Despite blanket media coverage of Wikileaks and Julian Assange, there has been little discussion of the fact that Assange is merely one leader within a large and complicated social movement. The better analyses have found it interesting that the Swedish Pirate Party are aiding Wikileaks; some note links to the German Chaos Computer Club. But only “geeks” and “hackers” (technology workers) are aware that all of these organisations are members of the same movement.
This social movement, which has been termed the “free culture movement”, has a thirty year history. It incorporates elements reminiscent of earlier workers’ movements: elements of class struggle, political agitation, and radical economics. The movement’s cadre, mainly technology workers, have been locked in conflict with the ruling class over the political and economic nature of information itself. As Wikileaks demonstrates, the outcome will have implications for all of us.The free culture movement exists as a consequence of the internet’s political economy. Personal computers have radically transformed the economic nature of information. Before the 1970s, a given piece of information was tied to a physical object - a piece of paper, an LP, a roll of film. Entire industries were built on selling paper, LP’s and rolls of film with particular bits of information on them. Then the personal computer arrived and suddenly information of all kinds could be duplicated infinitely at minimal cost - and distributed by the internet to a global audience. Every human could have a copy of every piece of art ever created for the cost of a broadband connection.
Apple iPad is the first complete, general purpose, computer DRM platform and all people complain about is plugins. Music DRM went away because it was stupid. Idiot users pirate everything not bolted down and you end up with Bluray, Xbox, Playstation, Kindle, iPhone and now the Apple iPad. There has never been more DRM and people think they are winning. No, because Internet piracy and hardware piracy has given birth to yet another locked down platform. Because companies need to make money and do what is required.
The iPad exists because you wanted it. Blame yourself if you don't like it. Personally, I might buy one for my mom. Because it's probably a great piece of web surfing, picture browsing, hardware. And OMG do I need one of those.
At first that read like a rant, but Jan ended up wanting one for his mom.
We've been saying this for a decade: if you make music and video easy enough, users will pay for it. Pirating is hard, but pirating is because users want to consume media on their terms: when they want, and on the device they want.
Users' sense of ownership was formed by physical things. Buy a book, share a book, get the book back. Copy a CD you play on the stereo to a cassette you pop in the car. Excessive restriction fosters circumvention so people can use the media they consider theirs. Follow iTunes' lead to work with users. Let them share in the home, and have 5 copies on 5 devices. Maybe even give them a way to loan or share with a few friends. The iPad itself is sharable, like a comic book or an LP.
Make life easy enough, and users don't actually care about the DRM. They just want to watch and listen their way.