Re: copyright

From: Jason Joel Thompson (
Date: Mon Jul 17 2000 - 15:43:51 MDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lee Daniel Crocker" <>
To: <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2000 8:06 PM
Subject: Re: copyright

> > If you want to argue that information should be free because of 'x,'
> > then you'll have to allow me to argue 'x.'
> I absolutely refuse to engange in rational argument with someone who
> will not simply acknowledge facts of reality and move on.

Then you've successfully argued yourself out of this conversation Mr.
Crocker, since what you call "facts of reality," I call "close minded
preconceptions." Since I don't share your preconceptions or your reluctance
to discuss the reality of "the facts," I'll continue this discussion along
those lines. Refuse to engage me in rational argument at your leisure.

> Atoms and
> /patterns/ of atoms are different things, and always will be.

Oh really? Then you know far more about the fundamental building blocks of
reality than I. You have a very classical approach to reality (and to this
debate,) so I shouldn't be surprised. But there's no need to scrape this
conversation down to the quantum level and discuss theories of matter as
vacuum fluctuations, etc, since we're really just looking for practical
applications. So, for the sake of brevity, I'll grant that this is so. On:

  I am not
> using this as a reason to treat patterns in a specific way, only to
> explain why we should not automatically assume that methods we have
> used to treat matter shouldn't automatically be applied to patterns.

You say there's a difference, but you're not using that difference as a
reason to treat patterns in a specific way. If that is true, then please
stop doing it. Since the nature of our conversation is how we're going to
treat patterns versus atoms, then you can see why by your own words this so
called 'difference' is irrelevant to the conversation we're having.

If you want to use the 'difference' in your arguments, which it is clear
that you do, then you need to find justification for why that difference
should cause us to treat patterns in a specific way. Please stop giving
with one hand and taking away with the other.

Let me pin you down on your above statement very precisely: why should the
'difference' cause us to "not automatically assume that methods we have used
to treat matter shouldn't automatically be applied to patterns"? You can't
simply say, "oh, just because they're different." We're discussing the
relevance of the difference. I say the difference is increasingly
irrelevant. You don't want to talk about the relevance, you just keep
clinging to the fact that they're different. Discuss the relevance of the
difference and you've got a real discussion here. Blue cars are different
from red cars but it's not a significant reason to say that we should have
different copyright laws for one over the other.

It's really a simple conversation: What is it that you perceive about
information that makes it different from matter in a way that means it
shouldn't have protection? You've given reasons such as it's ability to
serve the interests of two people at once. When I ask if this attribute
were held by computer chips, should they too lose protection, you simply
refuse to discuss the issue.

Perhaps we should start from scratch. You tell me how the differences
between matter and information indicate that information should not have
ownership protection and I'll address them. Fair enough?

> That is an arguable point. Can you give me examples of how the value of
> timeliness and authenticity are decreasing with technology, or why they
> reasonably should?


Timeliness is the value of producing content at a particular point in time.
This ability is simply technological-- that is to say, it is not something
that I own by virtue of having the idea. If your product is not protected,
then I can equal or exceed your timeliness. You don't "own" your timeliness
if I can immediately reproduce your product in another venue. Technology
enables this insofar as it lets me reproduce your content immediately. I
can instaneously mirror your superbowl content over my network... you have
no monopoly over the timeliness.

Authenticity is a murky concept. It pretty much refers to something being
the "real deal." Clearly, our ability to copy information digitally (and
perfectly) eliminates this concept. The first copy of Windows 2000 is no
more or less "authentic" than the last. The reason we like authenticity is
that it has traditionally been an indicator of us having an assurance of the
quality and nature of what we were getting-- an irrelevant concept if I have
a digitally perfect copy of that product. My perfect instaneous superbowl
broadcast possesses precisely every trait as your broadcast of significance
to the end user.


Okay, now you start a genuinely interesting discussion with regard to novelty for its own sake and gradual refinements, etc. I hope my bias is not showing too strongly here, but I consider this to be the *real* discussion because it looks at what the selection processes are and has ideas about how we might improve them. I believe that -everything- will be intellectual property eventually-- your automobile will just be a piece of software I give to my nanoassemblers-- so I am consequently more interested in discussing how we can improve the process of intellectual innovation than I am in why we should remove it's ownership protection.

But, Lee (if I may be so bold as to call you that,) I'd like to just put that one on the back burner. Like I say, I'm actually -more- interested in that topic, but don't have the mindshare to juggle both right now.


> > You want to directly pay for construction workers, but not architects. > > For CD manufacturors, not musicians. For theatre owners, not filmmakers. > > For book binders, not authors. > > I also won't argue with what someone else makes up in his mind about what > I have said, rather than arguing with what I've /actually/ said.

I think it's disingenuous of you to suggest that your argument has not been in favor of direct payment for the production and distribution of product and in favor of the elimination of direct payment for intellectual capital.

If anything, > this argues in favor of the idea that /demand/ for patterns will increase, > and those wh demand them will find ever more ingenious ways to pay for > having them created.

I agree that the demand will increase, but why should people spend any effort looking for more ingenious ways to pay for having them created? I've got a very simple solution for those people. Just pay for it.

> > Why should they pursue other options? People want music, so musicians make > > music. If people want easy-to-find music, or t-shirts to go with their > > music, then other people (distributors and clothing manufacturors,) should > > come in to fill those markets. > > They should pursue other options, because those other options increase > freedom, rather than restricting it as does copyright. My goal here is > freedom--the absence of physical coercion. Within that constraint, I > think making money is a grand thing to do; especially since it increases > the number of things you can do with freedom. But I don't want to give > up even a small bit of freedom just so some certain acts can make more > money. Money is just a means, freedom is the end.

Well, this sounds very nice, I mean, who can object to freedom?

Let's determine what type of 'freedom' you're talking about here, shall we?

I hope you won't accuse me of putting words in your mouth if I infer that what you mean by freedom here is really "the freedom to copy, distribute and profit from someone's else intellectual product without restriction."

If that *is* what you mean, then you'll forgive me if I don't join in praising this as a universal human right.

If this *isn't* what you mean, then despite your wishes, you've already given up "even a small bit of freedom just so some certain acts can make more money." You don't have the freedom to do lots of things, like hop into my car and drive away in it for instance.

Before you get bent out of shape over the fact that I've brought material goods back into the scenario here you have to realize that you can't start arguing freedom for "B" and 'not-freedom' for "A" until you establish relevant reasons why the two should be treated differently. Which, as you may have guessed, you have failed to do to my satisfaction. (Clearly you -have- done it to your satisfaction.)

> If pigs had wings, would pork be kosher? If pi were 3, would circles > be hexagons? I don't discuss the issue because it's a silly > counterfactual that has no relevance to anything, but if you really > insist, then yes, if matter had the property of being able to serve > the wills of any number people at one time, then "ownership" wouldn't > be a necessary concept for matter either. That's much the way it is > for commodities like air on Earth. So what? That doesn't change the > substance of any argument presented here on either side, and I don't > see why you think it does.

Ah, good, this *is* the statement I wanted you to make. And it does change the substance of the argument Lee-- drastically. Your lone statement "...then yes, if matter had the property of being able to serve the wills of any number people [sic] at one time, then "ownership" wouldn't be a necessary concept for matter either." is a crucial concept.

And here's why:

It is a forseeable and anticipated scenario-- particularly among list members. Also, it's already happening-- our concept of physical goods is shrinking daily-- we are truly entering an information economy. If and when it becomes possible to replicate, transmit and copy automobiles and computer processors as easily as we might digitally transmit music, your statement necessitates the elimination of our ownership over those commodities as well.

This has big consequences.

Hey, they might be desirable ones... for lots of people. We could anticipate humanity sliding into a state of utopia, will infinte product and no rules of ownership-- just places and things and ideas, owned equally by all. One big lovely commune. Could be very nice. A little sleepy village in an idyllic valley filled with love and peace.

For me, the scenario is nightmarish. It represents a negative attractor state-- a static equilibrium with lots of shared resources-- one big monoculture of ownership.

Sure, capitalism has its ugly side, but there is simply no way to deny that it has been a tremendous force for progress and innovation. What you see as "enforced ownership over something that should be free," I see as "positive feedback for successful alogrithims in the environment."

If and when it becomes possible to create more effective positive feedback loops for successful algorithims than what we have, I'll be the first one to jump on the bandwagon. I won't deny that the "attention economy" is going to be increasingly important in the future. If I can make amazing movies for free and by simple use of my imagination, it *will* be enough of a reward to just get the acclaim for having done it.

But in the meantime, megascale projects require megascale dollars and megascale ambition. Until money goes away, we should be using it to drive the process forward. Direct reward for direct effort.

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