PROTECT IP Act: Workers vs. Wyden?

by Howard Gantman 05/27/2011 08:37 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

When it comes to protecting creative expression in America, where do our leaders stand?  Some of the answers may surprise you.   

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced a plan to obstruct the PROTECT IP Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), leading Judiciary Committee Republicans Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and 13 other Republicans and Democrats, which was approved yesterday – unanimously – by the Judiciary Committee. 

Senator Wyden has stated that he will try to prevent the full Senate from debating or voting on this critical legislation,  claiming that it would “muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth.”

We respectfully disagree – and so do American workers.  In a recent blog post, the AFL-CIO, which represents 12.2 million working men and women in this country, praised the PROTECT IP Act, saying it would preserve jobs and strengthen intellectual property rights. 

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote:

The economic well-being of workers in the United States—jobs, income, and benefits—turns more and more on our protecting the creativity and innovation that yield world-class entertainment, cutting-edge and sustainable manufacturing and construction, and disease-ending pharmaceuticals. In a tough economic time, the PROTECT IP Act will help to protect U.S. workers and consumers against digital thieves and counterfeit scammers.

Paul Almeida, President of the AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees (DPE), added:

Digital theft costs the arts, entertainment, and media industries billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs. For these skilled professionals, online infringement is wage theft.

The PROTECT IP Act will also be an important safeguard of free speech.  As Constitutional expert Floyd Abrams has written:

It is one thing to say that the Internet must be free; it is something else to say that it must be lawless.  Even the Wild West had sheriffs, and even those who use the Internet must obey duly adopted laws. …

Copyright violations are not protected by the First Amendment … [The PROTECT IP Act] does not impair or overcome the constitutional right to engage in speech; it protects creators of speech, as Congress has since this Nation was founded, by combating its theft.

The truth couldn’t be clearer.  Foreign based rogue websites that steal and sell or give away American movies, TV shows, and other creative products endanger jobs, cut into our GDP, and put the consumers who use them at risk of identity theft or credit card fraud.  

We know where we stand, and we know where the 16 bipartisan sponsors and co-sponsors of the PROTECT IP Act stand: with the millions of Americans working in entertainment, the arts, and media whose jobs are threatened by content theft.  Where does Senator Wyden stand?

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