By now, SOPA and PIPA sound like English words (not even acronyms) that have been in use since the Shakespearean age. Well there has been a lot of buzz on these two acronyms lately. In fact, they have come to actually define the extent to which we, the internet users, really love what we do on the net so much that we would go to any lengths to cut any hand that tries to interfere with the way the internet operates.
In Kenya, a few years ago, we had journalists countrywide taking to the streets to protest what was apparently gagging of the media and denial of the freedom of expression when the then Media Bill was discussed and passed in Parliament by a paltry 28 members and the President had gone ahead to assent to the Bill making it an Act of parliament and henceforth part of the laws of the land. Well, on January 18th it was not Kenyan journalists protesting government interference but ordinary internet users like me and you who felt that Uncle Sam was about to change the internet forever. Whether I support online piracy and infringement of copyright laws is discussion for another day but let me ask you: What would be the internet today, more so for us in the third world, if everything were to be bought at price ranges of $0.99 to infinity?
[Image courtesy: Ars Technica]
The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act actually presented a real threat to all the positive progress the internet has made. The billions of users today are as a result of the endless freedoms that exist on the information superhighway. Thank God for organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation that took the intended passage of the two bills on a tentative 24th January very seriously and joined internet users in the worldwide blackout of January 18th. Indeed it paid off. The two bills, SOPA and PIPA introduced by US senators Patrick Leahy (Democrat) and a Republican representative Lamar Smith respectively received such a backlash that by the end of the day, hordes of senators were reconsidering their support for the two bills. Pages put up online by Wikimedia Foundation and Google Inc accumulated millions of views in under 24 hours and millions of online petitions were signed. Message: Don’t you ever think you can control the operations of the internet! Those simple webpages are the lifeline of many and trying to set boundaries as to what they can offer consumers is trampling on the very human freedom of expression. Actually people enjoy the free movies, music and games and unrestricted file sharing (Too bad MegaUploads had to go). It is up to professionals in those fields to do something without stepping on the toes of internet users. People already cough a lot of bucks to pay for downloads from iTunes and other services. It’s not that we (internet users) aren’t willing but that the internet as we know it must be left to operate uncensored by any government.
The successful protests should send a message to all oldies out there who believe in the retention of the status quo that the era of sitting in boardrooms and making major decisions that affect the masses single-handedly is gone, dead and gone!
SopaStrike.com aptly captured the moment: “January 18th was unreal. Tech companies and users teamed up. Geeks took to the streets. Tens of millions of people who make the internet what it is joined together to defend their freedoms. The network defended itself. Whatever you call it, we changed the politics of interfering with the internet forever-there’s no going back.”