They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Martin Niemöller (attrib.)
Today was Cablegate day and Wikileaks was, if only shortly, attacked by hackers.
Today, the US Senate voted to move forward with censorship of the internet. Over seventy sites have already been taken over.
This week, the owners of file-sharing website The Pirate Bay were sentenced to jail.
Let’s stick to the latter for now.
People download music & movies illegally because they can. It’s free, fast and as disposable as you like. Yes, artists should get paid for their work, from whoever is in the cover to sound engineers and bus boys.
There is a lot more independent music being heard (and bought) after an illegal peak. I speak for myself when I say that file-sharing has given me at least two of my absolute favourite singer-songwriters in my entire history as a music lover. And I ended up by paying for all their discography – obscure albums included.
Raise your hand if you have never copied a CD someone else bought onto a tape.
Raise your hand if you’ve never recorded a song from the radio or a movie that was on TV.
Were radios and television stations closed down? Were you prosecuted?
The difference now is, obviously, the scale. The quality is better, the copying process is faster and the sharing extends to millions. More money is lost.
The fines applied have been criticized for being more than 1000 times higher than the fines applied in Sweden for murder or rape. Add to that a year in prison.
So, if you prosecute, arrest and fine the providers, why not do the same to all of the suppliers and all the “consumers”? Not to mention all the other hundreds of providers still out there.
The internet has changed the world in ways that the corporate suits (or even us) haven’t fully grasped yet.
Even generations like mine, that had to research in actual encyclopedias and could only buy music or films or books if they were in the store, are getting more and more used to not having to wait to access information or products.
The internet has made us a little spoiled and a little more lazy that way. But the power – the big, world-changing Power – is also both more scattered and massified.
If even under strongly oppressive regimes, world wars and with far less technology, people have been able to find loop holes and ways to disseminate information – as underground as it would run – do the mighty powers that be truly believe they can end whatever is threatening them just by making an example out of one website?
Especially now, when we are too used to having access to contents. There will always be Napsters and Limewires and other bays. Information will keep on being leaked. And there will always be people who will find ways to work around censorship.