28 January 2006

When politicians meet reality

Unlike those of the masses, the ignorant opinions of politicians really matter. For several years we have been suffering under bad technology law, particularly from the US, passed mainly by politicians utterly ignorant of what they are legislating.

There is a sign (via BoingBoing) that is beginning to change:
... in yesterday's Commerce hearings, two Senators altered the course of events. First MIT grad John Sununu of New Hampshire said that government mandates "always restrict innovation" and then 82-year-old Ted Stevens of Alaska talked about the iPod he'd gotten for Christmas and put the RIAA's Mitch Bainwol on the spot about whether his proposal would break Stevens' ability to move digital radio programs to his iPod and listen to them in the most convenient way (it would).
There is a chance that this is the turning of the corner. Corrupt interests can get bad laws passed, but it's very much easier if the politicians don't know why they're bad. The more that lawmakers are exposed to the technology of the future, the less likely they are to unwittingly ban it.

On a related issue, I recently started reading Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture. A particularly eye-opening point made early on: Hollywood exists because film-makers went there to escape the effective reach of Edison's film patents. Hollywood is built on weak IP law.

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