Copyright

Clan of the Copyright Bear Revisited

Off the keyboard of RE

Discuss this article at the Heros of the Revolution table inside the Diner

A LOOONNNNGGG time ago during the Napster controversy and procesutions being undertaken by the Music Recording Industry,Iwrote an article deconstructing Copyright Law over Intellectual Property called Clan of the Copyright Bear.  It is republished here on the Diner from original publication on one of my Yahoo Groups from back in the 90s.

The recent Suicide Murder of Aaron Swartz, a Computer Geek GENIUS who was attempting to Liberate Information on the net for public consumption has brought this issue back up to the Front Agenda in the current War on Liberty being prosecuted by TPTB on the rest of the world.  Far as TPTB are concerned, they OWN all Information, not limited to just Music and Video, but really all the way to the Human Genome and ever idea ever Published anywhere on the Net.

By no means did the battle end with Napster of course, Digital Copyright Protection schemes have been pursued ever more vigorously, with Apple now overtaking even the Big Gorilla of Microsoft in this arena.  Microsoft was mainly concerned with vigorously prosecuting anyone who Bootlegged their programs or Op Systems, but never concerned themselves much with content.  So for most people, the attempt by Microsoft to fence in their programs didn;t affect them all that much.

Apple on the other hand is by all means possible trying to make it IMPOSSIBLE to copy information or move from platform to platform without going THROUGH Apple on the Cloud.  Trying to get music onto your I-phone is a particular pain in the ass, you can’t just copy/paste the MP3 files, you gotta use I-tunes software to do this, and in my case at least they wanted me to register my Iphone on the Apple website AND drop a Credit Card number on, even though I wasn’t buying anything new.

I am sure many of you who have Apple Iphones and Ipads have noted that there is NO SLOT for and external memory card of ANY type, and not only that, no USB port either to stick in a Jump Drive or connect to an external CD-ROM reader.  Pretty much the ONLY way to get anything INTO your I-Shit is to download it off the net, or in the case of videos, shoot it yourself with the I-Shit machine.  If you do that and try to get it OFF the I-shit machine and it is a Big File, you pretty much cannot do that either, when you try to upload it to the web you get messages that the file is too big.  There probably is some means of using Bluetooth links to another machine to do this, but I haven’t found the software for this and besides none of my older computers are Bluetooth enabled.

So for myself, I am completely SOURED on Apple Tablet/Smartphone products now, and will never buy another one of them.

On the other hand, I ALSO have a Samsung Galaxy Tablet, which is basically a Design Rip-off of the I-pad but not near so locked up as the I-pad is, preventing you from moving content on and off the machine. The Galaxy DOES have an external memory card slot, it accepts MicroSD cards, which now come up to 64 GB in size.  It is still not easy to move stuff around on the Galaxy, but it is possible.

This is also an issue as far as eBooks are concerned.  A Tablet is the Ideal Reader for such books, I have the smaller 7″ model of the Galaxy which fits in the Breast Pocket of any Blazer or overcoat, or into the leg pockets of Cargo Pants.  Anytime I am sitting bored waiting on a line or in a restaurant eating, I can yank it out of my pocket and do some reading.  However, I have to have CONTENT on it to read, and if I was to D/L by the Book, I could spend a fortune getting just a few books to read.  I have however found a few websites which permit UNLIMITED downloads of such material, so what I am now doing for so long as this remains possible is to store such material on MicroSD cards, which I can later plug into the Galaxy for essentially ENDLESS reading material, far more than I could read in what remains of my lifetime.

Not only .pdf or .epub text style books are available either for this, you can download Audio Books as well, to play while you are driving the SUV in Traffic to Work or on your way to Walmart or to pick up the kids.  Issue with these books is their huge size, 500MB and more each, so if you were to store them on an Ipad for instance with no external memory card, MAX you might be able to store on say a 32GB Ipad would be around 64 Audio Books, and then no room for your own Vids or anything else. With the Samsung on theo other hand, the number of Audio Books, Movies etc, anything highly compsuptive of Memory is only limited by your Pocket Book in terms of how many Memory Cards you can afford to buy.  These days on Sale, and 8GB MicroSD card goes around $10, so you can store around 16 Audio Books on each.  For pdf style Books, obviously the numbers are much greater, average size for these is around 3-5MB.  At the OUTSIDE of 5MB each average, the 8 GB card will store 1600 Books!  Many of these books, like for instance Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” which I have are over 3000 pages in length!  So essentially, even on one small card, you can have more reading material than you are likely to be able to read in the rest of your life, at least as long as you can fill them up for free (or nearly so).  You can’t do that on an Ipad though.

On a Monetization level, the big problem all along the way for computing has been the fact that a few Major Corporations like Microsoft and Apple have been consistently trying to prevent copying of material, which in the past was quite easy to do on a computer through the Copy/Paste system.  Tablets however make such copy/pasting much more difficult, even if possible at all, so in terms of trying to collect and store information, it is still better done on a Laptop and then LATER transferred to your tablet simply for Reference or Reading.  How long you will be able to do this for is an Open Question.  It is clear that the hardware manufacturers are moving away from fully functional Laptops available to the retail consumer to essentially “Dumb Terminal” Tablets which are mainly only good for surfing the web, and hopefully from the POV of those running the show, SHOPPING, as just about every App you drop on encourages you to BUY something else.

The fact you can Copy information so easily isn’t just bad for the Corporations running the show here on a Monetization level, it clearly SUCKS for the Individual Writer, Musician or Programmer who wishes to control his Intellectual Property, which in many cases might have taken YEARS of that person’s life to produce.  EZ example there, Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” I mentioned before.  If everyone can simply copy/paste this to their hard drive as soon as Edward Publishes, HTF can Edward make any MONEY off of it?  He can’t, unless Access to the material is only through the Web and copying off the web is made impossible, which it can be or nearly so except for real good Hackers.

 

The IT people have more or less solved this problem for themselves by making ever fewer Programs you can install on your Hard Drive fully functional, instead they only provide these programs on the “Cloud”, and to use the program which really resides only on their own server, you have to pay Monthly Membership fees.  Not only the Program only exist on their server though, often same is true of all your DATA as well.  It is not easy to export data from most of these cloud programs.  WordPress and SMF software I use are good examples of that.  It sure would be nice if WP provided a Button I could hit on my Admin Screen and Download all the Blogs I have written to my hard drive, but they haven’t done such a thing. Nor can I easily Download all the Commentary inside the Diner on the SMF software either.  To do either in total, I have to go to the Server on which these files are stored, and copy the entire files.  I can’t read them though unless my machine is equipped with SQL Database software, mighty expensive and dificult stuff to install and work with.  The only way for me to catalogue such material on my own hard drive is to tediously copy/paste and store material as it comes in, or as I go back and individually read through the archives.  I do it sometimes, but mostly I don’t, and so the only place this information exists is on the server I contract for on a Monthly Basis.

For the more typical Writer or Musician or Videographer though who is producing the CONTENT, it has been far less possible to protect this content and still make it Avaialable for Reading/Listening/Watching. Anytime you download a book or music or video, the digital information is THERE on your hard drive, and should be possible to Save onto some media.  To prevent that, the copying software of your computer is limited, but of course good hackers can work around that even if J6P can’t.  At least that is true on a fully functional laptop, less true on Tablets which are limited in what anybody can do on the internal op system.

Is this good or bad though?  It SEEMS bad from the POV of the creator/inventor of some Intellectual Property on the Monetary Level, because if people CAN freely Copy your Ideas this way, YOU can’t make any MONEY!  So what then is the INCENTIVE to CREATE, if you cannot make MONEY from it?  If you can’t PROTECT your ideas and Make Money from them, why bother to have any ideas at all?

For Aaron Swartz, he simply wanted to Liberate Ideas that essentially were already paid for by Public Tax Dollars anyhow.  However, the people who CONTROL those ideas and information don’t WANT it liberated this way; they want to continue to SELL it and extract more PROFIT from it.  This is not really different from the Ownership of Land, in the sense that if you OWN the Land, you can continue to extract profit from each new year of Crops it produces, until of course the Land is depleted, or the Climate changes and drought hits.  Ownership of any kind of Property, including Intellectual Property, allows anyone who “Owns” it to continue to extract a rent from everyone else who needs it or uses it, for so long as they can control that Ownership.

Just like Monetizing the Land through Property Ownership though, Monetizing Intellectual Property creates classes of Haves and Have Nots, of Renters and Rentiers. It is a form of Intellectual Feudaism.  IMHO, NOBODY can “own” the land we all are dependent on; nor can anybody “own” ideas which once they are out there belong to all.  Nobody comes up with new ideas without Standing on the Shoulders of Giants that came before them.  It is the product of the totality of the Human Existence on Earth.

Here on the Diner, its all Free for the taking here, I foot the bill and it is my Gift, for whatever it might truly be worth.  To be able to Give this way, obviously I gotta have other sources of income to Pay Da Bills.  If you DEPEND on your Intellectual Property rather than your daily work for your income, you will seek to protect it and prevent others from copying it without paying you for it.  That is the motivator behind the Patent/Copyright laws, and that is why Adam Swartz was so hounded, and then Murdered.  What he was doing upset the very foundation of the Property Ownership society the Illuminati built up here over lo these many Millenia.

For as long as Money remains the meme here, to all Musicians, I say to you, be Paid for your performance, your Concerts.  Not endlessly for your Recordings.  To Writers I say be paid for your Lectures and for discussion of your ideas, but not endlessly for your Books.  To filmakers I say be paid for the First showing in the Theatres on the Big Screen, but not for every DVD made from your movie.  You should be paid SOMETHING for Ideas of Value which others read/lsten or watch as long as Money is the meme, but ENDLESSLY?  No. It devalues real work, and it is counterproductive to the free flow of information.

For what it is worth, I walk the walk I talk.  I take no money for what I write, nor will I ever.  Perhaps it is not worth much anyhow, but I sure put in plenty-o-time writing it and even at Minimum Wage, it would come to quite a bit of change these days. LOL.

RE

Aaron Swartz: Suicide or Murder?

Off the keyboard of Steve Lendman

Published on the Steve Lendman Blog on January 17, 2013

Discuss this article at the Heros of the Revolution table inside the Diner

 
Advocates of online openness and freedom lost a committed champion. The Economist said to call him “gifted would be to miss the point. As far as the internet was concerned, he was the gift.”
 
The Electronic Frontier Foundation called him an “Internet freedom rock star.”
 
An official family statement called him “(o)ur beloved brother, son, friend, and partner….We are in shock, and have not yet come terms with his passing.”
 
His “insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable – these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter.”
 
“Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge.”
 
“He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place.”
 
“His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.”
 
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”
 
“Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.”
 
“Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”
 
“Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.”
 
Lawrence Lessig is an academic, political activist, online freedom proponent, former University of Chicago/Harvard Law School Professor, and current Professor of Law at Stanford. He founded the school’s Center for Internet and Society.
 
He knew Aaron as a friend and lawyer. On January 13, he headlined “Prosecutor as Bully,” saying:
 
Whatever Aaron did wasn’t for personal gain. He did what he thought right. JSTOR understood. “They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron.”
 
They asked prosecutors to drop charges. “MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear.”
 
Prosecutors took full advantage. They got the excuse they wanted to target Aaron. They wrongfully criminalized him.
 
“From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way.”
 
It suggested he downloaded academic and scholarly articles for profit.
 
“But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.”
 
“Aaron had literally done nothing in his life ‘to make money.’ ” Whatever he earned wasn’t by intent.
 
“(W)e live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis, (notorious despots, and other scoundrels) regularly dine at the White House.”
 
“(W)hy (was) Aaron labeled a ‘felon?’ ” Prosecutors bled him dry. “(W)e need to get beyond the ‘I’m right so I’m right to nuke you’ ethics that dominates our time.”
 
“That begins with one word: shame. One word, and endless tears.”
 
A previous article questioned the official suicide story. It quoted Aaron extensively in his own words. It asked if he sounded like someone planning suicide.
 
He advocated online openness and freedom. He called information “power.” He wanted it in the public domain. He wanted everyone able to share it freely and openly. Failure is “too high a price to pay,” he said.
 
It’s “outrageous and unacceptable,” he added. Possessors of information are obligated to share it. They’re morally bound not to “keep this privilege for (them)selves.”
 
“(S)haring isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.”
 
“Large corporations….are blinded by greed.” Politicians are “bought off to back them.” Legislation follows. It’s immoral and unjust.
 
“There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.”
 
Aaron advocated open access. He wanted information everyone has the right to know made public. Download them from scientific journals, he urged. Upload them to file sharing networks.
 
Make privatization of knowledge a thing of the past. He asked everyone to join him in a struggle for what’s right. He did it because it matters.
 
He paid with his life. New York’s medical examiner allegedly conducted an autopsy. He pronounced death by “hang(ing) himself in his Brooklyn apartment.”
 
A previous article said lingering suspicions remain. Why would someone with so much to give end it all this way? Why would he throw it away?
 
Why was no private autopsy and forensic examination done? Why aren’t questions raised about a potential coverup? Why isn’t independently determined full disclosure demanded?
 
Prosecutors notoriously lie. Medical examiners help them. So do media scoundrels.
 
Did Aaron take his own life or was he murdered? America has a dark history of eliminating noted figures it wants silenced.
 
Aaron perhaps is the latest. His death raises obvious suspicions. He appears a victim of capitalist greed. His open access advocacy had to be silenced. What better way than by making murder look like suicide.
 
Was he drugged and then hanged? Was eliminating him planned long ago? Was it done to avoid protracted headline-making trial proceedings?
 
Many of Aaron’s global followers would have reported them daily. Doing so would have revealed prosecutorial injustice. Dark forces perhaps decided not to risk it.
 
Prosecutors hounded him. His attorney, Elliot Peters, accused them of doing it to gain publicity. They cooked up alleged computer crimes against him.
 
They targeted his advocacy for what’s right. They wanted him silenced. They wanted him put away for decades. They wanted him out of sight and mind.
 
They crossed ethical and moral lines, said Lessig. They did what they did because they can. They made him a martyr in the process. He’s internationally recognized for fighting for what’s right.
 
Internet freedom is at stake. In 2008, candidate Obama promised to “(s)upport the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.”
 
As president he’s waged war to destroy it. He wants open access advocates criminalized. He calls doing so investing in America’s future. He wants censorship replacing First Amendment rights.
 
He and likeminded Washington extremists support an alphabet soup of federal and international freedom-destroying measures.
 
Various cybersecurity acts threaten constitutional freedoms. SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, ACTA, and TPP are stealth pro-corporate, anti-populist schemes.
 
Secrecy and misbranding conceal their harshness. Activists know what’s going on and say so. At issue is unchallenged global corporate empowerment regulation free.
 
Internet freedom, popular rights, and national sovereignty are too important to lose. They’re on the chopping block for elimination.
 
Profits alone matter. Compromising civil liberties is a small price to pay. So are public knowledge, privacy, and other fundamental rights free societies should champion. Democratic values are too important to lose.
 
Obama has other ideas in mind. Aaron and likeminded open access advocates challenged him. Doing so targeted him for elimination. Others are likewise threatened.
 
Doing the right thing is dangerous. Everyone involved is closely monitored. FBI, CIA and other national security files are maintained.
 
Lawless warrantless surveillance watches like Big Brother. Phones are tapped. Emails and other private communications are monitored, collected and stored. Stealth videos at times are used. There’s no place to hide.
 
Doing the right thing is hazardous. America’s unfit to live in. For many, it’s dangerous. Other Western societies operate the same way. The best, brightest and most dedicated are targeted.
 
Some are marked for elimination. Odds suggest Aaron was one. A fitting epitaph should read killed by capitalist greed.
 
He’s gone but by no means forgotten. Others continue his struggle for open access justice. Doing so is the only chance to have it. The alternative is too intolerable to accept.
 
A Final Comment
 
On January 15, Russia Today said Massachusetts federal court charges were dropped. Why pursue a dead man. A simple statement read:
 
“DISMISSAL”
 
“Pursuant to FRCP 48(a), the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, hereby dismisses the case presently pending against Defendant Aaron Swartz.”
 
“In support of this dismissal, the government states that Mr. Swartz died on January 11, 2013.”
 
Omitted was full disclosure about how and most important why. Aaron was no ordinary Internet freedom advocate. His prominence made him a marked man. It cost him his life.
 
JSTOR didn’t press charges. MIT pursued a civil suit. Repercussions remain ongoing.
 
On January 14, the global hacktivist collective, Anonymous, broke into MIT’s website. It replaced its front page. A simple line read: “In Memoriam, Aaron Swartz.”
 
A statement followed. It called the Justice Department’s prosecution “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for.”
 
“We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered Internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all,” it added.
 
Aaron grew up in suburban Chicago. On January 11, he died in his Brooklyn apartment. He was 26 years old.
 
On January 15, suburban Chicago’s Highland Park Central Avenue Synagogue was filled to capacity.
 
Family, friends and supporters came to honor him. Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman spoke for others, saying “Aaron wanted so badly to change the world. He wanted it more than money. He wanted it more than fame.”
 
“When things are hard – and he said it is the important things that are hard – you have to lean into the pain.”

Break the Back of Corporate Intellectual Domination

Off the Keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

Published originally on Land Destroyer on September 3rd, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Boycott corporations monopolizing, misguiding, and destroying human civilization.

September 3, 2012– Movies, music, and TV created by huge monopolizing media cartels like Disney, Sony, Warner Brothers, Fox, Paramount, as well as software companies like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Autodesk, and many others, belong to a consortium of corporate-financier interests driving the the “intellectual property” crusade and many of its unpopular creations, including SOPA, ACTA, and a campaign of jailing grannies and college kids for simply sharing information deemed “property” of these corporations.

Image: The “Intellectual Property” racket. You do not own “ideas” or “information,” only the tangible assets used to either record, view, or transmit them. The paradigm these corporate-financier interests are attempting to create and perpetuate is one that inevitably places all under their contrived “intellectual domain” because it is they alone who have the money and power to register and defend them. In the process, they are hindering technological as well as social progress in the defense of their antiquated business models.

….

What they represent in reality is the antithesis of real business and progress – modern technological reactionaries, staving off advances that threaten their antiquated business models and the immense, unwarranted influence they have accumulated over decades.
The existence of independent movies, music, and of open source software and publications proves that knowledge, entertainment, and everything in between not only can surrive beyond the tired paradigms of copyrights, trademarks, and “intellectual property,” but can thrive.
A new paradigm of giving credit where credit is due, but making all information and the media it is contained within, freely available to all is emerging. Taking a physical CD from another individual is depriving them of a tangible object, and therefore theft. Copying digitally, the information on that CD with the consent of the CDs owner is not theft.
Technology has made it possible to copy information without depriving individuals of tangible, valuable objects. Because this culture of sharing costs those involved nothing, and the more that is shared, the easier it is for all involved to find information they seek, it has understandably spread to all aspects of digitally encoded media. Software,book publishers, movie and music producers all face an industry transforming from simply creating media and selling the medium upon which it is contained.
There is still money to be made with performances, in theaters, and with physical productions others find valuable enough to pay for. However, even in this aspect, the tools for creating movies, music, software, and books are becoming increasingly cheaper and accessible to large numbers of people who would gladly share their work within a culture of sharing.
What these corporate-financier interests are protecting then, is not their “rights” or themselves from “theft,” but their monopoly over an antiquated system that if not protected, will crumble away. Like a consortium of horse-carriage makers lobbying for laws against “new fangled cars,” or libraries around the world uniting to outlaw the Internet and websites like Wikipedia, the reaction of mega-media corporations is one of profound absurdity – one entertained only because of the vast wealth their monopoly has granted them over the decades, and one entertained because still vast numbers of people across society still watch, listen, read, and unfortunately believe everything they say and write.
Below is a list of media cartels and the corporations that constitute their membership, responsible for the absurd “intellectual property” crusade. Each corporation produces products we are all more than capable of living without – and as is the case with many other corporate-financier monopolies, would probably be better off doing without anyway.
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Members National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) Board Members Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Members Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) Member Directory Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Members Business Software Alliance (BSA) Members
For every movie, song, or piece of software produced by this collection of monopolistic, corporate parasites, there are equivalent or superior open source, creative commons, public domain alternatives. There are myriads of open, free news, information, and entertainment online created by both amateurs and a growing number of professionals. There is also a large (and increasing) selection of open source software available.
We get the society we pay for. If we continue paying Fortune 500 corporate-financiers who continue to concentrate wealth and power in fewer hands, and continue using that wealth and power to create and guide an agenda that serves only special interests at the cost of the vast majority, we have only ourselves to blame. Boycotting these corporations deprives them of the vast wealth they need to draw from their equally vast legal, lobbying, and legislative resources. And by boycotting these vast corporations, we have money to spend locally, for local artists who go through the trouble of putting on live shows or creating tangible assets we can enjoy.
That human beings are spending months, even years in jail because of “copyright infringement” while mass murderers are allowed to roam America with absolute impunity, is indicative of the immense injustices bred by this very system – highlighting the urgent need to excise and replace it with utmost expediency.

Clan of the Copyright Bear

Off the Keyboard of RE

Note from RE:  This article was originally written during the Napster File Sharing prosecutions in around 2005 or so.  I’m featuring it again here in “honor”  of Apple’s recent “victory” over Samsung in the Smart Phone/Table Copyright War.

Discuss this article inside the Diner
Sometimes, because we are so immersed in the values, social system and laws of the late stage industrial society in which we live, it is difficult to see how some of the concepts we think are immutably set in concrete really are not that way at all. The concept of intellectual property and ownership of ideas is one of those cases. The issue of Musical Ownership and Copyright provides an excellent test case for the validity of some of our current concepts. Music, because it does not have substance, is particularly easy to reproduce. This makes it a very difficult thing to “own”, and to have “rights” to. Technology of course has made this easier, but this has been the case since the dawn of time.

Lets say I am a tribal flute player in post-Neanderthal France, and go to the annual gathering of tribes at the Summer Meeting to play my latest tune. I worked all through the cold days of winter in the cave composing this masterpiece. It is such a moving love song that the birthrate in the spring for my tribe is huge 🙂 We are talking a Double Platinum Chart Topper on the Cro-Magnon Billboard. All the flute players from all the other tribes come to the Summer Meeting, and the teenyboppers squeal when I arrive in camp toting my flute. Of course since writing has not yet developed the other flute players can’t buy the sheet music from me, and it is darn tough to cut a CD out of rock. The teenyboppers will have to come to my campfire to hear the tune also, a major league benefit. (… and this one time, at band camp…:-)

Reaching back into our human history, all music was heard, learned and played by ear live, and in fact people who learn this way generally have what we call today “perfect pitch”. Anyhow, the outcome of my performance is that now all the other flute players can play my masterpiece. There is no way for me to “charge” them for this knowledge. I could charge them to come listen to me around my campfire, but I could not charge them for every time they played their flute after that, or for teaching it to other flute players. Of course, in a tribal society, I would have huge status from this, and most likely I would get quite a bit of tribute, particularly from the teeny boppers. Modern day Rock Stars have long capitalized on this particular phenomenon as well. However, its not obligated, because there is no way to do so. Even if I exclude people who don’t pay to hear my flute performance, they will eventually learn it from the people who did pay. This is why traditionally, musicians earned their money through performance, which is effectively manual rather than intellectual labor.

On the other hand, lets say I am a first class spear point maker. While my friend the flute player is composing his masterpiece, I am toiling away making 10 razor sharp double edged press-flaked obsidian blades a day, a totally revolutionary technique. With 50 blades I can trade for a goat at the Summer Meeting. 200 blades will buy me a nice new wife. 500 blades will buy an even nicer horse 🙂 Spear Points, unlike Music, have substance. They can be traded for other things of substance.

Like the composer, however, I do have something about my blades that can be copied. Other blade makers will figure out my cool double edge technique. Before you know it, the market will be flooded with double edge press-flaked blades. At next year’s Summer Meeting, it might take a whole winter of point making just to buy a goat. I’ll really have to save up for a couple of winters if I want to buy another wife. I’ll really need the wives if I want to buy a horse, because I’m going to have to teach a slew of my kids point making to have enough spear points to trade for one of those. Of course, if I was real smart, I would have kept my special press-flaking technique a secret, and only teach it to my kids, who I will have a ton of because I bought so many wives 🙂

The idea of copyright on music is a relatively modern one, as is the idea of patenting an invention. Both of these ideas have stimulated modern creativity and invention, because they make it extremely profitable to have an idea. It is even very profitable to steal other people’s ideas, change them enough to make them look like yours, and corner the market. Just ask Bill Gates.

In the world of academia, traditionally no one “owned” an idea. You publish your work to further the total knowledge of human kind. Other academics then use your ideas to create new ideas of their own. Knowledge expands exponentially because of the free exchange and use of ideas. However, in recent years academics have become jealous of engineers and industrialists who patent ideas and become rich, while they are pulling down a professor’s salary. You now have people patenting things like parts of the Human Genome, which clearly they did not invent, just elucidated first. Does this further human knowledge? I hardly think so. It just enriches those who get there first and legally binds up the ideas.
While the concept of ownership of ideas has been good for our society in some ways, in others it is not so good. It devalues individual work of the manual kind, because you can be paid many times over for having one good idea. It limits the free flow and use of information. Finally, it creates an incredibly tangled legal concept that is extremely hard to enforce. So in addition to outrageously wealthy “owners” of ideas like Bill Gates, you have some extremely well-to-do patent lawyers.

What goes around, comes around. The ability to “sell” idea oriented stuff like literature and music worked very well when the means of producing printed material or plastic discs required large industrial style production facilities for the printing of books or the pressing of record albums. However, because of technology, as in the days of the Cro-Magnon when stories were passed on orally and music was played and listened to live by individuals, protecting and charging for these ideas has become impractical and unenforceable, for the most part. On the large scale, the ownership concept can still be enforced against a service like Napster, but it can’t stop the millions of individuals burning CDs, or establishing their own small Napster-like trading systems on the web.

As a person who values thought and ideas, and who has quite a few of my own, I certainly try to protect my material so that it retains its value. But I recognize also that because of the nature of technology and communication systems in the modern era, it is quite possible for people to copy things I conceive of. My curret project is particularly hard to copy in its full form, because it has many aspects which only I can personally provide, at least at the bargain basement price I provide them. The database software is custom designed for every individual bizness. Most people don’t know how to REALLY use Access, so I have to teach that. Many people don’t have quite the information set I have worked up over 20 years, and certainly they don’t have them in searchable MPEG digital video form. Few people have the time, ability or inclination to do graphic layout and write promotional material for their small biz, and paying professionals who do this for a living is costly. Few people give bang up motivational seminars. I protect my ideas not by using the legal system, but by providing so many things that copying it becomes at best impractical, and in many ways impossible.

Certainly musicians should be paid for their compositions. Choreographers should be paid for their choreography. Inventors should be paid for their inventions. Writers should be paid for their writings. But how many times should they be paid? Once you put your ideas out there, you need some other means than the legal system to protect you from copying. Evolution of technology has made this concept simply impractical to apply.

Note:
In the intervening years since I first wrote this article, Digital Copyright Protection schemes and limiting the capabilities of computers to do digital copying has successfully maintained the system a while longer, although to be sure particularly in the Music and Film industry “pirating” of material remains a major problem for this bizness model. All to the good there, “Pirates” and “Hackers” are serving an important goal in removing the profit from extractive corporations which use the desire people have to be “entertained” as a means to tax them on that aspect of the Human psyche.

Also in the intervening years here, my opinion that people should be “paid” for anything they do has changed, since I no longer believe in using money at all. Whatever it is you do, from playing Love Songs on your Flute to making Press Flaked Obsidian blades should be freely given to others and all should be encouraged to give as much as they can to their community. Your generosity should be rewarded, not your greed.

RE

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