Obama Administration And Political Internet Decisions

The goal of this piece is to winnow out how politics today affects our industry, our jobs, and the future growth of the Internet world. We are well aware that things like Net Neutrality and the way power is allocated to different industries affects those downstream. Much of this is affected by local governments, state governments and foreign competition. This looks at SOPA which is being routinely scored as Kamchatka doll with many hidden secrets.

On the surface, we note those who favor the legislation and those who don’t. We would like to invite those who see flaws in the argument or have something to share about practical considerations. I’m no fan of recording industry, after a peripheral share of how it was handled for decades. Trademarks and publishing rights have also been routinely abused and now the whining from those who abused it is trying to pay off politicians to back their abusive pasts.

Let’s try to be objective but have your say and you’ll be rewarded.

In the First Session of the 112th Congress, The Stop Online Piracy Act, H.R. 3261, (SOPA) was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and was initially co-sponsored by Howard Berman (D-CA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), John Conyers (D-MI), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Timothy Griffin (R-AR), Dennis A. Ross (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Lee Terry [R-NE]. As of November 15, 2011, there were 24 sponsors.

The legislation has broad support from organizations that rely on copyright, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Macmillan Publishers, Viacom, and various other companies and unions in the cable, movie, and music industries. Supporters also include trademark-dependent companies such as Nike, L’Oréal, and Acushnet Company.

Both the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support H.R. 3261, and many industries have also publicly praised the legislation. On September 22, 2011, a letter signed by over 350 businesses and organizations—including NBCUniversal, Pfizer, Ford Motor Company, Revlon, NBA, and Macmillan—was sent to Congress encouraging the passage of the legislation this year. This was taken directly from the Wiki and I sure hope anyone doing business on the Internet takes an opportunity to support this amazing resource before the end of the year.

Now, having said all of that, let’s look at those opposed. Besides the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Internet groups, which have various points-of-view on the topic, we find, a reluctant participate, Microsoft, who apparently has a bit of skin in the game.

According to Declan McCullagh, over at CNET, Google, Twitter and Facebook also oppose SOPA. The Business Software Alliance, the lobbyist for Mr. Softy and many software companies has client list, apparently, pulled a switch on the bill after hearing from the folks in Redmond, and, undoubtedly, some others here in Silicon Valley.

Here is what Declan thinks: “While the wording of SOPA hasn’t changed over the last four weeks, the politics have. A person familiar with the situation told CNET that BSA’s volte-face came after Microsoft and, to a lesser extent, other members of the trade association had reviewed the bill and informed Holleyman of their displeasure.”

Declan also suggests that because Lamar Smith is the influential chairman of the House Judiciary committee, which oversees copyright law, they may have hedged their displeasure with the bill. In the CNET piece, Declan thinks, “SOPA is broader. Protect IP, which is awaiting a Senate floor vote, would allow courts to order AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other ISPs to pretend that the domain names for targeted Web sites didn’t exist. (The Domain Name System, or DNS, translates alphanumeric domain names like CNET.com into the numeric IP addresses actually used by computers, in this case

“SOPA goes further by permitting the Justice Department and courts to order ISPs to block customers from visiting the numeric IP addresses of off-limits Web sites. It also appears to authorize deep packet inspection, which raises privacy concerns.”

The distinction is huge for privacy advocates because it gives power to the government, who many in the Internet world see as the kiss of death. Politicizing access in anyway, puts the power in the hands of people who have been dragging us backward with legislation that is half baked and counter intuitive.

Over at Ars Technica, Nate Anderson, senior editor, offers a different spin. “Whatever you think of the legislation, it unquestionably represents a sea change in the US approach to the Internet, one which explicitly contemplates widespread website blocking and search engine de-listing.”

Nate is privy to some new angles on this: “a draft seen by Ars Technica: online piracy from overseas sites will be taken away from the Attorney General and moved out of the courts. Instead, power will be vested in the International Trade Commission, which already handles IP disputes relating to imports (the ITC is heavily involved in the recent patent wars around smartphones, for instance).”

Here are politicians who favor this approach: Senators Wyden (D-OR), Cantwell (D-WA), Moran (R-KS), and Warner (D-VA); Reps. Chaffetz (R-UT), Campbell (R-CA), Doggett (D-TX), Eshoo (D-CA), Issa (R-CA), and Lofgren (D-CA).

We certainly favor any approach that provides a level playing field with copyright protection on a plain where artists’ interests favor those of lobbyists and hack politicians who will say or anything for a buck.

Here is a pretty hefty set of accusations from the boys at Mozilla whom we think understand the situation: http://youtu.be/UaauUSSepBs

Nowhere, however, is the message clearer than the message by Steve Colbert whose ironical interpretation of the politics demonstrates that even the FBI has zero data to back up its baseless predictions.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stop Online Piracy Act
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Here is a surprising video by Joe Biden telling it exactly as we see it. It remains to be seen how this plays out: http://youtu.be/Px_d6Kuel50

Here is what Anonymous posted on Youtube: http://youtu.be/9rbyk0h3yeg

In reality, many businesses like Microsoft simply can’t get past the notion of giving away stuff for free, so that their advertising model works. Ballmer, like Gates before him, never understood the true value of audience or community. They simply recoil at the fact that they believe Google is doing something wrong, but what it comes back as is jealousy and ineptness at the highest levels. The big traffic hunters like Facebook, Twitter and the downstream lot that is replicating audiences anew daily will most likely determine how copyright and sharing is achieved. Don’t think for a minute that legislation will change much.

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