Mythologies of control

Ed Felten observes that
the Net’s connection to the physical world makes it unlikely to become
a tool for total control by companies or governments:

“[A] locked-down Net can’t really happen, at least
not here in the free world. For how can one foot be enslaved while the
other is free? To lock down the Internet is to disconnect it from
everyday life, from the life where I can send an invitation, or a
business memo, or a home movie to anyone at any time, where I can read
whatever I like without asking a censor’s permission.”

He has a point.  The problem, though, is that policy-makers aren’t
seeing the analogy he makes.  The content industries, for example,
have successfully focused attention on the threat of digital “piracy,”
as though no one ever made a mix tape from a CD before the Net came
along. 

The ideology of the digital copyright extremists, as well as some in
the trusted computing community, is one of total control.  Any
slack in the system for users to do what they want would have to be
explicitly granted in their of the world.  As David Weinberger argued
in Wired a few months back, that’s a strange and dangerous
notion.  It’s a good thing to recognize the Net’s connection to
the physical world, because the physical world has inherent checks and
balances.