Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Was your voice heard?

Ronald Dworkin is a man of precise words. In his essay "the Right to ridicule" in New York Review of Books he writes "Free speech is a condition of legitimate government. Laws and policies are not legitimate unless they have been adopted through a democratic process, and a process is not democratic if government has prevented anyone from expressing his convictions
about what those laws and policies should be."
That is a direct quote. The man is right.
So let us think, for a moment, about some laws we have recently been encumbered with, or that are being passed right now with a minimum of fuss. The "Media industry" is busy trying to pass laws making DRM technology mandatory in all appliances that can play sound or video. That means, in essence, that they can shut down your stuff remotely if they think you are breaking some of their rules. They can make your VCR or T*Vo stop recording certain shows.
These are the same people who think you deserve to get your computer hacked if you buy their records. Do you really trust them?
What appliances in your home can play music? The radio in the kitchen, sure. The TV, the livingroom stereo. The cell phone? How much do they cost together? What will you do when S*NY decides to void your telephone because your home-made ringtone sounds too much like someones Big Hit? How tightly integrated is your car entertainment system with the other car internals?

Another angle: software patents. In essence, they mean you cannot write software unless you work for a Major Corporation that has licenses or patents to use as barter material. That means innovation goes down the toilet.
It is not news that the computer business has stagnated instead of matured. Look at the innovation rate in the early 80:s compared to the early 00:s; there were dozens of computer makers and hundreds of platforms. The "Sinclair" series of computers went from primitive black and white units with 1 KB of RAM and no sound, to a system with twin drives, multitasking, networking, a proper colour monitor and 128KB of memory in five years.
What has happened in the current PC business in the past five years? Nothing that can compare to that, for sure. The only area where there is real innovation seems to be virus production. Why? Possibly because it is unregulated? When private software writing is outlawed, guess what the bored hackers will focus on?

So, who passes these laws that take away our choices and limit our views? Who, exactly, decided that people in general should not be allowed to broadcast radio? Who took that voice away from the public? Who really thinks software patents are a good idea? Why is any company allowed to own more than one radio station or newspaper or TV station? How come it is illegal to give a friend a mixtape with your favourites, even when no-one profits from it?

Was your voice heard when these laws were passed? Did anyone ask your opinion?
Hold the politicians accountable. The big corporations may ... hm ... furnish them with campaign money, but it is still a question of votes in the end. Write the politicians and tell them your opinion. Tell them that unless they start working for YOU, instead of the BIZ, your votes will go to someone else. Anyone. Michael M*ore. A houseplant. A local bum who lives in a cardboard box. Anyone who is not taking money to diminish your choices and take away your rights.


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