March 22, 2012
Leaving Obama’s Shadow, to Cast One of His Own

For several months now, Reggie Love has been living two lives. Some days he is a part-time student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, pursuing a master’s in business administration. On others he continues his role as personal aide, shadow, caretaker, basketball buddy and roving diplomat for the president of United States.

Reggie Love has had first-hand experience working directly with President Obama.  Now he’s come to Wharton to pursue an MBA.  Naturally, his story’s combination of politics and business piqued WPBA’s interest — after all, public policy is simply the intersection between these two fields.

So, we reached out to him a few weeks ago to see if he’d speak about public policy careers in Washington and his personal story.  We were flattered when he responded to our request and confirmed that he’d speak on behalf of WPBA.

This is a great opportunity to hear a first-hand account of what it’s like to be the President’s right-hand man.  We welcome you to join us.  The event information is below:

On behalf of the Wharton Politics and Business Association, the Penn community is invited to hear Reggie Love, President Obama’s former body man, speak about his experiences working in DC under the President and his experience now as a student at the Wharton School. Mr. Love will discuss his professional pursuits post-graduation and the importance of integrating politics and business. A Q + A session will follow.
Date: Thursday March 22nd, 2012
Time: 6-7 PM
Room: JMHH G55
Free dinner will be provided.

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March 14, 2012
Reconsidering the Stop Online Piracy Act

Another speaker that we’re grateful to feature on our SOPA panel this Thursday — Professor Eric Clemons of Wharton’s OPIM department.  His piece for the Huffington Post examines the nature and effects of online piracy, and communicates his opinions about SOPA’s effectiveness.  A great primer on the SOPA debate.

—Matt Parmett

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March 14, 2012
We are the media, and so are you

But the real architects of the bills’ defeat don’t have a catchy label or a recognized lobbying group. They don’t have the glamour or the deep pockets of the studios. Yet they are the largest, most powerful and most important voice in the debate — and, until recently, they’ve been all but invisible to Congress.

They are you.

Kat Walsh of the Wikimedia Foundation, who will be speaking at our SOPA panel on Thursday 3/15, on the recent defeat of SOPA.  I recommend that you click through and read her op-ed in the Washington Post.  She explores the idea that I communicated in my previous posts: Wikipedia does not have to answer to content creators, so the site can take a more concrete leadership position in protesting SOPA and PIPA-esque legislation.

—Matt Parmett

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February 10, 2012
NYT Op-Ed: "What Wikipedia Won't Tell You"

(The opinions expressed here aren’t necessarily those of WBPA.)

I think it’s only fair, after my last post linked to an anti-SOPA article, to link to a pro-SOPA editorial by Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  I encourage you to click through and read it to get a balanced perspective of SOPA and its implications.

I like Marco’s piece more than this op-ed.  I think Sherman’s letter comes off as angry, hateful, accusatory, and frustrated.  Instead of a presentation of concrete, SOPA-supporting data, Sherman engages in ad hominem attacks on Google and Wikipedia.  He accuses them of misusing their power and reputation for neutrality to wrongfully convince Americans that SOPA is harmful.  He compares these websites to TV networks, which did not use their influence to harm or promote SOPA.

Although I’m not well-versed in issues relating to the media, I suspect that TV networks avoided the SOPA debate to maintain their legal commitment to political neutrality (especially during campaign season, when networks are expected to give equal ad opportunities to members of all parties) and to appease the studios which produce their content.  Websites are different — they have no legal obligation of neutrality, and Google and Wikipedia don’t have to answer to content creators.  Yes, these sites may be powerful, but they operate with only their shareholders and company mission in mind.

Sherman does bring up a salient point when he asserts that the SOPA blackout encouraged Americans to take action against SOPA without fully learning the contents of the legislation.  I agree — but I also think that the blackout motivated more Americans to get involved in their democracy.  In other words, although many Americans may not have been aware of the entirety of SOPA’s contents, they became involved in a process in which they would not normally participate.  There’s something to be said for engaging millions of Americans in the democratic process.

Near the end of his letter, Sherman asserts that Google and Wikipedia should have proposed alternative legislation in addition to leading the blackout.  He also briefly mentions the recent Megaupload takedown.  In my mind, the Megaupload takedown is the perfect reason why SOPA is unnecessary — if the government can already shut down sites that host illegal material, why do they need even more power?  We don’t need alternative legislation if the government already has these abilities; it seems like we’re fine with what we currently have.

—Matt Parmett

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February 8, 2012
On the Opposition of SOPA

(The opinions expressed here aren’t necessarily those of WPBA.)

SOPA and PIPA have been beaten to death in the mainstream media.  We’ve seen both perspectives: generally, copyright holders support SOPA, and content consumers oppose it.  But, Instapaper developer Marco Arment, who’s app is responsible for aggregating and re-presenting web content, brings up a great point: implicitly, both ‘opposing’ and ‘supporting’ the MPAA and RIAA help the copyright holders fight for increased copy protection and push draconian legislation through the legislature.

First, let me explain what is meant by ‘opposing’ the MPAA and RIAA.  We’ve seen over the past weeks and months a democratic form of opposition — website blackouts, anti-SOPA petitions, etc.  That is constructive opposition, but what I’m talking about here is instead ‘acting in a way that undermines the goals of the copyright organizations and SOPA legislation.’  Such actions include limiting lawful media consumption and pirating or illegally copying digital movies and music.  In this sense, opposing SOPA actually gives the MPAA and RIAA more ammunition to push the legislation through Congress.  So, while democratic protests are productive, boycotts of movies and music will lead to an increase in pirating, which will actually hurt artists and move SOPA-like legislation through Congress.

Now, here’s the interesting part: by fulfilling our legal duties and consuming content through legal digital channels such as Pandora, Netflix, and Redbox, we’re inherently helping harmful legislation move through Congress.  Think about it — when a user watches a movie on Netflix, for example, the movie studios and the MPAA collect royalties.  In turn, these royalties are used to lobby Congress.  Thus, the legal consumption of content helps the MPAA buy support in Congress for SOPA-like legislation.

So, if we can’t oppose SOPA through content boycotts and if following the law helps SOPA move through the legislature, how can we fight the legislation?  I think that the Internet community did a wonderful job of protesting democratically, and eventually pressure on Congress forced them to shelve the bill.  In the future, however, copyright holders will most definitely try to pass this legislation again.  The Internet community will only be able to garner so much support as more laws like SOPA are introduced.

Arment, in the last paragraph of his post, suggests that:

So maybe, instead of waiting for the MPAA’s next law and changing our Twitter avatars for a few days in protest, it would be more productive to significantly reduce or eliminate our support of the MPAA member companies starting today, and start supporting campaign finance reform.

Campaign finance reform is a topic too broad to be addressed in this post, but I think the SOPA incident is a perfect way to garner widespread public support for a reform of the campaign finance and lobbying systems.  We can keep protesting harmful bills on an individual basis, or we can eliminate the problem at the source.  I may be cynical, but I think a strong, one-time push for campaign and lobbying finance reform has a much greater chance of success than a series of repeated democratic protests.

-Matt Parmett

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