February 2, 2012

SOPA? PIPA? OPEN: Fight Piracy without Hurting Jobs, Free Speech. ~ elephant exclusive by Congressman Jared Polis

{Congressman Jared Polis, 2nd District of Colorado on the OPEN act}

The Internet today is a nearly indispensable part of our lives, helping us to create jobs and grow our economy, to expand access to quality education, to share news and information, and even to bring families closer together.

That’s why I am so concerned about two bills before Congress that would limit our freedom to build businesses, stay informed, and share online. We need a fundamental discussion of how to protect creativity while encouraging innovation in the digital era rather than trying to apply legacy handcuffs to the new economy.

The House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) would both limit free enterprise and free speech on the Internet, harming online job creation at a critical time for our economy and undermining the free exchange of information and ideas at a time when technology is helping spread democracy worldwide. While we should protect American jobs by reducing the piracy of our music, films and products, SOPA and PIPA resort to job-killing litigation and Internet censorship.

Congressman Jared Polis at a Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis.

Both SOPA and PIPA would authorize the U.S. government to censor the Internet using the exact same tools China and Iran use to block access to sites to oppress dissent and limit religious freedom. SOPA even outlaws the technology that our State Department funds to help pro-democracy groups in oppressive countries circumvent Internet censorship. If these bills were to become law, there would be an “American firewall” that would constitute a separate and lesser Internet for use by Americans than the global Internet we know and love.

The bills would also create an avalanche of litigation that could be used by large established companies to assault and destroy upstart competitors. Under SOPA and PIPA, a big firm could call in their team of lawyers and sue startups right out of business. That could put at risk the three million Internet-related jobs created in just the last five years and prevent garage-entrepreneurs from creating great products and services.

The better approach to piracy is the OPEN Act, which I coauthored. This bill uses a “follow-the-money” to eliminating foreign rogue web sites. Countries would work together under international trade law to block electronic payments that support rogue sites. When the money dries up, the sites die off. That’s the way to go after piracy without killing jobs or censoring free speech. The good news is that Americans who value Internet freedom have flooded Capitol Hill with calls and emails in opposition to SOPA and PIPA. On January 18, the largest Internet protest in history took place with more than 7,000 websites going offline for the day. Even content creators—the very people these bills purport to help—realized that SOPA and PIPA were the wrong way to go about fighting piracy.

The outpouring of grassroots opposition to SOPA and PIPA has been remarkable and it’s forced the bills’ authors to rethink their strategy. But we need to stay vigilant to protect the online economy and Colorado jobs free expression on the Internet. The forces behind the bill are continuing to find ways to inhibit internet freedom. New versions of these bills will be introduced and it’s up to us to ensure that they go after piracy without hurting Internet freedom.

I’m going to keep working to make sure that we don’t hurt innovation, job creation and free speech in the battle to stop piracy and would love any ideas from readers about what intellectual property protection should look like in the digital era.


Edited by Kate Bartolotta.

Congressman Jared Polis is an independent leader who uses his private and public sector experience to find pragmatic solutions to the challenges facing Colorado and the nation. First elected to represent Colorado’s Second Congressional District in 2008, Polis serves on the powerful Committee on Rules and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

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