Interview A US politician challenging the pro-Hollywood Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is supporting file-sharing as a means to promote business innovation and keep the internet free.
Republican challenger Steve Urquhart is taking a pro-small business and creative commons stance against Hatch, arguing that hobbling file-sharing technology through government legislation, that is enforced through the courts, is bad for business. Urquhart is running for the GOP seat against Hatch in 2006.
Urquhart has talked out against Hatch’s proposed Induce Act, a bill that world make “the intentional inducement of copyright infringement” an offense. He is also critical of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), backed by Hatch - and others - and signed into law.
Urquhart, whose campaign seeks donations from internet users, not just those living and voting in his native land of Utah, believes Hatch’s legislation plays into the hands of big, corporate media interests and helps stifle small business.
“Senator Hatch has shown that he doesn’t understand the internet, or at least, he does not welcome the kind of democratizing tool it can be,” Urquhart told The Register.
“File-sharing technology is value-neutral and it’s amazing. The technology should be lauded. Like most good things, though, it can be used in inappropriate ways. In those cases, the actions, not the technology should be discouraged,” he said.
Urquhart is sharply critical of both Hatch and the Induce Act, and the defense they use of protecting copyright. “I think the threat of potential copyright suits by Hollywood and the recording industry makes it difficult for new businesses to compete. Small businesses simply won’t bother to enter the fray or will fold at the first threat of a suit – even when what they are doing is legal,” Urquhart said.
He noted big organizations like Disney have built massive franchises by taking prior art from the common culture and slapping on their own copyright, thereby claiming ownership. “Walt Disney built an empire by taking public domain works like Cinderella and dressing them up with his imagination,” Urquhart said.
He believes the reason legislation like the Induce Act has become possible is a result of the lobbying power of entrenched business and what he called: “The lack of appreciation for how fundamentally different the economy and business are today than they were when these [politicians] left real life and entered the beltway."
“Politicians can best help . . . the internet community by staying out of the way. Politicians usually are a few steps behind society. When it comes to the internet, they are laps behind,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart is a keen blogger and is using his online campaign against Hatch to encourage techies to flex their muscle. The candidate said he’d attracted “significant” support from internet users and “many” tech backers in his efforts to raise between $750,000 and $1m to fund the 2006 campaign against Hatch.
He claims internet users supporting him share a common chord of wanting a senator who understands the internet, and its role in the economy, and who is willing to fight to protect the part it plays.
Voting out the incumbent will also send the message to lawmakers in the US Congress about the value of file sharing and how the Induce Act, and similar works like the defunct Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act sponsored by Senator Fritz Hollings – a.k.a “the Senator from Disney” - are ill conceived.
“I’m confident that if the technical community were to help turn out Senator Hatch, 534 other people in Washington would pay closer attention to technology in the future,” Urquhart said.®