December 2011 Archives

My SOPA Opposition Letter

I like participating and love what the Center for Democracy and Technology and others are doing at the American Censorship Project. However, this is an issue I feel very strongly about and decided to sit down and compose my own letter & e-mail to my representative. There are two versions of the letter -- one for you to read and interact with on this blog and one for you to copy and paste and send to your representative. The second version removes formatting to ensure sources (URLs) transition through the "Write your Representative" pages.

To the Honorable <<Representative>>,

I am writing to express my staunch disapproval to H.R. 3261: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and S. 968: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECTIP). There is no substantial disagreement with the goal of combating the online infringement of copyrights and trademarks; that is a valid and important aim. However, these bills are incredibly dangerous to the country. Some of the specific provisions are far more controversial and would do far more damage than the authors (the MPAA and other lobbying arms of the entertainment industry) of the bill or the "expert" testimony would suggest. A Politico article by Jennifer Martinez titled "Shootout at the digital corral" published on November 16, 2011, provides excellent detail on the bills and the simple fact that the entertainment lobby has outspent the technology lobby for the past two years. The entertainment lobby has bought and paid for these bills, spending over $200M in 2010 and 2011, that will substantially harm the still growing and increasingly important digital economy: making it impossible to innovate, killing start-ups, and any jobs associated with them.

The public reaction to these bills in the United States has been visceral. Opponents of the bill include: Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, eBay, Mozilla Corporation, the Brookings Institution and human rights organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Sandia National Laboratories, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy, concluded that the SOPA legislation would "negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality." Sandia joins Republican Representative Dan Lungren, who also worried that SOPA would undercut efforts to secure the internet with DNSSEC.

Harvard Business Review blogger James Allworth wrote, "Is this really what we want to do to the internet? Shut it down every time it doesn't fit someone's business model?" concluding that the bill would "give America its very own version of the Great Firewall of China." I do not believe this quote is hyperbole. The bill will significantly impair the freedom of the internet that we as a country have advocated very publicly. See Hillary Clinton's speech on Internet Freedom at GW University.

There has also been international outcry to the bills. The European Parliament passed (by a large majority) a resolution criticizing SOPA. The resolution emphasizes "the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names." The United States has great allies in Europe and we would not be doing ourselves any favors by passing a bill that does *nothing* to protect us and everything to antagonize Europeans.

We cannot legislate an internet that protects everyone, everywhere, at every second. But we also cannot take the interests of a few companies' antiquated business models over the interest and rights of our citizens. SOPA and PROTECTIP are bad pieces of legislation. This fact is highlighted in the poor grasp of internet technology the bills put forward; the entertainment industry spent millions of dollars to produce pieces of legislation that *break* the internet. These bills represent the last throes of an industry failing to adapt to a new marketplace. These companies would have done better to take their $200M+ of lobbying and invest it in innovation, research and development, and job creation around that R&D.

Please help stop this bill.

Thank you,

Opt-in Ancedata!

I love anecdotal data, especially when it "proves my point".

Yesterday on the weekly #privchat a few folks were discussing opt-in vs. opt-out and throwing around hypothetical arguments. For example, Berin Szoka (@BerinSzoka) put forward that if you made web analytics opt-in it would kill the statistical validity. Others were saying opt-in is 100% the way to go, all the time. Jim Adler (@jim_adler) provided, what I think, is the best point of the conversation, "Opt-in or opt-out absolutism seems to deny the use-case nuance."

I support an opt-in position for most use-cases; however, I agree with Jim that there are nuances that may make opt-out the better solution. While wandering the wilds of the internet, I found a great piece of anecdotal data supporting my positive view of opt-in:

Yesterday -- probably while #privchat was happening -- comedian Louis CK participated in an "Ask me Anything" event on In it, a user asks what Louis CK is current learning. As part of his response, Louis CK details how offering something as tiny as an opt-in mailing list has generated a lot of positive feelings. Other reddit users respond in with similar sentiments. The last line in the image below is very telling: "I checked opt-in just because I appreciate it was defaulted opt-out."

I would love for Louis CK to publish the numbers of those who opted-in to the mailing list vs. the total number purchases. Perhaps I will send him an e-mail...

The image below is a capture of the relevant section of the larger AMA, which can be found here:

If your unfamiliar with reddit or Louis CK, I should probably give a warning that the image below contains not safe for work language.