Today is blackout day across the internet. Wikipedia is dark, Reddit is down, Google US has a big censored logo, and dozens of other sites are either dark or doing something to draw attention to the very scary PIPA and SOPA bills being considered in the United States. The bill has major ramifications for Canada, we’re already not seeing content because of the USA’s DCMA laws and the language in SOPA and PIPA make it clear that physical location of servers is important (for some reason) – even though Canadian sites might host purely Canadian content, if they are hosted in the USA (as many many sites are), they are to abide by the terms of SOPA and/or PIPA if passed. There’s TONS of information on this all around the internet today – go read it if you’re interested.
I find it kind of strange that it requires such a massive and blatantly Orwellian bill to spur people into action. While every other day of the week they’re fine with Apple and/or Microsoft controlling their computing experience and managing their media. Of course we see that the internet is an important thing to keep free – but if 99 out of 100 machines that comprise that internet network are running non-free software the question arises: just how free is the internet really?
Hardcore geeks such as myself never have much to fear – if the internet gets locked down, we’ll be the ones spearheading urban meshnets, darknets and virtually an “underground internet”. Others who lack the technical expertise to participate in these networks will be left to whims their corporate masters; not just lobbyist influenced politicians, but also to the many companies they blindly clicked “I agree” through. Even if SOPA/PIPA are defeated (and it looks like they will be), you can bet that next year there’ll be a newer, slightly less invasive version and a few years after that another, ad infinitum until corporations finally reign in the control of your computing experience they so desperately want.
There is a sure-fire way to stop this and it starts and ends with you: the consumer. We need to not only demand that our media come DRM free, that we be allowed to share, but that the underlying technology that we use makes it impossible for DRM to function and sharing content as easy as possible. We need to demand that freedom is literally engineered into the operating systems and physical hardware we run. I have made my position on Apple well known, they are by far the worst culprits of this, but Microsoft isn’t far behind (and Sony only wishes they had an OS platform). Did you know your iPhone is only allowed to run software that Apple allows? (Developers must literally get Apples blessing before getting a “certificate” to run on your iPhone or iPad). Did you know that most of the media you buy through iTunes is locked into iTunes forever? Sure Apple is the cool company right now, but for how long? When someone else comes along with something shinier, prettier that all the cool kids want, how easy will it be for you to move your iLife over to that new platform? (Hint: you’ll have to start over because you clicked “I agree” you sold out to Apple or Microsoft – just like the politicians selling out to the lobbyists).
If a free internet is important, shouldn’t a free operating system be just as important?