it’s about what Cory Doctorow calls the war on general purpose computation (video.) Doctorow makes a compelling case that copy protection, DRM, the DCMA, SOPA, PIPA and ACTA are not battles that have been fought and won but skirmishes in a war whose endgame makes it actually illegal to own a completely programmable piece of general-purpose computing hardware.
A great illumination of the position that keeps me from supporting the EFF when actually agree with them on the core issue.
The first problem is this: if this were to actually happen, as long as the “typical consumer” could actually do what they want with their devices, they wouldn’t care about the details because what consumers care about is doing things, not theoretical arguments like this. Because of this, they’re taking a position that’s very hard to convince most people to get terribly worried about, because it doesn’t significantly impact them.
But really, the problem I have with this argument is this: it’s the same argument the NRA uses to justify fighting bans on assault weapons and “cop killer” bullets, because, you know, once the cops have confiscated everyone’s Uzi’s, they’ll start bashing down doors to come take their hunting rifles and that pistol kept handy for burglars. It’s just so obvious that once they’re given permission to take on any such restriction, it’s only a matter of time before it’s all gone.
It is also the same argument the government uses to keep tight restrictions on Marijuana and other so-called “gateway” drugs: if we relax our restrictions on pot, next thing you know you’ll have armies of crack-high teenagers tearing apart your cities.
These kind of positions are absurdist positions, and it’s a great way to marginalize yourself out of the greater debates where more moderate thinkers work to find some middle ground that everyone can put up with. Absolutist positions ultimately lose when people get tired of dealing with them and work around the roadblocks or replace them with more malleable decision makers. IMHO the NRA has done itself no favors by taking a hard position on assault rifles, and the EFF is doing the same to itself with it’s own no-compromise positioning.
(via Daring Fireball)