Dear Senator Reed, Senator Whitehouse, and Representative Cicilline,
I would hope that you have been met with an onslaught of communications in the past several days regarding the current SOPA and PIPA bills. As a voting constituent, and maybe more importantly, as an educator, I am writing you to oppose these bills. I’m sure that you have read dozens of letters regarding the need to stop piracy. Yes, it is an important issue. However, this legislation does not appear to be the solution.
For the past decade, the Internet has brought enormous resources to the educational community and revolutionized the ways in which we, as teachers, can prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st Century. However, the core of the values that we have strived to inculcate in our students – to synthesize, analyze, communicate, collaborate, and create – are all threatened by this bill.
On June 23, 2008, Professor Michael Wesch presented An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube at the Library of Congress. In this presentation, he discussed the anthropological impact of Web 2.0 – especially YouTube – and how it is changing the media-scape. This was almost four years ago, and while, as educators, politicians, businesses, and parents, we have embraced the freedoms of this technology, we still have not addressed the fundamental ethical dilemma that it presents: piracy.
Similarly, in November of 2008, Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is quoted as having said:
“If we had done that [achieve the objectives of copyright] a decade ago, we would have had 10 years of artists getting more money, we’d have fewer competition rules for new businesses to figure out how they can create great new products from these digital technologies but, most important for me, we wouldn’t have a decade of our kids being criminals…. Raising a generation of pirates is “corrosive and corrupting of the rule of law” – Source: Anthony Doesburg: Copyright law seen as stifling creative voice
So, for years, we have been advised that change needs to happen – that the traditional copyright laws are no longer sufficient in a networked, collaborative world. However, despite the warnings, the court proceedings, and the suggestions of organizations such as The Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the only group to have gained significant traction is the media industry looking to protect “the way it’s always been” and their pockets. If the medical, education, or business industries maintained such a position we would have… healthcare reform, education legislation, and Occupy movements.
Rather than impose mass legislation that will cripple the creativity, ingenuity, and economy that have come to characterize the 21st Century, why not educate the public about fair use, creative commons licenses, and copyright law. Why not examine the legislation (the last copyright amendment addressing the “Digital Millennium” was 1998)? Why not require schools, colleges, and universities to teach digital citizenship?
Senator Reed, Senator Whitehouse, and Representative Cicilline, these bills are not the answer. Join the bipartisan group of Senators Wyden, Moran, Cantwell, and Paul in their opposition of PIPA. Work with industry and academia to find a solution, not a set of regulations that could potentially cripple the future.
Resources used to research writing this letter: