The technology industry loves subscriptions. Software-as-a-service. Cloud computing. Meal kit delivery. Silicon Valley sees subscriptions everywhere as progress. But for consumers, mandatory subscriptions are a prison that takes away choice.

The best consumer tech empowers us to own and control our experiences. An e-book I buy from Amazon should be mine, DRM-free, forever. But companies now want to turn ownership into rentals. Without a monthly subscription:

and the list goes on.

They take away products and turn them into services we must subscribe to for life.

This is great for companies but terrible for consumers. The promise of cloud computing was flexibility. But forced subscriptions are the opposite: a cage rigidly controlled by corporations who can alter the terms anytime. Adobe lets you rent Photoshop monthly, until one day they double prices or cut off access to your own work.

Subscriptions transfer power from individuals to companies. Consumer freedom requires the right to buy outright, own, modify, and reuse. When we cede those rights, we cede control over our lives to corporations who can change deals on a whim to prop up their bottom line. These corporations are the Darth Vaders of the real world:

“I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further”

Mandatory subscriptions won’t stop at software and heated seats. Soon it may be everything. Your genetically modified houseplant rebranded as Plant-as-a-Service. Your self-driving car becomes Transportation-as-a-Service. Adopt a dog via a subscription service that provides scheduled delivery of food, toys, grooming. Fail to pay the monthly fee and they take back your beloved pet. Dog-as-a-Service they’ll call it. How about Bed-as-a-Service? If you think I am taking it too far, it already exists.

So reject subscriptions when you can. Buy discreet, standalone products that make you owner, not renter. Prefer dumb cars you own to smart ones you rent. Embrace technology that empowers individuals (e.g. open-source software), not central planners. The subscription model tempts corporations because it gives them more power over us through changeable terms and threats of cutting off access. If we value our independence, we must make these choices before the subscription trap closes entirely. Our corporate landlords offer free lunches today paid for with our freedom tomorrow. “You’ll own nothing and be happy”, they said. Well, I am not subscribing to that idea (pun intended).