My latest Guardian column, "Digital Economy Act: This means war," explains how the latest round of dirty tricks from the entertainment industry — perverting British law, proposing an American police state, building an oppressive global treaty behind closed doors — changes the game. We're no longer merely arguing about the future of control over culture: now it's about the fundamentals of a just and free society:
In the US, the MPAA and RIAA (American equivalents of the MPA and the BPI) just submitted comments to the American Intellectual Property Czar, Victoria Espinel, laying out their proposal for IP enforcement. They want us all to install spyware on our computers that deletes material that it identifies as infringing. They want our networks censored by national firewalls (U2's Bono also called for this in a New York Times editorial, averring that if the Chinese could control dissident information with censorware, our own governments could deploy similar technology to keep infringement at bay). They want border-searches of laptops, personal media players and thumb-drives…
I'm not such a techno-triumphalist that I believe that the free and open internet will solve all our socio-economic problems. But I am enough of a techno-pessimist to believe that baking surveillance, control and censorship into the very fabric of our networks, devices and laws is the absolute road to dictatorial hell.
Chekhov wrote that a gun on the mantelpiece in act one is sure to go off by act three. The entertainment industry's blinkered pursuit of its own narrow goals has the potential to redesign our technology to be the perfect tools and excuses for oppression.