On Wednesday, the "official" Anonymous twitter feed linked to the group's list of demands. The document is titled, "Bright, and Clear: The Future of Free Speech." In it, the group details their list of demands for the future of the Internet that they believe SOPA and PIPA want to dismantle.
As we watch the web go dark today in protest against the SOPA/PIPA censorship bills, let's take a moment and reflect on why this fight is so important. We may have learned that free speech is what makes America great, or instinctively resist attempts at silencing our voices. But these are abstract principles, divorced from the real world and our daily lives.
We believe a healthy society doesn't allow its artists, musicians and other creators to starve. The copyright industry has been justly criticized for abusing the political process in a desperate attempt to maintain its role as a cultural gatekeeper, a business model made obsolete by a digital age of free copies. But the RIAA, MPAA & IFPI deserve our opprobrium for making enormous profits while often leaving the very artists it claims to represent *poorer* than they would be as independents. While the public may have greater access to the few artists deemed sufficiently marketable to gain mass media promotion, fewer and fewer of us are making art and music in our own lives.
Do you agree with Anonymous' claim of a digital age of free copies? Are the MPAA and RIAA's business models outdated? Let us know in the comments.
From there, the group lists their demands starting with the call for the WIPO to be disbanded. They also demand the elimination of the DMCA's registration requirement for qualification under the "safe harbor" provision.
They move onto more court-related topics with their expectation that courts apply penalties just as severe to rightsholders who issue abusive takedown notices as those applied to copyright violators. They also demand that any penalties for copyright infringement must be sane and reasonable and not to be based on "unsubstantiated, outlandish claims of harm."
They demand that the Department of Justice begin an anti-trust investigation into the copyright industry, with a specific focus on collusion between rightsholders and ISPs in monitoring Internet users.
They demand an end to sales of radio frequencies into private hands. They believe that the radio waves are a form of speech and should belong to the people.
A big one that most would not agree with is their demand that ISPs stop interfering with file sharing via BitTorrent or any other protocol.
They want recognition of total ownership, not merely licensing, of products purchased. They feel that they have a right to tinker and modify devices as they see fit. The Library of Congress should not be in charge of determining acceptable use.
They reject the principle of contributory infringement under the pretense that "while there may be bad uses, there is no bad code."
One that I think everybody can get behind is their expectation that legislators and judges make efforts to educate themselves about the technologies they oversee, and to call on and respect the opinions of technical experts when necessary.
All research receiving any public funding must be placed in the public domain upon publication. Likewise, the US Patent and Trade Office must immediately cease issuing software and business patents, and declare all such existing patents null and void. They also call on the rejection of any patents on mathematical formulas and genes or other naturally-occurring substances.
They demand that copyright and patent terms be reduced to reasonable lengths (two and five years from the time of creation, respectively). Works should only be eligible for the length of protection when created.
They recognize a broad right of "fair use" that would allow anybody to remix, sample, mash up, translate, perform or make parodies of any work as they see fit.
Their final demand is that courts give bloggers the same freedoms that journalists enjoy.
"The right to a free press originally meant a literal, physical printing press - not membership in some government sanctioned elite. Blogs are the modern day digital equivalent."
They end their list of demands with a final call to action to their fellow "Internauts." They end their message with "either stand with us or get out of the way."
What do you think about Anonymous' list of demands? Do you agree? Or are they just the ramblings of an idealist? Let us know in the comments.
Anonymous is not new to protesting human rights violations or making demands of certain groups that they don't agree with. This is the first time, however, that they have laid out reasonable (to some people) changes to Federal and International law that most people could get behind. It's fascinating to see a group that only a few years ago was attacking Web sites for the "lulz" has transformed into an activist group that more people can support.
It's important to remember, however, that this only represents a portion of Anonymous. As these movements grow, there will be counter Anonymous movements that will want to respond to threats like SOPA and PIPA with more targeted, direct physical action like Operation Blackout.
Does Anonymous strike you as the new frontier of activism? Let us know in the comments.