Yesterday was absolutely one of those days that reminds me why I stay in public advocacy. I’m a democracy junkie. Yes, I admit it. The sight of literally millions of people remembering that they are citizens and not just consumers gets me juiced.
The good news is that by every possible metric, SOPAStrike was an enormous success. We absolutely scared the poop out of members of Congress and broke through the infamous “Washington bubble” that separates our elected officials from what is actually going on in the real world. As a result, we forced more than 20 Senators to come out publicly against PIPA/SOPA, including a number of co-sponsors withdrawing support. Fantastic!
Some of these conversions are people who hadn’t really thought much about this and are now going “I co-sponsored what? You told me this was a non-controversial bill to stop online piracy and the only opposition was Google! You totally lied to me!” But a lot of them are Senators and Representatives who would still loooove to find a way to make Hollywood happy while not getting tarred and feathered by constituents back home. The chatter on Twitter among the political set is that Pat Leahy (D-VT), who has drunk so much Hollywood Kool-Aide he pees purple, has retired to a backroom with Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to prepare a “managers amendment” that will purport to “address all the issues” (primarily the DNS blocking). The idea is to provide a fig leaf for members so that all the Senators and Representatives who caveated their opposition to PIPA/SOPA with the words “as written” can say “I had concerns, but they were addressed. Don’t worry constituents, I totally had your back and stood up to Hollywood even though I voted for the bill.”
Needless to say, the idea that you fix a lobbyist-drafted bill that is this utterly and comprehensively wrong by going into a backroom with the same lobbyists and trying to push a vote through before people can see it and debate it would be crazy anywhere but D.C. So we will need to continue pounding Senators with the clue-by-four of reason until either Reid finally calls off the cloture vote scheduled for January 24, or we win the cloture vote by keeping 41 Senators honest. My employer, Public Knowledge, has a nifty text-to-call feature you can sign up for so you can make absolutely sure you don’t forget to call your Senators on January 23.
You can find an excellent example of why pulling DNS blocking is not enough to fix PIPA/SOPA from my colleague Sherwin Siy here, and why PIPA/SOPA needs a total reset from my colleague Michael Weinberg here. Alternatively, you can watch this clip from last night’s Daily Show where Jon Stewart, as usual, manages a more in depth analysis that the supposed real news.
Stay tuned . . . .
January 18, 2012 should be remembered as the first day of the “Internet Spring.”
I like to say that the worst thing about PIPA/SOPA is that it confirms every awful, cynical thing people say about how Washington DC works. But the best thing about PIPA/SOPA is how it can also confirm the best things we say about American democracy.
Posted in Fighting the IP Mafia, How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory
Also tagged #StopPIPA, #StopSOPA, Chris Dodd, House, Lamar Smith, mpaa, senate, sopa, SOPABlackout, SOPAStrike, Stop Online Pirace Act
I suppose I’m getting old. I cannot believe that the intellectual property lobbyists (or, as I affectionately refer to them, the “IP Mafia”) have once again trotted out their Holy Grail of blocking websites at the domain-name level. More mind boggling, I cannot believe that this idea gets more popular with policymakers over time, despite the fact that DNS blocking would do far more widespread damage to our overall economy and communications infrastructure today than it could have done back when the IP Mafia, the anti-pornography crusaders, and all the other would be censors of the Internet first floated it in the late 1990s. Part of the problem, of course, is that the vast majority of people (lucky for them) never had to sit through the endless iterations of this for the last fifteen years. Hence, the endless repetition by “serious” white-haired guys who just happen to work for the largest content companies who have not updated their talking points since the late 1990s and rant about how this ‘gosh-darned Internet is full of lawlessness and by-gum we gotta do something con-sarnit.’
So please forgive yet another old geezer his wander down memory lane on DNS blocking and why it builds a massive security hole into our underlying broadband infrastructure. For those playing at home, this is why the vast majority of the cybersecurity establishment in the United States is having serious heebie-jeebies about PIPA/SOPA. Sandia National Laboratory is not exactly a hotbed of piracy, and former Bush Admin Cybersecurity Czar Stewart Baker is hardly part of the “information wants to be free” crowd. They are freaked out because the proposal builds a permanent hole in our broadband infrastructure and invites every identity thief and Iranian hacker to come in and do their worst. Which means that even if we totally 100% believed the Hollywood lobbyists about the legal intent of the law, building the capacity to do DNS blocking compromises security for everyone. Because once the capacity is built in to the system, it will get hacked and exploited. So while we are sitting here in the dark because some hacker crashed our electric grid, or trying frantically to chase down every identity thief who redirected our credit card information from Amazon.com, we can console ourselves that Congress never intended for this to have any domestic impacts.
More below . . .