America was built on the right to free speech. Right now that freedom is in danger, because of a bill currently before the US House of Representatives called the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261). While the Bill is intended to protect copyright holders and content creators from copyright violators outside of US jurisdiction, it is written ambiguously and effectively creates a government firewall. The Bill would allow the US Government to block Americans from visiting websites via DNS blocking – similar methods are used by Iran, China and Syria. Using DNS blocking, operators of websites that contain content that is in violation of copyright (or even linking to such content) could have their US web traffic, search traffic and ad-revenue blocked.
The bill is aimed at sites like PirateBay, however also leaves the door open for censorship of sites that allow user generated content. Sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook and other sites that allow users to share content could come under fire.
Supporters of SOPA argue that the Bill would protect American investment and jobs, by defending the rights of copyright holders. Although SOPA isn’t intended to create a national system of censorship, it would in effect create something similar. Websites even linking to copyrighted material could not only be filtered, but risk losing web and search engine traffic and even be denied by payment facilitators like Paypal. The result would crush companies like Vimeo, Flickr, Etsy, causing them to close their doors forever.
Christian Dawson, COO of ServInt, a Virginia based web host, argues (and rightly so) that enacting SOPA would lead to an exodus of American hosting companies, to avoid litigation resulting from SOPA. Web hosting is a $46 Billion dollar a year industry, largely lead by US based firms. SOPA would drive technology and revenue outside US borders and hamper the growth of not just web hosts, but the datacenters they rely on. Considering that 80% of the Hosting Industry is comprised of small businesses, the economic impact from such legislation could lead to a lot of other lost jobs. Earlier this month, our CEO, Jason Silverglate and our COO, Ross Brouse, along with 275 other executives from the web hosting industry, signed a petition against PIPA. If you are a web host or web hosting reseller, we ask that you join the fight by visiting savehosting.org.
Other governments will likely follow suit, resulting in not just a decline in US innovation and Freedoms, but a global winter for the Internet. Even if you’re not a US Citizen, you can petition the US State Department to speak out against these proposed bills at americancensorship.org.
As Americans, we cherish the right to Freedom of Speech; knowing well that that right does not come without effort and sometimes a fight. We ask that you join us and the rest of the Internet in that fight, by showing your opposition against SOPA. Go to americancensorship.org and voice your opinion today.