I sometimes wonder if the book 1984 has done more harm than good. It seems like it has made people believe an authoritarian government is inevitable and acceptable. When people see something like this (excerpted below) http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/users/rja14/tcpa-faq.html they dismiss it with a “big brother is watching.” That is not an appropriate response. An authoritarian government is not inevitable, and it is our duty to ensure it doesn’t happen.

Corporations are taking advantage of consumers, because we don’t care enough anymore to stand up for our rights. We live in a mostly free market, which means consumers are responsible for keeping the market in check, not the government. That is an extremely important concept that has been forgotten, so I’ll repeat it. The consumers are the group with the power in the free market.

How does this work? It’s deceptively simple. If you don’t like a company’s actions, you don’t give them business, and you let them know why. This is a boycott, and it has been an effective tool throughout history. There are two reasons it doesn’t work anymore. First, people don’t care. Most people have been screwed over by employers and the government for so long that they are just happy to be paying their bills. They don’t want to make waves. Second, people are not willing to make sacrifices for their beliefs. They may strongly oppose something, but they expect someone else to make the sacrifice needed to change it.

This is why I hate soccer moms so much. They embody these awful traits completely. As long as they have the illusion that their family is safe and happy, they couldn’t care less about the world. But who should make their family safe? The government, or special interest groups, or the entertainment industry. They aren’t responsible for it, and responsibility is really what we’re talking about.

Consumers have the power in a free market, but it is their responsibility to excercise that power. Corporations roll over us because we jump at the chance to lay down. Nothing will change until we stand up and take back what is ours. Nothing will change until we are willing to make sacrifices. You are not entitled to safety and luxury. You are entitled to dignity and fair treatment. We can’t just dismiss the authoritarian moves of the wealthy. We have to get mad and fight for what we want.

[from http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/users/rja14/tcpa-faq.html]

  1. What does TCPA / Palladium do, in ordinary English?

It provides a computing platform on which you can’t tamper with the applications, and where these applications can communicate securely with the vendor. The obvious application is digital rights management (DRM): Disney will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a Palladium platform, but which you won’t be able to copy. The music industry will be able to sell you music downloads that you won’t be able to swap. They will be able to sell you CDs that you’ll only be able to play three times, or only on your birthday. All sorts of new marketing possibilities will open up.

TCPA / Palladium will also make it much harder for you to run unlicensed software. Pirate software can be detected and deleted remotely. It will also make it easier for people to rent software rather than buying it; and if you stop paying the rent, then not only does the software stop working but so may the files it created. For years, Bill Gates has dreamed of finding a way to make the Chinese pay for software: Palladium could be the answer to his prayer.

There are many other possibilities. Governments will be able to arrange things so that all Word documents created on civil servants’ PCs are `born classified’ and can’t be leaked electronically to journalists. Auction sites might insist that you use trusted proxy software for bidding, so that you can’t bid tactically at the auction. Cheating at computer games could be made more difficult.

There is a downside too. There will be remote censorship: the mechanisms designed to delete pirated music under remote control may be used to delete documents that a court (or a software company) has decided are offensive – this could be anything from pornography to writings that criticise political leaders. Software companies can also make it harder for you to switch to their competitors’ products; for example, Word could encrypt all your documents using keys that only Microsoft products have access to; this would mean that you could only read them using Microsoft products, not with any competing word processor.