Story of the Week: Online piracy debate goes viral
This week brought black outs, shut downs and online protests as online piracy was placed at the forefront of tech news. While Congress announced that it suspended the proposed piracy bills, SOPA and PIPA, commentators wrote that the debate over how to reduce online piracy was not over yet.
On Wednesday, Google, Wikipedia and other US technology companies staged online protests against two proposed bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act. John Batelle of Batelle Media observed that “Silicon Valley is waking up to the fact that we have to be part of the process in Washington”.
Two popular social media companies, Facebook and Twitter, did not participate in Wednesday’s protests, which drew criticism from sites such as Mashable.
Although Mark Zuckerberg spoke against the bill in a note on Facebook, Ben Parr argued that the two companies were “better off using their communication platforms to spread word of the SOPA protests instead”.
Nevertheless, some found the blackouts to be “foolish,” as Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo wrote. Although Paul Carr on Pandodaily’s site agreed with Costolo’s statement, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madigral pointed out that the actions helped introduce the bills to the mainstream media.
Elsewhere, James Allworth and Maxwell Wessel of the Harvard Business Review outlined the fight between the media and technology industries, while Rob Preston of InformationWeek urged opponents of the bills to “rally support for a meaningful, 21st century alternative to stopping online content privacy”.
Following the online protests, in a “dramatic twist”, as the FT’s David Gelles wrote, Megaupload was closed down after “federal authorities charged seven people connected with the company with copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering”.
In retaliation, Anonymous attacked sites including the FBI, the US Department of Justice and the White House.
The shut down had Mike Masnick of TechDirt asking: “So why do we need SOPA/PIPA again?”
The Technology Liberation Front’s Jerry Brito wrote that Anonymous’ attacks “threaten to destroy the good will the Internet community generated the previous day with the SOPA protests”.
Danah Boyd, a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, noted that with the spotlight on online piracy, “we need to have serious conversations about what is colloquially termed piracy”.
“I strongly believe that when people work en masse to route around a system, the system is most likely the thing that needs the fixing, not the people,” Boyd added.