Originally published: February 14, 2012
Last updated: March 2, 2012 - 5:23pm
[Commentary] The unprecedented online revolt against PIPA and SOPA, congressional bills targeting online copyright and trademark infringement, has many Washington insiders scratching their collective heads. Legislation that seemed poised to steamroll the opposition, based on the simple message that "piracy is bad" and the considerable lobbying horsepower of the movie industry and the chamber of commerce, was stopped dead in its tracks by a popular online uprising.
It may be too early to say for sure what this dramatic turn means for the political landscape or for Washington's future forays into Internet policy, but it is not too soon to debunk the spin and suggest a few lessons learned.
- First and foremost, the online revolt against SOPA and PIPA was not a command and control operation. Don't believe the claim that Google (or anyone else) orchestrated all these efforts.
- The dramatic online mobilization carries lasting implications for Internet policy.
- A more cautious approach requires a more open process. Treading cautiously will require, first and foremost, avoiding both the reality and the perception that legislation is the product of backroom dealing by (and for) industry lobbyists.
- Ignorance about how the Internet works is no longer an option. Congress needs to engage with the technical community and take its advice seriously.
- Overreaching Internet related legislation is no longer a successful strategy.
- The Internet community is borderless, and the whole world will be watching.
[Harris is the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology]