The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Speaking with the Enemy

ᅠᅠI do enjoy the conversation about copyrights. Someone saying I was "frightened" by the situation was just wrong, however. I am concerned, partially that good creative people are going to suffer because they cannot control the fruits of their labor. And since almost all the people who argue that such duplication should be legal are NOT members of the group who might be hurt by it, this strikes me as self-serving. Because technology makes something easy doesn't make it right. The "loaf of bread" thing is irritating. If you want to make loaves of bread, DO IT. Just don't duplicate a loaf of Wonder Bread complete with packaging. Create your own recipe and duplicate THAT. Or are you afraid you aren't smart enough? I think people are absolutely smart enough to create their own creative works. When they don't, and use technology to duplicate someone else's, they are inviting everyone to simply make up the rules the way they want to. If you can justify what you want to do with my stuff, then I have the right to justify what I want to do with yours. I will have exactly as much respect for your boundaries as you have for mine...and trust me, I'll make up rules that make sense to me, not to you. Societies can't operate like that.

##

Frank--it could be that as I learn more about finances, I'll be less happy with Obama. But here's my thought on that:

1) He moved into a burning house, and is draining the swimming pool to put it out. I don't like it, but I don't blame him for shallowing the pool somewhat.

2) With any number of subjects, I don't know enough to make a direct judgement. So I sit back and look at the judgements of people I respect. There is enough disagreement among those people for me to realize that NO ONE can be said to know "exactly" what to do in this instance. But I notice that the criticisms pretty much balance between he's "doing too much," "doing not enough" and "doing the wrong thing" and "doing the right thing." When it all evens up, he seems to be going down the middle. And the worst critics are people who started criticizing him before he even took office. So when I discount the obvious partisans, what I'm left with is: "looks very interesting. Sure hope it works out."

3) You guys, quite reasonably, talk about people who can't be reasoned with or communicated with, whose views on the world are simply so different that you can't find common ground.

a) All my life I've had people tell me that group or person X, Y, or Z can't be communicated with. I didn't believe them, went ahead and tried, and 99% of the time found that the problem was that the person who said that had either a vested interest, or wasn't as good at communication as I was.

b) I'm supposed to take someone else's word for this? The President should be someone who can form his own opinions about people, hope to God. Meeting them face to face is the best way to take someone's measure. Note that I never said "placate" or "give in to." How in the hell is talking to someone giving in to them? Unless you speak directly to someone, how do you even know if either of you have been lied to by your councelors, advisors, and others who would manipulate the situation. You think I don't know people will lie? Christ, that's something we know by the time we leave the playground. All I can figure is that people who don't want communication believe that they lose something in the process. If that has been their experience in life, I respectfully submit that they are lousy at communication and judgement of others.

c) To restate "b" above, one of the most important things anyone would want from a leader is the capacity to communicate and make judgements of others. I would want the very very best person on my team at this critical quality, and would NEVER turn over communication entirely to those who were inferior to his judgement. People often make the mistake of thinking "if I can't do it, no one can," not realizing that they are limited by their own prejudices, inadequacies, rigid belief systems, fears and angers. But I've met people who are so good at reading people, and so good at building consensus, that they are almost magical. When the same side that says "we shouldn't talk to them" also has a disproportionate number of those who say "Islam is evil," I have to suspect that THOSE people would never think communication will help, because at their heart they believe their opponents are critically, basically different. This is why Sting's song about "if the Russians love their children too" was so important.

Every government trying to mobilize their population for war uses the simplest way to rile up their people: the "Others" are different than we are. Worse than we are. More godless than we are. They are baby-killers and monsters. Both sides do it. In boxing matches, martial arts matches, the fighters have to be very careful not to veer into negative emotions, hatred, dehumanizing their opponent. It is the absolute easiest, default position, and you see it at Pep ralleys between different high schools.

It's that Octavia Butler thing: we see the world hierarchically, and we place ourselves high on that hierarchy. All my early life, I watched an entire culture saying that about my people, saying many of the exact same things white people now say about Arabs or Muslims. The exact same things I heard said about the Japanese in WW2. The exact same shit I hear people all over the world saying about any group they are in conflict with: especially if they want their land or resources. They aren't like us. They're not as good as us. They can't be reasoned with.

##

Remember that I don't think 99% of people communicate with THEMSELVES honestly and elegantly. Otherwise, they'd have better careers, relationships, and bodies. People who ARE balanced in all three arenas tend (not always, but in the majority of cases I've seen) to be FAR less likely to believe other people, other groups, those in opposition to them are just intrinsically different, and can't be communicated with, only controlled or exterminated.

That belief is the raw seed of so much human evil I just cannot believe it. It is the belief pattern not just of good people I believe are mistaken (as I think about those on this blog) but literally every monster I've ever known or heard of. I've never ever known of a monster who didn't believe in some version of this delusion.

So the question for me is: how do I gather information about my opponent without weakening my own position? If we do not include this capacity among those things we want from our leaders, that is a grave, grave mistake. And about people who lie? I have a pretty simple solution.

Trust no one. Instead, rely upon them to do what they perceive as being in their best interests, and concentrate your attention on determining what that might be. Pay more attention to their actions than to their words, but pay special attention to the GAP between what they say and what they do. Assume that every human being feels alone and afraid...and look for what they do to deal with that loneliness and fear. All violence except in the tiny percentage of the human race that is functionally insane arises from these emotions (in my way of thinking). If you think that those "other" groups have a higher percentage of actual crazies, the burden of proof is flatly on you.

I got so sick of people pointing to black rioters and assuming that there must be something wrong with them, like no rational white people have ever rioted, as if there was something intrinsically sick about dark-skinned people that from time to time, for no discernable reason, they would just erupt. Insane! Childlike! Primitive!

It was decades of this that pushed me to develop global theories of human behavior that could help me explain this without hating white people. And the attitudes I have come right from this: you want me to believe that Arabs and Muslims are intrinsically just less than us? That they cannot be reasoned with? Then I'd have to believe that there really are basic, innate differences in quality between groups. And trust me. Believe me when I say that were I to believe that, my very next thought would be that white people are just as sick and evil. I mean that. And all the way to my toes, I don't believe that to be true.

So there it is, and there we are. I believe that most violence is a matter of miscommunication, fear, and tribal hierarchicalism. And that we are just as vulnerable to it as anyone else. Women are as vulnerable to it as men. Whites as blacks, Christians as Muslims. It's hard-wired into our survival mechanism, and you have to stay constantly aware and alert to prevent it.

And, not to put too fine a line on it, the same people who want me to believe Muslims or Arabs are somehow inferior are vastly more likely to think the exact same thing about any other group that doesn't look like them. Including me. I'd be a fool to fall into it.

That doesn't mean I believe what people tell me. It means that I have the capacity to judge for myself, and would want nothing less from my leaders.

29 comments:

Scott Carpenter said...

I think you might be feeling some fear here, Steve. Things are changing and upending a system you've succeeded in. You don't want the rules to change in a way that will hurt your livelihood. This is perfectly understandable.

There are many people making good money today producing creative work that embrace Free Culture and less copyright.

In the area of free software, very talented people are giving it away all the time. Software is different in some ways -- for "functional" works there already exist more models to make money on the stuff that is copied freely.

However, as much as I might want a world of drastically reduced copyright and intrusive laws to enforce the old way, I acknowledge the old system has led to the creation of many good works, and has rewarded many people in a good way. I don't know how we're going to get from here to there while preserving the best parts of the old system. I don't think it's as simple as people wanting to just take without giving. Sure, there are many of those, but there are also many people eager to reward creators.

Dan Moran said...

It's that Octavia Butler thing: we see the world hierarchically, and we place ourselves high on that hierarchy.
.
Would you believe I don't?

This is from something I wrote recently. It's hardcore database geektalk, but it's short and I think comprehensible.

~~~~~

People think in hierarchical, parent-child relationships. The nuclear family – Grandpa, Grandma, Dad, Mom, the children. The org chart – from CEO down to the janitor. Most business structures – Company, Division, Region, Market, Store, for example. In automobiles we get Make, Model, Trim.

The thing is, none of the examples listed above are true parent-child relationships as defined in a database – not even in breeding. To keep away from unpleasant examples involving people, animal breeders will sometimes breed a line back together – a given animal may have received genes from the same stud from more than one direction. You can't model that in true parent-child structures.

Companies may have Regions that cross Divisions, or Markets that cross Regions, or Stores that belong in more than one Market. Company ownership is another mess; it's not uncommon for a given entity to be owned by a wide variety of "parent" companies.

Every org chart ever made, past a certain level of complexity, has the "dotted line" relationship. In autos, a given Model, rebadged, is frequently sold by more than one Make. Even though various trim options may appear to belong to the Model (I once fixed a database designed that way) … they don't; a given trim option can and does belong to multiple Models: it's really a many-to-many relationship.

Most things in the business world exist in many-to-many relationships. The exceptions to this rule are generally logical and business structures built by people who themselves think principally in artificial hierarchical structures.

~~~~~

Hierarchical thinking is not only rigid; it's also almost always untrue. The world is composed of complex, interrelated structures, and attempts to model them hierarchically are doomed to incompleteness.

Anonymous said...

In the digital world, there's already enough high quality, non copyrighted, freely available stuff around that no one NEEDS to violate copyright if they don't want to/can't spend money.

It's already over, though there's still a lot of noise in the system that makes it hard to see this.

Creativity should still be rewarded - and it is. The creative folks just adapt to the changing landscape and find new ways to make money if that's what they want out of it. It isn't easy, and it may require learning new tricks, but that shouldn't surprise anyone nowadays...

Has anyone read Infinite Games by James P. Carse? One of the many interesting points is that power is concerned with what has already happened - ie. one has obtained a title, written and published a best selling novel, etc. In contrast, strength is concerned with what will happen. Finite games are supported by society, and players of finite games tend to value accumulated power and position, and get concerned when things change on them and they perceive potential threats to prior titles or accomplishments. In contrast, players of infinite games engage their world continuously.

An illustrative quote regarding infinite players:

"Infinite players do not oppose the actions of others but initiate actions of their own in such a way that others will respond by initiating their own."

That's a *lot more fun* than lifting your weary body up after your last fight to meet the next challenger...

An illustrative quote regarding strength.

"I am not strong because I can force others to do what I wish as a result of my play with them, but because I can allow them to do what they wish in the course of my play with them."

Very few issues are so clear that they aren't debatable, but most issues come into and fade from relevance to the current world, sometimes to be resurrected at a later time, and sometimes not... Wherever there is real scarcity or abundance for long enough, society (power) will become structured around that assumption, and will have to adapt when those assumptions are no longer true.

My question is: when the pace of change is so fast that the institutions of society can't reasonably determine who the winner should be (that's a lot of their function), what next? This is a practical concern - we're already pretty close to that point, having transitioned over it in some areas.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to argue that I'm not afraid of the copyright thing: it would be perfectly reasonable for you to figure that I'm lying, or not in touch with it. But from my POV my reaction is one of mild disgust. I used to steal all the time, using similar rationalizations: I wasn't hurting anyone, they should have paid me more, they're a big company, I need it more than they do. It was all stealing.
##
Sure, I believe you, Dan...sort of. You don't believe that your genetics place you above others, but you certainly do believe that there are moral behaviors that place people beneath you. So do I, so does just about everyone. The trick is trying to grasp where this natural tendency is useful, and where it is not. I think.
(Steve here--had to use the "Anonymous" heading)

Anonymous said...

"In the area of free software, very talented people are giving it away all the time."
Great! And actors give free performances, and authors write free essays and give away copies of their books. That's wonderful! So have I. The problem is when you, or anyone else, tells me you have the right to decide what should be done with my sweat and blood. That eliminates my need to respect YOUR rights. And throughout history, that has led to painful problems, friend.
(Steve, Again)

Dan Moran said...

Oh, sure. There are absolutely people I think I'm better than in many measurable ways (and another smaller group that I think is better than me in measurable ways, for that matter. Keeps me trying to improve.)

It was the word "hierarchical" that I was responding to. I don't believe in hierarchies; trying to model the real world with hierarchical logic is so crippling that I can't help but believe that there's a real underlying principle at work.

Marty S said...

Steve: Believing that it is not always in ones best interest to talk has nothing to do with how one feels about a particular group of people. The colonists and England did not represent to different groups in your sense, but communication didn't avoid the American Revolution, nor were North and South different, but communication didn't stop the civil war. I was an internal consultant and communication was the most important part of my job. I testified in federal court and before state agencies. There were some people I could not successfully communicate with. In almost every such case the problem was they had an agenda and didn't want to hear what I was saying. Also as I have noted in other posts I was friendly with a Muslim coworker. One day some asked our opinions on the subject of Israel. We both said about six words looked at each other and realized if we were going to stay friends we better not discuss the subject. So sometimes things are better left unsaid.

suzanne said...

It was the word "hierarchical" that I was responding to. I don't believe in hierarchies; trying to model the real world with hierarchical logic is so crippling that I can't help but believe that there's a real underlying principle at work.Dan
do you mean an underlying principle involved
in the tendency to hierarchize?
if so, what is it?
and if not
what was the overlay on your underlying principle?

I am in full agreement
about how consructing hierarchies
narrows perceptions of reality
it's a generallylharmful way
to structure one's reality;
mine anyway. And I use it
as seldom as possible

Bradipo said...

From the beginning of law as we know it (even before that, most likely--since the dawn of man as a moral actor), it was considered stealing to take a physical object that belonged to someone else. But no one considered it theft to copy something that someone else had created. Every song, every story, every painting, every tool was considered fair game for copying by anyone who heard it or saw it.

Copyright law is quite recent--the first copyright law was enacted in 1710. Since then we've become used to it, but when the US constitution was being written it was really quite controversial: people called it a government-created monopoly. And they had good reason to be concerned--England had used similar monopolies to oppress the colonies. (People who figured out how English patented technologies worked and brought the secrets back to the colonies were treated has heroes, not as thieves.)

My point is that copyright only exists to the extent that there's a social consensus that it does and should. Starting in 1710, governments started using their police power to stop people from making certain kinds of copies--but the exact rules about what copies were or weren't allowed have changed many times.

This isn't the first time that new copying technology has come along. The system as been challenged many times by various kinds of recording technologies--player pianos, audio recording, photography, photocopying, etc. Each time the law has been adjusted.

And here's the point: in a democracy, the law gets adjusted depending (to a considerable extent) on what ordinary people want to be able to do.

Ordinary people want creators to be able to support themselves doing their art. But ordinary people also want to be able to share stuff that they think is cool. I think the law will shake out so as to allow both those things. But I think that's the right way to cast the argument--how can we adjust the law so that the people (whose representatives make the law) can get what they want.

You can also present the argument as a matter of moral right and wrong--that's legitimate in a democracy, as a way of persuading people--but you should do it knowing something about the history of what was and wasn't considered moral when it came to copying.

Pretending that copying music is theft in the same way that stealing a loaf of bread is theft is only useful to the extent that it convinces people to support your position. If someone had stolen loaves of bread from Homer or Virgil, there were legal mechanisms that allowed for the legitimate use of force to get it back. There were no such mechanisms for using legitimate force to make people stop singing the Iliad or the Aeneid without permission.

Scott Carpenter said...

Hi, Steve. One last comment from me, for now -- I'm really *not* interested in unauthorized/illegal copies of anyone's work. That's not what I'm about. I get much of my entertainment for free on the Net where it is freely offered. I pay for books, music, and movies where they are not freely offered and I'd like to view/listen or have copies of them. But I've failed to get my point across at all, and I'm weary now.

Scott Carpenter said...

Oh, and I've paid for a lot of content that is freely offered, out of the desire to support creative work and Free Culture/Free Software.

(And now, really, one final question: Have you heard of the Kutiman YouTube Remix? These videos blew me away: http://thru-you.com/ They are very much infringing on copyright, but I think they are amazing and are example of the new kinds of creative work that the Net enables. To work under the existing copyright system, I think it would be very hard to produce work like this. If you're familiar with this work, do you think it is a bad thing that Kutiman did?)

AF1 said...

Some of Obama's critics think that just by talking to certain countries we will be seen as"weak.

So any diplomatic "reaching out" on his part will be met with disaproval in some sectors, no matter what the actual outcome of these actions turns out to be.

Anonymous said...

Dan,

"There are absolutely people I think I'm better than in many measurable ways..."

In other words: you don't believe in hierarchies. You just believe that some people are inferior to you.

Is it possible that at least some of those judgements you're making about your inferiors might seem hierarchial to anybody but yourself?

To put it another way: since I imagine you disagree with somebody who assumes that liberals, women, or blacks are inferior to him "in many measurable ways," what is it about your measurement system that you consider more reliable than the not-so-hypothetical case of somebody whose measurement system gives repulsive assessments of comparative human value? What is your system for being a correct elitist?

Like the idea of having "dialogue with our enemies": this idea of being "non-hierarchial" is far easier to profess than to practice. I won't say that I absolutely disbelieve anybody who claims to be doing either -- there are a few genuinely advanced human beings among us. (Christianity has a technical name for them: it calls them "saints".) But I will say that such human beings are rarer than one might believe from reading progressive weblogs on the Internet.


--Erich Schwarz

Marty S said...

More thoughts on the subject of this post. Words are very important as the writers on this blog should know. Steve has titled this post "Speaking with the enemy." The use of the term enemy is significant to me, as is the word speaking. I would distinguish between "speaking" and "negotiating". I would also distinguish between an "enemy", "the opposition", or a competitor. Let's take the subject of Obama and the country's finances. There are groups of posters on this blog who philosophically disagree with Obama's approach to the problem and there are those who agree. We discuss the issues and occasionally maybe someone will even concede a point. But, while we are in disagreement, we are not enemies, we both want to see what ever is done work and the country come out better, for it. An enemy is someone whose goals are hostile to your best interests not merely in disagreement with you. So before you negotiate with an "enemy" you must have a very firm idea of what that enemy wants and what you want and have a good idea that there actually is common ground.

Frank said...

Steve

When it all evens up, he seems to be going down the middleHave you seen these charts?

Who is going to pay for that? And how?

I'm supposed to take someone else's word for this? The President should be someone who can form his own opinions about people, hope to God. Meeting them face to face is the best way to take someone's measure.Oh, you're a slippery one. I never said that the President couldn't talk and make his own assessment of the situation. What I took issue with was the statement you made

And those who think we should not speak with our enemies are coming from a belief that those enemies are irrational and beyond/beneath understanding.I simply pointed out that that not talking to someone does not have to be because they believe the other side to be irrational. You could know very well that the other side is quite rational, but that their rational actions are based on premises that are antithetical to the presmises on which you base your rationality and that the end points are diametrically opposed.

There was nothing irrational about the behavior of the Nazi's if you understood the basis upon which they acted.

Of course talking to them was not a useful activity either. Especially if such talking stayed your hand in the hopes of a useful outcome while at the same time they were acting.

Frank said...

Oh, and ooopsChina, wary of the troubled US economy, has already "canceled America's credit card" by cutting down purchases of debt, a US congressman said Thursday.

China has the world's largest foreign reserves, believed to be mostly in dollars, along with around 800 billion dollars in US Treasury bonds, more than any other country.

But Treasury Department data shows that investors in China have sharply curtailed their purchases of bonds in January and February.

Representative Mark Kirk, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and co-chair of a group of lawmakers promoting relations with Beijing, said China had "very legitimate" concerns about its investments.

"It would appear, quietly and with deference and politeness, that China has canceled America's credit card," Kirk told the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American group.

"I'm not sure too many people on Capitol Hill realize that this is now happening," he said.

PaulRW said...

On the copyright issue:

I never quite fully understand the "free info/free replication/free distribution" peoples’ extreme view.

Simply: if I write a book, and decide that everyone who wants to read that book has to first pay me $10 -- that should be my unequivocal right.
It is a long-standing right in our society -- by which I mean, for hundreds of years.*

You can argue that it is a stupid business decision, or bad art, or what have you.

But you can't say that just because you *can* read my book without paying what I want, that you *should* be able to do so, that it is *right* to do so.

If you were to just state that hey, others are writing better books for free and either making a 'decent living' off it somehow or just doing it to better society, and that maybe I should try that model -- I could not argue with you.

But instead the extreme view seems to be that the free distribution should be the *only* model -- That using the law or technology to ensure my work is distributed only with the model I want for it is a morally wrong choice.
That is not only arguable -- I simply can't see how you can say that.

If people want to create free art, stories, software, what-have-you -- hey, more power to them.
If other people only want to do it for money up front: who the fuck are you to say they should not be able to that?
Just because new technology makes it easier to subvert their intentions is a reason itself?

People often use the analogy that when cars hit the scene, no law protected the income of buggy whip makers. True: of course not. But no law said that buggy whip makers had to produce their work for free, either.

How can you justify completely ignoring the desires and intentions of those doing the work?

And I say all this as a writer who does not make money off anything copyrighted: just the opposite -- for more than ten years I’ve primarily produced disposable material that could be easily copied. My company pays for this service as marketing for other revenue sources. But they should not have to use that model if they did not want to.

[*Pointing out that anyone could ‘copy’ a song or story in ancient times before copyright laws -- or physical copies, for that matter -- is just an asinine point to bring into the argument, for many reasons.]

Bradipo said...

"Asinine for many reasons"? I'd be interested to learn those reasons.

I can guess one: Because the technology to make vast numbers of copies for free (or nearly so) did not exist. Which I would say is exactly my point: Change in the technology of making copies always produces changes in copyright law. In democracies, those laws are changed through democratic processes. Don't expect it to be any different this time.

I'd be sincerely interested to learn some more of the many other reasons my point is asinine.

Anonymous said...

"Simply: if I write a book, and decide that everyone who wants to read that book has to first pay me $10 -- that should be my unequivocal right. It is a long-standing right in our society -- by which I mean, for hundreds of years.*"

Not just wrong, but evil -- and I will explain why.

Your right is to demand $10 from anyone who WANTS TO OWN A COPY OF YOUR BOOK, not merely read it. That is what "copyright" means -- a right to copy.

What you are arguing for is not this -- you just now said, in so many words, that you want to charge the same money for people to READ it.

This is the sort of dangerous talk that is so very, very destructive to the social contract that supports copyright in the first place. The People want you to have a chance to make money as a creator, but YOU are arguing that you have the right to CHARGE ADMISSION EVERY TIME SOMEONE VISITS YOUR WORK.

You know who's been putting these ideas into this discussion? Large corporate entities. Because that's EXACTLY what they want. They want every song, every e-book, every video clip, every software program to require a transaction every single time it's heard, read, viewed, or used.

These are people who want to make it illegal, impossible, or ideally both to sell your used CDs, books, or computer games. To make you buy all your software again every time you have to re-install your OS. To buy the same music track over again for your car, iPod, home. To arrest you if you invite too many people over to your house to watch a movie.

Hyperbole? No. They would do every one of those things if they could, and some of them have already been done. And every time they do this, people respect copyright less. Public Domain, Fair Use, and First Sale are under continuous attack; why should people offer any respect to the attackers? Because people like you might get caught in the crossfire? How can they even tell you apart, when you're chanting the same "Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad, Copyright Infringement Is Stealing" line we keep getting from the enemy?


"But you can't say that just because you *can* read my book without paying what I want, that you *should* be able to do so, that it is *right* to do so."

If I want to read it at the library, or buy it at a used book store, or borrow it from my friend, or read it over someone's shoulder on the fucking bus I ABSOLUTELY can argue that I should be able to do so without paying you a fucking penny.

You don't agree? Fuck you. Don't try to take away from every American a right we already had and then call US thieves.

Oh, I know. That's not what you really meant, is it? But it's what you said, isn't it? I wonder where you got the idea to say that?


"...But instead the extreme view seems to be that the free distribution should be the *only* model -- That using the law or technology to ensure my work is distributed only with the model I want for it is a morally wrong choice."

Using the law or technology to ensure your work is distributed only with the model you want for it IS a morally wrong choice.

Let us begin with a history lesson. Before you dismiss this as "asinine," you might want to consider it as part of the whole argument.

When copyright was first invented, it was because of the very problem you describe: there were so many publishers that the ones who payed authors would get rapidly undercut by all the ones who didn't. There were entire publishing houses that printed only works first published by others.

Fortunately, people started to notice that paying someone for access to their work, in order to publish it, was becoming a losing proposition, with potentially far-reaching negative consequences. So they came up with the idea of limited monopolies on making printed copies; with this legal protection in place, publishers could safely pay authors for access to their work without risking their business, and writers could write with the freedom and dedication of being paid to do so.

That's the history: technology ennabling new ways to make money (selling lots of copies of a work), and law having to adjust to the technology (making sure the work got produced in the first place).

In that light, the Five Uncomfortable Truths of Copying:

1) People remember and repeat stuff they find value in repeating. They quote their favorite movie characters, authors, public personae, teachers, parents friends. They quote their enemies, their rivals, people they think are wrong, in order to refute their ideas. People pass on information. It's what people do.

2) People loan things to their friends that they believe those friends will find valuable. A tool. A vehicle. A book. A record. People utilize resources they own to help other people. It's what people do.

3) People like to just express copies of ideas they've been exposed to. To sing a song, perform a poem, act out a scene that they like, maybe even in public, to try and share with people their emotional connection to the work. "Here, isn't this awesome?" "You've never seen [such and such movie]? Oh, you gotta see [such and such movie]."People share their feelings and opinions on creative works with other people who have experienced those works, and -- here's the important bit -- will go out of their way to get people to experience those works if they haven't already. It's what people do.

4) People use technology. It's what people do.

5) Technology in each media changed everything when it made it possible to create physical copies of works in that media: printing press, audio recording, color photograph, filmed performance. Technology has now reached the point where Physical copies are no longer a necessary vector for reproducing content. Quoting people can now include entire works, more easily than manually repeating the quotes. People can send someone a copy of an entire musical performance in a thousandth of the time it would take to perform it in person. Giving a million people their very own copy of a work has the same monetary cost as loaning one person one copy of that work. A computer is not a printing press, it is not a CD press, it is not a DVD press. It is an extension of the human ability to replicate information and pass it to our fellow humans.

To sum it all up: people are doing what people do.

So:

A) We can use existing law to punish people for using the new technology, attempting to legistlate changes in basic human behavior. While you're at it, tell me how that works out with "ingest things that make us feel good" and "own weapons" and "have sex with consenting adults"; I, for one, can already hear the screaming.

B) We can use technology to keep people from copying stuff. The problem is, denying someone access to the bits (so they can't copy them) while simultaneously giving them access to the bits (so they can see the media) is a fundamentally (and I don't use that adverb lightly here) broken concept. The only way to stop people from hacking the data and copying at will is to threaten them with federal pound-them-in-the-ass prison if they do so (see DMCA), which unfortunately brings us back to morally indefensible A).

C), The morally correct choice, is to figure out new ways for creators to make money creating, and get everyone to agree to them such that they actually provide said money. This sort of thing isn't comfortable, but it has to be done every time new technology hits its tipping point (see the history of copyright above).

First, though, before we can discuss how to proceed, we need to make sure we're all on the same rational footing...


"People often use the analogy that when cars hit the scene, no law protected the income of buggy whip makers. True: of course not. But no law said that buggy whip makers had to produce their work for free, either."

If there were a just God, everyone from this moment forward who ever uses a materal-good analogy in a copyright discussion would be struck by lighting and unable to use language ever again, just to spare the rest of us from this poison discourse.

INFORMATION IS NOT MATTER. I cannot begin to express how destructive this attitude is to rational discussion on this subject. So many people premise their arguments on this utterly spurious concept -- people arguing on ALL sides of the debate (although I have my doubts about the veracity of "anti-copyright" folks who ascribe to it) -- that frankly I shouldn't be surprised that people aren't able to grasp what the "other side" is saying.

People can't even grasp it when I say "we need to figure a way for you to get paid that doesn't depend on selling individual copies, because individual copies are worth exactly nothing", even when I say it right to their face. They get so hung up on failing to comprehend the stark truth of the second half of that sentence that they blank out the first half. But you need to understand that second bit to even know why you need to discuss the first.


"How can you justify completely ignoring the desires and intentions of those doing the work?"

See what I mean?

It's just impossible to speak to an "enemy" that says X is Y when Y is factually (and legally!) Not X. Every time you try to explain the difference between X and Y, they take it the wrong way, and "how to fix X" becomes lost in the noise.

"And I say all this as a writer who does not make money off anything copyrighted: just the opposite -- for more than ten years I’ve primarily produced disposable material that could be easily copied. My company pays for this service as marketing for other revenue sources. But they should not have to use that model if they did not want to."

Why not?

Nobody has a right to make a profit. They only have the right to try.

"[*Pointing out that anyone could ‘copy’ a song or story in ancient times before copyright laws -- or physical copies, for that matter -- is just an asinine point to bring into the argument, for many reasons.]"

Name three.

Dan Moran said...

Susan,

>do you mean an underlying
>principle involved in the
>tendency to hierarchize?

I mean that there are very few true hierarchical organizing principles in the real world, and that the impulse to organize hierarchically, though apparently burned into the human brain, is usually the Original Error, particularly when dealing with other people.

Erich,

>In other words: you don't believe
>in hierarchies.

Let's say, rather, that they are very rarely a useful modeling tool in interactions among people. That's 28 years of database design speaking.

>You just believe that some people
>are inferior to you.

Yep.

>Is it possible that at least some
>of those judgements you're making
>about your inferiors might seem
>hierarchial to anybody but
>yourself?

To anybody? I doubt it. To some, such as, say, you? Sure. :-)

>To put it another way: since I
>imagine you disagree with
>somebody who assumes that
>liberals, women, or blacks are
>inferior to him "in many
>measurable ways,"

Anyone who makes blanket statements about groups has my immediate wariness. (Unless you're using the defining characteristic of the group to make those blanket statements: "Boy, those NBA players sure are tall!" Well, OK. But anyone who says "I'm better than men/women, liberals/conservatives, fat kids/skinny kids, even kids with chicken pox" ... has already outed himself.)

There are limited cases where I can point to groups and say with some confidence, "I'm superior to Group X in Area X ..." Of course these groups are those whose defining characteristics, the things that make them a group, make them inferior to most people. Abusers. Alcoholics. Drug addicts. Pathological liars. Child killers. Child molesters. Rapists. If you don't share that particular sin, then aren't you superior to that individual in that respect?

But "conservatives?" "Liberals?" Anyone who makes the assertion that he/she is superior to "conservatives" isn't. Conservatives include Ted Bundy, Dan Quayle, and Barry Goldwater. (You have to squint a bit, but I wouldn't quibble much on Churchill.) Liberals include John Wayne Gacy, John Edwards, FDR and let's say Barrack Obama.

Anyone who makes blanket statements of this sort is foolish, and I'm pretty sure you knew that when you constructed your strawman, hmm?

But I have no hesitation in claiming superiority to any number of individuals humans, based on their personal conduct and accomplishments, and almost regardless of their ideology or gender or whatever. And nor would you.

>what is it about
>your measurement system that you
>consider more reliable than
>the not-so-hypothetical case of
>somebody whose measurement
>system gives repulsive
>assessments of comparative human
>value? What is your system for
>being a correct elitist?

I restrain myself to individuals. Michael Moore might be smarter than me, prettier than me, richer and more successful than me -- but I wouldn't trade places with him. He's dishonest. Governor Schwarzenegger may be more focused, more handsome, and infinitely more successful than I: but he's a rapist.

Then there's William Buckley, who was smarter, richer, better educated, better looking, and more talented than me. I'll just shut up about him....

>Like the idea of having "dialogue
>with our enemies": this idea of being
>"non-hierarchial" is far easier to
>profess than to practice.

Really? Judging individuals on their merits, on their individual actions, seems a reasonable goal that's not beyond the abilities of most humans.

>I won't say that I absolutely
>disbelieve anybody who claims to be
>doing either -- there are a few
>genuinely advanced human beings among
>us. (Christianity has a technical
>name for them: it calls them
>"saints".)

I know a good amount about how Catholics coin saints. Pretty sure that "judging an individual on the merits" has never been an explicit criteria to achieve sainthood ... probably because they never thought it was that remarkable an accomplishment.

>But I will say that such human beings
>are rarer than one might believe from
>reading progressive weblogs on the
>Internet.

Possibly people are misreading. I don't know any saints, but I sure do know a lot of good people who take others as they come, and judge them based on their actual conduct, rather than their race, sex, creed, or whatever.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone who makes blanket statements of this sort is foolish, and I'm pretty sure you knew that when you constructed your strawman, hmm?"

The whole point of my raising that deliberately bad example was to discern just what it was that you thought you were doing differently. As far as I can tell, you're making your judgements on an absolutely individual by individual basis, with no unacknowledged negative generalizations at all.

Which is admirable! But really rare. What I observe much more often are people who disdain "simplistic" judgements in others but who themselves believe in absolute, unqualified evil when they start discussing some political or religious viewpoint of which they disapprove.


"Judging individuals on their merits, on their individual actions, seems a reasonable goal that's not beyond the abilities of most humans."

Whatever may seem reasonable, the observed reality of human history is that such judgement is horribly uncommon. What's been all too common in history is the demonization of outsiders. It may have more or less justification in particular situations; but, nevertheless, it's not the sort of person-by-person judgement that you're remarkably managing.



--Erich Schwarz

Anonymous said...

Simply: if I write a book, and decide that everyone who wants to read that book has to first pay me $10 -- that should be my unequivocal right. It is a long-standing right in our society -- by which I mean, for hundreds of years.

Evil? no, simply the basic building block of capitalism. See the other part of the equation is that no one is forcing you to buy it. How about if someone decided you should work for free? fair use public domain, yes no one on this board wants those to go away. and yes disney and warner brothers do but Steve Barnes and Steve Perry still have the right to ASk for a decent buck for their work and if you think it is worth your money you pony it up. having the means and ability to instantaneously copy and distribute an unlimited # copies of your own work is cool but you shouldn't have the right to do it to others work without compensation or regard. That's not right either. As for the "people doing what people do" argument that's why we have laws in the first place. how are you going to free valuation from an individual copy? good luck with that one.

Langdon

Marty S said...

How can anybody deny hierarchies exist. Everybody knows that the poor or middle class working person is good and all the successful money making rich people are evil and got there by being greedy and exploiting others.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

My husband takes photographs. Once, we learned that someone had taken a photograph of his and *removed* his copyright notice, then reproduced it, so that it wound up reproduced all over the Internet with *no attribution or credit*, so that no one who wanted to could find who took it. When he finally ran across one of these reproduced copies, and pointed out that the photo was his, he got several reactions:

1) Someone who had been looking for a long time for the photographer in hopes of buying a print said he was delighted to have found them.

2) The person who had most immediately reposted the photographs indignantly protested that it was *public domain* (because, evidently, if someone else removed your copyright notice and reposted your work, your work becomes public domain by the time the next person finds the reproduced item, even if you didn't know about the initial copyright violation to protest), and attempted to organize a mailbombing of my husband's email account, getting friends to send him large unwanted image files.

This left me with a sour taste in my mouth regarding Internet complaints about the evils of copyright. While I do believe that copyright law could do with some improvements, and while I'm also fine with voluntary Creative Commons-type notices, there are too many people on the net who get indignant about *any assertion of ownership at all* over creative work by the person who did the work of creating it. My husband isn't Disney, he isn't rich or making money off something someone else made who has died, and he isn't using copyright to interfere with other people's fair use or free speech. He didn't deserve to have his photos stolen and credit to him for taking them removed, and he didn't deserve to be mailbombed for pointing out that fact.

suzanne said...

Marty___
the acid engendered by the sarcasm of your last comment
dripped all over my keyboard
and caused a meltdown

lucky I have a spare

Dan Moran said...

Marty,

How can anybody deny hierarchies exist. Everybody knows that the poor or middle class working person is good and all the successful money making rich people are evil and got there by being greedy and exploiting others.
.
Yeah, and Come the Revolution all those bastards are going up against the wall.

Erich,

Whatever may seem reasonable, the observed reality of human history is that such judgement is horribly uncommon. What's been all too common in history is the demonization of outsiders. It may have more or less justification in particular situations; but, nevertheless, it's not the sort of person-by-person judgement that you're remarkably managing..
I think you're looking for my assertion that I possess some remarkable and unusual virtue. I am a remarkable and unusual person, handsome, charming, funny, humble and virile and self-assured and so on .... but in this area I don't think I'm all that unusual. In the minority, possibly, but if so it's a pretty big minority.

An awful lot of people, now and throughout history, judge people by the groups they belong to. Withholding judgment until you've got a read on someone is a learned skill, sure -- but one any reasonably well raised 13 year old should possess.

Marty S said...

Sorry if the sarcasm in my last post was a little over the top. I let my anger at some of rhetoric coming out of the white house lately get to me.

Anonymous said...

Dan Moran wrote:

"Withholding judgment until you've got a read on someone is a learned skill, sure -- but one any reasonably well raised 13 year old should possess."

Ah, yes ... "should". That treacherous word, so easily confused with "is".

Look around at the world today. Does it LOOK to you as if anything resembling a majority of people over the age of 13 both have, and choose to exercise, this skill that you think should be commonplace?

Truly, I wish you were right not merely about what should be but about what is. However, I think you're palpably wrong. More's the pity.

Which brings me back to my original point. You yourself may well be totally unprejudiced and reliably able to make purely individual assessements of individual characters. That's great. But it's not common, and thus the claim that you can do it is inevitably a claim of personal excellence. In your case, I see no reason to assume it's not true. But I think a lot of such claims are more easily made than lived up to. Talk really is cheap.


--Erich Schwarz

Dan Moran said...

Look around at the world today. Does it LOOK to you as if anything resembling a majority of people over the age of 13 both have, and choose to exercise, this skill that you think should be commonplace?.
In my circles, yeah.

I think you underestimate the damage small percentages of troublemakers can cause in a society. The amount of damage an individual can do is much larger than the amount of benefit he can bring (as a general rule.) Civilization only exists because almost all of us are doing the right thing. If most of us weren't doing the right thing, civilization would collapse.