I'm old enough to remember when the Internet was something that you might only find at school or at a library. Now the Internet is in many more homes, and in every school, library, and business. Several important flaws that have been around since the invention of the Internet are beginning to be more and more of an issue as more and more people have access to faster Internet. This editorial will sift through some of the biggies.
Do you really feel secure when you browse the web? Bank online? Communicate with people? Even with so-called security suits prevalent among Windows users, the web is still a very dangerous place. With over 90% of home PC users working with Microsoft Windows, there are many machines to target that are vulnerable even with expensive security software, and many people in the world can not afford to pay 70 or 80 USD to subscribe to security updates through McAfee or Norton. Although the problem is not nearly as prevalent on Mac and Linux machines as it is on Windows, it is still there; and as those platforms become more and more popular, the attacks will become more and more prevalent as well.
Now obviously I have simplified these problems, and really have not gone into any detail. The reason is it's too damn complicated — and I'm a techie! We should not be surprised that our mothers cannot figure this out, and sad to say there are more people out there like our mothers than there are nerds.
So, you ask, what can we do about it? Well the answer to that question is in two parts, really. First, as to the point of there being a lot of mothers in the world, we must simplify how the Internet works. If the Internet were Apple, its slogan should be "It Just Works" and it should just work. Second, and more importantly, security is always going to be a problem, whether you use Windows, Mac, or Linux. There are always going to be boneheads out there who want to steal your identity, and use it to buy a new car. So the best solution to this problem, other than making the Internet more simple, is to just use common sense. Make sure, if you are on a Windows computer, which you most likely are, that you are using some form of security software, both virus and malware. There is no true difference between the free (like Microsoft Security Essentials) and the paid versions (like Norton) if you also "use your damn head" as your dad told you to. Common sense, people! DO NOT go to a porn site, give it all your account numbers, and then be shocked that there is a $400 charge for a gold stud earring on your next credit card bill. If it feels like you shouldn't be there, you probably shouldn't.
Speed… Meet Slow
The United States ranks 18th in the world in Internet speed. How sad is that? Now I can understand that the US is bigger than Japan and Korea, which are tops in Internet speed. And I can understand that most of the technology is made over there. However, I can't understand how we place 18th in the world. We get 3.9 Mbs, and South Korea gets 14.6? Oh, come on! We can do better than this.
Speed is important. With people getting more and more of their media online, more and more of their news, sports, and weather online, the need for speed is increasing daily. So with increasing need for bandwidth, the question becomes, how do we increase our speed to meet our increasing needs? The answer to that is not a government bailout. The answer is competition. If you had the choice between Comcast and Time Warner, they would have to compete to get your money, not only by lowering prices, but also by improving their service. Right now, if you even have the opportunity to get cable or DSL, you typically only have the choice of one ISP. Without any competition, they have no motivation to improve their pipes, or lower prices. We need choices!
HOLD IT! Drop That Download!
You're a thief, right? Well, the big media companies think you are. They think that you should have to pay for that copy of Old School that you bought in iTunes, and for the actual disk if you have it, then again if you want to put it on your iPad. And don't even think about burning the copy you got though iTunes, you hooligan! How dare you?
The DMCA (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 if you must know) is around for your protection. Oops, did I say your protection? My bad, what I meant was the media industry's protection. Under this act you really have no right to do anything you want with your digital files. You do not own it, you own a license to it, and by doing something against that license, you are breaking the law, and you should have to pay outrageous penalties for being such a criminal. Artists and other creators of content deserve copyright protection. There, I said it. They deserve protection, just like you do. They are no different than you, they are just looking for payment for what they created. Sounds fair, right? I think so, but the DMCA is preposterous.
First, let's talk about prevention. How do you expect to be able to police piracy? The Internet makes it so easy, simply do this this and this, and you're watching Transformers, whether you paid for it or not. Anyone can do it, and many people do do it. It's not right, not legal, but without significantly limiting what the Internet can do, it is not stoppable. Now lets talk about ownership for a while. What does it mean to own your own car? You can drive it, you can paint it a different color, you can repair it, and for at least a small amount of time, you have a warranty on it. But you can also sell it, give it away, junk it, or whatever. The only thing you absolutely can not do to it is copy it and build your own.
Now let's apply this metaphor to a movie you buy at Amazon Digital Download. What can I do with the movie legally? I can watch and download it on one computer. I can not burn a copy to play in my DVD player, or to sell to my mother, or even just give to my sister. I have paid for my license to it, and that license says I have rights only to the copy that is on my hard drive. The problem with this metaphor is that it is much easier to copy the movie than it is the car, and you are much more likely to copy it as well. However, why should that take away my right to lend my nephew the movie so he can watch it? I would have that right with a physical disk — where did the right go?
So the DMCA is a problem. It is a situation in which the companies have more rights, and you have less. What happened to equal rights? The DMCA was created when everyone was using dial-up, so people could not download a movie even if they wanted to. It's outdated, and unjust to the people of the world. Now I have said, in case you missed it, that the content creators deserve protection. So we have your rights on one side, and their rights on the other. You are paying them (presumably) for the content, and you should be able to do any darn thing you please with it once you pay for it. The DMCA prevents this, so we should get rid of, or update, the DMCA to reflect the needs we have today. As a user of digital media, you should have the same rights you had when you bought that DVD for the first time, not less.
Piracy is wrong, its illegal, and there needs to be a solution to it, but there is not. However, if the media industry gives back the rights we had when it was physical media, and makes it easy to do the things we want to be able to do with our media, then the vast majority of people will pay whatever they ask. Give us the right to copy it to DVD once, without charging, or to put it on a couple of different computers, and we will gladly buy content online. The Digital Revolution will not be over until the rights have been restored. Many people will not pay for something they don't actually own. And in the end why should you have to?