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Podcast alert: Defending the Internet

Fire up your iPod!

As you may know, I am a podcast junky.

(“I can stop any time I want to.”

Then Stop

“I don’t want to.”)

For the past several months, the monkeys on my back have been This Week in Tech (TWIT) and This Week in Google (TWIG).  The latest episode of TWIG focuses on the battle between the free internet peoples, er, that would be *us*, and the forces of corporatism (neo-feudalism) that are threatening our freedom of speech around the world.  Jeff Jarvis reports on his latest trip to Germany, where privacy laws are strict in the extreme, but is probably an understandable psychological response to the history of fascism during WWII, followed by Soviet repression and the Stasi in East Germany.  From there, the panel discusses the opposite extreme in China where no internet company operating there is allowed privacy outside of the dictates of the Communist government.  Jarvis makes a persuasive case that Google, by pulling out of China in order to protect the anonymity of its users, is standing alone in the world right now and making a political statement similar to the ones we used to make over Apartheid in South Africa.

Whatever your opinion of Google or whether you agree with Jeff Jarvis’ assessment, this is a situation that should be getting a lot more attention than it has recently.  Recall that not too long ago, Hillary Clinton (Oh, no, not HER again), made a strong defense of freedom of speech, freedom of Internet speech in particular.  TWIG host Leo Laporte suggests that we should be discussing the issue with more urgency.  I agree with him.  Without sufficient attention, Google stands alone against a country that as Jarvis points out, has more internet users than we have people in the United States.  It’s a huge and lucrative market that Google is pulling out of and they aren’t getting enough coverage for taking such a bold and courageous move.   There’s a principle involved here and we at The Confluence like bold, principled moves.

But there’s more.  Britain is about to ram a bill through Parliament that will allow copyright holders to disconnect violators from the internet.  Yep, violate a copyright, lose your right to surf.  Quick and painless, for them.  For you?  Ehhh, not so much.  The bill is poorly written and not getting the thorough overview it needs.  It sounds like a shortcut to booting people you don’t like off of their ISP.  Sort of a shoot-now-ask-questions-later thing. It’s being rushed through the legislative process without enough overview, just before an election cycle when people are distracted.  Jeez, that sounds so familiar…  So to kick off the conversation on Internet Freedom here, I am linking to TWIG’s latest podcast on the subject: Self-aggrandizing Jerks.

One other note:  I love Gina Trapani.  Her commentary and tips are really excellent.  But she has been working with the Obama Administration on a White House Twitter project to collect user feedback and opinions on different issues.  Gina, I wouldn’t trust Obama’s White House with a 10 foot poll.  For all I know, they will use the information to shape their next round of propaganda.  She is way too optimistic about this White House.  Maybe it’s because she’s young but she just doesn’t seem to have developed the right level of wariness.  Or I’m reading too much into this project or something.  I dunno.  Proceed with caution with the White House talk thingie.

23 Responses

  1. One of my hot button topics. And what’s scary is that to them copyright violations are things everyone does all the time. Listening to the radio, to podcasts, following a link into a website without going through the front page, not kidding, among many other ridiculous things. If they get their way, there will be a toll on breathing as someone has copyrighted the air. Or maybe they patented the process of breathing. Can’t remember because thinking is illegal now.

    • We have been sleeping.
      Back in my early DailyKos days when I thought the left was strong and united, I warned that the way the evil ones would destroy us is by dividing us and setting us against each other. And that worked pretty well. I didn’t see the bros before hos thing until January 2008. Wayyyyy too late to do anything about it.
      Now, here’s my next prediction: the way the evil ones will sew the whole thing up is to pass restrictive bills and make freedom of speech pro forma. You will have that freedom but not on the ISP’s wires. You can speak freely all you want. But no one will hear you. This is where we are and we are not awake enough.
      Damn, I wish we had elected Hillary (she thought, and not for the last time)

      • The accelerated speed at which these policies and changes are being enacted is way beyond unsettling.

  2. Here’s a good article about Justice Stevens, who as some of you will know, is the justice who lead the Sony vs. Universal case to give us the fair use doctrine. The thing that allowed us to make copies of audio or video for our own personal use. That right has been steadily watered down and relentlessly attacked by RIAA and MPAA for years.

    • How do we get the word out? In a way, this is perfect for, um, and internet campaign because internet users are the ones most greatly affected. Unfortunately, I can see all kinds of Fox-like propaganda used in the future to convince the older generation and the vast majority of complacent Americans that the internet is responsible for the spike in child kidnappings.
      What spike in child kidnappings, you may ask? The FBI hasn’t reported any statistical difference in stranger abductions in 40 years. But that doesn’t seem to matter when emotions are prodded with a red hot poker. Remember how Saddam Hussein was in league with Al Qaeda? What? He *wasn’t* in league with Al Qaeda? Then why did we go to war in Iraq? Why would they lie to us?
      It’s an uphill battle but we have to catch up before it’s too late.

      • That’s the 64M question. I don’t know. Post occasionally certainly. And I’ll get off my ass and do some of that. But beyond that I’m not sure. If some case can be made that makes your average suburban think they’re lives will be affected.

        • I have an idea but I don’t know how to start. Based on my recent experiences applying for a passport I think Obama is FAR less popular than he and his droogs make him out to be.
          In fact, there is a lot of regret over electing Obama. And if all his PR outfit can’t overcome it, he is in a lot of trouble. But of course, Obama is just a symptom. How to get to the root of the problem *is* the problem.

  3. Boils down to who has the deeper pockets to buy off congress.

    The thing about fair use as a defense in a copyright infringement suit is you still have to pony up shyster fees to defend yourself.

    Why do you think there are only a few media watchdog sites left? They are the ones with the funds to defend themselves in court.

    • Ya know, I understand that money buys speech. But voters outnumber big pockets by millions. So, why are voters so convinced that they can’t throw the parasites out of office? Is this where the left is failing? We are not able to convince voters that they have the power to change their lives for the better. And to introduce change through the election process is to also introduce instability and uncertainty at a time when the country is weak. We need to work on a new narrative to overcome this tendency in people to give up and cling to conservatism when their best option is to clean house.

      • I think that’s what the majority of OBots think they did, Without that money to buy that speech, how do we undo the brainwashing.

      • We can throw them out. I think there is a widespread anti-incumbent sentiment – I hear it from my conservative relatives especially. The problem that I see is who do we replace them with? We need a way to be able to elect people that are responsive to their constituents. It takes a lot of money to mount a successful campaign. It’s about financing elections as much as having the vote.

  4. And I am soooo a copyright fan. I think intellectual property should be protected. I have always paid for my music, books, movies, TV. It’s only right that people get paid for their creativity. What I object to is the middle men, the large entertainment conglomerates that are dictating the compensation for writers, musicians etc whose works will appear on the internet. I am REALLY concerned with the NBC/Comcast deal. That should never have been allowed. It’s too much of a conflict of interest. What we need is an internet version of PBS. Better yet, we need to give CPB a shot of B vitamins. It has pernicious Republican influenced anemia. I don’t think even the Republicans foresaw such a bonanza of speech limiting possibilities when they started to take down the New Deal. These opportunities are really unprecedented. And they are just savvy and predatory enough to take advantage of them.

    • I’m the same. I make creative works and rely on copyright for those. I sell products and rely on copyright for those. But I don’t want to sue granny or a 5 year old kid for listing to internet radio or downloading a few songs that they may very well own and have the right to copy. I don’t want to make my customer the enemy.

      Ironically when file sharing was at its height, so were music sales. In other words, file sharing is more like radio. People download songs, like them, then wanted to actually own a higher quality version themselves. Silly RIAA.

    • The middle man is definitely the problem. Or I should say a middle man that takes the majority of the take and is in the way as a sort of filter. Book and music publishers come to mind. They filter, artificially keep most players out, and take the vast majority of the take. Often about 100%. So when you hear the line about downloading music takes money from the starving artist, it actually does the opposite because the artist makes their money from touring, which song downloading promotes.

      • Wasn’t there a study in the 80s that basically proved that people who buy more blank media also buy more pre-recorded media? I think Maxell was involved.

    • Better yet, the internet should have remained publicly owned.

    • You mean an internet version of PBS before it got corporatized, right?

      *****A

  5. {{sigh}} I don’t remember having all of this anxiety in the 1990s.

    There must have been a reason…

    • Oh yea, Bill. He was likable enough. Not as revolutionary as Reagan of course. /snark

      • Too bad for Obama that the 90’s were only a decade past. People still remember. And Hillary is still out there, being useful, looking professional and, damn it, competent. They must really hate her in the White House. Why won’t the stupid bitch just go awaaaaaay? She’s ruining everything.

  6. I love Gina. She is terrific, and a really hard worker. I just hope she’s not lobbying for Google when she’s with Genachowski and the White House. Google and Schmidt need the FCC to back off on privacy to drive their business.

  7. RD – you’re out of date. The Digital Economy Act (don’t you *love* the name) was passed last week. It’s the law in the UK, and people are already having their internet access disconnected over the mere accusation of piracy. It’s also stimulated a whole new genre of phishing scams (demanding credit card numbers to pay “fines” for “illegal downloads”).

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