A group of influential and iconic tech entrepreneurs have written an open letter of opposition to the recently proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which has been published as a paid advertisement in several major U.S. newspapers today.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith in late October, gives both the U.S. government and copyright holders the authority to seek court orders against websites associated with infringing, pirating and/or counterfeiting intellectual property. So for example, a website that provides a collection of links to sites that illegally stream copyrighted video content could get shut down and taken to court under SOPA, despite the fact that the site isn’t streaming the content itself.
The opposition letter warns of the dangers that SOPA would bring to business and innovation. It’s signed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Netscape co-founder and prominent investor Marc Andreessen, PayPal and Tesla founder Elon Musk and several others.
“We’ve all had the good fortune to found Internet companies and nonprofits in a regulatory climate that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, the creation of content and free expression online,” the letter states. “However we’re worried that the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act — which started out as well-meaning efforts to control piracy online — will undermine that framework.”
In the letter, the entrepreneurs also warn that Congress is seeking internet regulation that’s on par with China and Iran — governments that are notorious for censoring potentially unpopular opinions under the guise of maintaining order. I can’t help but feel like this is also a direct response to remarks made by former U.S. Senator and current Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd, who referenced Google complying to the Chinese government’s request to block access to some sites as justification for SOPA.
In addition to those top tech executives, several companies and organizations have publicly come out against SOPA. Open-source online encyclopedia Wikipedia is even toying with the idea of staging a blackout in protest of the proposed law.
We’ve pasted the full letter below as well as a list of entrepreneurs who signed it.
An Open Letter to Washington
We’ve all had the good fortune to found Internet companies and nonprofits in a regulatory climate that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, the creation of content and free expression online.
However we’re worried that the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act — which started out as well-meaning efforts to control piracy online — will undermine that framework.
These two pieces of legislation threaten to:
- Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;
- Deny website owners the right to due process of law;
- Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and
- Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.
We urge Congress to think hard before changing the regulation that underpins the Internet. Let’s not deny the next generation of entrepreneurs and founders the same opportunities that we all had.
Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square
Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch
David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo!
Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn
Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post
Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube
Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and co-founder of Alexa Internet
Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal
Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist
Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay
Biz Stone, co-founder of Obvious and Twitter
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation
Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Twitter
Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!