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White House Responds to Two Anti-SOPA Petitions

Just because there is a system for everyday folks to submit petitions to the White House doesn’t mean that the Obama administration has to respond. However, in the case of two anti-SOPA petitions, the White House decided to weigh in on the subject. Not to spoil it, but if you were hoping for a firm promise to veto the legislation, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not all bad news, though, and the response does give insight into the stance of the Executive Branch of government on this hot-button topic.

Careful readers will recall that one of the petitions addressed in the White House response is one we have written about before. Interestingly, it could actually require the entire White House URL to be taken down if SOPA is enacted as it contains a link to copyrighted content. It now has 51,689 signatures while another petition titled “Stop the E-PARASITE Act.” has 52,096.

The White House response is authored by Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, and Howard Schmidt. According to the statement, the three have a background in intellectual property law, information technology, and cybersecurity. The administration’s authors say that the White House supports the creation of what it calls “new tools [...] in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting.” Like SOPA’s authors, the authors of the White House response view piracy and intellectual property violation as a threat to the American economy and job market.

However, the authors spend most of their time talking about what shape they would like to see that kind of legislation take. First and foremost, the authors say that avoiding censorship is paramount, and that any legislation must avoid “disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet.” These two points would seem to stick right at the heart of the most offensive portions of the current SOPA legislation. If you’re looking for a direct attack at the bill currently in Congress, you have to got to his passage:

Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

In general, the White House response would seem to propose a middle path; one that will create stronger laws that are targeted specifically at online piracy, while avoiding the worst of what SOPA critics say the current legislation would allow. More importantly, it closes with a promise to hold a conference call with signers of the petition, and, unlike the SOPA hearings themselves, makes a point of trying to make nerds experts heard. This last promise of involvement is perhaps the strongest, and most hopeful news, to come out of the White House response.

The full text follows below:

Thanks for taking the time to sign this petition. Both your words and actions illustrate the importance of maintaining an open and democratic Internet.

Right now, Congress is debating a few pieces of legislation concerning the very real issue of online piracy, including the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN). We want to take this opportunity to tell you what the Administration will support—and what we will not support. Any effective legislation should reflect a wide range of stakeholders, including everyone from content creators to the engineers that build and maintain the infrastructure of the Internet.

While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.

Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.

We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, and threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.  It harms everyone from struggling artists to production crews, and from startup social media companies to large movie studios. While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response.  We should never let criminals hide behind a hollow embrace of legitimate American values.

This is not just a matter for legislation. We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy.

So, rather than just look at how legislation can be stopped, ask yourself: Where do we go from here? Don’t limit your opinion to what’s the wrong thing to do, ask yourself what’s right. Already, many of members of Congress are asking for public input around the issue. We are paying close attention to those opportunities, as well as to public input to the Administration. The organizer of this petition and a random sample of the signers will be invited to a conference call to discuss this issue further with Administration officials and soon after that, we will host an online event to get more input and answer your questions. Details on that will follow in the coming days.

Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders. We should all be committed to working with all interested constituencies to develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights without jeopardizing the openness of the Internet. Our hope is that you will bring enthusiasm and know-how to this important challenge.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis on legislation that provides new tools needed in the global fight against piracy and counterfeiting, while vigorously defending an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security and innovation. Again, thank you for taking the time to participate in this important process. We hope you’ll continue to be part of it.

(We The People via @JonCarson44)

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