AR: Fences and gates in cyberspace

Jens Hoff and Flemming Bjerke‘s article (published in the Information Polity in 2005) addresses the issue of commercial censorship, as a potential barrier to realizing proper “media citizenship” – whereby the freedom of opinion and expression would include “the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The authors lash out against “the unintended consequences (among these: restrictions on creativity and self-expression) of copyright protection,” against Digital Rights Management systems (which they see as giving software companies legislative as well as judicial and executive power), and the system of software patents, supposedly contributing to the creation and thriving of software monopolies.

“[w]hat we have shown in this article is that he development of digital rights management (DRM) systems, in combination with current developments in the right to take out patents, constitutes a serious undermining of the freedom for anyone to seek, receive and impart information on and through the Internet.”

Although I think the authors’ concerns are somewhat exaggerated, and frankly I don’t find their argument about DRM convincing (especially given the fact that DRM systems just simply tend not to work), I agree that there is a potential danger in commercial censorship – wherever the handling and protection of supposedly public information could be tied to business interests. But what’s troubling with the article, really, is that it seems to suggest the complete giving up of the idea of “copyright” on the internet.

Much as I support open source software (I’m proud to say I’ve been using Linux for almost 4 years now) and the Creative Commons-approach to intellectual property, I don’t think that creators of intellectual property should be forced to give up the right to benefit from their products. What, on the other hand, the ideal solution is – I don’t know.

I guess I should have put more thought to this before committing to a blog post, but what the hell, let’s do it in Web 2.0 way this time, and hear what you have to say!

Hoff, Jens and Flemming Bjerke (2005): “Fences and gates in cyberspace: Is the Internet becoming a threat to democracy?” in Information Polity (10): 141-151. IOS Press.

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