Please try and answer the following quiz:
Today, Homeland Security seized a group of dot-coms they suspected of:
a) supporting terrorism
b) drug trafficking
c) child pornography
d) copyright violation.
And of course, the correct answer is…
Read that again.
Homeland Security- the part of our government that is funded to fight terrorism, is now seizing web sites - not serving them notice- seizing them - based on the accusation of copyright violation.
Oh yes, and for selling knock-off handbags.
Look, everyone feels differently about copyright violation on the internet, but this action is a dangerous foot in the door. If this happened during W’s presidency, everyone would be screaming “Nazis!” at the top of their lungs. No, I don’t care about protecting the rights of copyright violators. What I do care about is the frightening precedent this is setting. What sort of sites will Homeland Security be shutting down five years from now? Ten years from now? With what cause?
There are young adults who have never lived in a world without the internet. They don’t realize that before they were born, only the government and the major broadcasters controlled all the communication and information across the world. When I was in high school it was inconceivable that someone could write an editorial or make a video or draw a picture in his living room, and anyone in the world who wanted to could read or watch or see it immediately - or, that you could read or see or hear any information that someone across the globe made available. That’s a freedom that is new and amazing and wonderful. The ability to be seen, to have your voice heard, or to hear the voices of others anywhere instantly is a new right that should be protected at all costs, and this, my friends is the proverbial slippery slope your mother warned you about. Totalitarian changes don't happen overnight, they happen inch by inch.
OK, you say, but I care about copyright. I don’t want my own work stolen. I agree – I don’t either. People’s work shouldn’t be stolen or used without permission. That’s why we have civil courts, so people can be sued for just compensation. If the government must get involved, then suspected site owners could be subpoenaed, and, if they are found guilty in a court of law after due process has been served, then have their sites taken away. But my tax dollars should not be going to make Homeland Security into the personal police force of Viacom, Turner and Disney (and handbag designers.) That’s what really burns me. Not only is our government bending us over for its corporate masters, but it’s trying to hide it under the umbrella of Homeland Security. Please please please, President Obama, please make the connection between terrorism and copyright violation for me in your next speech. I’d love to hear it. I keep thinking of the Family Guy gag where Lois runs for mayor, and all she has to do is say “Nine Eleven!” over and over and over again to get away with whatever she wants. Uh oh, I just quoted a television episode. It’s been nice knowing you.