August 29, 2002  ·  Lessig

Congress has the power to promote the Progress of Science … by securing for limited Times to Authors … exclusive Right to their Writings.

If you take that seriously, then it is just not like building a house. If the government takes your house, it must pay you. This says if the government gives you a copyright, it must, after a “limited Time” take it away.

Sifry nicely summarizes the argument (which has been remarkably civil) and David raises the ultimate question: How long? I still like Justice Story’s formula: “at as early a period as possible.”

Graham and Zerbe have a nice piece that doesn’t exist here, but in which they try to estimate how long is long enough. Answer: surprisingly short.

Economically Efficient Treatment of Computer Software: Reverse Engineering, Protection, and Disclosure” (with Lawrence D. Graham), Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Review, 22(1), 1996, pp. 61-142.

Back to taking “limited Times” way too seriously …

August 22, 2002  ·  Lessig

It was certainly one of the most interesting parts of this most recent “exchange” to be told, by a coder I respect no less, that binaries “reveal all without revealing the source code.” The implication drawn from this was that having access to the source was not important. Indeed, it was a “distraction.” That was a bit of a shock to the way I look at the world. I’m of course not a coder (I did that for many years in my youth, and indeed, for two years earned my keep coding , but my mind has been corrupted by east coast code so I wouldn’t pretend to know anything interesting about coding anymore), but I wonder, has anyone told RMS this? I mean, why are we worrying so much about open or free code, if in fact binaries “reveal all”?

The folks at Oops helpfully note that at least “there’s more material for study in a book than in a [binary only] softrware program.” And that in turn may be responsible for the “quite poor” state of software development. That seems right. But is this interesting view of this coder (who I want to be quick to add has done a great deal of good advancing all things good and great) shared by others? I mean, I understand the sense of binaries “reveal all” in the sense that all functionality might be inferrable from a binary (not sure if that’s true, but I’ll assume it). But is the open/closed line really so unimportant?

August 21, 2002  ·  Lessig

Alex Golub’s got a scathing review of my OSCON talk. Completely right. This is why I’m moving on from this, quickly. But he also has at the same link a really great song.

August 21, 2002  ·  Lessig

So out of the muck, Sheila has pushed the idea of picking two candidates, one D and on R, to defeat in the fall. She nicely suggests an organization to start. She also describes Coble’s (R, NC) libertarain opponent, supported by Dave Winer, Tara Grubb. Man, that would be a coup. Just the sort of thing they would say the geeks could never do.

Doc’s got a nice email from Timothy Phillips (who has been a key contributor to the Eldred case from the start) pushing my hero Hank Perritt, and opposing Mary “Sonny thought copyright should be forever” Bono. These too would be great. But keeping political balance here is important — knocking one D and one R (and best, with an L) is key.

August 21, 2002  ·  Lessig

This just in from Gary Murphy. Now we just need some tunes, and then we’ll have a movement…

From: Gary Murphy
Subject: I had a little agent

In his OSCON address free culture defender Lawrence Lessig laments that he’d like to write a song to help his cause, but he can’t —

I Had A Little Agent
————————
(words by Gary Murphy)

I had a little agent, my agent pleased me.
I fed my agent from the Greenback Tree.
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I had some musicians, my musicians pleased me.
I fed my musicians from the Greenback Tree.
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I signed up with SOCAN (or BMI or ASCAP or whatever)
and SOCAN signed me,
I fed my SOCAN from the Greenback Tree
And my little SOCAN said [ whining ] “we got so much /overhead/!”
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I got a little venue, my venue pleased me
I paid for my venue from the Greenback Tree.
And my little venue went [ with authority ] “you’re too friggin loud”
And my little SOCAN said [ whining ] “we got so much overhead!”
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I found a producer my producer pleased me
I fed my producer from the Greenback Tree
And my little producer said “do you think you could make it more
peppy, and it doesn’t always rhyme, and some of your lines are way too long”
And my little venue went [ with authority ] “you’re too friggin loud”
And my little SOCAN said [ whining ] “we got so much overhead!”
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I signed with a label and my label pleased me
I fed my label from the Greenback Tree
And my little label said “you’re just not moving the units!”
(alt “there’s just no interest in that sort of thing anymore”)
And my little producer said “do you think you could make it more
peppy, and it doesn’t rhyme and some of your lines are way too long”
And my little venue went [ with authority ] “you’re too friggin loud”
And my little SOCAN said [ whining ] “we got so much overhead!”
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I cut a little CD and the CD pleased me
I paid for my CD from the Greenback Tree
And my little CD went — [ dead stop silence ]
And my little label said “you’re just not moving the units!”
(alt “there’s just no interest in that sort of thing anymore”)
And my little producer said “do you think you could make it more
peppy, and it doesn’t rhyme and some of your lines are way too long”
And my little venue went [ with authority ] “you’re too friggin loud”
And my little SOCAN said [ whining ] “we got so much overhead!”
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I got a little website, my website pleased me
I paid for my website from the Greenback Tree
And our little website goes “MORE M-P-THREES!!!”
And our little CD went — [ dead stop silence ]
And my little label said “you’re just not moving the units!”
(alt “there’s just no interest in that sort of thing anymore”)
And my little producer said “do you think you could make it more
peppy, and it doesn’t rhyme and some of your lines are way too long”
And my little venue went [ with authority ] “you’re too friggin loud”
And my little SOCAN said [ whining ] “we got so much overhead!”
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat
did diddily did diddily did diddily-squat

I got me some fans and my fans please me
I fed my fans with Oggs and M-P-threes
And my beautiful fans [ slow to angelic crecendo ] send greenbacks to me —-

[ take a deep breath ]

Now I got greenbacks, my greenbacks please me
I keep my greenbacks in the Greenback tree
and all my greenbacks say “my – fans – like – me”
[ whistle, presumably to the bank ]
And our little website goes “MORE M-P-THREES!!!” (and Oggs!)
And our little CD went — [ dead stop silence ]
And my little label said “you’re just not moving the units!”
(alt “there’s just no interest in that sort of thing anymore”)
And my little producer said “do you think you could make it more
peppy, and it doesn’t rhyme and some of your lines are way too long”
And my little venue went [ with authority ] “you’re too friggin loud”
And my little SOCAN said [ whining ] “we got so much overhead!”
And my musicians went “like, when’ll we get paid man?”
And my little agent did diddily-squat … [ big finish ]
DID diddily DID diddily DID DID-dily … squat

(Thanks, Gary. And especially for this: He writes “Being of sound body and as sound a mind as ever, I hearby release this song (the lyrics anyway) to the Public Domain as requested by the Creative Commons. Remember if you like, but I won’t die if you don’t.”

August 20, 2002  ·  Lessig

I’ve been hiding for the last few weeks trying to finish the reply brief in the Eldred case. (Check out the briefs on the other side. My favorite is the RIAA’s, which begins “The RIAA and its members are dedicated defenders of the First Amendment and vigorously oppose government-sponsored censorship in all its forms.” That’s apparently the mini-me version of the RIAA. Also check out Bumperactive.com which is giving away free (as in beer) “Free the Mouse” bumperstickers. )

But today I started getting a bunch of frantic emails from people telling me that I needed to respond to Dave Winer. Dave’s hopping mad. Apparently, when I asked in my OSCON talk, “What have you done?”and then said “We’ve done nothing,” Dave thought I was literally saying he, Dave, has done nothing. He didn’t take it well.

Hey, Dave, peace. Of course I don’t mean that you’ve, literally, done nothing. Obviously and of course, you’ve done great things for the movement. Nor when I criticized the copyright system was I saying anything about you. (Obviously lots of people use copyright to spread knowledge, rather than hide it. Copyleft is still copyright. And I am, as my writing should make clear, pro-copyright.)

When I said at OSCON that “We’ve done nothing yet,” what I meant (and I thought this was obvious) is that we’ve done nothing politically yet. We have yet to build a political movement to resist those who would use law to kill what you, and others, built when you, and others, built the net. That claim I still stand behind. There is no political movement that has punished, the way democracies punish, the likes of Berman, et al. And there’s no political movement yet that adequately rewards the likes of Boucher, Cannon, and Hank Perritt.

You say there “will” be. Great. Here’s hoping. But I was talking about what there is — now, when the worst legislation we’ve seen so far is being bounced around DC like it’s apple pie. Right now we have a culture where the most creative and important builders of freedom in the 21st century have zero political savvy and (so far) zero political effect. Part of the reason for this is good sense: obviously, your talents are for building the technical infrastructure for freedom that we call the Net. But part of the reason is the continuing reign of Declan-like banalities–about how you don’t need to waste time getting democracies to protect freedom, that politics can be left to people in dc, that geeks should worry about west coast code not east coast code, etc. (My favorite line from the Declan missive was: “Would you rather see Ian Clarke start a certain-to-be-ignored postcard campaign instead of inventing such a beautifully disruptive technology as Freenet?” Gee, I guess not. And I guess on that reasoning, Ian should also stop going to movies, because if we’ve got to choose between the next great “beautifully disruptive technology” and movies, well…)

My point is that if this community does not begin to spend at least as much time as it spends watching Hollywood movies fighting Hollywood, or to spend at least as much money as it gives DSL providers on those who fight broad based control, then this extraordinary space that you, Dave, (and I trust you’ll agree, some others as well) built will be taken away. Not by superior blogs, and not by witty /. postings. But in the old-fashioned way: through regulators who have been bent by the forces of those who can and do buy Washington.

You say I should stop complaining, and open up a blog. (Man. I knew you were still angry with me that I didn’t take you up on your kind offer for free blog space at userland. I’m sorry, Dave.). I say that in addition to blogging, and coding and whatever, we’ve got to do something that matters to these people who think a blog is a typo. You, or we, or someone has got to get this community to deliver a different kind of message. One that east coast coders can read; one that says: we won’t let the freedom we (actually, you, certainly not me) built be regulated away.

How? Here’s the simplest thing we could do: identify 2 luddite members of Congress — one Republican and one Democrat. Organize and defeat them in November. If Congress saw bad ideas cost seats, they’d begin to do something about their bad ideas.

It’s one thing to sit at your screen and post rude-ities about how you’ll throw them (and me) out (out of where, Dave? userland? Oh no!), and how the revolution will come, and so on. You’re right: I’m not old enough to remember the “revolution” of the 60s; just old enough to remember that Nixon was president when the 60s ended. In any case, the revolution will be here only when it leaves your screen, and registers and votes. And about that, I still say “we’ve done nothing”– still.

Back to the wisdom of the RIAA …