For some, last Wednesday’s Internet blackout was an annoyance or a surprise. For those who were aware of the meaning, it was something much more. And now, Congress has withdrawn or postponed voting on both SOPA and PIPA as MSNBC was reporting the other day. Whether we will see either of these bills in reincarnations remains to be seen. The parties behind the initial legislation are very powerful and have deep pockets, but obviously the masses have spoken too.
This would be the time to step up and point out all of the other resources and good learning points that have come out of this movement. We saw the success of social networking with the Arab Spring movement and the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Now we’ve seen the success that the masses can have in America. Wikipedia put it to a vote of its users and contributors before deciding to blackout its English language page last week. Twitter did not participate in the blackout, but #SOPA was the largest trend of the day – and that was user generated too. Google, the powerful search engine, provide a link to tell your Congressman you don’t support SOPA and PIPA – and millions clicked!
We need to truly embrace the power of the people – whether it is sharing with the next generation the real power of the words they use or showing older generations how they can access the same tools and information. Can you imagine a more powerful tool than an understanding of just what information can do? Now it is up to each and every one of us to use our powers for good – share your knowledge because together we have even more power. We’ve lost two fine examples of this in the past year: Steve Jobs and Joe Paterno. Jobs believed that the little man could create and it led to the Apple revolution. Now we see iAuthor for the Mac. Giving students, teachers and other educators the power to create their own digital textbooks, just as GarageBand gave musicians the same opportunities – this is one master stroke from the folks at Apple. And Joe Paterno, who believed that college football should be about college. Yes, I know that most of us remember the scandal, but let’s also remember everything that he did not just for Penn State, but also for college football in general. Speak to his thousands of players and they all say that they knew they were going to get a college degree – a refreshing idea in this day and age. He exemplified the search for knowledge, always trying to improve and stay current – not only that, the library at Penn State Main Campus bears the Paterno name.
While I support the blackout, I can see how both sides believe that they are in the right – and both sides have their good and bad points. One other thing I know is that this mass media (and massive media) passive protest would honor the great Dr. King’s legacy. As I said yesterday, it is a significant week for it. I’ve read a number of articles online about how others are feeling about SOPA and PIPA and have found some of the lack of knowledge appalling. On the other hand, the reporters for the most part seem to have gotten some research completed.
I believe that what we have here mimics in some ways the past. When Dr. King was advocating peaceful change, both sides of the issue were vociferous and they both had a point. Now it’s up to us – the populace – to get educated and get involved just as millions did more than 50 years ago.
Teachers, this is a great tie-in to your lessons! Not just the information literacy part of the curriculum, (Some of the responses on Twitter and available on the web are just humiliating – and I think it’s worse since I feel like, as an educator and a trained librarian, I should be doing a better job helping these folks track down information.) but also the history part. Why not teach this lesson and tie it into the peaceful protests of Ghandi and King?
Not only that, this is a great opportunity for all educators, librarians, and any one who shares a love of knowledge to show what a united community can do…
As I’ve been reading about the various responses to the SOPA and PIPA acts currently being debated in Congress, I’ve been struck with several different thoughts. First, I understand why some people might feel a need to follow through with this sort of legislation. I’m a librarian and I understand why we need to protect copyright – and in a way, isn’t that one of the jobs that we do as librarians? We make sure that the information that we have is protected, we understand that there are rights due the creators of materials, and school librarians even teach about plagiarism. So in that respect, I can see where this perceived need for protection from online piracy might arise.
However, also as a librarian, aren’t we supposed to provide access to materials and information for all individuals? If the current bills pass – although Obama has said that he would not sign them into law – then what we are doing is supporting the restriction of free-flowing information. I’m sure that many of us, whether we realize it, have at some point viewed a video or other material that was not being used appropriately. The line has blurred for many people as to appropriate use, and as a librarian I do want people to have free and low cost access to information, but at what cost?
And now the masses have spoken…
While many companies and industries support SOPA including NBCUniversal and pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Merck, other major companies such as Wikimedia (Wikipedia) are blacking out parts of the Internet in protest. I understand protest (and it is certainly a fitting week for it to occur), but at the same time I’m not sure what purpose this will serve. Twitter has decided that it will not black out its services, but who’s next?
It seems to me that the Wikipedia blackout could have implications for libraries. All day tomorrow, one of the major sites that many people use to get information is going to be offline – why can’t we jump into that and show how we can provide access to information as well. Could SOPA and PIPA end up having benefits for libraries or will we sit to the side and wait to see what happens?
It’s really up to us in the end…