• Jonah

    Wow. With the possible exception of the second to last paragraph, the editorial reads like a press release from the RIAA. Also, maybe I’m missing something, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication of who the auther is.

  • McAction

    To Jonah: I think there is no author listed because those are the words of the editorial staff as a whole.

    To everyone else: how can this editorial be turned into a discussion? Mr. Lessig, are you submitting a rebuttal?

  • http://www.boobam.org William Loughborough

    Despite this blatant propaganda on behalf of its own continuing defense of the archaic notion that “intellectual property rights” do you really continue to think that anything very short of abandoning that oxymoronic concept will amount to much?

    There is as much chance of any legislative/judicial action stopping the P2P (file transfer) technology as there is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven and however Draconian the penalties for sharing songs become, we will continue to find ways to skirt their greedy aim.

    Love.

  • http://heliolith.com/ michaelm

    I haven’t written a letter to the editor of the Times yet, but that piece certainly makes me want to. I hope you choose to respond as well, I’m reading Free Culture right now, and I think my letter would most likely draw on your examples from the book (-:

  • Lu

    “If their work is suddenly made “free,” all of society is likely to suffer.”

    Wow, that sentence sums up the author’s gross ignorance in the issue at hand and at stake.

  • Rolo Timassie

    So the Times disagreed with you guys for once. Welcome to my world.

  • http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ Alan De Smet

    “Its most radical members argue that ‘information wants to be free’ online and disparage the whole idea of intellectual property.”

    Aaaaaaaaaah. No, no, no, no, nononononononono. Yes, some people misinterpret the phrase “information wants to be free” and assumes that it means that intellectual property should be destroyed. The correct term for these people isn’t radical, it’s “clueless.” Often they are correctly labelled “teenagers.” “Information wants to be free” is no more a political statement than “water seeks its own level.” It’s a description of how information behaves ,given that information only exists within the context of human society. In a sense it’s a shorthand for human behavior as a whole: we tend to make it easy to share things.

  • three blind mice

    “Information wants to be free” is no more a political statement than “water seeks its own level.” It’s a description of how information behaves, given that information only exists within the context of human society. In a sense it’s a shorthand for human behavior as a whole: we tend to make it easy to share things.

    not quite right, good sir.

    it is insightful on your part to equate the distribution of information with the leveling of water, but utterly incorrect to conclude that society “tends to make it easy to share things.”

    indeed, your analogy is a good one for as society build dams to harness the power of water for useful purpose, man created IP to harness the economic power of information.

    information which provides competitive economic advantange DOES NOT want to be free and needs to be restrained, through the centuries old system of IP, from seeking its own level and drowning the original artists and authors of our society in the stagnant waters of free culture.

    yes, this makes your internets less fun to play with, but progress you see comes from innovation and creation – not from distribution and imitation.

  • Matthew Cline

    On a completely non-serious note:

    The founders wrote copyright protections into the Constitution because they believed that they were necessary for progress.

    I at first read that as “The founders wrote copy protections into the Constitution …”, and thought “What? The founders made the Constitution copy protected?!?!”

  • http://xurble.org/ Gareth Simpson

    Compare and contrast with The Times in the UK, a publication hardly noted for its radicalism.

  • three blind mice

    There is as much chance of any legislative/judicial action stopping the P2P (file transfer) technology as there is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven and however Draconian the penalties for sharing songs become, we will continue to find ways to skirt their greedy aim.

    if there is any greed to be criticized, William Loughborough, it is the greed of people who do not want to pay for what they consume.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blind to the Truth Mice said – “…pay for what they consume.”

    This classic and insightful quote won’t be new to many but is a good reminder that equating ideas with physical property is completely erroneous…

    “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.”

    - Thomas Jefferson

    Although paying for a copied work of an artist is respectful and should be culturally encouraged rather than legally enforced, I am failing to see what is being “consume[d]” when digital data is shared through p2p technology.

    If I take your cheese, you are without cheese. But if I copy your cheesy song, you still have your cheesy song. I have not consumed anything whatsoever.

  • Will

    “…pay for what they consume.”

    You’re kidding right? I breathe air every day that I don’t pay for, I go for walks on the beach that are very pleasant and recreational and I don’t pay anyone for it. I listen to the radio and don’t pay a cent for it. I watch “Lost” on tv every week and pay noone … Are you some kind of commercialization Nazi that thinks we should be required by the state to pay for all these things so that someone, somewhere, can make a buck?

    People that download songs aren’t greedy –they may be unethical, but greed implies a desire to *make money*, and most of the filesharers I know aren’t interested at all in making money from swapping information.

  • George Estrada

    Prof. L, can you just touch on why/what they are wrong…It would be nice to link their opinion and your comments for others to see the “light”.

  • three blind mice

    Peter Rock, with all due respect to the eloquent thomas jefferson his views on intangible property were about as enlightened as his views on tangible property.

    then, as now, if there is any one thing more susceptible than all others of exclusive property it is an idea. ideas are not non-rivalous assets as the slave-owning founder of the university of virginia simplistically and erroneously concluded.

    consider, if you will, that the candle in massa tom�s possession enables him to occupy a share of the market for production of light. it is his competitive advantage in the market.

    for him to light another�s candle creates a competitor and diminishes the market value of his candle. even worse, if the recipient of his flame of knowledge has a less expensive source of candles, jefferson might very well find himself unable to sell his light and darkened by the market.

    new, unique, and creative expressions of ideas that provide competitive advantage are inherently rivalous.

    it is regrettable that your side cannot understand that you do not need to take from us physical property in order to deprive us of whatever economic power our creativity might provide.

    You’re kidding right? I breathe air every day that I don’t pay for, I go for walks on the beach that are very pleasant and recreational and I don’t pay anyone for it.

    we mice hope we are not alone in seeing the obvious difference between what exists in nature and what is created as a result of the labors of man.

    it is a curious thing that most people – even perhaps some commons-ists – do not oppose the ownership of real property land which is a fixed, non-expandable and limited resource, but oppose the ownership of intangible property which is without limit or dimension.

    I listen to the radio and don’t pay a cent for it. I watch “Lost” on tv every week and pay noone …

    in america advertising pays for radio and tv, will, and you pay for the advertising in every product you buy. or is this perchance news to you?

    Are you some kind of commercialization Nazi that thinks we should be required by the state to pay for all these things so that someone, somewhere, can make a buck?

    *goodwin’s law invoked and the mice make a quick exit through the wainscotting.*

  • Tom Barger

    The NY Times editorial board is seeing the issue through the lens of a professional writer and copyright holder.

  • http://drewb.com/ drewb

    My thoughts:

    The Jefferson qoute comes very close to the sentiment of “information wants to be free.” That is, it’s very difficult to keep a secret, and once information is out it’s nearly impossible to contain it’s spread or to re-capture it. I think the whole “information wants to be free” discussion has nothing to do with this case. Why it was used in the editorial baffles me.

    Anyway, this all has little to do with property loss, and more to do with capabilities loss. Why would anyone want to allow copying and distribution technologies to be controlled by a small group of people. Let’s say I’m at a parade, and the cops start smashing some guys head for being not clapping when the governor walked by. Fortunately, I caught it all on video tape. I would throw it up on a p2p network. You can still do that here in the USA, but in North Korea? (or China?)

    I like the term that’s been used: “information sharers.” Count me in, or count me …. totally ignorant, no? In fact, anyone who ever reads these words will be counted amongst them.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the founders didn’t write copyright protections into the constitution, but they did allow for it.

    I don’t like Grokster’s business model. I use other p2p networks to distribute what I’ve created.

    three blind mice:

    …but progress you see comes from innovation and creation – not from distribution and imitation

    So, you’re saying MicroSoft doesn’t promote progress? (sorry, can’t resist)

    t b m: goodwin’s law invoked…

    That only works in a flame war with a thread offset greater than >>>>>.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    3 Blinded Mice said – “ideas are not non-rivalous

    As far as I understand, rivalrous simply means that there is a quantifiable amount of the said “resource”. In other words, the resource can be depleted/controlled by a being/group in possession of it.

    When I come up with an idea and then express it, there is an unquantifiable (i.e. limitless) amount of it available for as long as the idea is remembered in writing or kept within human consciousness. Whatever your view on copyright or patents may be, that is a fact – let us please stick to facts. I’m not sure where you got the impression that ideas are rivalrous. “Rivalry” for ideas is created through artificial rights – copyright law being a prime example – but to try and argue that ideas are in a natural state of rivalry is completely absurd.

    “it is regrettable that your side cannot understand that you do not need to take from us physical property in order to deprive us of whatever economic power our creativity might provide.”

    I don’t understand what you mean by “your side“. But I completely agree with you if you are talking about people who are anti-copyright. However, I have yet to meet such a person so I’m not sure who you are wasting your breath on. If I falsely take attribution for – say – a theatrical play you have written, then I am definitely depriving you of economic power – power that was artificially granted to you through copyright law. That is what copyright is for. Copyright law in principle is, I believe, good – even though in practice it has created an IP industry filled with lawyers/clients intent on maximizing profit at the expense of the public at large. Could you please let me know who you are referring to when you say “your side“? – you are confusing me.

  • Rob

    the mice squeaked:

    for him to light another�s candle creates a competitor and diminishes the market value of his candle.

    that assumes that the goal of lighting a candle is an economic one. Jefferson’s goal was not economic, it was cultural; the production of light was the goal, not economic advantage. So what we have is a fundamental difference of opinion on what the goal of society should be. Rather than enlightenment for all, the primary goal is enrichment of owners. The theory behind this is that then everyone will want to be an owner of something so they can enrich themselves, thus society will be advanced. This is the “trickle-down” theory writ large.

    The problem I and others have with it is that there is no guarantee that it will work that way. As a consequence of maximizing economic advantage as a primary goal, legislation has to be enacted to protect things owned; if everybody can own what I do, nobody will want to pay me for it. So as more and more things are protected, there is less and less room for innovation without treading on someone else’s owned property; just as it is now impossible to move West and stake out your own claim of land anymore, as all is owned by someone or something. When we reach a point that nothing can be invented without treading on someone else’s owned property in some fashion, then we will truly have created stagnation. That is the long-term effect of protecting everything in the name of economic advantage.

    Now, you will phoo-phoo this idea and say that creativity is infinite, that despite being limited to 8 notes arranged in octaves music has flourished for centuries and new songs will be created forever. But I have to say to you, when chord progressions are patented and copyrighted, if we allow chords themselves to be patented, innovation in music WILL cease. If sort algorithms and file formats are allowed patent and copyright protection and their owners granted perpetual monopolies through the law, innovation in computing WILL cease. Or if it doesn’t cease, it will become the exclusive province of megacorps who can afford to buy or sue their competition out of business, and only renegades and outlaws will dare to innovate outside the prescribed boundaries of protected property. Is this the future society we want to create?

    It seems to be the one you mice want to create.

  • three blind mice

    perhaps we exited stage left too soon. looking out from our hole, we see rob and peter rock have left us some tasty cheese to devour and our greedy stomachs cannot resist.

    The NY Times editorial board is seeing the issue through the lens of a professional writer and copyright holder.

    and what’s wrong with that, tom barger? it is very one-sided debate when consumption of content is deemed to trump the interests of original artists and authors.

    Why would anyone want to allow copying and distribution technologies to be controlled by a small group of people. Let’s say I’m at a parade, and the cops start smashing some guys head for being not clapping when the governor walked by. Fortunately, I caught it all on video tape. I would throw it up on a p2p network. You can still do that here in the USA, but in North Korea? (or China?)

    drewb this is hardly worth commenting on, except to point that such silly hyperbole dimishes whatever else useful you might have to say.

    As far as I understand, rivalrous simply means that there is a quantifiable amount of the said “resource”. In other words, the resource can be depleted/controlled by a being/group in possession of it.

    not quite peter rock.

    a resource is said to be rivalrous when one person’s use of it competes with that of another’s. rivalrous assets can of course be depleted or spoiled.

    a non-rivalrous asset, on the other hand, is that which cannot be depleted or spoiled. it is something which can be shared with others without reducing the benefits available to anyone. (see jefferson’s eloquent quote posted by will above.)

    as we explained earlier, jefferson didn’t get it (which puts you in good company.)

    what file copying (sharing is a misnomer. since you never have to relinquish your original copy, you are not sharing) diminishes is the economic power which is the sole reason that copyright exists

    while we agree entirely that the sound recording itself is non-exhaustible and does not dimish, the economic advantage of holding the copyright on it IS exhausted and dimished.

    copyright is unquestionably a rivalrous economic asset.

    /end of lesson.

    Rather than enlightenment for all, the primary goal is enrichment of owners. The theory behind this is that then everyone will want to be an owner of something so they can enrich themselves, thus society will be advanced. This is the “trickle-down” theory writ large.

    rob here you sound like someone who has nothing in his wardrobe but che guevara tee-shirts.

    But I have to say to you, when chord progressions are patented and copyrighted, if we allow chords themselves to be patented, innovation in music WILL cease.

    well another tiresome slice of hyberbole, but closer to reason than you have yet come.

    yes, of course, if chords are patented or copyrighted then those who want to use these may be influenced.

    but, of course, this provides a great incentive to create new chords.

    your statement seems to assume that there are no chords left to invent, or that society would not benefit from the invention of new chords – a questionable assertion at best.

    getting back OT, it is lamentable that professor lessig (no stranger to hyperbole himself) characterizes this editorial as “insanely poor” when it simply represents another perfectly valid point of view – and one shared by us mice.

    there do not appear to be any errors in fact (except that which drebw pointed out) and while favorable to the RIAA it is also favorable to the views of many people – including us mice.

    the professor likes throwing bombs, but these should not be wasted here where there is little dissent to crush and three blind mice each with nine lives to take out.

  • James

    “An insanely poor editorial”

    Some of us are old enough to remember the Soviet Union, which had a habit of labeling its political opponents “insane” (and sending them off for “treatment”). Is it not possible to respectfully disagree with those who hold differing views on copyright issues without questioning their mental stability?

  • http://www.ime.usp.br/~is/ Imre Simon

    I would like to point it out that the fact that the NYT got it so absurdly wrong is a clear indication of the high complexity of the questions involved in this controversy. It is an indication also of how fierce and unrelenting this battle might become, whatever the ruling of the Supreme Court will be.

    Endless turnabouts and discussions will take place before the society, as a whole, arrives at some kind of consensus on these issues! Curiously, the Internet itself might very well become the major communication outlet in the process of forming such a consensus.

    Clear thinking leaders, like Lessig, are essential at this moment and I can only applaud their efforts to clarify the complex issues at hand and to help to organize the discussions. Kudos and thank you!

  • http://www.ime.usp.br/~is/ Imre Simon

    I would like to add two comments to the non-rivalrous discussion.

    First, there is a very old and absolutely wonderful citation by Saint Augustine (354-430) which should be better known than it is (I thank Ricardo Ueda for bringing this citation to my attention):


    I’m feeding your minds when I speak.
    If I were bringing you food for your stomachs, you would divide it up among
    yourselves, and it wouldn’t all get to each of you; but you would divide up
    what I set before you into the more portions, the more of you there were;
    and the greater the number of those receiving it, the less each would get.
    Whatever I speak, it’s all there for all of you, and all there for each of
    you.

    Saint Augustine (354-430)

    My second observation is due to Stephen Weber, of “The Success of Open Source” fame. He points it out that ideas (and software and intellectual goods in general) are not only non-rivalrous but they are what he calls anti-rivalrous. By this he means that not only your use of them does not interfere or diminish my use of them but actually your use of them enhances my use of them. There are very strong network externalities involved in the dissemination process of such goods.

    One could go even further and question the wisdom of intellectual property, as we know it, which tends to ignore the role of the users in assigning value to these goods and gives an excessive power to the author or creator of the goods. Every user of these ideas (or software or whatever) who uses and evaluates them is adding to its value but our current institutions are such that it is assumed that his part in the value created collectively is rigorously null or perhaps even negative (every user is assumed to pay for it). Very unjust, indeed!

  • http://drewb.com/ drewb

    tbm:

    drewb this is hardly worth commenting on, except to point that such silly hyperbole dimishes whatever else useful you might have to say.

    What can I say? Extreme examples help me think. Here’s a real life example.

    Major media found the Rodney King story sensational enough to draw a sizeable audience, so it was given airtime. But, given a different era, that may have been easily covered up (again, PRC, PRK, USSR, Hitler’s Germany, Mississippi, USA during the 60s). P2P is a vital tool in preventing this ability to control and conceal information. For me, that’s a significant non-infringing use.

  • http://slashstar.com/tim Tim Marman

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with the last three paragraphs – I just don’t think you need to overturn the betamax standard to achieve the goals they set out.

    From the Creative Commons FAQ:

    “Is Creative Commons against copyright?

    Not at all. Our licenses help you retain your copyright while allowing certain exceptions to it, upon certain conditions. In fact, our licenses rely upon copyright for their enforcement — just like the GNU General Public License. The justification for intellectual property protection (under U.S. law, at least) is the “promot[ion of] the progress of science and the useful arts.” We want to promote science and the useful arts, too, and believe that helping creators fine-tune the exercise of their rights to suit their preferences helps do just that.”

    I wrote more about this here: http://slashstar.com/blogs/tim/archive/2005/03/29/Grokster.aspx

  • nixflix

    Like others, I don’t understand why the NYT editorial must be maligned as “insanely poor” simply because it takes the opposiing position to Prof. Lessig and others. Unless, of course, Prof. Lessig meant it was written poorly.

  • Rob

    the mice felt the need for an ad-hominem attack:

    you sound like someone who has nothing in his wardrobe but che guevara tee-shirts.

    Come now, I was making a point in the spirit of good debate; instead of debating the merits of my position you decide to dismiss me (I presume) as a Marxist revolutionary. You made absolutely no refutation of my analysis of your position, which I can only take to mean that you have no real arguments against me. I feel so validated now.

    your statement seems to assume that there are no chords left to invent, or that society would not benefit from the invention of new chords – a questionable assertion at best.

    Incorrect. My statement assumes that there are a finite number of possible chords, or if they are infinite (I’m not a musician) there are a finite number of them that have “economic value” as you put it, and that being the case inevitably we will come to a point where all of them have been patented and/or copyrighted. Just like the closing of the frontier. At that point, entrepreneurialism fails as a driver of innovation (except for those holding the patents and copyrights and those who are scofflaws). Then what, coach?

    Oh, and it’s the cats who have nine lives.

  • http://www.bestkungfu.com Matt May

    I think this bit is priceless:

    [T]hey may have to finance their work in troubling ways, like by building in product placements or taking money from donors with agendas.

    Yes, the free market has certainly protected the consumer from feature-length advertisements and movies made with money from questionable sources. Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Battlefield Earth, for example.

    How disappointing. Such an clear appeal to fear. I could swear they taught about fallacies in journalism school.

  • Rob

    Spot on Matt, I just was going to comment on that passage myself. Yes, what a tragedy if they had to stoop to such lowly means of financing.

    Journalism is in a crisis right now; maybe it has been for the past 20 years or so, but it seems particularly prominent now. All the scandals, Jayson Blair, Armstrong Williams, the guy who wasn’t really a reporter but got White House press credentials; what does it mean to be a journalist today? If you write a story critical of the right, it’s “liberal media bias”; if you write one critical of the left, it’s “conservative propaganda”. Nobody trusts anyone now to be an authoritative source of accurate news reporting, unlike back in the days of Cronkite, Brinkley and Huntley. Everyone is assumed to have a hidden agenda, or to be pressured by parent corporations to only report one way or the other.

    Editorials like this only tend to confirm that assumption.

  • Branko Collin

    From the article:

    Get Free Access
    Register for NYTimes.com.

    • Complete New York Times articles
    • Up-to-the-minute breaking news
    • In-depth multimedia presentations

    It’s free and it only takes a minute!”

    OK, so they don’t quite “get” the net, but to call it “insanely poor”? Oh, and nowhere on that page a mention of Grokster to be seen.

  • Rob
  • Rob

    Woops.

    NYT article

  • http://questiontechnology.blogs.com Kevin

    I would love to see a calm rebuttal to the NYT editorial. The fact is that the screaming “copyfighter” radicals drown out the more reasoned voices and turn off people who would probably agree with them if they knew more.

  • Ed Lyons

    Well, this kind of editorial is far too common. It involves a subject that has suddenly, and briefly been thrust into the limelight, but has not been covered regularly by most journalists. So the editorial writers read a news story or a press release, and shoot from the hip. It was much easier and more familiar to see this as stealing vs. property rights, so they did so. I imagine that if they had 15 minutes with an expert from each side, they would adopt Professor Lessig’s position.

    The fact that so many people with a cursory understanding don’t get it is why we’re losing this battle against the copyright holders. As Professor Lessig has said in print many times, if this debate gets framed as stealing vs. property rights, we’ll lose.

  • Karl

    “The founders wrote copyright protections into the Constitution”

    There is an amendment in the constitution regarding copyright protections?

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    I’m not understanding why Lawrence’s use of the descriptors “insanely” and “poor” are coming into question. Keep in mind that the article has not clearly published a natural attribution. The attribution is artificial – similar to that of several anonymous posters on this blog. Sorry, but if you are going to take the role of Anonymous Coward (especially in the NY Times!), you have to expect sharp, critical, hyperbolic statements from readers. If one really was interested in finding out the truth of the matter, one would not hide under anonymity in any form.

    Given the context – that the writer(s) ha(ve)s taken on the identity of “editorial” and not offered up a forum for rebuttal – I believe criticism of the “insanely poor” claim is not warranted at all.

    I mean in all honesty – the article was propaganda – which is why the individual(s) who wrote it will never come forth to claim so.

    In actuality, Lawrence’s “insanely poor” was a rather polite way of saying “bullshit”. He should be lauded for his grace and restraint if anything. I mean really, the article was utter rubbish.

    Condemnation is rarely a positive way to communicate – but when such “editorials” and posters take the role of specter – I see no problem with it and actually encourage it.

  • Karl

    There are only a finite number of chords, considering there are very real, and definite limits to an instrument’s ability to reach octaves. A piano has 6 to 8, a cello or violin only has 3 octaves.

    Not to mention that there is a defnite well defined range of human hearing so it would be pointless to invent higher or lower octaves because no human being could hear them.

    Not to mention chords are different for each instrument, a piano chord can have four notes, sometimes five. Technology had to be invented so that they could hit more notes for a chord by lifting the mutes of the previous keys when they were struck. Still with only 6 to 8 octaves there is only a finite number of keys.

    There is a very real and finite number of ways to create a five minute song, although the number is so big that it defies human comprehension, it still is less than infinity.

  • Rob

    There is an amendment in the constitution regarding copyright protections?

    Not an amendment, but a clause in Article 1 Section 8 that is oft-quoted around here.

    “The Congress shall have Power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

    The Supreme Court has interpreted the word “limited” to mean any finite numerical figure, which can be changed at any time by act of Congress. Which our host needlessly beats himself up about from time to time.

    Thanks for the explanation of the finite nature of musical chords. Vanilla Ice was sued by Queen and David Bowie (or more accurately, his label was sued by their label) for “plagiarising” the bass line from “Under Pressure” for his breakthrough hit “Ice Ice Baby”. It never got in front of a jury (hmm, wonder why) as the labels settled out of court. Later I didn’t hear a peep in the news when Montel Jordan “borrowed” the track behind Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” for his breakthrough “This Is How We Do It”. But let some independent person try to do such a thing, like DJ Danger Mouse with his “Grey Album”, and watch the C&Ds fly. This is the world of ultimate protection that the mice are so enamored of.

    Scary stuff, if you’re on the outside looking in.

  • Joe

    Lessig must not read the Times much if he thinks this was bad.

  • FrF

    One of the other sites on my blogroll referenced this link, too, but with a completely different slant. Coolfer writes:

    I don’t recall ever reading such a fair, reasonable take on the issue in any of the New York publications.

  • http://dominik.net/ Dominik Rabiej

    The Times article Gareth linked hits the rebuttal square on the head:


    But the roughly 10 per cent of �legal� file-swapping on these networks allows programmers to swap code, academics to exchange learned papers and little-known musicians to gain a fan base. Why should the music industry be able to close such communications channels? Just because technology comes along and disrupts existing business models, should copyright owners not find clever ways to adapt, rather than suing 12-year-olds and fighting software developers in court?

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    To Three Blind Mice,

    You are unrealistic. It is too easy for you to say to
    come up with new chords when the existing chords are
    patented or copyrighted than you actually try to do it.
    I would challenge you to do that but I know that you
    will never be able to satisfy my challenge because no
    one lives in vacuum.

    Do you ever wonder why the patent term is much shorter
    than the copyright term? In the U.S., patent term last
    for 20 years. That is less than three tenths of
    life-plus-70 years in copyright term. Try to answer
    the question.

    You seem to have double standard on greed. While you
    have a point that the habitual infringers are too greedy
    and lazy to pay for the copyrighted works that they
    habitually infringe and damage the reputation of the
    majority who abide by the copyright law, you seem to
    sanctify the greed on the part of authors and artists.
    It is okay for the authors and artists to be greedy
    but it is not okay for the users to be greedy. Copyright
    system is a very powerful incentive system that propels
    would-be-authors and artists to make their works available
    to the public. That sounds good for the public. But,
    authors and artists do not want to have their greed
    in check. The longer their greed lasts, the more poisonous
    and deadly they become to the public (greed is one of the
    seven deadly sins). It seems that you actually encourage
    that. What is your sense of balance?

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  • three blind mice

    and here a “sanely rich” editorial by dick armey appearing in the washington times.

    Taking something for free that you would otherwise have to pay for is called stealing.

    this is common sense wisdom.

    but wait, it gets better!

    Grokster doesn’t just turn a blind eye to the theft � what I’d call willful ignorance � but encourages it in order to make millions of dollars in advertising revenues each year based on the number of people who steal copyright-protected property. There is little dispute that more than 90 percent of the activity that Grokster profits from is illegal. And their profits rise in direct proportion to the amount of theft. That’s a racket worthy of Tony Soprano.(emphasis added)

    bada bang, bada bing.

  • http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ Alan De Smet

    three blind mice: You’ve completely missing my point. Worse, you’ve assumed something wrong about my beliefs. Perhaps I was too brief, I’ll try to be more clear.

    Throughout human history (and pre-history) humanity has moved to make it easier to share information. The development of language made it easier to share information with others. The development of writing made it possible to share information when you’re not immediately present. Mail systems made it possible to transmit information over long distances. Printing made it possible to share information with large numbers of people (relatively) inexpensively. Telegraphs (and later telephones) made it possible to share information quickly over great distances.

    Thanks to the internet, we can now share textual information for almost no cost. Audio information is relatively cheap. Video is still moderately expensive, but the price continues to fall. Tools like BitTorrent mean I can afford to host video information much less expensively.

    Ultimately: humanity as a whole continues to make it easier to share information. We like sharing information. It’s gotten increasingly easier to do so. In the absence of external forces (primarily regulation) it will continue to do so.

    This is what “information wants to be free” means. It doesn’t mean that information isn’t valuable. It’s doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t restrict the flow of information. It doesn’t mean information doesn’t have a price.

    This isn’t a moral statement; it’s an observation. Someone who wants to keep information scarce should heed it as a warning. Indeed, in a sense the phrase “Water seeks its own level” is a warning as well. A civial engineer designing a dam must keep it in mind. Letting the water flow down the river is easy and cheap. Stopping it requires massive initial expenditures and continuous work to maintain. The same goes for intellectual property. Information tends to escape. As they say, “Two men can keep a secret, if one is dead.” To restrict the flow of information we have a complex set of laws and legal system. We can all sorts of DRM systems. We have complex contracts and end user license agreements. We have trade secrets, patents, copyright, trademarks, and more. We have lawyers who have dedicated their lices to intellectual property.

    And, _I approve_. I like dams, and I like copyright law. (To be fair, I think it could use some tweaks, but on the whole, I like it.) Both are fighting uphill battles, but some battles are worth fighting, even if they’re hard.

    Denying “information wants to be free” is like denying “water seeks its own level.” You’re missing a key observation. Without the observation that water seeks its own level, you’ll never build a successful dam. Without the observation that information wants to be free, you’ll never build an effective copyright system.

  • three blind mice

    alan de smet, with all due apologies, we think we understood exactly what you meant, but yes we did misunderstand entirely your take. when everyone is shooting at you sometimes innocent bystanders get capped in the cross-fire. apologies to you for that.

    perhaps our reply was also unclear.

    your observation is entirely correct and indeed insightful. we don’t disagree. from gutenburg to grokster advancements in technology have made it easier to copy and “share” information. the internet is the asymptotic result of a few hundred years of non-linear innovation in technology. engineers have strived and will continue to strive to invent better ways to “share” information.

    but this isn’t quite the same thing as society making it easier to share information. as you no doubt understand, copyright has ALWAYS been the brake on the illegal USE of technology to undermine the property rights of original creative authors and artists. there is nothing new about this.

    we maintain (with a slight clarification): copyrighted information does not want to be free – but agree with you that advances in technology make containment harder and harder.

    and here’s the rub. the claim that copyright “harms” innovation or technology is at it’s core an absurdity. it is the behaviour of technology users – and NOTHING else – that is to blame.

    the silly sad fact of the this whole P2P thing is that it ain’t the RIAA who are threatening grokster, it is the people who use and it abuse it for illegal purposes. they will be the ones to blame when it is silenced. no one else.

  • Rob

    and what the content industry is trying to do is block the dam so no water flows out of it, unless the towns downstream pay them for it; and they’d like to have a government-patrolled chain-link fence around it so people don’t sneak in and build their own pump station or use water trucks to sneak water out without paying.

  • http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ Alan De Smet

    three blind mice: I suspect we’re just arguing semantics here. Ultimately “information wants to be free” is a just a catchphrase, a way of summarizing a key aspect to a complex issue. Taken as “information tends to escape” or “it’s darn hard to stop information from spreading”, then even works protected by copyright “want” to be free. But your point is well taken.

  • three blind mice

    rob, we can’t argue with that. that’s a fair and accurate analogy of our position. we would have sharks with friggin laser beams too.

    but if extend your analogy a bit further you might also observe that the tight controls on the existing water supply do not prevent you from seeking out (or creating) your own independent water supplies, building your own dams, and doing the same thing to your downstream consumers.

    in fact, such tight controls might thought even ENCOURAGE you to engage in this sort of activity.

    imagine.

    more water, more dams, more choice for consumers of water….

    the terrible nightmare scenario.

  • three blind mice

    doh!

    in fact, such tight controls might [perish the] thought even ENCOURAGE you to engage in this sort of activity.

    oh, and thanks everyone for a good discussion and a good healthy thread. as usual, an impressive load of talent in here.

    to be continued.

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    To Three Blind Mice,

    Bad news for you!

    You have just infringed someone’s copyright. That
    someone is Richard K. Armey. I will let the math tell
    you why.

    Richard K. Armey’s opinion in The Washington Times has
    810 words. You have stolen…oops…quoted his 92
    words. That is about 11%. That is not bad. But, not
    every word in his article has equal weight. Some
    words carry more weight. The fact that you stole his
    essential, valuable words instead of his trivial words
    increases the value of 11% greatly.

    What’s more, you are exploiting his labor that he put
    in choosing valuable words. All you have contributed
    to your comment is measly 30 words. That is one third
    of the words that you stole from Richard K. Armey.

    You better hurry up and pay him for using his valuable
    words. You may consider paying 50 cents for each of
    his valuable words. That amounts to $46.00. A
    letter of apology is advisable.

    Finally, learn to abide by copyright law.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  • http://stark-effect.com David Dixon

    I wonder if three blind mice would have used the same arguments thirty years ago about the availability of blank cassette tapes.

    I have a whole monologue about the positive pressure free sharing puts on artists and music fans, but I’m still working on it for next week’s “Signal or Noise II” conference.

  • Eric D W

    TBM=”rob, we can’t argue with that. that’s a fair and accurate analogy of our position. we would have sharks with friggin laser beams too.

    but if extend your analogy a bit further you might also observe that the tight controls on the existing water supply do not prevent you from seeking out (or creating) your own independent water supplies, building your own dams, and doing the same thing to your downstream consumers.

    in fact, such tight controls might thought even ENCOURAGE you to engage in this sort of activity.

    imagine.

    more water, more dams, more choice for consumers of water….

    the terrible nightmare scenario.”

    Isn’t that exactly what P2P software is attempting to do? You yourself said it, they’re not distributing only copyrighted materials.

    If you take a step back and view the situation as a whole, rather than arguing each detail, you’ll notice that grokster is not the one violating the law, but rather some of their users are. Holding grokster accountable for the actions of their consumers is an absurd idea, despite the rise in lawsuits against manufacturers for consumer misuse of products.

    As a side not, the music industry claims that 90% of materials shared via grokster are copyrighted, thus breaking copyright law. What that doesn’t take into account are the copyrighted materials being shared for completely legitamate reasons. I can provide several scenarios for you, if you’d like. In fact here’s one to wet your whistle.

    I have a friend who has only a laptop as a personal computer. He does not have a cd burner on his laptop, so he downloads the music he has purchased on CD via file sharing networks, for back-up copies and for his mp3 player. You might try to argue, with a bit of stretching, that this is still against copyright law, but that would be senseless and a bit absurd.

  • Ed Lyons

    I’m not comfortable that Grokster is making money primarily from the illegality. (Sure, copy machines could be used to duplicate books, but does anyone think Xerox made it big solely because people were photocopying books? Grokster’s advertising formula success depends on illegal activity and that doesn’t rub me the right way) Grokster is saying that they don’t encourage people to break the law. But their ad revenue depends on it. It’s kind of like cigarette companies claiming that they don’t want kids to start smoking. But if they didn’t (no one starts smoking after 19) they would make no money.

    I predict that in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court will issue a new “viable business” test for software: if the companies making content-related software could be a viable business without infringement, they get to stay in business. If not, their activity is illegal.

  • KirbyMeister

    It’s pretty funny seeing Joseph Pietro Riolo and The Mice we’re trying to UnBlind here duke it out. One of them believes the GPL is too restrictive, the other one believes that everything should be owned. It’s like seeing two ends of a spectrum.

    Eric D W: thanks for reminding us that we should be moonshining instead of bootlegging, and that not all the beer is alcoholic. :)

    three blind mice: I wonder, you say that having everything shared would lead to some cultural armageddon, and there could be a small drop in new culture while everything adjusts, however, do you oppose people making free-as-in-freedom ‘information’? Saying that having them sharing their stuff leading to cultural armageddon doesnt count as a response.

  • Rob

    Ed Lyons:

    That might prevent companies from developing P2P filesharing software, but it would still be able to be developed by not-for-profit individuals and released as FOSS. It would turn into whack-a-mole for the content industry (which arguably is what they are facing anyway) just like it was before these companies existed.

    mice:

    There’s no point in me building a new dam downriver if yours blocks all the water.

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    To Eric D W,

    The actions that you listed are permissible only
    if the original music is lawfully placed on network.

    I am not on Three Blind Mice’s side but copyright
    is about control over copies. Even though the music
    that is unlawfully placed on network is totally
    identical to the music on CD that you lawfully
    purchased, it is still illegal to make a copy of
    the first music. The proper way it so copy directly
    from the CD that you lawfully purchased as long as
    the copy is permitted by copyright law and court
    rulings.

    Just because an illegal copy is totally identical
    to legal copy does not make the illegal copy legal.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  • KirbyMeister

    Joseph: When the mice are saying seek out your own independant water supply, they mean a new work, not a copy of a non-free work.

    FREE != PRICE

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    To KirbyMeister,

    Huh? I don’t understand what you are talking
    about.

    I was commenting on three actions that Eric D W
    listed: downloading music, making back-up copies,
    and playing music on MP3 player. It seems that
    Eric made a wrong assumption that just because
    you have CD that you lawfully purchased, you can
    download any music from anywhere on the network
    as long as it is identical to the music on CD.

    Three Blind Mice are very inept in using analogy.
    They continue to confuse tangible things with
    intangible things because they are blind to the
    subtle differences between them. It is very old
    argument.

    Three Blind Mice made a false assumption that
    there will be infinite supply of new water which
    is not true. Also, they made a false assumption
    that two physically separate tangible things
    (i.e., two separate dams) can’t have same intangible
    things (i.e. both dams can be identical in shape,
    color, and other architectural features).

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  • Rockwalrus

    Imagine living in a world ran by the three blind mice. The people there would have to spend 98% of their income for water, paid to one of the handful of people lucky enough to have inherited all the land where the major and minor sources of water can be found. The people are free to choose their feudal lord, of course, to risk pirating some other waterright owner’s aquifer by digging a well, or to start a new legitimate water business by yelling at the clouds “I hereby command all the rain to fall RIGHT HERE!”, but surprisingly, most still for some reason seem discontent.

    Fortunately, music is a welcome retreat. The Rodent Innovation Advancement Association holds the patents on most of the commonly imitated chords, such as the tonic and the dominant, but they are perfectly willing to licence their usage for a reasonable fee. For instance, an artist, whose music contains an instance of the cliched I-IV-V-I pattern need only pay $20000 in advance plus 10% of gross revenue. Those so unoriginal as to use more common chords pay more, so as to encourage more innovation.

    As Western music only contains a relatively small number of chord forms, all of them were quickly patented. Owners of resonant chords, such as the Augmented Seventh Chord Association for Progress tend to do better than those who own dissonate chords, but this is all for the good of encouraging innovation, especially innovation in the field of somehow obtaining the existing patents on resonate chords.

    Obviously, all this serves to encourage innovation. Artists not hand-picked by the cross-licenced chord cartel are generally unable to afford traditional music scales, and so are forced to create their own microtonic systems in which to innovate their own chords. Since a mere change in notation is not enough to circumvent a chord patent, and the properties of chords being based solidly in easily understood and exploited physical and psychological properties, the music produced by these entrepenuers is less costly but truly vomitous; still it would be impossible to say that such excrible cacophy is not innovative. It is important to realize that scourge of derivative chords must be carefully controlled.

    Inexplicably, the most popular song amoung the mice’s citizens is “I’m So Thirsty,” accompanied entirely by drums.

  • http://mimir.silverfir.net nordsieck

    I think that one of the fundamental mistakes that is being made in the “intellectual property” debates is that so-called intellectual property is not actual property.

    To get a good handle on it – simply look at what would happen in an absense of government. Property rights remain unchanged – people have property because they secure physical things by one means or another.

    What about copyright? There is no such thing. Copyrights and Patents are created by governments to stimulate the creation of ideas. Although they can masquerade as property – copyrights and patents can be sold, qualify as “work for hire”, etc. – they are not a “natural right”.

    Since “intellectual property” is actually a set of rights granted by society in exchange for a benefit – increased creativity as well as access to that creativity, society should be able to get the greatest return on its concession. The change in profit that a content creator makes is irrelevant to the discussion as said profit is not based on a natural right, but on a consession by society.

  • Joseph Pietro Riolo

    To nordsieck,

    The definition of property is greatly determined
    by the context that it is used in. Within in
    your context, property can be defined as a bundle
    of rights (google on “property is a bundle of
    rights”). These rights could not have existed
    without a government formed by people. So, I
    disagree with your statement that the property
    rights even remain when there is no government.

    One good evidence that supports my position is
    that the concept of property is not universal.
    Not all societies through history have the concept
    of property. It is only the rise of individualism
    that the concept of individual property becomes
    more important.

    The only thing that remains the same when a government
    disappears is the physical matter itself. A rock
    remains a rock in spite of governments. But the
    concept of ownership (that property is based on) over
    the rock is greatly determined by the government or
    society that happens to cover the area where the
    rock is.

    I don’t have problem with the concept of intellectual
    property rights. It is a good antidote against the
    mythical natural and moral rights that many authors
    and artists claim to have. But, the problem is that
    some people like Three Blind Mice try to make
    intellectual property rights equivalent to
    real property rights.

    There are many kinds of rights we have. We have
    non-property rights and property rights. Under
    the category of property rights, we have real property
    rights, personal property rights, and intellectual
    property rights. People who do not know the
    distinction between categories of rights are doomed
    to confuse them and make some wild or unrealistic
    assertions about their rights just like Three
    Blind Mice who asserts that authors and artists
    have perpetual intellectual property rights just
    like perpetual real property rights (of course,
    being blind and selective they are, they do not want
    to say that intellectual property rights should be
    taxed every year just like the real property rights).

    It takes a lot of effort to remain vigilant against
    authors and artists and people who try to transform
    intellectual property rights into natural or moral
    rights. A good example is the right of attribution.
    It is interesting to note that those who support
    minimal exclusive rights as granted in copyright
    actually believe that right of attribution is an
    exception and that it is a moral right and it should
    be perpetual, beyond the end of copyright term.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo
    <riolo@voicenet.com>

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
    comment in the public domain.

  • Liam Rory O’Brien

    It seems to me some people here haven’t quite grasped the dichotomy between real property rights and intellectual property rights and why each are granted – on the one hand we have the information wants to/should always be free brigade whereas on the other there is the intellectual property should be the same as real property blind mice crew.

    Why are property rights used? Well the labour theory (which evolved from the writings of john locke) states that real property rights should be granted its to prevent the tragedy of the commons – if others are allowed to take the fruits of my labour it is impossible for me to recieve a return for the time and effort I put into, for example, growing some turnips.

    Someone taking my turnips is a ‘negative externality’ because if you take my goods I can’t have them and this will discourage observers from investing their time growing vegetables. To prevent these ‘negative externalities’ I am granted proprietary rights over my turnips and consequently can recover on my investment and perhaps even make a small profit.

    The difference between real property and intellectual property is that when someone downloads a song I have written I am not similarly discouraged from making music in the future. I can recover on my investment through live performances, cd sales or even selling t-shirts to those lucky enough to have heard the songs I have written!

    Once I have regained the costs I incurred whilst creating my album anyone who hears my music through whatever means can recieve a benefit without it having any negative effect on me! This is a positive externality and rarely occurs with real property.

    This is why we don’t need to use property rights to prevent free riding in the case of intellectual property and why the new york times piece is ‘insanely poor’ to hint that we do!

    In my opinion therefore intellectual property rights are only justified to the extent that artists are able to recoup their costs of expression and are encouraged to invest in producing new music and not to the extent that our short sighted rodent friends recommend in granting full property rights over intellectual property!

    It would be unjustified to restrict filesharing therefore because the artists affected by file sharing are still covering their costs through record sales, touring and the like.

  • http://www.robmyers.org/ Rob Myers

    copyright has ALWAYS been the brake on the illegal USE of technology to undermine the property rights of original creative authors and artists. there is nothing new about this.

    Since it is copyright that makes such use illegal, this is a circular argument.

    Possibly you mean immoral, but then that would not be an economic argument.

    And we’ve established that copyright is a property right? Strange property right. When I buy a house I don’t buy the right to prevent other people building houses.

    and here’s the rub. the claim that copyright “harms” innovation or technology is at it’s core an absurdity.

    It would certainly harm commerce. Imagine if Sony had lost Betamax. No multi-billion-dollar video sales industry…

    it is the behaviour of technology users – and NOTHING else – that is to blame.

    Yes. The people who use technology to make overpriced goods and to try to lock them down.

    Have you seen the MGM documents? DVDs have a much higher profit margin than the older technology of video tape. That is clearly blameworthy use of technology.

  • observer

    The water analogy fails.
    It is not water that is posing as content.
    One designs and builds a machine to draw water and collects a fee for the privilege of using the machine. Later, another one comes along and builds a machine designed to draw water, not from its source but from the operations of the original machine and without payment. It is the design of the original machine that is what is posing as content. The second innovator has built something that makes its profits through the illegal use of the first innovator’s creation. One can argue that sounds, words or the ability to see are the same as water or air for that matter, but musical composition, film, literature, images are not. They have been arranged.

    Same goes for building a house. Anyone can build their own house, but I’d like to see anyone get away with building a Frank Gehry design EXACT in detail, size and scale and do it freely. Would Gehry be trying to shut down every tool manufacturer out there?

    I can buy a book. I can sell that same book and even profit off the sale of that same book. What I cannot do legally – is use my printing press to make copies of the same book and sell those copies. Nor can I offer my printing press to others to come and make exact copies of someone else’s book. That shouldn’t make my printing press illegal; only my business that employs my press for illegal activity.