from the keep-it-going dept.
Over the past few years, we’ve had a bit of a “New Year’s” tradition
around here for my last “regular” post of the year. It started in 2008,
in response to an email asking how I didn’t go crazy with anger over
all of the bad stuff we wrote about all the time. In response, I
explained why I was actually quite upbeat
over all of the amazing and wonderful things going on, if a bit
frustrated by the attempts to hold them back. The following year, I
talked about the nature of creativity and innovation and all of the examples
of people starting to recognize the possibilities that were being
enabled, rather than just fighting against them. In 2010, I pointed out
that despite the roadblocks, innovation was an unstoppable force, and last year I talked about the fact that people were finally speaking out and making a difference.
This year, I’m going to follow along with that thread, in looking at
some of the amazing things that were accomplished in the past year —
things that seemed impossible just a short while ago. I’m using the
slot we normally use for the “favorite posts of the week,” because in
some ways this will be my “favorite posts of the year” post. First up,
obviously, was the amazing blackout day last January 18th, in which the internet rose up and said NO! to some awful legislation proposed by Congress: SOPA and PIPA — leading to millions of people deciding to take action and protest the bill.
To this day, very few people realize how amazing that situation was, and
how unlikely a scenario it was just a few months before. This was bipartisan-supported
legislation that was seen as a “no-brainer” by most in Congress.
Previous attempts at similar types of legislation tended to pass easily
with little or no debate. Yes, some of us would make some noise, and
maybe the absolute worst bits of a law would get excised (after being
put in the bill for that purpose), but a bill like SOPA/PIPA was a
foregone conclusion: it was going to be law. Until it wasn’t. That is
amazing. Last year at this time I was excited about the fact that
people had finally come together to speak out, but the bill was still
alive and we hadn’t fully achieved anything yet. And a few weeks
later… we did. It was an amazing moment of real representative
democracy in action.
And it didn’t stop there. Almost immediately following the SOPA victory, a large group of people suddenly discovered ACTA.
ACTA was an ever more foregone conclusion than SOPA. It was basically
done — and all but “signed” in Europe (the US had already signed it).
It was a mere formality. And, yet… the success against SOPA
energized the opposition, leading to a months-long process that resulted
in the EU Parliament loudly rejecting ACTA, and the EU Commission finally giving in just a few weeks ago. Without the success against SOPA, that doesn’t happen.
The wider internet spoke up on other occasions as well, including on cybersecurity and on internet freedom.
Not all of these campaigns led to victories, but these activities are
no longer being ignored by those in power. The wider internet is
finding its voice, and that’s a good thing — and something worth being
quite excited about.
Of course, it is still early, and there will be setbacks. Politicians
and legacy industries have been at this for too long and are too good at
“playing the game” to just give up. But, the playing field has shifted
notably and the opportunity to speak out and have an impact has
increased drastically. At the same time, the tools for such activism
have grown and expanded. The ability to use innovative new platforms —
and for those platforms to exist and be useful — continues to expand.
At the same time, more and more people are engaged and aware. More and
more innovators are recognizing that there are new opportunities for
disruption. More and more amazing things are within our grasp.
Countries are suddenly taking things like copyright and patent reform
seriously. There are growing discussions about the power of innovation
to help an economy. People are recognizing that new platforms and
services are enabling things that used to be impossible (rather than
merely updating old things).
It’s an exciting time, full of opportunity. There are, as always,
threats and those who wish to get in the way of that opportunity, but
we’re on the cusp of a new era, in which more and more people are able
to stand up and speak out and put a stop to those attempts to block
innovation and opportunity. And that’s incredibly exciting.
Once again, I want to put forth a huge thank you to
everyone who makes up the Techdirt community. We’ve continued to grow
and expand quite a bit over the past year, with many new people, new
insights, new opinions and great conversations. It’s an exciting time
to be covering all of the opportunity out there, even if it also means
covering those who stand in the way of such opportunity. We’re
continuing to work hard to do even more for the community in the next
year, and we appreciate the insights and support you continue to provide
to the site. We started Techdirt as a place to have a discussion on
these issues, and that ongoing discussion has continued to be amazing,
thought-provoking and wonderful.
I’ve now been writing Techdirt for more than 15 years, and I wouldn’t keep doing it if it wasn’t an absolute joy and pleasure
every single day — and much of that is because you come here to read,
to comment, to share and to suggest other stories and ideas. It’s an
amazing experience in and of itself, so thank you.