Opposing the SDMCA

Last week, there was a surprise hearing on Tuesday night on HB 2121, the house version of the Super-DMCA.
We got the word at 5pm, confirmed at 6pm, and were in the hearing room at 6:30pm when the hearing started.
The MPAA lobbyists were in town. The committee waived the notice rule and put the bill on the schedule.
The bill finally came up at 1am after a set of utility regulation bills.
The bill was presented as a simple case of preventing piracy and theft of service. It sounded like the sponsor expected a quick hearing with an evident result.
The first people to testify were Vans Stevenson and Todd Flournoy from the MPAA in DC, presenting the bill as a minor revision of existing cable-TV piracy law. Stevenson presented the bill as an uncontroversial measure that had already passed in a number of states.
We spoke against, as did a representative for Verizon, opposing the bill on behalf of a coalition of telecom and ecommerce companies types. They were concerned with the bill’s breadth, since it might place them in the role of policing their customers’ communications.
During our testimony, we helped to raised doubts in committee members mind about the bill’s lack of clarity and excessive civil penalties. The representatives agree with the bill’s goal, preventing theft of internet services, but had not given thought to the negative side effects of the bill’s breadth and side effects.
We noted that as awareness of the bill’s problems had spread, there is now strong opposition in other states. Also gave examples of ways that the bill was having chilling effects on research (a Michigan researcher who’s put his thesis offshore) and on business in other states where it has passed (Labrea in Illinois).
Representatives Consumers Union and Public Citizen put in cards against the bill but didn’t testify.
The chair ended saying that the bill clearly needed a lot of work, and encouraging the groups in attendance to work on modifying the bill.
Since then, we’ve been talking with other committee members, explaining why this is not a good bill as it’s written, although the intent — preventing theft of internet services — is reasonable. And we’re working with other groups in Texas who are opposed to the bill.
If you want more information about opposition to this bill, please contact me directly, alevin AT alevin DOT com.

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