With the advent of the increasing internet black-out in protest of the possible passing of the USA law known as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), I have been wondering how we ever managed without the Internet and with that wondering, I have found myself feeling very nostalgic for the “good ol’ days”.
I lament the days when a new album would come out and the most wealthy of our friends would buy it and we would feverishly wait our turn to borrow it, so we could tape it, or if you didn’t have any well off friends, you would just tape it from the Top 20 on a saturday night. Yeah, those were fun times.
But the possible passing of this new law has certainly sparked an interesting debate. To which extent do we give our elected governments the power to do things that, frankly, we never voted for them to do. As a “little guy”, we cannot fight the big money lobbyists who work for powerful corporations that push for laws to be passed that work directly in their favour.
I live in Australia, and our forums have been abuzz with the SOPA and what it will mean for us. By our own admission, we live on the bottom of the world (I stop short at the “arse end of nowhere”), and we mistakenly believe a lot of the time, that if the USA coughs, it will not affect us. This impression was reinforced with how we managed to keep our heads above water (just) after the 2008 crash. Thus, with regards to the SOPA, there seems to be a laissez faire attitude of “who cares, it’s not our problem” here Down Under. I find this attitude simply gob-smacking for want of a better, more eloquent word. By definition, the internet is a global entity and the one thing that we have enjoyed, despite ongoing resistance, is the fact that it is an open forum, where free speech can reign. Any law passed in the USA that restricts internet content, and believe me, this law will enable restriction of content, is definitely going to have a knock on effect here in Australia, and everywhere else for that matter.
Now, I am not sure about the truly technical aspects of the law, but my understanding is that this law will allow anyone, without having to really prove anything or go to court, cause an ISP to close down a site that they deem is infringing copyright law. This includes intellectual property. Not only that, but they can also ban anyone from doing business with the site, effectively causing it to go out of business. The guise is to prevent pirating of entertainment first and foremost i.e. to prevent foreign countries from selling torrents of a newly released movie, music, etc. For years we have been hearing how piracy is killing the entertainment/media industry and yet, I don’t think they are doing all that badly, given the flow of gowns, jewels etc. I saw at yesterdays Golden Globe awards.
Of course, this opens the doors to all sorts of internet content control and mayhem. Unsurprisingly the big media moguls, including that puny little man (no bitterness there) Rupert Murdoch, have thrown their full weight behind the law. Rupert even took a pop at Barrack Obama for opposing the bill in its so obviously oppressive current form. If I am honest, the conspiracy theorist in me really questions whether this is just the start of the kind of control that Hitler managed to effect in the 1930s before the war actually began. The media companies have so much to gain, who wouldn’t want to control not only what we buy in terms of materialism, but what we read, see and hear as well? With an increasing equity gap in the world, as someone who had managed to gain control of so much, would you really want the masses to be able to think for themselves, rally themselves and possibly overthrow you one day. Hmm, possibly not. What better way than to pass a law that says you can’t sell what I already own. Think death of competition and free trade as we know it!
I do from time to time, traverse the conspiracy theorists forums but have yet to do that for this particular issue. I have noticed in some US forums, however, that people have gone with the “let them do it and see the mistake it will be” tack. This of course, is a massive mistake. This kind of apathy was evident when Hitler rose the political ranks and before they knew it, and this is something many people forget, Germany had lost its own country long before any of Europe had been invaded.
You may think me alarmist in comparing this law to those that Hitler passed when he came into government, and perhaps I am being just that. But I doubt it. The difference here is that this kind of law, that will affect people and what they buy, hear and read, all over the world, will have a far more catastrophic , far more global effect. I wonder how many Australians sat in their lounge room chairs when Hitler was passing his laws thinking “why do we care, we’re Aussies. It won’t affect us.”, only to find themselves a few years later fighting a war that we still mark to this day such were the devastating consequences.
So, what do we do? Do we sit around and think to ourselves that this just does not affect us, so let’s not think about it. My instinct was to head for a hermitage somewhere in some remote location and live out my days in meditation away from technology and without the oppression of governments. Oh but, no, Tibetans already tried that and China ruined that idea. So, what do we do?
We fight. We take the stand. We occupy. We return to the good old days of social action and let those big wig media companies and the governments they puppeteer,know that we are not going to stand for this. We are not going to bury our heads in the sand and idly let this SOPA slide under the radar. Too many of our liberties have already been removed in this fashion. It is time we made a collective stand and yelled a collective “No”. Get on every social networking site and you let your friends know that this is not right. For, in life, there is the ying and yang and even though they are trying to control what we see, hear and buy, we (for now) have the ability to rally, to mobilise and to say no, all without having to leave our armchairs!
Collectively, and only collectively, we far outstrip the power they currently yield. It is our money, and now our intellectual property that they are after. Control that and they control everything. Don’t let it happen. I beg you.