Briefly the 24 hour blackout by Wikipedia and a number of other web presences is in response to proposals by the US Congress – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) – which are designed to control user generated content. This is allegedly about infringement of copyright. Instead of reviewing existing copyright legislation in the light of an Internet age, the media giants have chosen to reinforce their monopolies with a cast iron boot approach. This directly opposes the original ‘openness’ of the Internet while hiding behind claims of piracy and thievery aimed at users who are refusing to be customers. Google, Twitter and EBay are also allegedly opposing this legislation although not with Blackouts – maybe they should – but at least two of the three carry advertising.
The fear is the US will have the power to control information and close any websites which contain disputed copyrighted materials. Should it come about I suspect DRM will inevitably be extended as commercial companies use this as an opportunity to protect their brands and products. Capitalism is fighting back and the only surprise is that it has taken this long. There are two issues; firstly the debate over copyright itself and secondly the exposure of the frailty of our digital connections. We take them for granted but they are more vulnerable to attack than we realise. Once the ways and means of imposing controls begins then the Internet will become just another commodity and all its potential for democratic access will be lost. These attempts to control the Internet should be opposed.