I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that I’m sure is likely to be an unpopular opinion amongst people I know.
We have nobody to blame but ourselves for SOPA/PIPA.
For years I’ve watched as the Internet has been a hotbed of blatant copyright infringement. I’m not innocent myself in this, and I acknowledge my role in creating this monster. But at the end of the day, we’re the ones that have given the media industry the tools they need to argue for the blunt force instrument coming from the SOPA and PIPA Acts worming their way through Congress.
Because by in large, those of us who spend our days building the infrastructure of the Internet.. and those of us who act as gatekeepers and moderators on forums.. have played a very tedious game of lip-service to the content industry’s complaints: and we must admit that while some of them are patently (pun intended) ridiculous, there are valid concerns hidden in the industry’s hubris. Some of us (and some way more than others) have made the “I don’t drop the Bomb, I just make it” argument like that really absolves us of any ethical responsibility when the tools we build are used for criminal copyright violations.
We all know what a joke it is to whine “But Usenet.. and Napster.. and BitTorrent.. and RapidShare.. and (insert technology of the week).. all have valid legitimate uses other than copyright infringement!” because no sooner are those words out of our mouths we open up Transmission and grab the latest Doctor Who episode. We have never made any compelling story about what legitimate uses these services have outside the seedy underground of the Internet.. because, well, they don’t have any outside a few fringe groups precisely because most of the use (by bits per second) is violative. How many of you can honestly say that you’ve used BitTorrent to download more open-source software and public domain media vs. “unauthorized copyrighted content?” If the number of peers and seeds of Linux Mint vs. a recent Doctor Who episode is any indication, it’s laughable to even consider this argument.
So, we honestly didn’t expect the content industry to eventually strike back, and strike back hard with all the might that their billions of dollars can bear?
We picked this fight. We had the power in our hands to use the Internet to better ourselves, to create a new society based upon open sharing of knowledge and communication. Instead we used it to download Britney Spears and The Biggest Loser. We created an Information Superhighway, and all we did was use it as a high-speed getaway van.
When the last unfiltered packet is passed along the backbone, we will only have ourselves to blame in the end.