Nareen Melkonian
Feb 7, 2012

A letter by entrepreneurs, activists and web developers to the US Congress: Halt SOPA/PIPA and revise them substantially

YouTube, Wikipedia, WordPress, twitpic: do you use at least one of these websites on a daily basis? A few clicks and you’re watching a music video, finding research for a school paper, reading interesting blogs or checking out your friends’ tweeted pics. What would you say if your government shut down one of these sites because one individual posted something that infringed copyright or stole intellectual property? Hypothetically, just one individual, out of the millions who support and actively use these sites, could trigger a series of legal events that would eradicate an entire social network if US Congress’s proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) pass.

This possibility caused a lot of worry and anxiety in the hearts, minds and pockets of both the consumers and providers of these Internet platforms, and led to a letter sent to Congress on February 6 by  70 grass-roots groups, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, human rights groups, communities of color and Internet companies. This letter voiced their concerns very clearly: “Congress must determine the true extent of online infringement and, as importantly, the economic effects of that activity, from accurate and unbiased sources, and weigh them against the economic and social costs of new copyright legislation,” it stated.

The congressional affairs director of Public Knowledge, Ernesto Falcon, supports the letter sent out to Congress and recently said, “This letter shows that the opposition to SOPA and PIPA came from an extraordinarily diverse coalition of well-informed groups and companies who understood perfectly well what was in the bills. This was not an industry-led movement, it was an Internet user movement. Contrary to what Hollywood executives are saying, the sole reason why the Internet blackout occurred was because the public was concerned by these over-reaching bills that had no business being considered.”

The Hollywood executives Falcon refers to are the big players in media companies such as CBS, Comcast, Dolby Labs, Electronic Arts, the Motion Picture Association of America, National Association of Broadcasters, NBC Universal, Nintendo, News Corp, Sony Electronics, Sony Music, Sony Pictures, Disney, Universal Music Group, Viacom and the RIAA, all of whom support the passing of these bills. It may seem that these companies stand for the hundreds of musicians, actors and producers who work and live to entertain us, and whose art earns less and less profit as pro-piracy sites, like The Pirate Bay, offer everything for free. However, while intellectual property protection is absolutely vital, the initially righteous intent behind the entertainment moguls’ push ended up overreaching into the realm of legislative tyranny.

Though most members of the SOPA and PITA opposition agree that piracy is a wrongdoing that should be addressed and dealt with, in the letter, they stated, “We believe these bills would have been harmful to free speech, innovation, cyber security, and job creation.” They believe that “now is the time for Congress to take a breath, step back, and approach the issues from a fresh perspective” because any trial to quickly revise these bills after closed-door discussions is going to “repeat the mistakes of SOPA and PIPA.”

This letter, along with the 115,000 websites and over 14 million Americans who participated in the largest online protest in US history, convinced the US Congress to put a stop on the passing of these bills, at least in their current state.