A polite Napster rant...

From: Alex Future Bokov (alexboko@umich.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 12 2001 - 13:05:07 MST


Hola Amigos. This is a letter I sent to the guy who runs this site...
(Children's Questions About Napster)
I highly recommend reading some of this guy's essays, because a thoughtful
adversary is much more valuable than a blind partisan. Basically it's a
number of well-researched and non-emotional criticisms of Napster and the
whole "intellectual property is dead" meme. Nonetheless, I think I have a
couple of questions that will stump even this guy, so I went ahead and sent
them in. Because I didn't want my procrastination to go to waste, I thought
I'd send a copy of my questions to you folks as well...

- --------------------BEGIN-------------------------------

 Alex Future Bokov
 Posted Date: Mon Mar 12 14:52:38 2001

How do you propose to prop up copyright laws?

You've actually made some of the most intelligent anti-piracy arguments I've seen so far. Kudos. I have three questions. Good luck answering them. :-)

1. Give one scheme of keeping current intellectual property laws
enforceable without implementing legal and technical measures that can
(and therefore eventually will) be abused as censorship and
anti-privacy measures.

2. The bottom line is that posession is 9/10ths. The reason that GM or
Dell or McDonald's stay in business is that it's easier for them to
withold their products/services from me until I cough up the money
than it is for me to circumvent their security measures. This would be
true even if there were no courts and no police. It's a basic
principle that extends to animal territoriality and the core from
which systems of law have emerged. Until recently, it's also been
easier to withold information than it was to pirate it. That is no
longer the case. The only point at which you exercise control over
information is at the point where you decide whether or not to release
it to your first customer. With considerable surveillance and
coercion, you can probably force your immediate customers to keep the
information to themselves. However, each additional customer you have
multiplies the risk that somebody will defect, and each customer that
defects generates an unlimited number of additional 'customers' who
are completely beyond your control. Very quickly, the magnitude of
coercion and surveillance required to keep you in business reaches
levels possible only for governments, and even for them at
considerable expense. Pardon that huge preamble. My question is simply
this: is an industry that would otherwise collapse entitled to use the
government as a crutch indefinitely? Is overall wealth and progress
maximized by such practices?

3. Supposing the public is willing to accept an abridgement of privacy
and free speech, given the increasing availability and sophistication
of cryptographic software, will such an abridgement even be
technically possible?

PS: I notice in your essay on why Napster can't relocate to Sealand,
you overlooked another option. The protocols used by Napster are known
and there is no reason why an anonymous party can't simply release a
reverse-engineered, open source version of Napster, allowing hundreds
of independent, non-profit, and possibly anonymously owned servers to
spring up all over the world overnight? Furthermore, if I was running
the company, the temptation would be strong to release all my source
code as a parting shot to those who drove me out of business. Finally,
what is to prevent something completely decentralized like Gnutella,
(gnutella.wego.com) from driving the final nails into the intellectual
property coffin?

- --

NSA Special Forces bomb
Why are the above words in my signature? Check out:

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