EFF Pioneer Awards

Last night I attended the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Awards. Just simply being at this event and absorbing the vibe was meaningful for me and I’ll bring forth a perspective that may be atypical and worth putting into the conversation about EFF.

Nearly four years ago was the first time that I donated to EFF and began my support of this organization. Though I look like “a suit”, a Republican and a mainstream sort of guy, I’m an independent, a closet liberal, enjoy some Libertarian leanings and am quite open to growing in my perspective as I learn — especially legally and politically — as we all push against the membrane of the future.

Five or so years ago I became more enlightened. I was stunned by the multiple, parallel, onrush of efforts by copyright holders, Congress, world intellectual capital bodies, governments globally as well as intelligence communities, to command, control and infiltrate all aspects of the Internet.  As I started to try getting my head wrapped around even a few of the issues, I realized that there was NO way that I could be competently informed about even ONE of these issues shaping our future….let alone dozens of them at a time!

Enter the EFF. I learned that here was an organization whose mission was to be that competent, informed entity who’d act to intervene, stop or shape the debate about the most important issues facing us in our digital future. With more and more of our relationships, commerce, free speech, entertainment — you name it — being created or delivered digitally, I (and you) could either pull the covers over our collective heads or get involved…and support those who’ve rolled up their sleeves, dug their hands in the muck and are in the fray.

So that’s what I did.  Last night was great for a lot of reasons and validated (in spades) the vital importance of this organization and the people who’ve dedicated money, support and all or part of their lives to the mission.

  1. The people there were amazing. Mitch Kapor, one of the founders of EFF,  was in attendance and it was announced that he’d made a gift of $1M to the group (gulp…I’m gonna have to blow the dust off my checkbook and do more). So many others whom I respect, read their writings and blogs, have admired for some time were there in a show of support
  2. EFF’s Fred von Lohmann and Mark Cuban squared off in a debate about copyright and YouTube…and it morphed a bit into a larger debate about  content and user participation…but there wasn’t enough time to get too deep. NOTE: I think that a HUGE fundraiser for EFF next time would be a cage match between Cuban (who looked buff and ready to pound Fred) and von Lohmann who I’ll bet could bob-n-weave-n-strike physically like he does legally
  3. The award winners were security and crypto expert Bruce Schneier; Yale Law professor Yochai Benkler; and Cory Doctorow. All people I’ve followed for some time and it was delightful to hear their intro’s and their own words accepting their awards…and I just kick myself now that I didn’t carry with me my M-Audio Microtrack so I could’ve captured the event for a podcast.

You can ignore all the forces that are pushing to data mine every digital scrap you leave on the ‘net and build profiles of you for fun, profit and intelligence gathering. You can sit back as your civil liberties erode (like the boiling frog story which states that a frog can be boiled alive if the water is heated slowly enough—it is said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will never jump out. from Wikipedia). Another option for you is to sit back and listen to the tactical arguments for digital rights management and other methods to control your fair use of media (and all the other issues EFF is involved in) and ignore the strategic implications of laws that lobbyists for the control crowd are spending millions to ensure get enacted.

You can support the EFF and possibly be involved as time and passion allows. Or are you a frog in cold water?

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