How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy (t3knomanser) wrote,
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy
t3knomanser

From the Desk of Mr. Haven't Got a Clue

The amazing power of the Internet is that no matter how stupid you are, you can say something and people will read it. People as stupid as you will flock to you, and people smarter than you will tear it to shreds.

Is the author of this screed stupid? Well, probably not- but he certainly "Doesn't Get It". The mistakes start with his subtitle: "Whose Job Is It to Moderate the Web?" The very fact that someone can ask that question is a demonstration that they don't get it. But, just so we're clear, I'll answer it anyone: "No one".

Now that that's out of the way, he goes on to call the Digg-related drama over the AACS key a "cyber-riot". I can imagine this is about the point that the teenage son mentioned at the footnote of the article grins sheepishly and tries to hope nobody notices him in the mall with his father. Ignoring the "square" tone implied by throwing "cyber" into it, calling the events at Digg a "riot", and drawing a parallel with a real riot shows a depth of misunderstanding that I can't begin to plumb. For all the supposed similarities, there are some pretty significant differences: there was no property damage, theft, rape, looting, assault or battery- and in fact not a single crime was committed- violating the DMCA is handled by civil courts, not criminal ones.

So, aside from the fact that it was, well, nothing like a riot, yes, it was a riot.

Amusingly, the author goes on to claim that the "bury" feature, by which users can basically "anti-digg" a site, lowering its ranking is "censorship". It's an interesting claim, especially considering that each user has an equal opportunity to Digg and Bury sites. Now, I have my own issues with direct democracy ("two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner"), but I have a simple solution- I don't frequent Digg. Of course, this is really just another layer of direct democracy, or really, unfettered free expression. If I don't like what someone has to say, I might comment on it, or I might ignore it. What seems to upset the author is that large numbers of people tend to like to ignore what he thinks is important.

Okay, so there's this level of "not getting it", a hint of frantic whining about being ignored and lost in the general noise of a million users Digging at once- and then the author solidly leaves himself in the early nineties with the claim that people reposting the key are members of the "all information should be, in fact, "wants to be," free." This cyberpunk utopianism met with the hard minded pragamatism of the real world a few years ago, and from this we have things like the Internet Archive and the Creative Commons- organizations that are heavily invested in Copyright. Oh, they want to reform it, but these frontpieces, these organizations that fight against DRM and the DMCA are not in the "information wants to be free" crowd. To say that is to erect a straw-man.

While there is a group of hard-core pirates that see the key as a tool for copyright violations, the rest of us see it as the gateway to fair use. If someone wants to explain to me why playing an HD-DVD on Linux should be a crime, I'm all ears. But near as I can tell, a consortium of companies is conspiring among themselves and begging government support for carefully constructed monopoly. The DMCA is a bad law. The DMCA is an impossible to enforce and incredibly ignorant law. The DMCA is a law that carries behind it a legion of unintended consequences.

No, what we have witnessed on Digg and the Internet at large recently was not a "cyber-riot", but a realistic cyber-sit-in. Non-violent civil disobedience. People refusing to comply with an unjust and ill conceived law. People refusing to respond to intimidation from people who think they own our TVs and our DVDs and our media players.

This supposed "trade secret" resided no in a secure corporate server, but a file located on a chip in a store-bought product. It isn't much of a secret if you give it to your customers, now is it? This wasn't patented information- this was a random number that was coughed out of a computer. It wasn't a slaved over work of literature. It was a random string of digits that are moderately unique. And it isn't protected by copyright. It's protected by a legal fiction that says these digits are a mechanism for "circumventing copy protection". The legal fiction is absurd, ad some of us realize this.
Tags: drm, technology
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