Suck Today..Net of looser

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From: Tom Whore (
Date: Fri Sep 08 2000 - 11:37:06 PDT

[I note that userland gets an url mention..the article itself is stuff ive
been babling about for the last few years. The biotch slap of the legal
system is slow, but its gonn hit on things eventualy. then comes the true
test of the zelots, jihaders and later day saints. As the clash put
it.."when they kick down your front door, how your gonna come, with your
hnads on your head or on the trigger of a gun" Hopefully the crowd of
folks will make a good showing of themsleves. Im less than optimistic but
looking forward to this showdown as much as any good kersau battle sceen]

[meanwhile us old online rats still make out like banditos:) badges, we
don need no stinkin badges]

With almost embarrassing enthusiasm, the American judicial system has
recently taken upon itself the task of spanking the Internet, hard and
with relish. Each day seems to bring another decision designed to leave
the technically savvy sputtering with rage. But as galling as the verdicts
have been, the judiciary with every curt dismissal of every nerd-approved
argument is doing the plugged-in set an enormous favor. Because if anybody
needs a lesson in the way the real world works, it's the geeks. For all
the high-minded talk that has accompanied the rise of the Internet the
creation of the New This and the ascendance of the New That there still
exists one fundamentally unalterable old-school fact: Lawyers rule the
world. They always have and they always will. Billions of dollars and
millions of users won't change that, and though the technology sector now
swims with the biggest of fish, it can and will be eaten by sharks. Yes,
the verdicts that have been plopping out of the judicial system like
nuggets from a well-fibered horse are almost uniformly inept. They
demonstrate to a mathematical certainty that the courts are not only
hidebound and archaic but laughably incapable of applying well-established
precedents to anything that confuses them. But the decisions are no less
legally binding for being silly: As of last month, domain names aren't
property and thereforecan't be stolen; the ability to decrypt a DVD
corresponds directly to the intent to pirate it; and linking to a program
declared illegal is itself illegal. The legislative branch has kicked in
its own contributions, too: The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
and UCITA (Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act) are wonders of
embarrassing corporate glad-handling, all at the expense of users.

These are actual, established rights being disposed of the fundamental
legal underpinnings of the Internet and in any sane world a series of
decisions like this would create a backlash severe enough to snap your
neck. Though freedom of speech has always been the abstract red-headed
stepchild of the Constitution, almost any largish group subjected to
treatment like the recent decisions would respond as it needs to respond:
with an effective and organized lobbying effort to defend not only its
present but its future rights. The population of the Internet, in
contrast, has managed to whine a lot. Or rather, those who are even aware
of the problem have managed to whine a lot. At the rate things are going,
the Internet is going to end up the neutered corporate lapdog that
everybody claims to fear and nobody is doing anything to prevent. It's
largely a matter of history. After a five-year winning streak, the
propeller-heads at the forefront of most online movements can't conceive
that they're on the down side of a coin toss. Overcome with
self-confidence and flush with self-satisfaction, they don't even know
what losing looks like. Classic geek arrogance plays an important role in
this denial. With all the sweaty assurance of a faculty-lounge communist,
nerd culture is suffused with a rock-solid belief in the inevitability of
history. It's built into geek jargon and the geek mindset into geek DNA,
even, the result of success after success after success. "We can't lose,"
the thinking goes. "Because ... well, just because."

But that's dead wrong. A near-invisible niche for the vast majority of its
existence, computer culture has only recently stepped into the big leagues
and has yet to even learn the rules. Sprung from a world of digital
absolutes, nerd brains are woefully unprepared for the fuzzy gray shadings
inherent in the legal system. But if they can't play the game, they might
as well just forfeit to save themselves the beatings. And there are plenty
of beatings to come. Except for the under-funded Electronic Frontier
Foundation, the embryonic efforts of the ACLU, and the occasional
self-interested corporate lobbyist, the Internet's collective response to
one well-nigh apocalyptic decision after another has unfortunately been
the same as the Internet's collective response to just about everything:
posts, lots and lots of posts. Discussions and cries of hypocrisy and
malformed analogies have consumed megabyte upon megabyte of masturbatory
rage and self-indulgent self-righteousness. Which, of course, accomplishes
exactly nothing. For all the endless caterwauling that each addle-headed
legal decision generates, the impact extends only as far the smallish
communities that spawn it. Even ignoring the significant percentage of the
population that remains stubbornly off-line including the vast majority of
Congress and the judiciary the cage-rattlers have failed even to involve
those who might actually care. Millions use the Internet without the
slightest idea that their rights are being stripped away, blissfully
unaware of what's going on because they don't happen to be members of the
choir. The tempest not only fits in a teapot, it doesn't even rattle the
lid. In this age of omnipresent email and mainstream technology news,
pictures of ribbons don't cut it as tools of moral suasion anymore.

The technical elite of the Internet are smug and self-satisfied, confident
in their position in and their control of this brave new world they have
created. But the blind narcissism that leads geeks to confuse "can be
done" with "will be allowed" is disastrously naive. Lawyers and
politicians and those who hold the reigns of real power are going to use
that hubris to eat the medium alive, snapping off bits to chew on at their
pleasure. And all the indignant, insular posts in the world will do
nothing to stop them. Until those who are aware of the problem can turn
the energy of a million keystrokes into some coherent action, computer
culture and the freedom it so badly wants protected is going to be viewed
as nothing more than an unruly dog in need of a muzzle. Until the geeks
can put away their snotty superiority and muster up enough interest to
deal with the law on its own terms, their precious technical achievements
are going to be for naught. And until the people who claim to care about
the future of the Internet can put down their keyboards, put on suits and
learn to fight like attorneys, then all this revolutionary new freedom is
moot. Lawyers rule the world. And don't you forget it.

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