More than 21,000 ColorOfChange.org members called on their elected officials to oppose the Senate PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and House Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and both bills have now been shelved indefinitely. This victory is an important one for Internet users and activists, and for our democratic process. But the fundamental struggle over what the Internet is for — and what we should be able to see and do online — is only going to get more intense.
Already Internet freedom advocates are shifting gears from a focus on the domestic legislative battle to raise awareness about a couple of (eerily-similar) international treaties: the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. ACTA's SOPA-like provisions — intended to create an Internet surveillance dragnet requiring Internet service providers and search engines to monitor their users' activities online — have sparked street protests, and caused the European Parliament's treaty monitor to quit in protest.
Underlying all these attempts to harness the power of the Internet to further corporate interests is a lot of fearmongering, not substantiated data, about how online piracy — like cable TV, the VCR, and DVR before it — will destroy the entertainment industry. But there is a growing movement of artists, and innovators in fields from music to video games, who argue that the technological advances enabling those who are determined to do so to access creative works without paying for them at the same time provide exciting opportunities for promoting their art — and ultimately growing profits as well as their fan base. Paid-content services like iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, and Hulu, by keeping quality high and prices low, are also doing a great deal to keep those of us not bent on piracy from going there for lack of better online options.
Finally, it's important to note that sweeping "anti-piracy" efforts like SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and the TPP aren't just about stopping bad guys from illegally downloading digital music and movies — they also seek to criminalize links like this to YouTube and Vimeo clips with educational, personal, and creative value, but no actual commercial application at all.
Going forward, it's on us to remain vigilant against attempts to "break the Internet" by corporate interests who either don't understand the implications of their proposals for broader Internet freedoms...or just don't care. Thanks to the Internet, "democracy is no longer something that happens at a ballot box, once a year," but a daily right and responsiblity we must continually work to sustain. You can help support ColorOfChange's work on this critical issue by clicking here.