Kaspersky Lab has quit the Business Software Alliance to protest the controversial anti-piracy bill currently making the rounds in Congress.
If passed, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would allow copyright holders to order sites to be shut down just by claiming the sites were selling or distributing counterfeit or pirated products. Many technology giants, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter, have opposed the bill, noting that it amounted to Web censorship in the name of copyright protection.
The Business Software Alliance, an industry group that has several technology companies as members, including Microsoft, Dell, Apple, Adobe, Intel, McAfee, Symantec and Sybase, has supported SOPA, which was introduced in the House of Representatives in October. Recently, the alliance acknowledged there are some issues with the bill that need to be modified so that due process, free speech and privacy aren't compromised, but it remains overall supportive of the proposed legislation.
As a member of BSA, Kaspersky Lab was grouped in with companies that supported the bill, even though the Russian company opposes the legislation and also hasn't been involved in the group's internal discussions, the company said in a statement Dec. 5. Kaspersky Lab will withdraw its membership on Jan. 1, 2012.
"We believe that such measures will be used contrary to the modern advances in technology and the needs of consumers," the company said.
Yahoo has already quit the United States Chamber of Commerce to protest the group's support of SOPA, and Google has threatened to follow.
In a blog post,Eugene Kaspersky, the company's CEO and founder, explained some of his reasons for opposing SOPA. He is bothered by the "complete 'Americanization' of this Internet law," since, as the bill currently stands, the interests of non-American authors and creators are not protected at all, but the nationality of the infringers would be "of no importance."
The rights of non-Americans can be infringed, but U.S. interests must be respected globally, Kaspersky noted. SOPA was written to supposedly target counterfeiting sites run by overseas operators. "Hundreds of thousands of lawyers" will appear because almost any Website can be accused of copyright infringement, he wrote, adding that the law would "lead to major legalized extortion."
"The saddest thing is that this law is going to be introduced in the rest of the world due to the actions of associations such as the BSA, which blindly supported SOPA while ignoring any other point of view," Kaspersky wrote.
Kaspersky reiterated his anti-piracy stance, writing, "I find unauthorized use of intellectual property unacceptable, especially for mercenary ends." He said the old rules of copyright protection and intellectual property belong to the "era of dinosaurs" and need to be changed to reflect that people now consume content differently thanks to the Internet.
"The Internet age has no place for the rudiments of the bygone age of vinyl, which is a far cry from today's technologies, customer demands and reality in general," Kaspersky wrote. Google and Apple have already tested out new models of content distribution, and governments should think about stimulating and developing new business models instead of protecting old ones, he said.
"We are very disappointed to learn that Kaspersky Lab may not renew their membership in BSA, especially given we share many of their concerns over SOPA," BSA Vice President of Government Relations Katherine McGuire said in a statement.