Sarkozy's Attempt To Woo The Digerati Foreshadows The Coming Conflict Between Technology & Regulations

from the but-what-happens-next dept

There’s been a lot of talk about the e-G8 Conference this week, which was an attempt to bring together technology and internet leaders with government officials. The idea, apparently, was for government officials to convince the digerati that it was time for government to take a much more active role in regulating the internet. The initial reports suggest that the tech folks weren’t buying what Nicolas Sarkozy and other government officials were selling — with some putting out scathing reports about any company willing to help the government clamp down on free speech online.

We’re seeing more and more stories of government attempts to exert greater control over the internet. While governments have been seeking such control for quite some time, we’re finally seeing some real movement here, and I have no doubt that the pace and intensity of such efforts is only going to increase. The results of the e-G8 are not at all surprising. The politicians approached it as politicians do: looking to plead their case and create an atmosphere of political trade-offs, but many of the digerati tend not to work that way (which is why they tend to avoid policy and political debates altogether). They’re not interested in tradeoffs, and that leads to a pretty serious culture clash, which is what we’re seeing.

That’s why this is going to get worse before it gets better. Governments are going to increase these kinds of efforts, and they’re going to have significant legislative successes. There are two reasons for that. First, most elected officials don’t really understand technology, and don’t recognize the impact and the unintended consequences of what they’re doing. They think that they’re attacking “problems” online, or “bringing order” where there was chaos. They’re not. Second, many large legacy companies, who are past their innovation stages, are equally frightened of the disruptions the internet has created. These are also the firms with the biggest lobbying budgets and most connections within the government. So they see this as an opportunity not to bring order to chaos (even if they claim such), but to stifle innovation and competition that might challenge their market position.

And there’s no doubt that this combination of factors will win in the short term. It’s hard to see what could stop them at this point.

The long term is a different situation however. As we’ve seen, the technologically literate recognize that such regulations are, effectively, technology problems, and what barriers the regulators and the dinosaur companies put up are simply challenges to be coded around. We’re already starting to see some of that in efforts towards more distributed systems, and I would bet those will only increase rapidly over the next few years. These kinds of things take time — and many will mock these early projects as not being very good or successful (and they won’t be).

But, over time, you cannot deny what technology allows. Technology will prevail and make the regulations obsolete. The only real question is what kind of timeframe we’re talking about. I’m hopeful that this confrontation is short, but I fear that it will be long.

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Comments on “Sarkozy's Attempt To Woo The Digerati Foreshadows The Coming Conflict Between Technology & Regulations”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

Don't worry to much

“Technology will prevail and make the regulations obsolete. The only real question is what kind of timeframe we’re talking about. I’m hopeful that this confrontation is short, but I fear that it will be long.”

It will come in stages. The creation of distributed systems will occur based on the rules and laws put in place by the governments of the world. The first that will occur is Distributed DNS we are already seeing this happen. After that we have to follow the laws and methods used to block information, files, and free speech.

At first, the governments will have the advantage, people will react to the problems after they occur. After things get broken several times, people will start acting proactively and fixing the issues before the laws are enacted.

This is going to start as a huge game of whack-a-mole. In in the end the governments will loose all control over information flow. And the harder they push the faster it will occur.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Do worry so much

I used to think that way.

Debating with a friend about it convinced me that it might not necessarily be a happy ending within our lifetimes.

Things could get bad and stay bad. For a long time. I hope not. But it could be so. Just because things should be right doesn’t mean it will be so. There are plenty of times in history when people have been oppressed.

The Internet brings a powerful tool to individuals. Those in power (not necessarily just government people) will work and might succeed in controlling it.

The printing press was a revolution. It succeeded. But people did attempt to control it. Not everyone was happy that anyone could spread “thoughtcrime” ideas far and wide.

Don’t assume everything will be unicorns and rainbows. Powerful interests are awakening to the fact that their power is threatened.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Do worry so much

But this is what we truly fight for.

No matter how many times a people have been repressed, there have always been those willing to stand up and fight.

We’ve always had the Martin Luthers, who posted the 99 thesis on the door of the most powerful church, starting his own religion.

We’ve had the Mahatma Gandhis who have starved themselves for their causes (Cuba is going through a similar struggle).

We have had plenty of Canadians fighting the police who seem to abuse their power.

It’s the very essence of freedom and liberty. People do not like to be controlled in their daily lives. It’s what those in higher positions won’t fully grasp so long as they believe that they are above the people.

I’ll agree that “those in power want to stay in power”. But that will only happen so long as they live in the past.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Do worry so much

“Debating with a friend about it convinced me that it might not necessarily be a happy ending within our lifetimes.”

Funny, I was emailing a guy that had his domain seized. His reponse was … “Cool, free advertising.” for him it is a happy ending, tons more visitors.

The outcome of this path, that the government and the IP industry is following, is predictable. A distributed, encrypted, and anonymous internet. And a monetary system outside government control or regulation.

They will also inadvertantly shining a spotlight on the issue, and be creating some of the most visited sites on the internet. We are talking about telling people, “you can not talk about, or look at what is in the box” … I know it always makes me seriously curious as to whats in the box.

“Don’t assume everything will be unicorns and rainbows.”

I know it won’t be all rainbows and unicorns, more like shit storms and tigers.

“Powerful interests are awakening to the fact that their power is threatened.”

Yes they are, about ten years to late. Their actions have been very predictable and will remain so. You are dealing with lawyers trying to legislate technology they do not understand, from a monopoly business perspective, and trying to keep within the laws of a couple hundred nations.

Recently, out of desperation, they have begun pushing beyond what is legal in order to maintain their businesses and profits. In the end this is “The Big Fail”, the thing that does the opposite of what they intend, accelerate their losses and cause a backlash.

Anonymous Coward says:

Governments will be ignored and made irrelevant

The future is coming, and it will not stop merely because frightened, illiterate bureaucrats and the corporatist plutocrats want it to. We built the Internet to overwhelm them — and it’s working. We will continue. Soon enough, they will be extinct, while we craft a future of culture and knowledge that they fear.

The ingredients are there: encryption, open-source (only inferior people use closed-source software), distributed systems, steganography, reverse data mining, mesh networking, ubiquitous computing, etc. The development is underway and it cannot, will not be stopped.

Frost (profile) says:

The Internet is the only neutral carrier of news

Right now, anyone can set up an Internet site and distribute news and opinion. It is the only way to get news moving worldwide that is independent of the wealthy people and corporations that own the TV news and newspapers – it’s no coincidence that the quality of news coming out of those outlets is utter crap, the concept of investigative journalism or proper irreverence towards Governments is dead as a dodo there in order to protect ad revenue and ideologies.

With the world finally beginning to come to its senses and realizing just how incredibly we’re being abused by the moneyed classes, shutting down those independent news sources is a real priority for them, and for the rest of us it is absolutely crucial that the Internet remain as free and unregulated as possible – so let’s not just go “Oh, they will fail” and be complacent. We have to stay alert and keep an eye on them and actively work to not allow them to neuter the Internet as a news source as well. They already have the propaganda platform that is TV and radio to warp any debate their way.

Gregory says:

you cannot deny

“But, over time, you cannot deny what technology allows”

I rather doubt that. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of examples in history where things that are possible are curtailed and made improbable through regulation for a framework and then punishment for dissuasion.

Just because something over time can be done is no evidence at all that it will be done. In extremely minor, controlled amounts? Surely. But in the rampant anarchistic game-changing ways implied above? Only if the vast majority engages in sustained, irreversible civil disobedience.

But the facts indicate a different likely path. The masses embracing order over chaos through all of history makes pretty clear that statement is a fun provocation, but destined to be plainly wrong.

TDR says:

Re: you cannot deny

[specific citations needed]

Borg Queen: I bring order to chaos.
Data: An interesting, if cryptic response.

So, in essence, the government, mainstream media and all moneyed interests are, collectively, the Borg.

We will show, however, that resistance is most definitely not futile.

HothMonster says:

Re: Re: Re: you cannot deny

You are the one that makes everything about piracy. Stop all illegal pirating, IDK, but really its never going to happen.

This article and the many other you bring back to piracy is about people regulating something that they don’t understand. They are creating laws that don’t fit the framework of the internet. Laws that will stifle growth, innovation, new markets, and are opposite the will of the masses.

No buddy wants your music, get over yourself.

Electic car is a good example, although its not really regulation stifling invention its big business stifling something that could effect its market share. “Fuck we can’t sell gas if these electric cars work, buy all those patents and fucking burn them.” But even this tech is finally starting to break free, as people realize this is what they want. (The now want it for myriad reasons, gas too expensive, want to reduce carbon footprint, gas supplies will not last forever….)

HothMonster says:

Re: Re: Re:3 you cannot deny

people making “art” with the goal of making money is destroying art, as are the industries set up to make money from that “art”

Real artists don’t care about making money, they make art because it pours out of them(that might be a little dramatic, ….because it is their passion). Hopefully they make enough to survive and can make their passion their primary occupation or better yet they “make it” and can live a lavish lifestyle AND have their passion be their occupation. But if you stop making music, literature, paintings, ect… because you need another job to support yourself than you are not an artist, you are just another douche trying to get rich and clogging the market with shitty “art.”

And this is all waaaay off topic.

Gregory says:

Re: Re: Re:4 you cannot deny

?Real artists don’t care about making money?

For God?s sake, this again? Read a book. Shakespeare was non-negotiable when it came to payment for his works; he routinely demanded multiple payments for multiple performances and virtually held the Globe hostage to his demands for compensation for every single word he wrote and permitted to be performed and only when he decided to allow it.

Mozart was in the employ of the famous Salzburg court but he left them specifically in search of better pay, traveling to Paris and Munich, especially demanding higher fees for the performance of his works by others.

Socrates is famed for his exemplary ethics. Both Xenophon and Aristophanes document in their writings that Socrates expected payment for teaching and running a school with Chaerephon.

Liz Taylor demanded and received the first million for her role in Cleopatra.

Warhol didn?t even get out of bed until the check cleared. He was openly famous about the money, so was Basquiat. So was Rudolf Nureyev. The list goes on and on. The quality of debate here improves when uneducated opinion stops masquerading as fact.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 you cannot deny

Completely ignoring the fact that you cherry picked a suspected plagiarizer, a deaf musician, a philosopher (artist?) an actress (I hardly consider someone who plays pretend all day as an ‘artist, maybe that’s just me) and an artist that would have been sued into oblivion if he attempted his art today as your example of ‘Real artists’, all I have to say is [Citation needed]. 🙂

Gregory says:

Re: Re: Re:6 you cannot deny

Quick research reveals that a demand to be paid and paid very well is historically consistent across both the ages and across a broad range of artistic endeavor from writing and directing to musical composition and performing, to theatrical and motion picture acting, Warhol?s appropriative art based in fair use, Basquiat?s very original painterly vision and a widely esteemed ballet dancer considered an international treasure. You may feel that Shakespeare, Mozart, Socrates, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat and Rudolf Nureyev are cherry picked but my attempt was to evidence just the opposite of that.

The recent and healthy Louis Vuitton case demonstrates how wrong you are about Warhol?s Fair Use appropriation and yes, if you think the theatre or motion picture acting is not an artistic endeavor you are entitled. I think Elizabeth Taylor was a great theatre and motion picture artist and I believe history will support that but I also respect you may feel differently. Still, to assert ?Real artists don’t care about making money? as HothMonster did is an aging canard demonstrably absurd and worthy of retirement.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 you cannot deny

I have to admit, I was being intentionally snarky, even though I knew what you meant. Except about actors not being artists. That was real. 🙂 On the other hand, I’m pretty sure you knew what HothMonster meant, too.

I happen to agree with HM, that I consider a [true/real/pure] artist to be one where money/wealth/fame is a side-effect of the creation of art, not the goal. Mr. Monster and I could be alone in this belief, but somehow I suspect not.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 you cannot deny

“For God?s sake, this again? Read a book. Shakespeare was non-negotiable when it came to payment for his works; he routinely demanded multiple payments for multiple performances and virtually held the Globe hostage to his demands for compensation for every single word he wrote and permitted to be performed and only when he decided to allow it”

He sold seats, and he was poor his entire life. Yes, he was famous but by no means was he rich. Funny how he and Christopher Marlowe (his famous rival) seemed to be poor and destitute despite their success. Factor in the very fact that most of Shakespeare’s stories came from mainland Europe along with India, and you have a case of one man using scarcity (his theater) to tell stories from all over the world. His plays were famous, I’ll grant. King Henry IV is still very greatly remembered. But you also have to look at the works that weren’t a success (King Lear) during his era. If a play wasn’t popular, he would move on. And after a year or two of the performance, he would move to a new play. I can’t think of how many King Henry plays he did, but he could demand that audience because people loved his work.

I think you do have a point, in that there does need to be a distinction. Artists expect payment for services rendered, but they all can’t expect a big payout, even if they act like drama queens (Wesley Snipes comes to mind…)

Maybe the real point of debate here is that all artists have different motivations and money should work besides other goals.

HothMonster says:

Re: Re: Re:5 you cannot deny

good examples of artists who did make money. I would argue that most of them would have continued to make art if they were not successful but their success and status allowed them to demand and make a fantastic living. But if the demand for their work hadn’t existed they would have continued to produce creative products. Would Socrates have stopped thinking and writing if he wasn’t in demand enough to make a living off it? I doubt it.

But ok 6 people who you argue were in it for the money, even though you only show that they made money not that the wouldn’t have made art without it, here are six artists who made fantasic art and died piss poor.

Vincent Van-Gogh

Charlie Parker

Franz Schubert

Edgar Allen Poe

Henry David Thoreau

Emily Dickinson

John Kennedy Toole

And those are just some famous names, how much fantastic art do you think exists that you will never hear of, bands and painters and poets that never get discovered and their art dies with them?

I can take you out to a bar in Chicago any night and show you a band making fantastic original music despite having another primary means of income, or just barely scraping by on their music.

Throughout history there have been tons of painters and musicians that didn’t become famous till after they died, they never had money or popularity and continued to make their product and once discovered it was considered art and they made it despite the lack of income generated by it.

On the flip side you have people like Brittney Spears (you could argue she is a good performer but seeing as how she doesnt compose her own music or write her own lyrics she is not an artist) making tons of money on commercialized crap. Or Mr. Brainwash making tons of money off, at best, mediocre art (made by assistants with some direction from him, and ideas he pulls from going through art books) because he sells the idea that he is an artist.

I will continue to argue that tons of people continue to make art despite not being able to make a living off of it, good quality art, and that anyone who won’t create if that isn’t their only form of income is someone we can do without.

I certainly believe a good artist should be able to live on their talent and if the can create enough demand for their work have every right to make a ludicrous amount of money. But I also believe that a good artists makes art because that is what they want to do not because it might make them rich.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 you cannot deny

?Real artists don’t care about making money?

I may have worded that wrong. A better way to say what I mean is a real artist makes art for arts sake. They may make money of it and are certainly likely to demand compensation when their works are in demand but that does not mean if they are not making money they will not make art.

HothMonster says:

Re: Re: Re:7 you cannot deny

No. But upon reviewing the argument so far I realized that what I said could be construed to mean that artists dont care about money or don’t want to make money even when they can. That somehow being an artist puts you above the desire for sweet sweet cash.

That was never my intention. I was responding to “Copyright infringement is destroying art” and my point was that money is not the primary motivation for the creation of art and that plenty of art will continue to be made whether it is, in general, a lucrative profession.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 you cannot deny

Real artists do make art for art’s sake.

They also have to eat, have health care for their kids, etc.

So just like everyone else, they need money.

And if they’re working a day job to do so, that’s time they could be making art. This isn’t a difficult thing to figure out…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 you cannot deny

Yet another example of latent jealousy of artists unmasked…

A very prevailing undercurrent amongst pirates is their resentment of the fact that artists get to live a life the pirates only wish they could; thus, they self-justify their abhorrent behavior by trying to say some variation of “their life is good enough already.”

Textbook douchebaggery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 you cannot deny

Yet another attempt to turn someone who disagrees with you into something immoral. Sorry boss I am happy to financially support the artists I like because I like them and I know they can turn my money into more art I like. Whether or not they make a million dollars a year on that product or a thousand I am still happy to give my money. Nobodies life is too good for me to support them continuing to make my life better. Is the fact that most of the artists I like are not millionaires coincidence or subconscious IDK.

I just have no patience for entitled musicians, like yourself who failed to create demand for their work and push the blame to the consumer. Sorry buddy its your fault you can’t living off your music. Create some demand and build a fanbase that wants to see you succeed and you will make your money. Instead you act like its the worlds fault you can’t make a living off of your “passion” (I doubt it’s your passion since money seems to be your primary motivation). Some people get lucky and pull a Justin Beiber but more people spent 20 years playing in bars 250 days a year to break free.

You failed to make money in a couple years and started blaming random people for your loss and creating this image of the nefarious amoral abhorrent pirate in your mind because you can’t come to grips with the fact that you are a fucking failure. So because of your inability to cope with reality you spend all your time trying to punish this fictional villain.

Good luck with that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 you cannot deny

There is huge demand for my work. But if people can take somthing for free illegally and know they won’t get caught, they’ll do it.

Unless the law stops them like they stop any other lawbreaker.

That’s finally what is happening and greedy leeches can’t stand it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:11 you cannot deny

What’s the quote about people who expect the worst from others? Something about being the worst kind of people themselves.

Most people know how to do the right thing without laws forcing them to do so. You ssem to think people are fucking animals and need laws to make them act like decent folk. Probably means you are a real scumbag.

Also those are some very nice delusions of grandeur you have there.

Gregory says:

Re: Re: you cannot deny

[specific citations needed]

I?d disagree, the very existence of civilization as it has developed over time and also precisely as it presently stands is one massive citation for exactly how the masses largely embrace and accept order through regulation and punishment without objection and often without comment.

The presence of a heavily biased and vocal few ( like us) who spend their days reading, thinking, researching and commenting are an important part of the process but largely irrelevant in the context of the sheer numbers. Barlow at the G8 makes clear all sides will be heard but the internet will be inescapably and permanently regulated, reflecting how offline civilization works and the people will accept it online because they accept it offline. It will appear—and indeed, has always appeared to most– as normal and fair, and beneficial to the majority.

Resist the advance of internet civilization all you like. Inevitably the loss of online freedoms and privacies will be laid at the feet of those online doing unfair, unlawful, abusive or illegal things. And those who argue that ?freedom to do wrong? must trump the establishment of government regulated order is either kidding themselves or just don?t know their own human history. Or, you know, are just spoiling for a revolution. 😉

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: you cannot deny

Only if the vast majority engages in sustained, irreversible civil disobedience.

If the government takes something that a majority of the population does not feel is wrong and makes it illegal, it will most certainly pan out as it was described above. (See: The American Prohibition)

This isn’t about embracing order over chaos, it’s about embracing freedom over oppression.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: you cannot deny

We should bear in mind that most of the groupthink in political circles and even the courts of the US revolve around this “order to chaos” concept.

America still has an identity crisis of believing the internet is the Wild West. IIRC, the Tenenbaum case has a specific example in the audio where one of the three justices stated exactly this.

So the question that the politicians seem to wrongly think about is can they control the internet?

The question that we should ask in return:

At what price?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: you cannot deny

“There are dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of examples in history where things that are possible are curtailed and made improbable through regulation for a framework and then punishment for dissuasion.”

Name 5 please.

I am just thinking of governments trying to block the will of the people through regulation and can’t really think of one where it worked in the long run, not necessarily tech related.

War on Drugs
War on Terror
War on Piracy
Gallelaos teachings (im sure i murdered that spelling)

I mean even when one government regulates a tech to death usually another country steps up and takes the lead. Like the stem cell issues where we couldn’t receive government funding in the US but plenty of European countries were funding studies. And now I believe the US is back to funding studies.

Maybe if I think longer I could come up with an example, but if you have hundreds please share. It would seem to me that technology and the will of the people always beats out the will of the ruling class eventually.

Raphael (profile) says:

We need to sit down with the legislators and slowly and carefully explain this to them

“I know this is confusing for you. Therefore, I have distilled everything you need to know about this issue into a single principle, which you can use to evaluate any matter at hand:

Anyone who speaks of ‘protecting intellectual property’ is offering you the exciting opportunity to be the guy who sold the Louisiana Territory for less than three cents per acre.”

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: We need to sit down with the legislators and slowly and carefully explain this to them

Education is expensive.

Just ask the RIAA / MPAA / anyone else with large lobbying budgets.

Okay, Mr. Legislator, how much education do you need today? (as he whips out his checkbook)

It costs a lot to sit down with legislators. Paying is what gets you “access”.

Anonymous Coward says:

The next step will have to be some sort of peer to peer wireless network or maybe some sort of wifi network. Unfortunately, the FCC keeps in place laws that make such very difficult to implement without getting in all sorts of trouble. Maybe if we have directional antennas that can send data in the right directions at the right intensity to minimize third party detection. Perhaps it can be supplemented with small house to house wired networks within a specific block as well. There is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to run a wire from my house to my next door neighbors house and from my neighbors house to his next door neighbors house, etc… with wires that can mostly do a decent job of avoiding detection. The government will not likely check every house for wires that go from neighbor to neighbor. Unfortunately, they may try to wrongfully impose heavy fines on those they do catch.

TDR says:


Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Government regulation of the Internet

The people who are whining about government-mandated anti-piracy measures on the Internet are the same ones who’ve been demanding government regulation of the Internet in the name of net neutrality.

This should come as no surprise; if the Wild West Show needs regulation, it needs regulation. Be careful what you ask for.

abc gum says:

Re: Government regulation of the Internet

“The people who are whining about government-mandated anti-piracy measures on the Internet are the same ones who’ve been demanding government regulation of the Internet in the name of net neutrality.”

Although there may be significant overlap between these two groups, I doubt it is anywhere near 100%.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Government regulation of the Internet

It would seem to me that there is a vastly significant difference, here. Conflating them is apples and oranges.

One tends towards stifling specific founding principles of our country.

The other tends towards stifling the anti-competitive natures of ISPs.

Instead of regulating an industry in order to keep monopolies from cropping up (net neutrality), they’re discussing regulating society to keep monopolies in business (so-called government-mandated anti-‘piracy’ measures).

I’m sorry if you can’t tell the difference.

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