Log in

No account? Create an account
Overloading the Machine -- Day [entries|friends|calendar]

[ website | wjsullivan.net ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ calendar | livejournal calendar ]

Send bricks to Nintendo [16 May 2011|12:29pm]

Brick Nintendo before they brick you!

Connectivity can be a force for autonomy and freedom, or it can be used for control and subjugation.

The Nintendo 3DS is an example of the latter.

Okay, yeah, I just said a cute video game console is a threat to personal freedom. Hear me out. If you haven't read the highlights of Nintendo's Terms of Service for the 3DS yet, you should do that.

On one hand, it's "just" a games console. On the other hand, it's a computer, marketed to children, which monitors your location (based on proximity to wifi access points), uploads your photos and messages to Nintendo's servers (giving them a license to re-use that information in various ways), and tracks your activity. Now that's entertainment.

If you wanted your Nintendo computer to stop doing those things, you could try to install some 3rd-party "homebrew" software on it. Except then, according to the Terms, Nintendo would "brick" your device — render it inoperable, when the modified software is detected. Would you accept Ford disabling your car because you had a mechanic friend fix a problem using some aftermarket parts? Microsoft breaking your computer hardware because you installed Firefox?

The ability to stop your electronics from spying on you is an important freedom to defend, even if you don't ever plan on purchasing a Nintendo device. Such terms, and the Digital Restrictions Management software that enforces them, are a problem in all areas of digital life. It's the same fundamental strategy as Apple controlling what you can install on the iPhone or iPad, or Sony sending police officers to a programmer's house because he showed other people how to modify their own computers to make them able to run non-Sony-approved software.

If we don't set a strong precedent against this behavior, it will become more prevalent. If we lose the ability to install what we like on our computers, then we lose the ability to use those computers in any way that isn't pre-approved by a corporation. We lose it not only because we ourselves can't install some software — maybe we hate changing anything on our computers at all — but because the people who write the software we rely on lose that freedom, which ends up impacting even the most non-technical of computer users.

Companies like to portray anyone arguing for this freedom as criminals just wanting to illegally copy software. But that's obviously not true -- a person who follows all laws, even the most absurd, might still want to install something to stop Nintendo from receiving copies of her photos or reporting on her location. Companies use the threat of illegal copying to justify massive infringements on real personal freedoms.

People often say, "well, just don't buy it then". I agree — don't buy it. But don't think this is merely a consumer issue. Terms like Nintendo's are backed by the force of criminal law — the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US for example — which can put you in jail for helping people to modify their own computers. So this is more than a mere preference issue, it's also one of law and ethics. It's not a free market when one side has coercive state resources in play to prop up its arbitrary business model.

To help send this message, I just donated to send 5 bricks to Nintendo. I hope you'll send one or five too. The campaign has a goal of sending 200 bricks by the end of today (Monday, May 16th). Nintendo clearly wants to get into the brick-making business, so surely they'll appreciate the extra inventory.

(Disclosure: While I do work for the Free Software Foundation and am paid partly to run the Defective by Design campaign, I really did donate, and support this campaign personally.)

1 comment|post comment

[ viewing | May 16th, 2011 ]
[ go | previous day|next day ]