Daily Archives: 2003/09/18

Irony-free zone

I’ve been blessed today with a number of potential Quotes Of The Day, but I might have to give the nod to Ed Felten, famed Princeton professor of computer science and opponent of much Digital Rights Management, for this quote:

As a parent, I had to chuckle on hearing the American movie industry complain about the distribution of inappropriate sexual content to kids. But then again the whole room seemed at times to be an irony-free zone.

The context is that everyone at the hearing where Felten testified — on the subject of DRM — solemnized about the evils of porn on peer-to-peer networks. Among the solemn was the famed charlatan Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America. See, porn on P2P is the New Big Bad Thing. Back in 1995, I remember there was a big kerfuffle over porn on the Net, because of a baseless study by a then-undergrad at CMU. That article, and quite a lot of other hysteria, led to the now-infamous Communications Decency Act, which the Supreme Court roundly rejected in 1997. Now, because the recording industries are trying to kill anything that might possibly be used to carry unauthorized MP3s and movies, P2P is the New Vehicle For Porn.

Someone always wants to regulate the Net. Since quoting Larry Lessig never hurt anyone, here’s something that always seems relevant:

So here’s what I thought we knew: I thought we knew the Internet was going to shake things up, to change things. To mess things up. To change the way things have been. I thought we knew that, we lawyers, and we had committed ourselves to watching and waiting and letting things shake out. I thought we knew that. I thought we knew that if we stepped in now to regulate, we’d screw it up.

The Net is still evolving. If we let the network develop and see where we end up — if we leave everything open, drop the DRM, drop the insistence on strict control — I have no doubt that it’ll run off and create a world of unimaginable variety and freedom. Let the old media control it, however, and don’t be surprised if the Net looks like a television set that allows shopping.