Congress is really scaring the Internet lately, and California Republican Darrell Issa, one of the tech community's biggest proponents on the issue, is starting to catch flak for taking seemingly opportunistic approach to protecting the open web. Issa (pictured above in the center) is known for his aggressive opposition to the House Judiciary Committee's controversial treatment of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that would potentially open the Internet to censorship but recently voiced strong support for a new bill that would potentially end public access to government research. The Atlantic's Rebecca Rosen takes Issa to task:
All of this makes his support for a new bill, the Research Works Act, incomprehensible. That bill would prohibit all federal agencies from putting any privately published articles into an online database, even -- and this is the kicker -- those articles based on research funded by the public if they have received "any value-added contribution, including peer review or editing" from a private publisher.…
Unsurprisingly, the bill is supported by the Association of American Publishers, a trade group that has long had issue with NIH's public-access policy, which requires authors who receive any NIH funding to contribute their work to PubMed Central within 12 months of publication.
It's easy to understand how Issa appears kind of hypocritical. On one hand, he's taking a stand for the free flow of information -- a politically controversial move for a Congressman from a state whose economy depends heavily both on the anti-SOPA tech industry and the pro-SOPA entertainment industry. On the other hand, he's pushing back against the free flow of information online in order to defend publishers. By the way, the Association of American Publishers is listed a SOPA supporter on the House Judiciary Committee's website (PDF).
Whether you want to call it hypocritical or opportunistic, Rosen sums Issa's confusing behavior lately with a critical tone, "Congressman Issa wants to have it both ways -- make the research available *and* protect private publishers -- but this bill only furthers one of those goals, and it's the latter."