So thankfully today the internet is up in arms over SOPA and PIPA. Most people are terrified of their freedom of speech being violated, as these bills give the entertainment mega-companies power to blacklist websites and content without a trial or even hard-evidence of copyright violations and they could easily be used as a back door to censor anyone the government or media companies disapprove of.
This is, in my opinion a greater assault on our personal liberties and the United States Bill of Rights than the patriot act.
However, SOPA and PIPA won’t mean the end to online freedom. They will mean the beginning of the online war for our freedom.
If these bills pass, the internet will become a battle ground. Countries all over the world attempt to ban websites, but anyone with a little knowledge can find a proxy and hide their activity. The main thing that stops them are harsh criminal penalties or possibly a sense of loyalty to their country. Here in the United States we have neither of those things. The web pirates and the downloaders who love them are not going to just roll over and accept their fate and start allowing iTunes to rape their wallets. No, we’re going to go through proxy servers.
Then what is the government going to do? Outlaw proxies? That would make most of our current server configurations illegal. Proxies are used every day in a multitude of ways, most of the time for perfectly legal reasons. There is no easy way around using them. It wouldn’t take long before half the internet users were running through proxies and the government would need to continually ramp up their efforts at catching these pirates, costing the taxpayers and internet businesses more and more money.
A huge number of the people working to build the internet are people who are not getting paid for their time. The systems that drive servers are mostly open-source, written by volunteers. How is it reasonable to expect people who are volunteering their time to change the way they are doing things, put in extra work to limit the functionality of what they’re building, all so a few millionaires in Hollywood can make some extra cash.
If government did somehow manage to filter out all the illegal use of proxies, then we would go back to burning DVD’s and passing them around. Physical discs, unlike online media, can be sold for a profit. Pirates could once again profit from their ventures and it wouldn’t take long before criminal organizations got involved.
If somehow government cripples our ability to burn DVD’s, then we’ll start transferring files with our cell phones. Freedom loving online pirates are not going to back down from this any more than marijuana dealers are willing to back down from the drug war… and drug dealers face much harsher penalties. Are you going to start giving life sentences to people who only want to see the public have access to music and other media that enriches their lives?
What we would have is another un-winnable drug war. It would be one more thing to divide the nation, one more thing to cost taxpayers insane amounts of money, potentially one more thing to profit organized crime, and one more thing to strip the people of their basic freedoms.
Yeah, I download “illegal” movies and music. I haven’t bought a CD in ten years. I’ll admit to that… nay, I’ll announce it with pride. There is nothing wrong with downloading and using copyrighted material and those of us who do it should be proud that we aren’t suckers and that our sense of right and wrong has not been manipulated by big-business interests.
First of all, in my personal defense, I have contributed as much to the creative community as anyone I personally know. I’ve written four books, plus everything you see on this website. People have told me that my books have changed their lives. My novel, Against A Rock is a better piece of fiction than any of the professionally published EVE novels. My WordPress plugins which you see on the left have been used by thousands of websites, plus I have more stuff on KalinFlash.com. I have received less than a total of a hundred dollars for all my personal creative work over the past fifteen years. If anyone wants to accuse me of stealing or being a “pirate” because I download music and movies, then I want them to explain how this is fair that I can put in all this work, creating quality products and I get nothing and I want them to show me how they have contributed to the creative community. What right do people who have never created a piece of art have to dictate how the artistic community behaves?
Think about all the bands you see in the bars working for beer, sometimes racing from their day jobs to get to their gigs on time. Most of them aren’t that great, sure, but they are still putting real effort into it and are usually making less than minimum wage. However, more than a few of them have real talent. Sometimes people’s favorite bands are locals playing for beer, and surprisingly frequently they have more skill than the millionaire bands. Most of these guys never get signed and never make it in the industry because the big businesses in Hollywood have the monopoly. They’ve created a system where they decide what the public watches and listens to and the creative community must pander to their wishes and focus on trying to get signed. Without this corporate monopoly we could have a system based, not on someone’s ability to know a producer and slip into a contract, but on the actual quality of their creative work and the affect it has on it’s consumers. Quality bands could be bubbling up naturally in a fair and equal manner.
If you think online pirating is so wrong, think about this: without those pirates, there would be no Hulu or Netflix streaming services… or if there were, they would cost as much or more than a movie rental at the video store. These services were started as a direct response to online piracy. Without the pirates, do you really think the media companies would be giving their wares away at reasonable prices like they do on Hulu and Netflix? No, if they had total control over their media, they’d be charging as much as they possibly could.
Remember when CD’s came out? Cassette tapes at the time cost 8 or 9 bucks. CD’s came out and immediately cost 12 to 15 bucks. However, CD’s were significantly cheaper to produce, right from the beginning. No moving parts. But because it was a new, fancy technology they were able to pretend like they were more valuable and subsequently gouged the public. When the internet opened up, they felt like they were entitled to continue their scheme instead of respecting the basics of capitalism and updating their business models to a changing landscape. The consumers and the internet community at large are the ones who have suffered the most as a result of this.
So this is why I’m opposed to SOPA and PIPA as an anarchist, as a web developer and as a writer and why I am announcing my intent to use my web development skills to deliberately undermine these laws if they happen pass.