I hereby propose a new bit of legislation: those who make laws are hereby required to understand the technology they’re trying to enforce. For sake of clarification, “understanding” is not defined as “taking money from major corporations”. Just wanted to be clear on that point.
In the United States, we have the woeful Digital Millenium Copyright Act — legislation created without regard to anything resembling reality. In Europe, they’re trying to decide if iTunes should be regulated or even made more open. Apparently, iTunes and its proprietary format restrict user ability to play music on other devices. The Europeans may be on to something: we’re rapidly entering an era where Digital Rights Management (DRM) is about protecting hardware sales, not copyright.
But I digress. We live in an era where the lawmakers making the rules don’t use the technology they’re regulating. If you don’t know how email is sent and received or how consumers listen to the music they buy, then you probably shouldn’t be making laws on the issues. In fact, I have a second proposal: all future candidate debates should have questions that force answers on the technological issues facing Americans today.
Moderator: Candidate A, have you ever turned on the computer in your office?
Candidate A: My assistant prints out my emails for me every morning.
Candidate B: Yes, I not only turn on my own computer, but I read my email without printing it. I also compose my own replies, surf YouTube, and have successfully transferred music from my hard drive to my iPod. I also know the difference between ripping and burning.
If your candidate can’t answer the basic questions about computer use — the general knowledge that pretty much every person under the age of thirty possesses — then it’s time to get fresh blood in Congress. Forget the partisan politics, this is about keeping our nation out of the technology equivalent of the Stone Age. The people who make the rules are not qualified to do the work.
When a United States Senator announces that it took five days for the Internet to reach him and uses that as justification for legislating anti-consumer, anti-neutrality “protection”, there’s a problem. This man should not be in charge of making recommendations until he understands the issue.
You say that you’re not into politics all that much, but this isn’t about politics. Okay, it is. If you like getting your email in a timely manner, if you like reading news online, if you like watching funny little videos, if you like looking up arcane bits of information on Google, if you like lurking on forums that talk about the last night’s episode of Veronica Mars, then you need to vote against candidates who want to destroy your ability to do so.
Barring that, we need to demand that those members of Congress who serve on commerce and communications and technology and whatever committees be educated in the matters they’re regulating.