I’m a Canadian citizen, but I’m married to a U.S. citizen, and I consider myself a citizen of the internet. As a responsible citizen, I believe it is my duty to tell you that I will be taking part in the StopSOPA.com strike tomorrow. This blog, and all of the other blogs I write (blog.CLEARvisionStudios.net, EddieMackAvenue.wordpress.com, TheSundayAfternoonMatinee.wordpress.com, EtceteraThesisMusic.wordpress.com, LimboInteractive.wordpress.com) will be going dark for the morning. I’d leave them black all day, but that’s not, apparently, what the strike organizers are looking for. This will be a particular inconvenience for me, as I do much of my blogging during the hours that the strike will be in effect. Also, because Wordperss.com is NOT going dark tomorrow, I’m gonna have to black out my sites by hand using canned code.
The thing is, it’s the right stand to take. The internet needs to be free to innovate and grow and, yes, disseminate the way it does best. The bloated old corporate paymasters aren’t too happy with how little control over their copyrights they’ve come to understand they actually have, but the current target is the legislative assembly that is being paid to cripple the Internet permanently, to combat the so-called threat of Internet Piracy, a scourge that has been proven to be of more benefit than harm to the economy and the content creators who feed it.
Internet Piracy is a McGuffin, folks, used by ignorant CEOs and their
sycophants lawyers to explain why people would rather not spend twenty-to-eighty dollars to sample something they’re rightly afraid they won’t want to keep after they’ve tried it. The ultimate excuse for failing sales figures isn’t that the product is overpriced and poorly made; it’s that too many people are stealing it for it to make a profit. If everyone who stole it had been forced to buy it, the product would doubtless be a success… except that’s not true.
The truth is, the Internet has grown up and gotten smart. It’s figured out ways to make sure it doesn’t beggar itself while promoting Great Stuff™ to those who are looking for something good to spend their hard-earned money on. We don’t have to suffer Consumer Regret eight times out of ten any more; the Internet gives us access to information that can help us make informed buying decisions and encourage promotion with other consumers who don’t know what to buy. We’re our own consumer advocacy watchdog group and cultural promotions network, all in one.
I’m not saying everyone should pirate. In fact, I encourage people to buy everything they sample and enjoy, and to listen to sources they trust to find good things to buy. Remember, we listen to, watch and play the things we do because we want to take part in our culture, and paying for the future innovations of our culture is a part of that.
But when some sucker in a three piece suit tries to tell you that you have no choice but to give him large wads of cash because he owns the rights to something you’re not even sure you want, remember who you’re really trying to support: the artists, designers and developers who actually create the goods. They may not always get it right, but left to their own devices, they hit the mark more often than not because they’re doing it for themselves and for their fans, not for their corporate paymasters who are going to overcharge for every unit moved, and have no interest in waiting until the product is actually ready before setting a releases date and oiling the machines that keep the whole ugly business rolling.
Somewhere along the way, we forgot what it means to be a community. Now we’re just numbers on a balance sheet. But the Internet, ironically enough, is changing that, levelling the playing field, and making it possible for everyone, amateur and pro alike, to take back their creations and make a decent living with them, if they can just cut through the dross pumped out by Big Money every day.
Taking part in the blackout tomorrow isn’t going to make all of the problems go away and magically transform everything into sunshine and kittens. But it’s a necessary step towards making it clear to the governments of the world AND Big Business that the citizens of the Internet will not be bullied by a room full of people who hardly know how to use a mouse let alone how to download a Blink-182 song. The Internet does NOT need policing; it is self-correcting. If you suck, the Internet will let you drown. If you rock, the Internet will share you, and you will thrive.
And the Internet is doing everything in its power to prevent the future from being co-opted by people who fear it. Be a good citizen of the Internet: go dark.