Florida Capitol

Testimony in Opposition to HB 271

Florida Capitol

The Old and New Florida Capitol buildings

On Thursday, I testified before the Florida House of Representatives’ House Regulatory Affairs Committee on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in opposition to CS/HB 271, the True Origin of Digital Goods Act. The bill is dubbed a consumer protection bill, but it “protects” consumers at the expense of the First Amendment and by invading the Federal government’s sole jurisdiction over copyright law. I was told to keep my testimony very brief — indeed, I ended up shortening it on the fly — but here is what I told the committee:

My name is Dineen Wasylik, and I am Board Certified Intellectual Property Lawyer from the Tampa/Wesley Chapel area, here today to speak on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, in opposition to House Bill HB 271, known as the True Origin of Digital Goods Act.

Briefly, EFF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending civil liberties in the digital world throughout the United States. EFF regularly speaks out through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development to ensure that individuals’ First Amendment and other civil liberty rights are not lost in the digital age. EFF works closely with individuals through out the country and throughout Florida to advocate on behalf of individual civil liberties online.

As a lawyer and as a citizen of this state, I am personally very concerned about the impact of HB 271 on both copyright law and individual’s free speech rights. The Bill requires anyone speaking on the internet by transmitting or performing a “commercial recording or audiovisual work” must provide complete and accurate contact information. This compelled speech is in direct conflict with the longstanding principle that individuals have the right to speak anonymously. The U.S Supreme Court has consistently overturned statutes and regulations that required an individual to divulge their identity in order to engage in speech.

Existing copyright law is well-equipped and better suited to dealing with issues surrounding audiovisual works and sound recordings, which are specific types of copyrighted works enumerated under Federal law. Existing copyright law also creates a safety valve of fair use, yet this Bill would penalize otherwise legal and appropriate exercise of the right to free and anonymous speech.

Frankly, HB271 turns our state court system into a vehicle for shutting down speech without having to go to the trouble of proving copyright infringement, and does so at the expense of First Amendment rights and a cost to the citizens of this state. It is bad policy and bad law and I urge you to vote no on this bill.

Thank you very much for your time today.

The companion Senate Bill is CS/SB 604. Floridians, contact your state senator and representative and ask them to vote no on this terrible bill.