We Don’t Freeze the Internet – Why Freeze the Law?

by Howard Gantman 06/14/2011 08:50 (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Terry Hart over at Copyhype has a thoughtful post on the PROTECT IP Act and the Commercial Felony Streaming Act.  Terry emphasizes that just as we wouldn’t expect technology or the Internet to stand still, the laws that keep it secure and that protect speech online need to evolve, too:

Imagine if the web had not progressed past the technology available around the mid 1990s, when it made its way into the mainstream.

No Flash or JavaScript, no CSS, PHP, or XML, no widgets or APIs. Just plain vanilla HTML (and maybe some server-side scripting if you knew what you were doing).

It would be hard to imagine a web like this today. Today’s web allows a myriad of ways for people to engage in communication, commerce, social networking, entertainment, and learning. This is possible because the technology behind the web continued to progress, rather than being frozen in place.

Freezing the technology in place would make little sense. Yet, when it comes to the legal framework that protects copyright and content creators, there are some who call foul whenever new legislation is proposed, who believe it makes perfect sense for the law to be frozen in place while technology rapidly advances.

The underlying idea seems to be that unchecked, wide-scale copyright infringement is just how things are going to be from now on. Content creators need to get busy adapting or get busy dying.

But why shouldn’t the law continue to adapt as well?

The thing we like about Terry’s post is that it also gets at another argument we hear over and over again from the pro-stealing crowd – that any law aimed at putting reasonable safeguards in place online to protect the creators of content will stop the Internet in its tracks, killing all evolving and yet-to-be-developed technologies with no hope of future innovation. 

As Terry makes clear, the Internet will always be free to evolve – that’s what makes it such a terrific tool to connect us to one another and bring us face to face with new ideas.  But just like on a regular highway, the information superhighway still needs rules of the road.  That’s why this legislation is so important.

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