John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Can companies and governments control free?

        In the words of Marshall McLuhan "media effects are new environments as imperceptible as water to fish" (1969, 22).  If anything, technology is more like a country or an environment: it just is the space or medium we occupy.  Both of these quotes from Mark Poster's essay "Cyberdemocracy" point to how media and digital products are all around us blasting messages to us all the time. 

School of fish

        The internet is part of this example since it is the medium or network which is helping to keep people submerged and stimulated in this digital world.  It is allowing media and digital products to be distributed in our world just like Marshall McLuhan says, we are swimming in the digital world constantly.  Radio, cell phone and wifi are the invisible digital waves in which we now live and swim in.  It is just like the air we breath, invisible and occupying the space around us.  So why do we try to censor and control this new medium?  Should something that we occupy the same space with be free to access or use just like the air we breath?  Or will the air we breath soon be under the same regulations and control much like governments trying to control the digital world (watch the movie Total Recall)? 

        I have found several tools which challenge companies and governments who try to restrict something which is already free.  For example, there is a tool called "DownloadHelper" which is a Firefox browser plugin that allows a person to download any movie embeded in a web page.  The webpage states that "With some exceptions, downloaded videos must be kept on your disk for personal use and are not to be shown on other websites."  There is another tool called "Audio Hijack Pro" which can be used to copy streaming music from your computer.  So with both of these tools I can go to YouTube, search for my favorite band, and download a music video along with the song for free.  There is no need to buy a band's album along with the music video when it is already available online for free.  If everyone started doing this then think about the hit certain industries would take.


        According to, total revenue from U.S. music sales and licensing plunged to $6.3 billion in 2009, according to Forrester Research. In 1999, that revenue figure topped $14.6 billion.  It is difficult to Despite the great decline in sales, the Internet has exposed consumers to more music than ever before. But that accessibility has been difficult to monetize.  The music industry is starting to offer services to people by charging for access to music instead of having physical access to the digital product.  Still, it does not solve the issue of having free and open access to the digital stream which is flowing all around us.  There will always be tools and ways of copying media for free regardless of the rules and regulations that are put in place. 

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