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Blackburn: Conservative Look at Stop Online Piracy Act

When a gangster breaks into your home and steals your jewelry, investigators find DNA evidence to pursue the crime. As soon as a thief robs your car, police trace the fingerprints to help render justice. But after a Russian-based rogue website rips off a hit song with the click of a mouse or the touch of a keypad, U.S. law enforcement doesn’t even blink an eye.

Dedicated cyber criminals exploit America’s greatest asset — its creative power — without recourse.

The result: Jobs, small businesses and U.S. exports are forced to walk the plank and drown in a sea of cyber-lawlessness. Innovation is slashed. Rule of law is burned. American creativity goes without reward. The economy suffers.

That’s why Congress needs to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act — to give true meaning and value to our intellectual property rights. The systemic proliferation of online copyright infringement deserves a proportional response from government that is both technically feasible and within reason. After all, the federal government has an obligation to secure citizens’ original works as enumerated in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution.

Without the tools to enforce property rights in the physical world, the free market fails to operate effectively. SOPA helps apply that same protection online so that our free market can continue to be the greatest force for good the world has ever known.

Abandoning American innovators means outsourcing jobs to cyber criminals in China and Russia. Estimates show almost 25 percent of total global online traffic goes to pirated sites. Why are we allowing profits from a quarter of all Internet traffic to flow to criminal interests? If copyright piracy is expected to take approximately 375,000 jobs away from the U.S. economy next year, shouldn’t we do something serious to minimize the damage?

Critics of SOPA have no answer to those questions. They can’t deny the undisputed fact that online piracy hurts America. That’s why they’re hijacking conservative principles and manipulating facts to mislead the public. Critics, including left-wing special interest groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Demand Progress and Public Knowledge, have resorted to desperate arguments that attempt to challenge the bill’s constitutionality. They allege enforcing the law against illegal activity will break the Internet.

But the first provision of SOPA reinforces the First Amendment. The fact remains — some entrenched special interest groups refuse to take responsibility for their dubious advertising practices and their role in helping bootleg American-produced content through their search functionality. Profit from piracy is not free speech — it’s criminal. Google is not the final arbiter of free speech — U.S. courts hold that jurisdiction. Free speech isn’t the right to reproduce someone else’s speech and then claim it as your own.

SOPA is narrowly tailored to preserve our rights and protect American innovation. Conservative philosopher John Locke said it best: “Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.” President James Madison wrote: “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

Because America is a society based on free ideas and free-market capitalism, it is America’s creators who should have the first opportunity to monetize their original ideas. The federal government exists and has an obligation to secure those rights.

Online pirates are perpetuating the free entitlement culture that is plaguing the global economy. A culture of free dictates that every good idea America has ever produced holds no private value — that’s not a sustainable model. Don’t surrender America’s future prosperity for the hope that a new digital collectivism will turn this down economy right-side-up.

The genius of the American people, and the promise of the free market, will outlast and outperform all alternatives as long as property rights are enforced in our new virtual economy. The United States has everything to gain in the fight to enforce our intellectual property rights.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) is the No. 2 Republican on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade and is founder and chairwoman of the Congressional Songwriters Caucus.

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