Let’s Get Smart About Online Outlaws

BY CCIA Staff
February 15, 2011

Friends of mine who are real movie buffs with an enviable home theater and other wonderful rooms throw an annual Oscars party complete with red carpet and guests dressed up as characters from the year’s hit flicks.  “Creative Hollywood” is the attire.  I’ve channeled June Carter Cash, Amelia, and Black Swan.  This year I’m going much lower and darker…as a pirate.   No…not of the Caribbean or of Penzance.  Of the Internet high seas.  Trying to convince my husband to go as Kim Dotcom of MegaUpload infamy is, ahem, a taller (and bigger) order.   He prefers Keith Richards, and looks like neither.   But I digress.

As survivors of the recent lobbying wars over Congressional legislation to help U.S. law enforcement deal extraterritorially with online purveyors of counterfeit drugs and designer products, as well as illegally obtained entertainment fare like songs, movies and sports events, we must retain a sense of humor and of humility.   The global Internet ecosystem is far more important to the global economy and human interaction than any one country or industry sector’s interests.   Commercial mobsters preying from afar on the international popularity of American products are not imaginary.   But all legitimate American businesses must work together, as we expect diverse Members of Congress to do, to find sensible constructive solutions.  Some of those solutions may include new business models and partnerships.   Internet platforms present a wealth of economic opportunities, not primarily threats.   New voluntary measures to combat online fraud are developed every year.   Mixed stakeholder conversations may begin one on one or in small groups, but to form public policy, eventually must involve wider and wider circles of stakeholders, including thought leaders whom average ordinary Internet users respect.  At the very least, complex groundbreaking legislation should not first appear as a surprise on a fast track in Congress.

The secure global functioning of the Internet, like the nuances of copyright law and the intricacies of the patent system are not subjects that most Members of Congress learned in college or even law school.   The vast majority of their constituents, even those who railed vigorously against SOPA and PIPA did not major in these subjects either.  They did learn about civics, democracy and freedom of expression however.  And now Internet technology is becoming an essential component of socioeconomic literacy in the 21st Century.   No industry sector alone has all the answers, but together older generations and Millenials alike from business and government can and should embark on some comprehensive adult education in these policy areas, and thereby bridge unfortunate gaps in understanding.

Along with older well-established American businesses relying on traditional political strategies, younger e-commerce businesses and their users everywhere are now recognized as a force to be reckoned with in Washington.   Let’s all get on with the creativity, innovation and openness that works so well in the entertainment and technology fields.  And applaud and respect each other’s efforts.   Just make wicked fun of the pirates, while plotting their demise.

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