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New Bill In Congress Could Turn Alternative Media Outlets and YouTube Singers Into Felons

SB 978 is just one more bullet in a broader government effort to end the web as we know it.

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The bill has serious bipartisan support—Klobuchar introduced SB 978 along with John Cornyn, R-Tex. and Christopher Coons, D-Del., all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They were acting on a desire of Obama’s “IP czar” to attach bigger punishments to Internet-related crimes, believing that law enforcement will be more willing to prosecute with higher stakes. But it’s also another step toward curtailing First Amendment rights, as Congress navigates the tricky line between freedom of speech and the web...usually coming out on the side of corporations.

Meanwhile, Fight for the Future has toned down its previously Bieber-heavy Web site, while making it clear that music isn’t its only concern. For instance, it uses the example of libraries as a comparable resource to the Internet archives that both companies and individuals have spent decades building, asking the pressing question, “After spending thousands of years building libraries of donated books, why do governments try to tear them down when they happen spontaneously online?”

As America’s cash-poor libraries, cornerstones of our democracy, struggle to stay afloat, the open-source aspect of the Internet allows those who have enough funds to purchase every bit of information they ingest to learn at the same rate as those who do—and to be competitive in both school and in their jobs. So as “Internet regulation” looks more like wholesale capitalism—and another way to fracture our country, already smarting from inequity—it becomes more important to uphold the First Amendment in all aspects of our culture...whether on Wall Street or online.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.