Issa touts crowdsourced provisions in anti-piracy bill
Editor's note: This story was updated Feb. 7, 2012, to correct Sen. Ron Wyden's party affiliation.
Claiming a milestone in the use of crowdsourcing for legislation, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said six sections of the bill he introduced for online copyright protection include contributions made online by members of the public.
Crowdsourcing is defined as inviting Web users to participate in open public forums to share, rank and vote on ideas and comments about a topic. The White House and General Services Administration have spearheaded several crowdsourcing initiatives on the IdeaScale platform.
Issa invited public input into a draft version of legislation he authored, the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act. The lawmaker established a website, KeepTheWebOpen.com, in December which had collected 93 comments and 67 comments on the draft proposal, as of Feb. 6.
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Issa, in a statement issued Feb. 6, said he included improvements to six sections of the legislation from the users’ comments.
“Internet users generated improvements to six sections of the OPEN Act, representing the first-ever legislative markup truly open to the American public,” Issa said in the statement.
While both the draft and final versions of the OPEN Act appeared to be available at KeeptheWebOpen.com, an FCW staff writer was not able to access the draft version to compare the two, due to an apparent malfunctioning Web link on Feb. 6. A call to Issa's office was not returned by press time.
Issa’s proposal was developed with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., as a possible alternative to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate companion, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), both of which stalled recently due to a groundswell of opposition, with numerous website blacked out for a day in protest. SOPA and PIPA won support from the film, publishing and recording industries, but was opposed by technology companies and civil libertarians as being too restrictive of freedom of speech and innovation online.
Issa said his crowdsourcing experience was intended “to empower those shut out from the process that produced SOPA and PIPA. It is an ongoing experiment in direct digital democracy, but the introduced version of the OPEN Act is proof that crowdsourcing can deliver better bills and a more accountable government."
Under the OPEN Act, a process would be established through the International Trade Commission to cut off the flow of funds from online advertising and payment processors to websites that sell stolen intellectual property.
While the alternative bill has been endorsed by more than two dozen lawmakers, content makers are said to view it as too narrow in how it defines copyright-infringing websites.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.