Intellectual Property, Information Age
John Perry Barlow
Since the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, we have seen an extraordinary concentration of capital and access control and ownership of what they call “content” in the hands of a very few organizations. That process is continuing at a truly stunning rate. Five large institutions now control most of the world's entertainment and much of its scientific and technical intellectual property. They control broadcast media. They control cable networks. They control book and magazine publishers. They control Internet networks, and are moving rapidly to consolidate and extend that control on a global basis.
I'm not suggesting the answer is regulation. I try to stick to my beliefs. On the other hand, what we are doing with laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is to give these media megaliths even more powerful tools for consolidation. The only real comparison I know is the control of information exercised by the Soviets. You may think that's hysterical, but totalitarianism works by creating a reality distortion field, self-iterating by the people themselves. Eventually it reaches a point where the people are no longer able to think anything that is not being put through the controlled media.
We've already reached a point where most of the policy that is made—not only in Washington but in most other capitals—is based on a map of the world that is created in Atlanta, Georgia. I do some consulting for the Central Intelligence Agency, which only recently discovered the information revolution. The last time I was in the headquarters building, I was taken through what you might call the nerve center of the U.S. intelligence community. There are five large screens on the wall; four of them were showing CNN, one was showing static. I'm not kidding. I don't think it was for my benefit.
How is it that we are willing to empower organizations with such authority over the ownership of ideas? If we're going to enter into