The OPEN Act and Crowdsourced Legislative Drafting

The OPEN Act has instant credibility simply from the fact that Senator Ron Wyden backs it. Wyden is credited for having been the lone Senator to block passage of PROTECT IP, a predecessor to the SOPA bill now being pushed by House members who have been paid by a variety of cable and media companies.

I went to read the OPEN Act this weekend and was pleasantly surprised to find it on a site from Representative Darell Issa, not a person I would normally associate with good and transparent government, that makes it very easy to comment on and even to mark up the proposed legislative language.

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I know little about the workings of the International Trade Commission, which is the body that the OPEN Act designates for handling the rogue foreign websites that Hollywood purportedly is after (really, they want to shut down US businesses that they find competitive or disintermediating). But in reading the bill, I got the sense that it's supposed to make sure that US businesses accepting the jurisdiction of US courts should continue to enjoy the constitutitonal, statutory and other other protections afforded US companies by US law, and so I tried my hand at tightening up the provisions that would appropriately limit ITC jurisdiction.

There are good sites with great ambitions - opencongress.org comes to mind - to serve as places where people can review and comment on legislation. I like the software Issa is using - the site calls it "Madison," after the founding father - best, because it lets you get right into the legislation, mark it up, and see your changes in the overall context of the bill.

If "Madison" develops to generate reports and other views that will let legislators and citizens slice and dice and compare the versions of legislative language so crowdsourced, it could be a very powerful tool.


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