Al Sparber writes about software piracy, citing the places that allow people to remain anonymous on the net as a big cause of this problem. I don’t disagree on the fact that is the case, after all if we were all tied down to our IP and email address in the same way we are our social securiy or national insurance numbers and home addresses it would make these collaborative attempts to pirate software very difficult indeed.
However, to ban anonymity online is anathema to me. Not because I need to remain anonymous, even when at my most outspoken I always take the credit and the resultant flak for my words and actions, but many are not so fortunate as I.
To ban anonymity means that the addict trying to seek help and support online without her boss, friends and family finding out is unable to do so, it means that someone who is seeking help and community in the face of HIV infection is unable to do so if they don’t wish to reveal their identity for fear of repercussion. It means that those living under harsh regimes are unable to get their stories out to the world.
I think that is too high a price to pay in the interests of software developers. I don’t like it when someone pinches my stuff, or software created by those I know and respect as developers, but I stand on the side of free speech here, and free speech has to include the right to remain anonymous. For so often those who are most in need of being able to exercise free speech are prevented from doing so should their true identity be made known.