Standing up to the cartels.

Dan Gillmor explains why you should be worried about what the telecommunications and entertainment cartels are up to. Yes, you should be worried, if not outright pissed off.

1. Do you care if a few giant companies control virtually all entertainment and information?

2. Do you care if they decide what kinds of technological innovations will reach the marketplace?

3. Would you be concerned if they used their power to compile detailed dossiers on everything you read, listen to, view and buy?

4. Would you find it acceptable if they could decide whether what you write and say could be seen and heard by others?

Those are no longer theoretical questions. They are the direction in which America is hurtling.

Media conglomerates are in a merger frenzy. Telecommunications monopolies are creating a cozy cartel, dividing up access to the online world. The entertainment industry is pushing for Draconian controls on the use and dissemination of digital information.

If you’re not infuriated by these related trends, you should at least be worried. If you’re neither, stop reading this column. You’re a sheep, content to be herded wherever these giants wish.

Yes, yes, yes, and no. All of the above have been and are being attempted. Watch out. The entertainment industry wants to turn computers and the Internet into their own secured pipeline for content delivery. They want to take this great medium and give us interactive, on-demand television featuring interactive, on-demand payment instead. Why would we want such a trade? We don’t. We have better things to do with our computers than consume the latest crap put out by a struggling industry that is dwarfed by the industry they are trying to control.

Tell them you don’t want your PC to be neutered into an expensive DVD player. And tell them you don’t want the Internet, the greatest enabler of free speech in history, to be reduced to online television.