Congress right now is considering two bills, that if passed will cripple the Internet in America. In the Senate it’s called the PROTECT IP Act, S.968. The House it’s called the Stop Online Piracy Act, H.R.3261.The rationale is that big media companies are lossing profits to “piracy”, so they have lobbied (i.e. bribed) congress to pass legislation to lock down the internet, spy on internet users, and take down websites they deem offensive. All without a trial or judicial oversight.
The United States already has laws which protect Copyright and other forms of Intellectual Property. While convoluted and imperfect, these laws already have a steep baises in favor of established and wealthy companies. However big media companies feel that they need more legal power to enforce their copyright and intellectual property. The problem is that at it’s core, copyright and intellectual property laws in the United States have no ability to handle, in the correct framework, questions that arrise when information is not tied to a physical medium. Giving additional powers to enforce laws that are unable to envision reality is dangerous and open for abuse.
Unlike 10 years ago, media no longer is tired to anything physical. The act of watching a Netfix film, listing to a Pandora song, or reading an eBook, posses questions of “copying” that the current Copyright law simply cannot address. Before any question of additional enforcement powers can be raised, we must first undertake a serious reworking on our existing Copyright and Intellectual Property laws.
The current media industry has steadfastly refused to accept that in the digital age, methods of media consumption and distribution are very different. More over, because the traditional big media companies have not innovated, more and more people are forgoing their products in favor of perfectly legal digital content found only on the Internet. Faced with the realization that their unwillingness to change has now endangered their industry, big media companies have resorted to contributing millions and millions of dollars to finance the political campaigns of members of congress and the President. These two bills are the anti-consumer payoff for their investment. In the minds of Big Media, much like Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and dozens of other multinational corporations, they believe that with sufficient money, they can legislate a business model.
The irony is that the Internet was built to route around censorship and attempts to block information. EVERY method for censoring the Internet in these bills is easily defeated. So the only effect these bills will have is give tools to Big Media to stifle their competitors, and to criminalize things that should rightly be handled in a civil court.
“Piracy” is not what you think it is. Big Media’s Public Relations machine wants us to believe that “Piracy” is massive online file share sites where people can get free movies. While there is no doubt that such sites exist, Big Media defines “Piracy” as any use of their content without paying them. This includes thinks like playing a song while on hold, a radio in a mom-and-pop dinner, or Girl Scouts singing songs around a campfire.
But most damaging is this. Because of the proliferation of digal media, we as a society have moved from being content consumers, to content creators. Art builds on ar and millions of artest remix music and movies to create new art and share that art with the world, never wanting or expecting payment for it. This is not a new, almost everyone of us can remember a family member playing a musical instrument, or seeing a local band cover a popular song. But rather than playing for the high school dance, small bands are posting their cover songs online. This too is defined as “Piracy” by Big Media.
The Internet gives Artests today have a platform where they can share their work with the world instantly and practically for free. This is what Big Media fears. The are annoyed by File Sharing websites, but they a terrified that in the digital age, they are no longer relevant or needed.
Many new artests such as Justin Bieber got their start singing on Youtube. If these bills become law, the next Justin Bieber could be charged with a felony rather than becoming a pop icon. When we talk about “legislating a business model” this is at the heart of that statement. Big Media has enjoyed a century of both being the path to fame for artests and a primary source of culture for the world. They built an empire on the ability to disseminate media and a monopoly on deciding what was “popular”. The Internet has usurped both their dissemination infrastructure and their ability to dictate popularity. Now, rather than innovating, they want congress stifle the free speech of every aspring artest. Art builds on art. Every song, every movie, every book, has elements of pervious works. For verification of this fact, one need only look at the Disney Empire. Walt Disney created the worlds larget media conglomerate based on re-imaging the tails of the Grimms Brothers. What Big Media wants now is to have congress pass laws that forbid anyone doing to Disney, what Disney did to the Grimms. In essence Big Media views itself as the owners of our culture, and wants to demand that we pay them to use it.
But Big Media is not all powerful. They may have financed political campaigns, but We the voters are the ones who put congress and the President in office, and only We the voters who can keep them in office. If enough of us raise our voices, no amount of millions spent on political campaigns will matter.
Below is a widget created by http://americancensorship.org/. It’s very simple to use, all you need do is fill out the form. You will then receive and phone call with a recording outlining the “talking points”, which are basically ”one-liners” and “themes” you can use, then your call will be connected to YOUR congressional representative’s office, automatically. You can then tell your senator’s office that you DO NOT want him or her to vote for these atrocious bills.
Together WE can defeat this and save the Internet.