Last week, several websites—including Wikipedia—went “dark” to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill under consideration by the House of Representatives that was designed to “expand the ability of US law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.” Because of the vague language included in the act—as well as some provisions that have been characterized as extreme overreaching on the part of federal authorities—many opponents felt that passage of the legislation would cripple, and eventually destroy, the Internet as we know it. Those in favor of controlling online piracy argue that unfettered infringement of copyright and intellectual property (particularly by the foreign websites SOPA is aimed at) impoverishes content creators and innovators. In what has been reported as overwhelming public reaction against SOPA, last week Congress decided to postpone consideration of the legislation, and the White House released a statement saying that the president would not sign off on the bill in its current incarnation.
So what does SOPA (and its sister bill, the Protect IP Act,) have to do with energy efficiency and reliability? In a piece for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Frank O’Connor argues that support for efforts like SOPA are indicative of a larger problem: the tendency of US “politicians, judges, industry, and corrupt lobbyists” to focus on protecting revenues streams from past accomplishments instead of encouraging the development of new products and technologies.
“Put simply,” writes O’Connor, “that’s a huge brake on the US economy . . . which many other economies (e.g., China, Korea, Japan, and the like) simply won’t tolerate or acknowledge. They take what works, and improve on it . . . and that’s one reason why they succeed.”
Nowhere is this more evident than in the race for renewable energy and clean tech solutions for the industrialized world. As O’Connor points out, countries like China, Korea, and India have emerged as major competitors in the renewable energy industry—in part because (as we have discussed before) the governments in those countries are willing to financing domestic R&D for renewable energy.
O’Connor takes the US to task for failing to “grasp the facts that little numbers like Green technology would actually introduce energy efficiencies (reducing massive energy deficits for example) and increasing demand (stimulating economic growth—China realizes this already, believe me!), that the economic rationalism of its industrialists means its major industries have all based themselves overseas and that major competitor nations (China, Korea, Taiwan, and to a certain extent India) are retooling and developing at exactly the right time for the next wave of economic and technological development.”
So what do you think? Is it a stretch to compare the free flow of ideas—and the technological innovations it can inspire—with unfettered copyright infringement? Is SOPA another example of the shortsighted thinking that has doomed us to a US energy policy that favors protecting traditional (ergo older) energy sources like oil and gas to the detriment of new energy solutions? And could the massive public outcry that effectively shut down the SOPA initiative be as effective when focused on other policy issues, like clean energy and our aging infrastructure?
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
January 26th, 2012
5 Steps to Creating a Successful Public Outreach Campaign
Change starts with people. Whether your focus is stormwater pollution, energy conservation, pavement restoration, or recycling, a successful public outreach campaign resonates with your target audience and leads to long-lasting behavior change. Join Erica Hooper of SGA to explore a proven 5-step approach to crafting a successful outreach campaign based on real-world examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read more…