By Duleepa Wijayawardhana • January 17, 2012

Empire Avenue Does Not Support SOPA or PIPA

Empire Avenue does not support the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills currently before the US House and Senate. Although Empire Avenue is a Canadian company, we believe strongly that we do need to speak up about our thoughts on SOPA and PIPA and why we at Empire Avenue are strongly opposed to these bills. Regardless of whether the bills are shelved we wanted to lend our voice to the fact that the existing bills are flawed.

Many of you may have heard of SOPA and PIPA, but if you haven't, let us give you a quick rundown on what it is and some links to go find out more (below). In short, SOPA and PIPA will potentially give authorities the right to take sites down or block access to such sites with little recourse should there be a complaint that any content is an infringement of piracy or copyright laws. As many in the web world have pointed out, from Google, Facebook, Twitter to even small sites, this would set a precedent for sites such that the burden of policing content would be on the sites, with the sites having to fight for their right to stay online. In addition, the laws would effectively give the authorities the ability to create a giant firewall around the USA which would prevent US citizens from accessing services like Empire Avenue.

Before delving further into SOPA and PIPA let me say that Empire Avenue does not support the posting of copyrighted material or the allowance of software piracy on the web. We do, however, strongly believe that the current proposed SOPA and PIPA bills are not the way to effectively combat piracy while protecting the rights and freedoms of the Internet. As a site we are unable to police every piece of content, post, status update, etc. We use many algorithms, checks and user-based reporting to attempt detection of copyright infringement and piracy and act swiftly when we do find such violations. This law would make allowing you to post content a liability for sites such as ourselves and would change the way the entire Web operates and how social media is used. Many commentators have pointed out that if SOPA and PIPA had been enacted earlier they would have made services like YouTube and Twitter unpalatable and certainly unfundable from an investment perspective. This would halt innovation on the Internet.

From a Canadian standpoint, while we would not be under SOPA or PIPA, the majority of our users come from the Unites States, and we may well be subjected to any such legislation. Many of our users have strongly condemned SOPA and PIPA and indeed, we worry about their ability to access the great internet resources that exist beyond the borders of the United States. We do not believe any such law would be of benefit to our friends in the United States, nor the rest of the world.

You may then ask why we chose not to participate in a black-out of Empire Avenue like Reddit and other major online destinations. Many of our users from around the world use Empire Avenue as a conduit for their business and to carry on their livelihood. We chose not to limit or block our users in this case. Instead, we will make visible changes to the site landing page and other areas of the site in solidarity with the movement against SOPA and PIPA. While the SOPA and PIPA bills will likely be shelved due to the protest and backlash, we want to make sure that our voice is heard by the Canadian government and by other governments: while we support fighting piracy and copyright infringement on the Internet, laws like SOPA and PIPA are definitely not the way.

Dups, on behalf of The Empire Avenue Staff

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