Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Wonder ...


In a piece published yesterday at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cory Doctor points out something important:

This week, we made you a tutorial explaining the torturous process by which you can change your Facebook preferences to keep the company’s "partners" from seeing all your friends’ data. But what many folks would really like to do is give you a tool that does it for you: go through the tedious work of figuring out Facebook’s inscrutable privacy dashboard, and roll that expertise up in a self-executing recipe -- a piece of computer code that autopiloted your browser to login to Facebook on your behalf and ticked all the right boxes for you, with no need for you to do the fiddly work.

But they can’t. Not without risking serious legal consequences, at least. A series of court decisions -- often stemming from the online gaming world, sometimes about Facebook itself -- has made fielding code that fights for the user into a legal risk that all too few programmers are willing to take.
I admit to still wrestling a bit with the morality of, for example, ad blockers. Using one is basically saying "I am going to use your resources (e.g. bandwidth and CPU time) to serve content to myself, under rules other than the rules you, the owner or renter of those resources, have set for using those resources." Which sounds a lot like theft. I finally started using an ad blocker when it became basically impossible to get anything done without one, but I'm still not comfortable with the idea and wish that someone would come up with a plausible argument that it's not an initiation of force.

Anyway, the question that just occurred to me is this:

Regarding the property status of the content itself, rather than the resources for serving it, are there people who support the notion of "intellectual property" while simultaneously thinking it OK to view or listen to that content while avoiding the (at least implicit, and in some cases explicit) content "owner's" payment condition of "you have to put up with ads?"

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