Re: copyright

From: Lee Daniel Crocker (
Date: Fri Jul 14 2000 - 22:32:36 MDT

> This is not a distinguishing characteristic of information. -Nothing- has
> inherent value independent of our want of it. Value for cars and
> electricity and medicine and drooling pets and angora sweaters is created
> because we want those things. They don't have 'inherent' value-- we pay
> because we want, just like everything else.

Yes, exactly.

> > No, that's not the difference at all. The essential difference is
> > that freely-copied instances of the same piece of information can
> > be used to serve two people's goals simulatanously.
> And why is this an argument in favor of freely copying them? If it were
> possible to freely copy computer chips, would it then follow that we should
> do so because they could be used to serve two people's goals simultaneously?

It's not by itself an argument for or against anything--it's a fact, and
it's the direct answer to your direct question "what's the difference..."
Asked and answered, counselor, move on.

> > But information is fundamentally different: it's not
> > just that copying is cheap, it's that copying actually does double
> > the utility (not value--utility, though utility may lead to value)
> > because my use of the information does not in any way interfere
> > with your use of the information
> Actually, receipt of information can have lot's of auxiliary impact and my
> use of information -can- interfere with your use of information.

Let me state it more clearly. In a world without copyright, there does
not exist any action that you may take with respect to your ideas that
you cannot take by virtue of the fact that I too have the same choices.
This is not true of physical things: if I choose to eat an apple, you
cannot eat it even though you may have had a right to, because it's not
there anymore. If I /teach/ you how to grow apples, the fact that I
also grow apples does not interfere in any way with your choice to do
that (it may well, as you correctly point out, reduce your /market/ for
the resulting apples, but that's a different argument).

> Copying information doesn't always double it's value--

...which is why I said exactly that.

> sometimes weird things happen: if everybody knows the ending to
> 'The Sixth Sense,' the movie is going to lose a lot of its impact.
> You see, there's value in secrets, and there's value in you and I
> knowing something that Jack doesn't know and there's value in you
> and I -and- Jack knowing something, and all sorts of permutations.

I agree 100%. I absolutely support any method you choose for making
money by keeping secrets, or by exploiting differences in knowledge.
What I oppose is the use of force to keep me from doing the same
things with /my/ knowledge that you earlier chose to give me, unless
I freely consented to that restriction by contract.

> Okay, we're getting into tricky territory here and I don't want to
> spin this off into an experientialist debate, but I would argue that
> the sensual experience is *only* information and will eventually be
> able to be replicated freely.

Good point. At that time, only the "timeliness" of a performance
and its ability to concentrate consumer attention will be its primary
commercial values.

> Again, this is an example of indirect rewards. I shouldn't have to
> rely on making profits off of the medium on which I distribute my data.
> CDs are going to be irrelevant fairly soon here. The value is in the
> music. That's what people want, and therefore that's what they
> should pay for...

But as you just pointed out, it's /not/ the music that people want,
it's the experience of hearing the music at a certain time under
certain conditions, and /that's/ what you should sell. Service, not
data. Perhaps you could sell subscriptions to a service that
selects music in accordance with the user's taste and settings and
beams it to him at the right time (perhaps to secure hardware, or
accompanied by commercials). Even if all the music is freely
available, it will be an untamed sea of useless information like
the web, and selling the service of finding good stuff, and
evaluating it, adapting it, etc. will be lucrative.

> Again, famous people are a tremendously small sliver of the population
> at large and are unlikely to appear in significant numbers at all in an
> environment without monetary reward. You seem to have little awareness of
> the thousands and thousands of working artists who make a living producing
> content. Of course, they aren't famous after all, so why would you know
> about them? :)

Granted, I know less about the music industry than about the publishing
industry, so I'll have to rely on that for a counterexample. Take a look
at books like "Grokking the GIMP" and the DocBook reference. These have
a very limited audience: Linux graphics users, and XML-heads respectively.
The entire text of each book, unabridged, is available on the web. Yet
the publishers (New Rider Press and O'Reilly) and authors sell enough
dead-tree editions to make good money. In the age on the net, where a
small website can instantly reach an audience of millions, it doesn't
take much popularity to make good money. "Engines of Creation" is
available on the Web in its entirety as well. I own all three books
in dead-tree form, and I'm sure Eric's publisher is quite happy with what
he's done for them.

> Theatre's "buy" movies in order to make a profit, but why would they bother
> buying them if they could download them from the Internet for free? If I
> can't sell my movies to theatres, I'm not going to spend millions making
> them anymore.

True, so that would be a stupid business model, wouldn't it? Movies
should be licensed to theater owners under NDA, who are given encryption
keys in exchange for agreeing to the terms of how to distribute ticket
revenues. Ticket revenues alone, without any licensing whatsover, are
more than enough to make money for good movies. Even the $100M+ movies
"Terminator 2" and "Titanic" made millions in profit on ticket sales

You seem to think I'm against market exclusion: I'm not. What I'm
against is /me/ paying for /your/ exclusion costs.

> You, however, decide to save all that money of actually making the film
> yourself so you send a guy over to my theatre with a really good copying
> device and you bring a copy back to your theatre and start showing 'my'
> movie without having to pay for it. Remember, I don't have any ownership
> over that film so it's totally legal for you to do this.

Even if your technical means fail and this becomes possible, it still
takes time. It's also obvious: everyone will know which "black market"
theaters don't sign contracts with the producers, and the producers
will never give them first runs, or other perks, and the public will
know which theaters always get the premiere, etc.

> However, it doesn't matter: you won't have any exclusive rights to your
> merchandising, so I'll just start making 'better' Star Trek t-shirts than
> you and I'll make all the money. The rewards are going to the best
> merchandiser, not the best filmmaker.

Again, authenticity has value.

> I think you vastly underestimate the incredible difficulty musicians face
> in making a living.

I think most musicians vastly overestimate their talent and worth. If
you can't make a good living without copyright, you should be doing more
productive work.

> Actually, it's not. Shakespeare and Mozart are existing properties-- will
> the market support the creation of additional properties in the absence of a
> reward system for the creators?

In the absence of /any/ reward system? Of course not. In the absence of
copyright, absolutely. You simply can't ignore the fact that people
/want/ creative work, and /they/ will figure out ways to get it, and to
pay the people who make it. It happens now, it happened throughout most
of history, and it will continue to happen. Yes, copyright makes certain
artists more money on certain things. So what?

> > That's true, but that's also the way it is now: most of the
> > rewards of copyright, /by far/, go not to the artist, but to the
> > company that makes the artist popular by controlling marketing
> > and distribution.
> This is a problem with the system and not the concept of copyright. In
> fact, this is the primary reason that I am optimistic about the digital age
> insofar as it is empowering artists to reach their audiences directly.

That's true, but the system as it is has manipulated the market and the
artists to think that copyright is the only way to make money, so they
don't pursue options.

> > Those who absolutely cannot make a living by /any/ of the
> > methods here or others I haven't thought of would really be
> > doing better for themselves and us by earning a living in
> > some other way. Doing what you want is a luxury--just
> > because someone wants to be a musician doesn't mean I should
> > pass laws to help him.
> Ugh.
> I'm not suggestion that people should simply do what they want and get
> magically rewarded for it. I'm suggesting that we maintain the free
> market-- I create something you want, you trade me equivalent goods for it.
> Plain and simple. You want music, I spend effort making music, you spend
> money for my music.

I'm all for that too. Now you want the /additional/ law that having
done that--you, having freely chosen to give me the music--can use
force to restrict me from using it the way I want, just because you
created it. That's not a free market, that's a protected market.
You want to have it both ways--you want to be able to give it away
and still keep it. Make up your mind--if something's valuable as
a secret, keep it secret and make money. If it's valuable as a
service, provide the service and make money. I absolutely support
any way you can think of to use your mind, your talents, and the
information in you head to make money. Now given that, if you then
freely choose to give some piece of information to me (at whatever
price, by whatever method, without contracting specific terms with
me), you then want the government to step in to prevent me from
doing what /I/ want with my talents and the knowledge in my head
(that you happened to originate--setting aside for the moment that
originality is undefinable anyway). It is /you/ who is throwing
the monkey wrench of force into the free market, not I. If you
only want to give information to people who agree not to compete
with you, then get their consent on a contract.

> Do you believe that passing laws making the theft of automobiles illegal is
> an example of passing laws to help the automobile industry?

Please stay on topic. You know exactly what I think on the issue,
you know exactly what the difference is, and your dishonestly using
this rhetoric to distract from the real issues. If you can't argue
honestly, that says something about your arguments.

> There's another big post below that I've snipped that sounds like the
> beginning of a manifesto, and it seems really positive and momentuous like
> we're just going to be so powerful if we could only cast off the bonds of
> ownership and I can't help but wonder if you are also in favor of communal
> ownership of property, commodities, energy and goods, etc?

I stand on my record as a militant capitalist. I've already explained
many times the difference between physical property and IP, and if
there are people who still can't see the difference, they're beyond
hope of understanding and I have nothing more to offer them.
> > Neither do I; see my other message on this thread about the
> > confusion among copyright, trademarks, and fraud. I totally
> > support both trademarks and criminalization of fraud.
> Why? And what value do you envision a trademark having?

Trademarks are scarce plots of namespace: there can only be one
hamburger joint named "MacDonald's", and I support their right to
sue others for the tort of fraudulently misrepresenting themselves
as "MacDonald's" and damaging the associations the public mind has
with the name. Even if I have a right to copy a Metallica album,
I don't have the right to sell my own album using that name,
falsely pretending to be them.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC

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