To paraphrase a common saying, do not attribute to consipracy that which can be adequately explained by greed.
There's little doubt that there's movements working against what much of the Linux communities believe in, but there's no Big Bad hidden agenda here -- just simple, petty and local greed.
I once told a friend, "There is far more Stupidity than Evil in the world."
I have since unfortunately found the corollary, "Sufficient Stupidity combined with enough Power is effectively indistinguishable from Evil."
Something like that applies here, "Sufficient Greed combined with enough Power/Wealth can effect the appearance of a Conspiracy."
Think "Greedy Lemmings," and it can look like a Conspiracy
In other things he is just plain wrong. He states that "Liberals often are flummoxed by the way conservatives seem to love big business (including, of course, big media)." Yet it is the democrats who are most in the pocket of big business. Here is a clue - Hollywood is 99.9% liberals. The other 0.1% is Drew Carey. Senator Hollings is a Democrat. DMCA was signed by a Democrat into law. Mary Bono may be a Republican but only in name.
If you think that the internet is failing than this article is a great sign it isn't. The fact that any unintelligent schlub could post an article like this and receive praise for it proves it.
Arguments supported by Hollywood promoting copyright as "property" has a more grevious undertone, in my opinion. It seeks to divide everyone into two categories: The content creators and the content consumers. To many people inside the corporate media sphere see themselves as the only suppliers of creative ingenuity, innovation, and art. It appears that for the sake of protecting their egomania and "intellectual property" anyone who owns a computer is going to be forced to have it turned into nothing more than a fancy TV.
The word consumer, as a whole, is also a source of aggravation. It implies a notion of being fed, of being given content that you don't necessarily desire. And this is precisely what this notion of "distributors of intellectual property" is demanding of you. Sit down in front of your computer/TV, pay an exorbitant fee, and watch the same old boring content and advertisement barrage over and over again. The great thing about the current computer is its ability to allow for the construction of content, not its ability to supply it. This is further amplified by the Internet, and the accompanying ease of distribution and immense audience. For instance, a musician could record a song onto his computer and sell it via the Internet, or a graphic artist could market his art. In the future, perhaps even an independent film company could market it's wares online. A future dictated by DRM and "property" restrictions allows only a few select companies to digitally "watermark" their media in a manner which the now-crippled computer can read. Does anyone honestly believe that these same companies that desire such immense control will relinquish it in the future to independents desiring to sell to the same market?
Suddenly a person is no longer an individual, but a forced consumer of multiple mega-corporations. The prospect is as disturbing as it is possible. The myth of "intellectual property" is curbing and inhibiting the free expression of ideas and content, precisely what copyright law was intended to promote.
It's very frustrating for me, and hard for me to understand. To me, the best way to live is to learn as much as you can, and try to find the best choices for yourself by gathering as much information as is possible (or feasible; you don't want to spend 2 hours researching where you will eat lunch today). Art and creation are, I believe, some of the most fun you can have without being naked (not that that's excluded...)
But a lot of people seem really, truly content with being told what to eat, wear, listen to, drive, vote for, support, etc. There are people who always vote Democrat/Republican without any consideration for the actual candidate. There are people that prefer McDonald's to real food. Most people just do what their friends do, and how did their friends start doing it? What's the source? I guess there's no way to be sure, but I'm betting it was an advertisement.
Maybe it's because it makes life easy. You listen to music to relax, and thinking about it is too hard. It's easier to watch TV than to read a book. It's easy to enjoy fast food, because it's a collection of chemicals designed to be pleasing to the largest number of people. No dangerous sharp edges for you to beware.
Similarly, most people don't want to create. Artistic effort is difficult, requiring many hours to produce something. TV can be enjoyed now. Learning how to really cook would be hard, and my family needs dinner today. Hamburger Helper is good enough. It was a hard day at work and I have a lot on my mind. I don't have time to be creative.
Now, there's great joy to be had in take-out pizza, beer, and Brotherhood of the Wolf. Some days, it's nice to let someone else take the helm. But Einstein understood that we have to keep our brains moving in new directions in order to keep them alive (he played the violin). If all you do is work and consume, you are a unit. I couldn't stand it.
(Some people take great joy in their work, which is wonderful, and ideal even. But being one-dimensional is still bad. You'll get further if you stretch your mind in new directions as often as possible; you may be surprised at how related two seemingly dissimilar things really are.)
The author does an excellent job of synthesizing a number of disparate, troubling issues going on in our society at the moment into a very coherent whole.
If you can understand that democracies are only as good as their voters' information systems, or that markets are only as healthy as the exchange of goods, services, and ideas in them is free, then you should be able to appreciate where the author is going.
The reason esoteric issues like telecom and media regulation, and intellectual "property" law end up commanding such a large amount of attention in the community is because both of these, people are realizing, are not just important, but absolutely essential, to maintaining those very important American principles.
A cheap, ubiquitous communications medium. The free flow of information which respects, but it is not outrageously hobbled by, the rights of authors... It's only our economy, and our democracy, at stake.
I think we need a galvanizing issue. I suggest Saving the Net. To do that, we need to treat the Net as two things:
1. a public domain, and therefore
2. a natural habitat for markets
In other words, we need to see the Net as a marketplace that has done enormous good, is under extreme threat and needs to be saved.
On a side note, as a conservative, I'm very strongly against the modern notion of "intellectual property". I'm all for property rights, capitalism, and the free market. But as the article mentions, copyright isn't a property right and shouldn't be treated as one. I believe in the Constitution above everything else, as far as politics go. And in the thinking of the founders, copyright cannot be a property right. Property is a right that the founders envisionsed as being inherent to mankind --- right up there with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Rights like that cannot be infringed by the state. They are not granted by the state. They are inherent to the people. But, the Constitution allows Congress to GRANT and LIMIT copyright. If copyright were an inherent right, they would have protected it as such --- they certainly wouldn't have given Congress the authority to "grant" it. Therefore I must conclude that the notion of "intellectual property" is thoroughly unconstitutional, and thus I cannot support it.
I think the situation is even worse than the author describes. The media companies are turning copyright into a property right, which is bad enough, but they are also ensuring that they don't actually transfer any property rights when you buy from them.
They are setting up a sort of feudal system, where they own all the property, and we are merely serfs who get to pay rent to access the property.
It is important to restore some balance in the copyright law between the public and the media companies; but I think it is equally important to define what property rights (i.e. fair use rights) consumers have when they buy a CD or a DVD.
Through history the "there should be no such thing as private property!" movement has been driven by those who simply don't have much private property of their own and thus would like some of yours. This is the perception most of the mainstream has of the "it's our right to download movies and software!" crowd; that they simply want something for free because they lack the resources to pay.
You ask why we middle-Americans side with the big-media companies, but the answer is we don't. We side with the very basic American idea of you not being able to move into my houses with twenty of your hippy friends in the name of "property belongs to everybody!!! Who cares that we didn't build or maintain or earn or buy it!!!"
Someone will shout back that this isn't the argument of the anti-IP side, and I understand; but that's how it sounds to us. You didn't write or film or fund the movie. So why do you claim a "right" to see it free?
The author of the article is absolutely right; if you want to win the debate you must make it more about reforming copyright laws to make them more reasonable (the mainstream can get down with that), and less about "YOU EVIL CAPITALISTS DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO KEEP ANYTHING TO YOURSELVES WITHOUT SHARING WITH US!!!" The average American will NEVER come over to that side.
The ability to own property is as fundamental a freedom to this country as free speech or the right to privacy. If you want to change the minds of the masses (and you must if you want the politicians and CEO's to change theirs; bribes or no bribes they will go with the flow of public opinion in order to stay in office) you must re-frame the argument in that way... or watch your movement slowly die as the open-trading technology window closes. And it WILL close.