Saturday, 21 January 2012

It's not over (or A new world order)

The debate over SOPA and PIPA (and the eventual shelving of those bills) has been framed in various terms from its inception. According to the supporters of the bill it's about Freetards vs Creators. According to a lot of the pundits (mainly in the mainstream media) it's about The Internet Geeks vs Hollywood.
But both of these positions are false.
Sure there are people out there who will happily take content for free without a thought for the creators, but there are a great many more who will happily pay a reasonable price for unrestricted content; especially if they know that most of what they've paid is going to the creator. That's why so many artists, musicians, actors, and programmers have come out against the bill.
And sure the MPAA have been driving this bill and it has been internet-based agitators who have orchestrated the challenge to it. But it's not just the geeks who've been overloading the congressional switchboards and filling up the senate's inboxes. After all, everyone who reads this is an internet user, but would you describe yourself as an online activist or a geek?
To ascribe to one of these positions is to miss a wider affect that has the potential for much greater change.

What really happened over the last few days was Lobbying vs The People.

That it came about over a bill to regulate the internet is perhaps fitting as it's this same medium that has enabled everyday people to see exactly how the legislative process in the US works. When these bills first started being discovered and discussed there were many in the online world who thought that their protesting was ultimately going to be fruitless. The internet wasn't a big issue to a national audience and the millions of dollars at the lobbyist's disposal (in an election year) meant that most of those early protesters thought that this would be a forlorn hope.
I am so incredibly proud of everyone who took a moment to contact their senator and congressman to stop this happening and provide a rare victory for the people over the vested interests of a few companies.
Make no mistake, it is a rare victory and it is not over.
Those bills (and doubtless others like them) have been shelved not scrapped, they will be back, in one form or another and we'll be relying on the same group of activists to keep us aware.
The lobbyists haven't changed their tactics, they still think that they can buy new legislation and, if necessary, new legislators.
But they have failed to recognise that, in their hubris, they have woken a slumbering beast.
Now it may be that the american people will roll over and go back to sleep and, if so, a great opportunity will have been lost. But it may be that the american people will wake up and start looking at how their rights have been eroded by lobbyist dollars and vested interests and how far from their purpose that their elected representatives have strayed.
We can hope.

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