Innovation

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
copia, hacking, innovation, lobbying, policy

Companies:
copia



Hacking Policy Through Innovation, Not Lobbying

from the play-by-silicon-valley's-rules dept

As we continue to build The Copia Institute, we'll be writing a weekly column & newsletter discussing bigger issues around innovation and abundance. These pieces will be cross-posted here on Techdirt, but we invite you to check them out on the new Copia website as well.

One of the first questions that comes up when I first tell people about the Copia Institute, is "how is this different than 'x'?" with "x" being any number of organizations, from activist groups to trade groups to DC lobbying organizations. And the answer is that we're not any of those things. In fact, while we know many people in such places, and will likely have opportunities to work with them in certain cases, we're focused on doing something very different: letting innovation lead the way, rather than policymakers. That's not to say we're not interested in policy questions, we're just looking for ways to innovate solutions to them rather than waiting for policymakers in distant cities to come up with some new regulation.

Over and over again we've seen policymakers and people from the policy world show up in Silicon Valley and talk about how entrepreneurs need to spend more time "bridging the gap" between DC and Silicon Valley, or something like that. But, almost inevitably, this isn't very effective. There are, certainly, connections to be made, but too often the "connection" that policymakers are talking about is getting Silicon Valley to "play the DC game." And very, very few entrepreneurs and technologists are truly interested in playing that game. To them, it's the antithesis of why they're innovators in the first place. They didn't come to Silicon Valley to change the world just to have to convince a large group of lawmakers (or worse, administrative bureaucrats) to put in place some particular piece of legislation.

They came here to actually innovate.

And this is not to say -- as some people like to -- that the way to treat policymakers is to ignore them, or just tell them to get out of the way. Rather, we think that we can create the best of all worlds by getting entrepreneurs and technologists and innovators to do what the do best and that means coming up with innovative policy ideas that don't necessarily involve waiting for policymakers to create some sort of regulation.

We see examples of this innovative "policy without policymakers" all the time -- and it's what helped inspire the creation of Copia in the first place. One example: fifteen years ago, a group of entrepreneurs, academics, lawyers and activists realized that copyright law and the internet did not mix. And, at the same time, they knew that there was no way Congress would get around to real copyright reform that fixed that. So they built a very innovative solution: Creative Commons. It didn't fix all the problems, but it did create a really useful tool that is widespread today: a very simple licensing mechanism that encouraged content creators to freely and easily license their works, and that allowed the better sharing of information. It has had a profound effect on how content is shared online today -- and it did not require Congress to do anything.

Similar examples are found with things like Twitter's Innovator's Patent Agreement that prevents any of Twitter's patents from being used for trolling. Or the recent "license on transfer" (LOT) program that a bunch of tech companies came up with a year ago.

Sure, in the long run, having good copyright or patent reform would help even more, but that clearly wasn't happening in the short run, so innovators did what they do best: they innovated solutions to help out in the meantime.

Copia's main focus is on bringing together innovators, entrepreneurs, and technologists and looking at the big opportunities and challenges they face -- and looking for ways to innovate solutions that don't require lobbying and waiting around for policymakers to negotiate and bicker and trade. Instead, we're focused on getting actual stuff done -- creating useful programs that can accomplish things today.

That doesn't mean we'll sit out legislative or policy debates. We'll still be actively involved in those, and making sure that our members are well aware of what's happening. But we'll let the existing trade groups, activists and lobbyists focus on those battles most of the time. We're going to keep looking for ways that we can actually get stuff done in a way that Silicon Valley appreciates: by innovating, rather than waiting for someone to give us permission.

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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:09am

    The problem with Innovation

    The problem with innovation is that it upsets existing entrenched business built upon the inefficiencies that innovation tends to eliminate.

    That is why you must convince the ruling class to allow us mere peasants to create innovation. Even if the innovation doesn't affect the legislators, it certainly affects their friends, or those who put money into their pockets while whispering things into their ears about how wonderful inefficiency is.

    The Internet upsets information monopolies. (Encyclopedias, dictionaries, other reference information, public domain information that you must pay a price to obtain, etc) The same as libraries, but at your fingertips, any time, anywhere.

    The Internet allows artists to sell their content directly to consumers cutting out the exploitative and vastly inefficient dinosaur middlemen.

    The Internet allows the creation of cloud services, that upset less efficient businesses. (Example: Uber, Lyft. But I could also repeat: Netflix, Amazon Prime)

    And these are just the most obvious examples.

    Innovation like self driving cars is going to upset so many people that we may never get self driving cars. Self driving cars are the realization of a dream -- come true. Saving vast amounts of wasted human intellect and productivity. Yet we may never get them because: taxis could become Johnny Cab (self driving, while spewing inane small talk), insurance companies want more accidents, car ownership may decline affecting dealers and auto makers.

    Innovation like electric cars threatens big oil -- despite that we should have begun serious work on electric cars, decades ago. Why did GM wastefully destroy all those beloved and perfectly working electric cars when California changed its law to no longer require a minimum percent of EVs?

    Innovation like SpaceX threatens fat dinosaurs sucking at the government teat.

    I could go on. But there are major problems with innovation. That's why we should not do it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:26am

      Re: The problem with Innovation

      Or, we could find innovative ways to aid changes in the rate of change by making change more acceptable. Legacy dinosaur industries be damned, change is going to happen, and the rate of change is going to increase. The issue is, how painful will we let those dinosaurs make it, or find ways to de-dinosaur prevalent attitudes.

      The biggest problem I see with self-driving cars is where is NASCAR going to find drivers in 50 years or so? Remember, they got their start with bootleggers.

      OK, that last paragraph is sarcasm for those with malfunctioning sarc meters.

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

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 1:20pm

        Re: Re: The problem with Innovation

        In 50 years when we have self driving cars and technology has changed everything, NASCAR will probably be replaced by a more modern sport, such as BitTorrenting competitions.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 1:42pm

          Re: Re: Re: The problem with Innovation

          What, no spectacular crashes? What about competing drivers attacking each other in the pits? So disappointing.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 5:18pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The problem with Innovation

            Just server crashes.

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

          • icon
            DannyB (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 5:41am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The problem with Innovation

            Okay. In 50 years we'll have lawyers fighting each other in court.

            Both lawyers are locked in a steel cage suspended from the court ceiling until one wins.

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

            • identicon
              Pragmatic, 17 Jun 2015 @ 7:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The problem with Innovation

              Please tell me they'll have the incidental music from the Star Trek: The Original Series "Amok Time" fight scene playing in the background!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 2:56pm

      Re: The problem with Innovation

      The Internet upsets information monopolies. (Encyclopedias

      And yet Wikipedia has come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.

      But I could also repeat: Netflix, Amazon Prime

      Netflix has also come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.

      Innovation like SpaceX threatens fat dinosaurs

      SpaceX is doing just fine without any policy changes.

      Of all the things you've mentioned, only Uber and Lyft are hindered by current regulations. Your examples most contradict your premise that "you must convince the ruling class to allow us mere peasants to create innovation."

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

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 5:51am

        Re: Re: The problem with Innovation

        > Wikipedia has come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.
        > Netflix has also come to dominate without requiring any policy changes.
        > SpaceX is doing just fine without any policy changes.

        Without regulation to stop innovation, the innovation happens. Unless the ruling class can hinder innovation, it upsets existing business models. Examples: There was a thriving industry that supported the manufacture and maintenance of everything related to horse drawn buggies. There was an industry that sold lanterns and oil before the scourge of electric lighting came along.

        That is why the ruling class should must hinder innovation, to protect the rich. Things must change such that the peasants must get permission from the ruling class in order to innovate.

        (sad but the way some people seem to actually see it)

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

      • icon
        toyotabedzrock (profile), 21 Jun 2015 @ 11:39pm

        Re: Re: The problem with Innovation

        Your examples are one set of elites pushing into another set of elites territory.
        And yes they all involved policy and lobbying except wikipedia.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:16am

    How to fix Creative Commons

    Unfortunately, Creative Commons (and also open source licenses!) beautifully hacked around making copyright the unavoidable default. Making it almost impossible for something to merely exist in the public domain.

    An innovative way to fix creative commons (and maybe also open source licenses) is to legislate that ALL copyright licenses (like CC, and GPL, etc) require that some amount of money be paid for use of the license. That way politicians can rationalize that they have added value* to the economy.


    * here's another idea to add value to the economy: break all the shop windows on main street -- those businesses will have to pay the glass companies for repairs -- thus stimulating the economy!

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 10:28am

    Rush to pay $899 per year for vague benefits!

    Cause it's shameless self-promotion Tuesday!

    Around here, you'd get a year of 50Mbit cable, internet phone, and better-than-basic cable TV for that. I guess Copia is only for the 1 percent.

    Ethical questions that the 1 percent don't even consider: Is this advertising "paid" for by "Copia" to get money into waning Techdirt? If not paid, why not? Any other corporation doing that is spam. Is it even legal to cross-promote supposedly separate entities? Discuss.

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

  • icon
    jlaprise (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:03am

    Innovation is great but it rarely triumphs over the path dependency created by regulation. Only in cases where technologies and services are seemingly outside the domain of regulation does innovation have sure footing. The Internet is a case in point. It ran largely unregulated for a long time and off the radar. Once it was clear that it was not a fad, regulators slowly began applying existing law to it. Drones and 3D printing are more current examples.

    There is a window of opportunity for innovation between the proof of concept and the proof of power when innovation is ascendant. Once that window closes, innovation must compete with regulation and it is not a fair competition. Innovation might be nimble but regulation has the relentless tenacity, longevity, and resources of bureaucracy. Within that window of opportunity, new technologies must define and demarcate power so that once that window closes, they can assert themselves (Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon).

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:29pm

      Re:

      Innovation is great but it rarely triumphs over the path dependency created by regulation.

      I don't disagree -- nor is that what we're arguing here.

      We're not saying "regulate or innovate." We're saying that innovators aren't interested in going through the full process required to manage the regulatory/policy environment. So our goal with Copia is to focus on the aspects they can and will impact.

      This is not a rejection of the policymaking field at all. Just a recognition of the simple fact that innovators DON'T CARE about that enough, because it's a totally different mindset.

      I think you misread what this post was about.

      The Internet is a case in point. It ran largely unregulated for a long time and off the radar. Once it was clear that it was not a fad, regulators slowly began applying existing law to it. Drones and 3D printing are more current examples.

      Again, don't disagree -- but that's not the point of what we're saying.

      You seem to be treating this as an anti-regulatory screed. It is not.

      We're just saying that Copia's focus is on things innovators can have a real impact on today. That's it.

      There is a window of opportunity for innovation between the proof of concept and the proof of power when innovation is ascendant. Once that window closes, innovation must compete with regulation and it is not a fair competition.

      Again, that is unrelated to the point we are discussing here.

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

      • icon
        jlaprise (profile), 17 Jun 2015 @ 9:26am

        Re: Re:

        I sit corrected. Thanks Mike for clarifying. Innovation certainly has an important role and one that can upend regulation. I would suggest that innovators definitely maintain strong contacts within the groups that fight the policy battles so as to avoid innovating permissionlessly only to find that permission was required after the fact.

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

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    identicon
    Chaz, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:21am

    So you're going to try pushing Copia into Techdirt along with Daily Deals? Good luck with that.

    Why not write new stuff worth reading? Advertising just isn't enough.

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

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    identicon
    Chaz, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:23am

    So you're going to try pushing Copia into Techdirt along with Daily Deals? Good luck with that.

    Why not write new stuff worth reading? Advertising just isn't enough.

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

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:51am

    You can avoid the stupid comments and see all of articles on front page with lite option.

    Theres only 2 way s to handle torlls
    1) Ignore them entirely
    2) What youre doing. No wonder she calls you fanbois.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:52am

    You can avoid the stupid comments and see all of articles on front page with lite option.

    https://www.techdirt.com/?_format=lite
    Theres only 2 way s to handle torlls
    1) Ignore them entirely
    2) What youre doing. No wonder she calls you fanbois.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:54am

    You can avoid the stupid comments and see all of articles on front page with lite option.

    https://www.techdirt.com/?_format=lite
    Theres only 2 way s to handle torlls
    1) Ignore them entirely
    2) What youre doing. No wonder she calls you fanbois.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 11:56am

    You can avoid the stupid comments and see all of articles on front page with lite option.

    https://www.techdirt.com/?_format=lite
    Theres only 2 way s to handle torlls
    1) Ignore them entirely
    2) What youre doing. No wonder she calls you fanbois.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Bernd Scheinbild, 16 Jun 2015 @ 12:11pm

      Re: You can avoid the stupid comments and see all of articles on front page with lite option.

      I skip the stupid articles and read just the flagged comments!
      Best system for knowing what I should take away in least time.

      That lite view also lets you see all comments.

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

  • identicon
    Bernd Scheinbild, 16 Jun 2015 @ 12:08pm

    I skip the stupid articles and read just the flagged comments!

    Best system for knowing what I should take away in least time.

    That lite view also lets you see all comments.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2015 @ 3:30pm

    Step 2, anyone?

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

    • icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 4:05pm

      Re:

      What about it? We considered trying to relaunch it as part of Copia, but decided not to split our focus. There's no denying that it was something of a failure. Thankfully, Copia's launch has been much more successful! You can check out videos of our well-attended two-day inaugural summit in March, if you like.

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

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 4:42pm

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, I still think we can do something with it, but it was a learning experience in terms of learning how to keep Step 2 interesting over the long haul. I think that there may be opportunities in the future to use it as a part of Copia, but Copia is a very different thing than Step 2 ever was.

        Step 2 was an experiment, and it was a good learning experience all around. Part of innovating is experimenting -- and if all of your experiments succeed every time, it means you're not really pushing yourself far enough.

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


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