Following the recent NSA incidents made me read a bit about secure internet communications and alternative networks to the world wide web. Stumbling upon a few mesh projects and brushing up on my trivial knowledge about cryptography made me excited about entering what could be the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it but I’ll leave that for another post.
What I want to talk about is the reaction we all or most of us had when we read the news. People are seemingly more scared and more aware about their internet privacy and took to the streets against their own governments.
Looking back on the events I was surprised at how outraged people were by their governments “listening” . Surprised because since the birth of the internet intrusions have been a big problem.
Latest with Captain Zap’s hack on AT&T in 1981 it was clear that networks had to be secured from external intrusions the so called “hackers”. But intercepting communications didn’t just start 30 years ago, communication interception has been present ever since… well ever since a human being was able to communicate. If encrypted writings dating back 1900BC and codes have been cracked ever since, does it leave any hope for others not to put their nose where it does not belong?
Giving that humans had almost 4000 years experience in trying to know what the other is saying and trying to hide your thoughts it does not surprise me at all that there is basically no privacy on the internet, or telephone lines, or simple mail. Someone somewhere will always want to know what you are up to, might it be your grandmother, a bored hacker or your beloved big brother.
My guess is the people were shocked that the listener was this time someone they were supposed to trust. The government has now stepped into the shoes of the hacker, the person they have always warned us from but we all should have seen this coming 4000 years ago. If you don’t want someone to listen to what you are saying, then don’t say it.
The other day I watched a DVD movie and as usual one of those FBI warnings came up. Not really paying attention to the warning, another message came up which read “You are personally responsible for this disc and its content. This screener is digitally watermarked to identify you, the member. Do not loan [sic], rent, sell give away or otherwise transfer to any third party for any reason.”
This message really got me thinking; “personally responsible”. What do they mean by “personally responsible”? How can I be personally responsible about an item that is actually not my property? Yes I do understand that I would be held responsible if I illegally redistributed the DVD but the words got me thinking about who’s property the content of the DVD actually is? Should anyone actually “own” that content?
Movies, books, music, a lot of creative content makes a lot of money as we see day to day. Actors, directors, musicians, producers are among top earners and I totally understand that they want it to stay that way, so like minded “artists” got together and started to fight for the ownership of their “creations” but then who will own the creations of past artists? Of course this would fall into inheritance laws etc., but that is anyway not my point. Many artists are afraid that if they would not protect the ownership or copyright of their ideas they would not be able to make a living (or in other words a shit load of money), but if they lost that ownership and no one would have it, would that mean that they loose all their wealth and income?
In reality of course there are labels and big companies in the play but even they would not have to suffer from making their content freely accessible and redistributable.
It is hard to imagine free content bringing any type of income and logically only a few artists would be willing to publish their content for free as they have to eat also.
But is that really the only consequence?
You publish content for free and you don’t gain from that?
Let’s have a look at Wikipedia for example. Wikipedia is the single largest free online encyclopedia and is mantained by millions of people sharing and spreading information which is sold by other companies in expensive data DVDs or books. But how can all ths be maintained without taking a single penny for the information. Well ofcourse for one it is mostly maintained by volunteers but Wikipedia does employ a large amount of writers and IT people to keep the system up and running and to make sure that the community is always able to update information. How is all this financially maintained?
The answer is donations. Wikipedia’s and many other company’s main income are donations which make sure that the product is always available.
If they can do it, why can’t music or movie labels do it? I mean, these very companies will never be able to stop people from sharing art and ideas and the sharing of those is the only way to improve and spread them so why not simply give in and try to make a lot of money and on the side benefit the community?