I’ve mentioned that sometimes I intentionally post things after they would normally be considered “dead issues,” to bring them back into our awareness, because I think we shouldn’t forget.
I’m writing this on January 18th, the day of the Great Internet Blackout to fight the SOPA and PIPA bills. This puts me in the dangerous business of predicting the future, because I’m going to suggest that there will probably be legislation in the works right now on February 27th that does basically the same thing those bills tried to do. Hell, those bills themselves might still be around in some sort of cut-down format as people try to weasel them past.
Legislation is, sadly, not like a video game monster. We did not hit it with status effects and wear down its HP until it went “poom” and disappeared. (Besides, everyone knows status effects never work on boss monsters.) Someone will sneak it as an amendment onto the defense budget, or onto something else too big to vote down. It’s been done before. This time, unlike the indefinite detention of US citizens, we probably don’t have the option to take it to the courts. SOPA is probably not unconstitutional, just awful. If it ever passes, in any form, it is unlikely to get reversed.
Legislation is someone’s idea of the right thing to do – for the world as a whole, or for their company, or for them in particular. No matter how misguided or full of crap we might think that idea is, someone out there thinks that it is right. If it gets massive public backlash in its current form, it will show up in another form.
It’s like dealing with little kids – we told them they couldn’t have a cookie, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a brownie, right? Maybe they can have a cookie while we’re not in the room? What about half a cookie? Can they have cookies for dinner? They need a cookie, to protect the Earth!
I’m putting this on an education blog because a) it’s so important that it’s worth talking about in any online format, b) the freeness of the internet directly impacts the quality of modern education both online and offline, and c) the idea that every teenager will perfectly understand and respect intellectual property laws is ridiculous. Do you really want a school’s website or a massive wiki site to get shut down just because a student posted something to which they don’t have the rights? That’s what SOPA and PIPA would have allowed – and perhaps still will.
We can’t count on a blackout like January 18th’s every time something like this comes up. Politicians know that. We need to make it clear in other ways as well.