Computing Your Presidential Choices
When I started writing this column, I figured my job would be unlike that of most other Washington-based pundits: I wouldn't have to spend much time talking to lawyers and lobbyists or reading over laws and court rulings.
I was wrong. Laws and regulation (or the absence thereof) can restrict our choices of hardware and software. Patent lawsuits can force you to switch phone companies and raise the price you pay for a program. Poorly thought-out attempts to stop the redistribution of copyrighted works online can force companies to ask for the government's permission to add new features to their products; the worst of these proposals would have required an enormous variety of manufacturers to build copy-prevention technology into every digital device they make. Your Internet provider can restrict your access to some online sites and services with little or no advance notice.
As the District, Maryland and Virginia get ready to have their say in tomorrow's presidential primaries, it's a good time to ask what the candidates think about tech-policy issues.
The initial answer seems to be not much, to judge by the "issues" pages at most of the remaining candidates' sites. It's not that they don't have have views on these topics--but many seem uninterested in advertising them.
Barack Obama's site provides the lengthiest inventory of tech-policy positions--he supports net-neutrality regulation, universal access to broadband, and reform of the patent and copyright laws. But some of these statements (such as, "We need to update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated") lack specifics.
The other candidates' sites offer less insight on their views.
At John McCain's site, a page listing his economic policies states his opposition to new Internet and cell-phone taxes.
Hillary Clinton's "Innovation Agenda" advocates expanding access to broadband through "tax incentives to encourage broadband deployment in underserved areas" and "financial support for state and local broadband initiatives."
Ron Paul's site makes a vigorous defense of electronic privacy against government and corporate intrusion.
Mike Huckabee's site doesn't seem to cover tech policy at all.
Fortunately, other news sources have provided greater detail. Wired News blogger Declan McCullaugh has compiled a good summary of the candidates' views on such issues as DMCA reform and Net neutrality, and PC World just ran its own survey. The TechCrunch blog put together its own survey of the candidates' views; blogger Michael Arrington interviewed most of the candidates before endorsing Obama and McCain (the site's readers, meanwhile, voted for Obama and Paul).
Now's your chance: In the comments, help me fill in the blanks about what these folks think about tech policy. Please, link to your source--whether it's from a candidate's own site, a vote they cast or a quote from an interview--wherever possible.
February 11, 2008; 2:01 PM ET
Categories: The business we have chosen
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