NOTHING, not even the vengeful communism that so enthusiastically “redistributed” wealth, has done more to undermine the idea of property rights, particularly intellectual property rights, than the internet.
That great liberator from ignorance — in theory at least — has also become a great liberator of privately owned data of all kinds, much of it exceedingly expensive to generate. This, of course, is a polite way of saying the internet facilitates theft on a grand scale. It has, every single day, facilitated piracy beyond even the wildest ambitions of the doubloon-hungry, swashbuckling privateers who laid the foundations for the British empire. Well, the empire has decided to strike back.
Six film companies have initiated a court action to end “massive” illegal downloading. They suggest this cost something in the region of €320m in 2015 and that 500 jobs were lost because of this. They have targetted nine service providers whose portals make this grand larceny possible. This process has also reshaped the news media and, at one step’s remove, made space for the “fake news” corruption of public discourse.
It may be unwise to question the future of the internet but it may be less so to question the nature of that future. If it continues to develop as a creature of terrorism, organised crime and even casual theft like film, music and news downloading, the shape of that future becomes an open question.
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