Dear Members of Congress,We, Members of the European Parliament, civil society organizations and businesseswould like to draw your attention to the extra territorial effects of current intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement acts being proposed in the US Congress. The twohouses are expected to vote on the Preventing Real Online Threats to EconomicCreativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP) and the StopOnline Piracy Act (SOPA).The European Parliament, in its joint motion for a resolution on the EU-US Summitof 28 November 2011, objects the proposed legislation by stating:
"Stresses the need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names;"
Several Members of Congress as well as the business and civil society communityhave spoken out against the proposed legislation. We would like to thank them for that and join their objections for the following reasons.Even though the two proposed acts are different, their aim, scope and effect is more or less the same and we will treat them together in this letter.We are concerned that SOPA and PROTECT IP will be detrimental to internetfreedom, internet as a driver for economic growth and for fundamental rights, notonly in the EU, but globally. The legitimate aim is to halt infringements of intellectual property rights online. However, since the internet is used for nearly every aspect of citizens' lives, business activity or government regulation, the effects of these acts willlead to enormous collateral damage.The acts suggest blocking of websites by court order or in the Domain Name System(DNS), a worldwide resource and essential component for the functionality of theinternet. Not only the infringing part of a website would be blocked, but a wholedomain would be made inaccessible, thereby violating the freedom of expression.Further, by blocking at the DNS level, these websites would be made inaccessible far beyond US jurisdiction, as the websites would be inaccessible world wide.The definitions in the two acts in question are too vague to target only websites whichenable infringement on a large scale. The acts jeopardize many positive activities andmay overwrite laws on online services, safe harbour (or 'intermediary liability').Companies should not be held liable for what consumers use a service or product for.Is the owner of a street responsible for an accident on its pavement, or should be holdthe individual responsible for speeding accountable?By maintaining vague definitions in these far-reaching acts, companies are faced withan increased risk for liability. This will have an adverse effect on investment, as therisk for entrepreneurs increases beyond levels which stimulate innovation.Companies wishing to offer online services will be forced to monitor allcommunication on their platforms and filter anything which could possibly be an