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Protecting Internet Freedom

By Student PIRGs

Reposted from Ed Mierzwinksi on USPIRG's Blog: Consumer groups join opposition to over-reaching web anti-piracy bill (SOPA)

We've joined two other leading consumer groups-- the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union (the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports magazine) -- in a letter to Congress in opposition to the so-called Stop Online Privacy Act, HR 3261 (SOPA). The bill threatens Internet freedom at the behest of powerful copyright holders led by the music, film and publishing industries. Brandishing the usual threats of "pirates!" and "illegal downloaders!" it could shut
down Internet innovation in a variety of ways. The Consumerist blog of Consumer Reports has posted the full letter.

Letter excerpt: "Consumers benefit greatly from being able to use the Internet to connect with a wide variety of buyers, sellers, and with each other. Online forums and marketplaces allow consumers to exchange information about products and exchange products themselves in thriving secondary markets. However, the broad language of the bill threatens these activities.[...] Consequently, overzealous rights holders could shut down lawful exchange sites like craigslist, eBay, swap.com, or BookCrossing, closing off valuable outlets for small-scale buying and selling. For instance, a legitimate student-to-student textbook exchange site could be hampered or shut down by a publisher for the actions of just a few infringing users, raising the costs of an already-expensive education."

Our letter also points out that while the bill will choke innovation and discourse on the net and create a legal tangle, it won't stop piracy. We are also particularly troubled that the bill could put a stop to numerous Student PIRG efforts to lower the cost of textbooks, as noted above.

A variety of organizations and websites, including Google, Facebook and Twitter oppose the bill also. It goes too far.