All too often, I hear that the copyright industry doesn’t understand the Internet, doesn’t understand the net generation, doesn’t understand how technology has changed. This is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong. In order to defeat an adversary, you must first come to understand their state of mind, rather than painting them as evil. The copyright industry understands exactly what the Internet is, and that it needs to be destroyed for that industry to stay even the slightest relevant.
Look at the laws being proposed right now. General wiretapping. Mandatory citizen tracking. Excommunication, for Odin’s sake. Sending people into exile. All these laws follow one single common theme: they aim to re-centralize the permission to publish ideas, knowledge, and culture, and punish anybody who circumvents the old gatekeepers’ way beyond proportion.
Having this gatekeeper position – having had this gatekeeper position – teaches somebody what power is, in the worst sense of the word. If you can determine what culture, knowledge, and ideas are available to people – if you are in a position to say yes or no to publishing an idea – then it goes much beyond the power of mere publishing. It puts you in a position to select. It puts you in a position where you get to decide people’s frame of reference. It literally gives you the power to decide what people discuss, feel, and think.
The ability to share ideas, culture, and knowledge without permission or traceability is built into the foundations of the net, just as it was when the Postal Service was first conceived. When we send a letter in the mail, we and we alone determine whether we identify ourselves as sender on the outside of the envelope, on the inside for only the recipient to know, or not at all; further, nobody may open our sealed letters in transit just to check up on what we’re sending.
The Internet mimics this. It is perfectly reasonable that our children have the same rights as our parents did here. But if our children have those same rights, in the environment where they communicate, it makes a small class of industries obsolete. Therefore, this is what the copyright industry tries to destroy.
They are pushing for laws that introduce identifiability, even for historic records. The copyright industry has been one of the strongest proponents of the Data Retention Directive in Europe, which mandates logging of our communications – not its contents, but all information about whom we contacted when and how – for a significant period of time. This is data that used to be absolutely forbidden to store for privacy reasons. The copyright industry has managed to flip that from “forbidden” to “mandatory”.
They are pushing for laws that introduce liability on all levels. A family of four may be sued into oblivion by an industry cartel in a courtroom where presumption of innocence doesn’t exist (a civil proceeding), and they’re pushing for mail carriers to be liable for the contents of the sealed messages they carry. This goes counter to centuries of tradition in postal services, and is a way of enforcing their will extrajudicially – outside the courtroom, where people still have a minimum of rights to defend themselves.
They are pushing for laws that send people into exile, cutting off their ability to function in society, if they send the wrong things in sealed letters.
They are pushing for active censorship laws that we haven’t had in well over a century, using child pornography as a battering ram (in a way that directly causes more children to be abused, to boot).
They are pushing for laws that introduce traceability even for the pettiest crimes, which specifically includes sharing of culture (which shouldn’t be a crime in the first place). In some instances, such laws even give the copyright industry stronger rights to violate privacy than that country’s police force.
With these concepts added together, they may finally – finally! – be able to squeeze out our freedom of speech and other fundamental rights, all in order to be able to sustain an unnecessary industry. It also creates a Big Brother nightmare beyond what people could have possibly imagined a decade ago. My undying question is therefore why people waltz along with it instead of smashing these bastards in the face with the nearest chair.
For instance, we hear that ISPs in the United States of America will start to serve the copyright industry in the treatment of its own customers, up until and including a possible exile of them as citizens, and most likely scrapping their right to anonymity for the already-going industry game of sue-a-granny.
This is bound to become a textbook example of bad customer relationships in future marketing books: making sure that your customers can be sued into oblivion by entire industry organizations in a rigged game where they’re not even innocent until proven guilty. Seriously, what were the ISPs thinking?
Today, we exercise our fundamental rights – the right to privacy, the right to expression, the right to correspondence, the right to associate, the right to assemble, the right to a free press, and many other rights – through the Internet. Therefore, anonymous and uncensored access to the Internet has become as fundamental a right itself as all the rights we exercise through it.
If this means that a stupid industry that makes thin round pieces of plastic can’t make money anymore, they can go bankrupt for all I care, or start selling mayonnaise instead.
That’s their problem.
This column was originally published at TorrentFreak.
This article is also available in other languages: French.