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Tech at Night: Internet Tax, Copyright, Security, Net Neutrality

Tech at Night

And now I really push the definition of Tech at Night, starting to write this at 2am. I’d originally planned to skip tonight’s edition, and instead just sleep. But I woke up, and sleep isn’t returning anytime soon, so let’s make the rounds of tech and policy.

Some Democrats still haven’t learned the lesson of the PCCC. The far left alternative to the DCCC published a Net Neutrality pledge for Democrats to sign. Every Democrat who signed it lost in November. Yet some Democrats continue to press that extremist agenda. It shows just how of touch Harry Reid’s Senate really is.

Possibly more importantly, the drive for the Internet Tax (which again, they call Universal Service Fund reform) continues from the left. The New York Times came out for it, and a group called Consumer Federation of America is even targeting Netflix specifically for an Internet tax. Watch out.

How about some security? Chinese computer networking manufacturer Huawei wants the US government to endorse it as safe in order to help it compete with US firms like Cisco. Few people trust Huawei because few people want the People’s Liberation Army to spy on their networks. And that fear is well-founded not just for government applications but commercial as well: the intellectually and morally bankrupt fascist system in the PRC requires the country to spy on others to gain technical innovations.

And that cuts right to the heart of the problem of “cybersecurity,” I believe. Bayshore Networks points out that foreign threats are real, and says we should “focus on how to defend our military and civil infrastructure.” That’s true, but as far as civil infrastructure, I just don’t think government has a role in that beyond merely handing useful information out to the public, though I’m thinking more in terms of US-CERT than Homeland Security threat level. This is practical and reasonable because the government needs to collect the same information to be able to protect government networks, so it might as well be shared with industry.

Moving on, Google continues to run the risk of harmful government action against its core interests thanks to the precedent set by its Net Neutrality arguments. Having argued in favor of government regulation to mandate “transparency,” Google’s allies on the left may turn around and demand Search Neutrality and transparency going forward. Google must learn not to ride that scorpion.

And tonight we close with some copyright. Patrick Leahy’s wrong-headed COICA may be stalled, but it’s not dead. We must continue to look for ways to thread the needle on copyright, protecting the public interest while still encouraging the creation and sale of works. Copyright law must do both, or we risk problems as foreign countries or even domestic activists take drastic measures to unlock works withheld from the public by inversions of copyright’s intent.

Copyright is commonly called a form of “intellectual property” these days, but it is not property in the usual sense. Copyrights are not a thing a person can have and hold, possess or build a fence around, the ownership of which being government’s duty is to protect. No, copyright is something created out of thin air by government, not because we want to allow people to get perpetual rents off of one creation, one time. No, we want to reward creation, but encourage the creation of more works, as well as to ensure those works get into the hands of the public. Too strong and too long copyright works against that intent.

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