Rep. Issa Crowdsourcing Discussion Of Two Year Embargo On Internet Regulations
from the punt dept
We’ve been hearing rumors of this for a few weeks, but Rep. Darrell Issa has released a draft version of his Internet American Moratorium Act (there’s a joke in that name for you Reddit folks…) and appropriately (see previous parenthetical) he’s doing an IAMA session on Reddit to crowdsource ideas for the bill, a la Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s recent Reddit discussion concerning a bill to stop the US government from seizing domain names without a prior adversarial hearing. And, of course, he’s also put the bill on his Madison legislative crowdsourcing platform, so people can discuss it there as well. The key section of the draft bill is the following:
It is resolved in the House of Representatives and Senate that they shall not pass any new legislation for a period of 2 years from the date of enactment of this Act that would require individuals or corporations engaged in activities on the Internet to meet additional requirements or activities. After 90 days of passage of this Act no Department or Agency of the United States shall publish new rules or regulations, or finalize or otherwise enforce or give lawful effect to draft rules or regulations affecting the Internet until a period of at least 2 years from the enactment of this legislation has elapsed.
Considering the worries that many of us have about bad regulations impacting the internet, you can understand how this might be appealing, but we should at least be careful of any potential unintended consequences, concerning how it might limit good bills to fix bad laws already in place. The language above appears to try to avoid that — as it clearly allows for fixing some existing legislation so long as it doesn’t create new requirements for individuals or companies, but even that could get in the way of potentially useful legislation. Not that I’m recommending this per se, but what if there is an effort to “fix copyright” by going back to a system of requiring registration to get a copyright, rather than automatically placing it on all works once fixed. There are other issues with such a proposal (mainly the Berne Convention), but let’s say it was legitimately considered — and it is an idea that many have suggested would solve a segment of the problems with today’s copyright law. Yet, I could see how this moratorium would block that as imposing “additional requirements” for “individuals or corporations engaged in activities on the internet.”
Also, as I’m sure some will point out, there is a slight oddity in having Congress pass a law to say that it won’t do something else, and Congress could always then just pass another law rescinding the original law (or overriding it with a bill that ignores it). However, such Congressional moratoriums often are useful in at least establishing a baseline and getting Congress to avoid wading into certain waters. So I’m not necessarily against the moratorium, but I worry that it could lead to unintended consequences that don’t just prevent bad laws from being passed, but also might prevent good fixes to current law from passing as well.