Protest works. SOPA won’t. Next: boycott Big Content?

CC-licensed from Aaron Escobar

By most accounts, yesterday’s #OpBlackout Internet strike made the right kind of noise. Copyright law scholar Sam Trosow calls them “an event of potentially historical magnitude.” Activist organizations like Avaaz, DemandProgress, the EFF, and FightForTheFuture developed an arsenal of different protest tools. Today, reports show much more Congressional opposition to SOPA.
The Pirate Bay posted a feisty, combative press release:

SOPA can’t do anything to stop TPB. Worst case we’ll change top level domain from our current .org to one of the hundreds of other names that we already also use. In countries where TPB is blocked, China and Saudi Arabia springs to mind, they block hundreds of our domain names. And did it work? Not really. To fix the “problem of piracy” one should go to the source of the problem. The entertainment industry say they’re creating “culture” but what they really do is stuff like selling overpriced plushy dolls and making 11 year old girls become anorexic. Either from working in the factories that creates the dolls for basically no salary or by watching movies and tv shows that make them think that they’re fat.

Of course, we already knew before yesterday that the ███████ bill won’t even work. As has been widely reported, opensource developers have already created and distributed apps and plug-ins that pre-emptively subvert SOPA:
“Internet circumvents anti-circumvention bill before it even passes.”

But as expert commentators like Trosow and Michael Geist point out, SOPA is just one of many legislative and trade-based manoeuvres being pursued around the world, manoeuvres like ACTA, CETA, and TPP that target “piracy” with reckless indifference to the vast collateral damage they will wreak on civil liberties and even human rights.

And yet the same small pool of usual suspects are behind most of these widely cast driftnets of regulation. Lawrence Lessig calls them Big Content: Hollywood and the Big Four Music labels. Massively concentrated, multinational, conglomerate corporations, these are vampire overlords of cultural production thatclearly show they don’t understand and actively hate the Internet, and yet whose productions command massive global popularity – and profits. I’ve previously blogged about an informative map that shows what the world looks like according to royalty exports. Let’s look at that map again.

CC-licensed from

In this version of the world, the USA is a bloated tick and the rest of the world, save western Europe, barely exists. The nervous system of this tick is Big Content: the entertainment and music conglomerates that tirelessly come up with new ways to make censorship, kill switches, and mass criminalization seem like common sense instead of straight-up evil greed (hey, BoingBoing said it). And all the while, Big Content still enjoys substantial, sometimes record profits.

While there are many reasons for Big Content’s continued profitability (amidst a horde of conflicting studies, independent and interested, that leave its purported demise a claim greatly exaggerated), let me get all “Universal soldier” for a minute and suggest the fault’s partly our own, as buyers of albums, DVDs, and movie tickets. If the Internet really wants to put the hurt on this torrent of bad ideas – drawn up in secret, promoted disingenuously, and possessing all the precision and finesse of a point-blank blunderbuss – maybe it’s time to #BBC: Boycott Big Content. I don’t know about you, but music seems to be getting along fine without big labels, self-publishing’s on an upswing, and Youtube’s as much fun as the silver screen. Quality UGC now comes in all shapes, sizes, and persuasions (like The Oatmeal, which was perhaps the blackout’s popular favourite statement). So maybe I don’t get out much – and maybe an old-timey boycott has its share of problems as an effective tactic – but Boycotting Big Content might be something to consider, the better to strike at the roots of the evil that is today’s out-of-control copyright regime.

1. I just learned BBC means something other than British Broadcasting Corp. Makes the tag even better. (That said, public media like the BBC and the CBC provide vital public-interest service, unlike private conglomerates. They’re in a different, more respectable league of Big Media.)
2. A boycott’s one idea; the hacktivist group Anonymous is taking a more direct approach against Big Content, making DDoS attacks on not just state agencies but companies like Sony; check out the statement the group has issued.

One response to “Protest works. SOPA won’t. Next: boycott Big Content?

  1. Pingback: Operation Black March: Boycott Big Content | Academicalism

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