Book review – Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (2006)
By James Brink
A. The Culture War
The West is engaged in an escalating culture war. The battlegrounds are the courts, the legislatures, international bodies, local communities, and distant countries that individually may not have much power to affect the outcome though they do have a vital interest in who wins. The war is global – and is one that has little to do with gay marriage, abortion, terrorism, Darwinism, or religion. It is, in one sense, a war going on above our heads, as it is largely concerned with law and policy, and society and property. In another sense, it is very much a war in the trenches, as it affects our ability to choose how we will live and interact with each other as consumers, creators, and citizens. Consider the following story:
Diebold is a leading provider of electronic voting machines in the United States and Brazil. In the 2002 U.S. elections, voting machines were widely seen as an answer to the problem of “hanging chads” or imperfectly punctured paper ballots. Public assurances of the accuracy and security of the machines were taken at face value by mainstream media – not surprising, considering the difficulty of analyzing a machine whose operation is treated as a state secret. Less trusting internet activists, however, made the investigation of the manufacturer’s and election officials’ claims a volunteer project. Bev Harris, who ran her own website, blackboxvoting.com, was able to obtain and publish the specifications and code for the machines in 2003, and invited a public review by the computing community. She later also received a cache of email from a Diebold whistleblower that showed the code on some of the machines had been changed after being certified for use in elections. Diebold threatened litigation under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). If the company had...