I’ve been seeing TV commercials recently warning of the widespread theft of American inventions and urging me to call my Congressman about it. And I realize America has lost a lot of its technology to countries like China and India.
I think it’s one of the main reasons for America’s inability to get the economy back on track. Its failure to protect the technology developed here has cost America its competitive edge in the global marketplace.
But I do not think the vast majority of ideas were stolen off the Internet. I think the ideas got shipped overseas along with the factories and other production facilities that use the ideas.
Surprisingly, the remedy the government is proposing is to shut down the Internet as we know it today.
From what I know of the proposed legislation, I believe it would ban the common practice of sending stuff we like to each other. Every day, I get links and attachments from friends and relatives. And I am sure they didn’t get permission to use the jokes, cartoons, articles and so on that they picked up while browsing.
Some time ago, I wrote a column for Jamaicans.com that I see everywhere. It was about being “Jamaican” regardless of skin color or ethnic background and a lot of people picked it up to send to fellow-Jamaicans or use it on their web sites. Was I upset? Of course not. I was flattered.
Also, I search the Internet to find illustrations for my blogs. I would have no idea who to ask for permission to use them, and I couldn’t afford to pay for the privilege. But I feel safe in using them today because everybody does it. (According to Rachel Maddow, even the members of Congress who were pushing the censorship law used “plagiarized” pictures on their web sites.)
It would be devastating for the government to criminalize the practice. It would shut down such popular sites as YouTube and put every email user at risk.
Widespread protests, which included the threatened shutdown of Wikipedia and Google,forced Congress to back off, but there’s still a lot of pressure to enact the legislation later on.
In the meantime, the government has shut down the largest file sharing site on the Internet – using its existing powers.
I don’t know much about file sharing. I rarely listen to music on my computer and I can’t stand most of today’s hit songs.
But it seems to me that shutting down a site that gives users access to popular songs is very heavy handed. I realize that the people who wrote and recorded the music would prefer listeners to buy CDs, but I think some fans would buy the CDs anyway after first hearing the music on the Internet. And I squirm at the thought that if it’s illegal to download a song from a file sharing site it might well be illegal to email a song to a friend. Or a cartoon. Or an article…
What can you and I do about it?
Not much. The power of the mighty Hollywood moguls is arraigned against us, and their lobbyists will not be deterred. Unless…
Unless an Occupy the Internet movement emerges, encouraging fans to stop buying Hollywood’s wares until the freedom of the Internet is protected.
Meanwhile, the government would be better employed trying to stop foreign powers from stealing America’s technology along with its factories and its jobs.