In the wake of the SOPA/PIPA fight, there have been more and more efforts to use the interest in keeping the internet free and open in a more proactive manner, rather than just reactive. We've already talked about the Reddit community crowdsourcing a law
, as well as our own attempt at crowdsourcing an internet innovation agenda
(which is generating some interesting discussions). Within Congress, there is also the Madison platform, which was used to crowdsource feedback
on Darrell Issa and Ron Wyden's OPEN Act, and suggests an interesting way that bills should
be presented for feedback.
However, as many people have noted, there have been some limitations to these efforts. With the Reddit example, what comes out of a totally open system for generating laws has been a little... messy so far. It's pretty clear that the drafts coming out have significant problems and so far seem pretty disconnected from any actual policy objectives, and thus seem unlikely to actually get anywhere. That could change over time, and I'm still eager to see what happens with it, but watching the process is at times cringe-worthy, as you think about how just a little help from people who actually know how this stuff works might help speed things along. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Madison platform, while a nice idea, still relies on someone in Congress to have a bill ready to go -- and many of the complaints about the platform (such as those seen in the article linked above) are that it really discourages participation.
Is there a middle ground approach to all of this? The folks at Public Knowledge seem to think so
, as they've launched a rather interesting project called the Internet Blueprint
. Unfortunately, I think the design needs a lot of work, as it's not entirely clear how it works, but the idea
behind the site is that users can submit ideas for legislation. From there, people can vote. Similar to the White House's "We The People" petition site, if a proposal reaches a specific threshold of votes, Public Knowledge will then get actual legislative language written up, either by themselves or by other experts (or may explain why a certain bill can't be written up, if that's the case).
Then, once a bill is ready, the site can list out Congressional (or organizational) supporters to champion the bill. Initially, they're starting out with five specific bills that I think many people around here will appreciate:
- Curb Abuses of Copyright Takedowns
- Ensure Openness in International IP Negotiations
- Permit Lawful Uses of Copyrighted Content
- Reduce Copyright Abuse and Overreach
- Shorten Copyright Terms
In other words, this is something of a hybrid approach. Rather than a full on crowdsourced version, like Reddit, this has an initial proposal and voting period, but then someone with experience in actually writing legislative language helps out. This is a beta launch, and I know Public Knowledge has a lot more planned, so while I think the platform is a bit limited right now, I'm excited to see what comes out of it. For example, I hope they work on cleaning up the design, but also it would be nice to allow more commentary and feedback on the bills already submitted (more like the Madison platform). If they could combine all of those features, the overall system could be really quite useful.