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Justin Sayfie weighs in against Anitere Flores’ Internet disclosure bill

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Attorney and publisher of our friendly rival Justin Sayfie is better known on the Internet as a host for Florida news and opinion than an author of it. But this morning, Sayfie stepped out and offered a strident opinion on the issue of a telecoms regulation that may restrict electronic freedom of expression.

In a notice in lieu of the morning news aggregation that usually appears at the top of the site, Sayfie writes that SB 604, the “True Origin of Digital Goods Act,” by state Sen. Anitere Flores, poses  a serious threat to creators of internet content:

“I am grateful to have built a successful Internet business. I also happen to represent Google before the Florida Legislature. While the difference in size of our of respective Internet businesses couldn’t be any greater, our interest in keeping the Internet open and free is identical.

So today, I am taking the unusual step of not publishing the daily news to share with you my concerns about the future of a free and open Internet in the state of Florida.

In doing so, I am joining a unified chorus of America’s most respected technology organizations in opposing a pernicious bill, SB 604, which will be voted on in the Florida House of Representatives today.

The bill would require Internet websites published anywhere in the world to disclose their name, address and phone number or email address if they disseminate, directly or indirectly, commercial recordings or audiovisual works on their website in substantial part.  For the first time, the state of Florida would take the unprecedented step of dictating content on websites all over the world.”

Sayfie goes on to enumerate a handful of reasons why the oftentimes behind-the-scenes advocate is going public on the issue of a free and open Internet. He says the bill would degrade Florida’s legal environment by creating confused, contradictory legal mandates, allow judges who are not experts in the field to impose technological solutions on Internet companies, and generally harm the public interest it claims to protect.

Writes Sayfie:

“It’s not a consumer protection law. The bill purports to be about consumer protection, yet no consumer groups support the bill.  In reality, the bill is a thinly disguised attempt to usurp the power granted to Congress by Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, otherwise known as the Copyright Clause.  On April 23, 2015, the House bill sponsor stated that the bill is designed to protect “creators against websites engaged in the unauthorized and illegal distribution of music and movies online.”  An attorney for the Recording Industry of America told The Associated Press that the bill will “give state authorities an opportunity to weigh in on the piracy issue.”  No one can reasonably claim that the bill is about consumer protection, and thus the bill has serious federal pre-emption issues.”

He ends on a grave yet hopeful note, imploring the House to do the right thing and leave the Internet free of burdensome and invasive mandatory disclosures of identity for Internet publishers.

“There are many other problems with the bill, but hopefully those few points demonstrate that the bill should be amended such that law-abiding Internet companies are protected against plaintiff driven and judicially imposed technological mandates.

If the bill doesn’t ultimately provide such protection, then Florida will have the distinction of plunging the first dagger into the heart of freedom and openness on the Internet. As someone who has built a business and who represents a business that were built thanks to that freedom, I am hopeful that Florida will resist the temptation to do that, and will become a place that welcomes digital entrepreneurs to grow and flourish their businesses, and protects them from needless and mindless government intrusion.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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