Re: IP was: My Extropian Manifesto...

Date: Sun Aug 13 2000 - 18:59:08 MDT

Jason writes:
> In fact, I would love to call a moratorium on the "it's impossible, don't
> bother," argument-- why not try arguing the case of the basis of whether it
> is desirable and leave your inability to imagine innovative solutions at the
> door.
> There are numerous examples of humans imposing arbitrary order upon a system
> in order to exert a desirable influence over it. In my opinion, government
> is simply a form of social technology, and a powerful tool in our arsenal.

The danger with this approach is that it tends to overlook the costs of
your enforcement tools. The point I see the anti-IP people making is
that intellectual property rights are inherently difficult to enforce
because IP is so distributed. With regular property you can hope to
put a guard on what you own, but with IP, you want to both distribute
it and control it. This requires that you have some kind of "guard"
that can go along with each copy. It's tough to do when IP is just
information and so easily copied.

So the reality is that IP is different from other forms of property.
If you rule out discussions of this difference in terms of looking
at desirability, you overlook much of the big picture. Maybe you can
control IP, but only at the cost of, for example, disallowing encryption.
(David Brin seemed to me to be taking this view in early drafts of
his book on transparency.) Or you need to make it illegal to reverse
engineer copyright protection systems, like the controversial DMCA law
which is being used to shut down the Linux DVD players. Such proposals
have significant costs.

In my view, you can't ignore the reality of the difficulties of
controlling IP and just focus on how desirable it would be if you could.
If IP were just like regular property, probably everyone would agree that
it should be controlled in the same way. Most people here are fervent
advocates of property rights. It is only because it is different that
some are calling for different treatment.

I agree that it is an overstatement to say that controlling IP is
"impossible". We don't know yet what will and will not be possible.
No doubt a sufficiently Draconian, invasive and universal political
system would allow for control of IP. But in terms of our understanding
of the technical issues, it appears that controlling many forms of IP
will be difficult and costly to achieve. Ultimately it is these costs
which are driving the proposals for rethinking how we manage IP.

You might want to revisit John Kelsey and Bruce Schneier's excellent
analysis of the technical difficulties facing IP control systems at


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