Dear Senator Ayotte,

Thank you for your response to my letter, and for your change of policy toward the two "anti-piracy" bills in question.  As you say, it is not "breaking capitalism" to shut down a car dealer that sells stolen vehicles.  However, I think it would be very bad policy to allow car dealers to be shut down
merely on the accusation by a car manufacturer or a competing dealer that they had done wrong.  This lack of due process and the power it places in the hands of media giants is one of the major differences between what you describe and the bills in question.  Another difference is the fact that anyone who inadvertently links to content (even completely legal content) from an IP address accused of wrongdoing can be tarred with the same brush.  This is an issue that doesn't have an immediate analog in the bricks and mortar world, but you might describe it as prosecuting anyone who ever bought a car from the hypothetical dealer in your example.  

Clearly there's a limit to how far bricks and mortar analogies can take us when we legislate internet commerce and free speech.  I hope our other elected officials can follow your example and raise this dialog to a level that will avoid the oversimplification that sometimes attends political debate in an election year.  

Thank you,

Dan Allosso

On Jan 31, 2012, at 11:06 AM, U.S. Senator Ayotte wrote:

January 31, 2012

Dear Dr. Allosso:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP; S. 968) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA; H.R. 3261).  I appreciate hearing from you.

As you know, PROTECT IP and SOPA provoked a groundswell of grassroots activism across the Internet.  This demonstrates how important the Internet is in our time, its growing prominence in influencing the political dialogue, and how citizens can make their voices heard.  The input that I received from thousands of New Hampshire citizens highlighted the need to address concerns regarding Congress' legislative efforts to combat online piracy and copyright infringement.

PROTECT IP was originally scheduled to be considered in the Senate on January 24, 2012.  Because of the outpouring of concern about the legislation as it continued to be developed, I could no longer support the legislation in its current form and withdrew my cosponsorship.

As many New Hampshire citizens have made clear, we cannot allow America's brightest ideas, products, art, and media to be stolen and sold by foreign criminal enterprises.  PROTECT IP was supposed to be about stopping this foreign piracy.  However, the legitimate concerns about government overreach warrant further consideration and careful deliberation, and I was pleased to see the bill pulled from the floor.

We must find a lawful and reasonable way to protect intellectual property rights.  For example, shutting down a dealer selling stolen cars is not censorship or "breaking capitalism," it is protecting private property and preserving societal values and standards.  We should seek to afford American copyright holders adequate protections against foreign thieves.  Foreign rogue websites, online piracy, and counterfeiting threaten U.S. businesses, consumers, and many thousands of American jobs.  We must be able to safeguard intellectual property without undermining Internet freedom.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  As your Senator, it is important that I hear from the people I represent regarding the issues facing our country.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch again if I may be of further assistance.

Sincerely, Kelly A. Ayotte U. S. Senator

Back to work in my own classroom!

Photo on 1-25-12 at 11.03 AM #3
I’m back to work at UMass for the Spring semester. This time I’m teaching my own class rather than TAing for someone else’s. The course is the first half of the U.S. History, from the beginning to the Gilded Age. For me “the beginning” is a lot farther back than most textbooks go. I started the first lecture with the migration of the last batch of modern Homo sapiens out of Africa about 80,000 years ago, and their descendants’ subsequent migration from the area north of the Black Sea westward to Europe and eastward to Beringia and ultimately North America. I think the most interesting thing that’s come out of recent genetic revisionist prehistory is the idea that the Europeans and the Americans came from the same ancestral population about 30,000 years ago. So all the differences we see between the Europeans and “Indians” after they reconnect in the Caribbean in 1492 are based on the changes these people go through while they’re separated. Makes for a much more interesting and poignant story, I think.

I’ll probably post a lot of the material for this class on my own site. I’m trying to write it up into a course-pack/anti-textbook of sorts as I go through the semester. Much of that will probably find its way online too. And my proposal for the Historical Society’s conference in late May was accepted, so I’ll need to finish my biography of Knowlton in the next couple of months, too. The writing schedule I’ll be keeping may cut down a bit on my blogging, but by the end of this semester I should have some projects completed!

My letter to my congresspsople

Dear Representative Bass,

The internet has evolved rapidly and in unexpected ways over the years, precisely because it has been relatively unhindered by top-down control. PIPA and SOPA are ill-conceived bills that will not only FAIL to stop the types of offshore abuses they are ostensibly designed to address, but they will stifle the free exchange of ideas and rapid evolution that the web has been all about.

Imagine if Soviet central planners of the 1970s had gained control of the internet. The people running big media and the telecoms are no smarter.

Freedom of speech is more important than an occasional copyright dispute in which a billionaire somewhere feels he's been robbed by some penniless high-school blogger. The internet is the modern-day equivalent of the presses that people like Thomas Paine published their pamphlets on in the 1770s. Don't go down in history as being against "Common Sense."


Dan Allosso, PhD
author, history teacher

Stop the idiocy

I suppose if they break the internet we’ll find another way. But why let them?

Food for thopught

“I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.”

Gibson, William (2012-01-03).
Distrust That Particular Flavor (Kindle Locations 302-303). Penguin Group.


“It’s an unfashionable belief in the atheist community, but truth just needs to be stated; it doesn’t have to be hyped.

“If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

“You don’t have to force schools to say there’s no god, but you have to say it yourself.

“If you pick your side carefully, you don’t have to fight as hard.”

Jillette, Penn (2011-08-16).
God, No! (129, 130). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.