Each year at this time, we summarize major positions we have taken in the past year on the most important issues that affect you, our readers. As the fundamental value of e-business emerges from the shadow of the dot-com bust, its clear the Internet will be deeply rooted in future economic growth and our personal lives. Legislators, regulators and judges have been grappling with how to preserve its benefits while curbing its abuses. Our positions in the past year reflected this struggle.
Spam has made the mistake that dooms a parasite: It has become too hard to ignore. However, the passage of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is not likely to bring about its extinction. We urge legislators to revisit this issue in 2004 and enact a law that includes stiff penalties for spammers. In the meantime, businesses will spend millions on anti-spam remedies that will not be wholly effective. Like a cure for a pernicious disease, the cure for spam may take years.
Revisiting the Digital Millennium
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act also needs revisiting. Passed in 1998 to curb Net piracy, it is now used to kill competition in areas such as printer ink cartridges. This is an example of using the protection of copyrighted work to limit competition and buyer choice. A better act is needed.
Government is also struggling in the area of patents. We have always maintained that patents on software ought to be rare and that copyright law is sufficient to protect most of the intellectual property embodied in software. We agree with the World Wide Web Consortiums formal policy, issued this year, that the Web should be free of patented technologies. The potential for havoc from a faulty patent is large, and we urge the patent office to look on the Eolas patent with strong skepticism.
Although government has not generally been doing as well as it should in making its systems secure, there is reason to hope that the widespread deployment of IPv6 will put government agencies on a much firmer footing. In this effort, the Department of Defense should be applauded for leading the way.
The Offshore Outsourcing Trend
Perhaps no single issue has roiled IT pros as has the trend to offshore outsourcing, which can become charged with national animosities and class resentments. We believe that, as attractive as erecting a fence around Americas IT personnel resource might seem, its illogical and would be impossible to implement. IT pros must learn skills that are in demand, and they must also learn to manage offshore work. Business leaders, however, must realize that the savings of offshoring can be illusory and that securing data on a global scale is inherently difficult.
A more serious issue for Americans is our educational system, which must turn out a higher-skilled tech work force. Parents, teachers unions, school boards, and state and federal agencies must stop finger-pointing and act. At risk is the loss of tech leadership, which, once lost, will not be easily regained.
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