Monday, June 22, 2009

Don’t Fence Me In

Stephen Downes questions when lawmakers will recognize that the laws that result in multi-million dollar judgments for sharing songs over the Internet are wrong. I’m afraid Stephen that things are going to become a whole lot more restrictive. Stephen writes:

When a court awards a $1.92-million penalty for sharing 24 songs, we have to ask, when will it become clear to people that the law is wrong? Because, any law that allows this, is wrong. Some other things that are wrong (via Charlene croft): a city in Montana requiring job applicants to submit all of their Web 2.0 logins and passwords. And a bill introduced here allowing government to intercept internet transmissions and gather user information from ISPs. Wrong. And I say: there is a fundamental disconnect between government, and the people they purport to be governing.

I tend to see the freedom provided by the Internet much like the freedom the old West afforded people. Both were initially populated by early adapters who were resourceful and independent. They did not like the restrictions mainstream society offered and the control that the rich could impose on that society.

Of course, this chafing of restrictions also tended to create a situation where lawlessness also grew. As long as it was early adapters there was no problem. In the old West feuds were settled with gun battles; on the Internet it was flame wars in forums.

Then the railroads, major businesses, started to move westward as enterprising individuals found resources that the East could use. This led to more people moving west; people who were not early adapters and who wanted the civilization of the East imposed upon the West. It took time, but as more individuals became wealthy from the railroads opening the West it became apparent that the wildness of the West had to be brought under control and probably by the 1910s, when Arizona became the 48th state accepted into the Union the west was tamed.

The same thing is now occurring in the Internet. By 2004, Nielsen reported that three-quarters of the United States had Internet access. With this influx of people corporations followed, not just with personal websites but also entrance into social media. It’s not unusual now to see corporations advertising to follow them on Facebook. The music industry is just the first industry to discover the wildness of the Internet and are actively fighting to tame the West. They were quickly followed by the motion picture industry. DRM laws are the equivalent of the fences erected to shut down the freedom to roam as property rights took precedence. Frankly, I don’t hold out much hope that the freedom that existed with the Internet will continue much longer.

Small voices will be shouted down by the bigger corporations who have the resources to take control. It’s apparent that Google who offers the largest platforms for individual voices to be heard (Blogger, YouTube, etc.) already caves and censors the Internet for the People’s Republic of China. From my perspective, the freedom and independence offered to the individual by the Internet is not long for this world.

No comments: