For creative professionals who depend on the internet to make their living, the internet blacklist bills being forced through Congress right now are bad news. If passed, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its Senate doppelganger the PROTECT-IP Act will essentially make copyright holders the unofficial curators of the internet, giving them the power to, potentially, shut down droves of legitimate websites via unchecked accusations of promoting copyright infringement or theft of intellectual property. An enormous alliance of internet companies including Foursquare, Tumblr and Kickstarter have all rallied against the bills, censoring themselves in protest. And Google is on the front lines, the lone objector present at the court hearings which began last week.
While all these formidable folks were taking up arms, at least one blogger wondered aloud why haven’t we heard much from one of Copyfight’s most eloquent champions, Lawrence Lessig. As it turns out the esteemed Harvard law professor is doing just fine fighting injustice, albeit in a way less focused on copyright reform specifically.
Fighting against overreaching legislation like SOPA is all well and good, Lessig says, but at the end of the day, it’s just another twisted branch from the tree of corruption that is the American political system. To truly do any good, better to focus on its rotten core: the moneyed interests that have hijacked the inner workings through corporate lobbying, favors-for-favors campaign financing and other under-the-table deals. Whether you’re looking at wealth disparity, the environment or even the recent rash of violent police action against peaceful protesters, it can all be traced back to the folks that the government truly works for.
That’s the central idea behind the Thoreau-inspired Rootstrikers, a long-running campaign to cut out corruption at its source. It’s also what Lessig is exploring in his new book, Republic Lost, from which Lessig draws his lecture in the video above.
This unfortunate tendency to “hack at the branches of evil” whilst the root simply continues to produce more rotten fruit is one of the core criticisms of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which unites a hodgepodge of progressive causes under a single banner. Thus, what Lessig says in defense of his so-called “MIA” status in the fight against net censorship also rings true for the fringe elements of OWS: “We will never (as in not ever) win the war you care about until we win the war against this corruption of our Republic.” It’s important to keep attacking SOPA and the other threatening ‘limbs’ which may emerge, but please, he implores, keep focused on the source of the problems, otherwise our lost republic may never be found once again.