By: Ainsleigh Burelle
At some point on January 18th, you probably found yourself wandering around Internet Land only to be confronted with the blackouts on Wikipedia and Reddit, among other websites. These service interruptions were part of a protest against the proposed SOPA legislation in the U.S., which threatened stricter copyright laws and limited use of protected works. However, it’s not just an annoyance to the average American Joe. While our land may be separated by gated tollbooths and (not the nicest of) uniformed officers, the internet flows freely around the globe. The blackouts raised enough awareness to put SOPA out of effect – for now, anyway.
For those who don’t know, SOPA and PIPA are small aspects of the international movement surrounding ACTA, an opt-in global movement initiated by the governments of various countries to protect copyrighted material circulating the ’net (You know it’s getting out of control when your acronym breeds even more acronyms). As of last October, Canada, along with the U.S., Singapore, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand all signed on the dotted line to begin paving the way for an internet that may soon be unrecognizable. Were SOPA to be passed in the U.S., or a similar bill in Canada, the repercussions would be unimaginable. Picture Youtube-ing some fresh tunes only to find ad-laden videos put up by corporations that are “not available in your country.” Miss the Golden Globes? Get out your PVRs, folks. Or better yet, wait for live replays. If Drake’s next album leaks, good luck getting your hands on it. The face of the Internet would be forever changed, and what a regrettable surgery it would be.
The SOPA web protests managed to gather the attention of over 160 million internet users, and have begun to enrage people everywhere. Kader Arif, a rapporteur for the European Parliament, recently resigned from his long-held position in order to protest ACTA’s signing. Referring to ACTA, he expressed his frustration toward the movement, noting the “lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations,” and his refusal to “take part in this masquerade.” ACTA deliberations have reportedly been ongoing since 2007, and in all honesty, I have not heard it mentioned until 2012. Undoubtedly, these secretive deliberations were to avoid the global upset that was instead sparked by reactions like the Wiki protest.
Tabatha Southey of the Globe and Mail also addressed the tortoise-like speed of negotiations leading up to last October. She writes, “If the aim of these bills is to curtail the amount of illegally viewed films and television shows and not to preserve outdated business models or to allow governments more control over the web, [...] this process has been, I would say, suspiciously slow.”
Amusingly (or at least it would be if it weren’t so concerning), SOPA’s stated function was to “promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation by combating the theft of US property and for other purposes,” which, we can all agree, is just plain silly.
As Canadians with a history of relatively lax copyright laws – works entering the public domain only require a “life plus 50” time frame in comparison to the “life plus 70” constraint on American and European works – freedom of the internet has never been a huge issue for us until now. Proposed legislation such as Bill C-11 in Canada would bring SOPA-like restrictions.
The Internet’s rapid success lies in its grassroots origins and its ability to function as a free, open-source tool. So, what if SOPA re-surfaces? What if ACTA threatens to take full control of our precious Internet with legislation like Bill C-11? Well, fellow tweeters, tumblrs, facebookers, and instagrammers, all I can say is: this is our time. If there was ever a time to fight for something valuable, it’s now.
To get involved in fighting ACTA copyright legislation in Canada, email or call your MP.