We're screwed

I'm a big advocate of personal liberties, privacy and freedom in general. And as far as technology is concerned, the last few years have been bad. Really bad. I only today realized just how bad things are, and how bad they are going to get.

It's not all bad. We have Linux, a free operating system, and it has really matured over the last few years. But the good news end there.

How screwed are we? Let me count the ways....

In 1996 we got software-patents. Software-patents are more or less equivalent if someone patented the use of knife as a murder-weapon in a crime-novel. And those patents have been abused. Microsoft has patented double-clicking. Lots of common everyday ideas have been patented, by adding the magical words "...in the internet". Selling goods in the internet, banking in the internet, the list goes on.

In 1998 our American friends got the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). It basically means that going around copy-protection is illegal. It also makes it illegal to create and distribute devices and tools that could be used to circumvent copy-protection. In short: kiss your fair-use rights goodbye! EU followed USA's lead by massing EUCD in 2001, which is in many ways similar to DMCA.

Of course as years have passed, the limits of the length of copyright-protection has beed advanced. What is know as "Mickey Mouse Protection Act", whenever a piece of intellectual property (most famous example being Mickey Mouse) is about to pass in to public domain, the legislators extend the length of the copyright. More information is available here.

Of course, we are also facing the "broadcast flag" in broadcasted content. That means that the content which is broadcasted is "flagged", and the ways the content could be copied byt the consumer are limited by the devices that could do s (for example, DVR's and VCR's). It would also make it impossible to skip commercials (possible with DVR's). Again: fair-user rights are being eroded.

The latest example of these shenanigans is the "plugging the analog hole". I blogged about this before, and I urge you to read it.

What do all these things have in common? They are being actively pushed by "Big Content". Sony Music, Warner, DIsney. They want to squeeze even more profits from you and me. If our rights get trampled in the process... Well, so be it.

Of course, we also have to endure the usualy stuff... Increased surveillance, reduced privacy (EU just passed the "data retention directive", which means that in order to protect EU-citizens from few dozen "terrorists" and "pedophiles", we have to spy on millions on law-abiding citizens on the net. Of course, the Big Content has already expressed their interest in aquiring that data in order to catch those pesky "pirates"), increased legislation...

And there's nothing you can do about it

The organizations who are pushing these changes to our society have millions of dollars. Correction: they have billions of dollars. And they can present an unified front towards legislators. You and me? We are piss-poor and we don't agree on anthing. There are few organisations opposing these changes (like EFF and FSF), but they don't have the resources, and Joe Sixpack would view them as "lunatic fringe" and "few alarmist nerds".

So yes, we are screwed. And there's nothing we can do about it. Only thing left to see, is how bad things get, and how fast. In the near future, we will only be able to listen to our music with some "pre-approved devices". If you want to listen to your music elsewhere, you have to re-buy it. You might also have to pay a tiny amount every time you listen to the music. Or watch that movie you bought. And foret about watching that DVD on your computer that doesn't run Windows or Mac OS. Forget about enjoying the content you have bought and paid for, in a way you like to. And forget about making copies of any kind.

The society will not be formed how we want it to be formed, but by how some big corporations want it to be formed. Get used to it,

The entitled generation

As you may or may not know, I'm somewhat involved in the free software (often called open-source software) community. A Brief description: Free software is software that is distributed freely to users. The user can freely use the software, modify it and re-distribute it. Companies around the world are earning millions of dollars through their usage of free software.

Free software is quite often created by volunteers who work on it on their free time. Some do get paid from their work, but many are students or people with enough free time to create free software.

So, where am I getting at here? Free software has given me a great look at a phenomena I would like to see disappear. Namely, the people who think that they are entitled to everything. In this case they are the people who get lots and lots of great software for free. Many of them use that software to earn money. So they don't pay for the software and they are not forced to use the software. And still, they tell the developers of the software "Your software sucks! I demand that you fix these bugs immediately!".

Excuse me? Does the fact that the user uses the software somehow mean that he's entitled to make demands? I might understand that sentiment if he paid for the software. But he didn't. I might understand if he was forced to use the software. But he isn't. He's making the conscious decision to use some software, and he can use that software for free. So how exactly is he entitled to make demands? And besides, since this is open-source software we are talking about, he could always fix the problem himself. Or he could pay someone to fix it for him. But making demands to people who create free software isn't helping much.

It seems to me that there's lots of people who have grown accustomed to the fact that there's loads of free software available. And they take that software for granted. And when it doesn't work perfectly, they start to make demands.

It would be similar if I gave someone a free BMW. And the reply I would get in return would be something like "Dude, WTF is this?! Why isn't there any gas in the tank? I demand that you fill the tank! Don't you know that giving others BMW's with no gasoline gives a very bad impression of you?".