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Obama’s Second Term: The Battle For Digital Rights Continues

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Activism – Wendy Cockcroft

Activism – Wendy Cockcroft

As Democrats and moderate conservatives like myself rejoice that Mitt Romney didn’t get a chance to wreck America again as Bush Administration II, let’s take some time to look at what might have been, what’s yet to come, and what we’re going to do about it.

There is no doubt in my mind that a Romney win would have been a disaster for America. He had picked many members of the same team for his cabinet as G.W. Bush had for his, and they were pushing the same policies, namely tax cuts for the rich and a huge increase in military spending. Mitt’s mate John Lehman had even set the wheels in motion for a fleet of new war ships for the navy, even though invasive land wars are increasingly becoming obsolete. Needless to say, he would have made a mint (again!) from plundering the public purse in the name of protecting the nation by providing it with items it simply doesn’t need. Fiscally prudent? Pull the other leg, it’s got bells on!

What’s coming

Americans are preoccupied with the fiscal cliff, when the stimulus and the Bush era tax cuts come to an end. Apparently, this is a good thing because Congress is going to have to work with the President this time around in order to avoid a new recession caused by a sudden increase in taxes and cuts in spending. Since they can’t deny him a third term due to term limits, they’ve got nothing to lose by working with him to sort out the economy this time around. Don’t count on it, though. Many of the far right Congressmen and women have been voted back into office and we’re stuck with them till the mid term elections.

The Republican Party will hopefully implode and be replaced by reasonable representatives. This needs to happen because people who ignore facts they find inconvenient are neither amenable to reason nor open to persuasion. If we’re going to get the changes we want, we need progressives and moderates to effect the changes in the laws that maintain the copyright and patent monopolies that are stifling innovation by restricting it to those who hold the most broadly-written registration documents. The rightward march of American politics has denied the public interest as a collectivist/progressive/left wing (and therefore easily dismissed) issue. Since the libertarian-right wing of the Republican Party is all about extending and enforcing property rights as a bastion of freedom, they were happy to attach those values to notions of ideas as property, which created the tropes of intellectual property, usage as consumption, and infringement as theft. It’s a waste of time to try to explain to them how things were before and how they have changed even in the last thirty years because they dismiss contradictions of their political narrative as liberal fiction (so they’re not obliged to pay any attention to or engage with it) and they don’t appreciate “interference” from outsiders, i.e. non-Americans like me. We’ve still got a Republican Congress, though, and they still think like that. If the party implodes, we might be able to reason with whoever is still standing afterwards. It’ll probably be the mid-term elections when Congressional elections are held again that we’re able to effect the changes we want in US law where notions of property rights over creative output are concerned.

What do we do?

There’s also the matter of digital freedom to consider. Efforts to put us all under surveillance to protect us from the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse are ongoing, not to mention censorship and the plan to enact a quasi-religious authoritarian global internet regime. This is being attempted from multiple directions, including trade agreements, domestic laws, and ISP policy changes as part of a “voluntary” code. Net neutrality and reform of those laws that are usually deliberately bundled together by lobbyists as “intellectual property” are high on the list of what we need to achieve. Momentum and the weight of history is on our side. Internet and real life activism has brought down SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, ACTA, and the Cybersecurity Act 2012. Other unfair laws have been kicked into touch or revised, including censorship efforts in Arizona, USA, and the Philippines. There is much to be done and if we have the will and the numbers to do it, we will prevail.

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About The Author: Wendy Cockcroft

Manchester-based web designer, writer, and political activist. Front-end development in PHP-based applications, particularly WordPress, is a speciality. Wendy writes fiction and blogs on political issues. She also writes for Techdirt and the Internet Freedom Movement, where she campaigns for digital rights.

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8

  1. 1
    jimbo

    the stupidity is that we shouldn’t have to do anything much at all. politicians and governments are supposedly there working on behalf of and for the benefit of the people, not just corporations, industries and the rich and certainly not simply to line their own pockets. the first thing that needs stopping completely, not just changing, is lobbying by anyone. when officials get thrown thousands by an industry to vote what they want in, what chance have the people got? anyone caught accepting funds personally or for their ‘political pot’ should be sacked, sent for trial on bribery charges and jailed. after all, there is no hesitation in doing whatever to a member of the public, even when what was done was done unintentionally and/or for personal use.

  2. 2
    Ukko

    Blaming the libertarian-right wing of the Republican Party for the concept of ideas as property is false and counterproductive. It came from both sides of the aisle. The Obama administration has been the worst ever in this regard — look at the unprecedented domain seizures without due process; look at Biden’s personal involvement on behalf of his Hollywood buddies. The only way to fight this is to portray “intellectual property” as what it is: a monopoly, not property. There’s very little sympathy for monopolies on the left or right, and there will never be progress as long as it’s portrayed as a partisan issue. It’s special interests vs. the people.

    • 2.1

      Fair dues. It’s just that I’ve been hammered by people who think like that who mostly espouse right-wing views. http://3dblogger.typepad.com/wired_state/2012/06/richard-odwyer-must-be-extradicted-and-prosecuted.html

      The Democrats are sucking up to their big-money sponsors, which complicates matters.

      Meanwhile, three SOPA sponsors have been booted out of office. Hopefully they will be replaced by people who are willing to listen. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/11/voters-boot-three-sopa-sponsoring-hollywood-allies-from-congress

      I should also point out my debt of gratitude to those Libertarians who help in the fight against surveillance, etc. So please don’t get me wrong, I like libertarians as a rule, but there are those who don’t get the idea of monopolies being a bad thing. I get into fights with them on Google Plus, so that’s how I know how they think.

      • 2.1.1
        Scary Devil Monastery

        Libertarians who don’t realize monopolies being a bad thing? How is that possible? The very essence of libertarianism is the realization of Adam Smith’s idea of competition. Monopolies preclude any such thing and set aside market rules altogether.

        • Can you tell that to the guys I get into fights with, please? B. tells me it’s about global competitiveness or some such nonsense. I told him the point of a market is competition and that stifling competition goes against libertarian principles. But then, he reads Breitbart and Heritage, so what do you expect? I think he’s slowly waking up to the fact that he’s gone too far to the right and that I’m not a liberal after all.

        • harveyed

          He probably just does not realize that it is in fact protectionism / monopoly. We have famous “liberals” (=”libertarian” in english) in Sweden, Johan Norberg, for instance who do not realize that patents and copyrights are monopolies.

    • 2.2
      Alan

      There is division among libertarians on this issue, but as near as I can tell the strong-IP wing is smaller. There are libertarian cases for both views, but the case for weak-IP I think will prevail, especially among the growing numbers of libertarian-minded people who are not ideologues.

  3. 3
    Dnla

    Off-topic, but I think this is very relevant to the site: http://www.wnd.com/2012/11/u-n-plotting-takeover-of-internet/

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About The Author

Manchester-based web designer, writer, and political activist. Front-end development in PHP-based applications, particularly WordPress, is a speciality. Wendy writes fiction and blogs on political issues. She also writes for Techdirt and the Internet Freedom Movement, where she campaigns for digital rights.

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