Eternal Vigilance and Internet Freedom
- Posted by on Jan 20, 2012 in CHI Contemplation
Little could Thomas Jefferson have known nearly 200 years after first noting, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” that his words would be relevant today in protecting Internet freedom.
We witnessed this week a demonstration of coordinated vigilance – if only for a day – as many leading websites went dark in a dramatic protest of the pending SOPA (Stop Internet Privacy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) legislation that ostensibly protect copyright owners from unauthorized online use of their property.
The protest, led by Wikipedia, seemed to have had some immediate impact in thwarting the twin bills’ momentum, as a number of key legislative sponsors withdrew their support (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46032409/?ocid=ansmsnbc11) of SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate. However, it was announced today that SOPA sponsor, Lamar Smith, had in fact pulled the bill from consideration in the House. The arguments against the well-intended bills principally focus on their potential unintended consequences in stifling free speech and handing the federal government unprecedented power of prior restraint in shutting down even the largest websites and online communities on the mere accusation of minor copyright infringements.
So far, so good. But one day’s protests won’t be enough to ensure long-term liberty on the online frontier. Invoking Jefferson’s prescription of “eternal vigilance” in this effort is no exaggeration. Internet freedom affects us all, whether we consume or provide online information. Stay focused and engaged – a long battle looms, and one worth fighting.