First Amendment Attorney Floyd Abrams Letter on PROTECT IP Act

Floyd Abrams

May 24, 2011

Leading First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams today sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley and Senator Orrin Hatch asserting that, contrary to recent claims, the PROTECT IP Act currently under consideration in the Senate in no way imperils the First Amendment.

In the letter, Abrams writes:

“Among a range of objections, two core critiques stand out. First, there is a recurring argument that the United States would be less credible in its criticism of nations that egregiously violate the civil liberties of their citizens if Congress cracks down on rogue websites. Second, there is the vaguer notion that stealing is somehow less offensive when carried out online.

“I disagree. Copyright violations are not protected by the First Amendment. Entities 'dedicated to infringing activities' are not engaging in speech that any civilized, let alone freedom-oriented, nation protects. That these infringing activities occur on the Internet makes them not less, but more harmful. The notion that by combating such acts through legislation, the United States would compromise its role as the world leader in advancing a free and universal Internet seems to me insupportable. As a matter of both constitutional law and public policy, the United States must remain committed to defending both the right to speak and the ability to protect one’s intellectual creations. This legislation 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 PROTECT IP Act would, if passed, give the U.S. Department of Justice more effective tools to fight illegal money-making rogue websites that traffic in stolen content, much of it the films and television programs created by DGA members.

To see the full Abrams letter, which was written on behalf of the DGA, AFTRA, IATSE, SAG and the Motion Picture Association, please see the "RELATED PDFs" link to the right.

Lily Bedrossian -
Director of Media Relations
(310) 289-5334