My Letter to Senator Hatch in Opposition to PIPA


Summary

Efforts to make copying more difficult by technical means (such as the DNS blocking provisions in PIPA and SOPA) hurt legitimate uses of technology while leaving those who would copy without permission plenty of ways to circumvent those measures.

The Honorable Orrin Hatch
104 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax: 202-224-6331

Dear Senator Hatch,

I'm writing to express my opposition to the Protect IP Act (PIPA). I have a PhD in Computer Science, have taught Computer Science at BYU, started several high-tech businesses in Utah (one of which, iMall.com, sold to Excite@Home in 1999 for $450 million), was the CIO for the State of Utah under Gov. Michael Levitt, and am the Precinct Vice-Chair in Lindon 04.

I'm pleased with Sen Reid's decision to postpone the vote and with your recent opposition to PIPA. However I'm still concerned that the thinking that led to PIPA will lead to other equally bad legislation in the future.

The problem with PIPA and similar legislation is that it looks at copying as a feature of digital goods that can be selectively disabled. In fact, everything I know about computer technology leads me to believe that copying will only get easier and easier as technology progresses. We will never again live in a time when copying things is as difficult as it is now. And this will be true regardless of the laws we pass because copying is fundamental to the nature of computers and digital goods.

Consequently, efforts to make copying more difficult by technical means (such as the DNS blocking provisions in PIPA and SOPA) hurt legitimate uses of technology while leaving those who would copy without permission plenty of ways to circumvent those measures. You cannot plug this hole by hobbling the Internet and also be a proponent of economic growth. Those positions are incompatible.

I believe that the answer lies in enforcing existing laws in the courts where the accused are afforded due process and in working with other nations to create legal regimes wherein the guilty can be tried and punished. There are no technical shortcuts that will solve this problem.

I'd be happy to discuss this matter in more detail. I look forward to seeing you at the convention.

Respectfully,
Phillip J. Windley, Ph.D.

Note: the paragraph about copying paraphrases Cory Doctorow's argument in his talk The Coming War on General Purpose Computing. I recommend listening to it.