by Garret Ean
Jan 19 2012
Much abuzz online yesterday had to deal with the congressional threat to the internet known as SOPA. The Stop Online Piracy Act is a federal bill which would create a blacklist of websites which internet service providers would be required to maintain and enforce. The blacklist would allegedly include websites which either host or link to data which, per its existence, is violating copyright laws. The very concept of ‘piracy’ is on its face hyperbolic. It is laughable Newspeak to equate data sharing with the practice of pillaging vessels at sea. PIPA, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, is the senate version of the dinosaur recording industry’s legislative attempt to thwart the free exchange of information. Also lobbying very strongly with the MPAA is the pharmaceutical industry, which profits heavily from onerous intellectual property regulation.
Reddit was the first eminent domain of the internet to announce January 18 as its blackout date to protest SOPA. Wikipedia announced its participation with similar measures. Google demonstrated its solidarity by featuring a black stripped homepage with a subheader requesting that people contact their so-called representatives and ask for a rejection of state control over the internet.
Heavy traffic to government servers hosting contact information for congress and the senate caused many pages to be inaccessible for the day.
According to Wikipedia’s article on their twenty-four hour campaign, at least six senators who had been co-sponsors of the bill had withdrawn their support by the day’s end. One of those who withdrew support was NH senator Kelly Ayotte. Jeanne Shaheen is still listed as a co-sponsor of the bill, though after a quick call to her DC office inquiring on the matter, a staffer informed me that she now has “serious reservations” about the bill after hearing from her constituents. The offices of Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta have indicated that neither of them will be supporting SOPA-style legislation.
The global campaign against SOPA and PIPA was likely the most successful decentralized coordination of consciousness raising that we have seen as a result of our abilities to communicate using the internet. Detractors of the blackout took two forms. First, there were those mildly inconvenienced by an inability to access the live version of Wikipedia (Google hosted cached versions for those who knew how to look for them). Demonstrating the inconvenience of censorship was part of the protest’s purpose. The second group of detractors were those who saw their power slip yesterday during the digital uprising. Some media moguls, such as the editorial board of the Boston Herald, classified the protest as a “hissy fit”, despite underlining the success of the event, following with, “within hours of the online protest, political supporters of the bill…began dropping like flies, thus proving how very powerful these cyber-bullies can be”.
How often is it that a corporate news agency expresses how offended it is that internet activists contacted politicians? When a mass of people engaging in the most mundane form of political action are deemed “cyber-bullies”, it is clear that the world is changing.
One of the more disturbing quotes uttered regarding the protest comes from a man who exposes himself as tyrannically minded. Chris Dodd, former senator, democratic presidential candidate, and current Corporate Executive Officer for the Motion Picture Association of America, condemned the protest as an “abuse of power”.
It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.
Apparently, other people’s liberties are simply privileges granted by Lord Dodd.
IP Tyranny without SOPA
As reported January 16, a British student is likely going to be extradited to the United States on IP violation charges despite never having been on US soil. It is unclear whether he’s being charged with a crime or a civil infraction.
Political philosopher and activist extraordinaire Lysander Spooner was born on this date 204 years ago. Check out his iconoclastic No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority in Free Concord’s media section.