SOPA and PIPA: Threatening Innovation and Economic Growth

January 18, 2012

The Red Hat Legal Team

Two bills pending in the US Congress – the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA in the House, and the “PROTECT IP Act” or PIPA in the Senate – raise enormous concerns for North Carolina home grown technology companies like Red Hat. At a time when we are working to rebuild confidence in our economy, their potential effect on jobs and innovation is a matter of serious concern.

As America's – and the world's – largest and most successful provider of open source solutions and an S&P 500 company, Red Hat is proud to be headquartered in Raleigh. Our high-quality, affordable technology solutions are found throughout the mission-critical IT architecture of the financial, defense, transportation, telecommunications and most other industry sectors.
Our success and, increasingly, the economic success of our state is the product of the encouragement of open innovation and collaboration. A vital ingredient of this success involves leveraging the tremendous gains that the Internet has brought through online collaboration, software development and sharing of ideas.

In a single generation, the Internet has transformed our world to such an extent that it is easy to forget its miraculous properties and take it for granted. It's worth reminding ourselves, though, that our future economic growth depends on our ability to use the Internet to share new ideas and technology. Measures that block the freedom and openness of the Internet also hinder innovation. That poses a threat to the future success of Red Hat and other innovative companies.
The sponsors of SOPA and PIPA claim that the bills are intended to thwart web piracy. Yet, the bills overreach, and could put a website out of business after a single complaint. Web sites would vanish, and have little recourse, if they were suspected of infringing copyrights or trademarks.

The good news is that there is growing opposition from many quarters to these bills. Just this past weekend, the White House expressed serious concerns, opposing legislation -- like SOPA and PIPA -- that “reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet."

Six prominent Senators, including the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, who previously supported the bill called for delay in consideration of PIPA due to a variety of unresolved, outstanding issues. On the House side, the Majority Leader has dashed the momentum of SOPA by delaying consideration until consensus is reached.

SOPA and PIPA remain on the Congressional agenda, despite these developments. Even as legislators work to address the problems of 'rogue' web sites, Congress owes us a solution that addresses those concerns without killing the web’s economic engine and shutting down the future of innovation. SOPA and PIPA aren’t that solution.

We all need to remain vigilant as work on these bills continues. The momentum has slowed, but supporters of SOPA and PIPA continue to push hard. Opponents should make sure their representatives hear their voices.

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