The United States' Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) poses threat to free expression

Monday, January 16, 2012

His Excellency David Cary Jacobson, Ambassador to Canada
Embassy of the United States of America
490 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1P 5T1

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is deeply concerned about the possible adoption of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Proponents of SOPA argue that the bill combats digital piracy and counterfeiting and protects intellectual property rights. However, the measures contained in this act pose a more direct threat to freedom of expression online than they do toward piracy, and its impact extends far beyond the borders of the United States.

If adopted, SOPA will give the U.S. government the power to determine which Internet domains the international public will be able to access. More specifically, websites that rely on user-generated content—like YouTube, Wikipedia, and Twitter—will be at risk of censorship. If any content is deemed to be an infringement of intellectual property rights, the entire domain will be blocked. SOPA will effectively grant the kind of Internet censorship powers to the United States’ government currently held by the world’s most authoritarian regimes.

CJFE joins scholars, technology experts, industry executives and citizens in protesting against the adoption of SOPA and the related PROTECT IP Act. We share their concerns that not only will online civic discourse be affected, digital innovation will be inhibited. Such draconian liabilities will stifle the work of open-source and non-profit educational resources, for fear of economic and legal consequences. CJFE calls for a policy direction that fosters online discourse among citizens, and an abandonment of legislation that hinders and inhibits the usefulness of the Internet for debate, dialogue, and information.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Anne Game, CJFE Executive Director