The United States House of Representatives has recently conducted a bipartisan vote to abolish all forms of satire within the country in a move clearly designed to belie the widely held notion that Congress is the place where good ideas go to die. The following are transcripts from the subcommittee hearing and floor debate that led to the aforementioned vote.
A BILL TO PROTECT THE INTEGRITY OF PATENT AND TRADEMARK LAWS THROUGH THE ABOLITION OF SATIRICAL AND IRONIC REPRESENTATIONS IN ALL FORMS OF MEDIA
SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, COMPETITION, AND THE INTERNET,
COMMITTEE OF THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS
JUNE 22, 2012
LAMAR DREG, Oklahoma, Chairman
CYNTHIA PRUNE, New York
EZEKIAL PARSONS, Pennsylvania
JONATHON GOELZ, Nebraska
ELIZABETH BERGMAN, Illinois
HARVEY ENTSFIELD, Hawaii
ROBERT DERGIN JR., California
EMILY POE, California
PETER FERNANDEZ, Georgia
BARBARA GREY, Delaware
HENRY GOLDMAN, Texas
LORANCE ERIE, Kansas
BRETT SPRINGFIELD, Louisiana
ALBERT ABERDEAN, Massachusetts
ALICE TORRANCE, Maryland
EMILY ALBRIGHT, Nevada
JEBIDIAH DUTCH, Utah
TINA CHU, Colorado
ERNEST BEARDSLY, New Jersey
JAVIER SUAREZ, Florida
ELANOR BROWN, Florida
EASTERN WILD TURKEY, Virginia
HARPER BRUSH 18-INCH PUSH BROOM, Arizona
Mr. Clive Richardhead, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Defense of Integrity in Commerce Coalition (DICC)
Ms. Veronica Backside, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association for the Security of Honorably Operated and Licensed Engagements (ASHOLE)
Ms. Gloria Totenberg, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
MR. DREG. The Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet will come to order.
I will recognize myself for an opening statement.
Today we begin the examination of H.R. 7235, a bill to make illegal all forms of satirical and ironic references of patented and trademarked items.
This is an important hearing on a serious subject, and I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.
This concludes my opening remarks. I now recognize the gentleman from Virginia and the author of this bill, Mr. Turkey.
MR. TURKEY. Gobble gobble gobble. Peck peck. Gobble gobble gobble gobble? Gobble gobble!
Gobble gobble gobble gobble peck gobble. Gobble!
[Transcriber’s note: at this point, Mr. Turkey stared blankly at the ceiling for three minutes before continuing.]
Gobble gobble gobble peck peck gobble. Ruffle ruffle gobble. Gobble gobble gobble gobble. Peck.
MR. DREG. I think Mr. Turkey did an excellent job of clarifying his position, as well as eloquently reiterating how important it is for the subcommittee to thoroughly understand the finer points of this bill.
I recognize the lady from New York, Ms. Prune.
MS. PRUNE. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Continuing along Mr. Turkey’s same vein, this subcommittee has a bill before it that would enshrine the integrity of the United States’ patent and trademark laws for as long as the Union stands. We have the unprecedented opportunity to pass the gift of intellectual and property security to our children and grandchildren.
For too long have satirists stolen and altered legally protected material for their own benefit. Writers, commentators, and comedians have unlawfully integrated this material into their books, movies, television shows, and standup routines with impunity and without paying royalties.
Contrary to what the satirists may want you to believe, this wholesale intellectual bank robbery has not just been a good-natured ribbing, ladies and gentlemen of the subcommittee. These unabashed thieves have used legally protected material to make themselves rich by selling their books, DVDs, and whatnot for truly gratuitous profits.
Furthermore, they have willfully and maliciously distorted the public’s perception of the integrity of countless hard working, valuable, and beneficial American corporations, affecting their profit margins in the most concrete terms, and crippling their ability to provide the products and services that provide incalculable gain to the common good.
I wholeheartedly urge the members of this subcommittee to recommend the forwarding of this bill to the House floor in its present form.
I yield to our Chairman.
MR. DREG. Thank you, Ms. Prune.
I recognize Mr. Grey from Delaware.
MR. GREY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want the record to show that I absolutely agree with everything that my colleague from New York just said.
MR. DREG. Would the gentleman from Delaware yield to the gentleman from Arizona for his opening statement, or is there more that he would like to add?
MR. GREY. Certainly. I have concluded my opening statement.
MR. DREG. Thank you Mr. Grey.
I recognize the gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Push Broom.
MR. PUSH BROOM.
[Transcriber’s note: Mr. Push Broom remained silent for the duration of his opening statement. He did, however, slowly slide off his chair until he hit the floor with a loud clatter.]
MR. DREG. Thank you Mr. Push Broom.
Are there any other members of the subcommittee that would like to make opening statements? No? OK. Let’s get on with the witness testimony then.
Mr. Richardhead, the floor is yours.
MR. RICHARDHEAD. Thank you, Mr. Dreg.
First of all, I would like to thank the members of the subcommittee for allowing my organization to give its testimony on such an important matter. The Defense of Integrity in Commerce Coalition, or DICC…
MR. DREG. Pardon the interruption Mr. Richardhead, but for the subcommittee’s clarification, does your organization spell out its acronym, or does it pronounce it as one word?
MR. RICHARDHEAD. No problem. We pronounce it as one word. We believe our organization is easier to remember that way.
MR. DREG. Thank you Mr. Richardhead.
MR. RICHARDHEAD. My pleasure, Mr. Dreg.
As I was saying, DICC is composed of a whole range of corporations from across the entirety of the business community. Our members include General Electric, AIG, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, IBM, FedEx, Apple, Nike—basically all of the largest American companies with the highest number of patents filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Our members’ main concern is the infringement on their private property rights by a veritable host of satirists. These exceptionally unethical individuals have wantonly stolen from the American people. Furthermore, they have used their positions to deceive and swindle a misinformed population.
Not only do the satirists make themselves rich by refusing to pay royalties on the income they derive from using my clients’ brand names, but they also do immeasurable damage to their bottom lines by assaulting their perfectly legal business practices.
I urge the members of this subcommittee to enforce this great nation’s copyright laws and come to the rescue of these defenseless companies by supporting H.R. 7235. I thank you for your time, ladies and gentlemen.
MR. DREG. And thank you, Mr. Richardhead. Ms. Backside, you may present your statement to the subcommittee.
MS. BACKSIDE. Thank you, Mr. Dreg.
Good morning to everyone. My name is Veronica Backside and I am the President of the Association for the Security of Honorably Operated and Licensed Engagements, or the ASHOLE.
MR. DREG. And you pronounce every letter in your organization’s name?
MS. BACKSIDE. That’s right.
MR. DREG. Very well.
MS. BACKSIDE. We are a grass roots movement that seeks to protect the property rights of American businesses. We are specifically concerned with the unlawful use copyrighted material.
MR. DREG. I must ask your pardon once more Ms. Backside, but is your group affiliated with Mr. Richardhead’s organization?
MS. BACKSIDE. No sir. The ASHOLE is not directly affiliated with DICC. However, we do occasionally work on similar projects. We also have a long-standing exchange program wherein we’ll insert DICC members directly into the ASHOLE’s operations.
MR. DREG. OK. Please continue.
MS. BACKSIDE. As I was saying, we are an association made up of thousands of concerned Americans citizens. We stage protests, conduct letter-writing campaigns, and participate in marches that further our goal of protecting American businesses from unethical practices.
MR. DREG. So you are a populist movement that seeks to protect the interests of the business sector?
MS. BACKSIDE. Business, manufacturing, and finance.
MR DREG. I see.
MS. DREG. And as the representative of all ASHOLE members across the United States, I sincerely ask the subcommittee to support H.R. 7235, and ensure that it winds up on the House floor for a vote.
MR. DREG. Thank you, Ms. Backside. We will now hear the testimony of Ms. Totenberg, a professor at Georgetown Law School, and an expert in trademark and copyright law.
MS. TOTENBURG. Uh, thank you Mr. Dreg. I’m having a little bit of a tough time comprehending exactly what’s going on in this subcommittee hearing. Are you seriously considering stepping on the First Amendment rights of the American people?
MS. BACKSIDE. Not the American people! The satirists! The satirists are stepping on the Fifth Amendment Rights of businesses…
MR. DREG. Order! There will be no speaking out of turn in this hearing. Continue, Ms. Totenberg.
MS. TOTENBERG. The Fifth Amendment protects private property from government unlawful seizure. It has nothing to do with copyright infringement.
But to the point, I’m really a little speechless here. There’s never been a precedent for such a blatant disregard for guaranteed constitutional freedoms. I really don’t know what to say…
MR. DREG. Well, if that concludes your testimony, Ms. Totenberg, then we’ll get on with subcommittee procedure. All those in favor of H.R. 7235 in its present form, please say “aye.”
[Transcriber’s note: 22 members of the subcommittee responded with “aye.” MR. PUSHBROOM abstained.]
MR. DREG. Very well. We will report our findings to the Committee on the Judiciary. This concludes all subcommittee business for today.
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 112TH CONGRESS, SECOND SESSION
WASHINGTON, WEDNESDAY, JULY 18 2012
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The House met at 10 a.m. and was called to order by THE SPEAKER.
THE SPEAKER. Good morning. The House is now called to order. Today we will begin the debate on H.R. 7235, A BILL TO PROTECT THE INTEGRITY OF PATENT AND TRADEMARK LAWS THROUGH THE ABOLITION OF SATIRICAL AND IRONIC REPRESENTATIONS IN ALL FORMS OF MEDIA.
Pursuant Article 12, Section 4, Clause 7 of the House floor debate bylaws, I will allocate the opening remarks of the debate to the Party as per the usual means. Is the Keeper of the Ostriches…umm Ostrich. Ostrichi?
MR. BAILY. Ostriches.
THE SPEAKER. Is the Keeper of the Ostriches present?
MR. BAILY. I am.
THE SPEAKER. Excellent. Pursuant Article 12, Section 4, Clause 7, the Keeper will release the fourteen ostriches onto the House floor on my order. The Party that captures at least eight of the ostriches—i.e. a majority—will be allocated the opening remarks. Mr. Baily?
MR. BAILY. Yes sir.
THE SPEAKER. Release the ostriches.
MR. BAILY. Very well, sir.
[Transcriber’s note: Upon the release of the ostriches, the House floor was immediately obscured by a flurry of feathers and dust as the Representatives scrambled to wrestle down the animals. By the time they were all captured, the chamber was in shambles. Upturned desks, broken chairs, and bleeding, moaning Congresspersons lay strewn across the room.]
THE SPEAKER. Have all the ostriches been captured?
MR. BAILY. They have, Mr. Speaker.
THE SPEAKER. OK. Ms. Hogan, how many ostriches has your Party captured?
MS. HOGAN (SOUTH DAKOTA, D). Seven, Mr. Speaker.
THE SPEAKER. Shit… And Mr. Doherty, how many ostriches has your party captured?
MR. DOHERTY (OHIO, R). Seven as well, Mr. Spearker.
THE SPEAKER. Well, damn it all. Each party captured an equal number of ostriches.
MS. HOGAN (SOUTH DAKOTA, D). What do we do now, Mr. Speaker?
[Transcriber’s note: There was a slight pause while THE SPEAKER collected his thoughts.]
THE SPEAKER. I’ll tell you what, the first Party to kill all its ostriches will be given the opening remarks.
[Transcriber’s note: The fourteen ostriches were quickly bludgeoned to death].
THE SPEAKER. Mr. Baily.
MR. BAILY. Sir.
THE SPEAKER. Which Party killed all of its ostriches first?
MR. BAILY. No idea, sir.
THE SPEAKER. God damn everything. Fine. The first party to bring me a wood chip gets the opening remarks.
[Transcriber’s note: A Representative from each Party sprinted out of the room. Several minutes passed while the other Members anxiously waited for their return. Finally, the Republican runner burst back into the chamber, followed closely by the Democrat. He raced down the aisle and slapped the wood chip down on THE SPEAKER’s podium with a loud huff.]
THE SPEAKER. The Republicans get the opening remarks.
[Transcriber’s note: A celebratory whoop rose from the Republican ranks].
MR. DOHERTY (OHIO, R). Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to begin by hearkening back to the Founding Fathers of this country. Those great, wise men—those giants upon whose shoulders we have the privilege to stand—were intimately aware of the power God’s hand plays in the deliberation of any important decision. I ask God’ guiding grace to help this chamber make the best possible decision in regard to the bill it has before it. So, before we being, I would like to perform a quick ritual.
[Transcriber’s note: MR. DOHERTY (OHIO, R) removed a Eucharistic bowl and chalice of wine from under his coat jacket and placed them on the podium.]
MR. DOHERTY (OHIO, R). I would like to call all True Believer Republicans, regardless of their religion or beliefs, to come up to the podium and receive the grace of their one true God and Savior Jesus Christ.
[Transcriber’s note: The Republican members of the House shuffled up to the podium, received the Eucharist and sacramental wine, and shuffled back to their seats. MR. DOHERTY (OHIO, R) then brought out a large bucket filled with holy water, turned to the Representatives on the Democratic side of the aisle, and proceeded to douse them with its contents].
MR. DOHERTY (OHIO, R). The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!
Oh God, I also ask that you remove the sin and filth emanating from the Democratic members of this chamber, and that you keep the Republican True Believers safe from their corrupting ways. Protect us from their evil. Save us from the malevolence they wish to bring down upon the American people. Grant your all-saving grace to the Republican True Believers, and cast the unholy Democratic fiends out of this House during the next election cycle.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That concludes my opening remarks.
THE SPEAKER. Very well, Mr. Doherty. Ms. Hogan, you have the floor.
MS. HOGAN (SOUTH DAKOTA, D). Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have brought something along with me, something that I believe best cuts through all the rhetorical fog, and shows the American people exactly what is going on in their country.
[Transcriber’s note: MS. HOGAN (SOUTH DAKOTA, D) raised a poster of a golden retriever puppy being eaten by a king cobra.]
MS. HOGAN (SOUTH DAKOTA, D). This snake is Big Business in the United States. The puppy is the American people. The American people are being eaten alive by Big Business, but only after they were injected with the venom of unethical business practices.
This grass is the American workers’ union. It has been trampled upon by the Snake of Big Business. This tree is the American economy. It’s buffeted by the gale force winds of corporate corruption. This shrub is the working poor. It is slowly dying because the sunlight of education is being blocked by the economy-tree. This cloud is the evaporated dreams of the middle class. It is being blown out of existence by the corruption-wind.
As illustrated in the poster, all of this great country’s ills—from its languishing education system, to its disappearing middle class, to the bleak economy—stem solely from the Big Business cobra—a cobra bred and protected by the Republican Party.
The Republicans want the puppy to die! The Republicans want all puppies to die. They hate puppies! I want every Democratic member of this House to fully understand the danger all puppies are in.
I propose that we save this puppy from the Grand Old Party, squash the evil snake under the boot of truth and righteousness, and lead the American people into a new utopian phase of sunshine, light cool breezes, and happy puppies.
This concludes my remarks, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.
MR. TURKEY (VIRGINIA, R). Gobble gobble gobble gobble!
THE SPEAKER. I would like to remind the Congressman from Virginia to please not speak out of his turn. Thank you. Mr. Carr, you have the floor.
MR. CARR (OREGON, D). Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As we all know, protecting this country’s natural resources is one of the most important jobs this chamber is tasked with. I have the honor and the pleasure to have the mighty Columbia River, one of the great nation’s greatest natural wonders, flow right down the middle of my district.
Unfortunately, the Columbia’s waters are being threatened by massive amounts of pollution. If we do not do something to stop the degradation of this river, the effects on the region’s entire ecosystem would be catastrophic.
Therefore, I propose an amendment to H.R. 7235 stipulating that federal funding be allocated to protecting the Columbia River safely behind a dam to be built in my district.
That is all, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.
THE SPEAKER. Thank you Mr. Carr. The Chair recognizes Mr. Carney from Ohio.
MR. CARNEY (OHIO, R). Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I just want to make clear how sick I am of all this government waste. Everywhere I look, there are copious amounts of taxpayer dollars being thrown away by inept government bureaucrats! Even in this chamber, all I can see is waste, waste, waste! I was sent here by the fine people of Ohio to do something about it.
[Transcriber’s note: MR. CARNEY (OHIO, R) pulled a .45 caliber revolver from his pants pocket as the other Congressmen hid in panic behind their desks].
MR. CARNEY (OHIO, R). And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. We’re spending gratuitous amounts of money paying this chamber’s electric bill. That’s money we’ve pulled right our of the American people’s wallets. Well, this outright thievery ends today.
[Transcriber’s note: MR. CARNEY (OHIO, R) shot out half of the chamber’s lights, reloaded, and shot out the other half—plunging the room into darkness].
MR. CARNEY (OHIO, R). I can go home tonight knowing that I’ve done my duty.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That concludes my remarks.
THE SPEAKER. Thank you, Mr. Carney. The Chair now recognizes the gentlewoman from Idaho.
[Transcriber’s note: MS. PRUDENCE (IDAHO, I) turned on a flashlight and carefully picked her way to the podium over the upturned desks and dead animals that littered the floor.]
MS. PRUDENCE (IDAHO, I). Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
What are we doing? Truly. What are we doing? Has this House lost sight of its mission? Have we become so caught up in partisan politics that we forgot our constitutionally mandated duties to the American people?
I wish to remind the members of this chamber that the reason we have gathered today is not to score petty points against the opposing party, or blindly follow arcane, pointlessly bureaucratic rules. We are here to debate and vote upon legislation that has real implications on the lives of our constituents. I motion that we stop the theatre, quit grandstanding, and actually get to down the business that the American people placed us here to do. Can we please just get started on the actual debate of this bill?
THE SPEAKER. Ah yes, the debate. Does any Congressperson have something substantive to say about the bill before the House?
[Transcriber’s note: Only the sound of MR. MERRICK (VERMONT, D) tripping over a dead ostrich disturbed the chamber’s silence.]
THE SPEAKER. Right. Would any member like to place a motion for the bill to be put to a vote?
MR. TURKEY (VIRGINIA, R). Gobble! Peck! Gobble!
MR. LEVINE (NEVADA, D). Seconded.
THE SPEAKER. H.R. 7235 is now up to a vote.
[Transcriber’s note: H.R. 7235 passed by a vote of 433 yeas, 1 nay (MS. PRUDENCE (IDAHO, I)), and 1 abstention (MR. PUSH BROOM (ARIZONA, R)).]
THE SPEAKER. H.R. 7235 has passed. Satire is now illegal in the United States. Have a good weekend everybody.