Why curators should care about SOPA/PIPA

Today the Internet is going into a big battle to protect its historical model based on freedom, sharing and innovation. In protest against SOPA/PIPA, Wikipedia, Reddit and other sites will go dark for 24 hours. A lot has already been said on this as you can see by searching SOPA on Scoop.it or by following some of the topics focused on this such as http://www.scoop.it/t/stop-sopa.

At Scoop.it, we also think this is a bad thing for the Internet in general and we will attend the protests in San Francisco later on today. We think everyone should form his/her general opinion freely on this matter but we also wanted to highlight what it means for curators and for a service such as ours.

As we’ve had the opportunity to highlight several times, curation is fundamentally a content-friendly act. This literally means caring about content: caring enough to highlight it, promote it, share it and make other people want to enjoy it as well. This has always happened but historically, this was something done by a minority – a few gatekeepers. In such a model, a few decided what content we were going to consume. But what we’ve seen with Web 2.0 is that we could have a different model with many sharing content to many. As curators multiply and everyone becomes a publisher, we can all see the benefits through the diversity of opinions being expressed, the long-tail of niche topics being covered or the variety of content being discovered.

But this model has a prerequisite: the freedom to chose the content being shared. Without that freedom, curators would lose their motivation and curation would stop making sense.

Curation starts by selection and true choice implies freedom.

SOPA/PIPA would change this and remove that freedom. How so? By making web site responsible for policing user-contributed material (vs right owners under today’s DMCA), which can only be done for small teams by restricting access to content. Practically, this means everything is forbidden before it’s approved.

Churchill used to say : “In England, everything is permitted, except that which is forbidden. In Germany, everything is forbidden, except that which is permitted. In France, everything is permitted even that which is forbidden. In the USSR, everything is forbidden, even that which is permitted.” DMCA is England; the Movie Industry thinks it’s France and wants us to be in Germany but this will end up in the USSR.

Curators are subjective and that’s good: this is about expression and giving context. So as we love freedom of expression, we’re not shutting down today since we’d love to hear how you agree or disagree. And what stories you’ll curate on that topic.

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Lord of Curation Series: Seth Dixon

Seth Dixon is a professor at Rhode Island College within the Political Science Department and the Department of Educational Studies.  He...