Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Free for Freedom

The US Congress would like to pass two laws, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Internet Privacy Act). Officially these acts are to prevent Internet Identity Theft and Security Theft on the Internet of various kinds. In reality, this gives more teeth to harm the privacy of Individuals in the name of increasing security and stopping piracy.

Piracy on the Internet is not tackled correctly fundamentally due to the lack of strong business models to distribute content (that eventually gets pirated.) Apple iTunes Store already demonstrated that a viable model for content delivery will work. To follow suit, Amazon Kindle users can avail special library membership options to get access to multiple works for reasonable periods of time that facilitate reading. You don't have to go around buying (a copy of) everything you want to read.The hardware locks and software locks have always been broken when they have not been built on sound technology.

In addition Countries like India are contemplating laws which permit prosecution of the 'Content Delivery Network' rather than the 'Content Creator', forcing the Content Delivery Network to enforce strong censorship, lacking which they are targeted with fines. This is definitely in response to the acts that are being considered in the US Congress. Although part of the Internet was created as ARPANET, CERN also contributed heavily and there is much European involvement in the history of the Internet.

Today, the architecture of the Internet serves global communication infrastructure to all countries hooked on to it. China's attempts at building their own alternatives to everything 'search', 'social network', 'messaging services', 'e-mail' to create a monitored and walled cyberspace has not been successful, but has been a strong deterrent to free speech to several whose opinion is not aligned with the official People's Republic of China.

USA is undoubtedly a guardian of Democracy in the modern world, and despite their control of the press have always allowed for free thought and expression on a scale higher than average. They haven't been on top though in giving full freedom. However, concerns of MPIAA and RIAA turned to anti-piracy laws and led to the creation of DRM 3.0 which resulted in the consumer/user rights being fully restricted.

Imagine a world where the Government can always throw you out of your house if they wish to and do it legally. Imagine a world where the government can burn down what you have built under pretext that it does not fit their legal precedences. Imagine a world where people can disappear for having spoken against the laws of the government. Imagine a world where our property including books and equipment can be confiscated because they have or can cause alleged harm to the government. Imagine teenagers being slapped $500,000 - $1.5M in fines because they downloaded pirated movies or given prison sentences in addition. This is already happening to a certain extent, and would perhaps be further enabled. "Fear" will become the new tool of governance of the Internet, not reason - and that is precisely what everyone must stop.

Hence let's do our part to try and stop SOPA, stop everything that threatens freedom, freedom of expression in particular. Most lawmakers do not understanding electronic media - their ignorance is prevalent because they come from an alternate generation, and those that are knowledgeable thirst for control when they are close to power, for control and power are almost synonymous in this day and age.

Freedom as we know it ought to exist, and never deter anyone from expressing themselves. If one person injures another, there are laws for those individuals to address it judicially and legally. There is no need for the Governments to add laws to snoop into everyone. We do not want the East German STASI resurrected under a different name. For every intrusion starts with a small peek, and then ends up in much much more. We have come a long way from the Inquisition and no longer need be bothered about heresy. If a group of people feel insulted, they have but to stop reading and spreading the word they do not want to be read. They may publish alternate works to express their points of view, but never burn the expression that is in opposition to them.

Freedom isn't free, but the whole world paid in blood in the 20th Century to earn its freedom. We do not want to lose it for gaining it will be a painful struggle and set us back in future.