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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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February 13, 2012

Three Stories from the Immediately Post-SOPA World

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

It continues to be exceedingly difficult to track everything that's going on in the Copyright Wars right now. If I may be permitted to abuse military analogies a bit: for a couple years it has felt like the Wars were in trench warfare mode. The Cartel was slowly grinding down P2P companies and suing thousands of its own customers, doing its best to defend antiquated business models and high profit margins in the face of new technologies. Meanwhile, the cultural terrain was shifting. SOPA/PIPA were like a big offensive - had they succeeded they would have been major changes in the technological and legal landscape. And the Cartel failed. Bigtime.

However instead of retreating and licking its wounds the beast pressed back on all fronts, from Chris Dodd talking tough in the US, to C-11 in Canada, and the world-wide threat to liberty that is ACTA. Herewith, then, three perspectives to help you keep the situation in view.

First, techdirt lets us know that the Cartel still hates us all. Contrary to people who said that the Cartel might have learned something, or been the least bit humbled, or come around to the idea that talking before legislating was a good idea... nope, none of that. techdirt dissects, piece by piece, the screed published in the NY Times by Cary Sherman, head of the RIAA. You can read the detailed point-by-point there; I'll just say that an organization which has dedicated years and lost millions of dollars suing its customers is just not going to change its tune overnight.

Second, Tech Review has an interview (which I saw linked from Boingboing) with Aaron Swartz. This is a man who has made a name for himself in the tech world many times over: helping to create the RSS 1.0 standard, helping to found Reddit, and most recently getting in trouble allegedly for using a network closet at MIT to grab more or less all of the JSTOR online database of academic journal articles. If you haven't heard of Swartz's name in connection with the anti-SOPA movement that may be because you (like me) weren't paying attention to SOPA back in September of 2010 back when he was circulating one of the first petitions to raise awareness of and opposition to the bill.

The Swartz interview ends up being somewhat light, and steers clear of his current legal troubles. He does point out, as others have, that the Writers Guild is one of the few organizations in Hollywood that seems to 'get' the Internet, in part because the protracted strike forced many of them onto the net and they've begun to see how they can make money there.

Finally, Prof David Post - who I've blogged about before as a staunch opponent of Internet-killing legislation, has a piece up at Verdict titled "SOPA and the Future of Internet Governance". Post's piece is aimed at the not-necessarily-activist readers of Justia, who are themselves often lawyers or the legally curious.

As an intro piece, Post's article probably doesn't contain any new material for those who've been playing along this whole time. He doesn't mince words, though, calling SOPA "outmoded, unworkable, and unjust" and stating categorically that "SOPA Undermines the Rule of Law" in discussing things such as SOPA's proposed ex parte proceedings. Such language is not just rhetorical flourishing: Post is advocating for a rule of law that promotes and protects freer and more open interchange on the Internet, and reaching out to a potentially large and so-far untapped audience.

Like it or not, legislation is often written by lawyers - both Congresscritters and legal people on their staffs - and lawyers often testify to Congress about bills that are under consideration. If more of the legal community can be motivated to understand and oppose bad legislation, particularly in an era when too many in Congress freely admit they don't use and don't understand the Internet, then this sort of advocacy is sorely needed.

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