The Revolution Will Be Livestreamed
Introduced in late October, SOPA (the “Stop Online Piracy Act”) was hailed as a reasonable, intelligent bill, carefully crafted to stop online piracy. This praise came from people who had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.
Piracy is a problem, but the way to deal with it probably isn’t more legislation, especially legislation as Orwellian as the SOPA bill was. This is not actually a philosophical argument, but one with practical examples. Authors, artists, and producers think that the best way to deal with piracy is treating it not as a crime but as a measure of acceptable loss. Other governments have thrown studies at the problem, and concluded that piracy may not impact the bottom line of artists in a meaningful way. If you’re more well known as a musician because your songs get shared around, your revenues actually tend to be higher.
So why does the American government believe that artists need to be protected thus? Several artists themselves have complained about the takedown of Megaupload, and the very fact that it happened suggests two things. First, that the real agenda is not the protection of artists or the integrity of their work, as the RIAA and the MPAA have claimed. Second, that legislation such as SOPA is in fact unecessary, as Megaupload was taken down despite the law being shelved. If the artists don’t want it, and the feds don’t need it, why are laws such as SOPA still being discussed?
SOPA may be shelved, but it’s being rexamined in several forms. The most prevalent one is a international agreement called ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Drafted principally by the United States, this abysmal excuse for a document proposes a wide variety of methods by which copyright holders may retain the integrity of their goods on the internet, methods such as criminal prosecution on people with no probable cause, and vastly overcosted civil trials where the defendants may owing wind up many times more than the market value of the goods pirated.
The fact seems to be that while the aim of these treaties and laws may be in the right spot, it’s like trying to hit a target with a nuke. I’ve seen Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s nuclear museums, so let me assure you, that is not hyperbole. The force of these pieces of legislation is such so as to break and destroy the system currently, and make sure that nothing grows again. The common user will be unable to even think of trying filesharing or BitTorrent, and just accept the methods presented to them as the only real, viable solutions.
And yet, that has never been how the internet’s worked. The internet, being a method of communication and information sharing perhaps at its purest form, relies on groundbreakers and pioneers. The people who built the internet, and who continue to shape it, are those people who can see beyond today, and beyond tomorrow. They are the ones who will innovate, and change, and revolutionize. And they will get around SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and anything else like it. What these bills do is choke people who use the internet “casually”. I put that in quotes because the internet can do amazing things, and to suggest that things like sharing art or talking with your friend halfway across the world are casual is somewhat demeaning, but the point I’m trying to make is that this will do so much more harm to people who aren’t the culprits as to make me shudder.
So what can we do? Even though SOPA induced a massive backlash, it still enjoyed debate for far too long. Similarly, Lamar Smith is not done with his internet legislation, and ACTA continues to fly relatively under the radar. It seems that every time the internet gains some ground, we are once again under sttack by forces that would cripple or destroy it.
Above all, we must keep fighting. If this is a battle, and we are encountering fatigue, then we should rest, and ask our brothers to watch our posts for a while we can recuperate. And then, we have to pick up our arms again. We have to spread the world that our liberities are under attack, and be ready to guard them. We have to tell our friends that they need to once again summon up their strength and go to the line, to defend the internet from people who have no idea how it works. We have to call our Congresspeople and our Representatives, and tell them, in one clear voice, “No.”
And we do this until we win.