August 21, 2003  ·  Lessig

Lawrence Solum on “Copynorms“, the “informal social attitudes about the rightness or wrongness of
duplicating material that is copyrighted.” Is there a convincing account of the source of these norms?

  • Christian Schaller

    I would be great to hear your comment, being a legal expert on copyrights etc., on the latest claims by SCO’s laywer Mark Heise (working for Boise) that the GPL is illegal cause it is preempted by
    US copyright law. Do you see any merit in their arguments or are you agreeding more with Eben Moglens response?

  • lessig

    I’ve not read the claims, but anyone claiming the GPL is “illegal” because “preempted” by US copyright law is someone who knows nothing about preemption or US copyright law.

  • Brian

    Im in a ranting mood I guess. I am a software developer by trade and I have a very strong opinion on the fact I think that all source code should be open and public domain. In business today aren’t 90% of the applications just ways to take business processes and make them better? So you take a way of doing business or a process and write some tools to make it more efficient and stream lined. I am quiting my current job and going to do something else (sorry guys the company I am leaving won’t refill my position and is heavliy looking to Outsource/Off Shore). I will have an IT Consulting company and I will recommend to all my clients the use of Open Source solutions in there business. Not only do the cost justifications look great but in a business sense I have yet to come into a problem that I couldn’t solve (already written Open or written by me). I take a lot of pride in my work but seeing Open source software and community in action is truly amazing. To me the Open Source community defines the Public domain like it was intended too. People starting with an idea and someone else extending it and improving it.

  • john

    Brian — in my consulting work, I recommend OSS products to all of my clients, and have done many migrations from closed-source to OSS.

    What I’m finding to be difficult is not the convincing of traditional IT departments to use OSS, but to change the perception that either development paradigm (closed or OSS) is a silver bullet. When you have a community with such strong opinions, the advantage is unmatched development and vitality, but the disadvantage is (sometimes) a blind and unbalanced perception that all OSS projects are perfect and superior to all closed-source.

    So the balance of perception, staying out of the fray of opinion, and sticking to the facts is key to getting organizations “on board” with OSS.


  • Brian

    I would be curious to hear Prof. Lessig’s comments on this link I obtained this link from Slashdot.

  • lessig

    so what I find most interesting is that the news story intentionally disables the links they are posting — apparently so they don’t face liability. What could be more absurd than a system of law which says if you point to something, you’re liable for the infringement others commit using the point.

  • Lawrence Solum
  • Karl

    “What could be more absurd than a system of law which says if you point to something, you�re liable for the infringement others commit using the point.”

    It’s like giving someone a ride to a gun store. By itself, that’s not a crime, but in some instances it can make you an accessory, right? They’re covering their butts. It’s sad, but it’s true.


  • Elihu M. Gerson

    There are many difficulties with obtaining convincing accounts of the source of copynorms, at least from a social science perspective. To begin with, the notion of norm is largely in desuetude; the social scientists who use it, do so uncritically, and many refuse to use it because it seems vacuous.

    In any case, no one to my knowledge has ever come up with a plausible account for the sources of any norm– we have no idea of how (rather than why) they come to be, beyond a vague appeal to the idea that things would be in bad shape if we didn’t have them. This latter idea itself becomes less obvious, the more one thinks about it.

    All that aside, a norm is defined as an informal standard of behavior which will be sanctioned by the community if violated. This is very different from an attitude or expressed opinion. Norms are a property of the community; attitudes are properties of individual people.

    It’s difficult to think of how to do good research on the subject. Perhaps we could look at whistle-blowing and other kinds of sanctioning by people who don’t have a direct stake in the matter.

  • John Pettitt

    Copynorms are an interesting problem. The record industry has, for the lifetime of most users of it’s product, perpetuated the idea that if it’s intangible it’s free by “giving away” it’s product on radio and MTV. For most users the value is in the tangible instance of the product not in the IP itself. It will take a major shift in perceoption to change that.

    My guess is that the lawsuit/lobbyist approach that the RIAA/MPAA have adopted won’t impact their target audience for a host of social reason not least of which being that most of their audience doesn’t actually watch the news or read the paper.