October Festival Guide

Mark Holmberg on whether new media have PIPA/SOPA right?

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The Internet piracy bills now on death watch in Congress show just how much more powerful the new media has become than the old media – the ones who tried to muscle these laws through.

Guess what? The new media make the old crew look like punks, because the new guys have you on their side.

“I have not seen a concerted effort, lobbying effort, like this,” says  Marcus Messner, assistant professor of mass communications at Virginia Commonwealth University. “If you have Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia at the same table. I’ve not seen this before.”

This push by the new media against the piracy bills had a powerful, immediate and important impact, Messner said. It brought a lot of attention and opposition to the bills and will also spark “further discussions about how do we want the internet to look like in the future.”

The House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and it’s equivalent in the Senate were backed heavily by the Recording and motion picture industries, Time, Disney and yes, CBS. The laws were designed to address the international piracy of copyrighted material like TV shows, movies and other information. There were also a wide variety of small-time producers of intellectual property supporting the laws.

Imagine spending your personal savings to make a movie, only to have all your potential profits pirated away.

“Online piracy, that is a very big problem,” Messner said.

“This bill, I believe, has some overreach as well,” Messner added. “There is the potential that linking (to pirate sites) could be a burden for internet companies here in the United States.” Piracy accusations could sever links and even threaten entire sites.

Yes, the laws deserve to die. They wouldn’t work. There needed to be more input from a wider variety of interested parties.

And I’m like most of you – keep the internet free.

But let me ask you this: Did you do any real research before you lined up against the bills? Did you try to read them? Or did you simply accept the word of Google, Wikipedia, reddit and the rest?

Know that those who urged you to spread the word and fight the bills are among the richest Americans. Google’s Sergy Brin and Larry Page are worth some $15 billion each. Even though Wikipedia is a non-profit, it’s key founder is also a rich man. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is worth $17.5 billion. And on and on it goes.

While the new laws might have cut into your surfing freedom, it would cut into those companies’ profits to have to patrol their sites more vigorously for links to offshore pirates.

Members of the new media  were able to rally together to protect their own interests and bend the political process to their will.

But that’s nothing new, Messner says.

“We have big media going against new big media,” he said. “We have big media companies controlling a lot of the airwaves. There’s still diversity, but we have this big  concentration . . . There are a few media companies that have a lot of influence on the on the political process. That is nothing new.”

Now he said, “there are just new players on the block.”

In this case, he believes, “the internet companies are on the right side – freedom of speech.”

Yes, right now these big search and social media sites seem to be our friends.

But just remember what they say about power corrupting.

This week, we saw just how much power these media giants can wield.

So don’t blindly follow those who control the sites you love. Remember, many of them are now among the supposed enemy – the one percent.

And they know WAY more about you than Sony, Time-Warner and the rest of the old media giants ever dreamed of.

That’s my take, I’d love to hear yours on WTVR.com


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