Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation

Darknet, by J.D. Lasica, is “the first comprehensive look at the restrictions being placed on our digital freedoms by the major media powers.”

The more Hollywood and record companies try to ram digital copy protection down our throats, the more prevalent and smarter Darknets will get, these being hidden, encrypted areas on the Net where trading of movies, music, etc. goes on unhindered by copyright laws.

Hollywood doesn’t get it. We aren’t just passive consumers willing to unquestionably take whatever they’re pushing this week. We also create. You want to create a home video and play a few minutes of music from a CD? Bzzzt. That’s illegal. Hip Hop and mixing and mashups? Oh dear no yowls the music business, you can’t do that. Unless you pay us large bucks that is. Out of control capitalism is what it is, willing to cut their own throats in the future in order to make a profit today, short-sighted in the extreme.

It gets worse. Hollywood wants to dumb down your TiVo, create mp3s and movies that erase themselves off your computer after a certain date, and make sure you never ever do something they don’t approve of, like copying a mp3 to a backup CD. You can do that now. Should they have their way, you won’t be able to do that in the future. True loonies like Senator Orrin Hatch shriek that future PCs should have kill swtiches so if you try to use a peer-to-peer network, the computer will self-destruct. I am not making this up.

Enter Darknets. Screw you Hollywood, we’ll do it ourselves. Make our own movies. Music too. And trade them freely. Most Gen-Y’ers think music CDs and videos are way overpriced (that’s because they are!) and plus, they say, the artists usually get shafted. So why shouldn’t we swap whatever we want, when we want, mixing it up and mashing it up as we go.

If Hollywood wins, the content and software on your computer won’t belong to you. It’ll report back home and erase itself if it decides you’ve been naughty. In DarkNet, J.D. Lasica uses darknets as a metaphor for the underground yet powerful forces confronting Hollywood and the music business, forcing them to change, dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

This is a fascinating book. Underground nets have the latest movies and music on their secret sites sometimes before the release date. Coder geeks cracked Microsoft Media software then released it to all allowing people to pass around high quality video. Personal video broadcasters. Game mods. FreeNet. All stand is opposition to the Hollywood culture that wants to lock everything down.

Darknet is fun to read, even if every few pages I had to jump up and check out some reference to the Net so it took me weeks to finish it!

The author’s conclusions.

1) We are users as well as consumers.
2) Artists should be compensated for their works.
3) The public’s digital rights should be preserved.
4) The DMCA requires a dramatic overhaul.
5) Celebrate participatory culture, don’t outlaw it.
6) The DarkNet is the public’s great equalizing force.
7) The Internet is not an entertainment medium.
8) To make file-sharing and the DarkNet irrelevant, innovate.
9) Trust the marketplace.
10) Efforts to enrich the public domain should be encouraged.

If Darknet wins, and I think it will, it will be a huge paradigm shift. The consumer will become participant and artist, bypassing the old structures, doing it themselves, just like blogs and podcasting are doing now.

J.D. Lasica also blogs at NewMediaMusings and is founder of OurMedia.org (which is precisely what  “efforts to enrich the public domain should be encouraged” is about!)

Excerpts from the book are online at his Darknet site.