Entrepreneurs associated with some of the nation's top tech start-ups urged lawmakers Thursday to reject a Senate bill cracking down on foreign websites engaged in piracy of movies, music and other intellectual property.
Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Twitter co-founder and ex-CEO Evan Williams joined 136 other tech entrepreneurs to
voice concerns with the Protect IP Act, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May.
"We appreciate the stated purpose of the bill, but we fear that if PIPA is allowed to become law in its present form, it will hurt economic growth and chill innovation in legitimate services that help people create, communicate, and make money online," they wrote in a letter.
They argue that the bill's focus on websites "'dedicated to infringing activities is vague and ripe for abuse" and could target legitimate sites. They also noted that content owners have a dubious history of trying to block popular technologies that they believe will promote piracy pointing to the VCR and MP3 digital music player as examples.
In addition, they echoed concerns raised by Internet engineers that the bill's provisions aimed at blocking access to infringing web sites could harm the Internet's domain name system.
"As Web entrepreneurs and Web users, we want to ensure that artists and great creative content can thrive online. But this isn't the right way to address the underlying issue. Introducing this new regulatory weapon into the piracy arms race won't stop the arms race, but it will ensure there will be more collateral damage along the way," the letter added.
Supporters of the anti-piracy legislation, however, say U.S. law enforcement need more tools to target foreign websites that provide pirated content or sell counterfeit goods, saying the growing theft of U.S. intellectual property is hurting the U.S. economy.
The Senate Judiciary bill has been blocked so far from moving to the Senate floor by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has voiced many of the same concerns about the measure raised by the entrepreneurs in their letter Thursday.
The House Judiciary Committee, led by Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., is working on its own legislation.
"The success of our economy relies in part on the success of America's IP industries. Unfortunately, our intellectual property continues to be stolen, marketed and distributed by rogue websites operated outside of the U.S.," the committee said in a statement Thursday announcing that the online piracy legislation is among the panel's top priorities for the fall.
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