Killing the Internet
It’s getting worse everyday now. Cory Doctorow reported and commented on new restrictions on internet use which are about to become law in the UK. The proposal has the usual ingrediences: extended control over ISPs serving private interests, draconic sanctions against copyright infringement, and forcing users off the net. First France, now Britain, who will be next? Western nations are obviously under enormous pressure from the content industry to end the so-called “misuse” of the internet.
This whole crusade against file-sharing is way more dangerous than it might seem. It is not only successful lobbying on behalf of the content industry. And it is not only about cutting off some cheap kids from their music supply. Old media, content industry and politics might find a common interest to change the nature of the internet forever. The old powers have reason to turn the internet into something like TV: a malleable means to distribute products and channel approved information.
The content industry used mass media to sell their products, politicians used them to control the masses – and the old media gained power and wealth from both ends. However, the internet changed the rules of the game because it allowed individual communication on a massive and global scale. Precisely its peer-to-peer nature established a public infrastructure which could not as easily be twisted and influenced as the old media in the TV age. In terms of peer-to-peer communication every client is equal – and every voice and opinion may be heard unfiltered. No need for mediation nor content salesmen, no easy access for politicians to the public opinion. In our new age people can exchange digital goods and analog ideas without direction and control of the establishment. This is why content industry, TV-age media and old-school politicians all have a very good reason to hate the internet in its present form. And this is what worries me most in the power struggle that lies ahead. Sure, private broadband connections will survive, we will still have packet-based protocols – but what if all people may use it for is buying TV streams from established outlets as everything else is effectively outlawed? Would you still call that “internet”?