GNI Statement on Protecting Intellectual Property and Upholding Free Expression and Innovation Online

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 17:33

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) welcomes the decision by Congressional leaders to postpone immediate consideration of proposed intellectual property legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives. GNI supports the goal of protecting intellectual property online, but we firmly believe that the approach used in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP (PIPA) is flawed and poses an unacceptable threat to global online freedom of expression and innovation.

We are encouraged by the worldwide outpouring of concern around these issues and urge Congress to adopt an inclusive and transparent approach as it considers how legislation might effectively protect intellectual property and uphold fundamental rights to free expression online. As the U.S. government considers alternative measures, the companies, civil society organizations, investors, and academics that make up GNI collectively recommend a transparent approach that not only includes content and Internet companies, but also civil society organizations and representatives of the users of the Internet.  

The interconnected nature of the Internet means that a well-intended but narrow effort to address one set of problems can have serious unintended consequences on the integrity of the Internet and the rights of its users. Crafting effective legislation on technology requires the engagement of diverse stakeholders, especially those with deep understanding of both technical and human rights considerations.

The global implications of U.S. legislation merit particular attention, as laws and policies developed in Washington can serve as precedent or justification for those of other countries, with the potential to undermine the Internet’s capacity as a tool for protecting and advancing fundamental freedoms. With this in mind, we encourage the careful assessment of the global impact of proposed legislative provisions on human rights, especially freedom of expression and privacy.

GNI is a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world. GNI has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.