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  • The First Step Towards Perfect Control

    Posted on April 18th, 2004 Brian No comments

    I was checking out my logs to see if anybody had downloaded my Explosive Ammo Mutator, and I noticed the user agent:

    "NPBot (http://www.nameprotect.com/botinfo.html)

    According to that link, the NPBot is a web crawler that scours the web looking for trademark violations and intellectual property infringements. For some reason, I find myself shocked and apallaed by the existence of this bot, although I’m not sure why. It’s totally legal, it’s completely legitimate, and I know that I publish my content on this site for anybody to view. They have just as much a right to view my site as anybody else, but the fact that an automaton is potentially making a decision about potential legal action against my poor, little blog is rather frightening. I feel like I am being watched by some malevolent eye. It’s like they are just waiting for me to step across their line somehow.

    Lawrence Lessig posits in Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace that the typical widespread view that the Internet is a medium of limited control is flawed; and that, in fact, it is a medium with the potential for perfect control. Just as the vast denizens of the web use the cheap computing power available today to thwart those who would exert control over them, that same resource may be utilized to allow more control than ever before, especially when backed by the power of the legal code. It seems to me that the first step of flexing that muscle is finding violators, and that is exactly what this bot aims to achieve.

    The site purports that their crawler adheres to the restrictions set forth in a robots.txt file. I’ve never had one before. Now I do.

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