If you read my blog regularly, or follow me on Twitter, you’ll doubtless have an idea of my views on SOPA, PIPA, ACTA etc. I’m one of over 2 million people who have signed a petition to try and get ACTA rejected, and I support the hundreds of protests taking place later today in cities across the UK and the globe.
I’m against these measures for 2 reasons, and it’s not about being able to pirate films, music or books. In all honesty, I can’t remember the last time I consciously attempted to download pirated content – I’m too busy to spend time worrying whether my laptop is secure enough to be safe and locating a decent copy when I can generally pay the ‘lazy man’s tax’ and download from a legal site. Generally many of the acts, artists and authors I enjoy tend to be aware of and use Creative Commons licences anyway.
The reasons I’m against the attempts by large media companies to shore up their moribund traditional business practice by funding politicians to bring in laws are simple:
- I believe that a free and open internet provides far more benefits to the whole of society than it damages, and that copyright is an incentive for creation which is meant to serve society as a whole, not restrict innovation and ideas in the service of extending profits for large corporations.
- I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a free and open internet which allows me relative freedoms of self-publishing and self-expression, which has enabled me to continue to build a business and career based on creating content, training journalists, and helping companies to connect more effectively with their customers. All of this will become more difficult due to the lack of understanding shown in all new bills and treaties proposed so far by people who have little empathy with the users of the world wide web.
And there’s an additional reason why I’m standing up against these proposals with more strength than ever before – my son. I don’t want him to grow up in a world where the greatest tool for access to knowledge, community and enabling basic human rights is castrared by large media companies because they haven’t evolved and want to keep doing business the old fashioned way.
After almost 4 years, I still occasionally feel surprised and amazed that I have responsibility for another human being – looking after a cat and a rabbit were stressful enough, let alone remembering to eat healthily and get enough sleep when I’m working hard. But as a parent I share what I presume are normal concerns – worrying my son might get ill, hurt, be unhappy, etc. As a geek parent I also have two concerns specific to technology:
- I want my son to benefit from education and access to the tools to be able to take things apart, modify them, and create with them to build his own inventions and ideas, whether that’s hardware, software, art or ideas. I don’t want him to be a passive consumer forcefed applications and content which is so protected that it can’t be examined, played with, and learnt from.
- I want my son to benefit from a free and open internet which allows him to potentially connect with a global network of people who may share his ideas, beliefs, and passions. He may turn out to be the most popular kid in his school, but he may also have interests which aren’t shared by everyone else – the internet is an amazing tool for establishing other people share the same problems or hobbies, and reducing the isolation which can be a symptom of being a teenager in particular.
With my limited knowledge of politics and finance, I have little hope that the current administrations and electoral processes will change enough to stop the constant challenges to our digital evolution. So it’s my duty, and yours, to stand up for the things we want to preserve, for ourselves, and for our children, family, friends and everyone else.
If you’re in Europe, contact the relevant MEPs now – the questions being raised over ACTA have led to positive signs in both Poland and Germany, and there’s no reason why we can’t make a change in other coutnries if we all act. I have no doubt that eventually an open system will prevail no matter what laws are passed, but lets not allow the current generations of teenagers and children to have their potential wasted while that happens.