Saturday, January 14, 2012

Howard Dean and Rush Holt Oppose SOPA

On Wednesday night I attended a fundraising event for Rush Holt, the Congressman representing central New Jersey. He's not my congressman, but as one of the few scientists in congress, he better represents many of my interests than the congressman representing my district. That guy has just been redistricted so he really doesn't represent me any more. As an added attraction, the event featured Howard Dean, the former DNC chairman and presidential candidate.

The reason I really wanted to attend the event was that I wanted to express my dismay at SOPA, the anti-intellectual-piracy proposal that would require the government to shoot internet machine guns at copyright cockroaches, with predictable results. I've previously written about how this law would affect libraries, both domestic and foreign.

The funny thing is that I had trouble discovering where Rep. Holt stood on the issue. I hoped that he would at least be sympathetic. So I arrived early to be sure to ask directly.

I waited my turn to get a photo taken,  introduced myself and said I thought SOPA was a terrible law. To my great relief, both Rep. Holt and Gov. Dean responded quickly that they were against SOPA, and that opposition to the bill was growing rapidly. Gov. Dean urged me to talk to his brother Jim, who heads "Democracy for America" (DFA) the grassroots political organization started by Howard after his presidential run ran out.

It turns out that DFA has begun to oppose SOPA without even publicizing what it's doing. Their tech guy, with the support of the Deans, moved their many domains away from GoDaddy over the holiday break. So if you want to support a progressive group that's walking the walk on SOPA opposition, DFA is a great option. They've not made a big deal of it, because they're not sure how to translate their opposition into action.

When it comes to paying attention to science and what it tells us about public policy, Rep. Holt is the real deal. He's also paying attention to the changing roles of libraries and libraries in today's educational environment. Yesterday he toured school libraries in New Jersey with IMLS director Susan Hildreth to promote the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act, which he will soon introduce on the federal level. As I wrote last year, proper use of librarians in schools can have measurable impact on student achievement.

Howard Dean was the star of the evening, however. He spoke extemporaneously for about a half an hour and had the crowd cheering. He does have a problem with microphones, however. He gets so involved in what he talks about that any microphone amp in the vicinity goes into distortion. It was heartening to hear a national politician mention the SOPA controversy among all the other problems the nation faces.

For all the fears that SOPA is not getting proper attention in the mainstream media, its good to know there are some people in power who understand the issues.


  1. I don' know SOPA in details, but for me regarding piracy, if the basic principles are :
    1) against piracy centers and not end users (always centers in piracy due to the need for catalogs and search amongst other things, "peer to peer" also a lot of hypocrisy in the terms and everybody knows it)
    2) No monitoring at all of end users flow, or collection of their IPs, a formal complaint required from somebody about a user acting as a center
    3) All procedures are legal and public
    Then it clearly is the right way to do it, not to forget that if piracy doesn't create any revenues for authors and creators, it does create some (and not a little) for some people :

    Note : above more developed below (but in French) :
    And "zero piracy" doesn't matter in anyway (not more than school kids exchanging files), problem is when it becomes the default and easiest access method for works and publications.
    But on this, in order to have a real "user experience" added value in buying instead of pirating, and this in a non quasi monopolistic environment (or with just 2 or three "monsters"), clearly something like below would be needed :
    And a little cartoon :

  2. What is the significance of switching away from GoDaddy?

  3. SOPA and PIPA seem to be off the table for now, but there is more going on regarding the subject: ACTA. And it's not only an European matter but a worldwide, as it was initiated by America and Japan and ist almost signed by the members of the EU as well.
    More information f.e. at: