As the only opponent of the Berman-Coble P2P bill to speak at yesterday's hearings
, Gigi Sohn got a grilling from Howard Berman. "He took every pot shot at me he could," says Sohn, president of an advocacy group called Public Knowledge
But Sohn says that just being invited to the hearings was a sign of progress. "I was pleased they had a consumer advocate," she told me. "The industry is used to not paying attention and having their way, but these issues have changed. Now you have people calling their representatives because they understand what this means for their own computers."
Berman and Coble seemed incredulous that the bill had stirred up controversy, she says. Much of the subcommittee remains mired in the mindset that opposition to the bill equals indifference if not actual support for piracy. But Sohn is no digital anarchist: she could live with less-drastic if still undesirable tactics such as spoofing and redirection, and she advocates enforcement of existing piracy laws. She draws the line, though, at denial of service attacks, which seem possible under the proposed law.
Can this bill be saved? "I might feel comfortable if there was specific language about not providing safe harbor for remedies that lead to denial of service," she says. "I get the sense they will try to tinker with it, but they would have to do a lot."
There is plenty of work to be done in the months before the subcommittee reconvenes to mark up the bill. Public input has already made an impact on this issue, and there is reason to believe that more pressure could bring results. Representatives who are skeptical of the proposed legislation include Rick Boucher, Zoe Lofgren, and to a lesser degree, Anthony Weiner. Other key players include Coble, Berman, Bob Goodlatte, and Lamar Smith. Email is said to be less effective for Congresspeople than phones or telegrams.
Public Knowledge is a year-old group focused on issues that often come down to keeping the Internet from being totally dominated by corporate power. Start-up funding came from a foundation created by the founders of Red Hat. In January, Public Knowledge plans to launch a free, software-based tool that will make it easy to contact members of Congress, other parts of government, and industry by phone, fax, email, or telegram.
Sohn says the battle over the bill is not over. "The fact that people are making such a fuss is clearly bothering them," she says of Hollywood’s henchmen. "They are starting to hear it."