What’s Next With Online Piracy?

Our combined efforts helped to prevent approval of unbalanced legislation in SOPA and PIPA. Now we have a chance to work on laws that will aid us in our daily fight against copyright infringement—without harming the Internet.

By Lanham Napier
CEO, Rackspace

When Rackspace first joined the SOPA/PIPA fight, experts told us that we would have an uphill battle. The bills, backed by the legions of lobbyists from the motion picture industry, had overwhelming support from both parties in Congress and were almost certain to pass. We were also cautioned that fighting the bills would most likely be futile. “In football terms,” we were told, “there’s a minute left to play and you’re down by three touchdowns.”

Even with the odds stacked against us, we knew that Rackspace had to stand up for our Rackers, customers and shareholders, and for what we believe: that SOPA and PIPA would do far more harm than good. Neither bill would help Rackspace in our daily fight to sink online pirates. Furthermore, the legislation could capsize the Internet, especially by using the Domain Name System to block Americans’ access to foreign websites.

We made our views known — on this blog, in interviews with journalists, in talks with leaders in our community and with key lawmakers. Hundreds of individual Rackers around the U.S. phoned and emailed their representatives in Congress, and officials at the White House, who eventually came out against the bills as filed.

By now, you know the score: both SOPA and PIPA have been pulled from the legislative agenda for this year. The bills are being sent back to committee, with instructions to take into account the concerns of Internet users and service providers like Rackspace.

It’s been amazing to see the Internet community stand together against these bills, through blackout of popular sites like Wikipedia, and through millions of messages sent to members of Congress. Our goal now is to harness that energy and use it to help craft new legislation that will be effective in fighting online piracy, and enhance the security, smooth functioning and job creating power of the Internet economy.

We see some promising alternative approaches in the OPEN Act, which better balances the interests of copyright holders, such as movie studios, with the concerns of Internet users and service providers. We also find encouraging some of the theft-detection algorithms and other technical solutions that have been voluntarily adopted by platforms, such as YouTube.

It is now time to go back to the drawing board and bring together business and technical experts to curtail online piracy, while encouraging the growth of the Internet economy. That effort should include ALL stakeholders in this legislation, including cloud providers, hosting companies, Internet service providers, payment processors, search providers and experts in Internet engineering and security. Most of these important constituencies were not at the table during the last go round. This needs to be corrected in order to write a fair and effective bill.

I encourage all Rackers and others in the Internet community to apply their expertise and imagination to the challenge of online piracy. Please let me know your ideas, and your feedback.

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Lanham Napier was the CEO of Rackspace from 2006 to February 2014, and now serves as a consultant to the company's leaders. As CEO, he avidly promoted the workplace culture that drives the company’s famed Fanatical Support®. This passion for empowering customers has made Rackspace the acknowledged leader of the open cloud.


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