LAND OF THE FREE AND HOME OF THE BRAVE?
As Eric Blair sat down and began to pen his dystopian novel, not even he could have imagined a world where the tyranny and oppression of a totalitarian government could be supplanted by remotely controlled bits and bytes. In what may be the greatest example of irony in a great many years, Amazon chose to electronically enter each Kindle wherein resided a legally purchased copy of George Orwell’s epic novel warning of the dangers of a repressive totalitarian government and unceremoniously remove it.
In his groundbreaking commercial, “1984” (Above) director Ridley Scott presented his Orwellian vision of a Macless world. As Big Brother despotically brainwashed the hopeless and helpless masses, the dark and dreary scene was a powerful testament to these inalienable truths we hold to be self-evident. In a free and democratic society, one has the right to choose which computer platform best suits his or her needs and one has the right to protect that which is his or hers.
Would we as a society have stood for storm troopers with an AA upon their collars and sleeves breaking into our homes and removing our hard bound copies of “1984”? Of course not. Yet, their seems to be very little outrage (outside of the blogosphere) among the masses who have purchased the Kindle and enjoyed the ubiquity of its platform.
Without question, this land of the free was founded upon the principles necessary to provide liberty for all. In fact, this freedom and liberty has been and continues to be paid for by the blood of our brave men and women within the armed forces. While our country remains the land of the free, there is a real threat gathering overhead like a menacing storm casting its dark shadow over the electronic landscape.
THE BLURRY BOUNDARIES OF DRM
The bane of modern day digital media consumption is Digital Rights Management. The origin of this management system was for the purpose of allowing the copyright owners to control and monetize their content. In the past, the Fair Use doctrine within US copyright law has provided purchasers of copyrighted content, the right to make a backup copy of the copyrighted content. While their have been cases of abuse, this system has served to provide the purchasers of copyrighted content a level of security incase of accidental destruction.
There has, by and large, existed an unwritten agreement between the content creators and the consumers of that created content. Every content creator has understood that DRM could always be broken by some bright teenager up for the challenge. Most content creators have proceeded on the basis that the vast majority of consumers will reward quality content with a swipe of their plastic laden hands.
Possession, to this point, has been the line over which most of the content creators and or distributors have been unwilling to step. Once the consumer possessed the purchased (as opposed to rented) content, he or she was expected to follow the Fair Use doctrine accordingly.
Now that hardware manufactures (Apple iPhone, Amazon Kindle, others) have, through a combination of hardware and software, provided themselves a backdoor into their hardware devices in order to remove content for reasons they deem reasonable and appropriate, the consumer is left to wonder what, if any, protection they have over their purchased content.
THE KEYS TO THE CANDY SHOP
What parent would knowingly hand over the keys to a candy store to their children? That would be irresponsible. Absolute power has the tendency to corrupt absolutely! This may be one of the most cliché statements of all time. There are too many examples to list. However, we all understand how dangerous it is to give this kind of power to any individual, government, or company.
What if Amazon had chosen not to build a “kill switch” into the Kindle? They would have been forced to compensate the copyright holder(s) of Nineteen Eighty-Four and the consumers would have continued to posses the legally purchased content. Amazon would have subsequently removed the book from its catalog and everyone is happy. The old adage of, “we did it because we could” would apply. If there is no kill switch, there can be no removal of legally purchased content.
The king of Cupertino would be wise to learn from the mistake of Amazon. Apple has placed a similar app kill switch within the iPhone. Like Amazon, Apple could theoretically remove an app from any or all iPhones at any time and according to their discretion. Indeed a very slippery slope to navigate.
There has been outrage among the developer community over Apple’s app approval process. Taking on the role of censor, Apple has received a great deal of criticism over those apps it has rejected for various reasons. There is a huge difference between removing an app from their servers and removing an app from your iPhone. How long will it be before Apple moves its censorship beyond its own servers and onto your iPhone?
LET FREEDOM REIGN
This is the greatest country on this mud ball we call earth! As citizens of the United States, we enjoy freedoms the rest of the world can only dream about. Over two-hundred years ago, our forefathers fought for our right to live free from tyranny in all its forms. After many years and lives, the United States formed, “a better union.” This union stands as a beacon to all who dare to dream of, “freedom and liberty for all.”
Not unlike our forefathers as they arrived on the shoes of this new world, we have reached a monumental moment in this country. A moment born of our prosperity and technological advancement. A moment that will unquestionably shape and form the electronic landscape well into the future. Will we allow ourselves to be enslaved by those who would remove our electronic liberty and freedom? Will we lower our collective heads in submission to those powers that seek to steal away our freedom through their invasive DRM methods?
The revolutionary battle cry of Patrick Henry stands before us as it did in 1775 before the Virginia Convention. “To arms! To arms!” was the resolute response which echoed through the crowd of revolutionists moved by the impassioned word’s of Henry. They knew the time for action had arrived. They were willing to stand and fight for what they believed to be their inalienable right. The only question that remains is, are we?