Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

In an update on the new Induce Act that I blogged about earlier, Orlowski makes an interesting observation about why the IT lobby lost Hatch who is leading this bill and who used to be "on our side."

Orlowski - The Register
Dirty rotten inducers - the law the IT world deserves?

...Well, perhaps it's a combination of all these factors. Perhaps too, the brief flood of speculative capital into the technology industry in the 1980s and 1990s convinced IT people they didn't have an exalted place in society. For a time, they did, and even now many seem to think so. And underneath, there's the hunch that the market will sort everything out, or the belief that every problem can be solved with technology. Whatever the reasons, the fightback against the RIAA and the MPAA has been as effective as the proverbial one-legged man in a backsid- kicking competition. The entertainment industry should be thankful it has opponents so inept.


Opportunity knocked

We mention this only because the good Senator Hatch personifies the missed opportunity. He once shared the view of many involved in the technology sector today that the RIAA could not be trusted to clean up its act, and that alternative compensation systems that ended "piracy" could prove to be very popular. That was in 2000.

At around the same time, the EFF was campaigning for Napster to be legalized, without offering any suggestions as to how the artists might be paid - thus surrendering its moral authority on the issue. Meanwhile, the RIAA was courting and flattering Senator Hatch.

At a special gala awards dinner early in 2001 hosted by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Hatch was awarded a "Hero Award" and the diners heard Nashville star Natalie Grant perform one of his songs, "I Am Not Alone", Joe Menn reported in his book about Napster, All The Rave [Reg review]

If turning a Senator is this easy, why couldn't the techies do it?

I find Orlowski too negative sometimes and his critical view on blogs and Emergent Democracy have always bothered me, but I think he makes some good points about the weakness of the "Internet lobby" in this piece. Many of us are aware of this to varying degrees, but I think we need to keep reminding ourselves that much of the time, we're talking to ourselves. More importantly, we need to figure out how to become more effective. I think the EFF is doing great stuff, but how can we make it even better?



How is it that negative views on your pet subjects bother you? Dont you have more faith in your babies? ^_^

Orlowski seems to be very good at pointing out when people are drinking a bit too much of their own koolaid. His tone is hardly persuasive, but he does serve to remind those on the geekier side of the fence that not eveyone is going to agree with the techno-hippie wired utopia that some folks espouse.

Sure the EFF is fighting the good fight, but how many of us who support them consider what image they present to "the other side"? When I point my non technical friends to the EFF site or when usual people see what EFF reps like Corey Doctrow write as personal opinion, it is often percieved as shrill whining of the sort usually associated with folks like Michael Moore.

Why exactly are there no effective lobying organizations on "our" side? If there are, why isn't it known? I'll contribute to a professional organization with a clear cut mission over a volunteer group any day of the week.

Let me restate. It's not his negative views, but rather the way he expresses them that sometimes bothers me. ;-)

I think that there need to be many types of groups representing various points of view. I think the EFF is a valid one and I support them. I DO think that looking at the "Hatch incident" and trying to deconstruct it is a good exercise for EFF and all of us.

At the time that Andrew is discussing, EFF had no position at all on Napster. When EFF *did* take a position on file-sharing, it included a compensation plan for artists.

I'm not sure what the "valid point" Andrew is meant to have here: possibly that facts are inconvenient barriers to arranging one's firing squad in a tight circle, and should be disgregarded whenever necessary.

I worry about the politics of EFF, in the sense that I don't want the open source movement to become the baliwick of any one political ideology over the other. In a sense, I worry about the "ACLU-zation" of EFF.

I'm very impressed by ACLU's tenacity in the courts defending people's rights, but find their "legislative accomplishments" to be absolutely laughable. Why? Because being a "card carrying member of the ACLU" can get doors slammed in your face on Capitol Hill.

I often worry that those supporting open source and other "movements" like this will get coopted by the "activist" elements who wish to broaden their campaign to other political issues, be them tax issues and immigration (H-1s, etc., as the corporate supporters of EFF would like) or say foreign policy or domestic affairs (backing some of the more prominent supporters' takes on the war, the election, etc.). Taking a stand on these matters can lead to a polarization on Capitol Hill and ineffectiveness just at the time when it is needed most.

I'm not saying it's happening now, but I think the possibility of it happening soon is very real, and very dangerous for the long term goal of getting some of these proposals enacted.

Anyway, just something I've been thinking about for awhile.

> At the time that Andrew is discussing, EFF had no position at all on Napster.

At the time, the EFF was defending Napster in the courts using the Betamax argument and yet had no alternative compensation scheme to propose to world+dog ( or artists) It saw it as a legal or technological problem, that needed a legal or technological solution. (Why is this not surprising, when the organization is 90 per cent lawyers and 10 per cent dweebs?) But that's how it surrendered moral authority on the issue. (This is before your time at the EFF, so I don't hold you responsible for not knowing the recent history.)

> I'm not sure what the "valid point" Andrew is meant to have here

Skim-reading can damage your health, Cory.

The point that Dan and Joi picked up on is simple: that for all our bluster for the past four/six years the tech lobby has been completely ineffective.

Take all the righteous wrath of the readers of Slashdot and The Register (a righteous three million, I'd guess), and the EFF, and blogs, and it's amounted to, well... Biometric DRM and a No.1 chart-topping copy-protected CD. Meanwhile, those of us muchkins who know how DRM can be applied profitably (one-time party packs!) have nothing to feel smug about. A moment of honest introspection is needed here, and you're out of step, or have a tin-ear to this if you can't hear it.

If in doubt, ask a friend.

Answering the question "why are we so useless?" might be a start. But you must decide whether you want to be in permanent inEFFectual opposition, or whether you want to change things.

We are starting to see some new net politics that make a break with the gee-whizz Californian ideology that's been so useless, to us, but this isn't coming from California.


I'm having a problem with your page layout. Starting with this post part of the text is clipped on the left. I'm using IE 6 to view this page.

Guys I had to jump in here.

This is interesting and theoretical, but in my view sort of nostalgic. And there is no time for that. Right now there is work on the Induce Act that needs to get done quickly.

You may know that over 40 tech companies and organizations, from Google to Intel to Sun, to the Consumer Electronics Assoc. (and the ACLU), wrote a letter calling for hearings. The NVCA also wrote a letter.

The broad and vague language of the Bill belies the staff's and the RIAA/MPAA's claim of narrowness. All people have to do is read it.

It does not overturn the Betamax case, it just renders it irrelevant by establishing a separate cause of action that is not subject to the balance established by that case.

Now it is actually crunch time, as the hearing is (I am told) set for the 20th, with a markup by the Committee on the 22d. This is on a very fast track.

So, we have moved from a phase of "we really should have hearings" which is pretty easy to support, to a phase of "the bill is substantively bad and should not pass" - a whole different thing. Now companies and individuals have to work hard to inform legislators about the breadth and negative consequences of the Bill. And they have to say clearly and loudly that they are opposed to it. It will hurt investment and innovation and innovation means jobs.