I don't think I've ever had so many people all recommend I watch the same thing as the number of folks who pointed me to Cory Doctorow's brilliant talk at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin last week. You can watch the 55 minute presentation below... or if you're a speed reader, you can check out the fantastic transcript put together by Joshua Wise, which I'll be quoting from.
The crux of his argument is pretty straightforward. The idea behind all these attempts to "crack down" on copyright infringement online, with things like DRM, rootkits, three strikes laws, SOPA and more, are really simply all forms of attacks on general purpose computing. That's because computers that can run any program screw up the kind of gatekeeper control some industries are used to, and create a litany of problems for those industries.
His point (and presentation) are fantastic, and kind of a flip side to something that I've discussed in the past. When people ask me why I talk about the music industry so much, I often note that it's the leading indicator for the type of disruption that's going to hit every single industry, even many that believe they're totally immune to this. My hope was that we could extract the good lessons from what's happening in the music industry -- the fact that the industry has grown tremendously, that a massive amount of new content is being produced, and that amazing new business models mean that many more people can make money from music today than ever before -- and look to apply some of those lessons to other industries before they freak out.
But Cory's speech, while perhaps the pessimistic flip side of that coin, highlights the key attack vector where all of these fights against disruption will be fought. They'll be attacks on the idea of general purpose computing. And, if we're hoping to ward off the worst of the worst, we can't just talk about the facts and data and success stories, but also need to be prepared to explain and educate about the nature of a general purpose computer, and the massive (and dangerous) unintended consequences from seeking to hold back general computing power to stop "apps we don't like."