Thursday Threads: SOPA, PROTECT-IP, Research Works Act, and Broad E-Textbook Pilot

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One could say it is an all intellectual property edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads. How could one miss the outpouring of opposition to SOPA/PROTECT-IP? If that was an overwhelming story you might have missed the introduction of the Research Works Act that could end the open access mandates now at the National Institutes of Health and coming elsewhere. And because we need some good news, Internet2 announced a new electronic textbook pilot that could be really interesting.

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Support for Web Bill Wanes as Protests Spread

When the powerful world of old media mobilized to win passage of an online antipiracy bill, it marshaled the reliable giants of K Street — the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Recording Industry Association of America and, of course, the motion picture lobby, with its new chairman, former Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and an insider’s insider.

Yet on Wednesday this formidable old guard was forced to make way for the new as Web powerhouses backed by Internet activists rallied opposition to the legislation through Internet blackouts and cascading criticism, sending an unmistakable message to lawmakers grappling with new media issues: Don’t mess with the Internet.

- Support for Web Bill Wanes as Protests Spread, By Jonathan Weisman, New York Times

The population of the internet became very familiar with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (a.k.a. PIPA) today with major internet services like Wikipedia blocking access to its articles and Google placing a black rectangle over its logo. Advocacy sites like americancensorship.org and blacklist.eff.org and www.google.com/landing/takeaction sprang up to prompt U.S. citizens to call their Senators and non-U.S. citizens to petition the U.S. State Department to set in motion opposition to bills that once seemed inevitable. And all sorts of people took to Twitter to protest the fact that they couldn’t use Wikipedia to answer their homework.

It wasn’t all a one-way street, though. Former Senator Chris Dodd (and now MPAA chairperson) denounced the protests as “an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on [the sites] for information and [who] use their services.” House Judiciary Committee Chairperson Lamar Smith announced that his committee will resume consideration of SOPA in February. And PROTECT-IP Act sponsor Senator Leahy released a point-by-point rebuttal to some of the claims made by opponents.

At the end of the day, the protest clearly had an effect on the legislation as co-sponsors dropped their support of PROTECT-IP and others made statements opposing the bill. As this is being written on the evening of the 18th, the ProPublica lists 41 Senators supporting and 19 Senators opposing or “leaning no” (OpenCongress’ whip count lists it as 34 to 35 versus last night’s OpenCongress count of 39 to 16), so it is unclear whether there the 60 votes required to end debate and move for passage of PROTECT-IP in the Senate as promised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

I’ve stated my objections to SOPA and my objections to PROTECT-IP, and reiterated them today by putting up an anti-SOPA/PROTECT-IP splash page on DLTJ. I also still think there is more to learn a few levels deeper than the anti-SOPA/PROTECT-IP advocacy. ProPublica has a project called Who in Congress Supports SOPA and PIPA/PROTECT-IP? that offers a variety of ways to categorize supporters and opponents of the legislation including an accounting of campaign donations by industry. On my own Stop-SOPA/PROTECT-IP page, I ask readers to look into Laurence Lessig’s #Rootstrikers movement. A big part of the disconnect and dysfunctional nature of public office holders is the role that campaign contributions play — or, at best, have the appearance of influence — in the public policy decision making. So while SOPA/PROTECT-IP opponents may have won the battle, there is much to do to win the war of undue influence that created SOPA and PIPA in the first place.

More Legislative Shenanigans: Research Works Act

In case SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, hasn’t given you enough heartburn, here’s another development on the legislative horizon to be concerned about–H.R. 3699, the Research Works Act. The Association of American Publishers has provided a summary of what they hope the bill will accomplish, which is a frightening read for those of us committed to the principles of Open Access. It appears that H.R. 3699 would seriously threaten public access to federally funded research and deal a critical blow to the Open Access movement, which has been buoyed by exactly the kind of activity H.R. 3699 seeks to curtail in the AAP’s view, namely public access mandates and the development of repositories for publicly funded research.

- More Legislative Shenanigans: Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), by Meredith Kahn, University of Michigan’s MPublishing blog

Yes, that’s right — more intellectual property legislation in front of the U.S. Congress. This time it is a bill that would protect the business interests of academic publishers by preventing the U.S. government from mandating open access to federally funded research. An article in The Guardian (U.K.) paper says academic publishers have become the enemies of science. The twist here is that one of the sponsors of the Research Works Act is none other that Representative Darrell Issa, one of the leading opponents to SOPA in the House Judiciary Committee. As you might guess, campaign donations are involved and so there is a call from #Rootstrikers to help fight “SOPA v2″.

Internet2, McGraw-Hill, Courseload, and Five Universities Implement eText Pilot in Spring 2012

Participating universities in the pilot get McGraw-Hill eTexts, the Courseload reader and annotation platform integrated with their Learning Management System, and can be part of a joint research study of eText use and perceptions. Through the Courseload software, students can print, use social annotation with classmates and instructors, and access their eTexts on any HTML5-capable tablet, smartphone, or computer. Students will receive their eTexts at no cost as the institutions are subsidizing the study, and students who prefer a full hardcopy book may optionally order a print-on-demand version of the eText for a $28 fee. Faculty interest at the pilot institutions has been very strong.

This is good news for students and etextbooks. It sounds like a good experiment and I’m eager to see the outcomes of the pilot. And something that might make next week’s DLTJ Thursday Threads? The rumor that Apple is expected to delve into textbooks in an announcement today.

The text was modified to update a link from http://dltj.org/tag/protect-ip to http://dltj.org/tag/protect-ip-act on August 22nd, 2012.

(This post was updated on 01-Nov-2012.)