(Working Draft — revisions pending!)
Charlie’s proposal has been generating a host of commentary — unsurprising in light of what he proposes.
Derek identifies the problem that lies in the background of Charlie’s proposal, as well as many other tchnological instruments of control — at some point, the tools reach a level of capability that they threaten not only those toward whom they are directed, but also those who hope to wield them.
Derek’s specter of “global thermonuclear war” on the internet points to what I think is at the heart of the problem with Charlie’s proposal. Just as Charlie describes the delights of the riot, his proposal seems to delight in the joys of the gunslinger. Essentially, he describes a regime wherein each copyright holder hires his/her own “posse” to handle an internet outlaw.
What’s so shocking about Charlie’s proposal is that I remember Charlie being the primary exponent of a thesis about the Internet — that it’s the kind of space where bad behavior gets you in serious trouble. Charlie’s ILaw session from 2002 with Anita Ramasastry shows that he’s been thinking about DoS as a mechanism for protest/enforcement for some time. But 18 months ago, I thought his message was “be nice on the Internet, because the penalties for not being nice can be more than you can handle.”
Moreover, we have his argument that there’s an important role to be played by ensuring access. From Donna’s notes:
Terry: Another question. Chris Lydon asks, “Who killed cyberspace? Is there cyberlife after cyberdeath?”
Charlie: It’s not dead yet. It goes in waves. Optimistic vision first. Forces of greed/market operates. Then reactive mode. There’s a subtext coming back the other way. I look at this in rhetorical terms. By the way: my apologies for my rhetorical failure the other day.
An infusion of true creative energy will save the Net. The institutions to do it are the institutions of creatvity [sic]. Commitment to openness, open discourse, asking good questions. How could the Internet be used to get this message out?
What is really distressing about Charlie’s current proposal is that it essentially says that government goes to the strongest. If you want your rights protected, you have to join the right posse — the right street gang. Or worse, you need to pay for protection, financing the development of the very tools that will destroy the thing that many have been hoping to create in this space.
That’s sad. And I really can’t believe that’s what Charlie believes. Instead, I’m hoping that this is all about “stirring the pot” — making us think harder about what we really mean when we say that the Internet is a place where we can form communities of creativity and expressive communication, building off of one another to build something better.
Charlie’s proposal is the the opposite of the vision that I thought he was working to build — and I’m hoping that it’s just his way of making us stop and think about what’s really at stake.
Note: I understand (and agree) with Charlie that compulsory licensing (and the bureaucratic institutions required to sustain it) are terribly unattractive, for many of the reasons that he cites. But hired guns are just the start of a slippery slide into a noxious, destructive place — even if the objectives are moral/legal. It’s still vigilanteism.
I’m watching West Wing — Pres. Bartlett just quoted Martin Luther King, expressing exactly what’s wrong with Charlie’s plan:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Bleeding heart sucker, right? Maybe so, but in Larry’s Chicago School mechanisms of control mandala, I’m looking for technology as an enabler, not a disabler. And I want the use of technology to limit others treated as vigilanteism, irrespective of who wields the instrument. And if that means that the internet can’t become a new kind of fancy television, then it’s not going to be a fancy television — period.