A group of Silicon Valley bigwigs recently wrote an open letter saying pending legislation in Congress will mean censorship and the stifling of innovation. The two bills, called the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act, were both meant to curb online piracy and copyright infringement but may have more serious consequences.
According to the open letter:
These two pieces of legislation threaten to:
Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;
Deny website owners the right to due process of law;
Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and
Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.
While some say this may be a self-serving move for many Silicon Valley stalwarts such as Google cofounder Sergey Brin, Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn and Jack Dorsey from Twitter and Square, it does have some Consitutional consequences, according to lawyers.
Internet law attorney Marvin Ammori said that such laws are written too broadly and could mean the shutting down of legitmate sites that "enable" infringement, including YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Ammori also agreed with critics saying that the bills mean a curtailing of First Amendment rights.
Both sides are being fought by lobbies -- the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America are for the bills, while Silicon Valley seems to be uniting against the legistation. However, even those cynical enough to believe this is about business and not everyday people may have to decide if this is a First Amendment issue and if they should oppose the bills soon to be voted on by Congress.