Groups seek Congress anti-piracy postponement

Opponents of the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act in the Senate are asking  Congress to delay efforts to forge new anti-piracy legislation.

In a letter sent to Capitol Hill, some 70 advocacy groups, Internet companies, and venture capitalists have urged Congress to hold off on new legislation until the true extent of online infringement and the economic effects of that activity have been determined.

“Now is the time for Congress to take a breath, step back, and approach the issues from a fresh perspective,” the groups wrote. “The concerns are too fundamental and too numerous to be fully addressed through hasty revisions to these bills. Nor can they be addressed by closed-door negotiations among a small set of inside-the-beltway stakeholders.”

The groups said they aligned themselves with the more than 14 million Americans who joined them in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). “Together we participated in the largest online protest in American history (currently estimated at more than 115,000 websites) because we believe these bills would have been harmful to free speech, innovation, cyber security, and job creation. We want to thank the Members of Congress who shared our concerns and opposed these bills,” they said.

“Furthermore, 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. Congress cannot simply accept industry estimates regarding economic and job implications of infringement given the Government Accountability Office’s clear finding in 2010 that previous statistics and quantitative studies on the subject have been unreliable,” the letter continued.

“Finally, any future debates concerning intellectual property law in regards to the Internet must avoid taking a narrow, single-industry perspective. Too often, Congress has focused exclusively on areas where some rights holders believe existing law is too weak, without also considering the ways in which existing policies have undermined free speech and innovation. Some examples include the year-long government seizure of a lawful music blog (dajaz1.com) and the shutdown by private litigation of a lawful startup video platform (veoh.com),” the letter noted.

“The Internet’s value to the public makes it necessary that any legislative debate in this area be open, transparent, and sufficiently deliberative to allow the full range of interested parties to offer input and to evaluate specific proposals. To avoid doing so would be to repeat the mistakes of SOPA and PIPA,” the groups warned.

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