Here's my latest column for Internet Evolution: "Big Entertainment Wants to Party Like It's 1996" explains how the entertainment industry's greedy, naked lobbying tactics will be their undoing, since these victories end up backfiring because they arouse such public ire.
It's not that these companies can't get their laws on the agenda, and not that they can't cook the process to make it run favorably for themselves. For example, when Canada was considering its own version of the WCT, the entertainment giants saw to it that the parliamentarians in charge of the process only talked to multinational entertainment giants, without conducting any kind of embarrassing public consultation. They wouldn't even talk to the Canadian record companies — just the multinationals.
The proposed laws — Bill C60 and Bill C61 — were complicated and took a lot of explaining. But here's what didn't take any explaining at all: "Your government is about to introduce sweeping, controversial regulations to the Internet, and they won't talk with anyone except the jerks who are suing all those music downloaders in the States about it — they won't even talk to Canadian record companies!"
This made the Canadian lawmakers who backed the proposal look like sellouts (which they were); made the laws look like conspiracies (which they were); and made the geeks who cared about this stuff look like heroes (which they were). The complicated story about the law became a simple story about the process.
Likewise in New Zealand, where a new copyright provision called "Section 92A" made every geek in the country freak out in unison. 92A allows a rightsholder to have your Internet connection terminated by filing three unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement against you. No judge and no jury: just a rightsholder standing over you, able to administer the death penalty to your participation in electronic life without showing a shred of evidence.
Now, this is a little easier to explain to the general public — the entertainment lobby isn't just stupid about process, they're also greedy in what they ask for — but 92A was rammed through Parliament in a dodgy process that got those people who weren't interested in copyright or the Internet outraged anyway.
New Zealand's brilliant, tireless geeks organized around the clock, mounted a huge, high-profile global campaign through Twitter and blogs (they probably tripled the amount of international coverage New Zealand received), and forced the government to back down on its plans, sending the entertainment industry packing.
In France, the "colorful" Nicolas Sarkozy faced a revolt after trying to pass the New Zealand law there — where it was called HADOPI — and having it rejected by his own government.