Has Hollywood Hubris Awakened Silicon Valley To The Importance Of Telling DC To Knock It Off On Bad Laws?

from the it's-possible dept

We've talked a lot in the past about how the tech industry frequently ignores what's happening in Washington DC, and takes the attitude that it doesn't want to be involved in policy debates, because folks are busy focusing on actually building companies. However, as we repeatedly learn, just because we want to ignore DC, it doesn't mean that DC ignores us. And that's a problem. It allows others to use the government as a weapon against innovations they don't like. For years, Hollywood has been able to do this successfully -- but, when they push too far, it seems they may awaken a political beast they'd rather not deal with: the geeks. You don't want to make the geeks angry. Yet, that's exactly what Hollywood has done with SOPA/PIPA... and this time, most of the public is on the side of the geeks, because we're all geeks now. We all use these technologies and services. It's why there's widespread public outcry against SOPA, but absolutely no grassroots support for the bill.

Larry Downes, over at News.com, has written up a great article highlighting how SOPA/PIPAhave awakened Silicon Valley to the importance of engaging in policy -- and comparing it to previous battles, like the infamous Clipper Chip fight, which brought us EFF, among other things. It seems that, when clueless bureaucrats push techies too far, they respond in a big way. The real question is whether or not this becomes a sustained thing. Disclaimer: I make a brief appearance in the article, in part because of my involvement with Engine Advocacy, a group which is helping to educate both sides -- entrepreneurs and politicians -- on these issues (and not just about SOPA, but a wide variety of such issues).

Downes asks the right question in wondering if we can keep this up, so it's not just in emergency situations. I sure hope so, and that's definitely part of the thinking behind Engine:
Establishing a permanent counterbalance to old economy interests won't be easy. Engine Advocacy's McGeary acknowledges that incumbent industries who want to reign in technological change are better organized and know every corridor and office on Capitol Hill by heart. So using social media and other technical advantages will be critical to even the odds. "We can't line up soldiers on an open field," McGeary said. "We need to be rangers and use the tools we have to fight a guerrilla war. The facts are on our side; not that that always wins."
Facts win in the long run... but we're hoping to make that long run a lot shorter, and we're hoping we can do it by using the very tools that Congress seems intent on hindering. But, in the end, for any of this to work, it's still going to take a lot of motivated people. Hopefully, the fight against SOPA/PIPA has shown what can be done when enough people do get involved and speak out.

Even more important, however, for the long run, is getting ahead of these issues. We shouldn't just be responding to ridiculous attempts by legacy industries to hold back innovation. We should be proactive in explaining to Congress why innovation is important for the economy and jobs, and why passing bad laws to protect legacy industries at the expense of job creating innovation is a dangerous idea for the economy. It can be done, but, again, it's going to take a lot of people being willing to take part.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2012 @ 7:55pm

    Re: Re:

    A: [citation needed]

    B: I don't need to 'rationalize' something that isn't immoral to begin with. There is nothing immoral about 'infringement' so I have nothing to rationalize.

    C: If the public doesn't get anything in return for sacrificing its rightful right to copy then why should it sacrifice anything. Nothing ever becomes public domain anymore so the public is giving away its rights in return for absolutely nothing.

    D: Two wrongs don't make a right. It's not OK for big corporations to steal from the public domain through retroactive extensions even if people infringe.

    A Slashdot comment by symbolset summed it up best

    "If it's OK for the media lobbies to steal our public domain works from us in perpetuity, then by all means let's even the score.


    "I will only say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one-tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot."

    "The public seldom makes nice distinctions."

    Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1841 & 1842


    If the law is not intended to be socially beneficial then why should people follow it? People lost respect for the law for good reason and you shouldn't be surprised that more people will ignore the law when the law is on the wrong side of the public interest.

    Sure, shortening copy protection lengths to something reasonable won't abolish infringement completely, but it will substantially reduce it. Most laws can't abolish what they prohibit entirely but that's no excuse to pass bad laws (ie: long IP lengths).

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