A fascinating article by Mike Godwin, attorney and fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology. His argument is that the real war is not between the copyright holders and the copyright “pirates” (you and me) who distribute unlicensed copies of creative works over the Internet. The real war is between the content industries and the techology industries. And neither faction wants you to be able to use your computer for the things you are accustomed to use it for today; the only difference is one of how far it is necessary to go to lock down copyrighted material.

“As music-software designer and entrepreneur Selene Makarios puts it, this campaign represents ‘little less than an attempt to outlaw general-purpose computers.’ Internet security and cryptography expert Bruce Schneier puts the matter a little differently: ‘If you think about it, the content industry does not want people to have computers; they’re too powerful, too flexible, and too extensible. They want people to have Internet Entertainment Platforms: televisions, VCRs, game consoles, etc.’ . . .

“Perhaps the most likely scenario is this: at some near-future date — perhaps as early as 2010 — individuals may no longer be able to do the kinds of things they routinely do with their digital tools in 2001. They may no longer be able, for example, to move music or video files around easily from one of their computers to another (even if the other is just a few feet away in the same house), or to personal digital assistants. Their music collections, reduced to MP3s, may be moveable to a limited extent unless their digital hardware doesn’t allow it. The digital videos they shot in 1999 may be unplayable on their desktop and laptop computers — or even on other devices — in 2009. . . .

“The Content Faction is proceeding on many fronts: legislative, of course, but also in standards groups, in industrial consortia, and in global business policy forums. A recent legislative proposal floated (but not formally introduced) by Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-SC, which would require that all new digital-transmission technologies have built-in copyright protection — built-in watermark-scheme compliance, in other words — generated a significant public backlash after being leaked to the press. But that proposal caused a backlash because it was itself public — in reality, it’s only one small part of a mostly unpublicized global effort to include digital-rights-management in every digital technology. . . .

“The consequences of the outcome of the struggle between the Content Faction and the Tech Faction fight are huge. At the heart of the fight are two questions: whether computer users can continue to be allowed to have the abilities that computers have had since their invention, and whether the content companies can survive in a world in which users have that power. What’s been missing from the debate so far has been the users themselves. It seems safe to say that most computer and Internet users like to have choices — choices both of the content they consume and of the kinds of tools they should get to use. Still, maybe citizens would say they’re willing to give up “general-purpose” computers and willing to use, instead, systems designed to prevent them from engaging in willy-nilly copying, if that is the price you have to pay for compelling music and movies and television over the Internet.. That is, maybe they’d say so if you asked them. But right now, nobody’s asking.