I remember fondly the days when we were all tickled pink by our elected officials’ struggle to understand how the internet works. Whether it was George W. Bush referring to “the internets” or Senator Ted Stevens describing said internets as “a series of tubes,” we would sit back and chortle at our well-meaning but horribly uninformed representatives, confident that the right people would eventually steer them back on course. Well I have news for members of Congress: Those days are over.
We get it. You think you can be cute and old-fashioned by openly admitting that you don’t know what a DNS server is. You relish the opportunity to put on a half-cocked smile and ask to skip over the techno-jargon, conveniently masking your ignorance by making yourselves seem better aligned with the average American joe or jane — the “non-nerds” among us. But to anyone of moderate intelligence that tuned in to yesterday’s Congressional mark-up of SOPA, the legislation that seeks to fundamentally change how the internet works, you kind of just looked like a bunch of jack-asses.
A large majority of the angel investors and venture capitalists who took part in a Booz & Company study say they will not put their money in digital content intermediaries (DCIs) if governments pass tough new rules allowing websites to be sued or fined for pirated digital content posted by users. (DCIs are the companies that provide search, hosting, and distribution services for digital content such as YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud, eBay, and thousands of others.) More than 70 percent of angel investors reported they would be deterred from investing if anti-piracy regulations against “user uploaded” websites were increased.
More than 80 percent of the angel investors would prefer to invest in a risky, weak economy (with the current internet regulations) vs. a strong economy (but with the new, more stringent proposed regulations on copyright infringement).
If the legal framework for digital content was clarified, and penalties on copyright infringement were limited for content providers acting in good faith, the pool of angels interested in investing would increase by nearly 115 percent.
Tumblr would not have been funded if it was trying to raising capital in the current regulatory environment.
The first thing you need to know about the U.S. patent system is that it has a backlog of more than 700,000 patents.
The second thing you need to know is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been so neglected for so many years — literally robbed of funds by Congress, which re-appropriated portions of the agency’s budget for other purposes — that the organization tasked with protecting America’s technological and scientific assets labors with too few staff and a “20-year old technology infrastructure that does not even remotely enable it to take advantage of modern information technology.”
And the most important thing you need to know about the U.S. patent system is that the America Invents Act just passed by Congress doesn’t fix any of this. Nor does it touch the larger issue of whether or not it’s wise to allow inventors to patent business processes and software and then sue the hell out of each other in a cage match that is essentially a tax on innovation.