My open letter to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand opposing the Protect-IP Act (PIPA)

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

As one of your constituents, I’m writing to urge you as strongly as I can to oppose the passage of the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (a.k.a. PROTECT-IP or PIPA).

Let me clearly explain why I oppose the bill.

I am New York City-based entrepreneur. I am currently working to bring together information and metadata about music and to build a website which makes that information fun and easy to navigate and search. I am strongly resolved to only provide legal and non-copyrighted information (which means no pirated content, no enablement of piracy, and no intentional copyright infringement of any kind.) If I’m fortunate, my business will grow to not only provide an invaluable service to music lovers everywhere but also provide high paying jobs to hundreds (if not thousands) of people in the New York area.

So let me say unambiguously, without hyperbole or dramatization, that the passage of PIPA would very likely kill my business.

Here’s why:

1) I am financing this business using my very limited life savings. After years of working and saving, I have just enough to execute on my business plan.  But complying with PIPA would require me to hire and possibly retain a specialized lawyer. That act alone would consume enough of my capital to seriously threaten my plans.

2) A major part of my business plan is to allow users to contribute information, including links. Complying with PIPA would require either developing custom monitoring algorithms or manually visiting each and every link to investigate. Either would cost more than I can afford at this stage without sabotaging my core business. PIPA allows Hollywood and the recording industry to abuse the power of government to unfairly and inefficiently foist the cost of protecting their own commercial interests onto vulnerable entrepreneurs like me.

3) PIPA forcibly sets entrepreneurs apart from our users by casting us as “hall monitors.” Successful entrepreneurs build – and depend on – thriving, passionate online communities by developing deep personal and emotional connections with their users. Nobody connects with a hall monitor.

4) PIPA establishes an infringement notification process that grants plaintiffs a disproportionate and unnecessary preemptive power to interrupt the operation of my website, in direct violation of my fifth amendment right to due process.  The cost of fighting a groundless notification would almost certainly bankrupt me. And the RIAA has an established track record of abusing even the current better-safegaurded DMCA-based system by serving inaccurate takedown notices for the primary purpose of harassing and stifling legitimate competition. Please see this linked article for a specific recent example (http://bit.ly/A6vASt).

5) I may be lucky enough to successful start a business using my own savings, but scaling my business to become a large employer will almost certain require outside capital. This is difficult enough in the current dismal economic climate. But it will become nearly impossible if I’m forced ask venture capitalists or bankers to risk supporting a business that suddenly has enormous and unpredictable potential litigation liabilities. PIPA will almost certainly have a large chilling effect on investment in exactly the sort of technology our economy most needs to grow and to remain internationally competitive. Someone somewhere will build this business, but it won’t happen in America unless we take a much more balanced and forward-looking approach to protecting intellectual property.

The internet is a singular modern Wonder of the World, and it has brought America into an era of unprecedented and previously unimaginable intellectual and cultural richness. Even cultural realms which are supposedly threatened by piracy, like music and film, are experiencing a renaissance of creative output which is directly linked to the ever increasing availability of new (and old) ideas which are allowed to freely disseminate and cross-pollinate. Content providers absolutely should be fairly compensated for their labor, but with recognition of the simple reality that the internet has enabled an enormous cohort of new content creators (many of whom labor with no expectation of monetary reward) whose contributions also deserve to be respected and valued by our government.

Please do what you know is right and oppose both PIPA and any future version of the bill that contains provisions threatening the fundamental nature of the internet. Like so many parts of American society, the driving spirit behind the internet is sustained and nourished by creativity, ingenuity, openness, and good old fashioned American freedom. I cannot possibly support or vote for any representative whose actions betray those crucial American values.

Senator Gillibrand – please don’t kill my dream. Please don’t stifle the creativity of hundreds of thousands of your voting constituents. And please don’t threaten the monument to human progress by peaceful collaboration that so many millions of people around the world have spent so many years working together to build.

I hope you’ll seriously consider what I’ve written here. I am not an uninformed reactionary; I am a constituent with a direct, tangible, personal stake in the outcome of this legislative process. I know you’re extremely busy, but I would very much appreciate a direct response to my concerns.

Sincerely,

George London

Founder & CEO of HypeJet.com

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