Copyright Wars

Do you remember Napster?

Napster was the first file-sharing service to go ‘mainstream’.

If you were a teenager or a music industry executive in the 1990s you most certainly would. For teenagers it was an incredible pipeline of free music. No longer did teenagers have to save up their dollars to purchase CDs by their favourite artist. Using a dial up internet connection and the file sharing platform, they could download music for free, even if it was illegal.

Here's Alex Suskind writing on the impact of Napster in 2014:

The service, which launched on June 1, 1999, soon spread like a virus, infecting every music nut with a computer and a dial-up connection. By March of 2000, Napster had 20 million users. Several months later, it was more than three times that. By then, the company and its wunderkind creators had been targeted by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and its suite of attorneys, along with several global superstars like Metallica and Dr. Dre. To the music labels, Fanning and Parker were completely upending a system that had been in place for decades, toying with a carefully crafted mechanism that allowed the artist, the manager, and any middlemen a certain percentage of each record sold. To the musicians, the Napster co-founders were outright thieves, providing an avenue to steal music without paying a dime for it. Depending on what side of the aisle you fell on, if you worked in the industry or if you were just a regular old music fan, Parker and Fanning were either the villains or the heroes.

For the music industry though it was an existential threat. While the music industry eventually defeated Napster in court, peer to peer file sharing was not going away. Napster demonstrated to the media industries that the internet would make cultural content – music, film and television – easy to share. This was not going to change.

Clive Haberman described this as the rise of the 'culture of free' in The New York Times:

Napster did not have the courts on its side. Ordered by federal judges to stop allowing copyrighted material to be traded on its system, it shut down in July 2001. But from its ashes other file-sharing services arose, some bearing curious names like Grokster, Kazaa and Gnutella. Mr. Fanning tried his hand at new digital media endeavors, including Snocap and Napster 2.0. Few of those companies were unqualified successes. One thing was certain, though: The culture of free was not going away.

Napster is historically important as the first peer to peer file-sharing platform that ‘went mainstream’ in the late 1990s. The platform enabled users not just to copy copyright material but to share it with each other at scale. Millions of users shared their music files with one another. 

The contest over the sharing of copyright content in the age of the internet is a useful case for thinking about hegemony.

Yes, the sharing of copyright material online is a matter of law: how should the sharing of content be regulated?

But, it is also a matter of public opinion and consensus: are people who download music, television and films without paying ‘criminals’? Are they ‘hurting artists’? Are they creating a new ‘cultural commons’? Are they just sharing with friends?

What’s hegemony?

By hegemony we are talking about the effort by particular groups to make their ideas common-sense. Groups are hegemonic when their ideas seem natural, inevitable and common-sense. Importantly, becoming and staying hegemonic involves continuous work and because no group can ever dominate on their own it also involves the capacity to generate and maintain alliances. If you want something you need to find common-cause with others and generate consent for your way of seeing and acting in the world.

Copyright

Since Napster, the question of how to protect copyright on the internet has been a battleground between the traditional content industries like music, film and television; the emerging internet industries and platforms like Google, YouTube and Apple; open access and free culture activists; and consumers who, at least in practice, will download copyrighted content for free if they can.

OK, let’s begin with a bit of background on copyright in Australia from the Attorney General's Department: 

Copyright is a type of property that is founded on a person’s creative skill and labour. Copyright protects the form of way an idea or information is expressed, not the idea or information itself.

This is what makes it so complicated. If you buy a book you can tell your friend about the ideas the book contained, but you cannot copy the book and distribute it.

Copyright attempts to strike a balance between the rights of creators to make money from their creative works, and the public nature of the ideas those works contain.

Copyright wars in the media and technology industries

Since at least the 1970s, content industries like film, television, music producers and technology industries have been in a battle with each other over copyright.

Personal recording devices like the VCR generated new questions about copyright like: should it be legal for consumers to make copies of copyright material? Should it be legal for technology companies to create devices that enable consumers to make copies of copyright material?

For much of the twentieth century content industries had strong control over the distribution of their content via licensing and distribution arrangements with broadcasters, cinemas, record stores and so on. Cultural content was produced and disseminated in formats that required consumers to pay. It was difficult for individuals to copy and distribute content at scale outside of the broadcast or retail institutions.

If you wanted to see a movie you had to go to the cinema and pay, or rent the video, or go to the store and buy the DVD. Opportunities to get a hold of cultural content outside of these channels was pretty difficult.

Sony Corp. or America v University City Studios, Inc.

The Sony Betamax was the first personal recorder that enabled people to tape television shows. The film and television industries took that view that a device that enables people to record television and film at home had no legal purpose. It could only be used to steal content.

They were serious about this, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court, attempting to get home-taping devices like the Betamax and VCR declared illegal. They lost.

The Supreme Court found that:

noncommercial home recording of television broadcasts for the purpose of “time-shifting” was fair use. It held that, given the nature of televised works and the fact that viewers had been invited to watch the programs in their entirety free of charge, reproduction of the entire work “does not have its ordinary effect of militating against a finding of fair use.” The Court further held that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate any likelihood of more than minimal harm to the potential market for, or the value of, their copyrighted works.

This decision affirmed two important principles.

The first is that it is a legal and fair use of copyright material to make copies of it for personal use. It is OK to copy a song onto cassette, make a mix tape, and share that with a friend. It is OK to tape a show of television and watch it later.

The second is that device manufacturers cannot be held responsible for the illegal use of their devices. So, if people do use the VCR to say manufacture and sell copies of copyright television shows or films, the VCR manufacturer cannot be held responsible. This principle flows through till today. For example, internet service providers and social media platforms have only a limited responsibility for what users do on them.

But, the principle is under threat for a range of reasons.

At the industry level carriers and content institutions are not necessary structurally separate. Is Facebook a content provider or a carrier? We might argue that they provide both functions.

At the technical level, digital media enable new kinds of surveillance that make it possible to monitor content in ways that were not possible before. To monitor the content of phone calls used to require employing human eavesdroppers to listen in and make sense of conversations. But now, phone calls can be subjected to automated analysis of metadata and even call content.

At the political level, music, film, television, and games studios, place pressure on courts and legislators to make carriers like internet service providers and social media platforms responsible for the content that flows through their networks and servers.

SOPA/PIPA

In the digital age, a big political and legal question is what responsibility do carriers like internet service providers, social media platforms, streaming services and search engines have to monitor the content users upload and circulate?

The SOPA/PIPA legislation was a key moment in this tussle between the 'content' media industries and the 'internet' industries.

For a great primer on copyright in the digital age and the SOPA/PIPA legislation you can check out this episode of Decode DC.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) were introduced to US Congress in 2011. The legislation provided for organisations that owned copyright to request that courts (1) bar advertising networks and payment providers from conducting business with infringing websites, (2) block search engines from linking to infringing websites, and (3) order internet service providers to block access to infringing websites.

The legislation was a radical departure from existing laws that regulated copyright online. Existing laws mostly only enabled copyright holders to get the courts to order a take down notice for specific infringing items of content. This meant a court to order a website to remove copyright material, but the court could not shut down the whole website.

Activists and technical experts argued the SOPA/PIPA legislation would fundamentally undermine the open infrastructure of the internet.

On the one hand we have the content industries arguing the sharing of copyright content threatens their commercial viability and the livelihoods of the people they employ.

On the other hand we have the technology industries arguing that imposing regulation on them would threaten their commercial viability, and civil society activists arguing that regulation would be a threat to free speech.

Who is in the game?

To make sense of this situation we can begin by identifying all the groups who have an interest, figure out what the alliances are between them, and how they might go about getting what they want.

  • Content producing industries like film and television studios, music labels, games producers.
  • Creatives like writers, musicians and artists.
  • Record stores, video stores, cinemas.
  • Internet service providers.
  • Commercial internet platforms: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit.
  • Streaming services: Spotify, Netflix and Amazon.
  • Legislators.
  • Law enforcement.
  • Peer to peer, file sharing and torrent platforms like The Pirate Bay.
  • Consumers.
  • Civil society activists.

All of these groups have an interest in how copyright is regulated.

Who shares common interests?

Two clusters of interests seem particularly important.

There is a cluster of groups whose commercial business models depend on being able to sell cultural content. This brings together creatives like writers and musicians, with the studios and labels that fund their work, and the distribution businesses that sell content to audiences.

And, there is a cluster of groups whose commercial business models and political values gravitate toward ‘open’, ‘shareable’ and ‘searchable’ content. This includes civil society, open internet, and free speech activists together with commercial internet service providers and platforms.

But, here we see more complicated relationships.

Platforms like say YouTube want cultural content to be as shareable as possible. But, over time they have established legal and commercial arrangements with the big content players – they pay licensing fees for the copyright content on their platform.

Streaming services want to have access to a large database of searchable cultural content – music, film and television – but they also want to be able to control access to that database to generate subscription fees.

Consumers might feel sympathetic to the appeals of the content industries to ‘support artists’ by paying for content, but in their everyday practices they show a great willingness to access and download content illegally through torrent sites.

Internet service providers are primarily concerned with the legal risk and financial costs of being made responsible for monitoring content that flows through their servers.

What are the points of collaboration, cooperation and conflict between these groups?

Who will need to win over who to get what they want?

Copyright industries aim to win over the legislators to place greater responsibility on the carriers to monitor content. During the period when the SOPA/PIPA legislation was being debated these industries made enormous donations to legislators.

Civil society activists attempt to convince legislators of the importance of the political and technical principles relating to the open architecture of the internet.

Internet service providers and platforms attempt to minimise their legal and financial exposure to the legislation.

When the SOPA/PIPA legislation was proposed it had extensive support among legislators and looked set to pass into law.

The legislation began though to attract criticism from activists because of its radical departure from established norms that separated content from carriage, and the threats this posed to free speech. SOPA/PIPA would enable a whole carrier to be shut down on the basis of one infringing item of content. For instance, a copyright holder could go to court and get an order to shut down all of YouTube if they could demonstrate the platform had unlicensed copyright material on it. The law would establish the principle that courts could 'block' whole websites or platforms, opening the door to closing down the open architecture of the internet.

Aaron Swartz and the activism against SOPA/PIPA

One particularly important activist in the fight against SOPA/PIPA was Aaron Swartz.

Swartz is an important figure in the history of the internet and online activism. His story is a tragic one. In 2013, Larissa Macfarquhar wrote in her detailed obituary for Swartz 'Requiem for a Dream' in The New Yorker:

Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his apartment in Brooklyn on January 11th. He was twenty-six, but he had been well known as a computer programmer for many years. At the age of fourteen, he helped to develop the RSS software that enables the syndication of information over the Internet. At fifteen, he e-mailed one of the leading theorists of Internet law, Lawrence Lessig, and helped to write the code for Lessig’s Creative Commons, which, by writing alternatives to standard copyright licenses, allows people to share their work more freely. At nineteen, he was a developer of Reddit, one of the world’s most widely used social-networking news sites.
After Reddit was sold, to Condé Nast, he turned away from money-making start-ups and became a political activist. He spoke often at technology conferences and activist gatherings, and was admired in both those worlds. Since his death, he has become a hero to programmers who have not turned away from money but wish they had, and to those who believe that governments are crushing what was once the freedom of the Internet. When Anonymous hacked the State Department Web site on February 17th, they declared, “Aaron Swartz this is for you.”
Two years ago, he was indicted on multiple felony counts for downloading several million articles from the academic database JSTOR. It is not clear why he did this. He may have wanted to analyze the articles, or he may have intended to upload them onto the Web, so they could be accessed by anyone. It is clear that he did not anticipate the astonishing severity of the legal response. He did not consider his JSTOR action an act of civil disobedience for which he was prepared to sacrifice a portion of his life in prison.
The response to his death was immediate and astonishing. It was not just because he was young and he had killed himself. He represented many things to people. “If you look at 2011 to the present, there’s an incredible emotional rollercoaster about Internet freedom and the Arab revolutions,” Quinn Norton says. “The Internet was going to change everything, and at the end of 2011 you had Occupy. And then everything just got destroyed. 2012 was the year, globally, for the heightening of censorship and the heightening of surveillance, and then Aaron killed himself. Aaron was so much the Internet’s boy, and that so much exemplified this machine crushing our hopes.”

The Internet's Own Boy

Throughout his life Swartz offered a model for doing activism in the digital era that was attuned to the power relations and possibilities of these new technologies.

Swartz combined ‘old fashioned’ forms of activism: public speeches, protests, petitions, engagement with legislators with newer tactics that directly exploited the weaknesses and capacities of digital infrastructure. This included relatively ordinary online petitions, to internet ‘black outs’, to using code to create new configurations of information and to make it available in the public domain.

Swartz illustrated that in the digital age the use of media to exercise power extends beyond just expressing our views and organising ourselves, it also includes fundamental battles over who controls the infrastructure through which flows of information are controlled. Activism must also be directed at the infrastructure itself: who gets access to information.

One of Swartz' earliest activist interventions was to make public court records available and easily searchable online.

Below is an excerpt from the film The Internet's Own Boy that covers Swartz' effort to make the entire legal history of the United States freely available on the internet.

Swartz was investigated by the FBI for his actions in downloading legal records. He uploaded his FBI file here. The FBI describe Swartz' actions as follows:

The U.S. Courts implemented a pilot project offering free access to federal court records through the PACER system at seventeen federal depository libraries. Library personnel maintain login and password security and provide access to users from computers within the library. PACER normally carries an eight cents per page fee, however, by accessing from one of the seventeen libraries, users may search and download data for free.
Between September 4, 2008 and September 22, 2008, PACER was accessed by computers from outside the library utilizing login information from two libraries participating in the pilot project. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts reported that the PACER system was being inundated with requests. One request was being made every three seconds. […] The two accounts were responsible for downloading more than eighteen million pages with an approximate value of $1.5 million.

Wired magazine also offer an account of Swartz' action here:

The Great Court Records Caper began last year when the judiciary and the Government Printing Office experimented with giving away free access to PACER at 17 select libraries around the country. Swartz decided to use the trial to grab as many of the public court records as he could and, perversely, release them to the public.
He visited one of the libraries — the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals library in Chicago — and installed a small PERL script he’d written. The code cycled sequentially through case numbers, requesting a new document from PACER every three seconds. In this manner, Swartz got nearly 20 million pages of court documents, which his script uploaded to Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing service.
Or, as the FBI report put it, the public records were “exfiltrated.”
The script ran for a couple of weeks — from September 4 to 22, until the court system’s IT department realized something was wrong. Someone was downloading everything. None of the records, of course, were private or sealed, and Lexis Nexis has a copy of of PACER’s database that it sells a high markup. But Swartz wasn’t paying anything.

Read more about the case at Ars Technica too.

Here's an excerpt of the film The Internet's Own Boy that covers Swartz' activism against SOPA/PIPA. This section of the film provides a clear account of the legislation, the activism against it, and how it was defeated.

You can find the full film in the EduTV database of university libraries.

The Freedom to Connect

At the Freedom To Connect conference in 2012 Swartz gave a speech that told the story of how the SOPA/PIPA legislation was defeated. The speech is a kind of 'instruction manual' for how to do hegemony. Swartz explains how he went about fashioning an alliance of players who shared a common-cause, shifted the common-sense debate about copyright, and made the content industries’ position untenable.

You can watch the speech and read the transcript here.

The speech starts off by making an important move: define the problem on your own terms.

Swartz sets out by arguing that the SOPA/PIPA legislation should not be understood as a copyright issue, but as a free speech issue.

So, for me, it all started with a phone call. It was September—not last year, but the year before that, September 2010. And I got a phone call from my friend Peter. "Aaron," he said, "there’s an amazing bill that you have to take a look at." "What is it?" I said. "It’s called COICA, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeiting Act." "But, Peter," I said, "I don’t care about copyright law. Maybe you’re right. Maybe Hollywood is right. But either way, what’s the big deal? I’m not going to waste my life fighting over a little issue like copyright. Healthcare, financial reform—those are the issues that I work on, not something obscure like copyright law." I could hear Peter grumbling in the background. "Look, I don’t have time to argue with you," he said, "but it doesn’t matter for right now, because this isn’t a bill about copyright." "It’s not?" "No," he said. "It’s a bill about the freedom to connect." Now I was listening.

SOPA/PIPA was unique because rather than issue an individual take down notice for infringing material, it proposed to block whole websites. To make this sound both radical and absurd, he offers a simple illustration.

But this was something radically different. It wasn’t the government went to people and asked them to take down particular material that was illegal; it shut down whole websites. Essentially, it stopped Americans from communicating entirely with certain groups. There’s nothing really like it in U.S. law. If you play loud music all night, the government doesn’t slap you with an order requiring you be mute for the next couple weeks. They don’t say nobody can make any more noise inside your house. There’s a specific complaint, which they ask you to specifically remedy, and then your life goes on.
The closest example I could find was a case where the government was at war with an adult bookstore. The place kept selling pornography; the government kept getting the porn declared illegal. And then, frustrated, they decided to shut the whole bookstore down. But even that was eventually declared unconstitutional, a violation of the First Amendment.

Then he goes on to define what the ‘battle’ is really about.

There’s a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the Internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands. Is sharing a video on BitTorrent like shoplifting from a movie store? Or is it like loaning a videotape to a friend? Is reloading a webpage over and over again like a peaceful virtual sit-in or a violent smashing of shop windows? Is the freedom to connect like freedom of speech or like the freedom to murder?
This bill would be a huge, potentially permanent, loss. If we lost the ability to communicate with each other over the Internet, it would be a change to the Bill of Rights. The freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution, the freedoms our country had been built on, would be suddenly deleted. New technology, instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out fundamental rights we had always taken for granted. And I realized that day, talking to Peter, that I couldn’t let that happen.

Swartz makes the important move of making his position seem sensible. He does that by defining the problem on different terms. This is the first move in building common-cause with others, come up with a position – a way of understanding the situation – that others will agree with.

He shifts the whole debate from copyright of content to larger questions about free speech and the communication infrastructure of society.

He then goes on to do his own analysis of the current state of play. He points out that this was incredibly unusual, the legislation came to congress and was set to pass without any debate.

This demonstrated how strategically astute the copyright industries were, and how much work they’d done to create a strong consensus with legislators on copyright reform.

This ‘relationship building’ is resource intensive. During the period when SOPA was being debated he reports that the film, television and music industries were donating something in the region of $180 million to members of congress, while the internet industries were donating around $15 million. For more information on donations to politicians see Open Secrets.

This is some indication of how well resourced and organised the copyright industries were, and how much they were invested in ensuring legislators in congress were on their side and saw their position as common-sense.

The two chief ways they made their position common-sense was by prosecuting the claim that illegal downloading threatened industries and jobs because the content businesses were big employers. They also argued that illegal downloading undermined the quality of our cultural life, it matters to the fabric of our society that we supported artists’ livelihoods so that they can construct our cultural world.

Swartz observed, that when he looks at this situation, whoever was behind the legislation ‘was good’. He realised that the copyright industries had built a powerful consensus and alliances in the legislative process.

Swartz was a political activist. He had to find a way to build both an alliance of other powerful actors and a consensus:

Now, the typical way you make good things happen in Washington is you find a bunch of wealthy companies who agree with you. Social Security didn’t get passed because some brave politicians decided their good conscience couldn’t possibly let old people die starving in the streets. I mean, are you kidding me? Social Security got passed because John D. Rockefeller was sick of having to take money out of his profits to pay for his workers’ pension funds. Why do that, when you can just let the government take money from the workers? Now, my point is not that Social Security is a bad thing—I think it’s fantastic. It’s just that the way you get the government to do fantastic things is you find a big company willing to back them. The problem is, of course, that big companies aren’t really huge fans of civil liberties. You know, it’s not that they’re against them; it’s just there’s not much money in it.

The problem was that the industries who might care, the internet industries, were staying out of the argument.

The fact is, the big Internet companies, they would do just fine if this bill passed. I mean, they wouldn’t be thrilled about it, but I doubt they would even have a noticeable dip in their stock price. So they were against it, but they were against it, like the rest of us, on grounds primarily of principle. And principle doesn’t have a lot of money in the budget to spend on lobbyists. So they were practical about it. "Look," they said, "this bill is going to pass. In fact, it’s probably going to pass unanimously. As much as we try, this is not a train we’re going to be able to stop. So, we’re not going to support it—we couldn’t support it. But in opposition, let’s just try and make it better." So that was the strategy: lobby to make the bill better. They had lists of changes that would make the bill less obnoxious or less expensive for them, or whatever. But the fact remained at the end of the day, it was going to be a bill that was going to censor the Internet, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.
So I did what you always do when you’re a little guy facing a terrible future with long odds and little hope of success: I started an online petition. I called all my friends, and we stayed up all night setting up a website for this new group, Demand Progress, with an online petition opposing this noxious bill, and I sent it to a few friends.

Swartz arguably has two kinds of resources: the technical skills and social capital to build online networks and generate publicity. Swartz used these skills to generate a new kind of discussion about the legislation, separate to the copyright industry position. A discussion that focussed on his way of defining the problem.

And, he used his ‘insider’ status in the technology industry to convince technology leaders that they ought to get involved in resisting the legislation.

He was trying to convince them that it was both politically 'right' and in their longer term commercial interests to prevent these ways of regulating the web to emerge.

If legislation like this passed, for instance, the onus would more and more on internet service providers and platforms to monitor and filter content. That could be expensive, increasing their legal and commercial risks. But also, it cut against the free and open web that many in the technology industries believed in.

Swartz found ways to get others involved, buy into his position and build an alliance. On that alliance, Swartz says:

But, you know, I think that story illustrates what happened during those couple weeks, because the reason we won wasn’t because I was working on it or Reddit was working on it or Google was working on it or Tumblr or any other particular person. It was because there was this enormous mental shift in our industry. Everyone was thinking of ways they could help, often really clever, ingenious ways. People made videos. They made infographics. They started PACs. They designed ads. They bought billboards. They wrote news stories. They held meetings. Everybody saw it as their responsibility to help.

The legislation was defeated in part because Swartz built an alliance of actors who prosecuted a different way of looking at the legislation. Hegemony involves both common-sense and alliance building. Swartz did both.

If there was one day the shift crystallized, I think it was the day of the hearings on SOPA in the House, the day we got that phrase, "It’s no longer OK not to understand how the Internet works." There was just something about watching those clueless members of Congress debate the bill, watching them insist they could regulate the Internet and a bunch of nerds couldn’t possibly stop them. They really brought it home for people that this was happening, that Congress was going to break the Internet, and it just didn’t care. ... And then we started rubbing it in. You all know what happened next. Wikipedia went black. Reddit went black. Craigslist went black. The phone lines on Capitol Hill flat-out melted. Members of Congress started rushing to issue statements retracting their support for the bill that they were promoting just a couple days ago. And it was just ridiculous. I mean, there’s a chart from the time that captures it pretty well. It says something like "January 14th" on one side and has this big, long list of names supporting the bill, and then just a few lonely people opposing it; and on the other side, it says "January 15th," and now it’s totally reversed—everyone is opposing it, just a few lonely names still hanging on in support.
I mean, this really was unprecedented. Don’t take my word for it, but ask former Senator Chris Dodd, now the chief lobbyist for Hollywood. He admitted, after he lost, that he had masterminded the whole evil plan. And he told The New York Times he had never seen anything like it during his many years in Congress. And everyone I’ve spoken to agrees. The people rose up, and they caused a sea change in Washington—not the press, which refused to cover the story—just coincidentally, their parent companies all happened to be lobbying for the bill; not the politicians, who were pretty much unanimously in favor of it; and not the companies, who had all but given up trying to stop it and decided it was inevitable. It was really stopped by the people, the people themselves. They killed the bill dead, so dead that when members of Congress propose something now that even touches the Internet, they have to give a long speech beforehand about how it is definitely not like SOPA; so dead that when you ask congressional staffers about it, they groan and shake their heads like it’s all a bad dream they’re trying really hard to forget; so dead that it’s kind of hard to believe this story, hard to remember how close it all came to actually passing, hard to remember how this could have gone any other way. But it wasn’t a dream or a nightmare; it was all very real.

Swartz’ alliance included the public, using his networking skills to get them to share information about the blackout on social media and to contact their members of congress.

Support for the bill disappeared.

The copyright industry alliance broke down, the alliance Swartz had developed around the principles of an open internet architecture was now the common-sense position. Legislators moved toward this position. 

Swartz' speech is a map for hegemony-building by using the tools of online networks, mobilising a large public to take small actions that amounted to something bigger. Importantly, hegemony building is always a work in progress. He explains that the enemies of the ‘freedom to connect’ have not disappeared, they will regroup, attempt to fashion new alliances, and seek what they want in the political and legal process again.

There are a lot of people, a lot of powerful people, who want to clamp down on the Internet. And to be honest, there aren’t a whole lot who have a vested interest in protecting it from all of that. Even some of the biggest companies, some of the biggest Internet companies, to put it frankly, would benefit from a world in which their little competitors could get censored. We can’t let that happen.

Swartz here makes a critical point about hegemony, the making of meaning goes on and on. It is never finished or closed because it is always bound up in the ongoing struggle of different groups in society to organise the world in ways that reflect their interests, desire and values.