July 28, 2005  ·  Andy Scudder

I am Andy Scudder, a rising sophomore at the Unversity of Evansville, where I have been working to organize a FreeCulture.org chapter.

One of my friends at school got a shiny, brand-new Nikon D70 as a graduation gift and was, obviously, excited about the creative possibilities that it would provide. She already enjoyed browsing my photos on Flickr, so it was no surprise to me that she soon had an account of her own and started posting a few shots from her new camera.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the question she asked me a few days later.

“Can I make it so that people can’t print my pictures unless they have my permission?”

I tried to be helpful and tell her that she could keep people from seeing the original-sized images (and therefore only have access to images that wouldn’t be a suitable print resolution), but she persisted. To her, this was a legitimate question. Since she has no way of knowing who would view her pictures online and what they do with them, she felt that it would be in her best interest to “protect” her copyright by limiting what people could do with it. As she explained it, “I want people to look at my stuff. But I also want to know who has it. It is part of being an artist; you have to know who has your stuff.”

But to me, it was a dangerous question. If an artist wants to prevent someone from printing his or her work from their computer, then what other controls would we have to open our hardware, software, and very lives to if such technology existed and was widespread? This is all very reminiscent of the problems with Adobe’s e-book reader and its “permissions” system. The ability of software to arbitrarily determine what rights we should and should not have based on a few bits flipped in a file on the whim of the author or publisher reminds us that, as Lessig wrote:

On the Internet, however, there is no check on silly rules, because on the Internet, increasingly, rules are enforced not by a human but by a machine: Increasingly, the rules of copyright law, as interpreted by the copyright owner, get built into the technology that delivers copyrighted content. And the problem with code regulations is that, unlike law, code has no shame.

My concern from this encounter is not that my friend lost interest in Flickr, but that as an art student fresh out of college, she felt that control of what other people’s computers could and could not print was an essential feature of copyright. This is a dangerous idea for technology and the freedoms that it promotes, and if most artists hold the same concerns that my friend expressed, then DRM technologies would not only be common but the expected norm by artists.

How can we change this? It seems inevitable that if if we continue to educate our students about copyright with programs designed by the MPAA which do not reconcile for the changes to the creative landscape that digital technology and the Internet have enabled, then we will quickly lose our digital freedoms. Instead, we need to help artists understand the benefits of the digital world and why locking down their works in this landscape would not only hurt the patrons of their works, but the very creative freedoms that they enjoy.

  • http://www.ibiblio.org/studioforrecording/ Tom Poe

    Sounds to me like your friend is a very perceptive artist. When she licenses her images with the Creative Commons Project, and uploads them to a reputable repository, such as Archive.org, she has taken the first steps to embark on a successful Internet strategy. The “tagging” and permanent repository steps are critical for artists to become comfortable with having their works on the Internet, and knowing what folks do with their stuff.

    Once completed, anything else they do with their images can be categorized as a marketing or distribution task. Less critical, but just as important in some respects, is the placement of information on her web site about what she expects from those who view, enjoy, share her images. This information, combined with the creation of a digital age fan club, if-you-will, enables others to monitor the Internet for abuse of her images, and the ability to alert her to those abuses.

    It’s becoming more and more apparent, that whatever one puts up on their web sites, should also be available for purchase. If the visitors to a web site want to help support the work of someone like your friend, they should have the opportunity to purchase the same images, possibly a “deluxe” version that would have added value for the purchaser. Since there are sites like http://www.cafepress.com, which offer artists free online store fronts, there’s little excuse not to provide this opportunity, regardless of what the artist, author, musician does in other areas of their Internet strategy.

    Knowing what folks do with your stuff is a whole lot easier, when you have the Internet available, I think.

  • rich

    If you want artists to not be afraid to lose commercial control of their work via the only venues currently available to them, you have to create new venues. For all the work the free culture movement has done trying to educate artists about the DRM, there has been very little work done about how one goes about (in practice, not in theory) making a living via Creative Commons licensed things that have no practical DRM controls built in. I suspect that, unless and until that aspect of the movement gets equal attention (or, at the very least, equal publicity) you’re going to find a lot of artists with attitudes similar to your D70 bearing friend.

  • http://darkauthority.blogspot.com Adrian Lopez

    This seems to be the way the Internet is headed, and it’s a real shame. Given Microsoft’s support of DRM technology in its upcoming operating system (Vista), we face a frightening prospect. Imagine an Internet where you need the copyright holder’s permission to print a webpage, save an image, transfer a file to a friend’s computer, or copy and paste some document into a school report.

    We are facing a sort of “permission culture” that will ruin the Internet as we know it unless we do something about it today. We must refuse to support those who would use our own machines against us to support their private interests.

  • poptones

    Again with the “dangerous?”
    You’re right – DRM is dangerous. But not in the way you describe. The type of DRM you describe is already in place – for example, Getty images watermarks everything they make available. So do some of the other press oriented photo shops and I have yet to hear about this causing someone’s civil rights to be violated.

    Another publisher I know got sick of having their work posted to the newsgroups so they adopted on the fly watermarking – each image downloaded from their server now has all sorts of account info encoded into a noisy “film” over the image. Did this stop their images from being posted? Of course not – the folks who trade them just wait until their (anonymously purchased) account expires before posting them. Yet the publisher insists that marring their otherwise very lovely product with this noise is an important and effective countermeasure to “piracy!” In the end they may be right: I know many folks who refuse to subscribe to their services now because of the terrible quality of the published images.

    So, while they have lowered the “piracy” of their images they have also alienated part of their audience. Balance.

    Look: if I write a story or take a picture or sing a song or even write a computer program there is absolutely zero obligation on my part to share it with anyone. Copyright is only an incentive to share that work. If, in my sharing that work, I erect barriers around it of my choosing you have no more “right” to the work absent those barriers than you would had I not shared it at all. If publishing Crime and Punishment is an exercise in free expression, so it publishing an encrypted version that no one can read. In fact I will bet you someone does (or has already done) exactly this as a statement about free expression and cryptography.

    If I publish an encrypted ebook at least some people of my choosing can still access it. Is this better than none at all? It doesn’t matter, you have no right to decide for me; it is my creative expression.

    And if one of my trusted friends are able to overcome the barriers I have erected around the work then I also have no means of preventing them from republishing that work anonymously in a more accessible format. Again: balance.

    If the MPAA and the RIAA are seen as bullies by their market, the people in that marketplace will have incentive to look elsewhere for their “culture.” This is a good thing and a natural balance of the marketplace. Educating people is a fine thing, but railing against DRM as if it were a danger to society is not educating people. It’s the opposite, in fact – it’s spreading ignorance.

    The people who choose to make their work available without restriction will have greater access to the marketplace, and those erect walls around their courtyards will have less. This is the balance of free expression and privacy – and those same evil tools that enable Hollywood to lock down its latest Billion dollar blahbuster also will enable each of us to better secure our own privacy. It will better enable those dissidents to secure their internal communications channels.. why do you think China is so intent on producing its own (very likely backdoored out the wazoo) consumer DRM platform?”

    Your point seems akin to arguing against doors and locks and walls. Because people are abused in homes behind those locked doors, because wealth can be concentrated under lock and key, because people can communicate dangerous ideas privately, these are tools of oppression and should be denied a place in our society. If you choose to create such a society for yourself more power to you, but I somehow doubt you will find many willing to follow you to that place.

  • http://ansuz.sooke.bc.ca/ Matthew Skala

    I think situations like this one highlight a communication problem between computer people and the rest of the world. They ask: “Can I make it so nobody can print my stuff?” and we say “No, that is impossible.” They hear, “No, that would be bad for policy reasons, or we don’t want to tell you how, or it’s a technology yet to be developed, or something like that” – anything but “No, that is impossible.” They’re not prepared for the idea that the very concept of such a restriction is absurd, possibly because they’re accustomed to thinking of computers as magic and not expecting there to be any hard limits on what computers can do.

    We see it even in this forum, where I expect most readers to know better: ongoing debates of whether DRM, assumed to be effective, is a good idea, missing the point that that’s all a fantasy anyway because the concepts we’re debating the merits of don’t exist. It’s like holding a learned debate on licensing requirements for perpetual motion machines to protect the profits of the energy industry. We can debate the merits of fake DRM that doesn’t really work, but there’s no point talking about the moral and legal implications of DRM that actually works, because there’s no such beast.

    I’m rather pleased with an essay I wrote on this topic a while back entitled What Colour are your bits?, but we’ve still got a long way to go towards getting people to understand why “Can I make it so that people can’t print my pictures unless they have my permission?” is a silly question. It’s not just a bad idea; it’s impossible for reasons that should be obvious to any computer user; and I think we do ourselves a disservice by talking too much about the “bad idea” aspects when there’s the more important issue of “you need to understand why that is impossible”.

  • poptones

    We can debate the merits of fake DRM that doesn’t really work, but there’s no point talking about the moral and legal implications of DRM that actually works, because there’s no such beast.

    It would be absurd to debate the implications of flying machines intruding upon the privately owned airspace above our heads because such flying machines do not exist…

    Well, at least they didn’t.

    And then they did.

    I’m rather pleased with an essay I wrote on this topic a while back…

    I’m sure you are…

  • three blind mice

    The people who choose to make their work available without restriction will have greater access to the marketplace, and those erect walls around their courtyards will have less. This is the balance of free expression and privacy – and those same evil tools that enable Hollywood to lock down its latest Billion dollar blahbuster also will enable each of us to better secure our own privacy.

    well said, poptones. far from being evil tools of control, property rights form the foundation of the modern constitutional democracy. as winston churchill commented on the magna carta of 1215:

    “Magna Carta must not be dismissed lightly, in the words of a modern writer, as ‘a monument of class selfishness.’ Even in its own day men of all ranks above the status of villains had an interest in securing that the tenure of land should be secure from arbitrary encroachment. Moreover, the greatest magnate might hold, and often did hold, besides his estate in chief, parcels of land under the most diverse tenures, by knight service, by the privileges of “socage,” or as a tenant at will. Therefore in securing themselves the barons of Runnymede were in fact establishing the rights of the whole landed class, great and small – the simple knight with two hundred acres, the farmer or small yeoman with sixty.” (emphasis added)

    almost five hundred years before the enlightment introduced the concepts of free speech and representative democracy, the right of individuals to be secure in their property was the paramount concern of society. pity that people who today shout “freedom” the loudest seem not to know from where this freedom comes.

    Educating people is a fine thing, but railing against DRM as if it were a danger to society is not educating people. It’s the opposite, in fact – it’s spreading ignorance.

    again, well said. the debate over DRM touches on principles as old as the magna carta – and no less important to society.

    it would be nice if the shrill voices proclaiming DRM as the death of the internet might stop to consider that without DRM the internet will never thrive. without DRM the rich content of movies, music, photographs and literature that might breathe life into the machine – and which are so obviously desired by internet users – will never be legally available.

  • observer

    I’m glad to hear that your artist friend hasn’t been brainwashed (yet) into believing that giving up her prerogatives as an artist, and her sense of possession and ownership of the works she creates by dint of her unique creative vision and talent, is something that she must do if she wants to be part of the hip freeculture movement, in order to further your technoutopian dreams of sharing. I’m also glad to hear that she’d like to be able to know who has them, and who is selling them, and whatever else they’re doing with them.

    You’re darn right that it’s a dangerous question — because the artists themselves want to preserve their individuality, and freeculture.org are a bunch of techno-utopian anarchists who want to gradually chip away at that until it becomes meaningless. I hope she realizes that your alternative amounts to working for the State.

    You can’t have it both ways. You either protect the rights of individuals to own and sell and profit from their work, or you don’t. I hope she builds a website with DRM and sells some of her work, and makes people register to buy it and perhaps attend one of her gallery showings, and that you post the URL to her website here so that we can all learn about it.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jamesday James Day

    poptones,

    >>if I write a story or take a picture or sing a song or even write a computer program there is absolutely zero obligation on my part to share it with anyone. Copyright is only an incentive to share that work. If, in my sharing that work, I erect barriers around it of my choosing you have no more “right” to the work absent those barriers than you would had I not shared it at all.

    You’re right that you have no obligation to publish. Purely your choice, as it should be.

    Things change once you publish. Copyright is not a 100% monopoly granted to you in exchange for making the work available. Also part of the deal for your partial monopoly is a broad package of other capabilities for the whole of society, including first purchaser rights and fair use or fair dealing.

    Many of the terms of the deal are outlined in the US by 17 USC 106, which begins “Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to”. Note that very important “subject to” wording, which introduces the list of sections giving a whole range of things not part of the monopoly.

    By using a DRM solution you’d be undermining the balance of copyright law by shifting the deal to a greater than set out degree of monopoly.

    It’s understandable that some would want to deny society that chunk of the benefits it is supposed to be getting in exchange for the partial monopoly but it’s not something to praise. It’s comparable to a builder required to provide land for a park as part of a building project pouring salt into that ground so it can’t grow any grass.

    With respect, I’m not keen on people accepting a deal, then using DRM to deny society its part of the bargain.

  • poptones

    Things change once you publish. Copyright is not a 100% monopoly granted to you in exchange for making the work available. Also part of the deal for your partial monopoly is a broad package of other capabilities for the whole of society, including first purchaser rights and fair use or fair dealing.

    Tell ya what: go here and read about “fair use.” Read it exactly – and note that “fair use” does not, in any way, mean “right to make backups of my CDs and DVDs and books and LPs and cassettes.” It has been recognized by the court that such use, so long as it is limited to one’s personal use (not “one and a hundred thousand strangers”), is the most trivial of infringements – but it’s still an infringement. And SCOTUS has made the point that, so long as the publisher is making an effort to address the market in a fair manner, “makin’ copies” is not a “right” but simply a priviledge that is not practically enforceable.

    DRM can make it practical.

    “Fair use” (unless you are a bonafied library) depends entirely upon the media. You do not have the “right” to make a copy of the VHS tape you rented because you bought a beta deck and you want to see the pretty pictures, You do not have the “right” to copy the DVD you bought so you won’t have to buy another when it gets shredded any more than you have the right to make a “backup” of your paperback of Fight Club to save yourself another $3.95 in case you should drop your “original” in the toilet.

    If I never publish a word I have written I still own the copyright on the works and I can prosecute you if you manage to obtain my works and reproduce them without my consent… and this is as it should be. The only thing that changes once I publish is my work is “out there.” Does that mean I lose all rights to reproduction? No. Does that mean I am obligated to publish the work in a manner that best suits the marketplace? Absolutely not; if I wish, I can create an entire film and make it available only on flip books – in fact, such a limitation could well be an integral part of the work; reproducing it in more “convenient” form would be a corruption of my expression and a violation of those “moral rights” some here seem to favor (and apparently without a grasp of what the granting of such rights would even mean)!

    Copyright is too long – so change it. Copyright is too strict – so change it. Nothing you do is going to prevent the advent of DRM, however – nor should it.

    How many years have we, the technologically elite cried out for a reasonable electronic alternative to cash? DRM is technology that can free us from the tyranny of the credit banks. You want to talk about liberty and free expression? There is your platform. Only an utter fool would deny us all such a momentous technological leap forward simply because that same technology would make it harder for him to republish Madonna without her consent.

  • http://ansuz.sooke.bc.ca/ Matthew Skala

    It would be absurd to debate the implications of flying machines intruding upon the privately owned airspace above our heads because such flying machines do not exist…

    The difference is that flying machines can exist – they just might not at the moment. Working DRM really cannot exist. It’s like saying “I want to create a special number 45 that you cannot subtract 3 from.” Future research will not make it possible. A new discovery will not make it possible. It will never be possible to prevent everyone from calculating that 45 minus 3 is 42. Someone who wants to create a magic 45 from which 3 cannot be subtracted should not be told “That’s a bad idea.” Saying it’s a bad idea implies that it might be possible and there’s just disagreement about its advisability. They should be told “That can never be.” It doesn’t matter whether it would be a good thing or not; it’s not something we can have at all.

  • poptones

    Working DRM really cannot exist.

    Man will never be able to fly…

    Boy, did you swallow that one up to the sinker!

    BTW you’re right: there’s no magic 42… 43 is the magic number.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jamesday James Day

    poptones,

    Fair use is a discussion for another time. When it comes to cash, sadly, the freedom appears likely to be eliminated by technology, which may make it impossible to make anonymous payments in the future by making it practical to trace cash movement via tracking the IDs in each item of currency.

    Fortunately moral rights are pretty well recognised, except in the US for written works. Wikipedia.org tracks the most fundamental moral right, that of an author to be associated with their works, via the GFDL history section, which does multiple duty for that, license compliance and the copyright ownership tracking which would be needed to find out who are the copyright holders required to bring any infringment actions which become unavoidable. It’s at times been inconvenient for me, as one of the people responsible for maintaining that information, but moral rights are too important to neglect because of temporary inconvenience.

    Perhaps worth noting here that throughout my life, including today, almost all of my income has come from the production of works subject to copyright. I’m not hostile to copright, only to abuse and overreaching which reduce respect for it.

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

    If we assume for a moment that DRM could work (and people have argued with more convincing evidence than poptones has produced that it does not and cannot, see Microsoft on the “Darknet” for example. Yes, that Microsoft.), let us consider the kind of technology that this would produce.

    This is a technology that even if you have paid for it you would have to ask permission to use, that you would have to ask permission to program, that you would have to ask permission to use your media on, that you would have to ask permission to create anything with, that you would have to ask permission to use to share anything.

    No king or church ever had such power over human communication. No politburo or agency. This would not be a free society, this would be a permission society (to Lessig for a moment). I hope you don’t want to video your kid’s musical party games in future.

    The argument that we can trust the people by whose grace we would be allowed to rent such technology is shown to be false by the example of Apple, who continue to reduce the rights (actually increase the restrictions) on the media that people have “bought” from iTMS. Or by the eBooks that cannot be read by new versions of Acrobat.

    And if you believe that these are just hiccups on the way to getting this technology “right”, ask yourself who this technology will be got “right” for.

    As with so many issues we discuss on these comment pages, DRM is clearly designed to serve the middlemen. Not the creators. And certainly not the consumers. But it is such a frustration to consumers that the blowback may well have a chilling effect on the middlemen’s profits. Most people haven’t started hitting that three computer limit on iTMS songs yet.

    If we assume that the market works and that people buy things because they are better, what is better about the deliberate brokenness of DRM?

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

    For all the work the free culture movement has done trying to educate artists about the DRM, there has been very little work done about how one goes about (in practice, not in theory) making a living via Creative Commons licensed things that have no practical DRM controls built in.

    There’s an O’Reilley article that makes this point as well:

    The Commons Doesn’t Have a Business Plan

    It is a good point, and a cookbook or series of case studies would be good.

    One problem is that people generally don’t understand how musicians, artists and writers make most of their money. Only a tiny, tiny percentage actually make most of their money from CDs, paintings or novels. And that percentage is not always the best aesthetically speaking (sorry, Britney). CC licensing can help creatives build the reputation they need to make money in the real world rather than in the fantasy land of American Idol and blockbuster novels. Providing real-world examples of this is an important task.

  • http://www.democracynow.org/ Tayssir John Gabbour

    Andy, in my outreach experience (in totally different subjects), I find it’s refreshing and unusual to be completely honest. I learned that I don’t need to say (for example), “Copyright is BAD BAD BAD.” Rather, I tell them what I think intellectual property is — a monopoly enforced by some nanny state.

    We live in an imperfect world and are not often rewarded for doing wonderful things. Most of us buy clothes using sweatshop labor, and drive oil burners. So people should understand copyright is a tool in our arsenal that is unfortunately often necessary to use, in order to lead comfortable lives.

    I think when you’re this honest, you gradually earn more trust. And there’s something within people that can’t stand doing “bad things”; knowing the truth gives them a more effective perspective no matter what they choose to do.

    There are certainly ways your friend can keep in touch with fans. A discussion group, so they can voluntarily offer feedback and surround her with a potentially fulfilling community. I know authors who do this successfully.

  • poptones

    This is a technology that even if you have paid for it you would have to ask permission to use, that you would have to ask permission to program, that you would have to ask permission to use your media on, that you would have to ask permission to create anything with, that you would have to ask permission to use to share anything.

    The grand flaw here in your point is that you assume it is not already like that. I have related two personal anecdotes that make this case very well: we are already living in that world – and without a robust and universal means of protecting our privacy and securing our data we are defenseless in that realm.

    If you want to sell something online that Visa and Mastercard do not wish to subsidize then you are damned. And if you devise a method of going around their walls you are damned further – the USKGB will haul you off to an american prison for violating “money laundering” laws or “terrorism” laws or whatever they can invent (and hope they can invent something, lest you be hauled away to a prison in a place where “human rights” are not recognized at all).

    As things are now there is no reasonably reliable and convenient digital currency, nor can there be due to the weaknesses inherent in the present infrastructure. If a ubiquitous cryptographic platform existed that allowed remote attestation of credential to voluntary assignees (and thus far this is exactly the plan) then we have the foundation for creating an online “currency” that can be carried on our persons or stored online in servers of our choosing. That is not a barrier to liberty – it removes one more middleman from the path between you and me in our online transaction. It would allow one person to “wire money” to another in need as instantly and as securely and as privately as handing that person relatively anonymous physical currency.

    Can the system still be gamed? Of course, and there will be new rules to learn. Just as you do not hand over your cash to the drug dealer before making sure you’re not buying a bag of oregano, so too you would want to mind your transactions online. But the fact cash can be forged and checks can be forged does not refute their utility as relatively robust means of transacting business – a means presently wholly unavailable to those seeking a living in the online realm.

    The “permission culture” already exists and its implications go far, far beyond mere copyright. I know people who are presently dealing with this “permission culture” in their everyday lives as they are attempting to sell original works not “derived” from anyone but their person. But because their “distributor” is a webpage rather than a local vendor subject to local restrictions, the “king” from which they must beg permission is an ignorant tyrant residing on foreign soil. How is that, in any way, “Free culture?”

  • http://www.democracynow.org/ Tayssir John Gabbour

    Incidentally, I think Chuck D lays out the issues very knowledgeably in his intellectual property debate with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.

    With copyright, the nanny state enforces it with police, lawyers, fines and jail. I know Microsoft has a 3-letter organization, I think it’s called the BSA or KGB or something, which cultivates a network of informants to snitch on small businesses so they can raid their offices. Microsoft is the main guy people look to develop DRM; while there’s “good DRM,” they’re not likely to pursue it.

  • three blind mice

    …in my outreach experience (in totally different subjects), I find it’s refreshing and unusual to be completely honest. I learned that I don’t need to say (for example), “Copyright is BAD BAD BAD.” Rather, I tell them what I think intellectual property is — a monopoly enforced by some nanny state.

    well Tayssir John Gabbour, this doesn’t appear to be very honest or accurate. the “nanny state” is a pejorative term generally refering to a government (like the one here in the UK or in our other home in Sweden) having excessive control over health and welfare.

    the salient difference with intellectual property rights is that they are privately owned; the government is only the mechanism of enforcement.

    No king or church ever had such power over human communication. No politburo or agency. This would not be a free society, this would be a permission society

    Rob Meyers, like Tayssir John Gabbour, raising the spectre of big bad evil government, or corporations, may be a convenient rhetorical tool, but it obscures the important fact that IP rights arise from the rights of individuals: authors, artists, inventors.

    it is neither fair, nor honest, to couch this debate in terms of the rights of individuals versus “the government” when it more accurately should be a debate of individual rights versus individual rights.

    poptones raises some interesting points. free culture has decided that DRM is evil without considering that DRM may very well turn out to the enabling mechanism through which the goals of “free culture” are achieved.

    in addition to being a tool by which microsoft controls the use of its products (which you will remain free to choose not to use) DRM will also be a mechanism to enable individuals to trade their rights without the intervention of a third party – in the same way cash enables economic transactions to occur between individuals.

    the possibilities presented by this new paradigm are enormous. frankly, from our point of view, it is those who oppose DRM who are standing athwart history and progress saying STOP.

    you may notice that we have used words like “may very well turn out.” we are not hedging out bets, we are simply saying that to take such a firm position at this state of the game is premature. professor lessig is a smart guy, but he is not a prophet and his vision of the future is not sancrosanct.

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

    mice -

    The spectres of government, corporation or church have been less quiet of late, trying to restrict freedom across the West (UK-ID, DMCA/EUCD, UK Religious Hatred Act). The theocracies of the Middle East and the remaining Communist states of the Far East have been far more active. DRM is a gift to all these interests, not just those in liberal democracies.

    You raise the spectre of the romantic individual losing their “rights”. But DRM is a way of denying that individual exactly those rights. And DRM takes control and enforcement of those rights away from the individual’s state-given legal representation, giving them instead to a technology company that can change them on a whim.

    In DRM, who gives you your “rights”? Who manages and enforces them? Who have those rights, and that mechanism, been designed to serve?

    DRM serves distributors, serves institutions, first and foremost. This makes it opposed, in principle, to the interests of producers and consumers in the market. Pleading instead that it will serve individuals is a rhetorical technique that can be traced back to the time of the Statute of Anne.

    Incidentally, the idea that enforcable electronic “Intellectual Property” has great social potential is one that at least one Marxist agrees with. See Wark’s book that I mentioned, “A Hacker Manifesto”.

  • rodander

    An earlier post this week wondered how the freeculture movement could enlist more artists. Andy’s post shows that the current freeculture movement is not be able to do so. And until it respects creators of original artistic expressions more than it does derivers and mashers and copiers, it will never be able to do so.

  • poptones

    The spectres of government, corporation or church have been less quiet of late, trying to restrict freedom across the West (UK-ID, DMCA/EUCD, UK Religious Hatred Act).

    Where on earth do you live? Because I can tell you from the front lines: things are most definitely not “quiet” here in the South of the US.

    Right next door in Birmingham we have the local authorities trying desperately to make the case (and largely successfully) that any photographs taken of a child with her legs even slightly parted is an obscenity worthy of “the nanny state” threatening the integrity of the family unit (and you can imagine how this would play out for those trying to photograph junior varsity sport events like gymnastics or cheerleading). We have the tupelo wildman rallying the troops to boycott everyone from Disney to Ford simply because they recognize the rights of homosexuals to exist in our culture. Where I live there still is not even an over-the-air ABC television affiliate!

    Over in Texas we have a state representative passing legislation outlawing “lewd cheerleading” – meaning teenage girls are not allowed to “grind their hips” or “shake their booties” or any of those other things teenage boys find so motivating.

    Just north of that we have yet another state representative demanding medical records from abortion clinics for selected young women. They are justifying this by employing the now familiar bodysnatcher wail “protect the children from pedophiles” by claiming these underage girls who were in need of abortions have obviously been engaging in underage sex – which means the state prosecutor simply must bring their “rapists” to justice. Of course, this all has nothing at all to do with an agenda of restricting women’s reprpoductive rights in kansas… it’s only about “children” who were obviously “victims of pedophiles” (never mind that the records being subpoenaed are not of “children” at all but of older teens).

    And all over the place we have pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for “morning after” pills or even birth control pills on the grounds of “protecting life” – never mind most of those states support capitol punishment and some of them even extend this “priviledge” (after all, it saves them a lifetime behond bars) to minors and retardates.

    Quiet? Perhaps if one would remove one’s fingers from one’s ears one would not be quite so deaf to the last gasps of Liberty…

    DRM is a gift to all these interests, not just those in liberal democracies. The theocracies of the Middle East and the remaining Communist states of the Far East have been far more active.

    Ah, of course: DRM is a gift to the state interests of China. Too bad they don’t seem to realize this yet, as invention or even mere possession of encryption technology is entirely forbidden there to the non-elite. Perhaps we should send you there as ambassador to explain this to them: putting robust encryption in the hands of a half Billion potential dissidents and student radicals is really serving the interests of their oppressors!

    You raise the spectre of the romantic individual losing their “rights”. But DRM is a way of denying that individual exactly those rights.

    So is a size 11 boot to the neck.

    Bring on the DRM!

  • rodander

    poptones writes:

    “And all over the place we have pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for “morning after” pills or even birth control pills on the grounds of “protecting life”".

    poptones’ concept of Liberty is to force private individuals, namely pharmacists, to take action contrary to their deeply held personal and ethical beliefs. Or, apparently, to prohibit private citizens from organizing a commercial boycott, also based on personal beliefs.

    Who’s wearing the size 11 boot?

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

    Where on earth do you live? Because I can tell you from the front lines: things are most definitely not “quiet” here in the South of the US.

    poptones, “have been less quiet” means that they have not been quiet. I agree with your examples. I’m sorry if I was unclear.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jamesday James Day

    three blind mice,

    The nanny state fits, for it also includes welfare, both individual and corporate.

    One person has no inherent right to stop another person from doing the labor required to copy a book or anything else. It’s a completely artificial construct of copyright law intended to reward one person by restricting the normal right of the other person to expend their labor in any way they see fit, by creating a partial monopoly in that labor market, enforced by law.

    Since it is a government act which does things like prohibiting making copies of the Bible (can’t copy the King James Bible in England without permision from the state church) it’s unsurprising that the government is regarded as a major player. Similarly, publishers have long been going to the government to get laws changed to modify the terms of their copyright bargain retroactively.

  • poptones

    poptones’ concept of Liberty is to force private individuals, namely pharmacists, to take action contrary to their deeply held personal and ethical beliefs. Or, apparently, to prohibit private citizens from organizing a commercial boycott, also based on personal beliefs.

    i said no such thing.

    I point out those cases only to make clear that ignorance and zealotry is more widespread in this nation than ever… and it is coming to a police force near you.

  • rodander

    poptones: not to get into a back-and-forth so as to bore everyone else, but that is exactly what you meant. How dare anyone believe such things as the pharmacists and boycotters do, much less take (private) action.

    Of course, whatever you happen to believe is well-founded, rational, and completely reasonable. Anyone who doesn’t agree with you cannot possibly be reasonable; they must be ignorant or a zealot.

  • poptones

    …that is exactly what you meant. How dare anyone believe such things as the pharmacists and boycotters do, much less take (private) action.

    You are free to be an ignorant, brainwashed religious zealot to your heart’s content… just so long as you do not try to legislate you misguided and dysfunctional morality upon me. And increasingly that is exactly what is happening in this country.

    I’m tempted to call you an arrogant and illiterate jackass – but I won’t. Instead I will, with as much indignance as I can muster on this page, invite you to not pretend to tell ME – much less anyone else capable of understanding the written word – what I meant.

  • rodander

    My last word follows:

    poptones, your premise appears to be “if one would remove one’s fingers from one’s ears one would not be quite so deaf to the last gasps of Liberty…” To support this premise, you used (among examples of government action) two examples of purely private action: 1) the pharmacists’ refusal to dispense, and 2) a group of private citizens engaging in a commercial boycott of Disney. One can reasonably conclude from this that you mean that these examples of private action based on personal belief are contrary to the concept of Liberty — the unstated ultimate conclusion being that such (private) actions should not be permitted, for the sake of Liberty. That is what I called you on.

    And there is no way for you to tell from my posts whether I agree with those beliefs or actions. I may well not. But your assumption that I do shows that your concept of Liberty depends on which side of an argument one is on.

    Over and out. Namecalling is boring. Sorry, group.

  • poptones

    the unstated ultimate conclusion…

    A conclusion you made based upon assumptions you drew from things I did not say.

    Over and (indeed you appear) quite “out.”

  • poptones

    No, goddamnit, I’m not going to end it on that. because your last assertion was provably wrong.

    two examples of purely private action…

    A pharmacist working at k-mart was fired for refusing to do his job. A person came into the K-Mart store and the pharmacist refused to fill the order the patient had for an aborting agent. This was a patient who had, in counsel with a doctor of her choice, decided this was the proper avenue. And when that person was fired for refusing to do his job as an employee and for refusing to refer her to someone who would, he sued k-mart.

    If I hire you to decorate my house and I provide you a paycheck and you refuse to decorate my house, you are not doing your job and I have the right to fire you. If you don’t like the way I want my house decorated – if I want it spread wall to wall with pornography and this offends you – you STILL have not done your job and you have no right to sue me for not agreeing to fund your narrow view of the world. If you are a pharmacist looking for work at k-mart it is not at all reasonable to expect you will not be required to dispense drugs you may not agree with. You look elsewhere for a pharmacist owner who shares your beliefs or you find a different line of work altogether.

    This is not a “private action” because it affects other people’s lives. And so far as the tupelo wildman, I’ll invite you to come live in the area for a while and see for yourself just how “private” the actions of the “center for the america family” really are. When you have a ten year old girl and her family being intimidated by the local district attorney because a group of loudmouth religious fanatics don’t like the clothes she models (clothes purchased from a children’s clothing store at the local mall), that is not “private action.” We send young men to Iraq and Pakistan to die while “liberating” those people from this sort of oppression while that same religious tyranny festers in those boy’s very own back yard.

    Yes, goddamnit, I’m indignant. I’m fed up. And I will thank you again to not tell me or anyone else “what I meant.” If you are not clear on ‘what I meant” then ask me.

  • rodander

    poptones, I couldn’t help it. I had to come back to see your response. So let me lighten things up a bit.

    If you did not mean that the pharmacists do not have the Liberty to refuse to dispense, or that the boycotters do not have the Liberty to boycott, then I stand corrected. If you mean that they have the Liberty to do these things, but that you think they are wrong, then OK. So I’m asking which it is. Your original post was confusing, then.

    I am not familiar with the facts of the pharmacists’ case. But it is indeed plausible that the aborting agent was not an available drug when they started work at kMart. So this maybe was not an issue upon employment, but became one later; surely they have the right to bring suit if a non-frivolous issue exists? And if they are required by all employers to dispense, and they feel strongly, then yes they should find another line of work. But surely you are not saying that the state can force them to dispense?

    And if the local DA is overstepping his office and power, then complain about THAT. But the commercial boycott is surely within the group’s liberty to spend their money as they wish, and to convince others to do the same. Surely you are not saying that the state can compel their silence?

    By purely private actions I mean actions of individuals, or groups of individuals, as distinct from government action. And yes, our private actions, including expressive actions, affect those around us. Maybe they convince, maybe they offend (obviously my comments have offended you — sorry if that’s the case), maybe they help, maybe they are not relevant.

    That is the nature of our liberty, one of the unalienable rights with which each of us humans is endowed. Including those we disagree with, and those halfway around the world. And a right worth fighting, living, and dying for. On that you and I may well agree.

    See you down the road.

  • poptones

    The kmart case is only one example of what is becoming a widespread practice and I’m not even sure if it was a “he” or a “she.” The AFC is an infamous organization that has even been the subject of a BBC documentary – the rev wildmon has been a thorn in the side of this area for decades now and his “american taleban” AFR network is coast to coast.

    Can the state compel a druggist to dispense? In some states yes. A refillable prescription is considered in many states to be property of the owner and has to be filled upon demand. I would certainly defend a druggist’s right to expression and as an example I’ll point out I now do not do business at all with one druggist near me – where I used to go for ALL my medicinal needs – because of a political “booklet” of nonsense the owner posted near the cash register before the last election. Likewise, if you go to a druggist and that druggist refuses to fill your prescription or gives you a lecture about the evils you (or your doctor) are perpretrating then it seems the logical thing to do is to tell them to stuff it and go elsewhere.

    But no matter, the point is that this nation is quickly descending into the same oppressive fundamentalist tyranny we are allegedly trying to stamp out half a world away. When the rights of individuals (especially women and girls) are threatened even over how they appear in public that tells me we are but a step from selling bhurkas at the wal-mart.

  • three blind mice

    poptones, please do not pollute this blog with your angry missives. you have had some interesting and informative things to say, but your ad hominen attacks on rodander and overbearing attitude are WAY OUT OF LINE.

    please try to stay on topic. it is easy to derail these threads with rants about things tangential to the issue being discussed. if you continue with your angry shouting we will all suffer.

    you are most welcome to participate, but we three blind mice must insist that you exercise a little more restraint and decorum. as fellow dissenters we assure you that if you show some respect for this community you will be richly rewarded.

    now play nice.

  • poptones

    Exactly what was “not nice” about my last post?

    I will not apologize for responding angrily to someone who – twice – insists on telling me and the rest world “what I meant.”

    I well admit I tend to idle on 11, but I do make an effort to “give” as nicely as I get.

  • nate

    poptones –

    Your last post _was_ nice, as were some of your first ones. The ones in the middle were unnecessary ad hominem attacks. I thought rodander offered a very reasonable interpretation of what you wrote, and fairly politely asked for you to clarify.

    The nature of communication on the internet (or anywhere really) is that one can not know what another ‘means’, one can only try to interpret the words they used to express that meaning. When someone offers an interpretation of what you have written that does not agree with what you ‘meant’, take it as an opportunity to clarify what you did mean. If instead you assume your original wording is unambiguous and unequivocable, and angrily accuse the questioner of being unable to read, people will begin to ignore you and the otherwise worthwhile points you have to make.

  • http://darkauthority.blogspot.com Adrian Lopez

    When you hear a “libertarian” speak of freedom, be mindful of the sort of freedom he advocates. If there’s one thing Libertarians love above everything else it is the concept of “private” property. They will argue against the tyranny of “statists”, yet will defend almost any kind of restriction if it’s framed in terms of private property. The government should not interfere with the rights of property owners, yet the property owners are free to impose whatever rules they deem necessary to protect their private interests. Tyranny is wrong, unless it emanates from private interests.

    If a nation were owned by private entities and those entities joined together to establish a common set of rules and the means of enforcement, the same people who now cry tyranny would defend the property owner’s interests. Those who own no property would be subject to the terms imposed by the property owners, and no “libertarian” would dare cry tyranny. When the landlords are happy, the libertarians are happy.

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