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2012 State of the Net Conference Highlights

From Jan. 17 -18, EDUCAUSE Policy team representatives attended “State of the Net,” the largest Internet policy conference in the country, which is hosted by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (http://www.netcaucus.org/conference/2012/). Videos of the conference sessions and keynotes can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/InternetCaucusAC

The issue dominating the conference was the federal anti-online copyright infringement legislation, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) (S. 978) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (H.R. 3261).  This is not surprising as the event took place during the “web blackout” organized to protest this legislation. 

Paul Brigner, Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Policy Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, offered an olive branch when he confirmed that the bills’ Domain Name System (DNS) filtering provisions are “off the table” for the legislation, which was welcome news given the potential of those provisions to disrupt Internet security if adopted.  Ultimately, the online piracy panel in which Brigner was participating reached consensus that some form of multi-stakeholder negotiations makes sense in light of the popular opposition to SOPA and PIPA.

In his second-day keynote address, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) noted that, after receiving hundreds of calls about SOPA, none of his constituents had encouraged him to vote for the legislation.  He also acknowledged that the tech community is beginning to wake up "politically," and he encouraged more grassroots efforts to inform the thinking of his peers on more appropriate and effective ways to address digital copyright infringement concerns.  In a substantive critique, Mr. Polis said that SOPA demonstrates the weakness of an enforcement approach to copyright, and he expressed support for a systemic approach to pursuing foreign rogue sites through an international framework based on Digital Millennium Copyright Act-like rules.  On patents, Mr. Polis said that even with recent changes the patent system is still more oriented toward the mechanical era than the digital era.  As for privacy legislation, he observed that “digital natives” are willing to trade privacy to some degree for a customized online experience, which legislative thinking would need to take into account.

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