by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 30th 2012 3:14am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 25th 2012 3:55pm
from the unfortunate-reality dept
Former Congressional staffer Michael Beckerman was officially named this morning as the organization's president. I got to meet with Beckerman last week and hear some of the details about the group. To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about all of this. I tend to believe that this group will be a force for good in supporting an open internet and related issues. Beckerman was quite frank about why this new group absolutely needs to be focused on supporting the views of the public (because unlike in some other industries, when an internet company diverges from the public interest, it's very easy for its users/customers to go elsewhere). One of the major concerns we discussed was where the interests of internet users and the large internet companies might diverge, and how this organization would deal with those situations. He was pretty adamant that if they're not doing a good job representing the public's interest as well, then the organization isn't doing its job. Hopefully that is true, but obviously it's a claim that deserves close scrutiny as this organization ramps up. Hopefully, Beckerman will model the organization on the success of organizations like CEA, who have built up a very strong reputation in recognizing that by fighting to protect consumers they do the best in the long run for the electronics companies they represent. CEA has a long history of putting consumers first on various issues (even when you could make the argument that their own members feel differently), and it's done well for itself. The Internet Association would do good to follow that lead.
So while I think that this organization is likely to be very helpful in various fights to protect the open internet, I'm a bit disappointed that the state of politics today means that something like this is even needed. And, as always, I worry about large industry players working towards efforts to maintain their position, rather than supporting actual innovation. We've certainly seen large companies who were once innovative later turn around and fight against disruption and defend the status quo. Hopefully that's not what will happen with the Internet Association. Beckerman appears to have a good grasp on the issues, so I'm encouraged by the idea that there will be an organization like this in DC, focused exclusively on internet-related issues, even as I'm disappointed that it's necessary.
One bit of advice, since I know many folks here will automatically be allergic to the idea of any sort of new DC-based trade group, even if it's likely to be fighting against groups that seek to harm the open internet: one way to hopefully avoid a bad result is to engage with this new group. Help them continue to fight the good fight by working with them, rather than automatically dismissing them. Beckerman definitely seems interested in engaging people well beyond just the companies that are members of the association (which, as I understand it, is looking for additional members), and hopefully the more he engages with people who have a personal interest in an open internet, the more he'll be able to help.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 8th 2012 5:31pm
from the do-we-want-that? dept
"The past, in general, is over-represented in Washington. The future has no lobbyists."That is, indeed, a problem to some extent. Of course, that then leads to a debate about what to do about that if you believe in the importance of disruptive innovation, and fear incumbents holding it back. The answer is not necessarily to "hire lobbyists" and play the same game -- because that's simply not a winnable war. The real answer is change the way things are done. There are a growing number of groups trying to do that, and while some may accuse them of just being "more lobbyists" at first, that severely underestimates what they're actually setting out to accomplish. GigaOm has a nice summary piece on a few of the groups who are seeking to have "the future" better represented in policy discussions.
It kicks off with a brand new think tank, put together by CCIA, called the Disruptive Competition Project -- or Project DisCo for short. Its focus is to highlight the importance of disruptive competition. This is a big deal, since legacy players almost always seek to position disruptive competition as doing something "illegal," when the truth is merely that they're disrupting the business models of those legacy players. This is a brand new effort, but with some great minds involved, so I'm excited to see where it goes.
Then they discuss Engine, a group that (full disclosure) I helped put together initially, and remain on their steering committee/advisory board. Engine is really about a two way conduit for education and information exchange between policy makers and the startup ecosystem. Too often we've heard that entrepreneurs just ignore policy makers (and equally from policy makers that they never hear from startups). This is often because the entrepreneurs are so focused on getting stuff done and just want government to get out of the way. But ignoring the government is no answer -- it's how we get bad policies that favor incumbent players and stifle innovation. Engine is seeking to change that not by lobbying in the traditional sense, but by opening up channels of communication, and presenting a real data-driven approach to things. Oh, and if you're a startup entrepreneur, you should become a member -- it's free and it'll help make sure your voice is heard in policy debates.
Next up, we've got the Internet Defense League, in which (again, full disclosure) Techdirt is a member. This was put together by the folks at Fight For the Future -- who were instrumental in the anti-SOPA/PIPA fight, recognizing that it would be good to have a bunch of websites ready to respond to existential threats against the internet. With SOPA/PIPA the threat was so large and so clear that they were able to get a bunch of websites to sign on for things like the "Call Congress" day in November and the big anti-SOPA blackout in January. The goal of the IDL is to leverage that effort into having sites prepared to respond when other big threats come along, rather than having to cobble together a new coalition of sites every time.
The final piece listed is TestPAC, Please Ignore, the PAC that was built out of the Reddit community, though isn't associated with Reddit the company. While this is an interesting attempt to play the "traditional" game with an internet twist, I'm not convinced that playing the game this way is ultimately going to succeed. In the end, we know that the incumbents are almost always going to play the PAC game better than the upstarts. I'm glad that these guys are trying, but I'm much more interested in the efforts that are seeking to really change the game, not just be a new player in the old game.
Either way, it's good to see that more people are thinking about this, and it's not over yet. I'm aware of at least three other efforts to really try to change the game in politics and policy to make sure that "the future is represented." Any one -- or even all -- of these may fail completely. But I'm encouraged to see multiple groups trying to get involved, and recognizing that ignoring policy is no longer an option.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 10th 2012 7:07am
from the depends-on-how-you-look-at-it dept
But one thing that struck me in listening to it, was a comment made towards the end by (former) Senator Russ Feingold, who points out that while most people think of lobbying as bribery, they often have the picture backwards. It's extortion:
I've had conversations with Democratic givers out here in the Bay Area and I'll tell you, you wouldn't believe the requests they're getting. The opening ante is a million dollars. It's not, gee, it'd be nice if you give a million. That's sort of the baseline. This is unprecedented. And, in fact, one thing that John and I experienced was that sometimes the corporations that didn't like the system would come to us and say, you know, you guys, it's not legalized bribery, it's legalized extortion. Because it's not like the company CEO calls up to say, gee, I'd love to give you some money. It's usually the other way around. The politician or their agent who's got the Super PAC, they're the ones that are calling up and asking for the money.This is actually confirmed much earlier in the show, when former lobbyist Jimmy Williams explains that part of the job of the lobbyist is to avoid calls from politicians who are always asking for money:
Jimmy Williams: A lot of them would call and say, "Hey, can you host an event for me?" And you never want to say no. Actually, no. You always want to say no. In fact, you always want to say no. But, you could look on your phone with these caller IDs and you would be like, really? I'm not taking that call.What's equally stunning as you listen to it, is how much everyone seems to dislike the system. The politicians hate having to spend many hours each day fundraising (which they do from phone banks across the street from the Capitol, because they're not allowed to do it from their offices). The lobbyists hate having to focus on raising money for the politicians. The donors hate getting the calls asking for more money. One politicians talks about how he burned out all his friends:
Alex Blumberg: Oh, so you would dodge calls for fundraising?
Jimmy Williams: Oh yeah. Every lobbyist does. Are you kidding? You spend most of your time dodging phone calls. Oh yeah.
Walt Minnick: You essentially wear out your friends and you wear out the people who are your natural supporters, because if someone writes you one check or comes to a fundraiser, they get on a list. And three or four months later you call them back again. And the best thing about being an ex-congressman is my friends now return my phone calls.The show concludes with a fascinating discussion between Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold, who famously passed campaign finance reform a decade or so ago, only to see most of what they worked for get tossed aside by the Supreme Court's Citizens United case. McCain explains that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did because it simply has no idea how corrupt the political system is today:
John McCain: At first, I was outraged. The day that Russ and I went over and observed the arguments, the questions that were asked, the naivety of the questions that were asked and the arrogance of some of the questioners, it was just stunning. Particularly Scalia with his sarcasm. Why shouldn't these people be able to engage in this process? Why do you want to restrict them from their rights of free speech? And the questions they asked showed they had not the slightest clue as to what a political campaign is all about and the role of money that it plays in political campaigns. And I remember when Russ and I walked out of there, I said, Russ, we're going to lose and it's because they are clueless. Remember that day we were over there, Russ?So why doesn't it get fixed? Well, because the people in power now know how to use the system to win, so they're afraid to mess with it, and potentially lose their ability to use the system as it stands now to succeed.
Russ Feingold: Absolutely, John. I couldn't agree with you more. It clearly was one of the worst decisions ever of the Supreme Court. The trouble with this issue-- and I think John would agree with this-- is people have gotten so down about it, they think it's always been this way. Well, it's never been this way, since 1907. It's never been the case that when you buy toothpaste or detergent or a gallon of gas, that the next day that money can be used on a candidate that you don't believe in. That's brand new. That's never happened since the Tillman act and the Taft Hartley Act. And so, people have to realize this is a whole new deal. It's not business as usual.
Russ Feingold: We managed to get-- against all odds, we did get people. It took a lot of hard work. Now the problem is, of course, is people are reticent to do that because they got elected under the system.It really is worth listening to the whole thing if you want to understand the institutional, unavoidable level of corruption in DC -- even if it's not the way you may have suspected it worked. The folks at Planet Money have also done some follow up stories that are interesting, including a detailing of the most and least lucrative committee assignments. In the full episode, they explain that committee assignments are all a part of the corrupt process. If you get on a "good" committee (define by its ability to raise more money from lobbyists), it also means that your party demands that you pay more money back to the party, or you may lose that lucrative committee seat. Still, it may surprise some folks that the least lucrative position is on the Judiciary Committee. That's the committee that handled SOPA and PIPA... which involved no shortage of lobbyists. The cynical voice in the back of my head wonders if part of the SOPA/PIPA fight was really about turning the Judiciary Committee into a cash-flow positive committee, rather than a cash-flow negative committee.
Alex Blumberg: So it's just fear of change?
Russ Feingold: Sure. When you win a certain way, your people say to you, hey, this is how we do it and this is how we won. We better not mess with success. I think that's one of the problems in this presidential race, where not only the Republicans, but even my candidate, President Obama, has opened the door to this unlimited money through some of his people. It's hard to get people to change something after they win that way. And that's one of my worries about it.
And if you're wondering where these fundraisers happen? Planet Money has mapped those out as well. The most common locations happen to (conveniently) form a ring around the Capitol:
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 9th 2012 3:14pm
from the bad-reporting dept
Okay, can we kill this story quickly? There's a ton of buzz going around claiming that Netflix has built up a Super PAC to promote a pro-SOPA agenda. As far as I can tell, this is simply not true. It started from a report in Politico, which mentioned (accurately) that Netflix had formed a PAC called FLIXPAC, and is getting much more aggressive in the lobbying/legislative front. This follows Netflix's trend of spending more and more on lobbying in the last few years: $20,000 in 2009, $130,000 in 2010 and $500,000 in 2011. Where it gets odd is that Politico tries to tie this to SOPA/PIPA by listing out those amounts and noting that the $500k in 2011 was spent "as legislative debates over the Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect IP Act and Video Privacy Protection Act raged."
In turn, the folks at RT played a game of bad reporter telephone and spun it into Netflix funding a pro-SOPA super PAC, "whose main goal is to promote SOPA-like legislation." I don't know what's up with the folks at RT. While their TV reporting can be quite good, their online reporting is abysmal at times. They clearly exaggerate stories or write from a position of ignorance.
The truth is that Netflix was basically neutral on SOPA, knowing that it had to balance its technology side and the fact that it is constantly negotiating with the big Hollywood studios on deals. Politically, it basically had to take a neutral position. But the company knows better than to out-and-out support really bad internet legislation. The company has been active on things like net neutrality and the Video Privacy Protection Act -- things that do have a direct impact on it. Sure, it would have been great if Netflix had been a strong anti-SOPA faction, the fact that it stayed neutral and is now ramping up its lobbying does not, in any way, mean that it's suddenly pushing for pro-SOPA legislation. The company appears to have a lot of other things on its legislative agenda.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 2nd 2012 5:36am
from the protectionism,-not-innovation dept
"The question has come up whether a guild master of the weaving industry should be allowed to try an innovation in his product. The verdict: 'If a cloth weaver intends to process a piece according to his own invention, he must not set it on the loom, but should obtain permission from the judges of the town to employ the number and length of threads that he desires, after the question has been considered by four of the oldest merchants and four of the oldest weavers of the guild.' One can imagine how many suggestions for change were tolerated.I think the parallels to the RIAA and the MPAA are pretty self-evident. Freaking out about others entering the market? Check. Running to the government and demanding protections? Check. Expecting others to get permission to innovate? Check. Able to get government-sanctioned fines levied on those new players? Check. Feeling totally entitled to violate the property rights of others to "find" evidence of "subversive goods"? Check.
Shortly after the matter of cloth weaving has been disposed of, the button makers guild raises a cry of outrage; the tailors are beginning to make buttons out of cloth, an unheard-of thing. The government, indignant that an innovation should threaten a settled industry, imposes a fine on the cloth-button makers. But the wardens of the button guild are not yet satisfied. They demand the right to search people's homes and wardrobes and fine and even arrest them on the streets if they are seen wearing these subversive goods."
It seems this comparison between the RIAA/MPAA and protectionist, anti-innovation guilds of that era has occurred to others as well. In a recent episode of the Planet Money podcast, host Adam Davidson does a "deep dive" into the economics of a 16th century German weavers' guild and discovers the same patterns. Collusion in the guild to keep out innovation, to artificially limit the market, to keep wages of employees down and, most importantly, the first response to any competitive threat is to run to the government and lobby for greater protections.
The comparison to the RIAA and MPAA is so obvious that Adam Davidson calls it out pretty early on in the discussion, noting that these "guilds" don't seem all that different from those two groups today. Of course, given that they're both built on copyright law, which originally was designed as a protectionist tool for a similar publishers guild, perhaps the similarities aren't too surprising.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jan 26th 2012 11:55am
from the wow dept
I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament's demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.Pretty rare to find such direct honesty in political circles. That's quite a direct and clear condemnation of the entire process. In terms of process, it will be interesting to see if this has an impact. While the EU did sign on to ACTA today, it still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament (more on that in a little while). Having Arif quit makes a pretty big statement, and hopefully makes it easier for Parliament Members to speak out loudly against ACTA... Still, this is an uphill battle. The supporters of ACTA have been working to get ACTA approved for years. To them, this is basically a done deal.
As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens' legitimate demands.”
Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.
This agreement might have major consequences on citizens' lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 24th 2012 8:20am
from the use-'em-in-good-health dept
- This was an astounding demonstration of what the internet can do in the policy space, and we should not let it die, but leverage what came together for more.
- This shouldn't just be reactive to things like SOPA/PIPA, but it should be a positive, proactive, long-term force for good going forward.
- We should start discussing what kinds of positive goals we can reach for immediately.
- Joel Spolsky, with some policy ideas and a suggestion for getting around Congressional corruption by having internet companies give free online ad space to politicians who run "respectable" campaigns.
- Fred Wilson, suggesting we need an entirely new framework for thinking about copyright issues.
- Smari McCarthy, worrying that the response to SOPA/PIPA was too strong (I disagree), but also noting the need to be much more proactive going forward.
- Rick Falkvinge, also talking about going on the offensive for freedom of speech online.
- Mark McKenna, also pointing out that it's time to revisit existing copyright law and raise questions about whether it needs to be ratcheted back, rather than forward.
- Reddit user ColtonProvias tries to create organization out of chaos.
- Reddit user birdomics looks at creating a new political party for the internet -- called the Internet Party (which others suggest already exists in the form of the Pirate Party).
I've also seen a number of discussions about people trying to set up an "internet super PAC" or something similar. For what it's worth on that, apparently one already exists, and I know of at least two other attempts currently underway to create similar super PACs. I'm also pretty sure that the folks over at Demand Progress already have a super PAC.
Tons of people don't want to let this feeling go, and very much want to push forward. That's really exciting. I'm especially thrilled about the unbridled optimism seen at community sites like Reddit -- even if it's sometimes misguided (and a little too frequently, misinformed) -- because it's going to take a kind of unbridled optimism to overcome the forces that are working against such things. I know lots of people have mocked the Reddit community for jumping into things headfirst without getting its facts straight, but it's that same sort of optimistic spirit that lets the community jump into projects that otherwise objective people would claim are "impossible." Hell, getting GoDaddy to change its position, and even the big internet blackout (which really started on Reddit), were two ideas that most folks would have insisted would have never worked just two months ago. And yet they did.
On top of that, I'm thrilled to see most of this all bubbling up publicly and online -- rather than being sorted out secretly in backrooms. This should be a public discussion. And while -- as with any public discussion -- it leads to a few cringeworthy moments where people who don't know what they're talking about run wild with ideas that don't make sense, that's part of where good ideas come from. The fact that lots of people are chiming in and sharing their thoughts may seem chaotic to an outside world, but out of it, I expect to see some amazing things come together. That, by itself, really is part of the power of the internet -- the fact that this doesn't need to be top-down and organized, but can build itself organically. It may be messy, but I expect we'll see some impressive things come out of it.
I will have lots more to say about all of this going forward, but for those who are jumping into these discussions here and elsewhere, I have three suggested points that I think should drive these discussions, though I have no idea if others will agree:
- Any regulation that impacts the internet needs to be data driven rather than faith-based. I've been banging this drum for ages. The evidence used to support copyright expansionism for centuries has been suspect. Yet, when one industry makes claims, politicians seem to take them at face value. That needs to stop. A key guiding point for those driving any kind of "internet agenda" going forward should be a reliance on actual, credible data. James Boyle and William Patry have both written books that highlight this, and if you haven't read them, you should.
Thankfully, the UK is actually leading the way (somewhat) here, thanks to the mostly good Hargreaves report (which Boyle worked on), which the UK government has said it intends to follow. Unfortunately, while it says that, so far the actual actions when it comes to laws have remained faith-based.
Some will claim that you can come up with data to support just about anything -- and to some extent that's true. But I think that it's possible for rational people to look closely at research and data and come to reasonable conclusions -- while figuring out when to dismiss conclusions that are clearly bunk or created through pure extrapolation or bad assumptions. Either way, the fact that plenty of legislation gets proposed and passed without any real evidence of a need is a huge problem.
- We need to recognize that the internet, free speech and copyright are all connected. One of the tricks for trying to pass SOPA/PIPA (and successfully passing previous bills like the ProIP Act) was to pretend that these were just laws about "arcane" legal issues like copyright -- something that "no one cares about." But in an age where (thanks to bad copyright law changes) everything you create is pretty much subject to copyright, combined with computers and networks whose main job is copying works -- we've reached a point where it's ridiculous to think that you can regulate copyright or the internet without impacting free speech.
There has been a growing recognition of this, including an excellent book by Neil Netanel, and another by David Lange & Jefferson Powell, in which the conflict between copyright and free speech is discussed at length. Unfortunately, the courts have yet to really recognize this issue. The Supreme Court's ruling in Eldred nearly a decade ago is a pretty big problem here, not recognizing how the expansion of copyright law, combined with the internet, really has made copyright law and the First Amendment much more entwined. The Supreme Court completely ignores that based on some very silly reasoning -- and that ruling has lived on to haunt us until today -- such as with the Golan ruling, which came out the exact same day as the internet SOPA/PIPA protests.
People who live online recognize the inherent conflict between today's copyright laws and free speech -- and recognize the risks of harming free speech through copyright expansionism. But because the two laws barely conflicted for quite some time, those who don't understand the internet pretend that there's no conflict at all. That's a problem. Part of the reason why the SOPA/PIPA efforts worked was because people inherently recognized an attack on their free speech rights. Keeping the focus on such rights is the only way efforts to be proactive and move forward will work.
- Don't be confined by what's been done or how others do things. While I'm not against the idea of these sorts of "internet super PACs," something about them feels very... old school. Similarly, I've heard talk of efforts to "hire a lobbyist" for "the internet." Perhaps these things need to be done, but I worry if those become the sole focus of the strategy, because it seems to be playing into the thinking of "the way things are done" in DC today. It's way too easy to be co-opted into the system if you play by their rules.
The reason that the protests worked (so far) was because we didn't "play by the rules." We came together incredibly organically (and chaotically at times -- and sometimes didn't come together at all, as different people and groups just did different things). If this effort is going to turn into something more powerful going forward, it needs to keep some of that same spirit and thinking. It can't just squeeze itself into the way things are done in DC today, or it will become "just another super PAC" or "just another lobbyist." That's not useful or productive.
I'd really like to see a lot more out-of-the-box thinking, about how we can actually use the tools of the internet to make a difference, rather than looking at how we can use the tools of DC to join the crowd.
Either way, it really was just only a few weeks ago that I talked about the amazing power of people speaking up and actually making a difference. I didn't realize we'd see it show up in such a large scale and with such effectiveness so quickly, however. The trick now is to keep it going.
There's obviously much more that can and should be done (and can and should be talked about), and I'll certainly be talking about much more. But with so many different ideas flowing around, I thought it would be best to start with a few key principles, and then move on from there.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 23rd 2012 10:16am
from the quid-pro-quo dept
Pretty soon after the post went up, a We The People petition showed up on the White House's site, asking for a federal investigation of Dodd and the MPAA to see if they were "bribing" public officials. That petition has been gathering an awful lot of signatures all weekend, and it seems quite likely that it will soon reach the required threshold, requiring a comment from the White House. At the very least, I would be interested to see how the White House responds...
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 20th 2012 9:25am
from the time-to-engage,-chris dept
But the bigger issue in the article is that Dodd still doesn't seem to understand what happened. Sure, he talks about how the internet made a difference, but he thinks this sprang up out of nowhere.
By Mr. Dodd’s account, no Washington player can safely assume that a well-wired, heavily financed legislative program is safe from a sudden burst of Web-driven populism.The thing is, if he'd actually been paying attention, he would have know that this has been building for a long, long time. For all the talk in the article of what a brilliant "strategist" he is, it appears his strategy was with the old way of doing things. He reacted to the internet with tremendous hubris -- pretending that the complaints weren't an issue, or were "just Google." Some of us have been watching this closely for years. This goes back quite a ways. Before SOPA, before PIPA. Before COICA. Before ProIP. There's been a growing recognition online that copyright is being used as a tool to block, censor and regulate our civil liberties, and there's been a growing sense of outrage over this. We've reported on it. We've told people at the MPAA and RIAA about it directly. And they've ignored it. Like Dodd did. His "strategy" may work in a world where his lobbyists are the only ones at the table, but it's no strategy for dealing with the public.
“This is altogether a new effect,” Mr. Dodd said, comparing the online movement to the Arab Spring. He could not remember seeing “an effort that was moving with this degree of support change this dramatically” in the last four decades, he added.
Even worse, Dodd's own actions fueled the problem. His own statements built up this attack posture from the very beginning. We had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Dodd would come in as a "reformer," intent on helping the MPAA adapt to the internet, embrace its opportunities and build better business models. But, instead, Dodd continued down the well-trodden path of blaming everyone else for his own industry's unwillingness to adapt -- and continued the MPAA's disastrous strategy of focusing on anti-piracy rather than revenue maximization (or, even worse, believing that anti-piracy is revenue maximization when nearly all of the evidence suggests succeeding at anti-piracy does almost nothing to improve the bottom line).
As a "strategist," the MPAA needed someone who understood the world that Hollywood is operating in. Dodd understood the way Washington DC used to work. That's a big disconnect. And it does not appear to be getting any better.
Equally hilarious are his calls for a meeting -- perhaps organized by the White House -- of tech companies and Hollywood:
Mr. Dodd said he would welcome a summit meeting between Internet companies and content companies, perhaps convened by the White House, that could lead to a compromise. Looming next Tuesday is a cloture vote scheduled in the Senate, which appears to promise the death of the legislation in its current form.Sure. He'd welcome it now. Where was he three months ago when a group of entrepreneurs in the tech sector offered to sit down and meet with him? Where was he just a few weeks ago, when Senator Feinstein tried to set up a meeting between the tech world and Hollywood -- which Hollywood rejected, claiming that it didn't need to meet with tech companies, because it had this bill sewn up tight?
“The perfect place to do it is a block away from here,” said Mr. Dodd, who pointed from his office on I Street toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Now he wants to meet?
But even more to the point -- and showing just how much Dodd still doesn't get it... he wants to "meet with internet companies." Not internet users. He still seems to think that this is about internet companies, and not their users. Part of the protests were about the process and the backroom dealing. There is no "backroom" for making political deals on the internet.
If he wants to meet, why not meet in an open format where anyone can contribute? Why not meet on the internet? Why not do a Reddit AMA? Why not hold a Twitter conversation? Why not set up a forum or do some Google Hangouts? Why not actually use the tools he seeks to regulate?
Obviously, sometimes it helps to meet face to face, but if that's to be done, why not stream it live online? Why not let anyone watching contribute, make comments and ask questions? This can't be another backroom deal, even with "the internet companies." This has to be open and inclusive. This is about the whole process of DC-insiderism. This is about the whole process on which the article premises itself: that Dodd could have won this battle if he'd just been able to glad hand his way around Congress. That is what the internet was rejecting here. And I don't think trying to do the same basic thing again is going to accomplish very much. Dodd isn't going to win the internet over with a handshake and a sparkling smile.
Later in the interview, he discusses "missteps" in a way that shows he's still missing the point:
He acknowledged his side had committed a misstep by allowing Hollywood to become the face of laws that were intended to protect not just movies, but also more mundane products — for instance, home smoke alarms — that are frequently counterfeited abroad, sometimes with disastrous effects.Notice that he's not talking about substance here, but merely positioning. He's talking about the marketing of the backroom deal, not the meaning of the backroom deal. Yes, the fact that Hollywood elites were driving this process was a part of the problem. But he's wrong that it was because of how they positioned it. The MPAA absolutely did try to do exactly what he said. It set up CreativeAmerica as an astroturf group, staffed by former MPAA/studio execs, and pretending to represent the "grassroots." The only problem was that the actual "blue collar" workers didn't support the bills and recognized how bogus the claims of the MPAA were. And that was evident in the fact that the group totally failed to drum up any significant support -- even with a huge war chest that is still running slick, expensive ad campaigns on TV and in Times Square in NY.
“In terms of public perception, I’m Exhibit A,” said Mr. Dodd, who spent last weekend hobnobbing with stars at the Golden Globes. “This is seen as a red carpet business.”
It was a further problem, he said, that Hollywood’s writers, directors, producers and blue-collar workers — whose unions squarely backed the new law — never personally campaigned in a way that might have helped to counter the Web assault.
Finally, Dodd still shows the kind of hubris that got him into this mess when he starts complaining about the White House, and how disappointed he is, because of how much money the industry donates. This is the same tone deafness that we saw earlier with the studio heads:
“There’s a disconnect between the business interests and the politics of Hollywood,” Mr. Dodd said, meaning that the film industry and its denizens provided money for many campaigns, including those of Mr. Obama, without pushing its issues to the fore.It's really incredible that Dodd can go from saying that this shouldn't have been seen as Hollywood fat-cats asking for handouts... and then immediately shift into talking about how much money they gave the administration, and how they expected the administration to simply give them what they wanted. That is a big part of the problem. That is what the internet is complaining about. People were upset that Hollywood can "buy" legislation that goes against the public's best interests.
While Mr. Dodd is barred from Congressional contact, he has had a free hand in lobbying the White House and federal agencies. On Saturday, however, the Obama administration dealt his efforts a blow by announcing publicly, in response to online petitions, that it had reservations about a provision in the proposed laws that called for blocking user access to offending sites.
Mr. Dodd spoke with barely concealed anger at what he called a “really gratuitous” statement delivered by what he had presumed was a sympathetic administration, which came after the blocking provisions had effectively been killed in Congress.
Furthermore, the idea that Hollywood donors did not "push the issue to the fore" is pretty laughable. Hollywood has been pushing incredibly hard to get this bill passed over the past year. We've heard time and time again about how much time and effort have gone into lobbying for this bill, and how there were ever-increasing efforts over the past few months, with some Congressional staffers saying it was an unprecedented push for a particular bill. They pushed. But they failed to recognize the reality outside the beltway.
And that's why Chris Dodd failed.
If he wants to turn things around, it's time for him to stop focusing on the DC inside ballgame. It's time for him to join the internet community and actually engage. That may be tough to do, and he's certainly burnt a lot of bridges, but there are ways to build new relationships. But it can't happen if he's still taking the attitude he takes in this article. It's still about getting what he wants, and not actually listening to the concerns of the wider internet. And until he understands that basic fact, Chris Dodd is going to continue to fail.