Edging toward the fully licensed world

I own a lot of books and music CDs — enough to fill many shelves. Here’s just one:

They are relatively uncomplicated possessions. There are no limits (other than mine) on who can read my books, or what else  I can do with them, shy of abusing fairly obvious copyright laws. (For example, I can’t plagiarize somebody’s writing, or reproduce whole chapters of a book I’m quoting.) Music is a bit more complicated, but not to the degree that I stop assuming that I own and control the CDs on my shelves (even when they’re copied onto a hard drive, or stored in a cloud). The same even goes for the videocassettes and DVD of movies I’ve purchased. They are mine. I own them.

But books, music and movies from Amazon, Apple and other BigCos aren’t really sold. They are licensed. Take Amazon’s terms of use for e-books. They say this:

… the Content Provider grants you a non-exclusive right to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Kindle or a Reading Application or as otherwise permitted as part of the Service, solely on the number of Kindles or Other Devices specified in the Kindle Store, and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.

Pretty clear. That stuff ain’t yours. All you get is some downloaded data and a highly restricted set of permissions for where and how you use that data, mostly within within the walled gardens provided by Amazon and the Content Providers. So it’s really more like renting than buying. (And not from friendly competitors, either.)

What’s more, the seller can also change the licensing terms at will. For example, in Apple’s terms for iTunes, it says “Apple reserves the right to modify the Usage Rules at any time.” Somewhere deep in the 55-page terms of use for the iPhone it says the same kind of thing. This is why your ownership of a smartphone is far more diminished than your ownership of a laptop or a camera. That’s because our phones are members of proprietary systems that we don’t operate. This is why the major operators (e.g. Verizon, AT&T) and OEMs (e.g. Apple and Google) are at liberty to reach into your phone and turn stuff on and off. (MVNOs such as Ting distinguish themselves by not doing that.)

Same with TV. Nothing you watch on your cable or satellite systems is yours. In most cases the gear isn’t yours either. It’s a subscription service you rent and pay for monthly. Companies in the cable and telephone business would very much like the Internet to work the same way. Everything becomes billable, regularly, continuously. All digital pipes turn into metered spigots for “content” and services on the telephony model, where you pay for easily billable data forms such as minutes and texts. (If AT&T or Verizon ran email you’d pay by the message, or agree to a “deal” for X number of emails per month.)

Free public wi-fi is getting crowded out by cellular companies looking to move some of the data carrying load over to their own billable wi-fi systems. Some operators are looking to bill the sources of content for bandwidth while others experiment with usage-based pricing, helping turn the Net into a multi-tier commercial system. (Never mind that “data hogs” mostly aren’t.) And mobile carriers are starting to slice up the Web itself. In All Mobile Traffic Isn’t Equal — As ‘Net Neutrality’ Debate Swirls, Wireless Carriers Start Cutting Special Deals , Anton Troianovski writes this in the Wall Street Journal:

One of Europe’s biggest wireless companies recently started offering a new plan in France: For less than $14 a month, customers could get unlimited Web browsing on their phones.

The catch—the Internet was limited to Twitter and Facebook. Every 20 minutes spent on any other website cost nearly 70 cents.

France Telecom SA’s Orange Group is one of several wireless carriers around the world experimenting with slicing up the Web into limited offerings and exclusive deals they hope will bring marketing advantages or higher profits.

In Turkey, mobile operator Turkcell lets users pay a flat fee to access Facebook, but not competing Turkish social networks. Polish carrier Play has offered free access to a handful of sites including Facebook but charged for the rest of the Web. And AT&T Inc. now says it’s planning to let app developers subsidize U.S. subscribers’ use of services.

Such tests remain the exception not the rule. Still, they show that the “open Web” ideal that has long governed Internet use is starting to break down as more and more surfing takes place on mobile devices.

Telecom executives, tired of being the “dumb pipes” through which valuable Internet traffic flows, say they need to cut such deals to make investing in expensive mobile-data networks worthwhile. But entrepreneurs seeking to devise new mobile offerings worry the shifting rules of the game will favor well-heeled companies that can afford carriers’ new terms.

Thus turning the mobile Web into something more like TV.

Meanwhile, back on the book and music front, publishers already have the Amazon and Apple content sphincters in place, on the iPads, iPhones and Kindles that are gradually marginalizing our dull old all-purpose desktop and laptop computers.What used to be radio is gradually turning into a rights-clearing mess. You like Spotify? Read Michael Robertson on how hard it is for Spotify and other radio-like music services to make money, or for the artists to make much either. You like to hear music on the radio, either over the air or over streams? Read David Oxenford’s report on how complicated that’s getting. Stopping SOPA was indeed an achievement by advocates of a free and open Internet.  But that was like stopping one goal in a football game after the other side already built up a 100-to-0 lead.

So, while BigCo walled gardeners such as Apple and Amazon continue to convert things that could be owned in the physical world (starting with music and books) into what can only be licensed in the virtual one, the regulatory framework around the Internet is ratcheting in an ever more restrictive direction, partly at the behest of regulatory captors such as the phone, cable and content companies (all getting more and more vertically integrated), and partly at the behest of countries that want the UN and the ITU to help them restrict Net usage inside their borders.  The latter is less about licensing than about pure politics, but it’s still at variance with the free and open marketplace the Net opened up in the first place.

John Battelle has long been observing this trend, and contextualizes it in a post titled It’s not whether Google’s threatened. It’s asking ourselves: What commons do we wish for?, The gist:

What kind of a world do we want to live in? As we increasingly leverage our lives through the world of digital platforms, what are the values we wish to hold in common? I wrote about this issue a month or so ago:  On This Whole “Web Is Dead” Meme. In that piece I outlined a number of core values that I believe are held in common when it comes to what I call the “open” or “independent” web. They also bear repeating (I go into more detail in the post, should you care to read it):

No gatekeepers. The web is decentralized. Anyone can start a web site. No one has the authority (in a democracy, anyway) to stop you from putting up a shingle.

An ethos of the commons. The web developed over time under an ethos of community development, and most of its core software and protocols are royalty free or open source (or both). There wasn’t early lockdown on what was and wasn’t allowed. This created chaos, shady operators, and plenty of dirt and dark alleys. But it also allowed extraordinary value to blossom in that roiling ecosystem.

- No preset rules about how data is used. If one site collects information from or about a user of its site, that site has the right to do other things with that data, assuming, again, that it’s doing things that benefit all parties concerned.

- Neutrality. No one site on the web is any more or less accessible than any other site. If it’s on the web, you can find it and visit it.

- Interoperability. Sites on the web share common protocols and principles, and determine independently how to work with each other. There is no centralized authority which decides who can work with who, in what way.

I find it hard to argue with any of the points above as core values of how the Internet should work. And it is these values that created Google and allowed the company to become the world beater is has been these past ten or so years. But if you look at this list of values, and ask if Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and the thousands of app makers align with them, I am afraid the answer is mostly no. And that’s the bigger issue I’m pointing to: We’re slowly but surely creating an Internet that is abandoning its original values for…well, for something else that as yet is not well defined.

This is why I wrote Put Your Taproot Into the Independent Web. I’m not out to “save Google,” I’m focused on trying to understand what the Internet would look like if we don’t pay attention to our core shared values.

What’s hard for walled gardeners to grok — and for the rest of us as well  — is that  the free and open worlds created by generative systems such as PCs and the Internet have boundaries sufficiently wide to allow creation of what Umair Haque calls “thick value” in abundance. To Apple, Amazon, AT&T and Verizon, building private worlds for captive customers might look like thick value, but in the long run captive customer husbandry closes more opportunities across the marketplace than they open. Companies do compete (as do governments), but the market and civilization are both games that support positive sum outcomes for multiple players. The free and open Internet is the game board on which the Boston Consulting Group says a $2.1 trillion economy grew in 2010, on a trajectory to reach $4.2 trillion by 2016. That game board is also a commons, and it’s being enclosed. (Lewis Hyde, author of Common as Air, calls it the “third enclosure.”)

By losing the free and open Internet, and free and open devices to interact with it — and even such ordinary things as physical books and music media — we reduce the full scope of both markets and civilization.

But that’s hard to see when the walled gardens are so rich with short-term benefits.

[Later...] I should make clear that I’m not against silos as a business breed, or vertical integration as a business strategy. In fact, I think we owe a great deal of progress to both. I think Apple actually opened up the smartphone market with the iPhone, and its vertical private marketplace. The concern I’m expressing in this post is with the fractioning of the commercial Web, as we experience it, and of much else that happens on the Net, into private vertical silos, using proprietary gear that limits what can be done to what the company owning the whole market allows. The book business, for example, largely happens inside Amazon, as of today. I think this is good in some ways, and worse in others. I’m visiting the worse here.

 

36 comments

  1. Wilhelm Reuch’s avatar

    But the internet has never been friendly with culture. The attitude has been an arrogant “all your content are belong to us to monetize as we see fit and stop us if you can”. And then start calling everyone who refuse to lie down “dinosaurs”.

    And here comes Doc Searls to complain the the content creators is not that interested in the closed walled garden he calls internet.

    I agree with that the internet is less interesting. On the other hand I fully undertstand why everyone from commercial culture to smaller experimental forms of expression simply have no interest to consider the internet.

    Maybe what folows the internet may offer better incentives, time will tell.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I should make clear that the Internet is the “network of networks” defined — and transcended — by its base protocols, which are agreements about how data moves from one end to another. (David Weinberger and I called it a world of ends back in 2003.) It is those protocols that make the Net a wide open and supportive infrastructure for markets of all kinds. And for culture. You are right that this is dull stuff that fails to interest many people, but so is the geology on which we build everything in the physical world. That it’s dull does not make it unimportant. Nor does it relieve us of the need to understand it. And, to do that, we should make distinctions.

    For example, the Web, email, file transfer, instant messaging and other applications are not the Internet. Nor are any of the institutions, private or noncommercial, that provide services on the Internet. This is an important distinction to make, because it helps us understand that the Internet is not reducible to the Web, much less to Verizon, Orange, Vodafone, Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo or any company providing services, including access to the Net — even if some of those (notably the operators) limit access and use in various ways.

    I am also not calling the Internet a walled garden. I am calling walled gardens what some companies (e.g. Apple and Amazon) provide there. But I am not saying those walled gardens are the Net itself. They are not.

    One point of my post is that in the Net-based economy, there is a trend toward licensing goods rather than selling them. Another point is that markets on the Net are becoming increasingly privatized and vertically integrated by collusive industries and governments. And that both these things — especially the latter — have costs as well as benefits.

  3. Herman Wagter’s avatar

    In my opinion we are still in the 1700′s of the information economy : copyright laws, intellectual property laws and patent laws take us where no law has gone before, only to carve out copyright guilds, create absolute IP monopolies and sustain patent oligarchies that wage ridiculous battles. A mistaken belief that information has monetizeable value and therefore needs to be locked up.
    We need a new Adam Smith nowadays, one that explains the old maxims again but now framed for the information economy.

    http://www.dadamotive.com/2011/10/the-wealth-of-information/

  4. John Jordan’s avatar

    Great piece. It raises so many issues, some of which we lack words for at this point (which is a real problem).

    Regarding books and CDs, what actually do we “own”? A physical artifact containing a copy of an artistic creation. I can’t own “Star Wars,” even if I own a DVD. And there are limits to what I can do with my physical copy of a piece of music: I can’t broadcast it for commercial use, or play it at a restaurant, or copy it and sell it.

    So what can we “own” when we buy a disembodied bitstream without paper or polycarbonate instantiation? The rights to do certain things with the bits, but not the bits themselves? And at what point is there a different between the bits sitting on my hard drive(s) on the PC in the study and bits on/in my (rented) piece of the Google/Amazon/Dropbox skydrive?

    By their very nature, property rights “reduce the full scope of markets” and maybe civilization. Otherwise people could steal my car and auction it off, no? But I completely agree that we have to think and legislate very carefully in the realm of cultural artifacts, and confess that I have very few constructive suggestions as to how to do so.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, John. Well put.

    Toward increasing our understanding of The Whole Situation and What’s At Stake, I highly recommend Lewis Hyde’s book Common as Air, nicely reviewed by Robert Darnton in the New York Times. About the subject at hand, I’ll quote what I wrote in The Intention Economy, due out on May 1 (but available for pre-order on Amazon):

    In Common as Air, he makes a thoroughly argued case against Hardin’s tragedy-­prone commons and for something much more complex, subtle and — I believe — important to understand if we are to make the most of the Internet.

    “I take a commons to be a kind of property,” Hyde writes, “and I take ‘property’ to be, by one old dictionary definition, a right of action,” noting “that ownership rarely consists of the entire set of possible actions.” For example, “If I own a house in an American city, I have many rights of action … but not all… I cannot put a herd of cows in my yard; I cannot convert my home into a soap factory…” He continues, “… my point is that the idea of property as a right of action suggests… that a commons is a kind of property in which more than one person has rights.”

    Complicated, yes; but, failing to understand these complications is costing us dearly.

  6. Brett Glass’s avatar

    That’s right, Doc: It’s all an e-vile conspiracy! And anyone who tries to do anything for a living and be reasonably rewarded for it, or create a sustainable business, is creepy and greedy.

    The level of freetardation here is getting shockingly high.

  7. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I’m not saying that, Brett, and you know it.

  8. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Yes, you are. You condemn anyone who expects to be remunerated for his or her effort (in the case of creative works) or receive a return on his or her capital and sweat (in the case of telecommunications services). Nothing except free, unlimited access, for zero dollars, appears to be acceptable to you. I’m terribly sorry, but I have news for you: bandwidth, hardware, and good creative output cost money, and no one has any obligation to give it to you for free just because you stamp your feet and bawl about it.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Okay Brett, you don’t know it. Because I’m not saying what you say I’m saying.

  10. Christopher Mitchell’s avatar

    Doc’s not saying that, Brett, and you don’t seem to know it, but the rest of us do — so that is good enough.

  11. Brett Glass’s avatar

    Just keep denying that what you said is what you really said. You’re far worse than you accuse AT&T and Verizon of being.

  12. Joshua Gay’s avatar

    Doc,

    It is sad that you dont talk about ways people can resist or alternatives.

    Worth mentioning:

    ## mobile
     Replicant.us — free software distro of Android
    f-droid — free software android market
     FreeMyAndroid.org

    ## anti-drm
     DefectiveByDesign.org (note that the new site for this campaign is still being ironed out)

    DRM free ebooks exist, more so in some genres than others.

    ## media
    GNU MediaGoblin
    Libre.fm

    ## social
    StatusNet and identi.ca

    More could be added to the list, and if I was on a larger keyboard I would add it, but the point being is that there is a lot of options out there and projects and work worth guiding people toward.

  13. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    I probably shouldn’t do this, but to better express the argument which I believe Brett Glass is crudely trying to drive at, the problem is right here in the statement in the post above:

    “To Apple, Amazon, AT&T and Verizon, building private worlds for captive customers might look like thick value, but in the long run captive customer husbandry closes more opportunities across the marketplace than they open.”

    Is this true? Universally so, for every context and every situation where there might be a restriction? This is at the very core of the “copyright” argument – is that closed/restricted/lockdown, etc worthwhile? Just asserting that it is not (or is), isn’t very convincing.

    Disclaimer: Just in case anyone knee-jerks, this doesn’t mean I’m for copyright-maximalism. But I do understand the arguments that come out of that side.

  14. Tristan Louis’s avatar

    Like you, I have long worried about the points of control on the Internet ( see http://www.tnl.net/blog/2010/05/30/internet-lockdown/ for a graph that basically highlights what you talk about here) but lately, I’ve started wondering if such control will only remain an intermittent thing or will truly exist as the defining feature of the internet moving forward.

    An open internet presents opportunities for entrepreneurs that may not exist otherwise and thus, I’d warrant that this in itself presents enough of a model to create the GIANT walled garden, where everyone is allowed in.

    … but then again, I’ve always been an optimist :)

  15. Ric’s avatar

    “the iPads, iPhones and Kindles that are gradually marginalizing our dull old all-purpose desktop and laptop computers.”

    You operate this article on the assumption that the bulk of people buy into what the consumer electronic industry would force down our throat! I would argue that a lot of intelligent folks see the phenomena at play at actively eschew participating in this ‘changing of the internet.’

    I disdain and disavow the app ecosystem at every turn and do what I can to support the technologies that encourage the open Net. I dont possess a smartphone, I out current tablet tech as the crApple phenomenon that it is and I will build and help anyone I know to maintain PC computing.

    Not everyone buys into this ecosystem and I believe the downfall of the country and the rising up of the masses will occur when government pushes the corporate greed and agenda too far down consumer throats.

  16. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Seth, thanks for that. You’re right that this statement…

    “To Apple, Amazon, AT&T and Verizon, building private worlds for captive customers might look like thick value, but in the long run captive customer husbandry closes more opportunities across the marketplace than they open.”

    … even if true in the “universal” sense, is unconvincing by itself.

    It also conflates two arguments that need to be fleshed out. One is that, on the whole, keeping customers captive thins rather than thickens value. The other is that market size and vitality is maximized by leaving customers free.

    There are so many ways one can come at these topics (or claims).

    If one thinks an economy is a system that best operates when every actor works to serve only to maximize financial benefit to themselves (or stockholders), where competition is a zero-sum game, where positive externalities are not worth considering, and public good has little if any leverage for private interests, what I say in that sentence is wrong.

    If you think of an economy as something that happens on a commons that is not naturally tragic, you get a different answer. That’s where I’m coming from, along with (I believe) Lewis Hyde, Elinor Ostrom and others.

    Economics aside, a problem we’ve had from the start is that we don’t have a single clear and agreed-upon theory of the Internet.

    To simplify things a bit too much (but hopefully helpfully), one side (carriers especially) believes the Internet is defined simply as a “network of networks,” each owned by actors that should be free to do what they want with those networks. (FWIW, I believe this is Brett’s position, and invite him to correct that if I have it wrong.) The other side sees the Internet defined by a suite of protocols, the most fundamental of which (TCP/IP) transcend the parochial interests of each actor in that same “network of networks.” These protocols (especially TCP/IP) are by nature disinterested in what passes through the networks they connect, who owns them, or even where they are in the world.

    I fall into the second camp. And, because of that, I believe the Net, as defined by those protocols, has created a free (“as in freedom,” to leverage Stallman) market environment that is much larger than any collection of silos that operate on and within it.

    But I also believe that the operators of individual networks should be able to make a good living in their business. I especially respect small operators, such as Brett, who work their butts off to make a living while squeezed between giants like Verizon, Apple and Google. I happen to believe that the larger protocol-based view of the Net is better for them than the narrow one that sees the Net mostly as a set of independent networks.

    My argument here is that we should look at the full size of the marketplace opened and supported by the Internet (by whatever definition), and put in that context what we lose (as well as gain) from growth in enormous privatized markets that are operating within its midst — and the general drift of what’s owned versus what’s merely licensed or permitted.

    I single out Apple and Amazon as obvious examples, but Google, Facebook and many others should also be included here. To switch metaphors, these companies are building monocultures on a new frontier where we at least need crop rotation if not full respect for biodiversity’s benefits.

  17. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Very briefly, the key part is here:

    “My argument here is that we should look at the full size of the marketplace opened and supported by the Internet (by whatever definition), and put in that context what we lose (as well as gain) from growth in enormous privatized markets that are operating within its midst”

    The opposite to the above is precisely the copyright argument. And even if the total “open” size is greater, it’s not necessarily such a wonderful result if it basically all goes to big advertising companies (which is what Google is). There have been attempts to address this for creators (Lessig’s tried very hard), but it hasn’t worked. To oversimplify, given a choice between a bigger pie where Google eats it all, and a smaller pie where there are at least crumbs for others, it’s not hard to see understandable preferences against the former and for the latter.

    Sadly, I don’t think the political constraints on you and similar people permit really confronting this issue with proposals that seriously engage it (EFF’s attempts have not gotten support).

  18. Offbeatmammal’s avatar

    I’m more than happy to pay for stuff. I like to know that when I buy a book that the author is being paid, and when I buy music the musicians can eat. What I really object to in this brave new world is playing more for a license for a Kindle book than I would to own the actual paper medium… and I get less rights for my trouble.

    It’s nice to see that Kindle has embraced the library model – that at least means I can jump through some hoops and still read a few of the books I want – but for a lot I still browse and sell in the second hand book stores (especially for books I’ll read once and then on-sell or gift).

    The model is currently horribly skewed to the benefit of the distributor, whereas with something like Netflix or ZunePass there’s a recognition that for a lot of the content I don’t want to “own” it, I want to have a flat fee to watch/listen when I want to what I want. Both of those of course are still fighting with the old media empires who see this as a reduction in their revenue stream (but what they fail to realize is that I simply don’t go to the cinema or purchase DVD/BluRay) though the real impact to their bottom line is because it inspires me to seek out independent artists who find better distribution methods.

    I’m not sure what the real fair solution is to all the parts of the puzzle but I suspect that given the opportunity to play fair people will… but if they feel like they are being gouged at every turn they will look elsewhere.

  19. Jeremy Johnstone’s avatar

    Hate to break it to you, but you don’t “own” the content on a CD, DVD, VHS, or even paperback book any more than you “own” an e-Book or iTunes media content. They are all “licenses”, just the license is much more explicit (for better or for more like worse) now than it was previously in the past.

  20. Walt French’s avatar

    “There are no limits (other than mine) on who can read my books, or what else I can do with them, shy of abusing fairly obvious copyright laws.”

    I think what you’re saying is that laws — social compacts — will have to evolve further before we deal optimally with today’s potentials. And I think that we are attempting to do so, despite not having a good forum for balancing various parties’ single-issue claims such as “patents are always harmful.”

    It’s quite refreshing to find a discussion that mostly doesn’t devolve into “Google is evil!” type cheerleading, but it’ll take a while before we can understand why the model of “the commons” is an appropriate one for the internet. My rough belief is that the commons were part and parcel (heh) of denying property rights to the majority of citizens — the “colored only” drinking fountains — while the landowners actually controlled all power.

    Even if my history is skewed, this view may well describe the situation we’re in today. While early internet standards were contributed freely, the most important comm standards today are heavily regulated commercial activities. GSM, CDMA, wifi, h.264 and so many others are available to all, at a price. I can’t see how the wide-open, unlicensed organizations could have evolved to produce those complicated, multi-interested-party standards, and indeed, they didn’t.

    Google saying patents are bogus, or the everyday rant against Amazon’s or Apple’s walled garden are easy crowd-pleasers, but they don’t address the total reorganization we would need if we shut down proprietary efforts to tackling new opportunities. (Oh, and I know this is an unlikely place for such trash, but please don’t cite Google, its entire profitability dependent on smart leveraging of its unassailed PageRank patent, as a counter-example of how Open Always Wins.)

  21. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Jeremy, you aren’t breaking anything to me. Note the adverb “fully” in the title, and my sourcing of Lewis Hyde on the commons.

    Ownership has always been a bundle of rights. “Licenses,” if you will. My concern here is with the drift toward more and more proprietary control of more and more market territory, in large vertical segments (books, music, retail, connectivity), through more controlling and restrictive licensing, by a relatively few large companies and policy-makers. And that we should care about what we’re losing as that happens.

  22. Marty Thompson’s avatar

    I bought a used Bob Dylan LP at a local flea market last fall. I listened to it, and then sold it to a friend. I read probably 50-60 books a year, and normally donate many of them to a local library. In spite of the supposed “sameness” of old LPs and books versus digital media, I can’t do the same with digitally rendered materials. So at the risk of sounding simple minded, why on earth can’t we expect the same from providers of digitally rendered content? After all, we have the technological capability, right?

  23. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Walt, you put several fingers squarely on several problems.

    The English commons, as Lewis Hyde points out, was stinted. Meaning it was not a free and open place where everybody could grow or graze or build what they pleased. Instead it was a place governed by an understanding of common interests. That understanding changed, and eventually enclosure laws subordinated common interests to private ones. But there was also, within the work of private interests, a perceived public good. I think this is where we are now in respect to the Net.

    The Net’s commons, never well understood by anybody other than those who designed it (and who don’t all agree about it either), is now provisioned by large cable and phone companies, who limit uses more aggressively in hot new mobile spaces than they do over land lines. Since the wires and spectra are their property (in a de facto if not always in a de jure sense), they should be able to do what they please with them, and a lot of what they please clearly throws off a lot of public good. Doing what they please relies less, as they see it, on the standards that come out of the IETF and the W3C than they do on those that come out of the ITU.

    And, indeed, we do need proprietary approches to tackling new opportunities. But we shouldn’t think those should be the only approaches, or that the public goods that comes out of those approaches are the only public goods worth fully respecting. Whether or not it was an accident of history that TCP/IP and other founding protocols organized the Net that came to comprise a vast worldwide commons, the fact remains that this commons does exist, and is highly supportive of boundless business activity. It could hardly be more generative, in the ways Jonathan Zittrain details in The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It. Reducing its scope and supportive power does reduce business opportunity, outside those of the carriers and their favored partners — for example, in the “content” industries.

    John Perry Barlow once remarked, “We didn’t start hearing about ‘content’ until the container business got threatened.” One of my worries is that, to protect their legacy businesses, carriers and content companies will limit what everybody else can do on the wide-open commons the Net’s founding protocols defined. In other words, if what remains of the Net in ten years is TV 2.0, telephony 2.0, publishing 2.0, advertising 2.0 and retailing 2.0 — and the private market spaces those together define — we will have lost more than we can begin to calculate.

    The symbiosis between open and closed, proprietary and public domain, has never been fully clear, and I suppose many more decades will pass before it is. Meanwhile some of us need to stand up for both business and the public and open market spaces on which business grows. There is very little of that, and perhaps the effort is futile. But I still think some of us should try. That’s all I’m doing with this post.

  24. Bruce Young’s avatar

    People need to be aware that there are choices out there that don’t require giving up their Fair Use and First Sale rights. But they need to closely examine what they buy. The ownership issue you note above is one of the reasons I chose a Nook Tablet instead of a Kindle Fire: Barnes & Noble’s Nook line, while being able to read other formats, uses the open-standard ePub format for its eBooks, and B&N sells all its Nook eBooks in a DRM-free form of that standard. So unlike Amazon Kindle owners, I own my eBooks! Even better, Baen Books, the SciFi publishers for much of what I read, even have a “My Books” link on their site that lists all the books I’ve purchased from them, and I can read them online or download them again at will! We should support with out purchases those that respect our rights, and shun those who do not.

  25. Chuck Erickson’s avatar

    And into this fray steps the “Ultra Violet” digital license vault. Doc; where does this piece fit into the common space?

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