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Congratulations, Internet. We Won the Day.

Today, I feel like a proud poppa. I don’t want to get too celebratory and put out some kind of aura that our battle against SOPA and PIPA are over. In fact, neither are over. But I’ll get to that in a minute, because yesterday was AMAZING!

Yesterday, we saw the Internet come of age. We’ve seen the trend. The Internet has played a crucial role in the Arab Spring, political activism and fundraising as seen in the Obama election campaign in 2008, news reporting as seen in the incident of the US Airways jet in the Hudson River. We’ve seen a definite maturation process on the Internet over the years.

However, we have always been to dysfunctional to be a force. We are all too inbred with independent streaks to band together. In auto racing, cars often “draft” each other to increase speed, because drafting – or riding the sometimes-literal bumper of a car in front of you reduces wind resistence, and increases aerodynamics, thus increasing overall speed of the collective over the individual.

Ladies and gentlemen, we were drafting like pros yesterday.

We were drafting so well that the CEO of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) – former Senator Chris Dodd – came out shooting at proposed blackouts… on Tuesday before it happened! Mother Jones covers this nicely.

But we went out there, amidst a national media blackout (no pun intended) and did our thing. We were obviously led by the big dogs – WikiPedia, WordPress.com, Google, Tumblr, Reddit and more, but Flickr, WordPress (dot org and dot com), and many more funneled the millions into political action.

This site was blacked out, as were all of my sites. Avatars on Twitter and Facebook were updated en masse with protest messages.

The collective made a statement like we’ve never made a statement before. And it worked. We turned the tide.

13 Senators flipped. Multiple Congressspeople flipped. Sponsors that had names added to the bills, undoubtedly as a matter of normal course of Washington handshakes and blowjobs, suddenly wondered how their names were attached to the bill and suddenly had to reconsider their positions among public scrutiny.

We won the day.

We have not won the battle. To this day, Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, continues to give a middle-finger to his colleagues (including his own Majority Leader) and insists on resuming markup of SOPA in February. Damn the President’s threat to veto. I wrote him a letter yesterday and I wish you would share that across your networks. It’s very important.

Inside the beltway, nothing is dead until it’s dead. Using lines like, “I will not support this bill in its present form” only means, “Go get me some political cover, and I’ll reconsider”. The fact that Eric Cantor says it won’t come to the House floor for a vote, doesn’t mean it won’t. Just because the President says he’s veto it doesn’t mean he will. SOPA needs to be killed in committee and never see the light of day.

Likewise, PIPA in the Senate is losing support very quickly, but if SOPA were to die and PIPA were clear the Senate, my feeling is it would go to the President for a signature and let him make the political call in an election year.

Nothing is dead yet. We must be vigilant. We must maintain the protest, the calls, the emails, the pressure. Stop by your Congressman’s hometown office and talk to his staff. That’ll be more effective than emails and letters and phone calls. Be respectful, but make your voice heard.

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Open Letter to Congressman Lamar Smith Regarding SOPA Championing

An email sent to the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who insists on pushing the SOPA bill through committee.

Dear Mr. Smith-

This is an open letter which will be published online, and promoted on Facebook, Twitter and other networks.

As a Texas resident, I find it egregious that you have decided to sell out so uniformly to the entertainment industry. It is so transparent, in fact, that federal records show that your biggest donor are from the holding company for Clear Channel and your biggest campaign contributions come from the entertainment industry itself. Shockingly, the records also show that a Texas elected representative has taken less money from the powerful energy industry that directly effects his constituents, than from an industry who has tried for over a decade to protect their own interests at the expense of your constituents.

This same industry has consistently bullied law-abiding citizens across this country with exorbitant lawsuits and heavy-handed scare tactics.

Your colleagues, in both the House and the Senate, have realized that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), while idealistic in nature, are destructive to the innovative and stable nature of the Internet – the same nature that has created great economic vitality and growth over the past 20 years.

Your own majority leader, Mr. Eric Cantor, has expressed that SOPA will not come to a vote on the House floor without significant thought, intention, and consensus. This is clearly not happening as your colleagues have backed away from support, going the exact opposite direction from consensus – some even removing their names as co-sponsors.

Sir, you must listen to me and the American public. We see your transparent appeasement to your most significant donors. We understand campaign contributions are important for you and your efforts on behalf of the great State of Texas. However, attempting to ramrod this legislation through will be harmful to Texas, Texas innovation, Texas business as well as collaboration, security and health of the Internet, and business across the nation and globe.

You must abandon your single-sighted focus on ramming this legislation through the House of Representatives with the transparent motive of appeasing your donors. This is a democracy, not a business. You represent us.

Very respectfully,

Aaron Brazell

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Photo used under Creative Commons. Taken by Fellowship of the Rich

Your Fiefdom Doesn’t Matter (Or Get your Head out of Your Regional Startup Ass)

Photo used under Creative Commons. Taken by Fellowship of the Rich

There’s this thing called Protectionism. Protectionism is largely a political word used to describe the retreat to self-isolationism for the sake of preserving well-being. It was a word tossed around in late 2008 and 2009 after the market crash when the international community joined together to try to stave off a global economic failure. There were some who believed the United States had their own issues and shouldn’t be worrying about bailing out Europe. This mentality still exists, for better or for worse.

But protectionism is also something that is hurting innovation, business, and startups in an Internet world. It seems like weekly, someone is writing a post about why NYC is the best place to start a company, or why Austin is better than the Valley.

Here’s the honest to God truth… your fiefdoms don’t matter. Your little land grabs and protectionist ideas are hurting the global collective that we all rely on and need. Austin is better than the Valley in some ways but the Valley is better than NYC in others and NYC is better than Europe in others and Europe is better than China in others. You get the point.

Let me pick on my Austin colleagues for a minute. Why don’t you pay attention to what’s happening outside of Austin for a minute? You touted Gowalla as the best thing ever. Why? Because it was from Austin. The data clearly showed differently. Foursquare was better. And now Gowalla is gone and in Palo Alto and doesn’t even exist anymore. Data can’t be argued with.

You think your little community (Austin and other places) makes any real difference? It doesn’t. It’s part of a global community and your little bubble can’t exist in a vacuum. It’s best you start understanding that. We need the Valley. We need Chicago. We need NYC. And they need us.

It’s best we stop pretending that Austin is the best place on earth. It’s not. It’s an awesome place among other awesome places. We are doing awesome things but we aren’t the only people doing awesome things. So let’s stop pretending, get rid of the navel-gazing myopia and get our collective heads out of our asses.

We need our regional fiefdoms for mentorship, collaboration and sharing. We are not the end of the story.

Austin. San Francisco. Europe. New York City. All of us.

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