Doctorow on how copyright policy has *become* policy (and some thoughts on what to do)
Any bill that provokes a war of words between Justin Bieber and Congress must be pretty serious, and that's just what the proposed Protect IP/Stop Online Piracy Act has done. At root, these bills have an arguably legitimate aim (keeping truly pirated content off the net) but the mechanisms — potentially allowing rightsholders to force entire sites off the Internet for allegations of facilitating infringement — provide brute force mechanisms that could easily swallow up a whole range of legitimate sites in the process.
Really, what problems could you possibly forsee with massive corporations deciding what constitutes a violation of the law? You clearly can't be worried that we're ceding control of yet another area of our society to unelected private interests that answer not to the public but only to their shareholders. You can't be that cynical.
As copyfighter Cory Doctorow points out in a column in the current Locus magazine, this is not just about suppressing pirate videos or P2P music sharing. Cory's argument is that since the net is where we live and work, copyright policy has become, well, just *policy."
The disconnection laws that the entertainment industry has bought for itself in the UK, New Zealand and France provide for removing whole households from the Internet on the strength of their copyright accusations. If the net were just cable TV, this might make sense, but for families all over the world, the net is work, socialization, health, education, access to tools and ideas, freedom of speech, assembly and the press, as well as the conduit to political and civic engagement.
There just isn’t such a thing as ‘‘copyright policy’’ anymore. Every modern copyright policy becomes Internet policy – policy that touches on every aspect of how we use the net.
So while this might not seem like the highest priority on America's list of woes right now (certainly not as important as fighting a non-existent EPA rule, for example) this is exactly the kind of moment of chaos that media interests can seize as an opportunity for a massive land grab on the digital commons.
What can you do? I'd suggest that to learn more about SOPA/Protect IP you can visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) or Demand Progress. Both sites have easy online forms to let your congressional delegation know how you feel.