Once again, I invite all to read John Perry Barlow's (from the Electronic Frontier Foundation) article regarding just this subject:
Nat and I have gone back and forth about this for a long time. As he implies above, the nature of the Net at this time DOES in fact make it extremely difficult even for big business to control what goes on here. While you're right, James, that the big corps can use their massive financial power to buy up ISPs, the truth is that anyone can start an ISP, providing they have the hardware and staff and can afford the requisite "big pipe" high-speed connection to the Internet.
For instance, some of the largest porn sites have actually become their own ISPs, setting up their entire web operation internally and buying their bandwidth directly from the backbone providers, like WorldCom, Sprint, AT&T, Qwest, etc. On a much smaller scale, I will be setting up my personal business site (currently at www.starshipwright.com
) on my own server in my house, thus becoming my own ISP. I don't get a lot of hits, so I don't need massive bandwidth. So, as long as you can buy the pipe, you can be the ISP.
Also as Rick mentions, the Internet is global -- an IP address can be anywhere on the planet -- and big corps cannot impose their will everywhere. Someone running a Napster derivative server in a place like Guyana can't be forced to shut down by the RIAA unless the government of Guyana cares what they have to say. In parallel, there are hundreds of websites run and served from outside the US where Americans go to engage in gambling -- sportsbook and casino games -- that is entirely illegal here. While efforts are being made to stop this, they are not having much success. The problem is analogous to the copyright enforcement issue.
I, too, believe that the genie is out of the bottle for the most part, and I think the bottle will be shattered eventually, regardless of (or perhaps because of) efforts to stuff it back in. What I hope is that it will destroy the ability of large corporations to force creators to turn over their copyrights in order to have the big corporation market and publish their works, as is the case now -- which I and many others consider to be institutionalized extortion. When you sell your work and it becomes a work-for-hire, it gives them total control over it and an excuse to find ways to not pay you for it. It's not the benign, beneficial arrangement it should be... for the most part it's abused by the greedy corps IMHO and in my direct experience.
However, that then that pushes the responsibility for defending our copyrights back onto us, which could make our lives more difficult. However, I will accept that burden in order to break the cycle of big corporations offering one "near-instant fame and fortune" in exchange for taking one's work away and making the creator, the person who came up with the idea that's generating the money, a "hired employee."
You can read more of my and Nat's opinions in the Creating Comics forum under "Giving It Away" (archived) and "Giving It Away Part 2."
Maybe the Net can't totally undermine corporate hegemony, but at least it gives us all a place to get our stuff out where the world can see it WITHOUT selling our souls.
Pagan City Comicswww.pagancity.com