American lawyers went into American courts and got Napster to
revise its policies of open sharing of files on private computers.
The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times are still
in the courts over the Free Republic’s Web site, where articles
from the press are run in full, accompanied by participants’ comments.
What if Napster had been set up in Guatemala? What if the Free
Republic had its server in the Dominican Republic? This might
cost the respective owners a whopping $25/month. The listed owners
might have been, respectively, a trust in the Cook Islands and
a closely held corporation on the Isle of Man. American lawyers
would not have been in a strong position to pursue these cases.
Who would they sue? Who would pay damages? Who would pay the legal
Maybe they would have won. But how hard is it to transfer a Web
site? It can be done through phone lines. Two days later, both
sites could have been back on line on servers located in Israel
or Italy. New anonymous owners would be listed.
Could the United States government shut down access to a foreign
Web site by forcing the cooperation of an American-based Web site-registration
company? Maybe, but the official howling by foreign governments
would begin. The Web is perceived as an international communications
system, not the plaything of American courts. The longer the Web
exists, the louder the official howling will be.
Barshefsky also announced placement of 16 trading partners on
the "Priority Watch List": Israel, Ukraine, Macau, Argentina,
Peru, Egypt, the European Union, Greece, India, Indonesia, Russia,
Turkey, Italy, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Kuwait. She
also placed 37 trading partners on the "Watch List."
Digits are instantly transferable. It is as easy to access a Web
site in one of the Priority Watch List nations as one located
across the street. Written documents can be extracted from any
HTML page on the Web, converted into ASCII text by the marvelous
shareware program, TextPad, and pasted into a file. All
it takes is a few steps: CTRL-C (cut) and CTRL-V (paste) from
a Web page to TextPad, where you can instantly strip out all HTML
formatting with TextPad’s “skip-rope” button (to the left of the
paragraph button), and then save the file from TextPad to a computer
disk. The document can then be posted on another Web page, or
e-mailed, or whatever.
Yes, it would be a very good idea to use an access-blocking program
such as ZoneAlarm (free from www.zonelabs.com)
to keep outsiders from secretly gaining access to all of your
computer files, whereby everything that you send by e-mail can
be traced, including Excel spreadsheets. This is probably being
done to you weekly if you have not taken steps to stop it. I get
alerted to an access attempt at least one a week. The day you
set up a new computer, install a blocking program.
We have arrived at a digital New World Order. For the first time
in the history of man, the gatekeepers of ideas are facing a looming
catastrophe. They stand at the official gates and certify the
acceptability of the ideas that pass through on pieces of paper.
Meanwhile, untenured barbarians are passing safely through gaping
holes in the digital walls. I am reminded of the Berlin Wall in
1989 or perhaps Jericho’s wall after the rams’ horns blew. The
gatekeepers remain on duty. Tenure hath its privileges. But the
handwriting is on what little of the wall remains standing.
The Internet has become the best example in history of the truth
of Ludwig von Mises’s observation that whatever the government
officially does to manage the economy will result in opposite
effects. The Internet was created by the American military to
provide government-controlled communications after a nuclear attack.
The ARPANET was a classic closed system. Today, its heir, the
Internet, is the most open communications system in the history
of man. The ARPANET budget of Defense Department’s Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA), 1965-90, may have been the best money
that any government ever spent. Designed for war, it has produced
liberty of expression unrivaled in human history.
Gary North [send him mail]
is the author of an eleven-volume series, An Economic Commentary
on the Bible. The latest volume is Cooperation and Dominion:
An Economic Commentary on Romans. The series can be downloaded
free of charge at www.freebooks.com.