Copy-rights, copy-wrongs and the future of the Internet

Internet in chains

The Internet, sometimes synonymous with the Web, is showing some of its many connective threads in the form of copyright law and intellectual property. YouTube (owned by Google) is taking on a defensive role in heading off potential future lawsuits by pointing copyright holders at potential violators who have posted clips of movies and video games and diverting revenue to the “proper” owners.

What is interesting is the observation that our beloved Web and the more-expansive Internet, as initiated by Tim Berners-Lee, is founded upon the idea of a “royalty-free” ecosystem. Berners-Lee would either be a billionaire by now, or we’d have several versions of the Internet, each forwarded by some corporate conglomeration, if he didn’t make the sacrifice and reject the idea of patenting the early protocols and code that led to the ubiquitous “www”.

However, the future of the Internet seems to be darkening, as copyright law and digital piracy (those mortal enemies) push us toward less utopian conclusions. The presumption of net neutrality may be only that: tactics such as bandwidth throttling of P2P traffic are used worldwide, corporations are pushing for massive changes to existing copyright law to extend their global reach, and even ISPs are being recruited to become a form of Internet police. Even prioritizing traffic is looking like a possibility.

Turns out, there’s an entire alphabet soup of laws being pushed into the American legislature and extended over global domains that would change the entire dynamic of the Internet. Fortunately, supporters of net neutrality include leading tech companies such as Amazon, eBay, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo, and initiatives like Save the Internet working to preserve the open and free Internet we’ve come to love.

How does this impact libraries? Overall, it means narrower access to information (as stronger copyright laws strangle what falls under “acceptable use”), perhaps “preferred access” being granted only to users of specific ISPs, and far greater threat of litigation when someone crosses what is becoming an increasingly fine line of either violating copyright or aiding another’s violation. Libraries themselves could potentially be “on the list” in some circumstances, if they’re not seen as doing enough to prevent misuse of their Internet access. Here’s the ALA’s stance on net neutrality as well, as fodder for thought.

Is the future of the Internet in chains, or do you feel that it’s more likely that copyright law and net neutrality will resist efforts to restrict the average user?

By Jared Leadbetter Posted in web

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