SOPA and PIPA Versus ‘Cyber-libertarianism’
In light of the current legislation now being proposed by Congress, intended to strengthen the laws against copyright infringement and intellectual property thefts, yet destroying key aspects of the nets uniqueness; John Perry Barlow’s ‘Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’ has never seemed so relevant. The declaration was first declared in 1996, and highlighted the perceived originality of the Internet compared to other communication mediums and technologies, stating: “We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different” (Chadwick, 2006:33). Indeed, the internet is different, and from the reaction of many of the most prominent websites in the world, it would be wise for Congress to remember who and what they are trying to regulate; whilst also remembering that the very ideology that the Internet has manifested into is one which the United States itself was founded upon: Libertarianism.
Libertarianism promotes the idea that individuals can and should interact with one another economically, socially, and politically without intervention from the state; or coercion by any other entity or individual. It is quite easy then to understand why cyber-libertarianism is so popular and held in such high esteem around the Western world. The internet is a new space in which states and power elites cannot wholly dominate for their own gains, an almost equal playing field for all who wish to actively engage – this is what makes the internet special for so many in the West, and this is why a rebellion of many mainstream websites has taken place: Freedom is popular.
On the 18th of January 2012 the largest ever web protest took place in opposition to the PIPA and SOPA bills, heavy hitters such as Wikipedia, Wired, WordPress and Reddit completely censored or blocked access to there sites for a number of hours; whereas Google and the Drudge Report continued with with business, yet advertised their opposition to the legislation and linked to useful information and petitions regarding the bills. The effect was astounding, with huge amounts of awareness raised not just in the U.S but over the whole world. It also convinced many politicians to drop their support for the bills, however, so far it has not been enough, as Wikipedia notes:
“Are SOPA and PIPA dead [after the protest]? Not at all. SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith stated that the House of Representatives will push the bill forward in February. Senate sponsor Patrick Leahy still plans for a PIPA vote on January 24. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are symptoms of a larger issue. They are misguided solutions to a misunderstood problem. In the U.S. and abroad, legislators and big media are embracing censorship and sacrificing civil liberties in their attacks on free knowledge and an open Internet.”
More fighting must take place if true internet freedom is to be maintained, or, as the line taken from one of Virgil’s poems, now used by the Libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute, goes: “Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.”
Victory for cyber-libertarianism and anti-censorship! The online protest has had its desired effect — the PIPA bill has been postponed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who stated: “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.”
On top of this the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith is also postponing SOPA, “Until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
However, the bills are not truly dead in the water yet and as sopastrike.com has announced “If they return we must be ready.”
But for now cyber-libertarianism should celebrate its first victory against such anti-Internet legislation. For surely all those who use the Internet know its true potential is best enabled through each individual, not through states or elites, who will always attempt to manipulate such technologies for their own agendas.
Chadwick, Andrew; “Internet Politics: States, Citizens, and New Communication Technologies”, Oxford University Press, 2006.
(Multiple embedded links throughout article.)
Further reading and watching: