Thursday, January 27, 2022

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Tech Talk

Breaking the law


Why is it so many cool technologies force you to break the law? Force might be a little much, but at the very least, cloud storage, social GPS, web-based DVR, web video platforms and many, many more new technologies put users in situations to make illegal choices, and so many of us do.

Last year, one of the hottest applications on the market was the social navigation application Waze. Using a smartphone’s GPS technology, real-time user shared traffic updates and gamification, Waze practically demands users to become distracted drivers. Beyond giving turn-by-turn navigation, Waze users can share police sightings, traffic jams, accidents, road hazards, gas prices and detours all while behind the wheel. While these updates are extremely useful to commuters, users reporting them are most certainly not giving the road their undivided attention.

Thankfully, breaking and bending the law via technology today doesn’t carry the punishment it once did. At the turn of the century, peer-to-peer file sharing services like Napster and Limewire resulted in hundreds of users incurring massive debts from lawsuits with the Recording Industry Association of America. Today YouTube has replaced Napster as the service to share and discover illegally uploaded content, and yet virtually no lawsuits have been brought against offending YouTube users.

While many Waze and YouTube users are breaking the law, it appears organizations such as the RIAA aren’t as upset with users as with the innovators who provide the means to commit a crime. The most glaring example is Aereo, a tech innovator who has disrupted the broadcast TV industry so much the two have battled all the way to the Supreme Court. It seems so many of us are breaking the law the only way to find legal satisfaction is for the victims of our crimes to legally destroy the platforms that allow us to carry out our misdeeds.

The bittersweet truth of stopping illegal tech services is even if the law takes them down, copycats will pop up right in their place. So if digitally sticking it to the man is your thing, have no fear: for every Napster and Aereo, there is Torrent and NimbleTV. CV


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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