SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, and PIPA, the Protect IP Act, are hurtling toward defeat thanks to a group of monied venture capitalists, Internet entrepreneurs and big companies that all have a direct, vested interest in avoiding the invasive measures SOPA and PIPA would allow.
Taken another way, SOPA and PIPA are like the Internet’s version of the medical device tax. The only difference is that SOPA’s opponents have racked up win after win in their campaign against the legislation. The medical device tax, meanwhile, moves on like a slow steamroller.
The medical device industry could learn a lot from those who have fought against SOPA and PIPA. The legislation approaches a real problem — piracy and copyright infringement — in a sector that is relatively unregulated. But the approaches in the proposed laws are amazingly drastic to solve the problem at hand. Many medical device tax opponents would say the same applies to the tax, which is meant to help fund healthcare reform.
But SOPA’s and PIPA’s opponents have used tactics that are different, more bombastic and — unlike the current battle against the medical device tax — actually working.
Get social and raise awareness. Big-money venture capitalists, eager-beaver entrepreneurs and an assortment of geeks all took to Twitter and put the small but increasingly ubiquitous phrase “STOP SOPA” across their profile pictures. It showed solidarity and raised awareness. Social media is better than a blog entry in Reason magazine and guest columns in the local press.
Align with innovation. Medical device tax critics have been leading with fear first — citing the loss of jobs. The sad problem: The job losses aren’t enough to scare anyone. SOPA was all about the loss of freedom and innovation — the 2012 version of mom and apple pie.
Medical devices are the things that save people’s lives. A better tactic would be to place a greater emphasis on innovation and a focus on the devices that have been created thanks to the current unfettered system. New slogan: “It’s like taxing the Internet.”
Make an example of someone. GoDaddy was among the companies that backed SOPA. So what did the SOPA opponents do? They called for loads of nerds who had their website domain names managed by GoDaddy to transfer them elsewhere. Some did. And GoDaddy caved, reversed its position and scores of other SOPA supporters followed.
So who can the medical device industry make an example of that’s on the same level? Not some poor consumer advocate, but a major company or industry institution that is going the other way on the medical device tax?
Prepare a dramatic moment of civic action. As part of a protest against SOPA, Wikipedia and scores of other sites are going to “go dark” on Thursday. Google is going to use its front page to protest SOPA. That’s the modern version of civil disobedience — and it will get everyone’s attention.
What is the medtech equivalent? A national, one-day furlough for all employees from the c-suite on down to drive home job loss? A sick-out for all doctors who created medical devices?
Make yourself the hero. In all the discourse about SOPA and PIPA, you really feel like opponents are not just callously serving their vested interests, but instead riding to the rescue of something we all hold dear.
Can the medical device industry do the same? It’s a hard sell. The medical device tax proponents say the tax will help provide healthcare for all. And those same people can paint the medical device industry as a sector that’s going to take most of its jobs overseas anyway.
Can the anti-taxers get an anti-SOPA makeover?