from Charles Bernstein’s
Universities depend upon the free exchange of ideas. PennSound is the Internet’s largest archive of poetry sound recordings, all available for free for noncommercial and educational use. PennSound will symbolically go black on Wednesday in solidarity with those opposing SOPA and PIPA. PennSound will not be directly affected by these proposed laws, if they are enacted, because all our material is fully permissioned. But all of us who use the Internet for research or education will be gravely affected by unnecessary regulations that will stifle innovation and block access to information. Large corporate interest want to privatize knowledge: to gobble it all up (whether it is theirs or not) and sell it. They want to turn around the American principle of presumption of innocence on its head by saying that all knowledge and information is private until proven otherwise. Unlike in China, in our democracy, the presumption must be that information is free to circulate unless a compelling reason can be shown to block it. Knowledge is our commons, a fundamentally shared resource. To indiscriminately block access to vital web resources – without full due process and presumption of innocence – wounds our democracy and cripples our republic. The cures these two bills propose are far worse than the problems they seek to address. There are better, wiser approaches. Don’t let Big Brother get away with this one.