitors out of existence because they’re doing a better job than he is.

    And that’s not even to mention the effects this will have on American control of the Internet. Many other nations already doubt the United States’ ability to administrate the core of the network (which it currently does). The Internet works because its connected networks are all designed to comply with certain defined international standards. If the U.S. starts rolling out non-compliant hardware in order to appease the film and music industries it will just make other countries doubt the U.S. even more.

    That Senator Schumer is supporting this absurd legislation is a travesty.

  3. Peter says:

    The right to free speech does not trump the law.  Sites that are selling fake Rolex watches or LV handbags or pirated music/software are breaking the law.  It costs the legitimate companies a lot of money and it’s ridiculous that these companies can’t go after them.  If you see somebody stealing from a store, everybody knows that it’s wrong — but those that oppose this think that it’s ok if this happens on the internet because [… please fill in the blank here because I’m at a loss …].  My guess is that if they don’t witness it personally, which they can’t on the internet, then the offense is out of mind for them (unfortunately it is not out of mind or out of wallet for the companies being ripped off).

    If they are successful in creating a bill that can effectively discern between sites that are blatantly profiting from illegal activities from those that have infringing content by accident (such as social sites containing some infringing content), then this should be passed.

  4. Peter says:

    I think you are missing the point Siria.  The record companies don’t oppose technology, they just want to get paid for their products.  When sites are stealing their music and distributing it for free — it isn’t cool technology — it’s stealing and nothing more.  Nothing prevents those same sites from becoming legitimate distribution by paying royalties.  This has nothing to do with suppressing technology and has everything to do with suppressing theft.  Everyone gets that it’s not ok to steal from a store, but some find it convenient to forget that stealing from a record company is an equally evil offense.

  5. fredwilson says:

    adrianne, this statement from the senator’s office is incorrect:
    “During the markup of PIPA, staffers said, there was no outcry from the tech industry beyond tempered concern. It was only after the House version, the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was farther reaching, that opponents’ voices began rising.”
    our firm and others were very vocal with the Senator and his staff as early as the middle of last year that this was bad legislation and that the tech industry was going to fight it and fight it hard

    1. Anonymous says:

      Oh reeeeeally now. Interesting! I added that in, thank you.

      What other firms were vocal during the PIPA markup?

  6. Anonymous says:

    the idea that “The bill is also targeting counterfeiters and fake drug makers”  is obviously pure BS and proves the bill is a scam.