Massachusetts Daily Collegian

State of the Internet

By Victoria Knobloch

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The Sunday before the shutdown of Megaupload, there was a small television event in the United Kingdom. Approximately 9.78 million viewers tuned in to the  second season finale of “Sherlock,” a modern day BBC adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective tale. The episode, “The Reichenbach Fall,” was much anticipated by distraught fans familiar with the books, as the titular falls are the location of Holmes’s plunge to death in the literary canon. That is, before rabid fans demanded his resurrection and Doyle revived the character three years later. It seems Holmes inspires obsessive fandom wherever he occurs, and this new show is no exception. On that Sunday night, fangirl haunts like Tumblr and Livejournal were at a fever pitch, preparing for tears and desperate urges to cuddle the mourning John Watson.

But “Sherlock” only aired that night in the UK. The first season is now streaming on Netflix and aired on PBS, but the second season won’t hit United States television until May. Yet, people around the world watched “The Reichenbach Fall” together. They laughed and cried and made animated GIFs. Friends across borders who have never met face-to-face enjoyed a common interest. Community was fostered. Files were shared. No one knew the end was nigh.

From before the early days of Napster, Internet piracy has flourished as a crime nobody really minds committing. Overpriced music, crappy movies and elite cable led to free entertainment for anyone with a fast enough connection. Advertisements were plastered to the front of legally purchased DVDs in an effort to raise awareness by comparing downloading to purse or car theft. But downloading just never carried the guilt of an automobile heist. As Mindy Kaling noted, “I would steal a car if it was as easy as touching the car and then 30 seconds later I owned the car.” One anonymous Internet meme going around stated “I WOULD DOWNLOAD A BABY IF I COULD JUST TO SAY I DID.”

It was jokes like these that pulsed through the strange and wonderful veins of Internet communities while Google blacked out its logo and Wikipedia went dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act [SOPA] and the Protect IP Act [PIPA], bills in congress and the senate attempting to deal with the falling profits of major entertainment corporations. The protest resulted in the joining of Internet forces, from LOLcats to YouPorn, from those who craft fan fiction to those who imagine “creepypastas” and millions of signatures and letters to politicians shelved SOPA and PIPA indefinitely. From the sketchy bowels of 4chan to the crass celebrity gossip of Oh No They Didn’t [ONTD], trolls and big name fans stood together as pirates.

And in fandoms like that of “Sherlock,” there was great rejoicing. Beloved media would continue to be shared and fawned over. No one would be kept from the soft blue warmth of the kind of international circle of friends that is only found online.

Then, the Federal Bureau of Investigation struck. The first panicky posts flitted across screens through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. “Among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States” would be brought against file sharing giant Megaupload. An attempt to visit the fallen site left users only with a blank page and a “Connecting to …” message doomed to fail. Vast libraries of pirated material vanished in minutes. The Internet wept.

In the days to follow, other file sharing websites feared for their safety. Filesonic blocked U.S. IP addresses and video streaming alternative VideoBB shut their doors. The lamenting memes flew. “The Mayans were wrong. 2012 is the end of the Internet!” “Reblog if you purchased something BECAUSE you downloaded it first!” And the rallying call of “This is the first battle in the war for the Internet!”

A battle calls for retaliation, and retaliation there was. Hacktivist group Anonymous, an organization whose website says its goals are to  act as “a decentralized network of individuals focused on promoting access to information, free speech, and transparency,” shut down the Department of Justice website, as well as the homepage for Universal Music, a big SOPA supporter, through Distributed Denial of Service [DDoS] attacks. YouTube videos surfaced claiming Anonymous has access to the servers for top government departments and major banks. The videos borrow aesthetics from “The Matrix” and music from a dark time in early ’90s techno, and they will probably amount to nothing. But the sentiment of their motto lingered in the minds of those wounded by the loss of file sharing. “We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us,” stated one of Anonymous’ self-descriptions.

The future remains unclear. Some relax, citing the survival of Internet piracy after the shutdown of Napster and the staying power of torrent site The Pirate Bay. Others feel the loss of file sharing is the loss of community that will never exist in any other medium. The moral ambiguity of it all may be called into question soon. Especially in fandom, these are communities of artists and creative people, albeit few professionals. Many of the people despairing over the loss of Megaupload are the same people who only a few years ago supported the Hollywood writers’ strike. They love their television. They are open to alternatives. They believe in the availability of entertainment for all. Megaupload leaves behind a gap in access that will take time to fill, even by legal sources.

For now, true Internet addicts remain on edge. This intangible place has become a strange home to many, a nook for kinks and weirdoes to flourish, fandom to thrive and the people who comment on YouTube videos to release their buried malice for the world. If it all goes to hell, at least we had these years of freedom to look back on fondly in our Big Brother-monitored old age. But God and the Motion Picture of America Association [MPAA] willing, things with shift and shuffle, and yet, the core will remain the same. Then and only then, my friends, you can scatter my ashes on the Internet.

Victoria Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

1 Comment

One Response to “State of the Internet”

  1. prabhu on November 16th, 2013 6:12 am

    After blocking a site using a filter if you again want to access that website,you should use a VPN service. If this is new for you and you want a good one then just go on http://www.primovpn.com it provide you a permanent fix to unblock a website. Its free from virus and provide a high speed connection.

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