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    50+ Venture Capitalists Come Out Against PROTECT IP

    Opposition to PROTECT IP is snowballing, with more than 50 venture capitalists announcing their opposition to the Internet censorship legislation because it will stifle the innovation and kill American jobs.  Their letter is posted below. You can urge your lawmakers to oppose the legislation by filling out the form at right, and you can ask your friends to email their lawmakers using these links:

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    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Members of the U.S. Congress,

    We write to express our concern with S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act (“PIPA”).  As investors in technology companies, we agree with the goal of fostering a thriving digital content market online. Unfortunately, the current bill will not only fail to achieve that goal, it will stifle investment in Internet services, throttle innovation, and hurt American competitiveness.

    Online innovation has flourished, in part, because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), though flawed, created clear, defined safe harbors for online intermediaries. The DMCA creates legal certainty and predictability for online services -- so long as they meet the conditions of the safe harbors, including an appropriate notice-and-takedown policy, they have no liability for the acts of their users. At the same time, the DMCA gives rights-holders a way to take down specific infringing content, and it is working well. We appreciate PIPA’s goal of combating sites truly dedicated to infringing activity, but it would undermine the delicate balance of the DMCA and threaten legitimate innovation. The bill is ripe for abuse, as it allows rights-holders to require third-parties to block access to and take away revenues sources for online services, with limited oversight and due process.

    In particular:

    1) By requiring “information location tools” -- potentially encompassing any "director[ies], index[es], reference[s], pointer[s], or hypertext link[s]” -- to remove access to entire domains, the bill puts burdens on countless Internet services. 

    2) By requiring access to sites to be blocked by Domain Name System providers, it endangers the security and integrity of the Internet.

    3) The bill’s private right of action will no doubt be used by many rights-holders in ways that create significant burdens on legitimate online commerce services. The scope of orders and cost of litigation could be significant, even for companies acting in good faith.  Rights-holders have stated their interest in this private right of action because they worry that the Department of Justice will not have enough resources to initiate actions against all of the infringing sites.  Yet, why should costs be shifted to innocent Internet entrepreneurs, most of whom have budgets smaller than the Department of Justice’s?

    While we understand PIPA was originally intended to deal with “rogue” foreign sites, we think PIPA will ultimately put American innovators and investors at a clear disadvantage in the global economy. For one, services dedicated to infringement will simply make their sites easy to find and access in other ways, and determined users who want to find blocked content will simply shift to services outside the reach of U.S. law, in turn giving a leg up to foreign search engines, DNS providers, social networks, and others. Second, PIPA creates a dangerous precedent and a convenient excuse for countries to engage in protectionism and censorship against U.S. services. These countries will point to PIPA as precedent for taking action against U.S. technology and Internet companies.

    The entire set of issues surrounding copyright in an increasingly digital world are extremely complex, and there are no simple solutions. These challenges are best addressed by imagining, inventing, and financing new models and new services that will allow creative activities to thrive in the digital world. There is a new model for financing, distributing, and profiting from copyrighted material and it is working -- just look at services like iTunes, Netflix, Pandora, Kickstarter, and more. Pirate web sites will always exist, but if rights holders make it easy to get their works through innovative Internet models, they can and will have bright futures.

    Congress should not chill investment and reduce incentives to work on private sector solutions. Instead, we encourage Congress to focus on making it easier to license works and bring new, innovative services to market.


    Marc Andreessen, Andreessen Horowitz; Brady Bohrmann, Avalon Ventures; John Borthwick, Betaworks; Mike Brown, Jr., AOL Ventures; Brad Burnham, Union Square Ventures; Jeffrey Bussgang, Flybridge Capital Partners; John Buttrick, Union Square Ventures; Randy Castleman,  Court Square Ventures; Tony Conrad, True Ventures; Ron Conway, SV Angel; Chris Dixon, Founder Collective; Bill Draper, Draper Richards; Esther Dyson, EDventure Holdings; Roger Ehrenberg, IA Ventures; Brad Feld, Foundry Group; Peter Fenton, Benchmark Capital; Ron Fisher, Softbank Capital; Chris Fralic, First Round Capital; David Frankel, Founder Collective; Ric Fulop, North Bridge; Brad Gillespie, IA Ventures; Allen "Pete" Grum, Rand Capital; Chip Hazard, Flybridge Capital Partners; Rick Heitzmann, FirstMark Capital; Eric Hippeau, Lerer Ventures; Reid Hoffman, Greylock Partners; Ben Horowitz, Andreessen Horowitz; Mark Jacobsen, OATV; Amish Jani, First Mark Capital; Brian Kempner, First Mark Capital; Vinod Khosla, Khosla Ventures; Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital; David Lee, SV Angel; Lawrence Lenihan, FirstMark Capital; Kenneth Lerer, Lerer Ventures; Jordan Levy, Softbank Capital; Jason Mendelson, Foundry Group; R. Ann Miura-Ko, Floodgate; Howard Morgan, First Round Capital; John O'Farrell, Andreessen Horowitz; Tim O'Reilly, OATV; David Pakman, Venrock; Eric Paley, Founder Collective; Alan Patricof, Greycroft Partners; Danny Rimer, Index Ventures; Neil Rimer, Index Ventures; Bryce Roberts, OATV; Bijan Sabet, Spark Capital; David Sze, Greylock Partners; Andrew Weissman, Betaworks; Albert Wenger, Union Square Ventures; Eric Wiesen, RRE Ventures; Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

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