Companies and individuals use the Internet to create valuable new, dynamic products and services that employ thousands of people, increase productivity, enable instant communications, and entertain the world. High quality patents promote innovation and encourage inventors to invest in the development of new, useful products. Low quality patents, on the other hand, stifle innovation by creating business uncertainty and opening the door to wasteful litigation.
Since its inception, the Internet has been governed by principles of openness and non-discrimination. Net neutrality is the legal principle that underpins the free and open Internet as we know it today. Simply put, it means that broadband gatekeepers – Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other Internet service providers (ISPs) – should treat all Internet traffic equally and not discriminate between different bits of data. That’s how the Internet works today: users can go to any website and access any type of content, whenever they want.
The continued growth of the Internet as a global medium for innovation, trade, and commerce is made possible by laws that preserve the vitality of an open and consumer-oriented Internet environment. We support trade policies that promote the free flow of information across borders consistent with the global nature of the Internet. Strong intellectual property policies, limitations and immunities for online intermediaries, and the free flow of cross-border data facilitate a vast market for consumer goods and services at home and abroad.
The global online community benefits from continued innovation and technological advancement in the Internet industry. High-skilled workers are critical not only to our industry but to the entire U.S. economy. The Internet Association supports an immigration system that allows more high-skilled graduates to stay in the United States and enables foreign professionals to contribute to our economy through a STEM green card program and an improved H1-B work visa process. While improving our immigration system to accommodate U.S. foreign graduates and foreign professionals, we also support policies that encourage the need for increased STEM education in the U.S.
In today’s online environment, we know that users find great value in relevant, personalized content and services. The Internet Association remains dedicated to protecting users’ online privacy by providing cutting-edge tools that empower users to make choices about how they view content online. We believe that industry self-regulation and agreements between Internet companies and their users have been successful models not only for protecting users but also for fostering the success of our industry.
Internet users choose to use web-based services to store some of their most personal information. Technological developments, expansion of Internet storage space, and long-term online storage of communications have become the norm. Privacy protections should be respected as governments attempt to access users’ information.
The Internet enhances free expression, creativity, and commerce. The Internet Association supports balanced intellectual property policies that protect consumers, rightsholders, and Internet intermediaries. Our companies provide some of the strongest channels for the lawful sale and distribution of copyrighted and licensed works. While our companies implement policies and procedures to protect against unlawful distribution, we believe that strong limitations and exceptions to exclusive rights enable free speech, economic growth, and the development of new technologies. IP regulations should not come at the expense of free speech and innovation or be used as a way to harm international trade and commerce.
As governments consider data security issues, a certain level of consistency across jurisdictions is necessary for the Internet to function. The Internet Association is committed to providing innovative products and services while maintaining our users’ safety online. We support a national standard that preempts state laws, but only if such standard does not create additional liabilities and burdens beyond what most states are currently requiring.
The Internet has flourished in part because Internet platforms permit users to post and share information without fear that those platforms will be held liable for third-party content. The threat of liability can transform ISPs and websites into gatekeepers and enforcement agents, incentivizing them to block user generated content, even if legal – making the web less free, innovative, and collaborative. Consequently, the Internet Association supports the federal policy codified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the Copyright Act, which explicitly protects against liability for content posted by third party users.
The sharing economy – also called the “on-demand” or “peer-to-peer” economy – includes a diverse and innovative group of companies that are driving consumer choice through the Internet sector. Companies in the sharing economy are changing the way we shop, travel, do our laundry, rent cars, and improve our homes. As an advocate for these companies at the local, state, and federal level, the Internet Association has witnessed the often heavy-handed and misguided regulatory approaches to these platforms in markets throughout the country.
The Internet’s open and decentralized model spurs economic growth, creates local opportunities, and encourages democratic discourse for all users. Its success is rooted in its voluntary and self-governing structure, the result of a multi-stakeholder process free from top-down governmental influences. For this reason, the Internet Association strongly opposes providing the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union with new authority to regulate the Internet. The Internet Association endorses the successful multi-stakeholder model that exists today and supports efforts to keep the Internet free from government control.