Online Speech

A prime example of the lack of congressional technology chops is this new HR 4194 bill presented in a most positive light as a way to protect “bloggers”. The mistake it makes, and this is the same broad clumsy brush that painted Hatch’s INDUCE act, in that it refers to “web logs” only. INDUCE referred to “P2P” technology without bothering to define it. P2P can equally cover the technology behind email, instant messaging, and legal file transfers, all which would have been made illegal by INDUCE. HR 4194 seems to think that all political communication on the Internet is done over “web logs” and therefore only that should be protected speech. Nevermind mailing lists, Usenet, web bulletin boards, audio, video, and other technologies down the road. Some staffer thought the only speech that needed to be free was “web logs” and therefore we have our amendment to protect “that Internet thing”.

For the first time in the history of democracy, the Internet presents the opportunity for all to have an equal voice in lobbying congress and political action. What disturbs me about the FEC actions is that it appears they are attempting to curb that freedom.

Many prominent political blogs have joined together, acrossthe political spectrum, to fight this. I echo their efforts to have you call your representative and let them know to vote “NO” on HR 4194.

What remains to be seen is whether the political efforts of online communities will ever result in the election of a candidate who understands what they’re talking about.

4 thoughts on “Online Speech

  1. What makes me wonder about using the term “web log” with no definition is this: Let’s say that, instead of calling this a “Campaign Journal,” this was a personl journal. Someone (including the government) could then say that this is a “Journal” not a “web log.”


  2. There is a very good reason why the INDUCE Act did not define “P2P” technology. It never uses that term, or any related term, anywhere in the bill. There is nothing in the bill that is specific to P2P technology.

    But don’t take my word for it. Go to and look it up yourself. It’s S. 2560 during the 108th Congress. And it’s only a few paragraphs long, so it shouldn’t be hard for anybody who wants the facts to see what it says.

    As for “email, instant messaging, and legal file transfers” being “made illegal” by the INDUCE Act, I guess they have been illegal since June 27th, when a unanimous Supreme Court said one who intentionally induces copyright infringement is liable as an infringer. Which is just what the INDUCE Act said.

    It would be nice if candidates did understand what they’re talking about.

  3. Lee, read Senator Hatch’s floor statement in regards to the bill. Its apparent that INDUCE was intended as a shoehorn for further attacks on technology. You argument is correct in that the Supreme Court upheld the idea of inducement in the Grokster case, but what Hatch tried to do with INDUCE before that was established was paint with the previously described “broad brush”.

    The text of the bill is limited, but the intent was clear by his statement.

  4. I’m well aware of Senator Hatch’s floor statement, but what you wrote was “INDUCE referred to ‘P2P’ technology without bothering to define it.” and it didn’t. If you are going to criticize a bill, or use it as an example of something, at least try to be factual about what the bill actually says.

    And again, what Senator Hatch (along with a number of other senators, including Leahy, Daschle, Boxer, and Clinton) was trying to do with the INDUCE Act is exactly what the Supreme Court did in its unanimous Grokster decision: recognize that one who intentionally induces copyright infringement is liable as an infringer.

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