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K Versus the Machine

A dystopian nightmare by Franz Orwell.


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Part One: The Awakening

K opened his eyes and looked down at his body prone on the bed. He wasn't a beetle anymore. Over in the far corner on his work desk he saw a slim aluminium case. Trying out his legs for the first time in ages, he sauntered off to the far corner to get a closer look at the fascinating device.

K flexed his new found fingers and studied the aluminium cover. A white upside-down apple was glowing and a small diode was throbbing on the front of the slim package. He pushed at the apple as if it were a button; nothing happened. He tried again on the front by the throbbing diode; a latch was released and the 'lid' of the device popped up half an inch. K inserted his thumb between the two halves and raised the lid.

The sight that greeted him was similar to Microsoft Windows - but it wasn't Windows. In a few days K learned this was called Mac OS X. It was a system similar to Windows but far superior. K got used to the device and learned to search on the Internet all over again.

Part Two: The Shock

After several days K noticed an icon in his dock in the form of a postage stamp. He decided he'd finally click it. After bouncing half a dozen times the icon gave way to what appeared to be a mail program. Once the mail program opened it started searching for mail, spinners spinning furiously on the left. New mail started dropping in.

The third message in K's inbox startled him.

From: Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet
Subject: Concerning your continuing use of BitTorrent technology to engage in illegal file sharing

Dear K,

It has come to the attention of this agency that you are engaging in illegal activities on the Internet.

Downloading copyrighted materials is expressly forbidden by law. This is notice that if you do not cease this despicable activity your Internet connection will be terminated. You will however be required to continue to pay your Internet connectivity bills even for this time.

This is your first warning.

Sincerely,

Downloading? BitTorrent? File sharing? What is this? K asked himself. Certainly he was aware of no such activities in his Apple computer. And he knew the computer itself was very secure. It would of course have been a different matter indeed had he been running Windows: then any hacker could have gained entrance and used his connection for anything at all - including this BitTorrent file sharing downloading, whatever that was.

K checked his router. Yes, the router used physical cable connections; no, it was not set up for wireless connectivity. That ruled out the possibility his connection was being hijacked.

So why would he be accused of something he wasn't even remotely capable of doing?

K returned to his bed that night to fall into a deep but restless slumber.

Part Three: The Reminder

Two days later there was a knock on the door. It was the postman. K was to sign for a letter he had not solicited. He was suspicious but he signed anyway, thanked the postman, and then returned inside to open the envelope.

The envelope contained a letter from the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet. The HADOPI people were accusing him once again of illegal download BitTorrent file sharing activities. They'd again received complaints from movie companies and record companies that he was still engaged in file sharing.

K was informed that this was his final warning - that if HADOPI received any further complaints that he would be summarily disconnected from the Internet for one full year.

There was a telephone number at the bottom of the letter.

Part Four: The Telephone Call

K dialed the number at the bottom of the letter and found himself shuffled back and forth between different departments until someone was finally willing to speak to him. K gave his name and explained his situation.

'I don't even know what download BitTorrent file sharing is', K protested.

'It's possible we were wrong', said the voice on the other end. 'It's been known to happen before.'

'But what can I do?' asked a frightened K.

'You'll have to prove your innocence', said the voice.

'Prove my innocence? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?'

'There is no provision for that luxury in this legislation.'

'So what can I do?'

'You can let us install spyware on your computer. Would you like me to set up an appointment for you?'

Part Five: The Visit

K was roused the following morning by another knock on the door. It was the HADOPI technician come to install spyware on K's Apple computer. K left the man to it and removed himself to his kitchen to prepare his breakfast.

'What kind of computer is this?' K heard the man shout from the other room. 'Where is My Computer? How do I get to Add/Remove Programs? Is this computer legal?'

K returned to explain to the HADOPI technician that his was an Apple computer, that it did not run Windows. 'Will there be a problem?' he asked.

'There's no way I can install our spyware on this computer!' the technician said angrily. 'Why can't you just use the same thing as everyone else?'

K explained politely that he had no idea himself, that less than a week ago he was still a beetle. He closed the door after the flustered HADOPI technician.

Epilogue

K was disconnected from the Internet the following week. He received a final letter from the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet informing him of this action and this time accusing him further of using 'hacker technologies' in an effort to undermine the work of HADOPI and the social fabric of the nation.

K was going back to court.

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