Security Experts and Tech Investors Scheduled to Testify; Worldwide Internet Protest Gathering

There’s some good news in the efforts to stop the Internet blacklist bills (SOPA/PIPA): Representative Darrell Issa, an outspoken SOPA critic and the author of alternative legislation called the OPEN Act, has announced that the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on January 18 to hear from actual technical experts, technology job creators, Internet investors and legal scholars.

EFF’s activists will be providing live coverage of the event through our EFFLive Twitter account. A number of online activists are strategizing plans for a “SOPABlackout” — “censoring” websites and logos to draw attention to the hearing and showcase the widespread opposition to the censorship bills. We’re glad to see lots of sites participating and we’re urging folks to use social networks on January 18 to help spread the word.

The Oversight Committee hearing will address the topic of Domain Name Service (DNS) and search engine blocks generally, and explore ways for the government to avoid legislation that would hamper economic growth. Of course, as active and controversial legislation, SOPA and its evil twin in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are certain to be discussed at length.

Here’s a look at the witnesses scheduled to speak:

  • Alexis Ohanian is a founder of Reddit, the social news platform that has been the site of numerous anti-SOPA discussions. He’s spoken out against the bill personally, saying: “This legislation affects my entire industry and livelihood. We never would’ve been able to start Reddit if SOPA were the law, and I worry about all of the future innovation we’d miss out on if it were to pass.”
  • Stewart Baker, the former Homeland Security Assistant Secretary and former General Counsel for the NSA, is certainly an expert on the issue of cyber-security and the law. He’s also been a vocal critic SOPA, explaining the security problems with the original bill and the manager’s amendment in an extremely cogent blog post titled SOPA-rope-a-dopa.
  • Brad Burnham is a founder of the prestigious Union Square Venture investment firm. Union Square has been behind some very high-profile tech companies, like Twitter and Foursquare, in the seven years since its founding, supporting job creation and innovation in the tech sector. Burnham is rightly concerned that leglislation like SOPA could undermine his investments and the Internet itself. In a personal blog post, he lays out the problem:

    The current legislation in Congress does not just create an administrative burden, it requires service providers who have built wonderful businesses on a deep conviction about human nature to change their relationship with their users in a way that subverts their core values.

  • Daniel Kaminsky is the well-known security expert known for discovering a major vulnerability in the DNS system — the sort that the DNSSEC initiative is designed to address. He is one of 21 “Trusted Community Representatives” involved in the DNSSEC implementation process. He is a signer of the “Open Letter From Internet Engineers” first published by EFF and read into the Congressional record by Representative Issa.
  • Michael Macleod-Ball, is the Chief of Staff and First Amendment Counsel for the ACLU, so he’s likely to raise the major Constitutional issues present in SOPA. The ACLU has publicly opposed SOPA on First Amendment grounds, so we expect a free speech focus.
  • Lanham Napier is the CEO of Rackspace, a major IT company based in Chairman Smith’s home state of Texas. Rackspace serves 160,000 business customers, including 40% of Fortune 100 companies, and thus has a serious stake in the health of the Internet. In a post on the Rackspace blog, Napier describes SOPA as “a deeply flawed piece of legislation … bad for anyone who uses the Internet … bad for job creation and innovation.”
  • Dr. Leonard Napolitano is the Director of the Center for Computer Sciences & Information Technology at Sandia National Laboratories, a government-owned institution devoted to national security. Napolitano sent a letter to Representative Zoe Lofgren, another Congressional opponent of the bill, in response to her request that Sandia conduct a technical assessment of the legislation. The letter reports Sandia’s conclusion that SOPA and PIPA would “negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality”

These witnesses, indisputably experts in their fields, are exactly the kind of people Congress should consult before crafting laws that would fundamentally affect the Internet.

Chairman Issa is doing important work bringing these issues to the attention of the Oversight Committee, but the legislators need to hear your voice too.

Please check our information on in-district meetings, and see if your Senators or Representatives are holding town halls or information sessions. And, even if you’ve done it once before, now is the time to take our action alert against the Internet blacklist legislation.

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