Cybernaut 

Wild, wild Web

You’re under arrest.

That’s what the police would be telling you if the authorities really cared enough to find out what you’ve been up to online.

While there may be a few law abiding net-citizens out there, I think the majority of surfer types are probably guilty of breaking one law or another, probably a hundred times over. As a matter of fact, I don’t know one single person who hasn’t been guilty of at least a few infractions.

People download copyrighted music and other files from the Web without paying a dime in royalties. People copy software and games. Some people hack into other sites, or liberally borrow content from the Web to pad their own work.

There are also some truly evil people out there that are in the business of collecting credit card numbers and other secret information for their own nefarious ends. Others write and release destructive viruses into the system.

Although the government does wade into the fray now and then, they’re restricted by due process and the fact that a lot of the companies that make copyrighted materials widely available have deep pockets.

They’re also hampered by the technology, the fact that they can only go after one company at a time, and the sheer magnitude of the problem.

That leaves it up to the music and media companies to fight these battles on their own. They usually win, but the battleground just keeps getting bigger as more people go online and add to the problem. You get rid of one problem and a hundred more jump up to take its place.

It’s comparable to the wild west days, where the only way a sheriff could walk through town without the locals taking pot shots at him would be to turn a blind eye to all but the worst offences. What other choice do you have when you’re out-manned and outgunned?

A single government couldn’t stop illegal Internet activities even if it wanted to. The Web is just too big and too international to monitor everybody.

And that must frustrate the hell out of filmmaker George Lucas.

A week before the official release of Attack of the Clones, his latest Star Wars instalment, Lucas came under attack from a few clones of his own.

Nobody is sure who is responsible for the two different copies of Attack of the Clones ( www.starwars.com ) that surfaced on the Internet, but at least two different individuals somehow got into preview screenings of the movie, set up tripods and cameras, and made their own digital recordings. They then offered the movies online using the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) protocol – www.irc.com – which allows users to connect to other users online, and transfer large files at high speeds.

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