18 Jan 2012
No to SOPA! Fight enclosure of the creative commons
The ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) has sought to close down entire websites internationally purely on accusations by US media corporations. Some of its more oppressive features have now been removed but only as a result of massive protest.
Today's the wikipedia blackout has been inspired. The world wide web was established as a ‘commons’ with access for all, it has given rise to a huge blossoming of human creativity. SOPA is just one example but corporate interests would like to fence the web in and if they could would make us pay for every click.
Across the world people have collectively managed land, seas and forests as commons. Many of these were ‘enclosed’, fenced in and the people who used them excluded. In Britain from the feudal seizure of our lands in 1066 by William I, who was essentially a Norman bandit who stole a whole country to the enclosures of the 18th century, the commons have been taken by elite interests. The elites re-write history to justify this. In 2009 Elinor Ostrom became the first women to win a Nobel Prize for economics with her research that suggests that local communal management far from being tragic, protected the environment and was economically efficient. Commons in land are well managed by local people who know that if they don’t protect them their prosperity based on sustaining the local environment will be under threat.
If we don’t fight SOPA and similar moves to end net neutrality our creative commons will be gone. The corporations will write the history saying that the web was a chaotic dangerous inefficient place until they disciplined it. The web can create abuse and artists need to be rewarded for their efforts, it isn’t a cyber utopia. Yet it would be a real tragedy of the commons if it was fenced in and neutered to please the likes of Rupert Murdoch and co. We must resist and keep the web as a place for human interaction rather than a source of profit for a minority.
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