[Author’s Note: This post was adapted from the author’s post on the DisCo (Disruptive Competition) blog — If you haven’t checked out http://project-disco.org, please do!]
The PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) was introduced in the Senate on May 12, 2011. It is remarkable that that was now more than a year ago, and to think about how much has changed. SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) wasn’t introduced in the House until October 26, 2011. SOPA was broader upon introduction and as such more threatening, became a surprisingly more memorable acronym, and now stands for the whole legislative initiative and its failure. SOPA has become a verb—“Don’t get SOPA’d”—and it now appears to have become toxic to even its biggest supporters. Even the entertainment industry is starting to recognize that overbroad legislation may not be advisable, in terms of bad publicity and also bad public policy. Prominent Hollywood insider Ari Emanuel recently seemed to recant on his past views, acknowledging:
“To be clear, I don’t want to rehash SOPA as we can all agree that was a reflection of Southern California’s arrogance, and let’s also not pretend that we’re working together on this issue because we have Youtube [sic] channels together. This is a larger conversation. It’s time for Hollywood, our government and Silicon Valley to step up and collectively resolve this problem. Let me know where and when and I’ll be there.”
While Emanuel and many others frame the debate as Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley with the government impartially in the middle, there are several problems. First of all, it is naïve to ignore historic alliances within government. Even as recently as the SOPA hearing, there were five witnesses in favor of the bill, with one Google Policy Counsel opposing the bill. This fueled the popular misconception that only Google opposed the bill, when in fact there were thousands of varied stakeholders, including cybersecurity experts, international human rights advocates, artists and creators, CEOs, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, academics, and many others. Additionally, this framing neglects the many people who consume content using technology, and spend much of their lives—for work and for play—on the Internet. With public engagement increasing, leading up to and in the aftermath of SOPA, it is ignorant to not include the public—who create and disseminate art in addition to consuming it—as essential stakeholders.
Now, more than a year after PIPA was introduced, to quote Emanuel himself, “we can all agree” that these bills were a failure. The most important lesson is that from now on, “we”— the wide range of individuals and organizations and companies who are affected, the engineers who understand technology and the Internet, the public—should be involved in Internet and intellectual property policy and legislation going forward.