The Death of Freedom One Step at a Time

by Brian Ritchie


Last Updated: Dec 24, 2012 21:56
391 words · 2 minutes read

Recently, Usenet’s freedom to post information without restriction has been under concerted attack by copyright activists, who have used targeted DMCA takedown notices to harass some of the largest providers out of existence. This is particularly because a large number of downloaders and file sharers have now considered to newsgroups to be their primary source of content.

Freedom Caged

Freedom Caged. Image courtesy of StockProject1

Its long existence and solid support structure made it more than robust enough for heavy file traffic, and its long history provided some camouflage from copyright groups. That long free period has ended, and large legal entities have now placed a bullseye on Usenet in an attempt to squeeze all unauthorized traffic off of the newsgroups. Online banking services are adopting aggressive policies against perceived piracy, and now will cut off funding to major Usenet providers if they have a suspicion that users are utilizing them to share files that are copyrighted in particular regions and jurisdictions. The tradition of freedom in newsgroups seems to be plagued with rapid death.

This is serves as an ominous omen for the global internet, which thrives on the free transmission of information. It is not an abstract proposition like, “Information wants to be free.” Information is free. Nothing can change that. Access to data can be restricted, or punished. But, since information is transferred so simply and reliably, and since it is not destroyed by its transmission, the flow of information can never be interdicted entirely. It can only be impeded by draconian measures, which means that countless “examples” can be made of the unlucky citizens who run afoul of the law.

Piracy is something of a misnomer for the free sharing of information. It gives the impression that something is being taken from someone else, but that is literally never the case. When a file is shared, it is copied, and the original file is still there. All the “copyright owners” still have every single file that ever suffered from “piracy.” The thing at risk is their business model. The danger to their way of earning money is real, because the large creative corporations of the 20th Century are certainly dying a quick death. However, the methods they use to protect their way of life call into question the true worth of what it is they are trying to protect.