OK, So SOPA And PIPA Are Both On Hold: Where Do We Go From Here?
from the just-the-beginning dept
There is a rather odd atmosphere within the parts of the online community that fought so hard against SOPA this week – relief that all that work seems to have had an effect, mixed with a certain disbelief that for once the outside world sat up and took notice of the tech world’s concerns. Amidst all the justified back-patting, there is a temptation to celebrate the fact that both SOPA and PIPA are “delayed“, and to move on.
As Lauren Weinstein points out in an excellent, monitory blog post entitled “Battling Internet Censorship: The Long War”, that would be a big mistake:
you might be tempted to assume that the battle is over, the war is won, and that — as Maxwell Smart used to say — “Once again the forces of niceness and goodness have triumphed over the forces of evil and rottenness.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the forces arrayed in favor of Internet censorship are not only powerful and well funded, but are in this game for the very long haul indeed. A day of demonstrations to them, as annoying as they may be to these censorship proponents in the very short run, are in the final analysis more like a single human lifetime compared against the centuries.
So the question then becomes, how can a fast-moving industry that is easily distracted by cool hardware and pictures of cats hope to match the lumbering but unswerving attack of the copyright dinosaurs?
One of the key problems is that few within the Internet world know much about how “DC” – the inner circle of US policy-making – really works. One person who does is Christine Paluch, as she explains in this post seconding Weinstein’s warning about “The Long War”:
Here in DC the long war is not some analogy, it is a way of life. This is a town of strategists and researchers who often lay intellectual groundwork for legislation that gets put into place long after they have moved on to another issue. I should know this, I was one of the researchers, and I worked on a few major issues involving regulatory policy, specifically labor and employment, environmental issues, consumer product safety, and healthcare. It is not very often that somebody sees their work used in laying the groundwork for historic legislation, but the work of me and my fellow researchers was used in a few pieces of historic legislation. It was a part of the long game, one that took over 5 years to completely play out, and I was only there for part of it. I was already left the campaign by the time the legislation went through congress.
She also has some very useful advice for the geek world she now calls her own (“Somehow I was roped in by technologists and they have assimilated me into their development processes”):
in my honest opinion it needs to go beyond a simple censorship campaign, and have a much broader focus. What [Weinstein] is citing is a defensive campaign, but from my own experiences, the best campaigns are not just defensive, but also strategic and proactive. I also think it needs to focus on broader goals for science and technology as well, as I think the SOPA and PIPA campaign are part of a larger pattern that needs to be addressed.
In other words, the tech world really needs to think big on this. The rest of the post is well-worth reading for its information about some of the details of DC policy making; but the central message is very simple:
SOPA and PIPA should not be the end, but rather the beginning. This is the best advice to making technology a larger and permanent force in DC as somebody who at one point was part of this system.