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Two things about SOPA/PIPA and then I'll shut up :)


The internet seems to ignore legislation until somebody tries to take something away from us... then we carefully defend that one thing and never counter-attack. Then the other side says, "OK, compromise," and gets half of what they want. That's not the way to win... that's the way to see a steady and continuous erosion of rights online.

The solution is to start lobbying for our own laws. It's time to go on the offensive if we want to preserve what we've got. Let's force the RIAA and MPAA to use up all their political clout just protecting what they have. Here are some ideas we should be pushing for:

* Elimination of software patents
* Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases; non-practicing entities must post bond before they can file fishing expedition lawsuits
* Roll back length of copyright protection to the minimum necessary "to promote the useful arts." Maybe 10 years?
* Create a legal doctrine that merely linking is protected free speech
* And ponies. We want ponies. We don't have to get all this stuff. We merely have to tie them up fighting it, and re-center the "compromise" position.


The dismal corruption of congress has gotten it to the point where lobbying for legislation is out of control. As Larry Lessig has taught us, the core rottenness originates from the high cost of running political campaigns, which mostly just goes to TV stations.

A solution is for the Internet industry to start giving free advertising to political campaigns on our own new media assets... assets like YouTube that are rapidly displacing television. Imagine if every political candidate had free access (under some kind of "equal time" rule) to enough advertising inventory on the Internet to run a respectable campaign. Sure, candidates can still pay to advertise on television, but the cost of campaigning would be a lot lower if every candidate could run geo-targeted pre-roll ads on YouTube, geo-targeted links at the top of, even targeted campaigns on Facebook. If the Internet can donate enough inventory (and I suspect we can), we can make it possible for a candidate to get elected without raising huge war chests from donors who are going to want something in return, and we may finally get to a point where every member of congress isn't in permanent outstretched-hand mode.
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Well said, Joel. It's been really bugging me how we (society) rest on our laurels and call this a 'victory' when everyone in the media seems very much aware that this is simply going to slide through the door sometime soon down the road wrapped under cover. This 'victory' means nothing more than they'll be more careful and secretive next time. Chris Dodd said himself that his main regret about the bill was "allowing enough time for an opposition to mobilize". That sort of destructive arrogance is infuriating.

So - offensive - how do we do that? Where do I sign? (Looks around for leadership)
Great idea Joel, but you're running up against people that have a lot of money. And we all know that it's greed that drives the majority of the ills you list.

Now if you could organise a coup using social media, you might just win... a sort of "flash-mob-xtreme" if you will.
We should also insist on getting a cookie. That way when they object, we can compromise and still get a pony.
I've cast my vote in every ballot box. My soap box is well used on G+ and other outlets. They don't invite me into the jury box. It's starting to come down to the forth box, but maybe the government is willing to go peacefully?
"if every political candidate had free access ... to enough advertising inventory on the Internet to run a respectable campaign..." they'd have much more money to spend on other things including ponies. Must fight fire with fire rather than giving away free stuff to politicians.
No need to shut up, +Joel Spolsky, if you're going to submit reasonable and thoughtful ideas like those. :)
A constitutional amendment to force political campaign ads to be designed by the medium chosen by politicians for free, with the equal time rule.

We may be the most powerful political community in the world, and I may certainly hope that this is achievable, but I don't see how to make it happen.
two brilliants ideas at the same time, what inspiration.
That's pretty much the political agenda of the Pirate Party. I vote for them.
Technology companies need to learn to play the Washington game better. Simply ignoring the ugliness of politics won't make it go away.
please don't shut up. Nice to hear your perspective. Have added you to my old school bloggers circle.
We should definitely talk about this! You summarized all the major goals of the Pirate Party movement. As we are an international movement we are well suited to push not only for the necessary change in the US but also for the support from the outside ;) If you are interested in an exchange, you can find me here or on Twitter (@svnee)
Two thoughts:

1. +Joel Spolsky is a great example of how immigration makes America awesome. Once his first two planks get passed I'd like to see #3.

2. Sure, free Internet advertising would free up money for other things, and of course candidates could still continue to spend their war chests on TV, but if the other forms of media become effective enough, then the opportunity cost of million dollar ad buys will be too high compared to the marginal value they provide in swaying voters who already saw all the same ads. Coupled with how much most politicians hate fundraising, I don't think it's at all clear the plan would fail. 
International treaties will prevent copyright-term rollbacks.
Another confirmation that Americans do have the best democracy that money can buy.
While I completely agree, I think Public Choice theory explains pretty well why that won't happen.
This can be done, you just have to shorten the name of it to 4 letters and convince people they won't be able to get free movies from the internet anymore without it.
And we should push for a limited term for copyright. During my lifetime, NOTHING has gone into the public domain, and some things have come out of it back into copyright. Negative progress. Forget this "life of the author" crap. Depending on the expense of creating the work, you get 5, 10, or 15 years, and with registration and payment of a fee, you get another set of years.
Agree with all of this. We have to be careful not to stretch our selves to thin.
Absolutely agree, if the momentum from the fall out of sopa/pipa can continue, maybe the same people/companies that protested it can fight for ALL of this!
Tech folk can win if they put forward an articulate voice. In New Zealand, the Patents Bill has a specific exclusion on software patents. This was won through hard work by NZRise and others.

As well as focusing on the legislation, it would be great if the USA locals could exert some pressure on the executive. Trade agreements are consistently being used to push USA's own IP laws onto other countries.
Freedom ist just the part of life, which is not yet controlled and squeezed for money. For them, our freedom is just a new market.
The way forward is our own lobbying organization. They have the RIAA and MPAA, we need the FIAA (Free Internet Association of America). All the big players pay dues -- Google, Facebook, etc. -- and the organization lobbies on behalf of the free internet. Companies like Google and Apple have revenue that dwarfs the major entertainment companies, some of that economic might needs to become organized political might.
Yes, free trade agreements are slowly extending copyright laws worldwide. This needs to stop! I know Australia's free trade agreement with US meant that our copyright laws needed to be changed in truly horrible ways to accomodate DMCA style provisions. Andrew Tridgell commented at the time at
"The problem with government is we only have one."
Competition causes businesses to try new ways to attract customers by lowering prices, improving quality and developing new products and services.
+Joel Spolsky Brilliant analysis of the strategy employed by progressives in the US in your first paragraph. So many of up buy into that whole "compromise" baloney.
1) I totally agree. We ought to go on the offensive to protect civil rights on the net.
2) Currently, selling out is required to win office. The American taxpayer will get a 1000% ROI if we finance political campaigns and win back Capitol Hill.
Of course the solution of government power trespassing on our rights is more government power, but wielded by the right people. Namely, us. We are not them, we will never use government coercion to extract private gain from unwilling citizens. Just let the good people control the congressmen instead of the bad people, and of course there will never be bad laws bought by campaign influencers and power brokers deciding matter instead of citizens! The whole problem is that wrong people (not us) are in control!
Yeah, fine. But please remember that the internet extends beyond the borders of the USA.
Regarding limiting copyright to 10 years, and since you brought up ponies, I feel that solves the wrong problem. The issue I see is that a few large greedy corporations effectively monopolize the copyrights for the vast majority of the nation/worlds creative output, that they then further exploit a corrupt political system to extend those copyrights indefinitely is almost secondary.

A thought experiment: make the sales/purchase of copyright ownership illegal. This would still allow an artist or creator to license the right to sell and distribute their work, but leave them unable to lose (legal) control of such distribution. This still allows a lot of room for the mega-corps to profit, but with less outright exploitation of artists than we currently see. Copyrights are held by the creator(s) for life, and works pass into the public domain after death, not the artists estates (or more often, the organization that owns the copyright). I feel this is simple to understand, fair to creators, and still provides business incentives to non-creators to invest time and money in the production and promotion of quality content.
There will be no free speech if the government get their hands on this information it is not possible for them to carry on because they want to multiple the public and they don't want the public to seeing violence so the stop it because (but our right to have free speech) we don't Wanna watch television any more because it boring because it's all lies and ball sh**

say no to the government and vote somebody else in your next-door neighbour. Just don't sign that electoral roll for them to sign any paperwork for them because they are just getting so greedy. They should be at the parents they should just look after the country and look after the is people but they don't bother they just want to look after their selves. They just want to make money. They just want to make money. I had to repeat that because that's how greedy they are. Greedy government.

Everybody's living in the past anyway, because you don't get real News is at least a week after it happened. Because everything has to go through censorship. We are all being lied to.

If we don't take action now
We settle for nothing later
Settle for nothing now
And we'll settle for nothing later

Ten years for copyright is not enough. Sometimes it can take a lifetime to earn a living wage from things-that-aren't-movie-blockbusters. How about the lifetime of the artist plus 25 years- that's enough time that the creator's kids will benefit from the hard work of their parent, but their grandkids will be out of luck (as they should be). The other component of copyright is corporate copyright, which is just insane right now. I propose a limit of fifty years after the creation of the work. That might sound like a lot, but 50 years is half of the current limit, which means 50 years worth of movies and music would become public domain overnight.

Maybe ten years would work for software. I can't imagine any software company would need to maintain a copyright longer than that.
All the way. Double rainbow across the sky
Addition things I want:

- Return of the first sale doctrine (the right to resell digital goods, e.g. Steam games, Virtual Console games, iPhone and Android apps, Music I buy on iTunes)
- Due process. E.g. Megaupload's should still be up, regardless of the crimes they might have committed, because they've not yet been convicted. Or argued before a court about an injunction yet.
- Fair use should trump DRM. All DRM should have to unlock itself both for Fair Use, and for when it eventually falls into the public domain. I should legally be able to rip DVDs and BluRay's the same as CDs.
I sympathize with those who do not want to lose their "rights". Election campaigns that involve a billion dollars or more are idiotic. How come Canada can call an election, spend 33 days electioneering and have a result within 24 hours of the vote. Both our countries are democratic. Canada is geographically larger but 1/10 the voting population. Our centers are spread far and wide much like your central states. Someone must make big bucks on your election process!!! Is it part of capitalism? It certainly encourages big business to spend big dollars getting their man in the top job! Or, are you silly enough to believe it is not a money driven exercise to allow big business to continue to run the country? From the Great White North (and we have a vested interest in the outcome of your elections) we see a hypocrisy disguised as a "fair" election process. We are not the perfect example of how things should work but your system leaves an awful lot to be desired. The "occupy" movement should have concentrated how your government is formed rather than how it runs. The 1% run the government. It is not government by the people for the people anymore (the concept is wonderful). It is government by the rich to make it richer (or more specifically - power and control).

That brings us to the power and control issue of internet censorship. I feel for those who are not protected under copyright provisions of the law. They work hard, invest their money, and come out with results that are lower than expectations. That's not fair. They should get their right to a fair return. If we were to extend that to ANY novel idea, a new way of laying out or building a house would be copyrighted. No generic drugs would ever be allowed. A photo of anything taken by anyone would never be public domain.Music and lyrics would forever be limited to the ones who first created/used it. Medical procedures, that save lives, would be patented and every physician would have to pay the inventor of the procedure.

Copyright is important, but it must have rational limits that are not based on pure profit but also on the ineffective controls placed on them AFTER mass distribution and initial profits. The initiator should get a "good buck" for his/her efforts. That is fair. However, forever, in a world of digital reproduction is not practical nor practicable. If I buy a DVD and have 30 of my friends in to watch it with me, I would be infringing on patent (I think). However, to try to stop this would not be practicable. Likewise, if 60,000 people download from the internet it is comparable to the "free view" at John's house. If the law applies to the internet, it should also apply to John's house. In both cases (hopefully) the main money was made in the theatre before John purchased it. If it was not available commercially before it went to DVD then no one would have a "good" copy before the release. After something is released there are just too many gadgets that will copy just about anything. To assume that it would not be done through digital reproduction, photocopy, photo rendering or any other economical means is living in a dream world.

What is needed is a GOOD copyright law that reflects the reality of a materials existence rather than what an industry would like to see. Likewise, a more concerted effort by the industry not to accidentally release early full copies of their work(s) or create them in a way they can be compromised easily. Cameras in theaters can be caught by infrared surveillance techniques and prosecution would slow that very quickly, however that is an extra monetary burden on the industry. Every technique invented to dissuade piracy will be met by people who see it as a technical challenge to beat the system. That is the nature of the beast. At best you can hope to make it difficult. Once the first person sees/hears it, it will become fair game in a society that creates genius at both ends of the spectrum.
Wan Nan
You're raising a great point here. In my understanding, copyrights are irrevocably linked to the originator of intellectual property, unless they give them up by signing a contract with according terms. It is also my understanding that copyrights should be negotiated on a "per use" basis. While the latter might be hard to accomplish or impossible to do, I think initiatives like e.g. the Creative Commons licenses point in the right direction, as they outline a framework for fair uses, beyond which royalties or license fees (should) apply.

And all commercial aspects set aside: Shouldn't we care more about keeping a culture alive by all means than to restrict the discussion on who gets to make what money over works of art? I think, creative works should get at least partially unmarried from being "exploited" (I even don't like the term as such) by a corporation or its representatives. Works of art should FIRST be there for all to enjoy. If any entity needs to have them exclusively for any given purpose - let the creator make a deal with the "exploiting" entity. The exact terms of that particular useage is then a matter that the requesting party should need to figure out by themselves first and present their ideas to the originator of creative works for negotiation. In other words: Public domain until someone wants to pull it from there, after which it becomes the subject of lawyers - but on an individual /per case basis.
I absolutely agree on the 10 year copyright. The expiration of a copyright just means duplication and reproduction is no longer illegal. Additionally, at least with software, its a copyright on a per version basis. Today, Windows XP would lose its copyright but Windows Vista wouldn't, so on.

It also doesn't mean they are required to publish the source code. And in the case of television programs, it doesn't stop the content creator from showing them on their websites with ads or selling dvd box sets. It just means the guy next door can do it as well with the same material.

Losing copyright doesn't mean losing monetization. It just means opening up the monetization playing field.
I agree wholeheartedly, and I've been waiting for someone to step forward and crystallize this sort of sentiment into some sort of organization that actually implements these things. If that person were famous within the community, it would help the cause considerably...
The best advice anyone ever gave about politics was "follow the money."
Do that, and you'll understand the motives of just about any politician on any issue. Why does Chris Dodd fight so hard to erode our rights? Follow the money.
Bri K
I've gotten so upset by congressional complicity in SOPA / PIPA debate over the last couple of weeks, that I spent the entire day researching how to establish a Super Pac that advocates not for one candidate or another, but for the Internet community. I've registered and have both my Statement of Organization declaring "The Internet Voice" as a super pac and my FEC Form 1 filled out and read to go for the coming week. Monday morning I will contact a lawyer who be submitting paperwork to form a corporation in my state which will own and manage the super pac. Monday afternoon (or as soon as I can get the lawyer to file the articles of incorporation), I will open a bank account at a not-too-big-to-fail community bank.

Very early this morning I spent a couple of hours to write a screenplay for a thirty second TV spot that sends a message to congress and to the big media companies that we will not be silenced on issues that are important from not only a technical / engineering perspective, but also from a moral / decency perspective. I'm not enormously creative, but I think it's a really good first shot.

My intention for this super pac, is to receive input from the Internet community with some kind of voting system. The TV spot I just wrote will be reviewed by everyone and changes or edits voted on by everyone. With so many opinions on every side of every issue, naturally I, or someone I'm working with in the super pac will have to have a final "say", but unlike other super pacs, we're not going to just take money and make you trust us blindly. (it's the new media way... comon.)

There are a number of details I have to work out, and I'm not sure I have recent enough technical skill (I'm a web 1.0 programmer) to accomplish all that I want, but someone, somewhere has to start doing something. If someone with a shitload more money, time, and skill steals my thunder and gets one up-n-running before I'm able to, I'll cease my efforts, shut everything down, and write them a big check when payday gets here. I don't care if it's me doing it or someone else, and to be totally honest, I'd rather not be in the spotlight if I don't have to. But the only people who are acting are the big Internet companies we love because they have the funding to get lobbyists. And if these big Internet companies hadn't stepped up to the plate and initiated the "black out", would we, the general Internet engineer even have a voice. I love Google, Reddit, and all the other big shots. But I'm not willing to sit back and wait for them to give me my marching orders, as excellent as they have been so far.

Joel, everyone, the ridiculous attack on Internet freedom by well-financed, well-connected old media must be addressed from multiple angles on multiple fronts using old school communication (political TV advertising) and new media communication. Mike Arrington recently blogged something to the effect that the Internet has gotten sucked in to the way Washington works and sort of implied that we're all phucked now that we have to play by their rules and their game. Bullshit I say! What happened was Google and Reddit or other big companies FINALLY went to the gunfight with an actual gun (lobbyist) instead of harsh language. In spite of that, these bills were not stopped because of the lobbying efforts of Google and others. These bills were stopped by the visibility that tens of thousands of phone calls and hundreds of thousands of emails and hundreds of millions of eyeballs produced.

I concur with other comments here lamenting the fact that we won a battle and now appear to be sitting idle. Internet fervor is a great thing and has the potential to do great things, but too often it comes in the bottom of the ninth, down by one, no one on base, with two outs and an 0-2 count. We need to change this!!! We may have won a battle and we should celebrate that victory and bask in our unity if just for a moment. But big media doesn't make plans for battle. They make plans for a war. The only way we can / will win the war is if we stop underestimating the enemy and start planning for the long term. We need to get rid of the microscopic attention span that plagues the general population and remain just as committed and excited in May when the news has all but forgot about our brief moment of victory.

A super pac certainly isn't going to solve everything and legally, it's restricted in what specifically it's allowed to do. BUT, what it can do, it can do very effectively. A black-out isn't going to win the war, though it will give us some success when used at the right time. Google's lobbyists can intercede on our behalf sometimes, but they aren't going to be there all the time or have the access to politicians when we'd like them to. Separately, these are effective tools each having a moment in time when they can be used. But... if we approach this from the same perspective as that of our enemy, with a "set" of arrows, our arsenal might, maybe, make this an even fight.

Whatever. I'm doing this. I may end up renting equipment and studio time on my own dime, and soliciting the help of friends and family for the TV spot. It's ok. I can probably cover the cost of production and can do all the post-production on my workstation. None of you know me from a hole in the wall and I wouldn't blame anyone for the "stink-eye" on my intentions, integrity, or wildly conflated ideas of being successful. I don't own an Internet company, am not a prolific blogger, and am not mentioned in any circles you know. I'm just another schmuck. An anonymous IT professional just trying to make it through life and suffering, like many of you, in my 9-5.

Having said that, if you're as pissed off as I am and have finally found a "cause" that you believe in because it impacts you, I'm all ears and welcome your company. If you have skills and some time, you are twice as welcome. Message me privately.
Isn't failure to compromise exactly what we see wrong in American "governance"?
The problem here is that as long as Congress is dominated by people who are willing to pass any law in return for sufficient money, the laws that get passed will always be those that are wanted by the people who have the power to out-spend everyone else. If something starts to threaten their gravy train, they will simply outlaw it (see McCain-Feingold as an example).

I don't have any peaceful solution to this problem, but would much prefer we did not resort to violent ones. However, as John F. Kennedy observed, "Those who make peaceful change impossible will make violent change inevitable." I believe our current political class are too greedy and self-serving to see which way the wind is blowing and get out while they can. There's always a last few more million dollars to be made.
Google spent $5.9 million on lobbying during the first three quarters of 2011. They pay an effective tax rate of 2.4% via the use of tax shelters. They and Apple are pushing (hard) for a 'tax holiday' so they can repatriate their vast overseas profits without paying a dime of tax in the U.S. Follow the money indeed.
Is the internet some homogenous whole? Can you articulate a positive list of rights that you don't want compromised or eroded?
This is a sterile debate.
I agree, we need to go on the offensive. We need a party to implement a bill the protects internet freedoms and doesn't take it away. Are you willing to lead such as campaign?
+Peter Simon, another reason why I think we need to just pile up the entire Federal tax code, burn it, and start over. No loopholes, no tax shelters, no special gifts to special interests. Design the system from the start to be fair, and make it so simple and black-and-white that there are no exploits.
I would donate money to an effort to present a comprehensive "Internet Freedom" bill.
+Joel Spolsky I am well aware of the fact this will be buried in the mass of re-shares and comments, but I need to say it. The Internet should be a human right and open to all. We need an organization, like the NRA, for the freedom of the internet. An organization that will make it political suicide to even mention you are in favor of an encroachment on our 1st amendment freedoms.
"One thing about SOPA... people who talk about it will NEVER shut up..." - +Jam Bra

I hope they never shut up.
Interesting ideas, especially your central argument that we should be on the offensive.
What are "internet freedoms," exactly? Honestly curious how this obviously pregnant-with-meaning phrase is being defined in this context. Everyone knows that Google blocks sites routinely, based only on its own protocols and judgment. There is no "due process" in those cases. Is that a problem, by your lights?
Speaking of rights and freedoms: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27.2 :: "Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author."
+Jonathon Dalton "How about the lifetime of the artist plus 25 years"

The copyright clause reads ... "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Read the part where it says "to Authors and Inventors". That does not mean to their heirs, it does not mean copyright transferred to corporations, it only mean the authors.

WOW ... Total epic Inspirational flash.
We're not all being passive. Personally, I started MegaUprising to do just that, in almost the same words. I'm sure others are busy doing the same thing. It's LONG overdue.
Having gone out on a limb in this forum with some skepticism about the techutopianism that infuses so much of this debate, I should say that if it were mine to reform, I would push for copyright to apply for 1.) the life of the author in the case of single-creator works (books, songs, etc.) and 2.) forty years after the first release of any collaboratively-created work (e.g., movies). In other words, even though I find piracy ethically abhorrent, I also believe that copyright law needs reform.
Change ponies to hover boards and I'm in!
my sense of all this is like getting a parking ticket in NYC when it's not your fault; When you present the evidence that you're not guilty, the judges office sends you a letter with a "reduced" fine, it doesn't tell you that you're not guilty or that they won't go ahead with the charges....they just want a % of your money....they want to take something that's not theirs no matter what.
Internet has shown it's value in spreading and preserving democratic values. As long as people have access to free and unbiased information, world will be a better place.
"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger."

(1) Eliminate criminal penalties for copyright infringement — it's a civil claim, nothing more. The DoJ doesn't step in when banks systematically defraud customers or large employers systematically discriminate. Why should it use criminal prosecutions to stop file-sharing? The RIAA and MPAA member companies have ample funds and lawyers to enforce their rights.

(2) Kill the punitive and outrageous "statutory damages" for copyright infringement (here's an example why: )

That'll keep them busy.
awww, i'm way at the bottom of the comments... anyway... yes, you're onto something. liberals will always lose - they're always on the defensive.....
"Create a legal doctrine that merely linking is protected free speech"

I don't see this as needed. How about this instead?

* Create a legal doctrine the linking to something is legally the same as citing it in a printed publication

then we can use the same law we use now for publications to cover the internet.
Attack is the best defence.
+Joel Spolsky While most software patents need to go, and the USPTO needs to be revamped, the sometimes-popular notion of the tech industry to remove copyright protection or to reduce it to short terms such as "10 years" is not considerate of the process for creative and artistic creators. For example, in fine art photography it can take several years (or a lifetime) to assemble a body of work around a single subject and the collection may not be exposed until several years after the date of capture (or inception).

Imagine beginning to pursue a vision of a special portfolio in which the first image is captured in 2005. The photographer's (or artist's) concept is to show change over time, or needs to capture a certain light or seasonal significance. After several years, five of the desired images are printed, yet there are still more to be captured to complete the artist's vision. In 2014 the first image is 9 years from date of capture and therefore 9 years from mark of copyright (assuming copyrights are shortened to 10 yrs.). Is the artist / photographer to accept the image be used by Hallmark in next year's calendar without consideration? Extrapolate the concept with consideration of content creation outside of the tech world and one sees how such short a copyright span hurts artists, designers, photographers. It's easy to hate big entertainment corporations; and 10 years is a long time for music (although I'm not suggesting music copyrights should be only 10 years), but many of these discussions (on tech blogs) truly lack consideration for visual artists such as photographers, painters, graphic artists, etc. It can take more than 10 years just to create a meaningful portfolio to begin making a living in photography for example.

In this same vein, a friend just opened a photography show in which he hung ~20 images captured over nearly ten years and the project is still ongoing. Is he to forfeit copyright to his early images, even though they are obviously part of cohesive set? The tech industry (in which I'm a participant) needs to be less egocentric and look beyond code base and peer-to-peer music piracy when attempting to contribute to complex topics such as copyright. We need sensitivity to a broad range of content creation methods and media.

...and a constitutional amendment that disambiguates privacy (preferrably by assuring it)
agreed on going on the offensive...also exposing corruption in congress would be a great thing to do.
+Jeff Gibbs, I'll totally agree we need an organization to defend the freedom of the Internet.
...Wait. Isn't that what the Electronic Frontier Foundation is?

(Not going to get into the issue of whether an "NRA for the Internet" is what we need here. My opinion of the NRA is not good, but would be off-topic here.)

+Dale Allyn— Agreed. I would go with copyright lasting for life of the original human creator, possibly for as much as life plus ten to twenty years, as long as the copyright is held by the original human creator. If the copyright is held by a corporation? Corporations aren't people. Period. You get twenty years. Suck it up, STFU, and move on.
And no assigning copyrights to a designated human to "keep them ticking", either.

+Tim Smith— That is an excellent idea, linking as the equivalent of citing. I like it a lot. Along with it, we need to really seriously defend the concept of "fair use", which the "content" companies are trying their best to destroy.
All we need is the legalization of piracy. Everyone pays approx $10/month in average, that's $120 Billion per year for Europe + USA. Piracy problem solved. Now content creators can publish their content directly and freely on the Internet, no intermediaries required, the content can go on p2p, on any server, on any web service, content creators then are simply paid based on reliably measured popularity of their content. Google Analytics/Razorback/bt stats/voluntarily installed snooping softwares, all those can be compared with each other and very fairly measure popularity of all content. The old media intermediaries can still sell a few Blu-ray's if they want, they can still sell Cinema tickets if they want, they can still sell cable TV subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions and whatever else they want. Content creators though can increasingly renounce signing off their rights to intermediaries and instead publish their content independently directly on the Internet. $120 Billion per year, paid directly to content creators, that's many more and better movies, tv shows, albums, news articles, bloggers, programmers, photographers and more, Any attempts and penalizing piracy on the web should be abandonned globally and instead blanket monetization/licencing of all content online should be encouraged. If a few years later it turns out everyone uses much more content in average, then the monthly global licence/tax can be increased. And all countries even poorer ones can participate to the level that they can afford based on their average income.
+Lance Ward Funny thing, this whole #SOPA and #PIPA thing has gotten the US headed in the same direction the pirate party is in the EU.
If someone in a seat of power started having bright ideas like this then they'd find themselves removed from office (in a very short amount of time) or just assassinated. They would in turn be replaced by someone who serves the 'special interest groups' representing powerful interests. That's unfortunately how power works.
Well put +Joel Spolsky - Agreed, going on the offensive is the way to go. The internet community will need to stand tall in the coming years, or the internet as we know it (elastic as that term is) will cease to exist. Look at what became of the broadcast media and publishing industries. Radio, Broadcast, cable television, and publishing are essentially the playgrounds of those few mega coporations which can afford the licensing and content, who can establish the necessary infrastructure, and compete with other titans for bandwidth. The internet, in this last decase, has begun to encroach upon big media's playground. Don;t think for one second they are going to sit idly by and watch their semi-monopolies crumble around them.

SOPA and PIPA are the early examples of where things are going now that media companies see the light. If the internet is the content delivery system of the future, count on the current lords of content to do their worst to make it their own and squeeze out the little guy.
+David Fuchs Well "the lifetime of the artist" then. Ten years is not enough. I'm writing a book right now and it's taken ten years just to get 3/4 of the way done. Without copyright protection, I would have nothing.
+Dale Allyn Joel's overall point is that the media industry lobbies for huge changes that are akin to nuclear weapons threats to the Internet Industry. Its far past time the internet industry responded in kind with lobbies that push legislation to force the media companies to back down. At the current rate, the media companies are slowly advancing their agenda at the expense of the technology industry. In order to reinforce balance, Joel is suggesting we push back with enough force to bring the entire debate back to the middle ground of the issue.

Copyright started as a 14 year period. Now it lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. And I don't see how that is a reasonable length of time. It should fall back to something like 20 years. But the way to get that is to propose ten years and let the media industry push back. It's a terrible game to be playing, but it's the game the media industry is playing with us.
Dan S.
Vote for more pro-liberty candidates!
I really like the first half of point two. If candidates didn't technically need large mounds of money to campaign then lobbying would probably be hit hard.
+Jonathon Dalton I think the copyright terms would have to be set as ten years after the work is published. When it was fourteen years, I think the clock started at publication. Can someone confirm?
Some great discussions here but has anyone considered that people can actually fight back by hitting the creators of Sopa / Pipa where it actually hurts? their pockets? Do you think people would be willing to stop going to movie theaters or to watch a lot less tv?
regarding point 2 - you may be misguided.


Sean Tevis eventually lost, even though he raised more money than he thought he needed.

The fact is, right now, crowdsourcing is not a viable counter attack against directed lobbying. The reason is that it still gets lost as "noise" and doesn't necessarily translate into votes. This may have to do with the fact that the internet is most effective with younger people, and will probably become more effective as those young people grow up. Also, trends on the internet have a short shelf-life, whereas elections come around every two years or more. Now, if there were a way to cause more immediate repercussions for representatives doing a crap job, then we'd be on to something
Is this the greater purpose for Wikipedia? Couldn't they remain impartial, free and charitable, while running ads to support a non-profit advocacy and education group?
"Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases"
So files a "one-click" patent lawsuit against me, pays the best lawyers around $1,000,000, and wins using said lawyers, and I have to fork over their legal fees? No thanks, I'm good.
The "we" in this a diffuse collection of independently-minded people that can not, by definition, organize for any length of time. On the other hand, the "them" in this case is a organized collection of powerful business interests with the simple common purpose of maintaining revenue streams.

I agreed with the basic premise, but like +Jonathon Dalton, +Alex Shenoy , +Dale Allyn , I feel the main focus should be the copyright law; in the United States, Any "additional works made in 1923 or afterwards, and that were still protected by copyrigh in 1998, will not enter the public domain until 2019".. This brings two additional problems;

1- As +Michael Tibben and +Russell Nelson point out, one problem is international agreements, such as those free trade agreements that "are slowly extending copyright laws worldwide". The key word is "extending", since other countries tend to align themselves with US and EU laws and practices. So this is promoting a form of Western hegemony in world business, and not a hindrance to US or European interests.

2- Software companies make extensive use of this copyright law. By using both copyrights and patents, they are trying to get the best of both worlds.

Today, the big software companies fell on "our" side of the argument, and accepted a compromise that suited their interests.

Tomorrow may be different, as "Hollywood" learns to compromise with "Silicon Valley". So what we have seen today with SOPA may be just a first lover's quarrel between those two
Exactly +Joel Spolsky! Attack their laws, and keep them on the defensive, If they want to break our Internet, let's break their copyright laws which are already out of control and have been for decades.

Reduce copyright to 10 years or at most 14 years like it originally was, before companies started lobbying for perpetual extensions. Speaking of which - disallow extensions in the new laws!

Increase fair use laws and try to adapt copyright laws for the 21st century in general and to the digital age.

Ban corporations from owning the copyright - only artists can own it and license it to the companies for the period of the contract so they can promote their works and sell it. Companies owning copyright and treating artists almost like slaves in the same time, has led to this incentive of continuously pushing for copyright extensions.

Decriminalize copyright infringement. Copyright infringement used to be only a civil matter - now they are pushing for more and more bills to make it a felony and give up to 5 years in jail for most copyright infringers. That's beyond ridiculous. The punishment must match the crime. And speaking of which - reduce the penalty for copyright infringement, too. $150,000 for downloading a song is a little too much, no? You could buy 2 homes at this point with that kind of money.

Kill the Pro IP Act of 2008. It's what gives US the power to already seize domain names without due process from sites that either have servers in US or have .com, .org, .net, domains. This is the worst part we hated about SOPA. So let's kill this bill ASAP.

It wouldn't be terrible if we had a long hard look at DMCA, either, and increase punishment for take-down abuses.

Change the "Intellectual Property" name. They only did this to make it sound like copyrights and patents are "property" and therefore they should get property rights. It's a trick! Ideas can not be owned. Nobody really owns an idea - it all comes from other people's ideas and prior knowledge. This is why both copyright and patents are supposed to have term limits - so you only get the monopoly over them for a short period of time, in which you recover your costs - but then you need to release it out there in the public domain, so others can benefit from your "improvement of someone else's ideas" too, and improve it further, to the benefit of the whole society. A video on this:

Everything is a Remix Part 3

Bottomline - overhaul copyright laws and demand for copyright reform. We might not get everything, but push hard for all of it, and keep them on the defensive. If they get to make laws for our industry, why can't we make laws for theirs? Our industry (the Internet) may impact their industry, but their industry impacts ours, too. So we should have a say on what their laws are, too, before they start changing ours.

So don't agree with any bill that promises to "fix" the Internet, whether it's OPEN Act, SOPA 2.0, or whatever - not until they agree with overhauling copyright laws. If they do that, then the tech industry may start "compromising", but hopefully by that point copyright won't be so bad to criminalize everything you do online.
Yes yes please! What is the next step? Where do I send my check?
I agree with most of the first half (read only #1), but "Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases" will only make the big companies even more sure of winning in court, the small ones can not risk the money.
Wait, why don't we want ponies? Ponies are rad.
+Alex Shenoy But I've been publishing it on the internet as I produce it. At nearly ten years since I started, my time would be almost up, and I've hardly seen a cent yet. Ten years is a ridiculously short period of time for most forms of creative endeavor. Especially in the days of the internet, when publishing (i.e. posting) is so fast and easy and creating things is the same difficult path that it's ever been.
I agree ten years is a very short time period. As an artist, I can easily live with 25 though.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. It is implementation of ideas and concepts where the rubber hits the road. If someone can take my idea, improve on it and market it better than I can. then maybe they should have the right to do that. I know that is a radical idea, but are we encouraging creativity by stifling people's ability to create? All art is inspired by other art. There is almost nothing that is utterly and completely unique. I have come up with a new art form I think is unique, but I know it is only a matter of time before it is copied, or that someone comes up with it on their own as I did. If they get known for it before I do, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.
@Sean Damon ... ponies eat and poop a lot. You can have mine ;-)
Also known as the Power Rangers effect. Hang around not doing much until the baddie attacks, then hang around not doing much either.
just get rid of ppl in power trying to make $$ and focus on influence and power, american ppl are living the dream & continue to work and work hard without the aid of legislation & manipulation... #lessgovernment #pplofworkingusa
+Jonathon Dalton If it takes a lifetime, then it's not a living wage.

Generally art that takes decades to make money is art that wasn't made for profit, but for art's sake. And because it doesn't have a big marketing campaign behind it, it's also likely to benefit from easy sharing.

My position has always been that 30 years should be more than enough for anyone. If it doesn't make money in that time, it wasn't done for money. If it does make money, then you got 30 years out of it, which is excellent.
How about eliminate all patents? They did, after all, delay the industrial revolution by decades, and it is not at all easy to draw a line between "software" and "hardware", and difficult boundaries in law always create risk, and legal risk always in practice restricts freedom of action.

Also, on the subject of software patents, there's much to be said for setting up an open source patent institute - a sort of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" solution to software patents: all open source software creators would be encouraged to file patents on their software, then licence them under open source terms. This would be paid for by the institute, who would raise funds by charging royalty fees for people to use the patents in closed source software, but only on the condition that they (and any associated companies, so that they cannot get around the rules by creating fragmentory companies) licence their entire patent inventory free of charge for all open source use in perpetuity. If enough open source patents of this sort were registered, it would severely limit the nature of software that could be written without either paying the institute (which could use spare funds for political lobbying) and releasing all its patent assets for open source purposes, or just open-sourcing its code in the first place.

And unicorns instead of ponies. We should aim high!
Besides your excellent ideas, I think it's also time - and maybe even easier - to introduce some kind of legislation that will raise the awareness of the users: we already force the producers of cigarettes to put warnings on each pack (since they can damage your health), and we need to do the same every time the user buys a device, service or a content that will put some serious limit to its usability due to patents or misused copyright.

I'm sure that all the clauses are already present in the 2000+ lines of EULA, but nobody read them, and that's exactly why this law should provide some short, informative messages and force them to be put prominently to the user.

Some examples:
- a user buys a Kindle: "the producer has the right to remove content from your device without prior notice".
- a user buys a song in mp3 format: "the copyright of this content lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years" or (if already dead) "the copyright of this content will not expire before $DATE".
- a user buys a DRM-protected movie: "it's illegal to remove the digital restrictions from this content" and "you are not allowed to play this content on other devices than the one you bought it for".

Maybe even some generic warning like:
- "beware that you can lose the contents you will buy for this device/service, if the producer will change the way it operates or stop supporting it".

All of these warning will need to always be presented the first time a user buys any service, device or content (physical or not), and must be made easily accessible afterwards.

At phase 2, the government should force associations like RIAA and MPAA to maintain and give free access to a database that keeps track of how the royalties are split beween copyright detainers and authors.

Reduce the duration of copyright is required, but it's not an easy job and will probably requires tens of years: let's start raising the awareness of the public on how the whole system works.
Bill Maeher just shot down the opposition by saying the opposers just want to 'steal'. The only one who opposed the bill in his 'panel' was a republican blogger. Maybe Bill should know more before he talks about things.
+Jack Snoeks I agree totally with the point on the voting system. Canada's rocks. Well, maybe not the first past the post part, but the organization and efforts to produce voting results is spot on. No electronic voting machines. Can be registered before, or simply show up with ID on voting day. The system sorts out whether you had tried to cheat and voted twice and eliminates your second attempt. Results within hours of the close of the balloting.

Learn from Canada. Study our medicare system idea while you are at it. There was a skier who recently went to the hospital while she was training in the U.S. Ended up in a coma and eventually died. Total medical bill of 1/2 million dollars. That could never happen to a citizen in a country with medicare. Wake up U.S. - you are the only advanced nation without medicare, and it is deeply hurting your society. Greed will be the demise of the American Empire despite its many greats.

As for points of OP, the content shows you are not the man to do it. Legal thinking is required, balanced with knowledge of how systems operate. In my country, the mature approach would be to hold hearings with participants from industry, arts, etc. and gather their input, insights and suggestions. This is different than lobbying. It is transparent and held before cameras. Wise people are actually invited and can be heard by anyone. Then a multi-party committee would draft suggestions on how laws should be changed with the idea of keeping all affected groups involved in their care for details. After that, it becomes a political issue and might or might not see change. But at least the beginning funnel process makes the laws potentially informed. It is a way to prevent ignorant politicians or lobbyists from pushing an agenda which serves only one side. The media sometimes reports on the committee findings to make people more aware of what the enlightened view looks like, to the potential embarrassment of any politician who wants to forge ahead as if the committee findings had not existed.
Unfortunately, when a grass roots movement becomes an organization, it (by that act) becomes part of the problem it is trying to correct.

Every law erodes Freedom. Laws often need to be surgically removed, not more piled enacted.
I couldn't agree more. On the second part, rather than making free outlets to provide campaign information, it might make more sense to ban the use of other sources of advertising to prevent an unfair advantage from happening anyway. I've always thought a single unbiased source of information on all politicians and a summary of their main platform would be a great concept. More importantly, laws and legislation need to be put into affect to stop lobbying and anonymous campaign contributions. It's sad that no matter how you vote nowadays you'll still only end up with a puppet politician being swayed by the monetary power of large corporations.
Sounds like a plan. Who's organizing it?
On point #2 I think there is a better way to go about changing the high cost of a political campaign. What needs to be done is to have all elections at least partially if not fully paid by the government and make corporate contributions illegal. Sure, this would be a big cost to the government, but think how much we would save if the corporations couldn't pay for things like legislation in their favor over what the people want and for non-needed spending that the politicians do as a thank you for their support. The biggest hurdle in this solution would be to decide who gets the funds to run a campaign, as you have to somehow determine who is legitimately running and who is not. However I feel this is something that could be worked out if we got serious about doing this.
We should use the SOPA effort to start a new political party to help move our government away from the current political atmosphere. "The Digital Party"
wow how I am so lucky to read the stuff you people have wrote
+Dennis Harden very true! In regards to trying to figure out who is "legitimately running" and who is not: I will much prefer to have few "opportunistic" candidates get $100K * x of Feds money once in a while than seeing $100M * x pumped into the system by special interests almost every day.
Another simple way to make election chipper - make it shorter! In UK the whole election campaign lasts just few weeks. 50 years ago at may made sense to have long companions. Trains could move you around US only that fast. These days with TV + Internet you can reach everyone in US in a week.
Interesting ideas. But there is no such thing as "software patents", just patents. Perhaps there should be. Maybe 2 years given the speed of innovation now.
Totally agree, except for the "equal time" bit. If candidate X's face shows up so many times that he's actually turning voters off, that's his choice. There's only so much time in a day for people to watch these videos, and the production thereof still costs money (and let's not forget their direct competition for attention: cat videos).
Joel, why don't you and other Internet personalities start something and we all will join. Setup a website, get donation from every developer, hire lobbyists or whatever is needed. You and people you know have the reach and get things in motion. We will follow the lead.
+Joel Spolsky: Want a machine that turns programmers into activists? Kill StackOverflow for a week.
You advocate the government SOMEHOW PAYING for yet another area of our lives?
Right on Joel! 2 things I'd like to see.

1) Start an Internet focused group to lobby congress (unless exists already). We have all sorts of groups to develop standards but I don't know of any group to develop/change laws.

2) Set up a service that can be used by other web sites to include in their pages (like AdWords but for giving politicians free political time). In exchange congress can fight for the very thing that helps them as well in this case (the Internet). The fact that so much political money goes to TV ads which are not engaging nor truthful anymore is a drain on our society. We can do better. Obama won for many reasons in 2008 but one thing that helped him was their social media strategy. The Internet offers 2-way communication and should be sought after more so than TV commercial spots. We can do this and I'd like to help in any way!!
Very good ideas. The internet is a game changer for governments worldwide and there should be something done to improve the representative democracy of the USA from local to national governments.
As much as I wish that online political advertising could have a powerful nationwide effect, the majority of the voters who are influence-able by this sort of outreach aren't the types who spend a lot of time on the internet in the first place. It would be essentially preaching to the choir. Television advertising is the only way to reach most voters.

This will change in coming decades, but it just isn't the case yet. Sadly. Because money in politics is the root of all evil.

However, if some sort of counter-lobbying force could be organized by some leaders in IT and internet technology (a lobby of our own so to speak,) then fundraising and lobbying power would only be a few keyboard clicks away. The same way that online petition sites (, etc) raise money and organize petitions could be used as a powerhouse for the cause, because while most people aren't willing to put in large amounts of personal energy for this, they would be willing to sign online petitions and donate small amounts of money, the effects of which add up. Plus, a smaller but more dedicated group WOULD be willing to put in that personal energy, both online and in the flesh, mobilizing and lobbying. So it would have a real effect.

What the movement needs is leadership who knows how to play the game. The ground troops will follow.
PONIES!!!!! And freedom, but PONIES!!!!!!
Has anyone written letters to their Congresspeople about these issues? Is Congresspeople even a word?! Maybe it's Congresspersons. ANYHOOO... it's time to start writing, folks. Remember: they don't understand this whole Internets fad, so an actual letter delivered via USPS is probably best. ;-)
Joel that's called HEGELIAN DIALECTICS
ACTA is just as bad as PIPA/SOPA as well. People need to start on this next - but there's not a lot of people in a roar about it yet.
I'm 100% behind #1. My initial concern with #2, is that without some kind of control mechanism, it would invite too many persons to run for office. Overwhelming voters out of the process.
The challenge with "giving free advertising to political campaigns" is that would be considered a donation by Facebook, Reddit, YouTube to the campaign; which isn't possible under current federal law. There would still be donation limits.
the polliticians will still have there greedy sticky palms out-streched for more money from 'Legal' Donors and every source of funds to each party would be 'public information' because how else are they supposed ti buy there new tooth brush that costs 100's and there toilet seat every 2 weeks that costs 1000's or are they the drugs hookers and rent-boys i am not sure
+Kai Childheart - I think you missed the point about not having to want all of what you demand. You'll never get all of it at the moment you ask for it, anyway; you'll just tie up the "enemy" in defensive actions and maybe get halfway there in a "compromise".
Whether it was online petitions to the White House and Congress or the attention garnered by popular websites going dark it is obvious that the American citizenry CAN get the attention of their elected public officials IF they will make the effort to engage. The message here is that ALL of us, EVERY American citizen MUST exercise their civic duty and become involved at some level by engaging their local, state and federal representatives and I'm not talking about just voting every 4 years! :) It's called, "SELF-GOVERNMENT", people.

I LOVE the idea of a citizens' lobby group (not that we can't organize one around keeping the internet free and open) but we already have political activist groups whether we're talking about Occupy*, The Tea Party, The Coffee Party USA,, The Sierra Club, ... but you have to get involved and stay involved. Obviously that goes well beyond SOPA and PIPA.
There is already an established and well funded tech industry lobbying organization. The problem is, it's by and for the owners and investors in tech companies. It's not by and for the workers in the industry, and it's not by and for the users of the internet, and not by and for the consumers of electronics and software. It's not by and for small businesses. It's not for general civil liberties, labor laws, or environmental concerns. People care about civil liberties, fairness, low prices, maximizing access, maximizing freedom of speech, work conditions, and a whole lot of things that, frankly, companies like Intel, Apple, Microsoft, AMD, Oracle, and IBM don't consider their primary mission or goals.

What we need is a broad network of organizations by and for people, not corporations. There are already existing groups like the EFF, WashTech, IGC, Bright Future Jobs, Programmers Guild, ACM, SAGE, IEEE, CPSR, FSF, numerous user groups, Consumers Union, Free Press, and others in the US that are dealing with these issues. Would it be possible to build a broad network, with the goal of developing an organizing arm, and a lobbying arm?

The goal would be to fairly represent the needs and desires of regular people - that is, people who use tech, who work in tech, who start small consultancies and very small businesses, and are not on the corporate boards, who do not have millions of dollars, and who lack access to the White House.
Finally! Someone who is against SOPA and PIPA who, instead of just yelling, offers counter-solutions. This is the way to go. There need to be basic protections of copyrighted material and there need to be basic protections to ensure a free internet. This is a tough compromise to strike and the lawmakers in the US congress and abroad are trying to strike it but are being met with people yelling conspiracy. Instead of railing against them, offer them help.
You talk as if this entity of "the internet" is one unified populace. In reality, the internet is only made up of the people who build it and those people within themselves disagree on plenty of things. The internet is not a faction and it shouldnt be treated like one. That kind of mentality is what led to SOPA/PIPA in the first place.
I agree 100%! (except I might rather have cows than horses.)
If someone patents the DNA of horses (or cows), will owning one be an act of copyright infringement, and posting a picture of one be online piracy?
Lax Bro
i really just feel bad for the people who wrote the
long 5 paragraph essays that no body wants to read...
Time to found the Internet Party.

For individuals, I'm all for copyright terms being life of the author(s). Maybe life + 10 years to allow residuals, etc.

For corporate-owned things, copyright should be 10 years, with the option to extend that by 10 years twice, for a maximum of 30, if and only if the corporation pays the extensions. The extensions would let owners continue to earn revenue from things like Star Wars, Bladerunner, etc. -- and thereby encourage them to make such items, but would let dead projects/projects from dead companies go public domain faster.

If the copyrighted article is print media (books, magazines, comics, etc.) or audio-visual (movies, albums, etc.) and becomes no longer generally available, then the owner should have a maximum of five years to reintroduce the article. If they do not, then the material goes public domain. This way, out-of-print items can be made available through sources like Project Gutenburg. In the case of corporate-owned items, if the owner lets the article go out of print, rights revert to the human authors, wherein they can re-release the article through alternate channels (and keep profiting) should the corporate owner let the article go out print.

Anyway, that's my "ideal."
Love this line: The dismal corruption of congress has gotten it to the point where lobbying for legislation is out of control. Sharing.
BTW, I was watching an installment in a documentary series on PBS, "Have You Heard From Johannesburg". It's an excellent example of how ordinary people can, through their combined efforts, bring about change. One lesson that I would hope that people would take away from this film is that many changes don't take place overnight. Some changes take years to implement and require unwavering, unrelenting dedication. Sadly, in this country anyway, I think too many people give up when they don't see that quick victory.
+Joel Spolsky Love the ideas, especially from part 1. I think where Lessig and others go wrong on the point you mention in part 2 is the source of the corruption - it's not the money, it's the concentration of power and the intrusion of that power into so much. I'm less worried about where the money comes from and how much and more about transparency. I'd also like to see so much more of the power devolved to the lowest possible jurisdiction (obviously, in this case, our IP framework has to be national, but that doesn't change my general point).

If power were more distributed in 50 state capitals and thousands and thousands of cities and towns, there would be a lot less lobbying in any particular place going on, and the people with power would have to be a lot more responsive to those who elected them.
+Benjamin Collins I think you're mistaken on where the corruption comes from, in this case. I would say it is the money, as if you find a way to decentralize power, those who currently have money (and thus, influence) will find a way within that framework to continue their influence. If they need lobbyists at 50 state capitals as well as in D.C., they'll do it. The only way to counteract that is to change the rules on finance.
+Stanislav Malyshev I don't know if it's purely about power/control. I would include "understanding of the issues" in a definition of the "right people".
Ralph, that's excellent. I knew nothing about it this petition. Reposting.
Re: #1, Well Said.

Re #2: Making something cheap and free makes it value go down.
The power of the internet to do an end run around the media that corporations have tied up for their own political message is frightening to them. That is why they want to shut down the alternate communication sources. Reverse the order of your points and it all falls into place.
* Loser pays is a great idea in ALL cases. Why should the winner have to pay? Seems to encourage a lot of frivolous lawsuits.
* Copyright and patents are hurting innovation. Let's reduce the protection to a length of time commensurate with the cost of initial production plus a reasonable profit.
* What fuels corruption in congress is money. What is the money doing there? Buying power: removing regulation, getting regulations to work in your favor, etc. If you outlaw the power, you outlaw the corruption. Back when states' rights meant something, the corruption was limited to the local level and therefore was easier to deal with ("toss the bums out" actually worked). Let's return more power to the states and then we can all vote with our feet rather than letting lobbyists in D.C. override our votes at the polls.
Signing petitions etc is a great way to play defense and lose.

We need and organization with a full time staff to lobby. We could either create one or just use the EFF. I would suggest a brand new lobby that represents the enormous technology industry, which would argue that the tech industry needs good copyright and patent laws to thrive and is far larger than the music and movie industry. As a representative of a group of business interests we would get far more credibility and congress(wo)men would pay more attention because the organization would be more able to pay bribes (ahem ahem campaign contributions) than as a non-profit organization. Of course we would have to use the same dirty tricks as the content industry does now. This would need funding of course. I'd be happy to contribute a few thousand dollars as an individual to get things rolling if people were willing to put in the money necessary to get the whole thing going. Could we make this a kickstarter project?
Brilliant, Joel. Thinking about ways I can help.
Excellent. Let the politicians know that they have awakened the wrath of the Internet.
Virtual Life..........Real Life
small gov..............big gov.
liberty...................partly free
rule of law.............minority rule
royalties property
tax free.................income tax

For those who aren't yet Libertarians, I still maintain that the quickest and surest path away from all our woes is to server the government chain which links us to the Oligarchy. Let's vote Ron Paul President 2012 and shrink the government down to size.
You forgot "I'm Joel Spolsky and I approve this message"
+Ashwin Kapur There's already an established tech lobby,, but that's not the same as a broad membership organization that does lobbying. A broad organization like Sierra Club has influence because it can take non-partisan positions and influence millions of members. I'm using Sierra as an explicit example, because they are huge, and are influential. Right now, we have our numerous small groups, like EFF, Free Press, Media Alliance, etc. as well as big groups like IEEE, and some probably do lobbying. What we lack is a large organization with independence from the companies, and enough staff to keep an eye on legislation. Such an organization would have to be built on $25 and $50 memberships. It'll take someone with vision and at least enough family support to work on it for a decade, to build it up. Ideally, it's someone in one of the existing organizations, maybe teaming up with someone from the enviro or consumer movements who can really do legislative stuff.
Since the web is what the business as usual politicians fear the most (aka not knowing where to place their allegiance for personal gain).... Why can't we use a platform like to actually put a third candidate on the ballot and shake things up in the system? I know...I know.... I went to the site again recently and saw some of the same old politicians being favored by members of this group....but I'm guessing it's true following is weak and needs a boost.

The idea is: use the biggest weapon they fear to take them down..... INFORMATION.

We're never going to dismantle the screwed up system by keeping this a two party fight.... it just pits us all against each other, giving them the smokescreen they survive behind. This group seems to have the ability to get a third candidate on the

your thoughts.....?
+Joel Spolsky You may want to pay attention to what is happening in Europe around ACTA agreement, especially here in Poland. We have massive protests here all, people from all through the political spectrum.
On Monday there was an 7h long debate with our government members (including PM). He stated an interesting view, admitting that current state of IP legislation looks archaic and obsolete. He declared he is ready to look into matter and make decisions to reform it, and if necessary bring the issue on EU and international level. He was interested in seeking a new balance between copyright holders claims and demand from consumers for new business models, that restore amount of fair use rights from pre-digital era, unless it makes creators really starving.
Moreover, he came himself to "conclusion", that protests are not about ACTA only, but about not accepted by consumers distribution models, and too restrictive laws, that doesn't fit society's expectations.
He is far from being utterly convinced, but that's interesting opening. Especially considering fact, that protests proliferated around Europe, and ACTA must be ratified by every single EU member.
many years ago we used to copy a LP to a tape, xerox a whole book to read for free... what's the big deal?...
I agree in part. But why does all the revenue go to YouTube. If I'm a candidate why not post my stump speech on YouTube, then pay you $1 every time you view it. Or setup my own website and pay out $1 for each view.
Alex S
+Jordan Anderson I spoke to someone from the EFF during SXSWi, and basically suggested that the EFF could take such an expanded role: Collect more funds from members for a much larger war chest (possibly use Kickstarter to do it as someone generally suggested above), lobby, but also use it in the sense of "brandishing" those funds the same way that the large corps and various patent trolls do, and thereby deter them to a much larger degree.

I have heard a lot of VCs say in recent months that they should band together for better protection against the patents shenanigans (a la Yahoo), asf.
Like the ponies. Oh, and the elimination of software patents of course ;)
Please don't shut up.  We need people like you (intelligent, wide audience) to encourage people to keep the pressure on congress.  Lessig has a new inspirational TED talk...
totally agree... thanks for your accurate point of view...
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