The internet is a modern-day miracle of communication, education, business, and economic development in America.
It has transformed our lives in many wonderful ways.
But now, the government is seeking broad new regulatory powers that will have a crippling effect on the internet as we know it.
This currently proposed legislation called the "Stop Online Piracy Act" in the House and the "Protect Intellectual Property Act" in the Senate is aimed at stopping piracy on the internet.
But far from stopping illegal activity, it opens the door for censorship and abuse while making the internet less safe and less reliable.
In the words of today's Wall Street Journal:
"These bills would go so far to protect copyright that they would strangle the Internet with regulation. The Web would be transformed from a permissive technology where innovation is welcome to one where websites are shut down first, questions asked later.
"The legislation has bipartisan support and could come up for a vote before the end of the year. If it passes, the government will take down an entire website when a copyright holder claims an infringement online. A violation could be a single link on a single page, such as user-generated content that includes a movie clip or song lyric.
"It would also be unlawful for a site to 'avoid confirming a high probability' of infringement. This is legalese to make websites responsible for anything posted on them or potentially posted on them by third parties. Payment providers, ad networks and search engines would get infringement notices barring them from working with these sites, which would put the sites out of business before any violation is proven.
"Silicon Valley has belatedly realized it must fight the new proposals. Fred Wilson, a New York venture capitalist, recently hit the corridors in Washington and wrote on his blog: 'Venture capitalists will think more than twice about putting $3 million of early-stage capital into startups if they know that the vast majority of the funds will go to pay lawyers to defend the companies instead of to hire engineers to create and build product.'
"'Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were three-person startups not so long ago,' Mr. Wilson wrote. Each 'could have been litigated out of business before they had a chance to grow,' because all have inadvertently permitted violations of copyright by users.
"The proposed changes to the law would effectively repeal the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This created a safe harbor in 1998 for online providers so long as they agreed to cut off users who violate copyright. Rights holders use a 'notice and take down' process. Sites such as Facebook and YouTube comply with more than 10,000 such takedown notices a year, but they are not directly liable for infringements any more than phone companies are liable when people speak on the phone to plan a crime. This has allowed the Web to grow while providing copyright protection."
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We must act quickly to prevent this destructive legislation from being passed!