Tjebbe van Tijen via Chello on Fri, 27 Jan 2012 02:35:04 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] AIRLIFT YOUR DATA: alternatives for a blockaded internet

AIRLIFT YOUR DATA: alternatives for a blockaded internet

January 26, 2012 by Tjebbe van Tijen

The illustrated version  with many documented links can be found at my blog: The Limping Messenger

Below is the text-only version:


[tableau Berlin Airlift with airplane/Berlin Wall 1948 + copyright symbol: "LIFT THE BLOCKADE"]

Newspaper heading these last days on the Dutch Stichting Brein (Foundation Brain) forces providers to effect an INTERNET BLOCKADE against Pirate Bay web sitesâ. The Foundation Brein received on January the 11, 2012 a court order that forces some of the big internet providers in the Netherlands (Xs4all and Ziggo at first, T-Mobile and UPC are on the list) to block internet services that Brein claims to be infringements of copyright and intellectual property. The blockade is aimed at  sites of, and related to, âPirate Bayâ.  The court order (1) mentions 24 internet addresses to be blocked. Already  at court, Stichting Brein did make some changes in this blockade-list by taking off 4 addresses, that would take off-line web services that had little or no relation with Pirate Bay activities seen as infringements  (one of them was a web site with educational movies for young people). It is in the same week that Dutch internet service providers  (and 20 search warrants in eight other countries) have been forced to take the domain MegaUpload off line. The Dutch firm LeaseWeb â working for MegaUpload â saw 690 computer servers sealed (storing 15 of the total 25 âpetabyteâ of data used by MegaUpload) by the Dutch Tax Authority (FIOD), executing an order of the American FBI. This series of events prompted a Green Left member of parliament (Arjen El Fassed) to ask questions to the Dutch government about  this whole sale anti-piracy operations, whereby illegal and legal forms of data-traffic are not properly separated:

âOperations like this cause huge damage to the freedom and openness of the internet.â

I see as much Right as Wrong with CopyRight as it is practiced by the actual Media Content Industry â and Stichting Brein is â first of all â a tool of those corporate interests, though they like to pose as defenders of creative workers.

There is much to debate about copyright: what it once was, what it became and how to rethink the idea of claiming ownership on things reproducible for the future. As our media have changed dramatically, the idea and practical application of ownership of content should also be open to change. The same firms that invent and produce â endless and more and more quickly outdated â hardware devices, are producing and monopolising the content to be displayed on them, making profits on both software and hardware. There are many creative alternatives for intellectual property of content and distribution of âprofitsâ in the making, that go beyond the singular âbig players onlyâ approach, where content creators have little to no say and the content consumers are only seen as cattle to be exploited. âCreative Commonsâ, âThe Future of Music Coalitionâ, and many moreâ When analysing how profits are made and revenues are distributed fairness for those who actually do the  âcreative workâ, is hard to find.

[Two piecharts: on the divide of the videogame industry (consoles, games, accessories for playing/gaming, rentals) and The Great Divide of the music industry with a band ending up with 13% of the revenues] 

Two recent examples that show how media industry both pushes and earns from selling hardware and software (content) and what the practice of sharing is when it comes to those actually producing 'intellectual property'. For sources see note (2)
We are all aware of  the âdigital gluttonyâ that has been wakened in us by constant propagated consumerism. Oneâs personal economy to get unlimited access to content may deprive others from income, but to what extent âpersonal piracyâ hurts âcorporate businessâ is up to debate. The history of piracy in publishing and distribution  tells another story than what the lawyers of content business want us to believe. The title of  cultural historian and media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathanâs book published in 2003 says it all: âCopyrights and copywrongs : the rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity.â In the chapter âthe digital momentâ he sketches the impact:

The digital moment has also collapsed the distinction among three formerly distinct processes: gaining access to a work; using (we used to call it âreadingâ) a work; and copying a work. (â) Copyright was designed to regulate only copying. It was not supposed to regulate oneâs right to read or share. But now that the distinctions among accessing, using and copying have collapsed, copyright policymakers have found themselves faced with what seems to be a difficult choice: either relinquish some control over copying or expand copyright to regulate access and use, despite the chilling effect this might have on creativity, community and democracy. (page 152-153)

The worst thing of this court order in favour of Stichting Brein is the wholesale BLOCKING of parts of the internet by a simple court order. Today it is Stichting Brein, tomorrow it is Stichting Zwijn (Foundation Swine), the day after Sacherijn (Chagrin), or whatever other interest group or private party that tries to claim âdigital ownershipâ by appealing to a court. We will see the court rooms reserved for months by the âlaw industryâ making a buck on limiting âfreedom of expressionâ. What should be individual court cases against personal law infringement, have now become generalised measures which affects âfair useâ as much as âunfair practiceâ. This is were the historical idea of copyright (which was born as a tool for state or church censorship in the early days of the printing press) comes back in an ugly form: BLOCKADE.

What associations do we have with BLOCKADES? Depends who blocks whom for what and when and how. EEC BLOCKADE AGAINST IRAN, IRAN BLOCKADE AGAINST THE WEST, ISRAEL BLOCKADE OF GAZA, USA BLOCKADE OF CUBA, BLOCKADE OF WALL STREET, BLOCKADE OF WEAPONS FOR DICTATORSHIPSâ So what is done to counter such kind of  blockades I asked myself and the first thing that came to mind was the Airlift of goods to break the BLOCKADE OF WEST BERLIN (June 1948 â May 1949 the start of the Cold War) â.. The town of Berlin with an open West and East sector, was split in two and West-Berlin became an island surrounded by the DDR. Roads and railways were blocked and only trough a constant airlift of goods by the Allied Forces, West Berlin survived.

So when providers delivering their goods through cables are BLOCKED we may ultimately  (if it was only a symbolic gesture to drive home the point of control of means of expression) consider âairliftingâ our data be it through some obsolete unused satellites, or by short wave radio, refracted (bend) radio waves between earth and ionosphere, accessible all around the globe.

THE FREE AETHER instead of THE BLOCKED INTERNET. In the last years before the downfall of the Berlin Wall, radio and computer amateurs in Hungary used radio-emission of data as a means of communication (partly so because to get a landline telephone connection in that country could take a decade or so). Such data-radio even played a role in the Hungarian support of the rising against the CeauÈescu regime in Rumania winter 1989. Dissidents all over the world have used short wave radio to get informed what was happening outside of their totalitarian nation, from the Soviet Union a few decades ago, to Cuba, still today. Radio-jamming was the answer, like digital blockades now, but jamming has always been limited to certain parts of the radio spectrum.

[tableau showing the principles of shortwave radio and portable hand powered shortwave radio and laptop computer + radio modem: "networking for the pleasure of sharing"]

Inventive usage of radio-modems and de-central data distribution protocols, could once more become popular. Centralised networks make it possible to censor, block, seize, filter, ban âtop-downâ. We may need to look back at earlier models of electronic information exchange and distribution. Like FIDOnet a worldwide amateur computer network of âbulletin boardsâ based on a tree-structure up- and download system using  telephone lines and modems. FIDO has been founded in 1984 and grew into a world wide popular communication system till 1994, the year that the internet â as we know it now â started. FIDO is still popular in the Russian Federation, as a secondary form of communication. Some see a new future for such âbottom-upâ ways of electronic communication (3). There are nowadays many more creative solutions to go beyond the centrally controlled cable and satellite networks, an overview would go beyond the aim of this short article, but let me mention just one other inspirational experiment of ânetless digital networkâ (4), a citywide network that uses public transport communication systems as its âinformation carrierâ:

ââ an independent communication tactic; invisible digital network that does not need wires or dedicated radio frequencies. alternative communication device that helps its users to avoid such controlled and observed space as the internet. free from governmentally owned medium channels (radio frequency ranges, emission power regulations), proprietary locked technologies and cable networksââ

[tableau "Airlift Your Data"]

It is of course not my proposed strategy to propagate a full change over from one way of electronic communication to another â adapted  restrictions and controls soon would be invented for any  generalised communication alternative â it is about over-dependency on one particular way of information access. By diversifying the communication systems we use, we may make ourselves more independent. Such a practice should also be stretched beyond electronic based systems.

Homing pigeons as messengers maybe still be considered, however outrageous that may sound. May I recall here the combined use of micro-photography and pigeon carriers used during the Prussian siege of Paris (1870-71), with handwritten news protocols, photographed, tightly rolled up and tied to the leg of a pigeon, moving back and forward from Tours and Poitiers â far behind the German lines â to the besieged city of Paris. Sometimes balloons were used to transport the pigeons out the other way to find back their homing target in Paris. During the First World War pigeons have been in wide use also on the trenched battlefields in the North of France. There is even a monument in their honour in Lille. The Imperial War Museum in London does have a vitrine that show message carrier dogs running over the battlefield delivering messages and post between the trenches.

I do not suggest at all that this should be repeated in exact the same way and under similar circumstances, but the basic principles is most inspiring: the combination of ancient (pigeon carriers) and modern (early days of photography) technology. Such an âintermediateâ technology  usage is what I propose, it will safeguard free and independent communication for a future we can not know. It will be both fun and useful to start imagining and tryingâ

[photograph of monument for pigeon carriers in Lille]

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