VC Firms Testify Against Antipiracy Legislation

A number of venture capital firms and individuals have sent an open letter to Congress, asking the legislative body not to support the PROTECT IP (aka Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, aka PIPA) bill. PIPA is a re-write of an earier bill, COICA, and is designed to give the US DOJ the power to seize a non-US website that breaks US law concerning copyrights.

It states: "The Protect IP Act says that an "information location tool shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures, as expeditiously as possible, to remove or disable access to the Internet site associated with the domain name set forth in the order". In addition, it must delete all hyperlinks to the offending "Internet site." Domain name servers woud be required to de-link an offending site, as would search engines. The result would leave a website only accessible via IP address.

The Internet, in visualized, artistic form

Ironically, the letter leans heavily on the DMCA, which it describes as creating "legal certainty and predictabiity for online services." PIPA, in contrast, "would undermine the delicate balance of the DMCA and threaten legitimate innovation. The bill is ripe for abuse, as it allows rights-holders to require third-parties to block access to and take away revenue sources for online services, with limited oversight and due process."

The document continues:
While we understand PIPA was originally intended to deal with "rogue" foreign sites, we think PIPA will ultimately put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy... [S]ervices dedicated to infringement will simply make their sites easy to find and access in other ways, and determined users who want to find blocked content will simply shift to services outside the reach of US law, in turn giving a leg up to foreign search engines [and] DNS providers.

Second, PIPA creates a dangerous precedent and a convenient excuse for countries to engage in protectionism and censorship against US services. These countries will point to PIPA as precedent for taking action against US technology and Internet services.
No kidding. Some of you may remember the furor that erupted several years ago over the United States' alleged 'ownership' of the Internet. The US continues to hold primary approval power to any proposed changes to the DNS root zone--PIPA, if passed, would almost certainly be seen as an attempt to project US interests, legal power, and control over the international online community. There's a difference between maintaining a certain degree of administrative control over the 'Net and giving the DOJ carte blanche to effectively blacklist a site from existence.

The MPAA casts the issue differently. According to it, PROTECT IP is meant to stop "rampant theft of American-made movies, TV shows, and other content by foreign illegal websites..." Absent from the discussion, however, is any consideration of whether we should work in cooperation with the legal bodies in those dastardly foreign nations. The alternative--letting those darn Canadians get away with our precious bodily fluids films--is unthinkable.