Sunday, January 12, 2014

Information Should Be Free

What is the future of information exchange?  In today's world, information exchange is regulated by copyright laws, restricting what individuals have the freedom to share.  This has the obvious effect of stifling the expansion of technological innovation.

In the late 70s and early 80s as computers became smaller and more powerful, a group of individuals came together and formed the home brew computer club.  Among their membership where people such as Steve Wozniac, creator of the first apple computer.  In this club, information was shared freely and people worked to improve on each others ideas.

Soon though, computers became business and the home brew club was forced to shut down, due to the fact that most of its members ended up capitalizing on their work.  The ideas of free information sharing were taken on then by Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU free software movement.  Richards luminary thinking has influenced many of today's free information advocates, it is evident when you read a few of his quotes:

"Control over the use of one's ideas really constitutes control over other people's lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult."

"I could have made money this way, and perhaps amused myself writing code. But I knew that at the end of my career, I would look back on years of building walls to divide people, and feel I had spent my life making the world a worse place."

"If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenseless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software."

So Richard created GNU, (which stands for "GNU's Not Unix"), an open source version of the Unix operating system.  He also pioneered the free software movement, which lead to the formation of the open source movement (Richard preferred "free software"  to "open source").  This ultimately leads to Netscape adopting an open source business plan and creating Firefox, an open source browser.  This ingenious business model led to an open source revolution in the software world.

Now this brings us into peer to peer file sharing, with programs such as napster, morpheus or limewire.  In the modern day, we have Piratebay.
What is Piratebay?  Piratebay is the worlds largest peer to peer network, run through encrypted servers in the privacy haven of Sweden, the same servers in fact used by Wikileaks.  Nothing about Piratebay is inherently illegal, it simply allows you to send files to your friends, it just happens that the material most people share is copyrighted.

The creators of Piratebay have always responded to claims of copyright infringement in the same way:  talk to the user who shared the illegal file.  Of course, companies like apple or MGM don't give a rats tail about semantics like that, and targeted the three creators in a multi-million dollar law suit.

In the end, Piratebay was found guilty of causing millions of dollars of damage to various entertainment industries and its creators where hunted down by interpol and imprisoned. (Gottfrid Svartholm is still in solitary confinement and may serve up to six years for various computer crimes,  Fredrik Neij is still at large, and Peter Sunde is now free and running for European parliament with the Pirate Party of Finland).

This brings us to imaging how information will be shared in the future.  One idea is that humanity would have a world data base of media, that any individual was free to contribute to or download from.  This would create an explosion of innovation, people everywhere could share and improve ideas, just like in the days of the home brew computer club.

What stands in the way is of course the bureaucracy of copyright laws, wielded by corporate giants to obliterate any enemy of their profits.  In the early days of copyright, it was intended to give people a period to capitalize off innovation before others could use the idea, but now it has morphed into full fledged idea hording and restriction, something that can only have detrimental effects on the future of humanity.

To realize a free global information sharing network, copyright laws and ultimately the corporate corruption that holds them up must be challenged.  This can be done in two ways, one is directly, such as what the creators of Piratebay did.  This can have obvious personal consequences, but there exist some people who are brave enough to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

The other way is the decentralized method.  This is when everyone who wants to see information become free spams the internet with copyrighted material faster than it can be deleted.  Services such as youtube can be used for this.

There is a growing movement of people who get media through youtube, because the entertainment industry cant possibly keep up with all the pirated versions of movies and music being posted.  Users also can navigate videos through forums such as, in which users post links to full movies on youtube.  This means that you can easily find active links that have yet to be deleted.  New movies tend to go down, but old movies have a way of staying around, so the amount of content is increasing quickly.

In the end, i hope that the recording industries collapse and abandon their mad scheme of persecution, in the same way that the file sharing witch hunt of the early 2000's was called off when it became obvious that suing individual users was not strategically efficient.

We can now only imagine the impact of global open file sharing, but based on the past innovations of  movements like the home brew computer club and GNU, it would seem evident that humanity could benefit greatly as a whole from this kind of openness.

No comments:

Post a Comment