Today, we’re joining pretty much every major internet and technology company in voicing our opposition to the PIPA (PROTECT IP Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) legislation before the House and Senate. For those who have never heard of these two acts, they are proposals before Congress that give incredibly aggressive censorship controls to our government (acting on behalf of rights holders).
The way copyright is currently protected on the web in the U.S.A. was established by the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). The DMCA created the principle of ‘safe harbor’ for ‘service providers’ (like Google, Facebook, Twitter, or foursquare). What ‘safe harbor’ means is that a site with content from its users doesn’t have to censor everything that is posted, so long as it acts in good faith to remove infringing content and links as they’re alerted to them. Openness coupled with responsibility.
The PIPA and SOPA proposals turn that model on its head, restricting openness and imposing preemptive censorship. If a couple of rogue links are found in our Tips, PIPA and SOPA could allow the government to shut foursquare down. So, either we censor all our users (and sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter do the same) or risk being shut down by the government.
As a startup, this scares the crap out of us. For our 15,000,000-strong community and the over 500,000 local businesses on foursquare, we hope this seems absurd. And for the growing American internet industry and the jobs it creates, this is a kick in the shins.
Protecting copyright is a fantastic goal, but this legislation is a huge step in the wrong direction.
There are a number of places to find out more information about the bills and the danger they pose. Here are a couple:
- Stop American Censorship: http://americancensorship.org/
- Protect innovation: http://www.protectinnovation.com/
- The video below provides a good overview of the legislation: