In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
– Senator Frank Church on NBC’s “Meet the Press” (August 17, 1975)
Just watched the documentary on The Pirate Bay, and it seemed amazingly honest. Different people doing it for different reasons, and the ability to get something going on the web does not translate to the ability to build an organization outside of the network. They deserve the full support of those who believe in the open internet, and they should inspire all of us in this area.
All media should be freely available to everyone, now that the distribution cost is so low (even for long-form HD video thanks to bit-torrent). Copyright should be refined to its intended purpose, to encourage creation. Copyright is an extremely delicate subject because everything new is just a remix of previous ideas, yet limited copyright does encourage risk-taking. I see the former argument as much stronger than the latter.
We need to take all of this further into the cultural dimension, along the lines of what is hinted at in the documentary. A certain understanding of the world as transmitted in most movies and television, is the voice of a very limited group of people and it dominates our culture. This was the result of the limited previously available distribution methods, and the business model that grew up to accommodate it. The internet and related technologies mean that we can support many more voices and have a more democratized culture where all ideas have the chance to achieve culture dominance. To accommodate the new distribution, we need something better than a business model, an alternative way to support media culture.
A new Frightened Rabbit album came out today. By chance, I was looking them up and happened upon that fact this afternoon. In a perfect world, I could go to a local “record” store and buy a beautiful booklet with a download code for the album in FLAC format. Maybe for $5. But back to reality, and I can’t buy it in FLAC anywhere on the web. An MP3 version can be had for $10 from Amazon. Pretty sure they don’t have the CD at the local big box, especially for much less than $20. Anything I can do illegally, should at least have a
What the world needs now is an open source and distributed alternative to Facebook, and many of the other cloud-based services in general. And wordpress.org and wordpress.com are the best examples of what this could be. There should be a piece of software that is pretty easy to install to your own server, with your own domain, that interfaces with other folks doing the same thing. But if you don’t want to run your own site, you could use someone else’s install. The trick is that moving your data should be as easy as exporting a ZIP file, and then importing that same file to another installation.
But Facebook isn’t the only cloud-based service that we’ve become dependent on or ceded control over. Gmail, Google Reader & Calendar, Flickr, YouTube…