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Celebrating Internet Freedom Day

· January 18, 2013

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Today is the one-year anniversary of The SOPA Blackouts.  On January 18, 2012, in protest of two pending bills in Congress, SOPA and PIPA, people in charge of hundreds of websites  from personal blogs to highly-trafficked domains like Wikipedia and reddit  decided to have their sites go dark as self-censorship, indicative of the potential consequences of these legislative efforts, which would have given copyright holders the ability to shut down entire websites for one allegedly infringing post.

In an essay a few weeks ago, Marvin Ammori asserted that the Internet needs its own holiday, suggesting Internet Freedom Day for January 18.  Many of the activists who were vocal in opposing SOPA have also been tweeting and blogging about this effort today.  (Just search for the hashtag: #InternetFreedomDay)  This should be an annual initiative: a yearly occurrence to keep remembering what can be accomplished when people rally around a common goal.  It’s also an occasion to remember how Internet freedom is essential for fueling societal progress through expression and engagement, for economic growth through creation and innovation.

On Tuesday, January 15, CEA held a Celebration of Internet Freedom, an event premiering the Silicon Prairie documentary that highlighted Internet-fueled innovation by startups across the midwest.  At that event, Representatives Jason Chaffetz, Darrell Issa, Zoe Lofgren, and Jared Polis all spoke about last January’s events, and their perspectives toward the new session of Congress.  One common thread was that they wanted positive reforms, instead of just fighting against bad bills.  Rep. Chaffetz was optimistic about bills like the Internet Radio Fairness Act.  Rep. Issa was discouraged by the lack of government transparency in 2012 and pledged to look into overreach, including Aaron Swartz’s prosecution.  Rep. Lofgren proposed reforms to the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Trans-Pacific Partnership, and copyright law.  Rep. Polis invoked the buggy whip story that Glenn wrote about in one of our first DisCo posts, a classic tale about the disruptive innovation that DisCo champions.  As I said about Senator Ron Wyden’s speech at CES, it is encouraging that these important Congressional advocates remain dedicated to these essential causes as the 113th Congress begins.

Innovation

New technologies are constantly emerging that promise to change our lives for the better. These disruptive technologies give us an increase in choice, make technologies more accessible, make things more affordable, and give consumers a voice. And the pace of innovation has only quickened in recent years, as the Internet has enabled a wave of new, inter-connected devices that have benefited consumers around the world, seemingly in all aspects of their lives. Preserving an innovation-friendly market is, therefore, tantamount not only to businesses but society at large.

Intellectual Property

The Internet enables the free exchange of ideas and content that, in turn, promote creativity, commerce, and innovation. However, a balanced approach to copyright, trademarks, and patents is critical to this creative and entrepreneurial spirit the Internet has fostered. Consequently, it is our belief that the intellectual property system should encourage innovation, while not impeding new business models and open-source developments.