Today, Wednesday January 18, the world protests against proposed censorship laws in the United States. It is a protest of unprecedented scale, ranging from Google to Wikipedia to Reddit to image hosting sites to thousands and thousands of individual blogs.
The Pirate Party was founded on the principles that politicians don’t understand technology and the net, and the only way to force them to care is to threaten their jobs over not caring. That has gone fairly well so far. In the meantime, the copyright monopoly lobby is racing ahead with slashing down civil liberties, using technically apathetic politicians as tools. For while the politicians do not care, understand, nor care to understand, the copyright monopoly lobby understands perfectly.
I think Dan Gillmor is spot on when he says that the copyright industry understands exactly what is at stake, as I have argued for five years in my Copyright Regime vs. Civil Liberties keynote. The problem is the politicians who don’t take the time to do their job and see the full picture. Gillmor words the real motivations of the copyright industry like this:
“The internet threatens our longstanding control of information and communications, and that is simply unacceptable. Therefore, it is essential to curb the utility of the internet for everyone else.”
I think that’s right on the money. In dual senses.
The SOPA/PIPA laws are exactly what would be needed to recentralize control over communications, simply by threatening all the mid-level players susceptible to litigation into submission. We would lose the entire midlayer of players and be stuck with Disneyesque entertainment giants at the top, and the activists untouchable by law who run their own encrypted, invisible, untraceable infrastructure at the other end.
(If you have not heard of the laws, they essentially allow the copyright industry to turn off entire websites at the pointing of a finger. All sites with user-generated content would be targeted, specifically including Facebook, Twitter, every article with a comment field, etc.)
For us to win this war, those free-infrastructure activists must ascend to the top of the information distribution chain.
This is about the players just barely still on the top who are kicking away the ladder for those in the middle, and forcing the activists on the bottom to build a new and improved infrastructure, one that is impervious to censorship attempts (and therefore also to the copyright monopoly as a whole). Ironically, even if the lobby does win this particular fight, it will therefore eventually be their downfall.
But for the politicians, wouldn’t you rather have these entrepreneurial brilliant minds contributing to the economy right away, instead of spending their time the next ten years in building a resilient, decentralized infrastructure to circumvent censorship – a censorship that you allowed – that was created to preserve privileges of an obsolete industry against the next generation of industries?
This article will not be readable on falkvinge.net on January 18, the day of worldwide protest. It will be readable over RSS, and from January 19 onward (European time).
(On January 21, I turn 40.)