The tech industry took a victory lap Tuesday evening, celebrating a historic win in blocking - for now - controversial anti-piracy legislation strongly backed by movie, music and other content industry groups.
The Center for Democracy and Technology's annual dinner - known as the tech prom - was intended as a broader event to celebrate the tech industry.
But much of the focus at this year's event was on the industry's success in helping to sideline anti-piracy legislation known as the Protect IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House. Both measures were put aside in January after an unprecedented lobbying effort by tech companies, Internet activists and public interest groups like CDT, which warned that the measures threatened free speech and innovation on the Internet. Their opposition culminated with an online protest on Jan. 18 by thousands of websites including Wikipedia and Google, which blocked all or part of their sites.
"Jan. 18, that Wednesday changed the norm here in Washington D.C. It's just that simple" Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who led congressional opposition to Protect IP and SOPA, said during his keynote address at the event. "As part of that new norm, I think we're going to have to be able to lay out very specific ways in which we want openness and accountability that we haven't had before."
Wyden highlighted another issue of concern, negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. While the agreement aims to remove barriers to trade in the Asia-Pacific region, its provisions dealing with intellectual property have drawn scrutiny by some groups that also opposed SOPA and Protect IP. "Many see it as an international version of [Protect IP] and SOPA," Wyden said.
He said the process used to negotiate the agreement has been too secretive and recently raised the issue with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk at a Senate hearing. "The people concerned about these issues, that are concerned about Internet freedom, are not going to buy the idea that they have to get a security clearance in order to see the text of a particular agreement that involves policy," Wyden said.
The event attracted a who's who of tech in Washington including Computer and Communications Industry Association CEO Ed Black, former Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., Twitter's new lobbyist Colin Crowell, Facebook's Joel Kaplan, Business Software Alliance President Robert Holleyman, as well as former CDT staffers such as ex-Google top lobbyist Alan Davidson, Commerce Department Internet adviser Ari Schwartz, and White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Danny Weitzner. In addition to Schwartz and Weitzner, other government officials on hand for the event included National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Larry Strickling.