The Broken Bottle

John Perry Barlow elegantly explained the current upheaval in intellectual property legislation by pointing out that we previously took the practical tact of protecting ownership with regulations addressing physical media. "The bottle was protected, not the wine." With digitalization and a network, we got an unexpected blessing of loaves and fish, and an accompanying headache about what to do with all our bakers and fishermen.

But another genie was set free. For the same physical reasons of what was easy to do and what was hard to do, we never made privacy laws that would be effective in a digital era. Physical privacy had allowed personal privacy. Previously casual conversations were ephemeral. Previously no one really knew what you did at home. Previously no one knew what you watched on TV. What books you read and when. What you chose to do with your attention. These things were only known in vague ways about the general populous. There was no way to track the huge numbers of individuals as individuals. But there is now, and there are no laws in place to protect your privacy. Freedom of Speech was enough when you had the privacy of your thoughts to speak from.

In both areas corporations are extremely aware of the change and are spending considerable money to slide new legislation to their advantage. The general population is less aware, even ignorant, and is doing nothing.

Cyber Idealists have suggested that nations are an obsolete concept. I don't know. Seems to me our only hope of grouping effectively to protect individual rights is with that structure.

A side note: Corporations will go on and on about protecting artists' rights when they profit from it. They make no similar noise when they fire workers to introduce a labour saving technique. Don't be fooled for a moment by their choice of words.

It's your democracy. Get out there and use it. Yes, it's messy. If it was easy to use, a well organized corporation or individual would have locked it up long ago.

This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 11 nov 00