For those who may not already be aware, Wikipedia is not working normally today. Well, at least not here in the UK. Apparently, it can still be accessed via a mobile phone, but.....
The reason for this is that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has “blacked out” the site for a full 24 hours in protest at the potential passing of the SOPA and PIPA laws in the USA. SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA for Protect Intellectual Property Act by the way.
In the USA over recent months there has been a move to bring these laws into effect. Now, i cannot pretend to know everything about these proposed laws. After all, this is all happening in the USA, but it is scary stuff all the same.
Many people probably feel that because a law comes into effect in the USA that it will have little, or no, effect on them elsewhere in the world. They are much mistaken, as these laws have the potential to change the nature of the Internet as we now know it. After all, the internet is a worldwide system and no respecter of international boundaries.
Many countries have, at the very least, tried to bring in anti-piracy laws over recent years.
Now, i do understand why media companies, music, tv and movie makers are worried about online piracy. After all, they feel that internet piracy is costing them a lot of money in potential earnings. And i can see why they may feel that something needs to be done about it.
My problem though is the way that this is usually done and seems to be happening here as well. The proposed law(s) always seem to follow the “sledgehammer to crack a nut” solution and never seem to be fully thought through, or are they?
These proposed laws are always supported and promoted by those big media, tv, music, movie companies and organisations that i mentioned earlier. They feel that they are the “victims” of piracy on the internet, but what they always propose seems to be a complete change in the way that the internet works. It becomes almost a control issue and that is where i start to get worried.
As i said earlier, i do understand the problems faced by those media etc companies. But, are those problems at least partly of their own making?
In the past those companies have had total control over their products. They have set the price we have had to pay and have had no real competition. They have made huge amounts of money and there has been nothing that anyone else could do about it.
Now the internet has come along and changed everything forever and those same companies don’t like it one little bit. One reason is that they have all been caught totally unprepared for what has followed. They have either failed to see the huge potential that the internet offered them, or they have just been too stuck in their ways to do anything about it. Just look at the music industry as an example.
The music industry needed the invention of the mp3 and the advent of Napster before they, belatedly, saw the writing on the wall. They have been desperately trying to play catch up ever since.
You would have thought that those other media providers would have learned a lesson from the music industry, but they have also been caught out in the same way.
As with all rich and powerful organisations, they hate it when that power is taken away from them. So, what do those organisations do? They run to the government of the time, cry foul and ask for laws to be passed to enable them to regain that lost control.
This is what seems to have happened in the USA and other countries. The companies and organisations employ, all too influential, lobbying groups to campaign on their behalf. These lobbying groups then target politicians, elected officials and other influential figures to state and sell their case. Unfortunately, the scaremongering tactics used by the lobbying groups all too often have the desired effect and draconian laws are proposed and sometimes passed.
(In the UK recently we have had the activities of these lobbying groups called into question. There have been calls for their actions and influence to be investigated and quite rightly so. But, maybe that is a topic for another day?)
The trouble with all of these SOPA and PIPA type laws is that they effectively amount to censorship. They are designed to control what we see and have access to.
This will always be denied by those who propose these laws. They will say that that is not their intention and that all they want to do is stop online piracy and protect their business. But, the actual effect will be to restrict what we see and do on the internet.
In my opinion, the internet is one of the last bastions of true freedom that we have left and it deserves fighting for and protecting, in its current form. Nobody should be allowed to censor, or control it and certainly not a government.
Do we really want to be subject to the kind of internet censorship that happens in other countries? The great firewall of China anyone?
This is why Wikipedia and others have “blacked out” today. They are showing you a potential vision of the future of the internet and they have my full support.
Is that what you really want? Somehow, i very much doubt it.
You have been warned.