Supporting the Rebel Alliance

By Jarrett Wold (indented comments by Luke Francl)

Jarrett is an old debating colleague of mine from back in high school. Seeing my page on Slashdot compelled him to write this essay.

Online privacy is an oxymoron at best. Our data is no more secure online than the size of the cluster required to break it. And we have no excuse or reason to complain or whine about our lack of online privacy.

This is neither here nor there.

We have reached an interesting point where, the internet community can not be shut down or voted out because of the DMCA or other associated bills. In fact Gnutella servers thrive across the Internet in spite of copyright law, fair use provisions and the DMCA.

I suggest you read Lessig's book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace for the reasons why this argument is not true. In short, just because the internet is architected in a way that makes control hard now does not mean it always will be. Consider, for example, Microsoft's Palladium DRM scheme.

Lessig's challenge is flawed in the belief that single points of challenge hold sway over the future of the Internet. They do not. Let us say, hypothetically, pictures of Bill Gates are banned by the government. This will not prevent thousands (more than effectively punishable) of enthusiasts from posting Bill Gates pictures on their sites in response.

My idea of a challenge is more akin to thousands of people posting contraband photos of Bill Gates than it is to government control. It's a decentralized effort to support organizations and individuals who will further the fight against the forces of centralization and control of the net.

The Internet is effectively its' own social structure. No more is online freedom a question of government, it's a practical fact. You cannot punish tens of thousands of people with imprisonment for one crime.

This argument won't help you if the government or the RIAA choses to make an example of you (consider the Navy midshipmen who were busted this week for file sharing).

Software like Freenet directly inhibit enforcement of 'unjust' legislation. If Dmitri Sklyarov had used Freenet and simply referred to the anonymous node, he would not have landed in jail.

Nor would his company have made any money selling their software.
Also, Freenet has serious technical problems as a workable anonymous caching service. See:
The battle for control of the internet has not yet been won or lost. That's what my challenge is about.

The most effective way to get legislation overturned is to prove its inadequacy. Demonstrating that is harder than sending ten dollars to the EFF. In fact that is almost pointless.

There is no reason why one cannot do both things.

If you want to save your online freedoms, use the software that secures them en masse. Freenet, PGP and other free software is a better target of your money than a PAC or the digital equivalent of the ACLU.

I have donated to the Freenet project before. Have you? No one is forcing you to donate to anyone. I merely give a list of suggestions. The idea of the challenge still stands: are you giving more money to people who want to destroy the internet than you are to the people who are trying to save it?

I would rather see one million people using PGP than one million contributing to the EFF. Supporting the Rebel Alliance (EFF/GPL) is sometimes not nearly as effective as paying lip service to the Empire and reaping the rewards of doing so.

Again, there is no reason why you cannot do both.

If the open source community truly desires freedom, they will chuck Stallman off the cliff. His mindless bantering about GNU and the GPL causes businesses to turn away from free software and the secure benefits it brings.

This is also neither here nor there.

By simply using one piece of software over another you can provide a de facto public response to legislation. If you don't like the DMCA, request a company like TIVO to manufacture products that allow you to backup your DVD's. Commerce is the one area that willingly breaks the law to encourage litigation and have the legislation reworked.

And who do you think provides legal support for the TIVOs of the world when they get sued by the MPAA? The EFF.

A chorus of voices are more powerful than two litigators and a judge in a back room deciding the fate of the land.

Which is exactly the point of Lessig's Challenge. Instead of being so self-assured, you can help determine the future of the net supporting the organizations and individuals who care about its future.
You can also read my post, "To my doubters":