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<nettime> Return to feudalism
Morlock Elloi on Sun, 17 Sep 2017 20:34:14 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Return to feudalism


This meme cannot be repeated often enough (even if one starts to resemble RMS).

While esoteric discourses about consequences can be amusing, we really need to get back to the root causes. They are not novel, just often forgotten.

From https://theconversation.com/the-internet-of-things-is-sending-us-back-to-the-middle-ages-81435 :

The underlying problem is ownership

One key reason we don’t control our devices is that the companies that
make them seem to think – and definitely act like – they still own them,
even after we’ve bought them. A person may purchase a nice-looking box
full of electronics that can function as a smartphone, the corporate
argument goes, but they buy a license only to use the software inside.
The companies say they still own the software, and because they own it,
they can control it. It’s as if a car dealer sold a car, but claimed
ownership of the motor.

This sort of arrangement is destroying the concept of basic property
ownership. John Deere has already told farmers that they don’t really
own their tractors but just license the software – so they can’t fix
their own farm equipment or even take it to an independent repair shop.
The farmers are objecting, but maybe some people are willing to let
things slide when it comes to smartphones, which are often bought on a
payment installment plan and traded in as soon as possible.

How long will it be before we realize they’re trying to apply the same
rules to our smart homes, smart televisions in our living rooms and
bedrooms, smart toilets and internet-enabled cars?

A return to feudalism?

The issue of who gets to control property has a long history. In the
feudal system of medieval Europe, the king owned almost everything, and
everyone else’s property rights depended on their relationship with the
king. Peasants lived on land granted by the king to a local lord, and
workers didn’t always even own the tools they used for farming or other
trades like carpentry and blacksmithing.

Over the centuries, Western economies and legal systems evolved into our
modern commercial arrangement: People and private companies often buy
and sell items themselves and own land, tools and other objects
outright. Apart from a few basic government rules like environmental
protection and public health, ownership comes with no trailing strings
attached.

This system means that a car company can’t stop me from painting my car
a shocking shade of pink or from getting the oil changed at whatever
repair shop I choose. I can even try to modify or fix my car myself. The
same is true for my television, my farm equipment and my refrigerator.

Yet the expansion of the internet of things seems to be bringing us back
to something like that old feudal model, where people didn’t own the
items they used every day. In this 21st-century version, companies are
using intellectual property law – intended to protect ideas – to control
physical objects consumers think they own.

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