SOPA 2.0: Why the Fight for Internet Freedom Is Far From Over
SOPA 2.0: Why the Fight for Internet Freedom Is Far From Over
Is the fight over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) over? Not even close, according to Internet law expert Lawrence Lessig.
Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. A world-renowned expert on Internet, copyright and trademark law, Lessig is an outspoken advocate for Internet freedom and net neutrality. He’s authored multiple books including Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace and Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity.
According to Lessig, the battle over SOPA may have been won, but the war’s far from over. The general idea behind the bill, says Lessig, can resurface anytime in a new bill with a different name — and the tech community as well as citizens concerned about Internet freedom need to remain ever vigilant for the next attempt to clamp down on Internet freedom in the name of copyright protection and intellectual property.
Lessig will be speaking at Mashable Connect this May about the continuing battle for Internet freedom in a post-SOPA world. Mashable sat down to speak with him about SOPA and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the technology community’s ability to organize around political issues and how people perceive freedom on the Internet today.
Q&A With Internet Law Expert Lawrence Lessig
Is SOPA really “dead?”
I think that particular statute’s dead, but the issues and the idea will revive themselves in some other statute. It’s going to be very hard for any senator to reverse himself in the face of Chris Dodd’s almost direct threat that the MPAA’s going to retaliate against people that oppose SOPA.
That means that if it’s going to come back, it’ll be in a different form.
What kind of another form? Could it be written as a bill against child pornography?
A child pornography bill is always good, or it might be a reform act or dropped into a budget act. They’re not giving up. They’re resilient and they’ll fight again.
Why haven’t we seen anti-ACTA protests in the U.S. the way we see them in Europe and how we saw them here with SOPA?
We’re kind of out of sequence because the policy steps necessary to get the U.S. to sign on have already been taken. We could get a bill to withdraw, but that’s a harder fight.
What do you think of the President Obama’s decision to label ACTA an “executive agreement,” allowing him to sign ACTA without Congressional approval?
I think it’s unconstitutional. Jack Goldsmith and I wrote a piece that mapped out why it’s unconstitutional. We hope we get the chance to test that.
Do you think the tech community is now better prepared and organized for whatever they perceive to be the next threat?
I hope so, but I think it’s not likely we’re going to see many similar fights, because not many issues unite the community in the way this one did. It’s going to be hard, for example, to imagine another battle that they would take down Wikipedia for.
How could the tech community better organize itself?
We’re going to have to find other, narrower ways to get coalitions together. I think one thing we saw was the important value of mediating institutions like Demand Progress to rally understanding among the community. I think the community was a critical thing — when you’ve got thousands of calls to members of Congress, and those calls are all focused pressure in a way that Congress couldn’t resist — that made it possible for the community to beat the most powerful lobby in Washington.
The tech community needs to recognize the importance of these institutions and support them so they continue to thrive — so the next time we have a fight, there’s someone to sound the alarm.
Children are growing up online, but with little knowledge of the Internet’s open-source origins. Does that give the “powers that be,” so to speak, the opportunity to reinvent the Internet as a more restricted environment?
Yeah, I do. I think as people experience code-based control of sites like the iTunes Music Store or Facebook and begin to take for granted the way these controls work, they think less about how things could be different.
We need to fight against this lack of awareness. Inside these entities — like Facebook — there have to be much stronger organizational methods [that let] people push this idea. These systems that are controlling behavior have been baked into the tech, and they could be baked differently.
I think the resistance to this will continue to be grassroots — organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been great in facilitating that.
Is it correct to look at the debate between Intellectual Property and Creativity as a zero-sum game?
Not in every case. I think in the privacy debate, for example, better infrastructure could give more privacy and better security — a better place for identity. Better copyright law could give the copyright industry and artists what they want — but it’s hard for the industry to imagine this, so they fight this change. And it’s hard for anybody to imagine what this different infrastructure might look like, so we don’t get many people rallying for this change.
Professor Lessig, thank you for sitting down with us today. We’re very excited to have you at Mashable Connect this year.
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