Needed: Voice for IT

 
 
By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2003-05-05 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We need, like any special interest group, a powerful organization that can effectively lobby for our unique concerns.
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  • So youre mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Who are you going to call? As an IT pro, there is no organization to which you can turn to represent your interests in Washington. That needs to change.

    We technology workers are a community facing a growing number of threats to our livelihood and to our way of life. But when problems arise, such as laws that threaten the tools we use and sometimes our own personal freedom, the steps we can take are often very limited. For example, with laws such as the federal and state DMCAs, which can make everyday IT tools illegal and even put programmers in jail, all weve been able to do is contact legislators on our own. Thats not the way democracy works in the United States. To make our voice heard, we need, like any special interest group, a powerful organization that can effectively lobby for our unique concerns. We need an organization of IT professionals that can get dirty in the political trenches to protect us from bad laws, bad policies and general technology ignorance.

    Sure, groups like the EFF, or Electronic Frontier Foundation, fight against many ill-advised laws and policies. But they dont wield the same clout that groups like the AARP or even the NRA do in their political arenas. And most current IT professional groups are dedicated to education and better jobs for their members, not to lobbying lawmakers and fighting legal battles.

    Some have said that technology vendors can protect our interests, since many of these laws also directly impact their products. But this is a losing proposition. Vendors are likely to make back-room deals that leave users and consumers out in the cold. And in some areas, an IT professionals organization would have to fight directly against vendors, especially in areas such as the legality of EULAs, or end-user license agreements, and laws such as UCITA, or Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act.

    Given that there are hundreds of thousands of IT professionals in the United States, this group could become very influential fairly quickly. And membership could be painless. Yearly fees for AARP are only $12.50, and NRA yearly memberships start at $35.

    The platform for such a group should be built around protecting the jobs and ways of life of IT professionals. It would include these principles:

    No IT tool, hardware or software should be considered illegal if it has any conceivable noncriminal use. No developer should face legal action for creating software that has any conceivable noncriminal use. Catchy sayings might be "Punish the crimes, not the tools," or "Software doesnt commit crimes, criminals do."

    No technology researcher should be prevented from researching any security or hacking technology or process or from presenting findings on any such research. Catchy saying: "If hacking knowledge is outlawed, then only outlaws will have hacking knowledge."

    Click-through and other unilateral software and technology agreements are not valid contracts; terms of use simply cannot be dictated unilaterally by vendors. "Click-through agreements are a dead-end street." (OK, Ill work on that one).

    Another issue a group such as this could address is patent reform, especially in areas where well-known long-term technologies suddenly become patent issues. For example, Webmasters shouldnt be facing high patent fees for building Web sites that have images linked to products, as in the current PanIP claim (www.youmaybenext.com).

    The IT lobbying group could also take on issues such as H-1B visas, which clearly affect IT workers. The group should probably steer clear of most employer/ employee issues that are typically handled by unions. Thats another need for another time.

    The officers and lobbyists of this organization could become a new face of IT for these legislators and for others. Right now, when members of Congress think about IT workers, they probably either think of CEO titans like Bill Gates and Michael Dell, or they think of stereotypical geeks living in their parents basement. Once they start to think of IT workers as professionals on par with doctors or lawyers, that alone will have a big effect on the types of legislation they will support or propose.

    This is not an impossible task. With the right kind of organization and support, a group like this could be up and running within a year. Then, IT professionals will finally have somewhere to turn to make sure their voice gets heard.

     
     
     
     
    Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr Rapoza's current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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