Re: IP was: My Extropian Manifesto...

From: Jason Joel Thompson (
Date: Sun Aug 13 2000 - 20:18:26 MDT

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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.

I agree that there are challenges to be faced. I also agree that the costs
of controlling the information are very relevant. This is the sort of
discussion I think people should be having-- cost vs. benefit, i.e.:
arguments from desirability. My complaint was against the argument from
impossibility, i.e.: it doesn't even matter if we want to, 'cause we can't.

> 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.

Well, I would argue that desirability IS the big picture and includes
weighing these factors.

  Maybe you can
> control IP, but only at the cost of, for example, disallowing encryption.

DISallowing encryption? On the contrary, encryption is a very good thing
for IP. I'm in favor of all sorts of meta-information that add rules and
intelligence to our data.

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.

Exactly. Again, this is an argument regarding desirability. How much money
are we willing to spend to protect an industry? (And can't we find ways for
that industry to pay for it's own protection? Can we ensure that the
industry as a whole is exothermic?) How much freedom are we willing to
relinquish to preserve security? IMO the best path invariably lies
somewhere in the gray area between the two extremes. It appears to me that
some people have problems with this-- thus the prevalence of the slippery
slope argument: "Oh, first you want to be able to own your own book, next, I
won't be able to look at you without paying you." Our ability to proceed in
the face of apparent ambiguity speaks to a flexible intellect comfortable in
navigating the increasing intricacies of our reality.

> 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. But 'different' treatment is not 'no' treatment.

> No doubt a sufficiently Draconian, invasive and universal political
> system would allow for control of IP.

Yes. We probably can't expect to have absolute control over it-- much like
we don't have absolute control over a human's ability to kill another.
Instead, we find a way to operate within acceptable parameters. Let me
change a single word in your above sentence: "No doubt a sufficiently
Draconian, invasive and universal political system would allow for control
of murder." I think you'll agree that this sentence is not a good argument
against attempting to legislate against murders at -all.-

  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.

Good. Actually, this is precisely why I am quite optimistic about how
things turn out. Rules on the sharing and distribution of property create
markets, and market pressures are "a good thing" and a sensitivity to costs
tends to lead to increasing fitness. The selection pressure in this
environment is towards nimble, smart, economical protection of data. This
has so many other spin-off benefits that it makes me tingle just to say the
phrase "nimble, smart, economical protection of data." :)


::jason.joel.thompson:: ::wild.ghost.studios::

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