The inalienable rights of media users and the 4 laws of computing

Written by Matteo Cassese

A short piece about why it is so important to win the battle of copyright, what is the war on general purpose computing, what would Pennac think of DRM and why Mr. Doctorow inspires me to hack Asimov’s laws of Robotics.

28c3 behind enemy lines tCory Doctorow gave a passionate speech at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress about the freedom that is allowed to the consumer to use the computing resources that are contained in the devices he buys.

An increasing number of devices we own are crippled by software that has the only aim to block us from accessing functionality. Examples are our beloved iDevices, media and game consoles, even radios and cars. Well, Cory explains how the fight against copyright and access control to media (what we came to know as DRM) is only the first battle. It must be won because it is the first step in a bigger war: the war on general purpose computing.

The battle of copyright must be won, because we can’t afford to loose the war on computing. Computers are now everywhere and when we buy them (and we do buy them, don’t we!) we should be allowed to use them at the fullest of their functionality. And this means no crippling device, no spyware, no rootkits, no fixed firmware.

This was Cory. His talk was a great stimulus for me and I have started a few ramblings that I deliver to you in the following paragraphs.

Access to computing power, as access to the net, should become a right. And the right to fully use the processing power and capabilities of your devices becomes paramount in a world where everything (from a radio, to a car, to a plane) is a computer.

Cory’s words have sparked a connection in my brain with two collection of laws. The first one is Daniel Pennac’s simple and powerful list of rights of the reader,

Daniel Pennac – 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader
1. The right to not read,
2. The right to skip pages,
3. The right to not finish a book,
4. The right to reread,
5. The right to read anything,
6. The right to “Bovary-ism,” a textually-transmitted disease,
7. The right to read anywhere,
8. The right to sample and steal (“grappiller”)
9. The right to read out-loud, and,
10. The right to be silent.

the second one is the 3 (and then 4) laws of Robotics by Isaac Asimov.

Isaac Asimov – The Laws of Robotics
0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Pennac’s rights are already not fulfilled by DRM media. But should be expanded and extended in such a way that media can be accessed with any device, at any time, in any form.
Asimov’s laws could apply as is to all CPU’s. CPU’s should obey all orders that don’t harm the human being, while right now CPU’s are programmed to execute all orders that don’t harm Corporation X or Y.

Here they come:

10 Inalienable Rights of media users
1. The right to not access media,
2. The right to copy, conserve, backup and gift media,
3. The right to skip media and consume non sequentially,
4. The right to use media multiple times,
5. The right to use any preferred software,
6. The right to “Digital-ism”, a infinitely copyable disease,
7. The right to access media from any device,
8. The right to sample and steal,
9. The right to extend media in any way, and,
10. The right to consume media as is.

The Laws of Computing
0. A computer may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
1. A computer may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A computer must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A computer must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Enough with my ramblings. Probably what I have written is not original and has already been done better by someone else, but I would love to get your feedback about it.

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