The great thing about digital technology is how easy it makes sharing information. Or maybe that’s the bad thing about it, depending on your perspective.
The BBC reported that if you use the filesharing site Bittorrent, then you’re probably being monitored by one or more monitoring firms, especially if you’re sharing “top 100” content, whatever that might be at the time.
I think I’m safe because I only use Bittorrent to download old episodes of Dad’s Army and Falconcrest, but the rest of you had better watch out.
The peculiar thing about the firms is that they’re not really doing anything with the data. I would expect massive blackmail attempts, which would significantly up the creepiness level of some areas of the Internet.
However, I don’t think that would surpass the creepiness that happened during the online streaming of the Hugo Awards event. This story [via LISNews] is both ridiculous and creepy at the same time.
The awards ceremony was being streamed online by Ustream, which used a company called Vobile to monitor content for copyright infringement. During the awards, library fanboy Neil Gaiman gave his acceptance speech for an award for a Doctor Who script. Before the speech, a few clips from Doctor Who were shown. Just as he started the speech, the stream was cut and viewers were informed: “Worldcon banned due to copyright infringement.”
You see, even though the clips had been approved for the awards ceremony, and even though showing brief clips of anything is almost certainly within fair use, the Vobile robots decided they knew better than the BBC, the Hugo Awards, Worldcon, and U.S. copyright law.
There was some protest, and the CEO of Ustream apologized and ceased using Vobile until the mess could be straightened out. However, we got a glimpse of the dark technological future coming upon us, a world where corporations can and do monitor everything, not just to glean our habits so they can place enticing ads before us, but to control and stop any actions they don’t like without even proving they’re illegal.
After all, copyright wasn’t infringed. No one was harmed in any way, except the viewers of the Hugo Awards stream, and they don’t count because they’re sci-fi fans. Sci-fi fans should expect this sort dystopian outcome. It’s Skynet meets the Empire.
But the robots came anyway, and we can probably expect them much more in the future. Think of all the fun they’ll have.
Streaming events, YouTube, Bittorrent, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually the robots will make it to places like Scribd, Facebook, Pinterest and every other place people post content.
Pinterest is a great example, come to think of it. From what I can tell, people are posting all sorts of copyrighted images mixed in with the even more tedious content. Someday, the robots will come for Pinterest, and we’ll all chant, “and first they came for Worldcon.”
Given the conglomeration of media entities over the past couple of decades, it won’t even take much coordination. 20 corporations coming together to send ‘bots all over the Internet shutting down potential copyright violators would wreak a lot of havoc on the Internet.
But that’s not legal, you might say. After all, Ustream hired Vobile to shut down content on its own site. It’s not legal now, but before the ‘bots come truckloads of money will pour into Congress to pass appropriate copyright legislation. Mickey Mouse will like the ‘bots.
Such legislation will skip due process and make the alleged offenders guilty until proven innocent. It’ll also legalize the ‘bots and the entire Internet will be in the de facto control of a small number of media corporations who, by the way, probably won’t let libraries lend any of their content.
It’s a brave new world.