The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Arizona's Immigration Reform

The Immigration Bill in Arizona has a ton of strident conversation buzzing around the internet. My thoughts:
1) Yeah, I think that racial profiling will occur. Especially in Arizona, which was the last state in the union to ratify MLK day--I don't forget things like that.
2) I think that any nation has the right to decide who enters and who does not. Just as any organism has a membrane to select which molecules enter. Does this apply to States? I would think that when it comes to aliens, that answer would be "yes." But I admit to not knowing the legal specifics.
3) I think arguments about illegals doing the work Americans don't want to do is interesting, but not totally applicable. If you wanted to make that argument and then have people vote about whether they wanted the illegals to come in...all right. But this is used as justification for people being here illegally. This is like someone saying: I'll break into your house, and it's all right because I'll also empty your ashtrays while I'm there. No. Mexico has the right to say when and how Americans enter their country. And America has the same.
These arguments remind me far too much of people who say that illegal "file sharing" is good for authors because it promotes their books. Nice theory. But the truth is that unless you have my permission, all your reasoning is nothing more than rationalization of theft. People ALWAYS rationalize theft, violation of property lines, or whatever.
4) I hate the demonization of illegals, the very clear association of them totally with negative behaviors, even in situations where they violate no more laws on average than citizens. This is necessary to create political movement, but I find it vile. The truth (to me) is that legal boundaries are broken, but not necessarily core moral principles. Humans migrate. Countries are lines on maps. This country was stolen from the Indians, and the entire question of ownership is murky, save for Might Makes Right. That is what I see as the core truth, but you can't run a country like that...no one can. Sigh. So we are pretty stuck with what we have, and have to deal with it in such a fashion. Still, most people would go where there was greater opportunity for their families--the act of sneaking across a river doesn't make someone automatically any less moral or worthwhile than someone born on the northern side of that line. But man, you wouldn't know it from listening to the political chatter.
5) Deporting people doesn't seem to work well. Jailing people costs us too much. Dammit, I don't know what a really good answer would be (In theory, bracelets or implants that cause pain if you travel into the U.S. would be interesting...for a SF story. In reality, what a nightmare.)
5) Walls have worked for thousands of years in reducing the flow of X across Y. Doesn't work absolutely, no. But all you can do is clearly mark "this is mine" and then bring difficulty and discomfort to bear on those who try to cross. I think that this is not unreasonable.
6) There is no doubt that there are those of seditious temperament. In fact, it would be impossible for there not to be among those flowing in. Think that Americans don't talk about taking over countries in which we got a foothold? I would bet that the urge to spread, to dominate, to control resources in surrounding territory has been close to universal since human beings first realized resources increased their chance of survival. "La Reconquista" makes logical sense (for Mexicans) from that perspective. Doesn't make them evil. And we have no reason to be sanguine about it, either. We did, and do the same--although we prefer economic domination (it seems to me).

The problem is that it is difficult to get people to react unless they are hyper-emotionalized. Which probably means to demonize. Which obscures truth. But if you DON'T get masses of people moving, you can easily lose your country--it's happened to all those "nice peaceful cultures" people love to point to, without grasping that they are all either protected by mountains and/or oceans, or have been pushed into the middle of the Kalahari.

Sigh. If only men weren't warlike and expansionistic. If only women didn't churn out babies, and choose dominating men as their partners. If only we didn't tend to believe ourselves better than others, and lie to ourselves about our motivations. Whatever is happening here is made more difficult by fear and prejudice. Humans migrate to resources like other animals. And nations have the right to protect their borders...or they stop being nations.

I seriously have no answers. But I know there is lying and exaggeration going on on both sides, as well as co-opting of some of our very worst instincts. Which also happen to be some of the instincts that keep us alive.

Damn, this stuff is hard. What do you guys think? And please--let's be careful and polite with each other, shall we? This topic is controversial as hell, and both Left and Right have some valid points.

30 comments:

Scott said...

First obvious point is that immigrants are the best; smarter, tougher, more driven than normal people. The one that pops into my head when the topic comes up is Nikola Tesla, you know?

A screwed-up welfare system could reduce the benefit of immigration, sure; suggests a place to concentrate political change, too.

Quotas are absurdly strict and racist.

Emma Lazarus wrote The New Colossus: "Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Marty S said...

Here's a question. Why should it be easier to enter the country illegally than legally. My son who is a professor in Ottawa, married a Brazilian woman last year. They are now expecting a child. They decide they would like to move to NY and be near family. He applied for a position and received an offer from The City University of New York. He was going to accept, but then they found out it would take at least a year for her to get a green card and she couldn't enter the U.S. even to visit till she got the green card. This was not feasible so they are staying in Canada. It seems crazy to me that we should accept millions of illegal aliens, but a woman with a phd in Mathematics, who is married to an American Citizen can't come in. This is not a single incident. A college roommate of my other son married a foreign woman in the U.S. on a green card. They went on a honeymoon outside the U.S. and immigration wouldn't let her back in. If we are so hard on educated people capable of fully contributing to our society, I ask why shouldn't we be equally hard on illegals. By the way I admit to being bitter that I won't be seeing my grandchild weekends because of this.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Marty - You're 100% right. It makes no sense for the legal process to be harder than the illegal method of entry. My wife and I went through about a 18 month process after we were married before her green card was approved.

Still not sure about the legality of the Arizona laws. There are a few accounts of American citizens being deported or jailed pending deportation - hell even one would be enough to scare me. Not sure how you would prove that you are an American citizen, unless you are carrying your birth certificate on you.

Shady_Grady said...

I don't really like the new proposed Arizona law but on the other hand I like illegal immigration even less. If the federal government was doing its job these sorts of laws wouldn't be required.

I think that if the legislation becomes law there is an excellent chance that it will not be upheld in courts just as a similar type of law in Hazelton, PA was mostly struck down, IIRC.

I think that it is critically important to maintain a distinction between legal and illegal immigration. But in any event the levels of immigration and the tolerance for it are really up to the citizens of the country and their elected representatives, NOT the immigrants.

The US takes in over a million legal immigrants each year, which I believe is more than any other nation.
The benefits of illegal immigration primarily accrue to the illegal immigrants themselves and to the companies which hire them.
It is woefully unfair to allow massive illegal immigration from mostly one country/region but make everyone else jump through hoops.

In any event space and resources are limited and it's past time IMO that the country considered a moratorium on immigration.

FWIW it's also ironic that the Arizona law generally copies existing federal law.

MTimonin said...

From a historical point of view, the United States has best served itself and the world when it has adhered to the quotation which Scott offered - "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free." Until the 1920s, entering the US legally meant being able to get here, being literate - not in English, but in your own language - and not being incurably diseased, insane, or politically radical. Since the 1920s, the US has implemented a variety of measures designed to limit what Nativists viewed as the hideous wave of immigration threatening to dilute the pure blood of America. Our current quota system is less overtly racist than the system imposed in the 1920s, but they are unnecessary, foolishly restrictive, and penny wise but pound foolish, as Marty points out. These policies have not served to keep out the "illegals", and they have kept out people who we would regard as otherwise desirable. Does the US have a right to defend its borders? Absolutely. But, in general, an exclusionary policy has a) not had the desired effect and b) ended up having unexpected negative effects. Instead of building walls along the border, we should be building reception centers - bring the motivated in, give them jobs, make them citizens. If you can make it to the center, and you aren't incurably diseased, insane, or politically radical (whatever that means), come in, settle down, and teach us how to eat your food.

Shady_Grady said...

@MTimonin:

The US had a restrictive immigration policy (a close to zero limit) from 1924~1965 and one that was quite deliberately racist.

The current immigration policy gives quotas to countries all over the world and does not restrict based on how close one's forebears are to Northern/Western European heritage.

I think this is more or less a good thing.

What is most definitely not a good thing imo is when people decide on their own to move to the US without permission, take up residence and start agitating for citizenship.

That is what the problem is today. Whatever the limit for legal immigration may be, whether it is too high or too low, there are millions of people who have made it clear they they don't really care what the legal limit is, they're coming anyway. There's no country on the planet that would or could be expected to tolerate that.

The US does not have the same need for immigrants that it did in the 1920's but in any event that decision on proper levels of immigration to the US is one that belongs to the US citizens, not the immigrants. If someone is here illegally they should be returned to their country of origin.

Anonymous said...

"If only women didn't churn out babies, and choose dominating men as their partners."

Why do you keep talking about women as if all of those of us who *don't* want dominating men as our partners don't even exist?

Pagan Topologist said...

I am a progressive, and I agree with Libertarians only very rarely. But this is one of those times. I really believe that anyone ought to be able to live wherever they wish. Keeping people out will worsen the problems facing Medicare and Social Security, will keep real estate prices low because of low demand, and will be bad, long-term for the overall economy. The claim that immigrants take Americans jobs is completely wrong; the more people who enter the country, the more consumers, and therefore the higher demand for goods and services and the more jobs. Making anyone illegal worsens this, since they likely will work but not pay taxes. If they were legal, they would pay taxes. Of course, criminals or political terrorist infiltrators need to be deported or imprisoned. But these are a very small minority, and trying to exclude millions to keep out a few is at the very least counterproductive. If the 12 million illegals start paying into Social Security and Medicare, and paying income taxes, then the federal government's finances would be in better shape. If many of them could buy houses, the real estate market would not be in such a crisis as it is.

Shady_Grady said...

"If many of them could buy houses, the real estate market would not be in such a crisis as it is."

It is worth pointing out that a great many illegal immigrants did purchase homes-many through subprime loans with no-doc requirements.

Anonymous said...

"But the truth is that unless you have my permission, all your reasoning is nothing more than rationalization of theft. "

Please stop redefining words to fit your fears. If they claim it as their own, it's plagarism. If they don't, it's copyright infringement.

It is not and never will be theft, because individual copies of information have a discrete value of zero.

The original information has value, of course. And the medium on which the data is stored can have value. But the information contained in the copy has no value in and of itself.

If you scan a page of text, have you created value? If you delete the copy of the scan, have you destroyed value?

Wake up: the industry of making copies has become obsolete. Business models that depend on that industry are dinosaurs, and the asteroid has already hit.

Everywhere I look, I see artists and performers, and their audiences, coming to the agreement that buying copies of their stuff is the way to encourage the artist to do more of it. This is the original purpose and traditional role of copyright, from which it's been so violently warped into its current undead, immortal, entitlement-monster form. But this is a transitional phase, if you think about it. People do this because it mimics what was done before, even though the motivation and end result is different. How long before "here's my album, how much would you like me to make another?"

That's what the publishing industries are panic-shit scared of. They're desperately squirming around the issue, poisoning the rhetorical well with this "theft" nonsense, playing on the fears of those persons they depend on to , y'know, actually make things of value. They want to get in on what the independents are leaning towards -- note those anti-movie-piracy pre-trailers that talk about all the work that goes into the film, and how it's wrong not to compensate everyone -- but they pull up short, because they know it's just a matter of time before a critical mass of people start saying "why don't we pay these people to make movies directly, and then freely enjoy the results? What the fuck is that middleman there for, anyway?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assurance_contract

They could grow feathers and wings and adapt, of course. The process will involve kicking, screaming, and dragging, and the public will suffer the brunt of the resultant agony, as always.

Travis said...

"But the information contained in the copy has no value in and of itself"

Really? Can I have the 4g iphone plans then please? That's information and of no value under your analysis.

Pagan Topologist said...

Anonymous at 3:38, I think it is true that Bill Gates became the richest man in the world precisely because people stole his early software so universally that it became the standard and people began buying its newer versions. This doesn't mean that this model would always work, although I suspect that most fiction authors benefit from having copies of their writings available free in public libraries. It truly is free advertising.

Anonymous said...

Travis,

That information is valuable because of it's secrecy. Control of access to that information has a measurable value, the information itself does not. If an Iphone engineer needs access to the plans, it costs Apple nothing to give it to him. The engineer needs the data, but that value is embodied solely in the original creation of that data, or access to it, not in any given copy of it.
If it gets copied, just once, to an unrestricted medium, it instantly becomes worth nothing.

This is one of the reasons that so many media and software producers are constantly trying so, so hard to come up with ways to restrict access to the copies of their data. The protection scheme has value; it restricts access in order to ensure the producer has a financial incentive to produce, creating an illusion that the individual copies have value, just like they did in the olden days when reproduction cost something.

Unfortunately, in most cases the value for the customer is actually a negative value -- the restricted copy isn't as useful as a pirated one, it is actually less valuable than a zero-value copy. It is increasingly common, for example, for people to buy a copy of software, and then download a pirated copy so they can use it without, say, having to have the CD in the drive all the time (or to avoid rootkits, or system overhead, or (I shit you not) physical damage to hardware, or in some cases to even be able to use the software in the first place).

This is now an issue for video, books, music.

It is a willful ignorance; they HAVE to pretend that the creation of the copies, and not the creation of the original work, is where the value lies, because that's the whole reason their entire industry exists. It's how the whole system is set up.

Doesn't change the math, though.

Pagan Topologist:

"I think it is true that Bill Gates became the richest man in the world precisely because people stole his early software so universally"

See? This is what I'm talking about.

People illegally copied his early software.

Words, they have meanings. This should not be news to anyone here.

Robin James Burchett said...

Anoymous,
From the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall have the power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

Pretty simple. Treating intellectual property as real and inherently valuable is beneficial to society. The ease of duplication is not relevant – and not just because this was written long ago.

It leaves tremendous wiggle room for society to evolve standards of how long a copyright should be for different forms, what constitutes fair use, etc. And yes, society will continue evolving, & will have to grapple with new technology as it comes along.

We may find that many forms of intellectual property are simply impossible to protect because there is no societal will to protect them. If that occurs, laws will change. Until that point, copyright infringement is thievery.

Now, unwise laws create contempt for the law, and erode the rule of law. I’m sure there are many decent people who think that information really wants to be free and our copyright laws need drastic overhaul. The distinction between homicide and self defense lies in the law, which itself is a living thing, interpreted and understood by humans, with all the messiness that entails. But that’s where it lies – not in what we think or feel the law ought to be.

And if you think that as citizens we should be free to interpret the law as we see fit, or selectively ignore the ones we don’t like (which we all do to some extent), then you should know that I just might believe that property is theft, and that I have as much right to your stereo as you do. It isn’t fair that you have such nice speakers!

Anon. stated:
“It is not and never will be theft, because individual copies of information have a discrete value of zero.

The original information has value, of course. And the medium on which the data is stored can have value. But the information contained in the copy has no value in and of itself.”

The original information cannot possibly have more value than a copy – not if a copy is indistinguishable from the original.

Imagine you have in your safe an unreleased Beatles album. A masterpiece – their best work – finally free of some legal problem keeping it under wraps. You own it. The tape is going to rot someday, so you put it on your hard drive.

What is it worth? Does the worth change, based on the # of backups you make?
Now – does the worth change if one of those backups gets out into circulation and copied a billion times?

You still have the original on your hard drive. Hell, you still have the tape.
How much is it worth now? Maybe you can get some money for commercials or movie soundtracks, but only if society deems that the owner of a copyright owns something of value. If that is not enforced, you’ve got nothing.

The distributed copies affect the value of the original; as their value falls to zero, so does the original. That may be as it should be and we need to change the law, but don’t kid yourself that it doesn’t matter. It matters a hell of a lot to people trying to feed their families by creating intellectual property.

Refer back to the constitution quote, above. We may come to see that as archaic – and believe that the promotion of the Progress of Science and useful Arts now demands that copyright be more or less abolished. Sure some people will still pay for the Beatles CDs you put out, and you may think that the amount you would make is the natural or right amount. Maybe so, but there’s no getting around that it is materially different from what you would have gotten if your copyright had been respected.

Another important issue – should the estate of Johnny Cash have the right to refuse to let Ring of Fire be used in a Preparation H Commercial? If information really wants to be free, we’re all going to have that song in our heads at some point, experiencing our own personal Burning Ring of Fire.

Marty S said...

There really is two sides to the copyright issue. The main purpose of the copyright law is insure that the artist gets proper compensation for their work efforts. This is important because
1) They deserve the compensation and
2) It encourages them to keep on producing new work.
That said there are times I have violated the copyright laws and not felt guilty at all. One example is as a kid, I and two of my friends would chip in to buy a record album, then tape two copies. It may have been rationalization, but since we couldn't afford to buy the album individually our doing this meant that one copy of the album was sold that wouldn't have been sold so the artist was being compensated. The other place where I constantly make illegal copies is software. I have three computers and I refuse to buy three copies of the same software in order to use it on all three computers and I'm not going to uninstall it from my desktop and install it on my laptop every time I need it away from home. So when I buy software I feel its fair to put on all my computers.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I believe that one of the reasons the US became such a major power is that for a long time, it was the largest region in the world (both size and population, I think) which had free internal travel, residence, and permission to work.

A country is free to make any laws it wants. There is no guarantee of a good outcome from any particular law, and immigration restriction has some very bad outcomes.

When you hear about slavery in a first world country, it typically involves people who are not legally present. Sometimes they've deliberately entered illegally, sometimes their passports have been taken from them.

Having people outside the law sets them up for abuse.

Immigration restriction makes atrocities in other countries easier. This is one where I have a personal involvement-- most of the world refused to let Jews out of Germany during the Holocaust-- the US even turned a refugee ship back.

There are costs to immigration-- it typically takes people time to learn the language and get up to speed economically. Meanwhile, there are costs of translation and education.

However, it's disingenuous to complain about those costs while doing what you can to cripple illegal immigrants' ability to be productive. People can contribute more if they don't have to work in the black market, and can get drivers' licenses and business licenses.

Pagan Topologist, a good many illegal immigrants are already paying taxes, so that their employers can look as though they're employing citizens. Those illegal immigrants will not (under current law) be able to collect social security. This is the sort of collateral injustice which should suggest that there's something fundamentally wrong with the law.

I'm not sure where law-abidingness fits among the virtues. It's obviously not entirely useless, but it also isn't a primary value.

Is a country a different sort of thing than a city? Cities in general have done very nicely without immigration restrictions.

Mike Ralls said...

Most interesting argument I've heard about the Arizona bill is that as Article IV Section 4 say:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

--
And that the federal government is in default of its "protection against invasion” responsibility so Arizona is empowered to result to self-help measures. Be a hell of a Supreme Court case!

Travis said...

Anonymous

I am not even going to try and respond to your argument on a point by point basis as it is so flawed I could be at it all day.

It seems clear to me that you have a great desire to rationalize the theft of intellectual property. Why is that?

Nancy Lebovitz said...

One more point: America has one of the most attractive cultures in human history. Immigrants tend to want to be American, even if they also want to keep some aspects of their home culture.

The people who move here from the third world know they're getting away from something worth leaving.

American culture is attractive because, due to the combination of rights and commerce, we've specialized in making things that people like.

Another protection against the possibility of getting swamped out is getting immigrants from many different places-- English becomes an efficient choice for them to communicate with each other as well as the mainstream culture.

Shady_Grady said...

Nancy, two things:

1) I think the distinction betweeen illegal and legal immigration gets shaded over sometimes. I think it's critical to maintain that distinction. As far as any harm suffered by illegal immigrants in terms of not having access to benefits enjoyed by citizens, that's something that the illegals signed up for when they entered the country without permission.

2) Part of the problem with illegal immigration is that so much of it comes from one country. So in some places one culture literally is being replaced with another. That may be a good thing but it should at least be discussed.

So the way I see it, legal immigration is mostly ok and something which can be discussed. Illegal immigration is not ok and shouldn't be tolerated.

Anonymous said...

"Now – does the worth change if one of those backups gets out into circulation and copied a billion times? "

Yes, it does. That's what I'm trying to explain to you: restriction of access has value, the copies do not.

That's what copyright is: restriction of access. "Secure for a limited time the rights to the work" doesn't magically transform data into object. It restricts access to the data in order to create value for both the creator and the people. Without that restriction, there's no guarantee of value for everyone. With too much restriction, everyone loses as well -- if buying a copy of something is too much of a pain in the ass, people simply won't do it. They don't get access, and the creator doesn't get any money.

Problem: all our ideas about how copyright should actually work were formed at a time when each copy had a tangible cost to produce.

Now that they don't, the math has changed. Trying to assign value to original copies is like trying to divide by zero -- you can sort of try and work around it, but you can't actually do it.

This means copyright HAS TO WORK DIFFERENTLY NOW, if it is to work at all.

At one time, the creation of the orignal work and the reproduction of it both had separate, but inter-connected, value; without the original, there was nothing to distribute; but without distribution, the original work could only be sold once. Such was the latter condition before, say, the invention of the printing press.

We have reached a curious point in history where, once again, only the original work can be sold, because only the original work can have meaningful restricions on its access. Paying for individual copies is something I do because, the way the system is set up, it's the only way to do the right thing, not because it makes any sort of logical sense to do so. Because really, it doesn't.

Attempting to pretend that digital copies of data have discrete value is broken, it will always be broken. You cannot both restrict and allow access to the same party simultaneously. Attempts to do so are fundamentally impossible at a basic, mathematical level. Greater efforts to do so multiply unintended consequences, with no corresponding rise in effectiveness, because it CANNOT WORK.

"Another important issue – should the estate of Johnny Cash have the right to refuse to let Ring of Fire be used in a Preparation H Commercial?"

In what way does control of access to that song encourage Mr. Cash to produce more works of art? How does restricting access to that song promote the progress of science and useful arts?

His estate should absolutely have the right to restrict access to the song, because the copyright hasn't run out yet. HOWEVER, under the original terms of copyright, it would have run out nearly two decades ago. Just as theft means theft, and not something else, limited time means limited time, not "forever and ever". As long as the copyright term keeps getting pushed forward, it is, effectively, unlimited, hence unconstitutional.

Anonymous said...

@Travis:

"It seems clear to me that you have a great desire to rationalize the theft of intellectual property. Why is that?"

It is clear to you, yet no single part of it is true. Why is that?

There is no way to restrict access to individual copies of digital data without hurting everyone who touches it. None. We accept this, when, say, working with sensitive data in a restricted facility. But therein lies the rub: within any access layer, the data in that layer is, by definition, unrestricted. The layer "customer" either has access at any given time, or it does not. We are dealing with binary here; there is no third state.

This is why stopping actual pirates, who sell copies of other people's work for money, is both trivially easy and morally unambiguous -- the "producer and distributor of copies" layer is, in such a case, separate from the "wants to watch/view/read/use" layer. It's when people in that bottom layer suddenly can produce copies at no cost that you start running into problems with obsolete legal and technological structures. That's a VERY significant change, and everyone's still struggling to mentally comprehend it. Case in point: you.

Business models need to change so that the customers directly pay for works to be created. Any other approach is stupid, harmful, and backwards, as are any persons who insist on identifying themselves with such approaches.

-----------------

On the topic of immigration, I strongly agree that it takes waaaay to long and there are too many hurdles. You can outright CREATE a citizen in nine months, it shouldn't take anywhere near that long to BECOME one.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Shady Grady, is there any reason to think illegal immigration can be prevented?

Shady_Grady said...

Preventing illegal immigration at 100% will never happen of course. There will always be people that are here without legal authorization. But when there are multitudes of millions of such people who feel aggrieved enough to make demands on the US body politic, I submit there's been a loss of political will to deal with the problem.

Incidentally I don't necessarily see this as a right/left issue. =)
The WSJ has been an unabashed cheerleader for "immigration reform" and greater levels of legal immigration as has the NYT.

There are people on both the Right and Left who want more immigrants for their own reasons..

Travis said...

You AREN'T defending people who violate copyright?
You write big posts about how everyone should have free access (even though that's not valid under US law or any other nation I've ever heard of) and it doesn't hurt anyone when copyright is violated.

Why is it clear to me that you seek to rationalize illegal copying even if that's 'not true'? The words you use.

So, let's assume for a moment that I'm still wrong about your purpose/motives. Fine, what is your purpose and motive then?

And substantively let's take just one point from your most recent post here. "There is no way to restrict access to individual copies of digital data without hurting everyone who touches it. None."

You state this as an unequivocal fact. But how is it established? It's not. It may be your opinion. It may even be true, though I doubt it. Now it's conceivable that you scientifically established this (I'm interested in the data if so) and then worked to the conclusion that copyright should not be enforced on digital mediums. However, it seems dramatically more likely, so likely in fact that I feel justified in assuming it to be the case, that you were searching for reasons to support your pre-existing belief in the free flow of digital data regardless of copyright and that you then reasoned, "oh, restrictions hurt the consumer".

Let's also turn to the substance of this claim. Take a hypothetical USA 15 days from now which abandons copyright protection as just too much work. Stephen King's new novel is now available online for free, complete and unabridged, about ten minutes after being published. Stephen King's sales turn to mush. Stephen King happens to have enough money he may not care but on the other hand let's say he stops writing due to the lose of profit motive (or maybe he still writes them and instead of publishing them posts a notice that he just went out back and burned his newest manuscript rather then effectively give it away for free). Well, this doesn't prove that copyright hurts everyone but it sure does show that maybe even if copyright 'hurts' (by which I think you mean inconviences) users it might still be a GOOD THING!

I know, I know, you say the free copies are just advertising for him and he'll sell more of the next one, but that one is going to be made available free of charge in even less time! Sure, there will be a few moral stalwarts who insist on paying but a large percentage of people think free is better then paying.

I can't resist delving into the idea of sensitive information levels as well. Your example is simply untrue (at least for government clearances). There exists a huge scope of material that falls under 'Top Secret/ Sensitive Compartmented Information' which means that each chunk requires seperate approval for access (the compartment part).

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Shady Grady, there are even libertarians on both sides of the immigration issue.

It's not so much that I want more immigrants (though they will put off the effects of the birth rate dropping). I want more Freedom.

If America were seen as being at risk because so many Americans were leaving, I'd oppose that, too.

Anonymous said...

"You AREN'T defending people who violate copyright?"

Don't be stupid. That would be like defending inclement weather.

"You write big posts about how everyone should have free access"

Incorrect. "should" is meaningless in this context.

"(even though that's not valid under US law or any other nation I've ever heard of)"

Laws don't always change as fast as the world does. And, in fact, more often then not, they change to try and preserve the status quo.

"and it doesn't hurt anyone when copyright is violated."

Never said any such thing. You need to read what I wrote and not conflate it with stuff other people have said in other places and other times.

It is very important to determine *how* a given copyright is violated, and in very many cases it is impossible to assign any specific degree of harm (or benefit) to it.

"Why is it clear to me that you seek to rationalize illegal copying even if that's 'not true'? The words you use."

You don't seem to be reading them, as much as reading into them, so how can you possibly describe your understanding of them as "clear"?

"Fine, what is your purpose and motive then?"

To avoid the kind of damage caused by the drug war and prohibition, applied to people who use computers.

If you think it can't happen, you need to wake the fuck up.

"And substantively let's take just one point from your most recent post here. "There is no way to restrict access to individual copies of digital data without hurting everyone who touches it. None."

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.

Digital copies do not act like physical copies. This is an unavoidable fact. Look up "what colour are your bits".

"You state this as an unequivocal fact. But how is it established?"

By every DRM scheme ever created, ever.

Even the very, very best of them have a collection of former customers who will never, ever again willingly spend money on a product restricted by a given system, after having been screwed over by it.

And not a single one of them has ever, EVER, prevented piracy.

"It's not. It may be your opinion. It may even be true, though I doubt it."

You will continue to doubt it until you die, I'm certain. Math is not for everyone.

"Now it's conceivable that you scientifically established this (I'm interested in the data if so)"

What data?

Simple logic: you can't grant and deny access to the same party. This is so simple as to defy further explanation.

Historical fact: Every attempt to do so merely adds to the steps required to grant or deny, each of which is an onus borne entirely said party (the customer). And at the end of those steps, you either have access, or not, and the more steps, the more likely it will go wrong and deny access to legitimate customers.

The best way to restrict access in a digital world is at the original, to not publish it (or produce it) until it's paid for. The system has not adapted to this yet.

"and then worked to the conclusion that copyright should not be enforced on digital mediums."

Cannot is different than should not.

In order to merely look at text on your screen, your computer has to copy it. One can either allow this process to happen, or fuck it up. There is no middle ground. Everything that appears to be is handwaving and smoke clouds.

There is NO technical solution. That leaves only legal remedies, which, of course, are working about as well as alcohol prohibition did.

Anonymous said...

"However, it seems dramatically more likely,"

You certainly appear to be no stranger to drama.

"so likely in fact that I feel justified in assuming it to be the case, that you were searching for reasons to support your pre-existing belief in the free flow of digital data regardless of copyright..."

Belief? Copyright does not exist for computers, at all. We can kind of make them pretend to acknowledge it -- a futile effort, at the expense of utility -- but copyright is fundamentally a human interaction. There is no digital equivalent, nor, in fact, can there be, using plausible technology. Someday in the future, we may be able to trace the history of individual bits, but until then it's science fiction.

"and that you then reasoned, "oh, restrictions hurt the consumer"."

There is a difference between trying to understand someone, and trying to pigeonhole them.

"Let's also turn to the substance of this claim. Take a hypothetical USA 15 days from now which abandons copyright protection as just too much work."

Okay.

"Stephen King's new novel is now available online for free, complete and unabridged, about ten minutes after being published."

That's pretty much how it is now, yeah. When does it start being hypothetical? Every single page of the last Harry Potter book was scanned and online before it even hit stores. For that matter, Google "blockade billy torrent."

"Stephen King's sales turn to mush."

Have they?

"Stephen King happens to have enough money he may not care but on the other hand let's say he stops writing due to the lose of profit motive"

Maybe this hypothetical Stephen King of yours needs to re-examine his business model. Or not, since he doesn't appear to be hurting much, under the "hypothetical" situation you've presented.

"(or maybe he still writes them and instead of publishing them posts a notice that he just went out back and burned his newest manuscript rather then effectively give it away for free)."

Yeah, wow, he'd REALLY need to re-examine his business model. Hopefully with more clarity and sense than you're showing in this discussion.

"Well, this doesn't prove that copyright hurts everyone"

Which would be a stupid thing to prove. Properly balanced copyright adds to the public domain while providing financial and social incentive to the creator to create the work in the first place. The problem being, of course, that the whole idea of "copyright" was invented at a time when copies cost resources to produce.

The problem with "securing for a limited time exclusive access to their work" is, unlike with physical copies, as soon as you make a digital copy of something and expose it to one or more net-connected parties, BAM, you lose exclusive access. It's gone. Legally you still have it, but in real-world terms it's fictional at that point.

Anonymous said...

This leads to two situations, in the short term:

1. people paying for the privelege of jumping through hoops until the authorities are satisfied that they should not be punished for having copies of the work, or

2, people paying for copies of the work, even though there's no physical limitation on doing so, in the knowledge that that's the only way to pay for more work.

The third option, people bypassing the middlemen and paying directly for the production of new work, is still very uncommon because people aren't used to it, and structures of law and society are heavily weighted towards that first option, due primarily to the influence of said middlemen (although that second option is more common than you think).

"but it sure does show that maybe even if copyright 'hurts' (by which I think you mean inconviences) users it might still be a GOOD THING!"

Poor people being made poorer is not an "inconvenience"; neither is someone being denied access to digital communications without due process.


"I know, I know, you say the free copies are just advertising for him and he'll sell more of the next one,"

No I don't.

"but that one is going to be made available free of charge in even less time!"

It will only be made available free of charge if he chooses to make it available free of charge. And even if he does, people will pay for it anyway. Unless it sucks.

"Sure, there will be a few moral stalwarts who insist on paying but a large percentage of people think free is better then paying."

37% of people paid for Radiohead's net-released album even though they explicitly didn't have to. PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE MECHANISM OF PAYING ARTISTS TO PRODUCE ART. They really do! They just don't have the option of doing that, because the system is still set up to sell copies, even though the copies have ceased being worth anything.

"I can't resist delving into the idea of sensitive information levels as well. Your example is simply untrue (at least for government clearances). There exists a huge scope of material that falls under 'Top Secret/ Sensitive Compartmented Information' which means that each chunk requires seperate approval for access (the compartment part)."

The chunks each require separate approval, but no matter how granular, any given access layer is either access or no-access. If person A has access to paragraph B, then everyone who has access to person A has access to paragraph B.

This is why the most secure faclities have a strictly-enforced "air gap" between internal digital systems and external ones -- it isn't possible to have secure digital data with any sort of access whatsoever outside the layer. Only human beings are allowed to move data between the layers, during which process access to those human beings is restricted.

This is, interestingly, very similar to the type of access restriction one finds in a movie theater (although not as strictly enforced).

Short and simple: Knowingly calling copyright infringement "theft" on purpose is lying. It's not theft. It cannot be equated to theft by any rational process. What theft is and what copyright infringement is are not the same, legally or by plain english definition. Two things that are both illegal do not magically become one and the same, just because you desperately wish them to be so. Regardless of intent, the statement stems from a sense of arrogant entitlement; no business model is entitled to make a profit forever, just because it did once.

Travis said...

Despite your ad hominem attacks you have failed to make your arguments clearer. I thought we were having a rational discussion but I'm starting to think I accidentally feed a troll.