Back in the 1600s and 1700s, ships that plied the Caribbean with cargoes of precious metal, passengers and trade goods ran the risk of being intercepted by pirates. Those pirates thought nothing of killing passengers and crews, seizing cargoes and commandeering the ships they had attacked.
Naturally, the owners of the ships were enraged, and for more than 100 years pirates were sought, caught and if taken alive were hung publicly, usually within sight of a harbor.
The vaunted romanticism of pirates was pure fiction. They were among the worst human beings on the earth.
Any argument that stopping piracy was wrong because it somehow interfered with the freedom of the seas would have been laughed off the map.
Yet, when we try to stop modern piracy — that is, piracy on the Internet — people rise up against it, saying that legislation to enforce ethical and legal use of intellectual and commercial property somehow would interfere with the “free and open Internet.”
Excuse me while I laugh. In the first place, there is no free and open Internet unless you are merely talking about the wires, transmitters and servers that enable Internet communication. On the contrary, it’s a commercial oligarchy, controlled by firms whose business models almost always involve theft of ideas or intellectual ideas from others or invasion of others’ privacy.
The Internet is a means of outright theft of individual identitys. It enables bullying, badgering, pornography, the sale of stolen goods and the sale of counterfeit goods. It can be a sneak thief of personal information — a violation of privacy on such a large scale that if it had been undertaken by the government people would have gone into the streets with torches and pitchforks in protest.
The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act would do little more than enable a better job of policing offshore pirates. But the Internet mob doesn’t want to be inconvenienced by that, and they’re instigating a protest of the acts.
How many overseas websites have produced movies? How many have published original music? How many have published original books? The answer is, those cheaply priced works you find on the Internet, except for those offered for sale in a retail transaction by legitimate merchants, are usually stolen from their creators.
How free and open is that? Or is it just modern-day piracy? Those two bills should be passed to help protect the rest of us from offshore thieves.