Today, Jan. 18 2012, we are seeing something interesting on the Internet -- a widespread protest of proposed legislation in the U.S. -- specifically SOPA/PITA bills to address concerns about online piracy via mandates put on search engines and other informational sources. The concerns of these affected entities can be seen (probably beyond today) at spots like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more
Wikipedia is also using zip codes to connect folks to their congressional representatives and encouraging them to call, tweet and email them. Google is also in the mix. They have "blacked-out" their logo, and if you click on it you get to https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/ where they explain their stance, and have a petition you can sign that will be directed at congress (and also the media).
Interestingly, Google is also asking for email addresses of folks interested in being informed of additional issues affecting "Internet Freedom" --- In short, this legislative attempt may have unleashed a community of interest that could swamp the NRA, MPAA and other highly effective advocates in the legislative process.
It will be interesting to see how many folks follow up in contacts, in the petition, and in the "contact" list that Google is collecting.
The problem with disturbing a dragon is that it can get irritated, and if you really wake it up, it may actually discover it has some power.
Redux Jan 25th
The waking giant has been noticed. The Wall St. Jounal (News Corp) has accused the corporate interests of violating campaign fiance laws, a rather curious stance since the Supreme Court (Citizens United) has ruled that corporations are persons with unlimited rights to free political speech, even if direct contributions to candidates (aka bribary IMHO) are still limited. More are the Harvard Business Review blog entries "The real SOPA battle" in particular which suggests the corporate intent is to destroy the disruptive technology (Internet) not just to protect IP. In effect, seeking protection for their business models, not the poor artists whose works have already been appropriated (few song writers get royalties, unless, like Paul McCartney they buy back the rights to their songs; other industries have other models, but the big bucks tend to go to go to the publishers, not the creators.) The WSJ book reviews include related commentary on "Fixing Copyright" by William Patry (Google's lead copyright lawyer) written by Robert Levine--the author of "Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back." Clearly an expert with a point of view.
Today Google used the email contacts aquired in the protest to both "thank congress" (showing some good lobbying skills) and also to confirm that the particpants want to be notified of upcoming policy issues ... the giant(s) are conscious and consolidating their strenght. There will be more to come. Even with SOPA off the table, there are valid piracy issues, an ongoing need to reform copyright to align with real incentives for creators and finally future issues that touch the Internet which now has a community of giants taking active interest.
Final note, the Khan Academy has a short tutorial on SOPA and some of the issues - an interesting resource in any case.
Redux Jan 27:
"Online petitions picked up 10,000,000 signatures, members of Congress received 3,000,000 emails and a still-unknown number of phone calls. Thirty-four Senators felt obliged to come out publicly against the legislation. That night, all four Republican candidates condemned the bills during a televised debate."
so saith: Larry Downes, Forbes