The SOPA/PIPA Protests Were Not Pro-Piracy... They Were Anti-Crony Capitalism
from the time-to-realize-that dept
Larry Lessig has an excellent article over at The Nation, that puts the events of January 18th into perspective. He talks about the Supreme Court's Golan ruling, which rejects the idea that copyright is really limited in any way under the Constitution:
The Supreme Court, however, reversed that finding, crafting an opinion that all but guarantees Congress a constitutional “free ride” within the copyright field. Only two justices dissented—Justice Breyer, who had dissented in Eldred, and Justice Alito, to his credit as a conservative originalist. The rest were happy to signal to the copyright bar: Constitution time is over. Pay no attention to that puzzling clause at the core of the Constitution’s enumerated powers. The hint that it would be as vigorously defended as other clauses was now officially rejected. We had tried. And we had lost.But, as he noted, at the very same moment the Supreme Court was granting copyright maximalists and their lobbyists free reign over expanding copyright, something very different was happening out in the free world: it was rejecting those same laws:
That new generation is now responsible for the extraordinary victory achieved on January 18. After months of rallying activists of all stripes, including liberals and conservatives, technology companies and free software activists, the protest against SOPA and PIPA achieved critical mass. With the support of the traditionally non-activist Wikipedia, the Internet community staged a powerful and effective shut down of critical parts of the web, awakening millions to the fight that had been brewing for almost a year. That fight didn’t try to affirm any “right” to “pirate” anyone’s work. Instead, the anger in this battle was about the extremism of Hollywood’s response. It was fair and true to say that this statute would effect a kind of “censorship” unknown in the history of the Internet (at least in the United States). That fact was a critical motivation to fight it.And it is that final point that many in Hollywood still fail to understand. They positioned this whole battle as if it was about the right to enforce laws on a lawless internet vs. those who wanted to pirate. But pretty much everyone can see through that facade. And, as we've said before (and will say again), this was never about just this bill. You can see that in the continued focus of people on other efforts by these industries to push through bad policies -- such as ACTA and TPP. No, this was a rejection of crony capitalism -- an attempt by one industry to push through laws that solely benefit some of its biggest players, at the expense of everyone else. But the real question, as Lessig lays out, is whether or not this movement can expand to really make that point clear:
The (Internet) giant has stopped this craziness—here and now. But the challenge is for the giant to recognize the need to stop this craziness generally. We need a system that is not so easily captured by crony capitalists. We need a government that is not so easily bought. And if only the giant could be brought to demand this too, in the few moments we have before it falls back to sleep, then this war—this “copyright war,” this war that Jack Valenti used to call his own “terrorist war,” where apparently the “terrorists” are our children—will have been worth every bit of the battle.It's a key challenge, and one that I believe the internet community is up to tackling. But it's going to take quite a fight against those who are entrenched in power already.