I would like to expand on the point I made about cloud computing a while ago. I was just listening to a recent lecture by Slavoj Žižek where he briefly touches the issue. In his lecture Žižek likens the Cloud to Marx’s concept of “general intellect,” meaning basically general social knowledge as a force of production (Wikipedia fails to properly document this term, but see this article by Paolo Virno for a detailed discussion). The question here is who “owns” this general intellect, that is to say who controls it. As far as the cloud services are run by private corporations, what we are seeing is a privatization of general intellect. This question is of course not limited to cloud services, but is a part of a much larger struggle for what is often referred to as “intellectual property.” Žižek recognizes this as one of the major struggles in (capitalist) society today.
The term intellectual property already proposes the notion that knowledge or, to use a better word, information can be commoditized into individual units that can be privately owned, bought and sold. This is the process called “enclosure,” that is taking something that is being shared collectively and making it private property wholly controlled by the owner. Marx describes in Part VIII of the first volume of Capital how the enclosure of agricultural land in feudal England gave birth to capitalism. Copyright legislation, patents and trademarks are major instruments of enclosure being used today. We can see this process at work on the Internet where the culture industry wages its war against the file-sharing community, but also in the field of science where more and more research is being appropriated by private companies.
The struggle for intellectual property is very much a struggle between freedom and control. He who controls information, controls the people, a fact well-known in any totalitarian regime. More enclosure of information, then, generally leads to more control and less freedom in society. This is the starting point of the fight for freedom on the Internet.