If you rely on Wikipedia (not sure I could live without it), it will be dark Wednesday. This unusual action is a protest against two bills that were under consideration in Congress: SOPA and PIPA. However, I just found out that SOPA is dead as of earlier today. PIPA (Protect IP Act) is the Senate’s version of the Stop Online Piracy Act as SOPA was called. (don’t you just love the names of legislation–so carefully crafted to be beyond argument or disagreement).
The storm of protest these proposed measures caused demonstrated the power inherent in this communication network we call the internet to influence our laws and future. There is a value system and an ethical platform that underlies this network and while far from homogeneous it is something that can be described and even felt. Any legislator, like any company leader, not fully understanding this value system runs the risk of serious damage. GoDaddy, one of the internet’s largest domain registry sites, lost 100,000 domain names in about 10 days because the CEO rather thoughtlessly backed SOPA, then changed his mind after he saw the damage. He should have learned more from his elephant hunting escapade.
Note to legislators–I understand that you are concerned, rightly so, about protecting IP. But, before cooking up more legislation along the lines of SOPA and PIPA I suggest two things: be aware of unintended consequences and how much damage you could do without even realizing it and 2) consult with the internet technorati and engage them in a solution that will help solve the problem and gain their support. If you don’t you may find “The Internet” will not want to see you re-elected.