November 15, 2011 | By Parker Higgins and Trevor Timm

An Explosion of Opposition to the Internet Blacklist Bill

On the eve of the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on the Stop Internet Piracy Act—where five witnesses will appear in favor of the bill to just one against—a broad group of tech companies, lawmakers, experts, professors, and rights groups have come out against the bill.

The statements, written by people from a variety of backgrounds and political persuasions, incorporate many of the same broad themes: SOPA will threaten perfectly legal websites, stifle innovation, kill jobs, and substantially disrupt the infrastructure of the Internet.  Here is a small sample of what they had to say:

A veritable Who's Who of tech giants—including Facebook, Google, Twitter, eBay, Yahoo, AOL and Mozilla—explicitly came out against both SOPA and PROTECT-IP in a letter to the ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees:

Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites. We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written…

A bipartisan group of ten Congress members, including Republican Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul and Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren, signed a letter expressing their opposition to the bill:

The impact on new businesses and startups, particularly small businesses, will be…detrimental. For example, venture capitalists will be hesitant to invest in new Internet-based businesses if they fear their money will be tied up in litigation…At a time of continued economic uncertainty, this legislation will result in fewer new businesses, few new investments, and fewer new jobs.”

A group of over 100 distinguished Intellectual Property law professors updated their original letter from earlier this year about PROTECT-IP and expressed that the SOPA would not only hurt the economy, but is unconstitutional:

SOPA is a dangerous bill. It threatens the most vibrant sector of our economy—Internet commerce. It is directly at odds with the United States’ foreign policy of Internet openness, a fact that repressive regimes will seize upon to justify their censorship of the Internet. And it violates the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote a detailed letter to the Judiciary Committee outlining their objections to each provision of SOPA and expressing the significant free speech concerns. They concluded:

[T]he bill is severely flawed and will result in the takedown of large amounts of non- infringing content from the internet in contravention of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution…. SOPA enables law enforcement to target all sites that contain some infringing content – no matter how trivial – and those who “facilitate” infringing content. The potential for impact on non-infringing content is exponentially greater under SOPA than under other versions of this bill.

Dozens of groups from the international human rights community signed onto a letter to the House Judiciary Committee explaining how SOPA would destroy Internet Freedom worldwide:

Through SOPA, the United States is attempting to dominate a shared global resource. Building a nationwide firewall and creating barriers for international website and service operators makes a powerful statement that the United States is not interested in participating in a global information infrastructure. Instead, the United States would be creating the very barriers that restrict the freeflow of information that it has vigorously challenged abroad.

The Global Network Initiative, a diverse coalition of organizations ranging from human rights groups to academics, investors, and technologists, urged Congress to re-examine the bill with an eye towards balancing infringement prevention against surveillance and censorship concerns: 

It is critically important that Congress avoid measures that could erode free expression norms in a way that would set dangerous precedent for other countries considering similar measures, and make it more difficult for companies everywhere to resist surveillance and censorship demands that infringe upon individual rights. 

The Consumer Electronics Association, which comprises over 2,000 American technology companies, delivered a straightforward message about the disastrous consequences of failing to properly tailor the scope of the bill: 

Our message today is simple: Don’t kill the Internet with SOPA. We strongly oppose counterfeiting and piracy. But solutions must be smart and targeted to get the bad guys without ensnaring legitimate innovators. 

Another letter, signed by many public interest groups including EFF, Public Knowledge, and New America, notes that SOPA represents a major step backwards, from the perspective of user privacy and security: 

Current enforcement mechanisms were designed to avoid the countervailing harms of conscripting intermediaries into being points of control on the Internet and deciding what is and what is not copyright-infringing expression. As drafted, SOPA radically alters digital copyright policy in ways that will be detrimental to online expression, innovation, and security.

Please make your voice heard alongside this diverse coalition: Oppose the Internet Blacklist Bills!

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