Today, January 18, is a day of widespread Internet blackouts to oppose Protect IP Act and Stop Online Privacy Act, PIPA and SOPA in the US. Just about every post from every country in my RSS reader this morning is discussing this topic. Global Voices has a particularly good post on the issues, and importantly, the post is available in 6 different languages.

I recently returned from vacation, including a week in Los Angeles. I attended a TV show taping, visited Warner Bros studios, hung out at the Santa Monica pier (as seen in any number of TV shows), went to the movies, and spent much of the week on buses and trains reading The War for Late Night by Bill Carter. I am an unashamed fan of The Business. And a librarian who believes in equitable access to information, globally, to all.

One of the most interesting aspects of Carter’s book is the idea of Late Night being a symbol of the problems in media: the divide between the television business as it has always been, tied to ratings and advertising dollars, and new business, embracing a new on-demand, timeshifting culture:

“For Conan, the change he had made in his career had taken on the trappings of religious conversion. He had seen the future; there was no going back. “Everybody is facing the complete transformation of our business,” he said. “You can resist and fight it or you can go with it. I’m saying go with it. Let’s see where this goes.” (Carter, p. 404)

The Hollywood Reporter posted an astonishing article on Monday, Why Hollywood Is Losing the Public Relations War on Piracy (Analysis). The article is a surprisingly honest critique of how media companies have got it wrong in framing the debate on copyright infringement. An argument we hear most is that downloading costs jobs in Hollywood, yet:

“Making an argument on jobs might seem like a winning political one in a tough economic climate. But increasingly, the tech sector is seen as the engine of economic growth in this nation. Hollywood’s estimates of piracy’s economic damage have been picked apart by observers, but more importantly, arguing about the economic sufferings of one industry sector rings hollow as another industry sector thrives.”

We are beginning to see fractures in the PIPA/SOPA debate – former supporters jumping across to oppose the proposed bills, and Internet media companies not joining forces with the big studios. Beyond this issue, there is a larger shift with more shows making clips and full shows available online. Had The X-Files been around now, maybe we wouldn’t have spent all our time in the 90s defending websites against Cease and Desist notices *

Perhaps we need to broaden to who and how we lobby and engage on these issues. Seeing the debate as openness vs big business isn’t productive. We now see some individual shows, agents, and artists embracing the Internet as a way to build audiences, and new sources of advertising revenue. Is there a role for librarians in this? If your library has a celebrity or author champion, or READ posters, it might be interesting to know if they are aware of this proposed legislation, and their position on it. Reach out, and start talking.

  • I had a very popular fansite in the late 90s. There is debate about whether it actually impacted a minor storyline on the show. It was featured in Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, the Official X-Files Magazine, and a number of newspapers. None of those publications still exist, nor does the website.

Originally published on the semanticlibrary.net blog