There are those who profit off of selling surveillance equipment (obviously), there are various religious nutcases who insist that they have the perfect way of life for everybody else, there are politicians who try to prey votes off of fear. But one overlooked major player driving us towards a Big Brother society is the copyright industry.
The reason for the copyright industry to push for surveillance is simple: any digital communications channel can be used for private conversation, but it can also be used to share culture and knowledge that is under copyright monopoly. In order to tell which communications is which, you must sort all of it – and to do that, you must look at all of it.
In other words, if enforcing the copyright monopoly is your priority, you need to kill privacy, and specifically anonymity and secrecy of correspondence. This is exactly what the copyright industry has been doing quite consistently. I’m not going to let this stay at a philosophical level – instead, let’s see what tangible changes they pushed for hard in Sweden to enable persecution of people who share knowledge and culture outside of their monopolies. I’m going to focus on two changes.
In order to be able to sue single parents for their houses and life savings, they needed the ability to tie an IP address and a timestamp to a subscriber. In other words, they had to establish historic trackability of everybody’s actions online, and they needed direct access to that surveillance data. These two developments by themselves were unthinkable a decade ago, but it is the combination of them that mixes the real poison into society’s fabric.
If the copyright industry “only” received rights that went further than those of the Police in requesting IP logs from Internet Service Providers, the ISPs would have responded by refusing to keep any logs at all. If the ISPs were forced to keep logs by law, thus switching this kind of privacy intrusion from “absolutely forbidden” to “mandatory”, those logs would have been kept strictly for law enforcement. So it was the combination of the two – forcing ISPs to keep logs of everybody’s subscriber identity, and getting rights by law to access those logs – that was the key to suing the houses off single parents.
This was also exactly what they got in Sweden. Through an atrocious over-implementation of the EU IPRED directive, which was in itself shameless mail-order legislation from the record industry, the copyright industry got access to the subscriber logs. (It is notable that these rights to violate privacy are stronger than what the Police had.) You can even see this demand on a checklist of demands given to Sweden’s government from the International IP Association via the US Embassy. They also got their Data Retention Directive that specifically requires logging of subscriber identities online – Thomas Bodström, one of the architects behind the EU directive, was heavily in bed with the copyright industry.
There were many snags on the way to this point that were even more revealing. For example, it was proposed in Sweden that the records stored in accordance with the Data Retention Directive should be explicitly excepted from availability in accordance with IPRED. At that point, the copyright industry in Sweden went ballistic and threw tantrums all over the media. It left little to chance, or to the imagination, for that matter: it was obvious what they wanted. They wanted trackability of everybody online. And they got it, thanks to the clueless digital illiterates we have that call themselves politicians.
The copyright industry drives a Big Brother society in order to force everybody to care for their obsolete business. I certainly don’t, and I certainly won’t. I think the idea is repulsive. But at the end of the day, it’s not really the copyright industry who is at fault for making obscene demands. They’re just spectacularly failed entrepreneurs. The real blame here lies with the politicians who blindly accept the obscene demands.
With regards to the net and its liberties, today’s politicians keep behaving like drunken blindfolded elephants trumpeting about in a porcelain factory. It remains up to us to educate or replace them, and above all, making clear to them that these are their two options.