No, those are not sisters of Kate; nor are they foods, Italian acrobats, prized dogs or special names for grandparents….

They are the acronyms for two ill-fated and possibly ill-conceived pieces of legislation that were in front of the Unites States Congress:

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

The Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA)

Ill-fated because a wildfire online social swell caused its backers to back off.

Ill-conceived because I don’t believe it was handled right.

Look, at the end of the day it’s all about freedom – the right to free speech and the fear of stifling innovation.

On the other hand, creators of unique content and IP have the freedom to own and protect their creations and you and I have the freedom to share or not share our own digital selves.

And there is the sticking point – the conflict – the tension.

There are a lot of freedoms at stake here and at some point either we trust companies and people to be honest brokers and protect and defend our rights as much as their own, or we legislate and force the issue.

Now, I have written a lot about how I feel regarding anonymous posters – posters of good and posters of bad – as well as my worries about the lack of protection for those who create the kind of content and innovation that lasts through the ages.

However, there is a balance. There are places where people can’t speak out for fear of imprisonment or death; there are people who are reticent to ask questions or seek help under their own names; there are people who create and develop and innovate using other’s ideas as platforms and catapults….

Overriding all, however, is the fear of censorship and government interference.

So there you have it. On Sunday I heard Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, discuss the issue and present the EU’s position and direction at DLD in Munich.

I also heard Dean Hachamovitch, a Microsoft Corporate VP, discuss the issue and demonstrate its complexities – for example, by landing on just one news site you might be tracked by 15 or more separate sources, all feeding into that one site – a privacy nightmare….

Also, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and a bunch of others all swirling around the same issue – but no one really wanting to admit that a Wild West solution is acceptable.

The lone dissenter was Andrew Keen whose book Digital Vertigo is set for June publishing, who believes that we need to take back our privacy – now.

But here is the thing – we make out as if the whole issue has been created by the digital world – as if it never existed before – as if during the age of audio tape companies didn’t worry about piracy – as if in the fashion and watch worlds people don’t worry about piracy – as if in the old-fashioned mail order world of 100-plus years ago people didn’t worry about privacy and data protection.


The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.

Albert Einstein

And there you have it.

The U.S. Congress needed to discuss the underlying issues – not the digital veneer – and they needed to enlist all of the digital channels as well.

All of these issues existed before – but the efficiency and ubiquity of digital exacerbates the issue. So as old Albert said – it is now urgent.

We need protection and we need openness – we can’t trample one person’s freedoms for another’s – but the problem isn’t new – only getting worse….

What do you think?

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