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The Future of Ideas

michael posted more than 12 years ago | from the resistance-is-futile dept.

The Internet 170

Lawrence Lessig's new book, The Future of Ideas: the fate of the commons in a connected world , is strongly related to his previous book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace . In Code, Lessig pursued his thesis that the computer code behind all online activities functioned as a set of laws, and the impact that that has on regulation of the online world. In Ideas, Lessig explores a related concept that was hammered on heavily during the Microsoft anti-trust cases -- that holders of intellectual property (copyrights and patents) will squelch freedom and innovation online.

Ideas has been reviewed in Salon and in the Washington Monthly; the book has a promotional website as well.

Lessig starts off by looking at the idea of a "commons," a community resource of some sort. The traditional commons is a public park or piece of land, but Lessig is more interested in looking at less-traditional commons on the 'Net and other communications systems. He moves on to examining some of the innovations that have been spurred by the recent growth of the Net -- typically startup companies that have taken advantage of the commons represented by TCP/IP and HTTP to provide a new service or product. If you follow Slashdot religiously, you probably read about most of these companies at least twice -- once when they started offering their innovative new whizbang, and again when they were sued by Megacorp, Inc., and shut down. The final part of Ideas covers the lawsuits, or more precisely the efforts by entrenched players to keep anyone else from playing. The distinction is important, because lawsuits are not the only way to keep upstarts from being able to participate: control of the code is also an important tool. For every control through lawsuits story that Slashdot runs, there's an equivalent story about control through code.

Just as in Code, Lessig is not optimistic about the future. Why should he be? So far, despite every warning, every attempt to sound the alarm, the forces trying to shut down innovation are winning in an utterly convincing fashion. A blurb compares the book to Silent Spring, the famous book about the environmental effects of DDT. Silent Spring was more or less successful -- DDT is now banned for most uses in the U.S., and the book had great effect in raising environmental awareness, but overall, environmental quality has continued to suffer. Lessig's book is not likely to be as successful. Attacking DDT was relatively easy compared to attacking the unlimited expansion of intellectual property, which has many multi-billion dollar companies willing to fight to defend their continued erosion of the public commons.

This should suffice to summarize Lessig's book. The ideas in it should not be unfamiliar -- Lessig is hardly the only one espousing this point of view today, though he is one of the most articulate. The final chapters have Lessig's suggestions for ways to reverse this trend of quashing innovation -- different ways of managing the electromagnetic spectrum to produce a better wireless commons (it's worth noting that the unlicensed 2.4 Ghz band has been the source of most recent wireless innovation), ways to create an Internet commons on the wired network (some municipalities are already doing this, laying municipal fiber to the home and following an open access policy), changing copyright law and patent law to put more code in the public domain, changing contract law so that end-users can't be forced to sign away their rights. All are good suggestions. Despite the hopeful notes in parentheses just above, most of these suggestions stand little chance of being adopted any time soon. But perhaps Rachel Carson was looking at much the same uphill battle against DDT.

Ideas is most comparable to The Control Revolution by Andrew Shapiro, an earlier effort to explore the changing dynamics of control on the net. Shapiro was much more optimistic, and writing without much of the recent evidence that Lessig uses to make his point that innovation is being squashed thoroughly. If you will, there is an optimism scale -- John Perry Barlow defines one end of the scale, Shapiro is in the middle, and Lessig occupies the pessimistic side. Smart money is on Lessig.

All in all, it's a fine book. I think I prefer Code though, for a variety of reasons -- I find the central premise of Code to be less obvious, more ground-breaking. Or perhaps I've just read so much about "innovation" during the Microsoft trials that I can never again read the word without wincing. As with Code, Lessig has extensive footnotes, making this a scholarly work (for the scholars) but a perfectly readable book even for non-scholars. In any case, it's strongly recommended.


You can purchase this book at Fatbrain. Want to see your own review here? Read the book review guidelines, then submit using Slashdot's web-submission page :)

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Dear michael, (-1)

CmderTaco (533794) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654175)

I am very sorry I had to leave so abruptly last night, but I really had to go because I had to get home to JonKatz, I didn't want him to get any ideas about us. I meant what I said when I told you that I care for you and that you are special to me. What do you say we get together for lunch today and have a repeat of last night. I know I had a good time when you were behind me and you... well, you know what you did.

ttyl lover,
Rob

Re:Dear michael, (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654381)

Soon...

American forces in Afghanistan will be betrayed and routed by the joint forces of the Northern Alliance and Taliban.

Iraq will send seven million men of their God's army against Israel. Countering this move will pin down all Israel forces and most of the American resources in the region.

China will move against Taiwan, occupying the island. American forces are spread too thin to respond.

Re:Dear michael, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654630)

I know this is a troll, but it is fun to respond.


American forces in Afghanistan will be betrayed and routed by the joint forces of the Northern Alliance and Taliban.

If they tried that they would get a severe ass beating.

Iraq will send seven million men of their God's army against Israel. Countering this move will pin down all Israel forces and most of the American resources in the region.

Israel alone would have no trouble kicking Iraq's ass. Such an attempt by Saddam would probrably result in the annihilation of every single Arab in the Mideast.

China will move against Taiwan, occupying the island. American forces are spread too thin to respond.

American forced are indeed spread too thin (thanks, Bill). This fact means that the US would have no choice than to wipe the PRC off the map.

second (-1, Offtopic)

Pathetic Coward (33033) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654180)

second

Homosexual: Dead at Age 25 (-1)

CmderTaco (533794) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654182)

I just heard a report that a homosexual was found today dead in his home somewhere. Nobody really cared that he was found dead. Apparently, he has been there for weeks and no body noticed. One of his neighbors was quoted as saying:

"I thought there was a strange smell coming from his house, but I just figured it was one of those candles those homos like so much. I don't really care that he died, maybe that will keep his little dog quiet. Well, I am off to celebrate, now that there is one less faggot in the world."

I am sure that no one (except JonKatz) at slashdot will miss him. As he has contributed nothing but the further spread of AIDS in society.

Homophobe: Dead at Age 25 (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654408)

I just heard a report that a well known homophobe was found today dead in his home somewhere. Nobody really cared that he was found dead. Apparently, he has been there for weeks and no body noticed. One of his neighbors was quoted as saying: "I thought there was a strange smell coming from his house, but I just figured it was one of those candles those latent homosexuals living in denial like so much. I don't really care that he died, maybe that will keep his little dog quiet. Well, I am off to celebrate, now that there is one less gay basher in the world." I am sure that no one (except CmderTaco) at slashdot will miss him. As he has contributed nothing but the further spread of stupidity in society.

and I... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654184)

I am second.

tick tock.. waiting for that 20 seconds to pass.

Re:and I... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654197)

guess I waited too long.

Squelching Freedom and innovation. (2, Troll)

LordOfYourPants (145342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654188)

As copyright holder of this message, I wish to squelch freedom and innovation by

1) Suing anyone who replies and quotes my copyrighted message.

2) Suing anyone who moderates this message down for attacking my character.

3) Sue any banner ad companies whose ads appear above my comment unless they have text within the ad saying "The comments of the advertiser are not meant to be related to LordOfYourPants."

4) Sue thinkgeek for giving me a hernia with their "Codito, Ergo, Summ" shirts.

Re:Squelching Freedom and innovation. (-1)

CmderTaco (533794) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654196)

Squelching Freedom and innovation. (Score:1)
by LordOfYourPants on Tuesday December 04, @11:34AM (#2654188)
(User #145342 Info)
As copyright holder of this message, I wish to squelch freedom and innovation by

1) Suing anyone who replies and quotes my copyrighted message.

2) Suing anyone who moderates this message down for attacking my character.

3) Sue any banner ad companies whose ads appear above my comment unless they have text within the ad saying "The comments of the advertiser are not meant to be related to LordOfYourPants."

4) Sue thinkgeek for giving me a hernia with their "Codito, Ergo, Summ" shirts.

Eat a dick

It Doesn't Matter (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654205)

We now live in a totalitarian world with leaders who succumb freedoms to global and radical terrorist factions.

One code to rule them all (1)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654208)

Though pesticides and the internet (McAffee?) didn't particularly grab my attention I really do see the influence of the programming behind an interface and how it can control people without us even having a say in the matter.

I think this is where the influence of open-source comes into play. If open-source technology is based on the people having their say in the code, and the code makes the laws, then I'd imagine once the online community gets large enough this would make for the only true online democracy :)

cool.

Nice (-1, Offtopic)

ThoreauHD (213527) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654214)

I think I'll buy that book. Very appropriate at this point in the game that is our lives. Intersting.

DDT? (5, Insightful)

Maeryk (87865) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654217)

-- DDT is now banned for most uses in the U.S., and the book had great effect in raising environmental awareness, but overall, environmental quality has continued to suffer. Lessig's book is not likely to be as successful. Attacking DDT was relatively easy compared to attacking the unlimited expansion of intellectual property, which has many multi-billion dollar companies willing to fight to defend their continued erosion of the public commons.

Well, yeah, Silent Spring *did* raise the problem of DDT and it's gone now. But there had to be *something* to fill in those gaps. Now they are spraying for West Nile Virus mosquitoes up here in the Northeast US and doing far more damage with the pesticides than they are helping. After all, WNV has killed what.. three? five? people. Is it really worth destroying generations of birds and their offspring to save five lives? How many millions die of malpractice?

But back to the topic at hand.. until we get judges who know computers are better for something than product placement in televised courtrooms, or understand something about intellectual copyright itself, there wont be a change. If you dont think that large companies are stealing ideas left right and center, well, wake up. 3m bought the idea for post-it notes for like, 1.99 from the guy who came up with it, due to contractual obligations that almost all of us sign. If you develop code, and use your work computer for even one line of said code, it probably falls under your blanket contract that says your company now owns it, and owns j00 as well.

Until laws like that get challenged, and beaten, companies squelching free development, or the furthering of technology outside their-own pockets are going to continue to be the status quo.

What is the solution? I dont pretend to know.. but getting more technologically savvy people into the courts in judge, jury, and lawyer roles could be a start. Face it, M$ is going to send in the best 10 lawyers they can find, and what does a Mitnick get? Whatever the PD's office can spare.

Maeryk

West Nile (2, Insightful)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654259)

They aren't spraying DDT to kill West Nile. It's malathion, IIRC, which is not harmful to birds. Or, at worst, is less harmful to birds than West Nile.

The guy who invented post-it notes did it while he was on the job at 3M. All the work was done at work, using 3M's equipment and supplies. He's never complained.

You seem to be complaining that companies own the products that we are producing for them and for which we are paid.

Re:West Nile (-1)

neal n bob (531011) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654351)

thanks for shutting up these stupid commie long haired fruits.

Re:West Nile (2)

Maeryk (87865) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655839)

They aren't spraying DDT to kill West Nile. It's malathion, IIRC, which is not harmful to birds. Or, at worst, is less harmful to birds than West Nile.

I said the "new stuff" they are spraying. I didnt say it was DDT. My concern is that Malathion turns out in 20 years to be far worse than DDT ever was. I have no faith whatsoever in a 2 year controlled test that says "well, its safe enough" when we have a lot of evidence to prove that in the last five times it was "safe enough" it wasnt. (Dioxins, DDT, Asbestos, Fiberglass, Carbon Tet, etc)

You seem to be complaining that companies own the products that we are producing for them and for which we are paid.

Actually, I'm more complaining that a company makes billions of dollars of of one employees hard work and inspiration, and that employee doesnt see squat. Or that in this day and age of code, it becomes a lot more blurred. When does plagiarism occur? When one line matches another? In these new days of coding, what is the likelihood that someone somewhere will get sued because their line of code (standard) matches someone elses line of code (standard) which existed first?

Maeryk

Re:DDT? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654289)

There's pretty substancial proof that the total ban on DDT has caused a huge loss in human life.

The problem with DDT use in the 50's was that it was used in huge quantities and without proper oversight. It was seen as a chemical cure-all. There are appropriate uses of DDT for mosquito control. The fact that it's outright banned instead of properly controlled has resulted in thousands of unnecessary malaria deaths throughout the world.

Confusing tech knowledge with politics (3, Interesting)

Paul Johnson (33553) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654352)

You seem to be assuming that anyone with knowledge of the situation will automatically agree with you, and hence concluding that therefore the politicians and judges you don't agree with are therefore ignorant. Thats a very large assumption, although I suppose its marginally better than the similar logic which declares that they must be corrupt instead.

Always bear in mind the other possibility: that they might actually know the facts but honestly disagree with your conclusions. Whatever you and I may think of the DeCSS decisions recently, there is no denying that Kaplan and the appeal court knew and understood the technology and the law that was relevant to the case.

The idea that artists and inventors should be granted limited monopolies on their works is a very old and respectable idea (e.g. the US constitution). It takes a bit more than arm-waving to cast it all aside.

Also, bear in mind that the judges in the DeCSS case have very properly had to defer to Congress except where Congress exceeds its constitutional powers. The system was designed that way for good reason. Believe me, you really don't want judges making up the law as they go along.

I have a lower opinion of Congress as a venue for getting these things right though. For a variety of reasons they get a clearer view of the arguments to increase IPR than to limit them. Most of these come down to a combination of money and the tendency of focussed interests (e.g. 5 movie studios) to over-ride diffuse interests (e.g. 500e6 movie fans). But thats about par for the course. Congress has made some stunningly bad decisions over the past couple of centuries, and will no doubt make more. If you want to improve it, you know what to do.

Paul.

Kaplan is an idiot (2)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654609)

His whole line of reasoning in the decision rests on the assumption that DeCSS is a tool for piracy, and because it is a tool for piracy, fair use rights therefore don't apply. With a bit of hand waving and circular logic, he dismissed the defense's strongest argument. Regardless of his "understanding" of the technology in question, he deserves our contempt.

No, Kaplan's just doing his job (2)

miniver (1839) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655040)

His whole line of reasoning in the decision rests on the assumption that DeCSS is a tool for piracy, and because it is a tool for piracy, fair use rights therefore don't apply. With a bit of hand waving and circular logic, he dismissed the defense's strongest argument. Regardless of his "understanding" of the technology in question, he deserves our contempt.

If the defense's strongest argument can be creditably dismissed by hand-waving, then the defense needed stronger arguments.

I seriously doubt that the RIAA will press civil charges against anyone who cannot be construed to be a threat to society (ie: pirate, terrorist, hacket, etc.). As for criminal charges, that's the DoJ's turf, and the case against Dmitri Sklyarov is the best example of how they'll work. In both arenas, they'll pick the ugliest targets, and try them for who they are, not what they've done, merrily building up precedents here and case law there.

Regardless of your feelings about DeCSS (I'm for it), the RIAA did a very good job of picking a target when they picked 2600 Magazine. It's right up there with Hustler for content and editorial integrity, and 2600 came into court with a serious negative image problem. The rest of the case went about as well as could be expected. That earned the RIAA a legal precedent, and set up additional hurtles for the next target.

The only way that the DMCA will get overturned is if someone manages to do something that obviously violates the DMCA, but is also easily recognizable as something that is socially acceptable and/or necessary. At this time, I can't think of anything that matches these criteria -- the right to download Star Wars movies off the 'net doesn't qualify, and neither does anything else I can think of. Anyone got any suggestions?

Re:No, Kaplan's just doing his job (2)

David Gould (4938) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655763)


Regardless of your feelings about DeCSS (I'm for it), the RIAA did a very good job of picking a target when they picked 2600 Magazine.

It's starting to scare the hell out of me, frankly, that even those of us who have insightful, reasoned, well-thought-out things to say (and sub-five-digit UIDs) can't keep the RIAA and the MPAA straight. I mean, sure they're all the same evil mega-corporate enemies of freedom and everything, but I don't recall the Recording Industry suing 2600 over the copy-protection of Motion Pictures.

What makes it so scary is wondering, if we can't even remember the names of the organizations that we're talking about, then do we really understand what's going on as well as we'd like to think we do?

Yeah, I know it's just a silly mistake, but come on.

That said, I'm totally with you on the point about how "they'll pick the ugliest targets, and try them for who they are, not what they've done, merrily building up precedents here and case law there." Very nicely worded, and an important point to which more attention needs to be drawn -- I thought the implicit acceptance of this way of doing things was the most mystifying thing about the rejection of Felten's case.

Re:No, Kaplan's just doing his job (3, Interesting)

Danse (1026) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655767)

Anyone got any suggestions?


Yeah, I'd like to be able to play the DVDs I've legally purchased on my BSD (or insert your favorite OS) box. Reverse engineering has traditionally been a legitimate method for making things work when the original owner of a technology isn't interested in pursuing some particular market or use of the technology.

Re:Confusing tech knowledge with politics (2, Insightful)

AbsoluteRelativity (524386) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655205)

> The idea that artists and inventors should be granted limited monopolies on their works is a very old and respectable idea (e.g. the US constitution). It takes a bit more than arm-waving to cast it all aside.

An idea that existed before the internet, an idea that was not liked by everyone (Thomas Jefferson is one who didnt like it but was willing to compromise). An idea that is just that, an idea, and the proof of which is not evident even to this day. And you are right it does take more then arm-waving to cast it all aside, but so should it take more then arm-waving to keep it in modern times.

Other solutions are, a natural capitalist one. Where information is sold from distributor to distributor (like black markets). Something that would have been harder to do in a way that benefits the creator in the time copyrights were created, but in modern times is becoming more and more possible and even the internet can aid in people selling information to each other, as oposed to giving it away for free.

Re:Confusing tech knowledge with politics (1)

AbsoluteRelativity (524386) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655229)

And also its not just a monopoly to the creator, its a monopoly to the distributors as well (little to no competition in distribution).

yes it is worth it,, but not (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654432)

because 10 people might get killed by all the insecticide.

Re:DDT? (1)

DumbSwede (521261) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655051)

How a someone who clearly doesn't see human life as more valued and cherished than bird life got moderated to a 5, I can't fathom.

With spraying there have been only 5 deaths (so far). How many deaths would be acceptable before we can spray???

I am for protecting the environment only in so much as we live in it. If killing off every bird as a side effect in New Jersey would save even one human life, I would be for it, but these spraying programs don't even come close to having that kind of impact. Protecting animal life is a noble cause, only when it does not interfere with protecting Human life.

Re:DDT? (1)

AbsoluteRelativity (524386) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655287)

Is this really about protecting human life? I dont think so, its about money. If this were about protecting human life, there are many other things that kill far more humans that need more attention to. Even the amount of money we are spending trying to get Osama Bin Laden is not about the lives lost at the WTC, there are more lives lost to smoking and drunk driving anually then are lost to terrorism anually. No the WTC is about pride, not about human life. Same with the above, its not about human life its about money.

Re:DDT? (2)

Maeryk (87865) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655812)

How a someone who clearly doesn't see human life as more valued and cherished than bird life got moderated to a 5, I can't fathom

First off, dont put words in my mouth. Never did I say human life was less important than a birds life. However, I think you will find that without birds (plural) Humans wont be around all that long. Ecologically there is an *extremely* delicate balance we are dealing with here.. and we keep messing with it hard. THe Earth is a huge
ecological entity, and much like your body generating a fever to rid itself of disease, so can "nature" rid itself of parasites.. and in the words of Pogo.. 'i have seen the enemy.. and they is us".

Now.. my *main* point, (which I guess you missed) is that 5 lives is nothing. Medical Malpractice kills many more people a year. Tylenol kills many more people a year. And they do nothing (or very little) about it. Those are acceptable losses in the multi-billion industry that medicine has become.

This ties into my statements about corporate lawyers versus true innovators. Do you really think the RIAA, MPAA, or Microsoft give a rats ass about this tiny little group here on SlashDot? No.. they could care less. THey know that even if every one of us gets every one of our friends to clearly not-support them, or even to boycott their products, it wont amount to a hill of beans, because joe sixpack will A) not care, and B) want to see The Perfect Storm in Dolby at his house.

Acceptable losses.

Maeryk

Without Air You Cannot Breath (4, Insightful)

KarmaBlackballed (222917) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654224)

Its obvious that without air you cannot breath. It is also obvious that without a car you cannot drive 100mph on a highway. Writing a book to make these points would be ridiculous.

Yet intellectual monopoly marketing by companies has been so successful, it is not ridiculous to write a book that makes the point that the patent system as we have it today is the tool [used] by entrenched players to keep anyone else from playing.

I'm glad to see this book. Maybe it will wake a few more folks up. I hope so.

Re:Without Air You Cannot Breath (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654325)

Poop.

Poop.

Shit.

Poop.

Poop.

Shit.

Arse!

Arse!

Ass!

Re:Without Air You Cannot Breath (-1, Offtopic)

mahtaaaain (465399) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654375)

B-R-E-A-T-H-E


there is a freakin E, comments that come from people will fourth grade spelling errors seem much less intelligent.

Re:Without Air You Cannot Breathe (1, Offtopic)

KarmaBlackballed (222917) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654410)

come from people will fourth grade spelling errors

Typos happen to the best of us don't they?

Re:Without Air You Cannot Breath (1)

KjetilK (186133) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654626)

Yeah, and it reminds me of one of Carl Barks' most monumental works, "The Golden Helmet", in which Donald eventually rises to almost become the emperor of America. Donald wants to charge for every breath people takes. It becomes immediately obvious that there are some things that you cannot make money from.

mod parent down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654831)

Who modded up this incoherent garbage?

Says it all (-1)

TrollMan 5000 (454685) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654230)

The huge threat posed by file-compression techniques and networking standards to a multibillion-dollar industry may say more about the fragility of certain business models than it does about the dangers of new technology.

This was the core of the whole Napster debate (having frequented their forums, when they had forums). Overpriced CD's, inefficient distribution model, etc., etc.

Re:Says it all (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654429)

I slept with your whore of a girlfriend. And I have to say that it was really boring, she just laid there like a sack of potatoes.

But sex is sex.

The Domain Name in IP Law (3, Informative)

Patrick McRotch (314811) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654236)

One of the major points that Lessig writes about is how powerful corporations and individuals use intellectual property laws to surpress the opinions of those they don't like. Unfortunately, Lessig largely ignores one of the favorite techniques, of late: using the courts to steal domain names and sue dissenters. We all know about cases like walmartsucks.com and nikeuseschildlabor.net, where WIPO [slashdot.org] stripped the original holders of their domain name and gives it to a powerful corporation. This type of domain name abuse isn't limited [spectacle.org] to major corporations, though.


Arbitration of domain name disputes will be one of the major threads of Intellectual Property law in the 21st century. It's unfortunate that Lessig gave such short shrift to this important area.

*CENSORSHIP ALERT* Editor Moderation Abuse (-1, Offtopic)

Patrick McRotch (314811) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654258)

The parent comment makes a straightforward, on-topic point. It also contains a link to a web-page critical of Michael's past censoring behavior. So, instead of allowing the free-flow of ideas, Michael Sims moderated the comment down. This type of moderation abuse (CENSORSHIP) must end!


I find it unbelievably hypocritcal that Michael would abuse his power like this in a story like this! For shame, Simsy!

Re:*CENSORSHIP ALERT* Editor Moderation Abuse (-1, Offtopic)

typical geek (261980) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654265)

Pat McRotch is a known troll and enemy of Slashdotstate. Moderators, please mod him down and punish for committing badpost and thoughtcrime.


Have a doubleplusgood day.

+1 ironic (0, Offtopic)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654335)

though perhaps the moderator moderating that post has never read Huxley's classic on control and censorship, 1984.

correction. (0, Offtopic)

TulioSerpio (125657) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654390)

1984 [gerenser.com] was written by George Orwell, if I'm not in a mistake.

Supression through lawsuit/code (3, Troll)

UltraBot2K1 (320256) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654337)

I've read the book, and Lessig does touch on the issue of domain name disputes. Sure, he doesn't go into it in real depth, but I don't think he needs to. Domain names are only one of the multitude of methods used to supress challenges.


The distinction between supression through code and supression through lawsuit is important, though. For example, Michael is supressing the parent comment through the use of code, by abusing his power and moderating it so that no one can see it. I believe supression through code is the more dangerous of the two. With supression through lawsuit, the courts at least have to okay it. Sure, you can argue that the courts are corrupt, but that's not the point. We can always clean up the courts. With supression through code, corporations and individuals like Michael can play Judge, Jury, and Executioner to maintain their positions and technologically shout down people who bring up inconvenient facts or provide competition.

Oh really? (-1)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654439)

well, I am wearing a push-up bra.

Re:The Domain Name in IP Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2655493)

The history of the world can be broken down in to reoccuring class struggles between the Upper, Middle and Lower class.

The Upper class wants to remain the Upper class, the Middle class wants to become the Upper class and the lower class wants a classless society.

Every so often the Middle class units with the Lower class in order to over throw the Upper class. The parts of each class move between the three classes and in a relatively short period of time there are three classes again.

-- To paraphase George Orwell.

The way the world works hasn't changed in entire length of recorded history, it isn't going to change now.

Stephen King, author, dead at 54 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654237)


I just heard some sad news on the radio - author Stephen King was found dead in his Maine home this morning. They didn't offer any more details - it was just a short news blurb. Even if you don't like his movies or books, there's no denying his contribution to American pop culture. Truly and icon to be remembered.

Shit. That Sucks (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654475)

Stephan King was my favorite author and director :(.

Free vs. Corporate Net? (3, Insightful)

Starquake (245822) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654243)

With all these dim views of the future of cyberspace, and current trends do point in that direction, perhaps it is time to start implementing a FreeNet. Something outside of the mainstream Internet, away from corporate and government controls. Something entirely for geeks, by geeks.

In all honesty, I don't see any way around it. When non-Microsoft, non-FBI-bugged operating systems are outlawed, only outlaws will run Linux/BSD/etc.

Re:Free vs. Corporate Net? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654312)

When red cars are red, only cars that are red will be red.

I HATE the 'when xxx is outlawed...' slogan. It basically says A=A. Nothing new in that.

Re:Free vs. Corporate Net? (2, Interesting)

Sardaukar0 (541236) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654378)

While such a FreeNet would be a laudable idea, as someone with a B.A. in cynicism, I have to say it wouldn't last. Remember the death of Usenet? How it was, as you say, entirely for geeks, by geeks? Essentially, back in the day, it was a vast information resource...where the best and brightest gathered to exchange tips and info. Then AOL released their barbarian hordes upon the newsgroups. The poor dumb sheep couldn't distinguish between instant messages and Usenet posts...end result, only one post in a thousand had any useful information. The other 999 were either one-word responses like "me too" or "duh", or spammer ads. My point is that legal means aren't the only way to destroy innovation. Sometimes the ignorant masses will do it themselves. _________________________________________ On a slightly related note, it's rather disturbing how, ever since September 11th, life is becoming more and more like Deus Ex.

Re:Free vs. Corporate Net? (4, Insightful)

Flower (31351) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654379)

Despite all the bad news we've had recently and my current block on how to fix it I still feel that fighting for what is there now is more useful than speculating on a new creation.

Just to play devil's advocate here.

  1. How would you finance it?
  2. How would you implement the infrastructure?
  3. How would you avoid the laws already in place in whatever country you hosted a site from?
  4. How would you determine who gets in and who stays out?

The closest thing I can think of that approximates a GeekNet would be Internet2 and even that has corporate and government ties to it.

FreeNet, the program, might be of use but again...

  1. I have a problem with not knowing what junk is on my server. Even if I never know someone is hosting a single jpeg of child pornography on my machine, the thought that someone could is enough to turn me off on the idea. Just as trolls on /. make me reticient from browsing at 0, unethical participants on FreeNet would ultimately defeat adoption of this solution.
  2. Once FreeNet becomes stigmatized how do you prevent countries from passing even more draconian laws to squelch the system?

IMO, the fight is for a fair Internet not one for a select technically elite few and not one owned by corporations. How we get there I don't know. But I do know that I'm interested in how the issue is shaping up and it's a big reason why I asked for this book for Xmas.

Internet2 as GeekNet? (1)

eclectric (528520) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654599)

Hardly.

It was designed and is primarily used as a government and academic research tool, just as the Internet was in days before the popularity of the WWW brought useful data transfer to its knees. At the Abilene/Internet 2 NOC (which is in the building next to mine) they're actually the Operations Center for several other nets that show promise as the "replacement" for the Internet, but Internet2 is probably not it.

Re:Free vs. Corporate Net? (3, Interesting)

Azog (20907) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654675)

I've been thinking about some of the same problems. I also suspect that, given the way things are going, the so-called "intellectual property" industries will pretty much control the internet in a few years - with the cooperation of ISPs, they will shut down peer-to-peer networking, police all file sharing, and pretty much force everyone to play along. People who use interesting geeky techniques to get around their blocking will get sued under the DMCA for circumvention.

So what do you do? I've also looked at freenet, and I'm not running a server for exactly the same reason you aren't - there's no way I'll donate my hard disk space and bandwidth to a system that people can use for swapping child porn.

But heck, we need something - something where there's a little space, some gaps in the system where people can do innovative stuff, but also where people who do seriously illegal stuff can be tracked down and prosecuted. The ideal medium seems to be a system where tracking people down is difficult enough that no one will bother to do it for friends sharing music.

Personally, my hopes are on "grid" style networking - if a few dozen people in a neighborhood set up wireless LAN access points, wired them all together with some nice routing, and run the whole thing on worthlessly out of date Pentium 200's running Linux... well, there's a network where people can have some fun. In some ways, it would be like the old BBS days before everyone had Internet.

People could put servers on the neighborhood grid, people could connect multiple gateways to the internet, local stores and services could find ways to advertise on it... a local neighborhood chat room could maybe be a useful thing...

And just firewall out the big, boring, commercial, controlled, corporate-sponsor-pop-up-ad-no-servers-allowed-mic rosoft-ownZ-Y00 net, and be happy on the local grid.

Maybe. Or maybe we are all just doomed, and Internet will turn into TV.

Author's Complains Unfounded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654274)

The idea of inter-repression is a completely groundless concept today as it was during the Microsoft anti-trust cases.

-Baker

code (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654279)

stream, stream, out of me erse

back to Feudalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654294)

"Commons" is an interesting term to use, since it is a relatively archaic word. Maybe this makes it easier to apply to our situation. It's ironic to think of modern issues in terms of a conflict between the interests of serfs and feudal lords. I guess that makes the new class of geeks kind of like mercenary knights.

So, if intellectual property and free speech are the ground of the new commons, I guess it won't belong until we have to pay our local Lords for the right to make a living on their turf. Oh!, right... too late. :(

Re:back to Feudalism (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654384)

I don't think this metaphor applies as mercenary knights always had the attention of ladies where geeks well ... you know ... lets just say they are typical lacking for female affection.

Re:back to Feudalism (2, Informative)

odin53 (207172) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654459)

"Commons" is an interesting term to use, since it is a relatively archaic word.

The "commons" is the standard word to use in economics (and in law) when referring to public goods. It comes from a 1968 article called "Tragedy of the Commons", by Garrett Hardin, which described a common grazing green that everyone can and has a right to use. Because everyone wants to maximize their gain, the commons quickly gets overused such that everyone loses out; that's the tragedy. It's used as a reason why we have property rules in general, and especially public goods-type property, like intellectual property.

Re:back to Feudalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654807)

Actually, the overuse scenario implies no rules in the use of the land. Completly untrue, there where in the past, just not written in a book and ajudicated by a magistrate. The rules where implicit in the society that shared the "common ground".

The tradegy comes from the usurpation of non-native land, ensuring the "get mine before everyone gets their's" attitude, otherwise known as "the land grab".

What do you mean will (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654321)

"that holders of intellectual property (copyrights and patents) will squelch freedom and innovation online. "

That genie is already out of the bottle. Freedom and innovation have already been squashed.

IT IS NOT A CRIME... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654330)

Here's an innovative IDEA! Check out these "IT IS NOT A CRIME" gear now [cafepress.com] , perfect for a holiday gift or office gift.

More on the subject. (4, Interesting)

Dram (149119) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654331)

If you would like to read more on the subject of the book you can go here [duke.edu] and look at some conference papers about the "public domain," one of them is even by Lawrence Lessig. I just bought his new book off of bn.com [bn.com] and I'm looking forward to reading it. Unlike the reviewer, I for one am looking forward to this book more than Code. I am thinking it will be more accessable to non computer people like myself.

Katz must die. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654357)

Im Trolling for the Removal of Jon Katz. Where's your afghanistan boy now, Katz!? maybe he's coding in C++ on a commodore 64 writing a new DVD player program so he can shove DVD's into his 1514 and try to read them in there!

Barriers to Knowledge, and Business Models (3, Interesting)

under_score (65824) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654395)

Personally, I think that part of the problem is that in our capitalist based society, any change to support a commons must be based on a viable business model. Open source is struggling with this, but seems to be making its way alright. That's code. Knowledge, on the other hand, is still suffering. There is a long history of knowledge being locked up and accessible to only those few with enough power or money. Part of this (recent) history includes copyright and patents. Another more interesting part is the educational system! Particularly universities, but also other levels of education all have barriers to prevent just anyone accessing knowledge. There are tuition fees, entrance exams, location, funding methods etc. All of these act so as to make information unavailable. For example, if I get low grades in high school, I may find it impossible to get into university - even if my reasons for having low grades have nothing to do with my inherent capacity to understand and add value to university-level knowledge. The only reason these barriers to entry exist is because of the guarding of academic credit. So. Many people here are familiar with the slogan information wants to be free. And some can even argue its validity based on economics. But the fact is that barriers to accessing information create wealth. So in order for those barriers to come down, alternative means to create wealth must be created.

Re:Barriers to Knowledge, and Business Models (4, Interesting)

GemFire (192853) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654765)

>>But the fact is that barriers to accessing information create wealth. So in order for those barriers to come down, alternative means to create wealth must be created.

Why?

The government, nor the people, are responsible for maintaing the viability of business. Others have used the example of buggy-whip manufacterers at the beginning of the 20th century - a doomed business. The Statute of Anne in 1710 was not about keeping the Stationers' Guild in business - it was about changing the way the English looked at literature. No longer was it something owned forever by a single printer; it became something the printer and author could make money from for a limited time, but was destined for a place in the public commons, where anyone could use it without prejudice.

To paraphrase Lessig - from where we stand today we have two choices. 1) we can move forward into a world where everyone can be creative, limited only by a sensible return to original authors or 2) we can move backward into a new dark ages, where a few people control the intellectual wealth and share it only for an ever higher price and ever more restrictive rules of use.

Like Lessig, I can see which way we are moving, and I don't like the view. The technology is nearly here that would allow ordinary people to create animated movies from their own stories, or favorite books. I would like to see people able to share these works, but copyright law, as currently practised, will stand in the way, might even prevent the technology from becoming available to the public.

I believe copyright to be a necessary evil, but it has gone far beyond any sensible limitations. It's time Americans got together and insisted on a change.

Help out - http://www.amfcc.org
http://www.eff.org

Re:Barriers to Knowledge, and Business Models (1)

quiranus (535643) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655078)

>> >>But the fact is that barriers to accessing information create wealth. So in order for those barriers to come down, alternative means to create wealth must be created.

And he's right on this one ...

>> Why?

It all boils down to a very basic mentality issue we all suffer from. It's the very same issue as why currently capitalism - although not the most elegant IMHO - is the only form of organising society that has a chance to stay on its feet.

I could come up with a whole host of arguments, though instead I'd like one to consider the following;

It's highly likely that in a not-so-far future we [as humanity] reach a state in which we can foresee in all our needs without requiring the labour of each individual (in fact we already can up to some level). However, the way (most of) society is organised nowadays, there is no way at all to deal with this condition. If you don't work you get a penalty. Not because your labour is strictly required, but because of the model we use [to create, measure and deal with wealth].

Why? Because it matters that my car is bigger then yours. To you, to me and to most around us.

Re: Barriers to Knowledge, and Business Models (3, Insightful)

alienmole (15522) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655510)

Particularly universities, but also other levels of education all have barriers to prevent just anyone accessing knowledge. [...] The only reason these barriers to entry exist is because of the guarding of academic credit.

There's also the fact that many of the resource which universities provide are scarce physical or human resources, which have a cost. So the barriers you refer to at least in part (and probably in large part) exist for pure economic reasons - regulating access to a relatively scarce resource. As you point out, other extra-economic barriers are imposed, such as requiring good high school grades - but the primary reason for this is an attempt, albeit imperfect, to ensure the most productive use of a university's resources.

As some of the knowledege resources become available electronically, some aspect of this equation will change (e.g. the web-based MIT OpenCourseWare [mit.edu] ). As always with economics in a reasonably free market, things tend to move towards lower cost as they become cheaper to duplicate and therefore less scarce, and certain aspects of educational knowledge are no different.

But the fact is that barriers to accessing information create wealth.

An arguable point, I believe. The question which Lessig addresses centers around the artificial scarcity which is imposed on intellectual "property" by the law. An interesting question is to what extent imposing such artificial scarcity generates real wealth, as opposed to simply redistributing wealth from the consumers to the creators.

The only reason this is not considered a fundamentally unhealthy redistribution of wealth (of the kind that has occasionally occurred in non-capitalist countries), is that an exchange is considered to take place - exchanging licenses to intellectual property, for some other type of asset. One of the main questions at issue is what kinds of rights such an exchange should grant to the licensee, regardless of an individual creator's wishes.

Fair use doctrine was intended to address this, and did so quite successfully, at least from the consumer's perspective. Now, fair use is being undermined both legally and technologically, and consumers are being, or will be, screwed (technical economic term).

The most obvious battle here has nothing to do with destroying wealth - it has to do with maintaining a sensible balance between creators and consumers, that allows both sides to thrive, and neither side to be at the complete mercy of the other. The DMCA and other recent events have shifted the balance too far in favor of the creators, or rather, their agents. This is certainly beyond a workable compromise position, and if that isn't obvious to most people yet, it will become so soon enough.

Silent Spring (0, Insightful)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654412)

Silent Spring was more or less successful -- DDT is now banned for most uses in the U.S., and the book had great effect in raising environmental awareness, but overall, environmental quality has continued to suffer.

Silent Spring was successful at condemning millions to death from malaria.

history parallels, and a new war (3, Interesting)

argoff (142580) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654425)

We can see parallels in history by other institutions that embraced false property rights. How many of you have herd that freeing slaves was stealing, or that there was no incentive to grow cotton without them, or that the great wealth of America's plantations was proof of slavery's justification. Some people think it's unfair to make this compairison to slavery, but I think it is - for example look at what almost happened in Africa, there millions and millions of people risked death because American pharmacuticals wanted to sue over intellectual property rights.

However, we should consider ourselvs fortunate - because unlike our predacessors I think we can win this war without one bit of violence. It will first be done with copyrights where enforceing copy controlls will become nearly impossible without stirring up massive unpopularity, and imposing massive intrusions into millions of corporations and peoples private lives. Eventually something will half to give because we do live in a democracy. It will later come with patents where the ability to create and manufacture will come to the home. In non democratic countries, both of these will pose a serious problem because the government will likely not be as restrained before things really get out of hand.

Other approaches like the GPL, and public encyclopedias will also seriously relieve the pressure. (thank you RMS)

Re:history parallels, and a new war (2, Insightful)

lessig (31800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654566)

nice point. think about the "free labor" movement that was behind the abolition of slavery and more. It didn't take a bunch of slogans like "as in free speech, not free beer" to get people to understand that free labor was about freedom, not price.

We need a "free culture" movement.

Re:history parallels, and a new war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654842)

There's never really been any free beer. I think that example needs to be done away with.

Of course, beer guzzling hippies are the last people to want that.

Re:history parallels, and a new war (1)

lynx_user_abroad (323975) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655479)

I wonder how long it will take before Bush and crew realize that the collapse in the Tech sector is due, in large part, to geeks being on collective, unorganized strike?

Copywrite (1, Redundant)

testharness (522244) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654502)

It would be interesting to see if this book has any copyrights or publishing rights.

I wonder how they would feel if someone published it on the web?

Re:Copywrite (2, Interesting)

lessig (31800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654576)

gets about as bad as it can get, but these are the realities of dealing with publishers. Check out the ebook -- publisher would not allow the book to be "read aloud." The absurdity is astounding.

Re:Copywrite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654608)

some books are printed as open source. have you seen this [dsl.org] ? also project gutenberg, but those are older.. don't you have leeway on this considering who you are?

Re:Copywrite (1)

lessig (31800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654621)

considering who I am? zippo leeway. I publish as much as I can for free and online. but to enter stores, etc., publishers' rules rule.

Re:Copywrite (1)

El_Che (161286) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655777)

but to enter stores, etc., publishers' rules rule.

Then Self Publish. Find a distributor. Market it. All it takes is time and money.

Re:Copywrite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654837)

Why isn't there an open source publishing consortium, if there are enough authors interested in this and against IP? Or are there not enough?

Re:Copywrite (2)

Flower (31351) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655251)

You're misinformed. Plain and simple. The issue with the eBooks was enabling the text to speech feature in the reader. Alice In Wonderland is an example of one eBook which didn't have that option.

Look here. [thestandard.com] The entire episode was more of a case of bad UI design than wicked digital rights management.

hey music mobsters (0, Offtopic)

twexter (527979) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654571)

squelch this [twext.org] ..

Silent Spring comparison (4, Insightful)

eclectric (528520) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654587)

Your comparison to "Silent Spring" is a pretty good one. We should note, however, that the chemical companies and the US government rallied *hard* against DDT studies that showed it was unsafe. It took something like 10 years for it to be declared unsafe for human exposure. The same goes for CFCs. Studies in the late 70s showed conclusively that they contributed to the ozone holes, but it wasn't until the late 80s that any real action was taken to require companies to lessen their use of them. Again, you had big companies fighting this tooth-and-nail.

The point is, these battles are always hard. The only thing this particular fight has going for it as that creators of content (coders, musicians, filmmakers) also have a vested interest in keeping their products from obscurity.

Re:Silent Spring comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654874)

DDT is a poor example to use, and shows that this is rubber stamp liberalism, not a realistic assessment of the state of the world.

DDT was abused, used way too much. But it has legitimate uses. Millions of people in the Third World have died of malaria because of the outright ban of DDT, when controls for use should have been imposed.

Of course, an outright ban made First World environmentalists feel good. And what do they care about those poor people?

"If you follow Slashdot religiously" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2654632)

What, sacrifice a goat?

Newsflash--Lessig Hates IP (0, Flamebait)

istartedi (132515) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654710)

Duh. Does this book really tell us anything more than "Lessig hates IP"? If you've been on /. for longer than a few months, you already know that.

Give me one reason why I should buy this book, other than to OCR it, put it on line, and enjoy the delicious irony when Larry's lawyers come calling.

Re:Newsflash--Lessig Hates IP (2, Insightful)

lessig (31800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654778)

lessig loves the balance between protection and freedom struck by the framers of the constitution and the first congress. only valenti-types can't distinguish between that and "hating IP." The beauty of the binary world notwithstanding, there is a position between perfect control of IP (Valenti-ism) and zero protection for IP (not my position).

Re:Newsflash--Lessig Hates IP (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655475)

lessig loves the balance between protection

Either Lessig is related to Bob Dole, or you are an imposter. :)

"code as law" is not a new idea (2, Interesting)

buzzini (177741) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654809)

Though Michael (charmingly) seems to think it is, "code as law" is not a new idea. Check out Marc Rotenberg's article here [stanford.edu] . It's a pretty obvious idea, actually, not particularly "groundbreaking." Lessig is an interesting writer though, and a great speaker [harvard.edu] .

Lessig's work cited by Bruce Sterling (1)

ApoxyButt (536650) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654862)

If you'd like to see a somewhat filtered synopsis of Lessig's ideas, you can see it in a Bruce Sterling speech [slashdot.org] linked by yesterday's /. Sterling mentions Lessig as the guy to pay attention to when it comes to the squelching of innovation by the establishment. If you missed it yesterday, and are interested in this topic, you should check it out as a primer to the issue.

If he cares so much about ideas... (1)

dh003i (203189) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654897)

If he cares so much about the affect intellectual property has on the enslavement of ideas, why doesn't he publish his book under the public domain, or under the GNU license for documents, or a BSD license for documents?

Re:If he cares so much about ideas... (2, Insightful)

lessig (31800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2654951)



Hey, but wait. I am pro-IP, where IP is the balanced set of rights that the framers of our constituiton embraced. To be anti-Valenti is not to be pro-zero protection.

Re:If he cares so much about ideas... (3, Insightful)

GemFire (192853) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655349)

>>why doesn't he publish his book under the public domain

Probably because he wouldn't be able to find a publisher with the kind of distribution he would want for his book. I talked with Jessica Litman a little bit about "Digital Copyright" and her choices when it came to publishing. She'd be perfectly happy to see the entire work available online, but her publisher wouldn't allow it.

I find it unlikely that Lessig would feel that much differently. He's a lawyer - can't be in too much need of the income. I'd think he would be trying to get the widest distribution possible, to have the greatest number of people exposed to the ideas he's presenting. GNU license for documents (or BSD) would be too limiting for most publishers who deal with mass publications.

Putting commons in context (3, Interesting)

MisterMo (237107) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655012)

There is a subversive change afoot: many people who had never thought about ideas as things that can be "owned" are starting to think about this issue. Their thinking is being framed by the debate around music sharing, software activation, and other such issues. Most interestingly, many are starting to treat ideas as though they were real property. (OK, summary over...)

The "commons" was originally often found as part of a system in which people were property. At that time, the commons was for the use of those who were bound to the local fiefholder. As more and more autonomy was granted to individuals, this system no longer worked and the commons system morphed into one in which the "owner class" began to seek compensation for the resource in the form of rents or other consideration.

I cannot help but think that Lessig's "intellectual commons" is part of a system in which the ideas that populate them are already bound through other less obvious means to entities such as universities and corporations. The proposition that these ideas be "set free" will lead to exactly the kinds of DCMA shenanigans that Lessig seems to passionately want to avoid??

Is it possible that the concept of an intellectual commons is already becoming an anachronism in the same way that the concept of a common pasture became unusable as the system changed? As our society is driven towards a different notion of property, driven by Disney, RIAA, and other content owners, will fair use of ideas even exist as a tenable mechanism?

Perhaps there will become "free ideas" just as there were "freemen." These ideas would be certified as free, and could be combined with other free ideas... Wait a minute, I've heard this idea before; RMS, where are you when I need an overcharged rant about freedom?

Re:Putting commons in context (1)

lessig (31800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655030)



I disagree with this. Just as freedom for humans (when people we no longer property) came with the birth of the free-labor movement. This battle is now about the same movement with respect to ideas: free culture, just as they freed people.

Re:Putting commons in context (1)

MisterMo (237107) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655181)

Don't misunderstand me - I'm all for free culture, as well as free people.

You are proposing the commons as part of a solution, but I am claiming that this may not work due to the structural changes that are taking root in patent/copyright-based society. (In the face of your own good fight, I might add.) A commons may not be the appropriate mechanism to achieve the end that you seek.

One thing that the GPL has taught us is that other kinds of hacks are possible!?

Tragedy of the Commons (3, Interesting)

SimJockey (13967) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655192)

Garrett Hardin proposed what is to me the same thesis 33 years ago in his paper The Tragedy of the Commons [dieoff.org] . Hardin was proposing a class of problems that had no technical solution, no matter how hard we looked for them, as they were moral problems. Specifically he was talking about growing populations taxing resources, but the analogy is fairly easily applied to "the internet as commons" model.
The 400 lb gorillas of IP are trying to maximise their utility gains from the internet while impacting the utility to others negatively. Good old utilitarianism.
Hardin goes on from there, but it has been a few years since I read the paper so I'm going to breeze through it again. I'm looking forward to picking up this book to see what new thinking it might bring to the analysis.
I'd be interested to hear from Mr. Lessig (as he seems to be posting here) how much his thesis was influenced by Hardin.

Re:Tragedy of the Commons (1)

lessig (31800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655752)


The book is motivated by a desire to respond to a mistaken inference drawn from Hardin's work. Hardin was talking about (what economists call) rivalous goods -- goods, like apples, where if you consume it, I can't. Therein is the tragedy. But with ideas (and culture generally), your use of my idea doesn't make it any less possible for me to use the idea.

Re:Tragedy of the Commons (1)

SlideGuitar (445691) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655799)

So Dr. Lessig, what's your view of the concentration of IP ownership?

Sorry but I haven't read the book yet.

It seems to me that since ideas actually shape the physical architecture of the brain and the relationships between its parts, learning itself is a kind of copyright violation...

It's only because so many copyrights are violated that learning is possible... its too difficult to enforce the infringement.

But concentration of ownership... (imagine Mircrosoft owned private school systems.... teaching a Microsoft curriculum...) seems very dangerous... more so than concentration of ownership of physical assets.

Can a person's thoughts be owned? A whole culture? (1)

SlideGuitar (445691) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655556)

If a person is educated using copyrighted material, and just to make it more pointed, that copyrighted material is owned largely by one large media conglomerate, is it not the case that most or all of their thoughts are simply rearrangments of ideas "owned" by another party?

And in that case does their intellectual output not become a wholly or partially owned product of the company that provided the great bulk of the words, patterns and ideas that shaped their brain?

The idea of "idea" ownership is terribly insidious, but it is wholly consistent with the logic of capitalism.

The best argument for a strong state capable of resisting the encroachment of the private sector on culture, history, and ideas is that a strong counterweight is needed to resist the tendency of private parties to own what "should" be the collective property of peoples and of humanity.

message is being ignored (3, Interesting)

ignis (218763) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655657)

i am all for the message that lessig is telling us. i have followed the debate some what however, for what it is worth, i feel as though it is ineffective. the message that the holders of ip are stifling the commons is valid however the words are falling on deaf ears. the only people who are really listening to him are his student (they have to, as he is the grader of their papers), academics and some ip lawyers who are not attached to to large companies who have large holding of copyright.

in order for his message concerning the future of ideas to be effective it must be received and adopted by the techies. it is only after the techies take up the cause that they are being threaten will his message will have some true meat to it. the people who are the most influence, i.e. congress and courts, are being inundate with anti-lessigism and are blind to the alternative (will we ever see mickey mouse in the public domain? No). the lobbies and the lawyers are drowning out whatever counter arguments exist against the extenuation of copyright controls.

until some of the 'leaders' of the techies take note and start supporting this platform we all will just end up watching our rome burn like nero. eric raymond thinks the message in code and most likely his new book are false. he feels that no matter what happens the techies will be able to adapt, overcome and conquer anything that washington throws at the techies. wired news on aug 29, 2001 says "linus torvalds... wasn't quite so pessimistic. 'a lot of people are wasting time over disagreements,' he said, referring to legendary sectarian squabbles within the open-source community. 'but i think people will get their act together,' torvalds said. ' within the last six months, there has been a lot more (political) activity.'" However as long as Prof Felton isn't publishing, the DCMA is up held and Dmitry Sklyarov is being prosecuted... then there isn't enough support for open source and more must be done.

once the techies, the geeks, the open sourcers and those who are most affected by copyright controls (DMCA), then perhaps the public will take note. without the techies support then the message lessig is telling us is ineffective and the internet will be lost.

there are hundreds of lawyers and millions of dollars against us, why aren't we doing something about it?

Yes, but does anyone care enough to do anything? (1)

nysus (162232) | more than 12 years ago | (#2655723)

Judging by the number of comments here, the answer is "probably not". There is no real public discourse over copyright issues in our democracy and Lessig's book, as good as it may or may not be, will do little to change that. Unless your definition of public outrage is some twerpy looking Harvard lawyer, there will be none.


No one has the political power to overcome the MPAA or RIAA. You can be assured that congress will bend over backwards to meet their "needs" to gobble up ideas for public consumption. That's all ideas are anyway, right? Just goods, like bananas, Windex, and rubber tires that are good for nothing but getting consumed.


I'm sorry. We're fucked. Get pissed.

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