Are Metro Jacksonville's Days Numbered?

December 30, 2011 24 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A bill moving through U.S. Congress could radically alter online entities such as Metro Jacksonville, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, if passed in 2012. Called SOPA, or the "Stop Online Piracy Act", it threatens to fundamentally change the way information is presented online by placing massive restrictions on user-generated content like posts to forums, video uploads, podcasts or images.

In a nutshell, here’s what the law would do:
1. Assign liability to site owners for everything users post, without consideration for whether or not the user posted without permission.  Site owners could face jail time or heavy fines, and DNS blacklisting.

2. It would require web services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to monitor and aggressively filter everything all users upload.

3. It would deny site owners due process of law, by initiating a DNS blacklisting based solely on a good faith assertion by an individual copyright or intellectual property owner.

4. It would give the U.S. government the power to selectively censor the web using techniques similar to those used in China, Malaysia and Iran.  The Great Firewall of China is an example of this type of embedded, infrastructural internet censorship.
As an example, imagine a user posts a video clip to Metro Jacksonville.  Playing in the background behind the voiceover is “Derezzed” by Daft Punk.  The studio representing Daft Punk could issue a complaint, without being required to notify us or request a take-down.  Metro Jacksonville would be liable and prosecuted solely on a good faith assertion of the copyright owner, without notification, with the site operators subject to possible jail time for not preventing the video from being posted.  In short order, the domain in the United States would no longer resolve to our servers and visitors attempting to come to Metro Jacksonville would be redirected to a “This site under review for piracy/copyright violations” page.
To conform to these new restrictions would mean that Metro Jacksonville would have to switch to a review/approval process for any and all new posts to our forums and articles.  Our moderators would have to approve every single news comment, every new thread, and every new response before it went live and filter them for potentially infringing material.  Even so, we would still possibly be under threat from violations not caught – a user posting a snippet of news from another website in excess of a certain summary threshold.  That’s just here on Metro Jacksonville.  The effect on sites like YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the rest of the internet would be devastating, and progress and innovation would grind to a halt under the cumbersome new restrictions.

An Open Letter to Washington

We’ve all had the good fortune to found Internet companies and nonprofits in a regulatory climate that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, the creation of content and free expression online.

However we’re worried that the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act — which started out as well-meaning efforts to control piracy online — will undermine that framework.

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.

We urge Congress to think hard before changing the regulation that underpins the Internet. Let’s not deny the next generation of entrepreneurs and founders the same opportunities that we all had.

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Square

Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch

David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo!

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post

Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube

Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and co-founder of Alexa Internet

Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal

Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay

Biz Stone, co-founder of Obvious and Twitter

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation

Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Twitter

Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!
The intent of the legislation is to stop piracy, which isn’t affected in the least by this approach.  The DNS censoring method is circumvented by navigating to the IP directly, and many have already installed Anti-SOPA browser extensions that do this automatically.  Unfortunately the legislation in the House and Senate has a wide margin of bi-partisan support and looks likely to pass after the holidays.  We strongly oppose the censorship of the internet and strongly encourage you to contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators to voice your opposition.  Believe it or not, your Congress-critters do count the number of calls and emails they get on a particular issue, and most of the time only the people in their jurisdiction (read- you) can sway their opinion on something – so your action on this is important.
Please take a moment to contact your representative and tell them you oppose the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House.  Here’s a link that can give you more information and provide you with contact info for your elected official.  Your action on this matters.
Sincerely, the Metro Jacksonville Team