One of the interesting side effects of the debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act earlier this year was the question of whether the legislation would damage the alignment between the tech community the Democratic Party. But as the Republican convention winds down, the GOP isn’t exactly making a major pitch either to Hollywood or to tech donors.
““The Republican Party platform language strikes a very smart balance: it emphasizes the importance of us doing more as a nation to protect our intellectual property from online theft while underscoring the critical importance of protecting internet freedom,” Motion Picture Association of American chairman Chris Dodd said in response to the Republican platform.
But there isn’t that much detail there. The platform talks about intellectual property mostly as a trade issue between nation states rather than as a matter of consumer behavior abetted by the kind of entities the content industries have identified as major malefactors. In the party’s section on China, IP comes up as part of a larger package of issues: “Our serious trade disputes, especially China’s failure to enforce inter- national standards for the protection of intellectual property and copyrights, as well as its manipulation of its currency, call for a firm response from a new Republican Administration.” And in more general terms, the platform promises that “Punitive measures will be imposed on foreign firms that misappropriate American technology and intellectual property.”
On tech, the Republican platform doesn’t really differ from the Democratic promise in 2008 to “implement a national broadband strategy (especially in rural areas, and our reservations and territories) that enables every American household, school, library, and hospital to connect to a world-class communications infrastructure”—it just blames Democrats for making “no progress toward the goal of universal coverage—after spending $7.2 billion more. ” And it has a real contempt for net neutrality, describing it as “trying to micromanage telecom as if it were a railroad network,” in itself a revealing sentiment.
We’ve yet to see what the Democratic platform will include, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some attempt to bridge Hollywood and the tech community and make up for the damage done by the SOPA debate. But these are party platforms, and this is a year when the broad strokes of the economy are going to predominate in favor of a segment of the economy that may be key to some donors’ hearts, but won’t swing a huge chunk of swing voters at the ballot box. It’s easy to forget this while we’re immersed in the internet, but we’re a long way from the point where a substantive conversation about cable, the internet, and the way we govern and access content is going to be a mandatory part of the political conversation.