(with apologies to ESR)
As free software programmers, or users, our software freedom could be seen to be defined by the noo-sphere, or the intellectual space that we inhabit. In general, the noo-sphere expands as we explore new software problems. But the noo-sphere can contract. Areas of it are being fenced off by big corporations and "No Entry" signs are being erected. My big fear is that, as a community, we are letting this happen because we don't care much about the bits being claimed. Do we risk waking up one day to discover that there is suddenly very little left?
Normally no-one should be able to fence off an area of the noo-sphere because we can always develop a free alternative. But what if developing such an alternative becomes against the law? Software patents are the obvious danger, but what about the DMCA? Now, all one needs to do to fence off an area is use it to protect some copyrighted work. Now writing and publishing open source software can be a criminal act.
Perhaps we can hide the identities of the authors and secretly distribute the code on anonymizing peer-to-peer networks? Perhaps we don't care what the authorities try to do? But our freedom has still been curtailed. An area of the noo-sphere has been closed to us unless we're willing to crawl under the fence at night and sneak around.
We can never write a successful open source DVD player. With more and more emphasis being placed on digital rights management, how much more will be denied to us? Copy-protected CDs that won't play on a computer - come up with a firmware patch that allows them to be played and you're breaking the law. Demonstrate the laughable security of Adobe's eBooks and you could end up in prison.
And what happens when specialised DRM hardware starts to show up in our computers? If we write and publish device drivers capable of using them, we are breaking the DMCA. Sure we could ignore this and say that the media being protected isn't worth listening to or watching, that we don't care and they can all go to hell, but how much will be left for us in the end.
How compelling a desktop OS will GNU/Linux be if we can't play DVDs, listen to online music, watch broadcasts, read eBooks, manage our bank accounts, etc. We could perhaps accept the binary-only software that the corporations might port to Linux if they can be bothered, but what happened to our freedom? What happened to the GNU project? What happened to free software?
Most importantly, what will you say to your children when they ask "where were you when our freedom was being taken away?" Why didn't we stop the DMCA? Why haven't we managed to throw it out now? How can we let the likes of Disney and EMI decide our future?