This one works a lot better as a bigger graphic. So if you’d like, here it is.
SOPA and PIPA, the twin bills before the U.S. Congress, may not be dead dead. But after the past few weeks of protest, culminating in Wednesday’s remarkable day of action, they’re not looking at all well.
Votes on both bills are now delayed indefinitely. (Or, to put it in terms the MPAA would understand, they’re in development hell.) Former sponsors are now fleeing for higher ground; the bills’ supporters are fodder for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
This doesn’t mean that victory is ours, that our enemies scatter before us as frightened rabbits, and that the sun of the unfettered Internet will shine for a thousand generations.
Big media will try again, and again, and again, and judging from the contempt that industry representatives expressed for the bills’ opponents, their next foray won’t be much more enlightened than this one. And both Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Lamar Smith released statements that stressed entertainment industry jobs but made no mention of the economic importance of the Internet. (Each made passing reference to “innovation.” This, in 2012, represents progress.)
“We should delight in the stand we’ve taken in favor of things like, say, notifications, and trials, and proof before censoring someone,” Clay Shirky wrote this week, “but we should get ready to do it again next year, and the year after that. The risk now is not that SOPA will pass. The risk is that we’ll think we’ve won.”
True. Sobering. And important.
But in the meantime, if you blacked out your blog, slapped a banner on your avatar, wrote a letter to the editor, or contacted a Senator or House Representative to let them know where you stand, you can take a little pleasure and pride in what you’ve accomplished. And then let’s work to turn this success into the enduring, effective movement we’ll need to make it last.
P.S. I’m in Canada, but I still took Noise to Signal offline on the 18th. The ramifications of SOPA/PIPA go well beyond American borders, I have plenty of American readers (and friends)… but most of all, I love the open Web, and I don’t like to see it threatened.
PLEASE NOTE: This cartoon is made available under a Creative Commons license. If you think it might be useful to you in your (non-commercial) advocacy against SOPA and in support of the open web, then please: use it. No need to wait for permission. If you can credit me and link to this page, that would be lovely.
This was going to be the usual frothy-essay-ending-on-a-reflective-wistful-note that usually accompanies my cartoons, but it turns out that the House Judiciary Committee will resume its SOPA markup debate on Wednesday.
SOPA, if you haven’t been following this story, is the Stop Online Piracy Act (see the Wikipedia article) currently before the U.S. House of Representatives. It opens up some breathtaking new avenues for government and private-sector copyright holders to take action that would – in the opinion of its critics, including yours truly – be deeply damaging to the fundamental nature of the Internet.
Folks like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, Mozilla and Google have all come out swinging against it (and PIPA, SOPA’s sibling bill in the Senate). And so have 83 of the inventors and engineers who actually helped to build the Internet, in a dramatic letter released on Thursday:
If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. [….] All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but these bills are particularly egregious in that regard because they cause entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under these proposals.
Still, even House Democrat Zoe Lofgren acknowledges that the bill’s supporters probably have the upper hand in Congress. But, she adds, “that is because you have not yet been heard from fully yet. That is very much subject to change.”
So it is. If you’re from the United States, I hope you’ll consider the arguments around SOPA and PIPA. And then I hope you’ll contact your elected representatives and let them know what you conclude. (Here’s a list of House and Senate* offices. And here’s a tool that opponents to SOPA can use to contact their representatives.)
* * *
* I know – it’s built in Cold Fusion. And they’re deciding the future of the Internet.
Herein, a brief rant. It may be bubbling up from the fact that I’m 48 today, and therefore approaching curmudgeon status. It may be from the past week’s news: an eG8 summit that looked more like a circling of wagons against the open Web; an attempt in Washington to conscript DNS into the intellectual property wars.
Whatever the cause, I’m entering my 49th year with a deep, burning anger over the forces arrayed against the open Web.
The open Web is under assault from hilariously broad and ill-conceived patents; from the push to hand conversation and online identity over to closed, unaccountable platforms; from the incessant effort to separate the network capacity into first-class and economy; from the narrow view of the Internet as a means of delivering entertainment and extracting credit card and marketing information…and from much more.
I’m not going to say the open Web is the greatest creation in human civilization…but it’s one of them, right up there with antibiotics, written language and Better Off Ted. Yeah, we use it for LOLcats and Farmville, but we also use it to bring people together in ways our ancestors could never have dreamed of, to achieve feats of collaboration, conversation and creativity that constantly push new boundaries of ingenuity and impact.
Sometimes that impact is commercial or economic; sometimes it’s social or civic; sometimes it’s artistic or expressive. Or technological. And even when you strip away the layers of hype and evangelizing, you’re still left with something breathtaking…and worth fighting for.
End rant. Cue cake.
You may have noticed the home pages of your favourite torrent-tracking sites look a little different today: fewer search fields and options than you’re used to, and maybe a few more U.S. Department of Homeland Security crests and seizure notices than before.
I for one had no idea that the same superagency charged with keeping American skies free from explosive devices was also responsible for keeping American hard drives free from bootleg copies of Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. (To the movie and recording industries, I’m sure that seems entirely appropriate – their only misgiving being that DMCA violations aren’t punishable with extraordinary rendition.)
The whole idea behind the DHS was to break down siloing and integrate security efforts. Reviews of the agency’s success on that count have been mixed. But maybe we should be careful what we wish for…