Joe Biden On The Internet: 'If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It… Unless Hollywood Asks You To'
from the conflict-of-interests dept
This following story would be pretty funny if it didn’t have such a wide impact. It’s pretty much assured that VP Joe Biden is in favor of PROTECT IP/E-PARASITE/SOPA. Since the start of this administration, President Obama has delegated most copyright issues to Biden, and Biden’s general view on copyright seems to be “whatever makes Hollywood happier must be fantastic.” How else do you describe his continued support of ever more draconian copyright law, contrary to the evidence suggesting that it only makes things worse? How else do you explain his claim that he got “all the stakeholders” concerning copyright into a summit meeting, when it only involved government officials and the big labels and studios (no consumer advocates, no artists, no technologists, no entrepreneurs, etc.)?
At the same time, issues of “internet freedom” have been handed off to the State Department, where Hillary Clinton and her team have actually been doing a pretty good job. The Wikilkeaks response was a bit of a hiccup, but on the whole… they’ve taken a really strong position on the importance of internet freedom, and they deserve kudos for that. Of course, as we’ve noted, these two issues appear to come into conflict over copyright policy, and bills like PROTECT IP/SOPA/E-PARASITE. Those kinds of bills make Biden happy, clearly, but seriously upset people in the State Department, who recognize that it completely undermines their message on internet freedom, being against censorship and allowing the free flow of information online.
So, at the very least, keep an eye out for the growing conflict between Biden and Clinton on this particular issue. What it’ll come down to is whether or not Obama recognizes that PROTECT IP/SOPA/E-PARASITE isn’t just a copyright issue, but one of regulating the internet.
Either way, use that as background to understand the awkwardness of what follows. Hillary Clinton was scheduled to speak earlier this week at the London Conference on Cyberspace (LCC), in which she was expected to give a speech on the importance of freedom in cyberspace. At the last minute, however, she had to pull out due to her mother falling ill. So, Joe Biden stepped in instead, and gave what looks like a variation on what Clinton’s speech was supposed to be… talking up the importance of freedom on the internet and not regulating the internet:
We know that it will take many years and patient and persistent engagement with people around the world to build a consensus around cyberspace, but there are no shortcuts because what citizens do online should not, as some have suggested, be decreed solely by groups of governments making decisions for them somewhere on high. No citizen of any country should be subject to a repressive global code when they send an email or post a comment to a news article. They should not be prevented from sharing their innovations with global consumers simply because they live across a national frontier. That’s not how the Internet should ever work in our view — not if we want it to remain the space where economic, political and social exchanges can flourish.
Indeed. So can we chalk up Biden’s support for getting rid of the Great Firewall of America approach found in SOPA? Can we chalk up Biden’s support for not doing DNS (and more!) blocking so that people in the US cannot reach certain websites that the rest of the world can reach, based solely on a repressive government code? And, under SOPA, innovators would clearly be hindered from sharing their innovations with global consumers, due to massive liabilities put on them under the law.
Now, there are some who have a different view, as you all know. They seek an international legal instrument that would lead to exclusive government control over Internet resources, institutions and content and national barriers on the free flow of information online. But this, in our view, would lead to a fragmented Internet, one that does not connect people but divides them; a stagnant cyberspace, not an innovative one, and ultimately a less secure cyberspace with less trust among nations.
Again, can we now assume that Biden is coming out against DNS/IP blocking, as found in SOPA? After all, it has been widely established that that, too, would “lead to a fragmented Internet, one that does not connect people but divides them; a stagnant cyberspace, not an innovative one, and ultimately a less secure cyberspace with less trust.” Nice to see him say that, though I wonder if he’ll ignore all of that when the same arguments are put forth over SOPA.
We have an expression in our country: If it ain?t broke, don’t fix it. It would be misguided, in our view, to break with the system that has worked so well for so long.
Indeed. And yet, SOPA clearly tries to break a regulatory and technical framework for the internet that has been in existence for quite some time, and which is likely responsible for the amazing growth and success of the internet industry within the US.
Those countries that try to have it both ways by making the Internet closed to free expression but open for business will find that this is no easy task. They may try to build walls between these different activities, but there isn?t a separate economic Internet, political Internet and social Internet. They are all one. It?s simply the Internet.
The same search engines that help customers find local businesses also point them to websites of bloggers and civil society groups. Social networking sites allow friends to share not only home videos, but also views about the political and social issues within their country.
Trying to build and maintain barriers in cyberspace entails a variety of cost, not just the cost of paying thousands of censors and Internet police to work around the clock, but also the opportunity costs to a nation?s future. And I believe all nations will ultimately determine this. The digital marketplace of ideas that welcomes every blog and tweet is the same one that inspires the next generation of innovators to fuel our economies. And when businesses consider investing in a country with a poor record on Internet freedom, and they know that their website could be shut down suddenly, their transactions monitored, their staffs harassed, they?ll look for opportunities elsewhere.
Yes, yes and yes again. These are wonderful statements, and every one of them — direct from Biden’s mouth — are clear arguments against SOPA. Last week, when we met with folks in DC about this issue, the fear of many of the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in our group was that if we put up the Great Firewall of America, as designated in SOPA, leading companies to recognize “that their website could be shut down suddenly, their transactions monitored, their staffs harassed,” that they will most certainly “look for opportunities elsewhere.” Or, worse yet, they wouldn’t start at all.
Honestly, Biden’s speech really was an excellent one, and I applaud it. I am just wondering if everything he claimed in that speech will be ignored when it comes to SOPA, which seems to go against nearly every point he made in that speech. And to come out in favor of supporting the Great Firewall of America soon after making a speech like that one… well, that’s going to certainly undermine a tremendous amount of credibility on the part of the vice president, while equally making life hard on Secretary Clinton in actually going out to these other countries and pressuring them to keep their internet open, while we lock it up at home.