disaster, politics

Quick Note on PIPA, SOPA, and the Cyber Senator

I am disappointed in Pat Leahy.

The good senator from Vermont and I probably agree on more issues than disagree. But we do disagree on his Protect Intellectual Property Act, also known as PIPA. You may have heard of PIPA, or its more notorious House counterpart, SOPA.

Many notable web sites have gone dark or posted messages of opposition to the proposed legislation due to its potential pernicious consequences. (There are plenty of analyses of the effects of this legislation; this one, for example). Suffice it to say that SOPA and PIPA represent credible threats to free speech and innovation.

Senator Leahy introduced this bill. I’m disappointed that Leahy, in particular, introduced it. Yes, he’s a longtime supporter of intellectual property protections. Fair enough. Nothing wrong with that; after all, I benefit from copyright. Of late, he’s taken a defensive position on it: It’s interesting to see his webpage on the topic of IP is full of PIPA justifications and clarifications, and some of his recent press releases have stated outright that Wikipedia, reddit, et al, wouldn’t be affected by PIPA. To which point, again, I point you to this analysis.

The irony in all of this, for me, comes from Senator Leahy’s professed enthusiasm for technology. His use of the web has been a point of pride, and his office still reminds people that he is “the second senator to launch a website.” He’s called—or calls himself—the “cyber senator” for goodness sake (I’ve associated that label with him for years). Why? For “his ongoing leadership on issues related to the Internet and technology.”

Indeed. It must be confounding for the Cyber Senator to be responsible for legislation that, under its current proposed status, is merely anathema to the tech industry, but, if passed and enacted, could be poison to it.