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January 27, 2012
SOPA, PIPA, ACTA And People Power
Two articles in CNN Money take an interesting look at the recent legislative successes and failures to extend intellectual property laws. One article, Millions in SOPA Lobbying Bucks Gone to Waste details the intersection between corporate lobbying and the populist uprising that derailed SOPA and PIPA. Media lobbying was in the millions, as was the opposition, mostly funded by Google. Other tech companies were firmly against the legislation but spent in the hundreds of thousands.
What did the legislation in was the demonstration of opposition by the people who use the Internet more than the Googles of the world. That, apparently, got the attention of Congress more than corporate dollars, not that any of those dollars are marked return to sender or anything. The article suggests that Internet companies should pick their battles “more carefully going forward.” Sure, but the level of engagement on the part of the public over an issue that was publicized as against its interest suggests the public could be rallied on other issues.
The second article, Meet SOPA’s Evil Twin, ACTA, is an example of what happens when government and industry work quietly together. ACTA, in theory, is about counterfeit goods (that’s the C in ACTA) but spends an inordinate amount of language on piracy of intellectual property. It imposes DMCA style regulation on its signatories, without necessarily requiring the safe harbor protections. That’s not surprising since the track record of the courts in the United States is to take them seriously, much to the vexation of media companies.
I’ve written about ACTA plenty of times, and it’s not as if articles haven’t appeared in the press. There was, however, no real outcry about the terms of the agreement or its development in secret except from the usual suspects. The United States signed the law a while ago, and now reports indicate that the European Union is about to sign on. That generated a DDoS attack on the European Parliament web site and protests in Poland. Weathering the storm after the fact is something governments take into account. Where were all of you when the treaty was negotiated? Major pressure at that time might have made a difference politically. The anti-SOPA/PIPA protests shows what's possible when the public conscience can be mobilized. Politicians take note: money isn't everything. [MG]