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Let’s talk about intellectual property

Friends,

As you may know, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided not to bring the PROTECT IP Act (the Senate’s version of SOPA) up for a vote next week.  And since I’ve heard from many of you about this issue, I wanted to take a moment to share why I support copyright protection legislation — as well as why I believe holding off on this bill is the right thing to do.

As someone who has worked hard to protect net neutrality, I understand as well as anyone the importance of keeping the Internet free from undue corporate influence.  There are millions of Americans who rely on a free and open Internet to learn, communicate with friends and family, and do business.

Friends,

As you may know, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided not to bring the PROTECT IP Act (the Senate’s version of SOPA) up for a vote next week. And since I’ve heard from many of you about this issue, I wanted to take a moment to share why I support copyright protection legislation — as well as why I believe holding off on this bill is the right thing to do.

As someone who has worked hard to protect net neutrality, I understand as well as anyone the importance of keeping the Internet free from undue corporate influence. There are millions of Americans who rely on a free and open Internet to learn, communicate with friends and family, and do business.

At the same time, there are millions of Americans whose livelihoods rely on strong protections for intellectual property: middle-class workers — most of them union workers — in all 50 states, thousands of them here in Minnesota, working in a variety of industries from film production to publishing to software development.

If we don’t protect our intellectual property, international criminals — as well as legitimate businesses like payment processors and ad networks — will continue to profit dishonestly from the work these Americans are doing every day.  And that puts these millions of jobs at serious risk.

That’s reason enough to act.  But these criminals are also putting Minnesota families in danger by flooding our nation with counterfeit products — not just bootleg movies and software, but phony medications and knockoff equipment for first responders.

We cannot simply shrug off the threat of online piracy.  We cannot do nothing.

I have supported the approach Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has taken in crafting legislation to respond to the threat of online piracy — and I appreciate his leadership on this important issue.

But I’ve also been listening carefully to the debate — and to the many Minnesotans who have told me via email, Facebook, Twitter, and good old fashioned phone calls that they are worried about what this bill would mean for the future of the Internet.

Frankly, there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there: If this bill really did some of the things people have heard it would do (like shutting down YouTube), I would never have supported it.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take seriously the concerns people have shared.  And if holding off on this legislation gives us an opportunity to take a step back and try to bring everybody back to the table, I think it’s the right thing to do.  This is a difficult issue, and also an important one.  It’s worth getting this right.

I strongly believe that we need to protect intellectual property – and protect the free and open Internet.  I think most people, even those who have expressed concern about this particular bill, agree.  And it’s my hope that we can now build a stronger consensus around how to accomplish these two important goals.

Thanks for reading.  And for those of you who have written to me about this issue (even if it was an angry letter), thanks for being honest with me.  I’ll always return the favor.

Al