October 21, 2005  ·  Lessig

The University of Massachusetts launches Cyberweek Sunday. The discussion series is hosted by the Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution (odr.info), and covers a wide range of ethics and eLawyering topics.

  • three blind mice

    nothing up on the site yet, but from michael geist’s homepage commenting on the decline in music sales in canada, one of the “debunkers” of copyright myths writes,

    First, Statscan attributes the decline to two potential factors – file sharing (which it misleadingly refers to as “illegal file downloads”) and competition for the entertainment dollar from other sources such as DVDs and video games.

    hmmm, he thinks it is misleading to refer to illegal file downloadinf as illegal file downloading.

    debunking copyright myths indeed.

    thanks professor for pointing to yet another copyright discussion site not worth visiting.

    btw, who, pray tell is attacking this site and what can be done about it?

  • justcow

    three blind mice,

    You don’t seem to acknowledge the nuance.

    “illegal file sharing” reads as though all file sharing is illegal. They do that on purpose. It’s just a nice easy way to abuse language and get away with it.

    On the other hand, calling them out on that makes one look zealous and should probably be avoided, which serves them well too.

    In short, the phrase “illegal file downloading” is well-crafted BS that lets them toy with context and distort the facts.

    It’s all so mondain.

  • three blind mice

    yes, justcow, not ALL file sharing is illegal, but the comments of Michael Geist were in the context of Canadian music industry’s declining revenue.

    “sharing” copyrighted files over the internet without the permission of the copyright owner IS properly and accurately termed illegal downloading. refering to this illegal activity as “file sharing” is what is misleading.

    “file sharing” is a myth created by defenders of Grokster, et al, to obscure the illegal use of such technology. again, this does not say that legal file sharing does not exist, but such sharing is in such minute proportion to the volume of illegal copying that if one is to choose one term to describe both, then illegal downloading is the one to be selected.

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

    Person Z creates a work and distributes it. Person X has a copy of the work. Person Y asks X for a copy.

    Who should decide if X gives Y a copy?

    This is an essential question my students and I have been pondering for about a month now. Any feedback or response to this question would be appreciated.

  • three blind mice

    Person Z creates a work and distributes it. Person X has a copy of the work. Person Y asks X for a copy. Who should decide if X gives Y a copy?

    assuming person X legally purchased her copy from person Z she is the owner of this copy. thus if person Y asks person X to surrender her copy and give it to him, person X, being the lawful owner of the property, should decide whether or not to surrender her property and give it to person X.

    for example, it the three blind mice buy a copy of Harry Potter and peter rock asks us to give him our copy this is our decision. we own the copy of the book we lawfully purchased and it is ours to give away if we so choose.

    if person Y asks person X to create a NEW copy and to give him this new copy without surrendering her copy, then this is person Z’s decision.

    using the above example, if peter rock asks us to make a copy of our Harry Potter book in order to give it to him, we would respectfully decline explaining to peter rock that this is dishonest and illegal and that he should buy his own copy.

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

    The Mice have rightfully questioned the clarity of my inquiry. I have slightly reworded the question to be sure that those who respond are clear on what I am asking…

    Person Z creates a work and distributes it. Person X has a copy of the work. Person Y asks X to make a copy for her.

    Who should decide if X makes a copy and gives it to Y?

    Please correct me if I’m wrong…

    The Mice have stated that it is person Z who should decide and that if the Mice were in X’s situation, the Mice would decline to make a copy to give to Y stating that doing so would be a “dishonest” act.

    The Mice also stated that such an act would be “illegal” although my inquiry at the moment does not require knowledge of what the law currently says. For a moment, let us hypothetically suppose that the law has yet to be written.

  • three blind mice

    The Mice also stated that such an act would be “illegal” although my inquiry at the moment does not require knowledge of what the law currently says.

    if the law has yet to be written the act of making a copy of an artistic creation without the permission of the artist would be immoral under judeo-christian norms:

    “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”

    if person Y receives a copy that he did not pay for, then person Y has deprived person Z of her rightful income and has in effect stolen money from person Z.

    whilst eternal damnation in the fires of hell seems a bit harsh, that is what awaits those who make unauthorized copies.

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

    The Mice:

    if the law has yet to be written the act of making a copy of an artistic creation without the permission of the artist would be immoral under judeo-christian norms:

    Putting aside the fact that a house, ox, ass, etc. is a physical object and not a non-rivalrous intellectual manifestation, let us assume that this is before religion was organized and people are to make decisions based upon their own reason – not upon some codified set of rules for conduct. If we are to find the truth of this matter, we need to look at this problem as human beings, not as “Judeo-Christians” conditioned by cultural norms.

    If you insist that law or religion or culture is what should guide our reasoning then we will not be able to work together to find out what is true. Surely we can put aside our conditioning at look at the question afresh. Shall we?

  • three blind mice

    Surely we can put aside our conditioning at look at the question afresh. Shall we?

    *wipes slate clean*

    ok peter rock, but how does one create a logical argument without first principles?

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

    Mice:

    ok peter rock, but how does one create a logical argument without first principles?

    One does not.

    So the slate is clean. Imagine a population of human beings. There is currently no law governing the manifestation of intellectual work – let’s call that ‘authorship’.

    So a clean slate means we are not conditioned to think as judeo-christians, muslims, buddhists, capitalists, communists, republicans, or democrats. That is, no left or right – not even a center for now. Not only is there no law, but there is no cultural baggage telling us how to think and act. We are simply human beings that can see facts for what they are, then base our decision upon what is best for human beings as a whole. Surely it is dubious for us to base our decision upon what is best for us, our country, our family, our religion, or our culture. In a sense, we have lost our identity but retained fully our capacity to ferret out the facts and then base our decisions upon them.

    Ultimately, we want what is best for the human population as a whole. If this is not agreed upon, I am afraid we cannot continue.

    If you are okay with this scenario, then perhaps we – together – can discover a principle upon which to build an argument regarding authorship. Have I made this clear?

  • three blind mice

    peter rock, an interesting premise, but we believe william golding pretty much covered this in “lord of the flies.” a society without cultural ethos it’s not quite the utopia that it seems.

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

    Mice:

    an interesting premise, but we believe…

    Yes. Unfortunately, what is true has no room for belief. Perhaps another day then.

  • three blind mice

    Unfortunately, what is true has no room for belief.

    if there are no first principles, there are no truths. if there are no truths than anything is possible, but the problem is that the world is populated by human beings who cannot be programmed to operate in any way. as stephen pinker explained there is no blank slate: it is a myth of wishful thinking (and political bias.)

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

    Mice:

    if there are no first principles, there are no truths.

    Of course. But belief has nothing whatsoever to do with fact.

    as stephen pinker explained there is no blank slate:

    Of course. But we are talking about a clean slate, not a blank one. We are talking about conditioning…our beliefs, our culture…not a particular state at birth.

    Regardless, it is moot to discuss if we are not willing to delve into this scenario by insisting on judeo-christian cultural norms (or any other cultural norms for that matter) to guide our reasoning. If our thinking is biased from the get-go, surely we will fail to find out what is true.

  • three blind mice

    We are talking about conditioning…our beliefs, our culture…not a particular state at birth.

    obviously you are unfamilar with stephen pinker’s work. his premise is that humans at birth are imbued with biases that limit what conditioning, education, and culture can achieve. it is a controversial and unpopular thesis.

    his book, the blank slate, is a powerhouse. from the harvard review…

    “He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmas: The Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits), The Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and The Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in the desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.”

    your question is at the heart of copyright law. you are asking if copyright is even a valid concept. you are, in effect, questioning the ethos of self-interest. this is a bit too philosophical for us rodents.

    you cannot even begin to answer your question about persons X, Y, and Z without assuming some basic some nature of the participants.

    we take for granted that basic human nature – including the economic self-interest that forms the basis of copyright law – is an unchangeable fact of human nature. no amount of conditioning, or re-education, or “struggling against” – Mao’s approach – is going to change this.

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

    Mice:

    your question is at the heart of copyright law. you are asking if copyright is even a valid concept.

    My question has nothing to do with copyright law. One’s answer may lead to a discussion on copyright law, but the question I have posed does not require a discussion on what the law states.

    X has a copy of a work authored and distributed by Z. Y asks for a copy of that work from X. Who should decide if X makes a copy and gives it to Y?

    I have not stated nor asked anything regarding “copyright law”. Nor have I asked if copyright is “even a valid concept”.

    You have said that Z should decide. You have implied that X should not be allowed to make the decision. On top of this, you have said that if X makes the decision to do so anyway, then X and Y will suffer “eternal damnation in the fires of hell” for making “unauthorized copies” according to your belief in the judeo-christian culture you pattern your logic upon.

    As well, you have equated an ox and other physical objects with the non-rivalrous nature of thought. Furthermore, you have claimed that by Y getting a copy of Z’s work from X, Y has “stolen money from person Z” without acknowledging that Y may not have otherwise bought a copy. As well, you have ignored the possibility that Y may spread more awareness of Zs work by having a copy rather than not having a copy – therefore actually increasing Zs potential for livelihood via the network effect.

    And the icing on the cake – you have claimed we must establish first principles to engage in a dialog. But then you fail to tell me straight out what those principles are that you adhere to. You have implied that your first principles are rooted in a cultural/religious background. You have also implied that you belief human nature to be essentially self-interested. But you have not made those claims directly so I am not sure. So what are some of the first principles you would like to propose?

    How is this for a first principle…

    Thought and its various expression is non-rivalrous.

    Do you agree? If so, we can start from there. Otherwise, I’d like to hear how you would find such a claim to be false and therefore baseless to begin an argument upon.

  • three blind mice

    Thought and its various expression is non-rivalrous.

    false, but you are in good company. thomas jefferson was wrong about this too. consider what he wrote:

    “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 possessions of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

    what mr. jefferson was referring to was exhaustion. ideas are inexhaustible, but the are most definitely rivalrous.

    then, as now, if there is any one thing more susceptible than all others of exclusive property it is knowledge. knowledge is not a non-rivalous asset; if the candle in Mr. Jefferson’s possession enables him to occupy a share of the market for production of light, lighting another’s candle creates a competitor and diminishes the value of his candle. even worse, if the recipient of his flame of knowledge has a less expensive source of candles, Mr. Jefferson might very well find himself quickly darkened by the market.

    knowledge, when it provides competitive advantage, is inherently rivalrous.

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

    Mice:

    false, but you are in good company.

    If it is false, then I am not in good company.

    What you are saying is in contradiction with everyone I have ever spoken with or read concerning this topic.

    But putting aside what I’ve read or who I’ve communicated with (after all, we want to approach this with a clean slate, no?), my own reason and common sense tells me that thought is non-rivalrous as compared to, say, a bag of grain.

    You keep stating that rivalry exists but then refer to the rivalry in terms of economic “value”. The terms rivalrous and non-rivalrous simply refer to the state of the actual object being referred to…not its market value.

    I am not an economist, but this is my understanding of the terms. Could you please refer me to a source that states that these terms refer to an object’s market value rather than the object itself?

    knowledge, when it provides competitive advantage, is inherently rivalrous.

    Sir/madam, are you aware that you are stating a precondition and then claiming inherency? This should be enough of a clue that there exists a bias in urgent need of honest self-reflection.