2009: The Year when Internet freedom dies?

Looking at all those last-year protests against Olympics in China for Internet censorship, and civil rights violations – made me laugh and feel sad at the same time. Numerous thousands of protesters were blocking the Olympic torch because "China is bad". Guys’n’girls, tree-huggers and freedom protesters, don’t you feel like idiots today?

At the same time, a non-controlled body in UK decided to block access to some aspects of Wikipedia citing "pornographic content", while a government-controlled body in Australia blocked access to several "non-appropriate sites" such as workers rights-whisperer websites, anti-abortion sites and so on.

Today, owners of a search engine were pronounced guilty for owning a website that enabled access to copyright content. While we can debate all night and day how good or bad The Pirate Bay is, this is a dangerous legal precedent that will enable interest organizations such as MPAA and RIAA plus governments around the globe to go against search engines as Google, Yahoo, and AltaVista – for showing "inappropriate content". If being able to find the latest movie on TPB is bad, how long until we see Google or others prosecuted for being able to find design documents to build inconvenient stuff, such as nuclear weapon charts, airplane designs, non-patented car "that runs on air" designs and so on?

While we are for protection of content, the content that you read on BSN*, just like on my previous publications [INQ, TG Daily, Tom’s Hardware] will get ripped off – e.g. verbatim copies of our articles will be run in various publications without even considering crediting us. Online media got used to sharing dinner tables with representatives from the world of mainstream publications, but as they also moved online – we all started to get ripped off online as well – e.g. stories from online media being copied without crediting the respective sources.
One such case was when "Good Morning America", well-respected show on American national TV network "stole" pictures of Dell’s burning notebook from my former publication – they didn’t even feel the need to apologize before we politely "reminded them" where they got the story from in the first place. After that, they did a full credit in the next day’s show – but their original attitude was preposterous.

Only time will tell in what direction are we moving, but there is just one thing that’s certain – the Internet has become a viable political weapon, and expect a lot of power struggles from the traditional world that does not like changing things. When it comes to content industry protected by MPAA and RIAA, this industry is a dinosaur that refuses to change and go in tune with times. The markets changed, and instead of offering their own version of iTunes or Steam, but with support for multitude of devices.

Just imagine how much money would for instance, Transformers II make if the movie would be available in cinema, for purchase online, playing a game streamed to your mobile device, continued on desktop at home… nope, it is easier to go through traditional model and then sue the living daylights from the people that are proving you are wrong.

Napster and WinMX resulted in popularization of iTunes online store, creating a legal channel of content distribution that overtook the CD industry. KaZaA’s authors created Skype and later paid legal fees, after selling the company for 2.6 billion USD. Why The Pirate Bay’s case wasn’t used to create a content distribution network that would distribute content to legally paying customers?

That too will appear, and again, the traditional industry will go and cry – and a new Apple or Valve will rise, and laugh their arses off at the old industry, until you’re big enough to go and buy a large share in them, in a real Steve Jobs way.


DISCLAIMER: The views presented in this article represent only the personal opinions of the author. Members of BSN* may or may not agree with the statements expressed in this article.