We’re excited today to release the Copia Institute’s latest report, written by Karl Bode, on the benefits of an open access fiber model to enable much more widespread competition in the broadband space. As I’m sure you know, for huge parts of the US, there is no real broadband competition. This lack of competition allows legacy players to get away with all sorts of questionable behavior — from artificially restricting your broadband to adding ever increasing hidden fees to your bill. If there were actual competition, including low switching costs, these companies wouldn’t be able to get away with this nonsense. Users would flee in droves.
Back in September, the EU Parliament voted to approve a draft of the EU Copyright Directive, despite it including a bunch of very problematic pieces — mainly Article 13’s mandatory filters and Article 11’s snippet tax. What the EU Parliament approved was not the same as what the EU Council of member states had approved, nor what the EU Commission had approved, so now those three bodies have been working on a “trilogue” process to sync up the various versions and come up with a master version that will have to be approved again by all three institutions. There has been a lot of activity in the past few weeks — and Italy’s change of government has made things a bit interesting.
For the past few years, there have been plenty of discussions about “the future of work,” but they tend to fall into one of two camps. You have the pessimists, who insist that the coming changes wrought by automation and artificial intelligence will lead to fewer and fewer jobs, as all of the jobs of today are automated out of existence. Then, there are the optimists who point to basically every single past similar prediction of doom and gloom due to innovation, which have always turned out to be incorrect. People in this camp point out that technology is more likely to augment than replace human-based work, and vaguely insist that “the jobs will come.” Whether you fall into one of those two camps — or somewhere in between or somewhere else entirely — one thing I’d hope most people can agree on is that the future of work will be… different.
Separately, we’re also living in an age where it is increasingly clear that those in and around the technology industry must take more responsibility in thinking through the possible consequences of the innovations they’re bringing to life, and exploring ways to minimize the harmful results (and hopefully maximizing the beneficial ones).
That brings us to the project we’re announcing today, Working Futures, which is an attempt to explore what the future of work might really look like in the next ten to fifteen years. We’re doing this project in partnership with two organizations that we’ve worked with multiples times in the past: Scout.ai and R Street.
The key point of this project: rather than just worry about the bad stuff or hand-wave around the idea of good stuff magically appearing, we want to really dig in — figure out what new jobs may actually appear, look into what benefits may accrue as well as what harms may be dished out — and see if there are ways to minimize the negative consequences, while pushing the world towards the beneficial consequences.
To do that, we’re kicking off a variation on the classic concept of scenario planning, bringing together a wide variety of individuals with different backgrounds, perspectives and ideas to run through a fun and creative exercise to imagine the future, while staying based in reality. We’re adding in some fun game-like mechanisms to push people to think about where the future might head. We’re also updating the output side of traditional scenario planning by involving science fiction authors, who obviously have a long history of thinking up the future, and who will participate in this process and help to craft short stories out of the scenarios we build, making them entertaining, readable and perhaps a little less “wonky” than the output of more traditional scenario plans.
As the first step in this process, we’re asking for input and thoughts on the kinds of “driving forces” that will have the most impact on the future of work in ten to fifteen years. If you go over to WorkingFutur.es right now, you can provide your input on which forces will be the most important and impactful, and help us in thinking through what the future might look like. In late April, we’ll also be hosting an event in San Francisco, where we’ll be using the results of this online process to help us begin to build the frameworks of multiple future scenarios to explore. Please check out the survey and give us your thoughts.
Last month, we noted that a ton of tech companies — including us at the Copia Institute — had signed on to amicus brief opposing the Trump Executive Order on immigration. As you know, the administration came out with a new executive order a few weeks later, trying to get around the multiple courts that had blocked the original order. The new order is just a cosmetic rewriting of the original one with a few small changes that the administration hopes will survive judicial scrutiny. A number of challenges have already been filed to the new order, and in one of them, brought by the state of Hawaii, a bunch of tech companies (again, including the Copia Institute) have now filed an amicus brief opposing the order. In particular, this brief focuses on the harms to the tech industry, including actual examples of harms created by this exec order:
The Copyright Office’s study concerning Section 512 of the DMCA (the notice-and-takedown/safe harbors part of the law) had its second comment period end this week — which is why you’re seeing stories about how the RIAA is suddenly talking about piracy filters and notice-and-staydown. The Copia Institute has filed its own comments, pointing out the already problematic First Amendment issues with the way the current notice-and-takedown system works. Remember, there’s a very high standard set by the Supreme Court before you can take down expressive content. But the notice-and-takedown system ignores all of that:
Late Sunday night, virtually the entire technology industry (plus some companies from other industries as well) signed onto an amicus brief for the Ninth Circuit appeals court, calling Donald Trump’s executive order banning travelers and refugees from certain countries illegal and unconstitutional.
We were thrilled to be a part of the process that helped bring together nearly every major technology company (all put together somewhat frantically on Super Bowl Sunday) to stand up for what we believe is right and against what we find to be an insult to basic humanity and the Constitution.
Several years ago, we hosted a series of really fun events called the Techdirt Greenhouse, which involved getting a lot of smart people together and actively brainstorming on a variety of topics. We’ve been wanting to bring back the Greenhouse events for a while now, and we’re finally going to do so with a new series of evening Greenhouse Salons hosted by the Copia Institute. Today we’re announcing the very first of these new Greenhouse Salons, The Battle For Copyright Reform. As you know, there are ongoing efforts to reform copyright around the globe, with a proposal leaked for the EU and one expected shortly in the US.
We’re more than a bit concerned about the direction copyright reform may be moving in, especially after the leaked European draft, and thus this Greenhouse Salon will be a gathering to not just discuss issues related to copyright reform, but to actively strategize on how best to both respond to the efforts that are currently underway, and take a much more long-term view on how to really reform copyright in a much more useful way — one that isn’t anti-public and anti-innovation, but which recognizes that there are ways to build policies that align the interests of content creators, the public and innovators together. The event, in partnership with Automattic (creators of WordPress) and sponsored by Pinterest, will be held on September 12th at 6pm in San Francisco. It’s what we consider a working event, where everyone will be expected to participate in discussion groups. The event is invite only (and we’ve already invited a bunch of great people to take part), but we’re now opening it up for others to request an invite as well. We’ll do our best to accommodate requests for invites, while maintaining our goal of keeping the overall attendance at a manageable number to ensure that the group can actually function and accomplish things, and to involve people who have something productive to contribute to the overall discussion.
If you’re interested, please fill out the form to request an invite. We’ll be having more Greenhouse Salons on other topics (and probably in other locations) in future months, so stay tuned…
Late last year, we told you about a worrisome effort by the European Commission to saddle the internet with unnecessary regulations. They had released an online “consultation” which was ostensibly part of the effort to create a “Digital Single Market” (a good idea in the world of a borderless internet), but which appears to have been hijacked by some bureaucrats who saw it as an opportunity to attack big, successful internet companies and saddle them with extra regulations. It’s pretty clear from the statements and the questions that the Commission is very much focused on somehow attacking Google and Facebook (and we won’t even get into the fact that the people who are looking to regulate the internet couldn’t even program a working online survey form properly). However, as we noted, Google and Facebook are big enough that they can handle the hurdles the EU seems intent on putting on them: it’s the startups and smaller tech firms that cannot. The end result, then, would actually be to entrench the more dominant players.
We helped created a “survival guide” for those who wished to fill out the (long, arduous) survey, and many of you did. We’ve now spearheaded a followup effort, which we’ve put up on the Don’t Wreck The Net site. It’s a letter to the EU Commission, signed by a number of internet companies and investors who care deeply about keeping the internet open and competitive. You can see the letter on that site, and it has already been signed by investors such as Union Square Ventures and Homebrew and a bunch of great internet companies, including Reddit, Medium, DuckDuckGo, Patreon, Automattic (WordPress), Yelp, CloudFlare, Shapeways and more.
Today, we’re launching a new initiative called Don’t Wreck The Net. The European Commission is holding a public consultation on new regulations for the internet, and the only way to send comments is through a painfully long and oblique online survey. Unfortunately, thanks to those five pages of small print and confusing questions, most people don’t seem to have realized just how big a deal this consultation is — and it only runs until December 30th.