Ignorance on the Internet

Matt DiGiovanni

With bills like SOPA and PIPA just recently put on hold, ACTA signed, and TPP negotiations still in progress, I’ve noticed two big things happening on the internet: 1. Large internet communities and individual users expressing their opinions/stances by taking action in various ways such as the blackout on January 18 or, in the case of US users, contacting members of congress and 2. Loads of ignorant people posting and reposting rants that ignore the facts, the true things at stake, and focusing way too little on the big picture. It’s 2012 and with the sheer amount of information available on the internet from individual private websites, news sources, and online encyclopedias like Wikipedia, it’s a little disturbing to me how little research some people do before shouting out what everyone else should think and do. This isn’t saying, “don’t form your own opinions,” but it is saying to be well informed before broadcasting misinformation to the masses.

Everyone went wild over SOPA and PIPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act, and for once, I have to say I’m proud (mostly) of the response I saw on the internet. Internet communities banded together to stop things that were seen as a threat to the internet as a whole, and while both bills are only on hold, progress was made. In their original form, both bills would have handed out a lot of power with very little regulation over it, as the wording was too vague. Without delving too much into the piracy debate, I firmly believe that not only would SOPA and PIPA not eliminate or diminish piracy, both would have actively affected legal (or mostly legal) users more. Online pirates are breaking the law by pirating materials already; more laws won’t stop them from doing what they do. When I watch a movie and I have to sit through five minutes of legal warnings and the anti-piracy ads telling me that I wouldn’t download a car, I just think, “why am I the one seeing this? This is a legally purchased or rented version of this film.”

Moving forwards a little bit brings us to the take down of Megaupload and its affiliate sites. I’m now seeing posts on Tumblr (a popular micro blogging site) about how the government is essentially out to get every single person who ever downloaded a piece of copyrighted material off the site. My favorite section of the post (by the group Anonymous) is, “…the fact of the matter is, they [the government] will come after you for this, eventually. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but it will happen.” Be realistic and look at the facts. The takedown notice on Megaupload.com states that, Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering, Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, and Criminal Copyright Infringement were factors in the takedown/indictment of those involved. Someone who illegally downloaded a Madonna album three years ago is hardly priority.

Moving to the international scene, ACTA and TPP, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are trade agreements that the US is involved with that include provisions relating to intellectual property and ISPs (internet service providers). ACTA slipped in under the radar for the most part and was only recently brought to the attention of many people. The final draft of the agreement has been greatly watered down, but it’s yet another instance of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act being pushed on the rest of the world to “protect” intellectual property. TPP is still dangerous as it is still in negotiations and has the potential to completely alter the methods of global protection of Intellectual Property. Even members of congress such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) are concerned with the implications of agreements like this. “’As a member of Congress, it’s more dangerous than SOPA,’ he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos,” (http://forbes.com).

I feel ignorance with the internet is a two-fold issue: there is great ignorance displayed by the users at times, but there is greater ignorance showed by those trying to alter the internets uses and abilities of its users. Being that it’s such a great resource, we need to stand up and protect it, that is a necessity; however, do it with the facts and do it responsibly. In this case, ignorance only fosters ignorance. Speaking of ignorance, to end on a humorous note, everyone should watch this short video clip from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, it’s quite hilarious in my opinion. http://bit.ly/yEGRn7