Too rare is the opportunity for us average Janes and Joes to tell the government they’re doing it wrong. Now, courtesy of Obama’s copyright czar Victoria Espinel, you can write an angry letter and help save your favorite torrent tracker or file-sharing forum at the same time. Espinel and her office recently issued a request for public comments on the US anti-piracy agenda, officially titled the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, or PRO-IP.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the czar isn’t giving us simple citizens carte blanche to say whatever we want. Comments must be formulated as responses to some carefully worded prompts about the “threats to public health and safety created by infringement” and the public’s “recommendations for improving… intellectual property enforcement.” The language in the request is at best leaning, and at worst loaded, so there might not seem to be a whole lot of room for disputing the fundamental necessity of copyright enforcement. That said, any input in the process is better than none, and TMT knows its readership possesses the intellectual acumen to turn crafty government lemons into politically critical lemonade.
Clearly Espinel’s attempt at transparent, participatory government is a bit of a mixed blessing. But it should provide some comfort to know that the DC-based digital rights advocacy organization Public Knowledge welcomed Espinel’s appointment late last year. Looks like we’ll have to wait and see whether any IP/copyright policies change in order to find out whether our voices (emails) have been heard (read). Just keep in mind, the deadline for comments on the PRO-IP act are due by 5 PM on March 24, so act fast.