Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery
The internet chapter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secret copyright treaty whose text Obama's administration refused to disclose due to "national security" concerns, has leaked. It's bad.
There are several parallel struggles going on right now to define the form and structure of the 21st Century economy both globally and here in Estados Unidos. Some are in the headlines (health care, transitioning off carbon-based energy and dealing with climate change, reforming finance) and a couple other big ones are not.
The two things which fly under the radar are that classic favorite, the military industrial complex, which is verboten for polite political discussion, and the struggle to define the balance of power around information. In this latter struggle, we have some real choices to make, and they're pretty important.
If something like this treaty goes through, the future looks pretty damn dim for internet-enabled innovation, culture, and industry. In essence, the treaty denies non-creators any meaningful ability to "own" the information contained within products they purchase. It also creates highly restrictive requirements for "policing" infringement which will create enormous legal overhead for what are today simple staples of online life (e.g. forget about Flickr or Youtube).
The mindset behind these treaties is a dictatorial one. The powers that be in the information economy — large scale copyright holders — want the rest of us to remain dutiful non-threatening consumers of their data, digital serfs. If they are successful in cementing that vision in law, it will create at best a two-teir economy, with the conventional/commercial "mainstream" plugging away as a sort of digital shopping mall of culture, and a secondary, underfunded, alternative information underground of Free Culture competing. At worst, the shopping mall will strangle the alternative, and the underground will be reduced to simply grey/black-market activities.
This isn't what any of us want, really. We want the whole of culture to be Free (as in speech, not as in beer) and for all the mighty talent and resources currently contained within the mainstream to be a part of that. This means change, which isn't pleasant for the powers that be. However, it really will be better for everyone if the focus is on creativity and delivering value rather than hoarding and punishment.
So, it's unclear what kind of leverage can/should be exerted on these secret treaty negotiations, but I'll keep an eye on it.