The Untamed Frontier

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Another day, another Wild West metaphor.

Gamasutra has an article up kindly letting us know that some mouth breather launched a Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against Minecraft developer Markus Persson's web server. The rationale? That Persson was not working fast enough on the Minecraft content he'd promised, and deserved to be punished.

Although the internet's open nature has turned it into both the world's biggest university and its biggest playing field, that same openness leads to very little policing. In America, last I checked, the only recourse for someone anonymously trashing your web server with a DDoS attack was to be able to prove that said attack cost at least $5,000 in commercial damages. And then the FBI gets involved, although that seems to do little good unless you're the schmuck who hacked Sarah Palin's Yahoo! email address.

Persson isn't American, of course. He's Swedish, so that gives us another fun little example. Recently, Sweden brought criminal charges against the folks who ran The Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent file sharing site that frequently played host to illegal copies of games and movies. After a knock down, drag out fight, The Pirate Bay folks were found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison. Also, their server was shut down. The final result? During the appeals process, The Pirate Bay guys nimbly changed hosts to a new server. Which is still up.

The Wild West metaphor pertains because, insofar that the internet is a wide open place, that's largely because nobody has really bothered policing it. The internet doesn't transcend national laws, but, outside of major issues like child pornography, nobody really bothers enforcing them. And that especially pertains to the less-pressing issues of copyright violations (from game and movie pirates) or juvenile vandelism, like that of the genius that decided to DDoS the server for a game that's got only one hard-working developer and is still in alpha. On the occasions when those laws are enforced, as my American and Swedish examples show, the effect is punitive and short lived. (Remember those retarded RIAA crackdowns?) There's no precedent for the kind of international law enforcement cooperation needed to crack down on these issues. And there sure as hell aren't enough people to give a damn.

In short, Markus Persson found success because he struck it big in a wide-open medium that allowed him to fulfill his potential. But that same medium allows for people to conduct virtual vandelism and get away with it scott free.