Monday, January 30, 2012

Tech Group: SOPA/PIPA Need To Be Scrapped Entirely

Thu Jan 26, 2012  Originally posted to Joan McCarter

President and CEO of Public Knowledge Gigi Sohn writes at Forbes' CIO Network blog, arguing that there's nothing salvagable in the current SOPA/PIPA anti-internet piracy bills.

Reporters want to know—what if this provision came out? Or what if that was the other language was changed? Would the bill be acceptable to us? Some of the big lobby groups behind the bill suggested a “summit” of tech companies and content companies to hash it all out.

The answer is—none of the above. Trying to “fix” SOPA and PIPA and all of the bad provisions in those bills is the wrong approach. Conceptually, it’s like trying to build a building starting on the second floor. The most logical way to proceed would be to start building a structure from the foundation and working up from there.

She also has a radical idea: "So before we talk solutions, we have to figure out the problem."

This legislation is a perfect example of what happens when you let lobbyists, and in this case the wrong ones, write legislation. The MPAA and RiAA and other content producers called the tune on this one and Congress jumped, even after the Government Accountability Office couldn't validate the dire numbers the content industry put out to show how harmed they are by piracy. Despite the uncertain data, despite the warnings from all of the other communities involved—tech, civil rights, social media—of the dire unintended consequences this legislation would have, Congress was ready to do the content providers bidding.

But the experience of stopping this legislation provides another great example, and perhaps a template to build upon. Sohn:

This was a decentralized effort. No one company or group organized it. No one company or group could have organized it. When someone suggested on Reddit that Web sites go dark, and Reddit agreed, the idea caught on as the site proprietors themselves decided what to do. The combination of expertise in the substance and inside D.C.-based knowledge of the legislative process, combined with outside online activism created a powerful wave that swamped the traditional ways of doing business inside the Capitol.

It set up a great coalition, and a Congress that just might be ready to listen to it, for the next round.