Senator Wyden Lays Out Broad Internet Freedom Agenda, Warns Against 'Maximalist' Agenda That Harms Innovation

from the more-of-this-please dept

This morning at CES, Senator Ron Wyden laid out a broad and detailed agenda for how Congress can and should promote internet freedom and increase innovation -- mainly by focusing on knocking down the barriers presented by legacy players who don't want to adapt or compete. Among other things, he talked about increasing access, pushing back on data caps, dealing with the harm of software patents, greater privacy protections and more. Joe Mullin at Ars Technica has done a nice job bullet-pointing the key planks if you don't feel like reading the whole speech linked above. I'm sure many here will appreciate this line from his speech:
What chills the sharing of ideas and collaboration is the maximalist approach to copyrights and patents. Rights-holders are too eager to use their power to scare off challenges to the status quo, and this perpetuates stagnation.
Other items of interest: he's working with Senator Al Franken on taking an antitrust approach to deal with net neutrality. Details obviously matter -- and I've been quite skeptical of net neutrality laws, as they seem ripe for regulatory capture by big broadband providers -- but an antitrust approach is at least an interesting idea. We've been arguing for nearly a decade that the whole concept of "net neutrality" is something of a red herring. The only reason net neutrality is an issue is because of a lack of competition. Thus, taking an antitrust approach may actually make sense, though (again) the details matter quite a bit.

On patents, he's arguing that we need much more detailed info on the impact of software patents on the economy:
A related concern is the affect of software patents on America’s ability to innovate. Congress should begin a review – a cost-benefit analysis – of software patents’ contribution to the economy. The acquisition of these patents appears less about deploying innovation and more about employing a legal arsenal. The patent system should not, as Julie Samuels at EFF says, operate as a tax on innovation, as it does now. How are you promoting innovation if you stand behind a law that enables a few lines of code to be patentable for 20 years? Software is different than a new invention. It is a building block -- a new set of instructions -- that should be continually built upon and improved.
This is good... but I still get nervous when people focus too much on software patents. There are significant problems with all kinds of patents, and focusing just on "software" alone, may leave other problems in place. Still, more data and information is a good thing, and a serious look at the economic impact of software patents can only be a good thing.

In separate conversations after his speech, Wyden made it clear that with all the other -- more high profile -- things that Congress is fighting over in the next few months, it may be difficult to get too much through Congress, but he is quite reasonably optimistic about how many people in Congress are awakening to the importance of the internet and to understanding the wider concerns of all of us who use the internet on a daily basis.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    saulgoode (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 8:49pm

    This is good... but I still get nervous when people focus too much on software patents. There are significant problems with all kinds of patents, and focusing just on "software" alone, may leave other problems in place.
    Even for those who feel that patents generally may be beneficial, software patents can still be viewed as particularly problematic. There are strong arguments against patenting software that are not applicable against the patenting of machines or manufactures, and it is not unreasonable to object to the issuance of software patents without challenging the patent regime as a whole.

     

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  2.  
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    Shmerl, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 9:13pm

    Senator Wyden is one of the few sane people in the Congress.

     

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  3.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 9:21pm

    On net neutrality, there used to be an argument that if the service provider began providing content, they lost their common carrier protections. Whatever happened to that idea?

     

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  4.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 9:23pm

    Tell Senator Wyden what you think here.

     

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  5.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 9:24pm

    Tell Senator Wyden what you think here:

    http://www.standtallforamerica.com/contribute/

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 9:55pm

    One step at a time

    "This is good... but I still get nervous when people focus too much on software patents. There are significant problems with all kinds of patents, and focusing just on "software" alone, may leave other problems in place."

    Ever engineer will tell you you don't fix everything at once, you start with the most broken part, then tackle the rest in order of priority.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 10:12pm

    Re:

    Well, I would also err on the side of caution on this subject. I am not sure that the system is bad for machines and devices today though you can easily make small adjustments without too many unintended bad effects.

    When that is said, software patents are very problematic for a variety of reasons (too high innovation speed, principle of patenting what at basic machine code boils down to basic math, general low innovation height etc.), patents on a range of chemical compounds constitutes a problem (health concerns ie. Doha rounds, patenting gene sequences which basically is slightly complicated math of nature, proteins which basically is comparable in concerns to gene sequences etc.) and there is a fundamental problem with HR patents and other none-physically manifested subjects (Tax on thoughts?, extremely hard to define innovation height and prior art which is basically 100% subjective, boundary issues etc.).

    USA has a specific problem with the damages incentivising specialized NPEs to make a living through court rooms (trolling). Europe has the opposite problem of large companies basically ignoring smaller companies patents and just taking the small cost from the courts as an investment. None of those problems are directly related to the patent-system. They are related to the civil court regulation (enforcement. Actually ACTA would decrease the european problem, by incentivising the rightholder to have as high a profit margin as possible before a case! % of retail price as a minimum is a rather unfortunate measure for damages!).

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 10:23pm

    Re:

    I already told him what I think by voting for him.

     

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  9.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 11:03pm

    Re: One step at a time

    Is there anyone who isn't in favor of software patent reform? (If there are opponents, what are their concerns?)

    Seems like this is the issue most likely to get bipartisan support. And, by the same token, if no progress can be made here, I don't think there's much hope for issues where there isn't as much widespread agreement.

    It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 11:34pm

    Senator Wyden has zero influence in the Senate.

    And that shouldn't matter, if he's just stating what he believes in. But it seems he's perceived as lobbying the tech industry for $

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 12:28am

    Re:

    Then that's why he's in Cognress.

    OH, wait...

     

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  12.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 12:56am

    Re: Re: One step at a time

    That would be 'patent trolls', and 'because fixing the mess would damage their business model(extortion)'.

    The biggest stumbling block I see is that congress and the senate have been fed the idea for so long that 'patents are good and promote creation/innovation', and so to do anything to fix the mess would require them to actually wake up and realize that no patents are not always good, and in fact these days tend to, more often that not, do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to.

    And given most politicians hate to a) admit to being wrong on something, and b) do actual work, I imagine there will be some significant push-back to this proposal.

     

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  13.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 1:13am

    Not fair.

    Why is this guy American? Clearly we should have him.

     

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  14.  
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    letherial (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 2:11am

    Re: Re:

    Considering you vote anonymously, its highly unlikely that he knows what you think.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 4:42am

    Re: Re: Re: One step at a time

    Fixing the mess would eliminate or severely change the number they use to measure innovation, as in our policies are better that our opponents as they resulted in more patemnts per year being issued.

     

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  16.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 5:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    True enough in the 'who' sense, but not in the 'how many', which is what really matters when running for election.

     

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  17.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 5:12am

    Ron Wyden 2016

    He should run for President, I'd vote for him.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 5:14am

    Re:

    zero influence in this case means not a suck up to old school interests?

    He seems to understand the internet much better than other congress critters, it would be nice if his efforts were not in vain.

     

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  19.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 6:44am

    Re: One step at a time

    > Ever engineer will tell you you don't fix everything at once,
    > you start with the most broken part, then tackle the rest in order of priority.


    That works for me.

    To "fix" a broken part means to remove it.

    First let's fix copyright. Then let's fix patents.

     

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  20.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 7:08am

    Linking is not infringement

    How about a change to copyright law that codifies into law that linking to content is not infringment, even if the linked to content turns out to be infringing. It is the infringing content that is infringing (duh!) not the link to it.

    Copyright owners should like this because the links enable them to get right to the source and take down the actual infringing content; instantly making worthless all of the links (both known and unknown links). Less effort, instead of fighting an unknown number of links, just follow a link to the source of the actual infringement. This seems so simple and logical.

    Protecting the links against claims of infringement is important because:

    1. links may be innocently mechanically generated by crawling other links on third party web pages (and I'm talking about a lot more than just Google here)

    2. links may be innocent when they are created, but then the source material they link to is changed from innocent to infringing, suddenly turning the innocent link to an infringer without its owner's knowledge. (Example: I link to my neighbor's kid's birthday video today. Tomorrow my neighbor changes the content of that video to be pirated content from a major movie. Now I am suddenly a criminal even though I didn't do anything wrong.)

     

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  21.  
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    Joe Bit, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 8:36am

    An "A" committee chairman with "no influence"

    Hmm, this is the only guy who has managed to changes Senate rules in decades, doing away with the secret hold (you now have to publicly disclose it - can't hide behind anonymity.) This is the guy who held up PIPA/SOPA for a year and a half then browbeat the major players into participating in the Internet blackout that stopped a bill with 40 - FORTY - bipartisan cosponsors, he's in the top 20 in seniority, is next in line to chair the most powerful committee in the Senate, and has just taken over chairmanship of a major committee - This is the guy you think has "no influence"? Get help son.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 9:03am

    While i agree there is a larger problem than just software patents, let's talk strategy for a bit here.

    If they are recognizing that software patents are a problem, lets bolster their current conclusions. Reinforce their egos by backing them up here, and when things do get changed, THEN, you start asking about other patents. "Well all theses patented circuits are really just building blocks of the more complex chipsets, should we really be allowing patents there?"

    Convince them of one thing first, then move laterally. Divide and conquer as they say...

     

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  23.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    ISPs generally do not have common carrier status, and furthermore the majority of them actively don't want it. If you're a common carrier, you have additional responsibilities and restrictions that they would prefer to avoid.

     

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  24.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    Re: Re: One step at a time

    First let's fix copyright. Then let's fix patents.

    Fixing copyright via Congress is likely to be slower/harder than tackling software patents. So if you don't want to address software patents until you have fixed copyright, the whole process will likely to be stalled in Congress for years.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 11:09am

    Comon sense

    From my UK viewpoint, I wish some of our politicians had just a fraction of the sense that this guy appears to be talking! Seems as if he knows exactly what the net is actually all about. More power to his elbow, I say! Some of it might rub off elsewhere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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