Of Piracy and Liberty

For more than a decade,  Wikipedia (the free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation.) has spent millions of hours painstakingly building what has to be the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, Congress is considering legislation that could all but kill free and open Internet.

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in December, and the powers of the Internet—web based companies that innovate and users who populate internet—joined forces to defend the idea of a free and open ’net. Some websites have even joined in blacking out in response to SOPA and PIPA. Because of all the controversy (more than 700,000 tweets and a million emails…give or take), there may no longer be the legislative desire in the House to pass it, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the bill’s most vocal opponents.

Despite that fact, bills often come in pairs, and SOPA’s twin in the Senate is the Protect IP Act, or PIPA as it is commonly referred to. Both bills threaten to rip apart the very fabric of the Internet, compromise the world’s digital security and open the doors for censorship the likes of which have been most recently seen in China. While SOPA may be damaged, PIPA has yet to attract the same levels of negative attention. It’s scheduled for a Senate floor vote on Jan. 24 and could easily weasel its way through, under the radar. It’s quite clear that PIPA is the new SOPA, making it the next logical target.

It’s understandable that the entertainment industry is sick of sitting by while its films, records and software are being stolen by large-scale online file-sharing operations based overseas, known as “rogue sites.” But, in the name of “intellectual-property rights”, media companies have enlisted a bipartisan chunk of Congress to pass anti-piracy legislation weighted irrationally and unfairly in their favor. Copyright holders want to give themselves and the U.S. Department of Justice the power to block any and all websites accused of “infringement”. They seem to want to force Internet service providers to create a wall between their customers and these websites. To force banks and payment services like PayPal to cut off these websites’ money. They want the websites removed from search results and to ban people from linking to them. And all of that, without any kind of formal hearing.

That won’t stop people from infringing on copyrights. So long as there are people out there, information’ll find a way around the walls the entertainment industry wants built. That’s just the nature of information.

An alternative bill for possible consideration is  the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, or OPEN, which like SOPA, also has a twin in the Senate, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden, Jerry Moran and Maria Cantwell. OPEN would place rogue sites under the purview of the International Trade Commission, which already oversees patent infringement. The ITC would be given the authority to block the flow of all money and advertising to these sites, but nothing more.

I’m not sure about you, but to me that seems ridiculous. If anything, PIPA might just cause a surge in pirating information. Tell someone they can’t do something and that’s as good a reason as any for them to do just that. And get enough people who aren’t allowed to do something and you’ve got the same thing that happened during the prohibition. Sure, I realize there’s a difference between pirating information and bootlegging information… it’s a small difference, but the comparison stands valid.

This blog post has been spawned from an amalgamation of online information. If a bill such as PIPA were to pass, who’s to say I would have been able to gather the information I’ve posted.?. Who’s to say I would have been able to post it.?.


The Unsocial Network

Upon logging onto my Facebook today, I received a lovely little message basically stating that my ability to send friend requests on the site would be disabled for a number of days. Now what was it I did again to anger the “admins” of facebook? Oh, that’s right… I friended people.

Ever since Facebook launched their “People You May Know” …”campaign”, I’ve been flooded with people I may or may not know. If I know them, good. If I don’t know them we have friends in common and maybe getting to know them would be something worth doing… at least that’s how I think

According to the “admins” I’ve been sending out too many friend requests I guess. Mayhaps I’m wrong, but I was under the assumption that social networks served the purpose of keeping people connected and helping people connect to others who may be potential friends or who may have similar interests and so on. Maybe that’s what social networking claims to be all about, but it’s really about something else. Maybe it’s all about controlling what we can or can’t do on the internet while masking it all as some sort of cyber “free will”.

Whatever the issue is, I for one am considering deleting my Facebook account. If I wanted to be under the thumb of a group of shadowy “admins” or endure pointless updates that do nothing but make the site less and less user friendly then I would have stayed on myspace. Mayhaps I should have stayed on Myspace. It may be lame and it may be a bit outdated, but the one thing it’s not guilty of is faulting me for doing something it’s designed to help me do… meet people.

That being said.. one day the internet will rise up against you Facebook. One day you’ll be where Myspace, Friendster and other like sites are now. The only difference will be that you won’t be there because you’ve simply grown outdated and useless. No, it’ll be because you did yourself in.

So, the next time I decide I want to get to know someone on your less than lovely site and you decide to….”punish” me for it, just remember that. Your time’s coming Facebook.