Friday, December 17

Richard Stallman is kind of a pain in the ass, and he spends a lot of time being a bit too worked up about whether he and his movement are getting enough recognition. You could talk a lot of shit about Richard Stallman if you felt like it.

The problem with this is that Richard Stallman also spends a lot of time being right:

The internet cannot function if websites are frequently blocked by crowds, just as a city cannot function if its streets are constantly full by protesters. But before you advocate a crackdown on internet protests, consider what they are protesting: on the internet, users have no rights. As the WikiLeaks case has demonstrated, what we do online, we do on sufferance.

In the physical world, we have the right to print and sell books. Anyone trying to stop us would need to go to court. That right is weak in the UK (consider superinjunctions), but at least it exists. However, to set up a website we need the co-operation of a domain name company, an ISP, and often a hosting company, any of which can be pressured to cut us off. In the US, no law explicitly establishes this precarity. Rather, it is embodied in contracts that we have allowed those companies to establish as normal. It is as if we all lived in rented rooms and landlords could evict anyone at a moment's notice.

Reading, too, is done on sufferance. In the physical world, you can buy a book with cash, and you own it. You are free to give, lend or sell it to someone else. You are also free to keep it. However, in the virtual world, e-readers have digital handcuffs to stop you from giving, lending or selling a book, as well as licences forbidding that. Last year, Amazon used a back door in its e-reader to remotely delete thousands of copies of 1984, by George Orwell. The Ministry of Truth has been privatised.

The Anonymous WikiLeaks protests are a mass demo against control, The Guardian

Well worth a read, though as with almost everything else on the internet, you would do just as well to avoid the comments.