4chan and the Internet Dispense Justice as They See Fit
As the Internet becomes more main-stream and dominated by large corporate interests it is interesting to see individual users flex their collective might. That’s exactly what happened this past weekend when members on the site 4chan and other social networking sites decided to launch a Denial of Service Attack against the RIAA and the MPAA.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) are the organizations behind attempts to stop illegal file sharing of music and movies. While they are doing whatever they can to protect their legitimate interests, there has been much criticism about their tactics. This most recent bout of criticism stems from Aiplex Software’s admission that they have been hired by the movie industry to carry out Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on websites that infringe their client’s copyrights.
In response to this perceived provocation an online group which refers to itself as “Anonymous” that organizes on the 4chan.org forums decided to respond with their own Denial of Service attacks. What makes this attack interesting is that it was not done for monetary gain or purely malicious purposes. Rather, it was done in protest to policies adopted by the RIAA and MPAA, making these attacks a form of social activism (albeit an illegal form). Furthermore, these attacks weren’t carried out by an exclusive group of high-tech hackers. Anyone with an internet connection could contribute to the attack simply by visiting the targeted site at the designated time, though more complex techniques are generally used.
The copyright reform movement has gained steam in recent years as copyright owners have been gaining control over how their products are copied and distributed over the web. The Pirate Party was founded in Sweden in 2006 to push Intellectual Property reform, and similar groups have been springing up around the globe.
While the resources of 4chan and Anonymous overwhelmed the RIAA and MPAA this weekend, the sites were back up on Monday. The attacks have not created any lasting damage, but they do make 2 things clear: 1.) big corporations are not the only ones with power on the internet, and 2.) there are a lot of people that are not happy over Corporate America’s control of Intellectual Property.
The issues are much more complicated than the RIAA or 4chan will have you believe, but as Intellectual Property plays a larger role in people’s lives it may be time to re-examine the balance between copyright holders’ and the publics’ rights.
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