[archive] Real Censorship

During the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), critics of the legislation portrayed its process of identifying foreign black market domains and then blocking them from gaining easy profits from, and access to, the US online audience, as "censorship" -- full stop.

There are plenty of cases where public support is needed when their free speech rights are being undermined, but "free expression" as a means of protecting organized crime (freeloading services that make money off of popular unlicensed content) ain't one of them. The "free internet" or "remix culture" are, more often than not, dolled-up abstract concepts that serve to obscure the real-world mass violation of artists rights happening every day. Lots of consumers are used to getting their content for free and would like to keep it that way, even if it means they are ripping-off the artists themselves. Giant tech companies are happy to avoid the pains of regulation and reduced profits that would come with rules-of-the-road that treat creators with more decency. It's much easier and more effective to say they believe in "free expression" or are "against censorship" than to admit that artists, once again in history, have little negotiating power and can therefore be rolled over by the powers that be.

It vexes me when representatives from Google or the EFF, Reddit, etc are so quick to lump in the attempt to protect artists rights with the political censorship of China or Iran. It is entitlement of the privileged and demonstrates how desperate some are to excuse freeloading.

In Iran, newspapers are shut down for explicitly political reasons, not because of copyright infringement. I heard this story on NPR last weekend about a new law in China that forbids the "spreading of rumors" about the government, and bloggers are actually being arrested. Is this "censorship" the same as, say, making it more difficult for consumers to download unlicensed music and movies for free, or making sure third parties can't easily profit from being the facilitators?