January 23, 2012
My Letter to the WSJ re: SOPA
Stopping the Pirates Without Squashing Everyone Else
Regarding your editorial "Brake the Internet Pirates" (Jan. 18) on the Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate companion, the Protect Intellectual Property Act: The GOP presidential hopefuls and Rep. Paul Ryan oppose these bills as do virtually every prominent Internet CEO, investor and entrepreneur. I speak not for Google--it has the resources to defend lawsuits and manage regulatory compliance--but for Internet entrepreneurs like myself concerned about our ability to start, operate and innovate growth companies.
We abhor online piracy but these bills won't stop it and instead would impose a censorship regime, regulatory burdens and legal exposure for Internet companies and their users here and around the world. This is ObamaCare or Dodd-Frank for the Internet--perhaps well meaning but introducing disruptive regulatory uncertainty that will throw a monkey wrench into one of the best engines of job creation this country has. Suing Internet companies under SOPA may become the occupation of choice for trial lawyers who cut their teeth on shareholder class-action lawsuits.
While the more draconian components may be removed by recently proposed amendments, as they stand the bills still create censorship in the U.S. while drafting Internet companies to be the enforcers. Once that system is in place, how will it be expanded?
The Constitution grants copyright authority "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." The Internet has promoted such progress by democratizing the creation and distribution of innovations and the arts, enabling individuals to publish their works without having to go through major studios or publishers. This may explain why those industries view some Internet innovation as an existential threat, but it doesn't justify laws that do little more than open legal floodgates for one industry while imposing significant burdens on another, and violating the core idea of freedom of expression in the process.
Christopher J. Alden
Mr. Alden was a founder of Red Herring magazine and is an entrepreneur.
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