Stop the Secrecy

What do the Good Wife, Justin Bieber, and Internet Freedom have in common?

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 10:47 -- Thanh Lam

If you're a fan of the Good Wife like me, you're not only still mourning the death of Will Gardner, you're also reeling from last week's season finale cliffhanger (will Diana, Alicia, and Cary finally become one firm!?) With its well-crafted dialogue and character-driven plot, the Good Wife is arguably one of the best television shows out there.

But there's also another reason why the Good Wife constantly delivers: it's consistently in touch with tech trends, news, and controversies. From parodying the NSA to trying to unearth the mysterious identity of Bitcoin's "creator", the show's creators know how to smartly portray the intricacies and, at times, dangers, of living in an increasingly monitored and censored online world in which Internet freedom is constantly threatened.

Take, for example, Season 5’s aptly named "Goliath and David" episode. A rap song is covered by a pop duo and becomes a viral sensation. The cover, however, is then performed on a hit tv show. In the end, all parties end up in court dealing with giant record companies suing these artists for copyright infringement left, right, and centre. I won’t spoil the episode, but I don’t think you need any help guessing who the Goliath in this situation is.

While it's dizzying to keep track of all of this intellectual property litigation, the episode raises a very important question: to what extent is parodying, covering, or commenting on something considered copyright violation? It's a question that, unfortunately, has been far too long left to be answered by media conglomerates, their lobbyists and their lawyers. And their response? Censorship. Rarely have industry advocates encouraged citizens to remix and share content, and this anti-sharing stance is nowhere more evident than in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

As you're reading this, TPP negotiators, comprising mainly of industry lobbyists (including former SOPA mastermind, Robert Holleyman), are finalizing an international trade agreement that could undermine everything the free and open Internet stands for. Leaked drafts show that these lobbyists are seeking ridiculous fines and punishment for allegations of copyright infringement. They are even trying to force ISPs to act as Internet police, monitoring and tracking citizens’ every online action. The TPP would mean your sensitive personal information would be stored and handed over to giant media conglomerates -- all in the name of Internet censorship. And of course, this trade deal is being negotiated by unelected officials behind closed doors without any public accountability.

Let's take a step back and think about how this would actually affect our everyday lives. If someone you know does a cover of a song, receives millions of YouTube hits and as a result, benefits from all the online views, should they really be criminalized? Remember, this is how Justin Bieber rose to fame! On the other hand, however, thousands of regular citizens who aren't Justin Bieber receive takedown notices every day -- sometimes just for even commenting on content. All too often the kind of extreme restrictions in the TPP seem to override our constitutional right to free speech all for the sake of enriching large media conglomerates.

And if the TPP goes through, this aggressive and hostile shake down of the Internet would not only increase, but become legitimized at an international level. It’s definitely a scary thought, and as entertaining as the Good Wife is, it’s a reality I don’t want to see portrayed on the show.

So that’s why I’m asking you directly to take the time to be a part of our initiative to build new rules for sharing that work for all of us. Remember - there are only a few days left to make your voice heard. Be sure to speak out today.