Oppositional speech in the democratic Internet
To complete yesterday’s thought, totalitarian-style control of Internet is not the only flavor out there. The recent supreme court decision puts p2p technologies such as Grokster at risk. Not to argue that illegal copying of music is defensible, but if p2p technologies are restricted on this basis alone, then significant opportunities for this technology to support democratic modes of communication and open sharing may be lost. If the only model for content distribution available on the net becomes big central servers, 1) it will be easier to control (and thus censor) content, and 2) the barrier to entry for large-scale distribution is raised, thus making more difficult the distribution of non-profit materials such as open educational content. One reason (not the only) that MIT OCW doesn’t include more streaming media is the distribution cost, but imagine if we could record all lectures in mp3 format and tag them for easy access via Grokster. The point is markets and powerful media lobbies can (intentionally or as a side effect of protecting markets) work as effectively to curtail oppositional speech as totalitarian governments.