Seventeen leading internet entrepreneurs have warned the US government that the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) could have a "chilling effect" on innovation in the country if it becomes law.
The legislation has already drawn severe criticism from several areas, and in an open letter to Congress a series of notable signatories, including Google founder Sergey Brin, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, all voiced their concerns.
"We've all had the good fortune to found internet companies and non-profits in a regulatory climate that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, the creation of content and free expression online," the letter said.
"However, we're worried that the Protect IP Act and SOPA, which started out as well-meaning efforts to control online piracy, will undermine that framework."
In particular the signatories cited concerns that the laws could stifle innovation by placing onerous burdens on web companies, and create a system of online censorship similar to those in use in repressive regimes.
"These two pieces of legislation threaten to require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation," they said.
"[It would also] give the US government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran, and undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the internet."
The letter ended by warning the government that enforcing the law will "deny the next generation of entrepreneurs the same opportunities that we all had".
Internet experts have suggested that the legislation could also affect UK sites, as they could be blocked in the US. The US-based Business Software Alliance has also withdrawn its previous support for the Act.
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