Jul 22, 2008, 10:06AM

The Rise And Fall Of The Internet

As the billion-dollar copyright suit between Viacom and Google draws nigh, the future of the Internet remains in question. This columnist (and Internet junkie) wonders what all the fuss is about as he personally "kills the Internet."

I am killing the Internet.

Believe me, I was surprised to find this out. I'm the guy who rolls his eyes at Digg, participates in Mozilla Firefox Download Day, enjoys the occasional LOLcat and may even get Rick Rolled on a nerd-infested message board about users' undying love of IG-88. In short, the Internet is the source of a great deal of my knowledge, hobbies and personal entertainment. I am invested in its continued success, not plotting its demise.

But according to Viacom, America's media conglomerate and corporate overlord, I am a thief, whether I know it or not, and my actions are directly responsible for the Internet's impending death. This month, a New York judge ordered Google to turn over a database of YouTube video logs to Viacom as evidence they could study for piracy violations in their $1 billion copyright suit.

I could be like most people and cry foul for forcing Google to give away terabytes of personal data under a court order. To be honest, I'm not afraid or angry - I'm more worried that this is going to affect my ability to continue doing what I did before.
The truth is, I steal from the Internet every day. Not just the music, movies or ebooks that millions of others take part in; I steal using something as simple as my surfing habits.

You see, I run an ad-blocker. While casual users have been using pop-up blockers since back when dial-up was the primary means of logging on, I use an application for my browser that enables me to block all advertisements from the Internet. Tragically, I'll never have a chance to compare my IQ with Sen. Barack Obama or President George W. Bush, and I'll never be a Web site's one-millionth visitor.

But I'm not alone. This extension has over 21 million downloads, a large base of data and devotees who spend their time earmarking Web site that circumvent the software.

It is this add-on, not my watching clips of "The Daily Show," that is causing the true catastrophe. I can visit Comedy Central's own Web site, a legal alternative to YouTube that allows me to watch their shows streamed online without the advertisements that supposedly justify free content. This problem with profits that arises with ad-blocking software is a conundrum, which further confuses the case involving Google and Viacom.


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