December 10, 2006  ·  Lessig

People are often very kind (at least to me) about my speeches. But the truly inspired rhetorician of our age is Eben Moglen. Here’s a video of his keynote at the Plone conference in Seattle. The speech is transcribed here.

  • Kalvin

    It’s worth reading the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt from the middle:

    “And so we face, in the twenty-first century, a very basic moral question.

    If you could make as many loaves of bread as it took to feed the world, by baking one loaf and pressing a button, how could you justify charging more for bread than the poorest people could afford to pay? If the marginal cost of bread is zero, then the competitive market price should be zero too. But leaving aside any question of microeconomic theory, the moral question of what should be the price of what keeps someone else alive if it costs you nothing to provide it to them, has only one unique answer. There is no moral justification for charging more for bread that costs nothing than the starving can pay. Every death from too-little bread under those circumstances is murder. We just don’t know who to charge for the crime.”

  • http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk Crosbie Fitch

    This analogy doesn’t quite fit.

    It should be “If the government had granted bread making monopolies to traditional bakers based upon their source of flour – in order to make it commercially attractive to produce bread for the nation and sell it at whatever price the market would bear,…”

    “And then someone invented a cheap ‘loaf duplicator’ that could replicate any fresh loaf of bread – unfortunately without the wrapper – for a thousandth the normal cost of making one’s own loaf…”

    “Would it be ethical for the government to permit the traditional bakers to sue users of ‘loaf duplicators’ for infringing their monopolies?

    Especially, if people started creating “Take as much free bread as you can” duplicated loaf stalls at markets.

    Even if bread cost nothing to make, it may still cost something to deliver in a timely and hygienic manner. Be careful before you demand that it is unethical to charge for something, simply because it would be charitably generous to give it away for nothing.

    The unethical nature of copyright is nothing to do with attaching a price to something that costs nothing to make, it is the suspension of the public’s liberty in order to force them to go without or pay the copyright holders the price they demand.

    Liberty not price.

    Free as in freedom, not beer.

    Why is Eben Moglen ignoring his own mantra?

  • http://lucychili.blogspot.com Janet Hawtin

    many people dont ‘get’ freedom.
    they particularly dont get other people’s freedom.
    they are suspicious of it being competitive. rivalrous.
    in current international negotiations it has been used as a competitive advantage. dmca is structured so that some people have more freedom than others as a kind of tarrif or barrier to participation in innovation and trade.
    usa has dmca plus fair use, australia is not permitted to have fair use by us free trade agreement and is prescribed which exemptions it may request against the dmca.
    some people can participate freely, others cannot. it is a ratchet which does not permit nations to relax restrictions.(drahos)
    the usa is starting to relax its own restrictions on use of information technologies while engaging in further rounds of applying dmca restrictions to others.

    free is not tangible and it is not structured into standard political and economic discourse. so people process it as weird stuff. out of the usual. for that matter most social justice and environmental concerns do not fit into economic rationalist discussions.

    all humanist and environmental detail is bleached out of economic rationalist debate. it is a 3rd gen photocopy of the world with none of the obfuscating confusing information about social and environmental impact left in. so it is ungrounded and able to operate as a system for optimising profit while structurally rendering all the local social and geographic specifics marginal or off topic.

    i am guessing that moglen is aiming to make it more tangible so that people can extrapolate information/knowledge as bread.

    im glad he is on our side. its not an easy cause to defend in the current context. and he is always inspiring.

    lessig has also done some great talks. the one with the
    diagram of information getting through a network has had a lot of impact for me and i try and explain to folks about each layer of a message’s journey needs to have a free option in both hardware and software for the whole journey to be ‘safe’ from a freedom perspective.

  • http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk Crosbie Fitch

    Janet, I think you’re being too kind.

    A lot of people are repulsed by the free software movement because they don’t see why they should be denied their right to sell their labour – why they should be forced to give their property away for nothing in return.

    They believe that the GPL is all about obliging them to participate in a gift economy, like a hippy/commie cult – “Use our stuff, but if you like it, and build upon it, you must give it away for nothing as we do – commerce is evil”.

    The open source movement abdicates from the ethics of liberty and promotes the GPL as (remarkably) commercially useful in many situations. And I daresay some think that by commercially exploiting the GPL, the open source movement is abusing the ‘non-commercial’ intent of the GPL.

    It is very dangerous for FSF to have liberty as a core tenet, and yet make attempts to appeal to the charitable at heart by using the ‘Giving away western technology to the third world’ motif.

    The last thing to do would be to give CC-NC-SA software to the third world and remind them that they are forbidden to attempt to make any money out of it by selling their labour in the form of enhancements or tailored distributions.

    The IP maximalists are attempting to subjugate the world into accepting their IP on condition they surrender their liberty. I daresay developers of GM crops would be very happy to give free seed to the third world (for the first 5 years only).

    The FSF cannot risk confusing their ethical principles as those of charity, instead of liberty.

    Give a man a fish. vs Give a man the liberty to utilise and build upon the knowledge he obtains to fish, and to pass this knowledge on to his fellows, that they may enjoy the same liberty.

    Let’s not demand that the west should give its knowledge to the third world free of charge.

    Let’s better demand that the west should not prosecute the third world for enjoying its freedom to share and build upon the knowledge it legitimately purchases.

    Maybe one day, the west may even consider so liberating its own citizens.

  • http://lucychili.blogspot.com Janet Hawtin

    points taken.
    thanks CF.
    Janet

  • http://pobox.com/~kragen/ Kragen Sitaker

    How do I download this video? Can I view it without using proprietary software?

  • http://lucychili.blogspot.com jh

    this one is accessible using ogg. slightly different focus.
    i love the bit about teen distribution v industrial distribution.
    http://www.redhat.com/magazine/020jun06/features/video_moglen/

  • http://pobox.com/~kragen/ Kragen Sitaker

    Just to be clear, the Red Hat Magazine video seems to be of a different Eben Moglen talk. I’d like very much to watch and have a copy of the talk that has impressed Larry Lessig so much; is it available freely?

  • http://lucychili.blogspot.com Janet Hawtin

    Yes looks like theres a range of formats including ogg at the Seattle Plone conference website for ftp download.
    http://plone.org/events/conferences/seattle-2006
    ftp://ia331324.us.archive.org/1/items/eben-moglen-oct-2006

  • http://blogs.onenw.org Jon Stahl

    There is in fact a OGG-format copy of the audio of Eben Mogeln’s talk at http://www.archive.org/details/eben-moglen-oct-2006

  • http://pobox.com/~kragen/ Kragen Sitaker

    Thanks! Looks like it’s under a CC by-sa license too, which is great.

  • http://lemi4.wordpress.com Lemi4

    “Would it be ethical for the government to permit the traditional bakers to sue users of ‘loaf duplicators’ for infringing their monopolies?”

    Which is why it is a bad idea to produce bread under a coerced monopoly. Especially when its self-replicating bread loaves.

    I may be a backwards uncivilised non-capitalist fool for asking this, but how do you count the marginal cost of reinventing the wheel? Operating systems, word processors, graphic editors, spreadsheets, databases, they’ve been invented over and reinvented over again countless times in just these past couple of decades.

    I mean, yes customising software and adapting it to specific needs are an economically marginal service, but reinstalling software? Do I have to re-code Windows everytime I want to reinstall Windows? I mean, the binary’s already there…

    Software is an idea; it is not a physical product. When you share ideas, you become better for it. And with the help of other imaginative minds, it is very likely that your idea will become better for it. The ideal method of making money from software is because of it as opposed as by selling it. You don’t become rich by selling math, you become rich by using math.

    For example, by using your mathematical skills to do some calculation as to what shape of a wall won’t fall on your head. You don’t get paid for the physical product of the wall, you get paid for the service of making the wall. Or by using your culinary skills to determine just how much flour is to be used to make the ideal bread that is right for the customer. The chef doesn’t get paid for how much flour he uses, he is getting paid for using just the right amount of flour. You don’t pay expensive bread by the pound, you pay per amound of artistry and craftsmanship and love spent in making the bread.

  • http://lucychili.blogspot.com Janet Hawtin

    Australia has an AUDMCA copyright act incoming.
    Here is my attempt thus far to make some kind of functional response. http://lucychili.net/au/