On Tuesday NJ Tech Meetup sent its membership a call to action about two bills before Congress: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act). The group decided to join forces with NY Tech Meetup to oppose the bills, which opponents claim would allow the government to shut down sites that even inadvertently post pirated material. Many in the NJ entrepreneur community believe the bills would stifle innovation.
On Wednesday the two groups rallied to protest the bills outside the offices of N.Y. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. In addition, NJ Tech Meetup founder Aaron Price provided Facebook, Twitter and phone information for N.J. Sen. Bob Menendez, a cosponsor of PIPA, asking everyone to contact him.
Menendez, who was inundated by protesters’ tweets, said on Twitter, “I hear your concerns re: #PIPA loud & clear & share in these concerns. I’m working to ensure critical changes are made to the bill.” He added, “I’m fully committed to ensuring that any bill that passes the Senate will maintain freedom of the Internet & protect intellectual property.” Rep. Rush Holt tweeted on Wednesday, “#SOPA would make the Internet less secure, less competitive, and—worst of all—less free. It will not have my vote.”
Other organizations, including New Jersey for Internet Freedom, are sponsoring a rally at the Newark offices of Sen. Menendez and Sen. Frank Lautenberg at 1 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, to show opposition to the two bills.
New Jersey Technology Council president and CEO Maxine Ballen told NJTechWeekly.com the group reviewed the bills and is opposed to them. “We are concerned it could impact our smaller members’ ability to conduct business and result in endless litigation and other negative outcomes.”
We spoke to some N.J. entrepreneurs with very strong feelings about the bills. Price, also a cofounder of crafterMania.com (Hoboken), said the bills would be a problem for his fledgling business. “Not only does crafterMania sell craft kits and supplies, we are building tools that help people share what they are making. If some member-uploaded pictures or videos violate copyright [laws], crafterMania could be shut down. Is a knitter who is excited to share pics of her yarn, needles and finished baby blanket really a threat to any brand?”
Kirsten Bischoff, cofounder, Hatchedit.com(Westfield), pointed out that her company’s shared calendar for busy moms does allow members to share photos and eventually other information across the platform. Bischoff, who studied screenwriting at NYU, says that as an artist she believes “there is absolutely a need to create better ways to protect copyrighted material online. However, the current regulation in discussion would unleash a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences. Much like financial regulation, there should be a level of participation in determining regulation where all sides are well-represented.” We should come up “with the tools to solve the right problems in a way that will not handcuff one of the only growth engines of our economy right now.”
David Pfeffer, an entrepreneur and the CEO of Cranford-based FivePM Technology, is also a photographer who routinely (at least monthly) deals with “my photographs being stolen and put on websites without my consent. As a rights holder, I feel the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) already gives me very strong protection,” he said.
Pfeffer believes SOPA and PIPA don’t solve problems but instead create them, in both a technical and legal sense. “These new bills propose laws that don’t help rights holders, but they do hinder innovation. As an entrepreneur, I would be terrified if these laws pass to allow the public at large to upload content to a website I control,” he said.