Keen On… SOPA: Mob Rule or Direct Democracy? (TCTV)

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My own views about SOPA and the need to protect online intellectual property are well-known. But even I acknowledge that SOPA was a flawed bill that didn’t represent a viable solution to policing the Internet against intellectual property theft. So is there life after SOPA? How can the technology and content communities carve out a compromise which will simultaneously protect digital innovation and the rights of the creative community?

In the spirit of compromise, I invited Larry Downes, one of SOPA’s most articulate critics, into our San Francisco studio to talk about what comes next. Downes acknowledged that direct democracy on the Internet can sometimes degenerate into mob rule. He also agreed that there is a need for a new kind of dialogue, not only between the technology and entertainment industries, but also involving Internet users – members of communities like Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr – who, he said, needed to be much intimately involved in the political conversation.  This third force, Downes told me, fundamentally alters the power equation and may well also, in the long term, change the entire legislative process in Washington DC.

But Downes’ main point is a little depressing. Politics changes very slowly and technology changes really quickly, he reminded me. So in 18 months time, he predicted, nothing much will have changed in Washington DC. There still won’t be any legislative solution to the problem of online piracy and that promised dialogue between the two (or three) communities will not have materialized.