By curtailing the powers of the spy agencies, we could restore the internet to its original functionality and openness while maintaining the right to privacy and free speech – but maintaining a 20th-century copyright/IP model at the same time is impossible. Or we could give up our privacy and other civil rights to allow specific protected industries to carry on coining it in. A last option would be to switch off the internet. But that is not realistic: modern countries could not survive a day without the internet, any more than they could function without electricity.
As a society, we’re going through the painful realization that we can only have two out of the three options. Different corporatist interest groups would no doubt make different choices but, along with the vast majority of the people, I opt for the internet and privacy as both a free channel for communication and the free transfer of useful information.
Like any social change (the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage), this is also accompanied by heated arguments, legal threats and repression, and lobbyist propaganda. But historically, all this sound and fury will signify…precisely nothing. Maybe at some point, basic civil rights will make a comeback, upheld by the legislature and protected by law enforcement.
The choice is simple: internet, privacy, copyright. We can only choose two, and I know which I choose.