Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Lawrence Lessig Answers Your Questions

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the post-on-your-local-church-door dept.

Privacy 326

You asked Stanford Law professor, author and general voice of reason Lawrence Lessig some great questions about rights, law, and the electronic world. Lessig has has gotten back with some fittingly thoughtful answers -- some optimistic, some discomfiting, some biting. Read on to find out what he's got to say.

1) The question of harm
by caduguid

In round two of Valenti vs. Lessig a crucial question arose but due to the to-and-fro of debating was only addressed anecdotally. The question was one Valenti posed to you. To paraphrase it roughly: "Who cares? I would like someone to explain to me what harm is being done to the world by Mickey Mouse's copyright being extended twenty years. How does that harm anyone's ability to be creative or incentive to be creative." In the debate you only had the opportunity to present an anecdotal response. (A teacher whose class film projects couldn't be shared due to copyright infringement fears, I think.) Beyond the anecdote, however, a clear answer would be very helpful. We can all see that the copyright extension bargain was one-sided: copyright holders profited and the public gained nothing. We see the inequity in the action, we sense that the fix was in, and we resent it. But resentment over seeming corruption and the copyright holders' good fortune can only take us so far. A clear conception of direct harm to the public might be far more persuasive than the secondary harm of the copyright holders getting a really sweet deal. I kept hoping during the debate that the opportunity would come for you to address the question more fully, but it never did.

Lawrence Lessig:

Exactly right. This was a great weakness in the debate. It has been a weakness of mine for a long time. In my way of looking at the world, the point is a matter of principle, not pragmatics:

(1) Copyright law silences speech. It you want to set my book to song, you need my permission. If you don't have it, the law will banish your song.
(2) If the government wants to silence speech, it needs a very good reason. And if it doesn't have that reason, it should not silence my speech. Period. I shouldn't have to prove how valuable my speech is before I have the right to speak.

Yet this is just what Jack's question demands: Prove your speech would be better than Disney's. I see it the other way round: Prove the government has a good reason to silence my speech.

Now I do believe the government sometimes does have a good reason. And in particular with copyright, I do believe that the aim of copyright law in general is a sufficiently good reason. Copyright law gives authors an incentive to produce. By offering authors a limited monopoly, it supports their creativity. And subject to lots of lawyerly quibbles, I believe this support on balance produces more speech than it silences. The quid-pro-quo (produce speech and we'll give you a limited monopoly) functions, as the Supreme Court has said, as an "engine of free expression."

But that argument just cannot justify extending the terms of existing copyrights. Extending the term for already produced speech can't produce more speech. Even with Hollywood's help, Congress can't make causation go backwards. No matter what we do, Walt will not produce anything more in the past. Giving Disney the right to control speech about Mickey for another 20 years in exchange for nothing is just to silence speech with no compensating pro-speech benefit. And as there is no pro-speech benefit for this speech-supressing regulation, it should be struck under the First Amendment.

The weakness in this argument, however, is that most people think pragmatically, not in principles. The point for them isn't the ideal; the question for them is how much does it really matter. I've not done a great job in showing that. Others have. Check out, for example, the OpenLaw amicus briefs in the Eldred v. Aschroft case, of law professor Dennis Karjala's website.

But if I had a second (or I guess it's a third) chance, I'd say this to Jack:

First, Jack, this is not about Mickey alone. The retrospective extension of copyright reaches to all works presently under copyright (essentially work published after 1922), not just the favored few. Just think practically about what that means:

In 1930, there were 10,027 books published. Today, 174 of those books are still in print. Yet it would be illegal because of copyright law for Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg to take those 9,853 books not in print and make them available on the Internet for free - at least without tracking down the present owners of those copyrights and getting permission.

How hard is that?

Almost impossible. There is no requirement that copyright holders register. To track down the current holder of a copyright from 1930, therefore, would require first determining whether the author was alive, and if not, then which of his or her relatives were alive, and one once you found a relative, who among the relatives received the copyright at issue, and then whether they'd be willing to let this decaying book be digitized. Bottom line: without an army of lawyers, it is impossible to imagine making these books available because of the regulation of copyright.

What justifies this? If the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (passed in 1998, adding 20 years to existing copyrights) had not been passed, then all work through 1943 would be now be in the public domain. Project Gutenberg, Eric Eldred's Eldritch Press, Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive could all make this stuff available to others for free or, as Dover Press does, for money. But as it is, because of the law, this stuff will fall into a black hole of legal regulation. As Brewster Kahle said in his Amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Eldred case, we are at a point where we could put all human knowledge onto the net. Yet legal regulation stops us. Why?

Second, Jack, what about the new work that gets quashed by this perpetual extension? After we argued the Eldred case in the DC Circuit, a woman approached us with a story about a play she had written based on a work published in 1923. She had worked for almost 10 years writing the play, but the copyright holders would not grant her the right to publish or produce it. In 1998, the copyright was to expire; she had received a commitment to produce the play. But after the Sonny Bono Act, the underlying copyright was now extended for 20 more years. Her words were therefore silenced.

What could possibly justify this? The book published in 1923 was not even in print. Why should the government be in the business of threatening new authors in defense of a work that has all but disappeared? How many other creators will look at this reality and, thinking practically, say: "it's just not worth it. The hassle is too great. The uncertainty too high."

There are thousands of examples like this, and many times that that we could never know: At the debate, I told the story of an elementary school that had made films based in part on other film, and how it couldn't even display its work without fear of the lawyers. I told the story of Alice Randall who wrote "The Wind Done Gone," telling the story of "Gone With The Wind" from the perspective of African slaves. The Mitchell Estate told Alice Randall she couldn't publish her book. It took months of high price lawyering before she was granted the right to publish. How many Alice Randall's would simply say, forget it?

Valenti said the Randall example is insignificant. But what makes it insignificant? An author wants to tell a counter story about one of the most influential books of the last 100 years, and she can't do so without the permission of the estate of the original author. This is America, but you need the permission of a lawyer before you can criticize a favored author?

Again, there are many others who are better at this pragmatism stuff. To me, it just feels insulting. You want to tell the Alice Randalls of the world that they need the permission of a lawyer before they can speak? I want you, Jack, to justify that rule. You tell me I have to justify Alice Randall's right to speak? I want to say in response something we lawyers don't say enough: Bullshit.

2) Is Copyright law a sham?
by bw

It seems increasingly appearent to me that Intellectual Property law generally and Copyright law specifically, has become a corrupt instrument whereby campaign finance coffers are filled by metering out favors to large monied special interests. I am basing this on personal observation after having attempted to participate in the process. For example, I participated in several of the Copyright Office requests for public comment that produced easily 10X as many anti-DMCA comments as pro, only to see the Copyright Office ignore what seemed to me to be the clearly expressed objections of actual people in favor of the large corporations who lobbied for the bill. Worse, no serious attempt (in my view) was made to respond to the issues raised by the public. Congress is even less responsive, in my observation.

If and when I conclude that the deck truly is stacked, such that the political process producing copyright regulation is a sham, should I not also conclude that the best course of action is to engage in covert civil disobediance targeted to deprive the specific entities responsible for the corruption of profits? My question is not whether the DMCA is a corrupt law, but rather what moral obligation one has to obey a law that you earnestly believe symbolizes corrupt government.

After all, if push comes to shove, the anti-circumvention provisions are utterly unenforcable (to the point of being a joke) if they are disregarded in ways that do not attract attention. I'm not someone who has decrypted any DVD's or downloaded many MP3's, but I'm wondering what reason there could possibly be not to start.

LL:

I am not against copyright. I think the copyright our framers gave us, for example (a term of 14 years, renewable once; granted only if you register; for limited kinds of work; and protecting a limited range of rights) was a bit weak, but not much. I would favor a somewhat stronger right than they gave us, but for just about as long.

Yet obviously I believe copyright law has gone too far, at least in the digital age. When the power of creativity has been granted to a much wider range of creators because of a change in technology, the law of yesterday no longer makes sense. It must be changed.

The question is how will it be changed?

Disobedience is one technique. It is risky and increasingly costly. But that's not why I would resist disobedience.

The problem I have with disobedience is that it reenforces the Valenti-way of looking at the world. Copyright hoarders demand increasingly extreme rights so that they may exercise almost perfect control over how their content gets used. In response, the civil disobedience movement sends a message that they should have no control over how their content gets used at all. Between perfect control and no control, most would choose perfect control. And hence, we lose.

Disobedience makes sense when you are saying there should be no regulation of the kind you attack. When Martin Luther King led marches in Selma and Birmingham, he was not calling for a limited, or balanced form of segregation. He was calling for no segregation at all.

But we should not be calling for the repeal of all copyright. We should be calling for a balanced and limited form of copyright - much like the right of our framers - that gives artists the right to earn a living, without giving copyright hoarders the power to veto innovation.

We could make progress in demanding that right if those who got it did something. If, for example, slashdot readers weren't such political slugs, something might happen. If more of you did something about this, whether spamming your Congressman, or giving money to those who resist this regulation (like the EFF), then we could resist this extremism.

I am not optimistic, however. Those who get it (e.g., you) are pathetically apolitical. You're proud of your apathy. You're disgusted with people who try to persuade politicians. So am I. But while you do nothing, the future of creativity and innovation is sold in DC - typically to the highest, and most disgusting bidder.

3) The Judicial Branch
by lblack

I just wrote out way too long of a question, so I'm deleting and starting over.

Members of the judiciary are largely unqualified to comment or judge upon issues of a technical nature, simply because their careers do not incorporate a great deal of technical knowledge, and also because they have not sought it (and I don't blame them, probably didn't have time) on their own.

Now, they *are* qualified to comment on matters of criminality, which are supported by a huge amount of precedent, legislation, etc that has been repeatedly modified, challenged, or simply let stand.

However, there are new "crimes" coming into being, called "cybercrimes" by the buzzwordish. Our judges, lacking technical skills or a real awareness of digital culture, are passing judgement in cases that have either very loose or no precedent to be found, or that are the result of new and innovative legislature (see: DMCA).

My concern is that the judges who are making the decisions are the least qualified to do so -- that we won't have a lot of judges with a high awareness of the intricacies involved for several years. However, the judges presently seating are essentially creating a body of law to govern what they do not understand.

My question: How large of a threat will these precedents pose to the continuation or reclamation of freedoms? Will we be able to take back the ground we've alrady lost, or will the intricacies of the legal system vis-a-vis tort & precendent, ensure that we cannot?

LL:

There was a time when I thought that lawyers wouldn't do too much damage. The first Supreme Court case about cyberspace, Reno v. ACLU, striking down the Communications Decency Act of 1996, made it sound as if the constitution required that lawyers be careful before they muck up this free speech haven. Reno put a strong burden on the state to demonstrate that the state's regulation won't do any harm. That made the future sound hopeful.

All that has changed now. As the courts have shifted from porn to copyright, concern for balance, and limits have disappeared. Courts make illegal all sorts of technology because of its "threat" to copyright, without any concern about whether such regulation will threaten cyberspace and free speech generally.

This is, in part, because courts don't understand the technology. But I don't think it's because courts don't know how to code. I think the problem is that courts don't see the connection between certain kinds of technology and legal values. And this is because we've not done a good job in demonstrating the values built into the original architecture of cyberspace: That the Internet embraced a set of values of freedom; that the end-to-end design constitutionalized the idea that the network owner should not be allowed to veto content or applications; that those values produced a world of innovation that otherwise would not have existed. If courts could be made to see this, then we could connect this struggle to ideals they understand.

Sometimes when I read Slashdot debates, I wonder whether you guys get this connection either. The passion that is expended to defend the right to encrypt is wonderful and important. But just as important to the future of freedom is to assure that end-to-end values don't get corrupted by cable companies or network owners. Just as important to the future of freedom is to assure that essential parts of the network not become corrupted by copyright hoarders. And just as important to the future of freedom is to assure that spectrum remain free from the regulation and control of the state.

Yet these debates about freedom get bogged down on these pages. And this leads me to the greatest pessimism: If you guys don't get the importance of neutral and open platforms to innovation and creativity; if you get bogged down in 20th century debates about libertarianism and property rights; if you can't see how the .commons was critical to the .com revolution, then what do expect from judges?

You guys (not Howard Roark) built an architecture of value. Until you can begin to talk about those values, and translate them for others, courts and policy makers generally will never get it.

4) Leverage the knowledge of technical community
by 2Bits
A lot of obscure laws have been passed, and the majority of the population are not even aware of their existence. However, the technical community is watching the legislation quite closely. And we seem to understand the potential impact and risk on freedom and privacy. But the technical community has a very small influence on politics, and seems almost clueless in "playing political games."

How can we leverage the knowledge of the community to help educate politicians and the general population in terms of technologies, and the impact of the proposed bills? Briefly, how can we help better, not just sending letters to congress people or senators?

LL:

This is a great question. We need translators. We need to translate the values of the network into terms that nontechnical people get. And we need to watch for changes in the architecture or mix of technologies layered into the network, and raise warnings about how those changes will alter the environment for innovation and creativity. As one of my heroes in the law, James Boyle, puts it, we need an environmentalism for the Internet. You are the environmental experts. You can credibly show the world how changes in the ecology of the Internet will destroy the environment for creativity, innovation, and freedom that it produced.

Will you do that? Again, I am skeptical. Rather than trying to focus this debate, or agree on ways to make others understand, you guys immediately turn these questions into irrelevant bickerings. When someone reported that I had written a book described as the "Silent Spring" of the Internet, that opened up a thread about whether in fact DDT had harmed the environment. Someday, when freedom is gone, and all we've got is the right to whisper our thoughts to those closest to us, our children will look back and ask, why did we think we had the luxury to quibble?

But if you don't want to become translators, if you don't want to write environmental impact statements, if you don't want to try to convince the North in California that if it gets taken over by the South, freedom and innovation ends, then you could do as Torvalds has recommended: give money to those who are fighting the battle, in particular, EFF. I'm on the board of EFF, so blissfully biased about to whom. But whether EFF or someone else, follow Torvalds and the other christ-figures in history: Tithe. Take the cost of Internet access (whether you pay it or not) for one year; send 10% to an organization fighting for your freedom.

5) file sharing and copyright law
by stevenj

What do you think of OpenNap, Gnutella, Freenet, Morphius, and similar file-sharing systems? Do you think it is legal for a person to distribute unauthorized copies of a copyrighted recording or video that way, especially if no commercial entity is involved (e.g. excluding Napster or Morphius)? Should it be legal? (Should it matter how many copies you distribute, or to whom?)

If you think it should not be legal, what remedies should the law consider, since these systems can have significant non-infringing uses as well?

LL:

I support these technologies. More importantly, I support the right of innovators to develop these technologies. But I don't support copyright violations using these technologies.

You'd think this would be an easy distinction to understand: We live in a country where 10 children are killed by hand guns every day. But Smith and Wesson doesn't worry that the FBI will come arrest them because someone used their technology to commit a crime. The law targets illegal uses of technologies, not the technologies - at least where there is a legitimate and legal use of that technology. Yet because of our extremism when it comes to copyright law, we ban technologies that threaten copyright interests whether or not they have legitimate, independent uses.

6) Microsoft settlements?
by Lumpish Scholar

What is your take on the proposed settlements in the antitrust and civil Microsoft cases? To most Slashdotters, the former seems like a slap on the wrist, the latter like a a punishment turned into a reward (increasing dominance of the U.S. education market). Is there something we're missing?

LL:

The short answer is this: the settlement is fatally flawed. There is no effective enforcement mechanism to assure that Microsoft lives up to the terms of the decree. The "technical committee" does not have the power to interpret the decree. The only entity that can interpret the decree is a federal court. We've seen how well that works: The last decree (signed in 1994) was the subject of the case that began in 1997. It took the courts 8 months to work out the meaning of 20 words.

The decree would be close-to-fixed if it had an effective special master who could monitor and enforce the decree effectively (and no, I'm not interested.) It still wouldn't be a perfect decree - I like the nine states' proposed alternative better - but at least it would have a chance.

But though I've been attacked by Microsoft as strongly as anyone, and though I completely agree with the Court of Appeals that Microsoft violated the antitrust laws, I do believe something that will not endear me to many of you: As I said in my testimony, I don't believe Microsoft is the greatest threat to the Internet. And indeed (and more controversially), there's at least one understanding of how the .NET strategy gets implemented that would reenforce the best of the Internet against the threats posed by the Time Warners of the world and cable interests. On at least one understanding of .NET, .NET would reenforce an end-to-end network. It would resist "intelligence" within the network. And except for the open source and free software movements, it is about the only strategy out there that could produce real freedom.

My claim is not that Microsoft will adopt that strategy on its own. I am not arguing we should trust the company. But I do think that an effective remedy could push Microsoft in the direction of something good, and if it did, the company could become an ally, not an enemy.

I know there are many who resist this view. Many believe MSFT is the devil. I'm not one of those people. And my concern is that if we obsess about old wars, we won't understand the nature of the new.

7) Doctrine of First Sale Dead?
by burris

Back near the turn of the last century, book publishers printed contracts on their books, limiting the ability of the customer to resell or lend his purchases. This practice was halted by the U.S. Supreme court and the consumers right to do what they wish with legitimately purchased copies (with certain limited exceptions) was eventually codified in the US code as part of the '76 Copyright Act.

Given that software is a work of authorship protected by Copyright law, how is it that software publishers get away with these old tricks of printing restrictive contracts on their works, claiming assent simply by using the software, denying people their rights under Copyright law?

LL:

They get away with it because their lobbyists have convinced Congress to change the law. So, for example, the first sale doctrine has been repealed for some content. And it is not being supported with other content.

The history is important, however, to remind people about the balance that copyright law has typically tried to draw. We have never until now understood the rights of copyright to be the right of the author (or publisher) to exercise perfect control over copyrighted material. The framers of our constitution gave copyright holders a tiny set of rights; this is not because the framers we communists. We need, as a culture, to remember that copyright is a form of state regulation. And we need, as political culture, to become, with respect to this regulation, a bit more Republican: Where is the regulatory impact statement that shows that this form of regulation does any good?

8) IP Laws of the Future
by Catiline

Rather than ask about current copyright/patent laws, or pending ones, I would like to know what you think the ideal Intellectual Property laws are (assume you could rewrite them as you wish). Also, what sort of international agreements would have to be passed alongside this?

LL:

In my book I argue for a number of changes. They include a much more restrictive term - basically 5 year renewable terms, up to a maximum of 75 years. For software, the term would be even shorter, and conditioned upon the software author depositing his or her source code with the copyright office, to be open sourced upon the expiration of the copyright.

More importantly, I think we need to restrict the scope of "derivative rights" more than we do today. Copyright owners deserve to be paid for the use of their work; they should not be allowed to veto follow on work that builds on theirs.

Finally, during a time of technological transition, we need a strong set of compulsory rights so that new content producers and distributors can get access to material to enable these new businesses to take off. Compulsory rights require that the author of the original work get paid, but the rate is either set by the law, or set by a panel to be relatively low. This will give artists more than they would have had, had there been no Internet. But it will assure that innovators can build out the future of the Internet without the control of dinosaur industries.

9) Patents, Copyright and the law community
by gdyas

Dr. Lessig,

Looking from the outside in on the legal community's response or lack thereof to the constitutionality and legal basis of recent court rulings (Napster, Eric Corley), the DMCA/SSCA, etc, I see very few lawyers taking a stand against this -- there's mostly a massive shrug. There's the ACLU, the EFF of which you're a part, and Jessica Litman, and that's all I see trying to do something about the co-opting of copyright and patent lawmaking by corporations through appeals based on the interest of business, lobbyists' dealmaking, and outright graft. By and large however there seems to be little interest even amongst lawyers and congressmen about the arcana of copyright and patent law, and thus it's left to such companies and libraries because they're the only ones who both have power and care about it. Has trying to fight this caused conflict in your professional work? Is it lonely being a "vox clamantis in deserto"? What's your game plan for beating these guys back, or do you have one? There's a certain sadness and resignation in both your and Litman's writing that's very disencouraging that would lead me to think that even our flag-bearers feel there's little hope at this point.

LL:

There are more of us than you think, but certainly not enough. Again, check out the OpenLaw page, and you'll see over 50 of the most active resisters to this expansion of copyright working together to overturn the Sonny Bono Act. These scholars and lawyer represent a critically important resistance.

That said, we still need more help. I produce lawyers for a living; I watch as many try to find jobs to do good, but find the only available work is within the system. People who understand the importance of freedom and see the importance of protecting the future of freedom on the net need to support institutions that fight for that freedom. Pam Samuelson of Berkeley, and her husband, Bob Glushko, have given an extraordinary amount of money to support clinics at law schools around the country. At Stanford, we also have a clinic that defends hackers (soon to be known officially as "terrorists"). But again, I think EFF has been the most important player in this area.

10) Will the extension of copyright continue?
by Artifice_Eternity

Do you think that the gradual increases in the length of time that works can remain copyrighted (most recently the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" of the 1990s) will continue every time that the media companies feel that they are about to lose control of some of their "intellectual property"?

Or do you think that the public interest will reassert itself and hold or even turn back some of these copyright extensions?

When a work's copyright is extended, one person (the author or the corporation that owns it) benefits. But when its copyright expires, everyone benefits by being able to copy, modify, expand on and extend it. Can we convince lawmakers with this kind of social and economic argument?

LL:

Exactly right. When Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which we've renamed the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act," we filed a law suit on behalf of Eric Eldred and others. Eldred had threatened civil disobedience. He runs a web based archive of public domain works, and promised to publish works in violation of the CTEA. We convinced him that jail was ugly and that courts may do the work better. We've been litigating the case now since 1998, and have convinced at least two federal judges that the law is unconstitutional. Tight this moment I should be writing a reply to the government's argument against the Supreme Court reviewing the case. That reply is due in a week.

If we get to the Supreme Court, I am certain that we will win. This is not a left/right issue. The conservatives on the Court will look at the framers' constitution - which requires that copyrights be granted for "limited times" - and see that the current practice of Congress, repeatedly extending the term of existing copyrights (11 times in the last 40 years) makes a mockery of the framers' plan. And the liberals will look at the effect of these never ending copyrights on free speech, and conclude that Congress is not justified in this regulation of speech. The Supreme Court doesn't give a hoot about Hollywood; they will follow the law.

It is not enough, however, to win in the Supreme Court. Ordinary people need to rediscover the importance of the public domain to creativity. The Internet could teach this - Brewster's Internet Archive, for example, is a great demonstration of the value of the public domain. But it will take real political action by real people (i.e., not lawyers) to get Congress to recognize what our framers understood.

11) Cyberspace Amendment
by kzinti

Many years ago, in the early days of the WWW, Laurence Tribe proposed a "Cyberspace Amendment" to the US Constitution that would explicitly extend all the rights and freedoms of the Constitution to all forms of speech, regardless of the medium. The idea was brought to many of us geeks in a Dr. Dobbs article by Michael Swaine. I know what many of my fellow Slashdotters opinions probably are, but I'd like to have yours: how have our Constitutional protections held up on the Internet, in e-mail, and in WWW publishing? Do we still need a Cyberspace amendment -- or do we perhaps need it now more than ever?

LL:

Professor Tribe's article was typically Tribe: Way ahead of its time, and right. But the sad fact is that our liberties have not been eroded because the protections in cyberspace are weak. Our liberties are weak because courts have eroded constitutional protections generally.

The more I'm in this battle, the less I believe that constitutional law on its own can solve the problem. If Americans can't see the value of freedom without the help of lawyers, then we don't deserve freedom. We should be working to help Americans recognize freedom again.

12) Activism by coding
by melquiades

It seems like a lot of judges who face abstract technology questions -- code as speech, DMCA, etc. -- just don't get it. And can we really blame them? Technology is complicated; can we expect every judge to be an uberhacker?

Perhaps it would be helpful to have some bright programmers set up some concrete examples for judges to consider, which clarify the problems we all see, and help judges refine their intuitions about code and digital information.

For example, to further the "code is protected speech" cause, we could create a full-fledged programming language which reads as plain English, then use it to implement a copy protection circumvention program (DeCSS or the like). This raises all sort of interesting questions: it's English and code; is it protected under the first amendment? Presumably it was before it could be run as a program, so does my inventing a programming language change the status of existing speech? If it's protected as only source code, is an interpreter for that language illegal? Is bundling the English script with the interpreter illegal? And so forth ...

... but that's a very thorny example. Are there examples of this kind that we programmers should be producing -- software that makes these theoretical arguments more concrete? Is there anything in this spirit that won't just confuse and/or piss off a judge? What examples do our causes need? We're ready to implement them!

LL:

Again a great question. The answer is more communication between lawyers and technologists. There is ignorance among lawyers and judges about technology no doubt. But there is also ignorance among technologists about the law.

The "code is speech" debate is a perfect example. Obviously, this is an important victory to have -- and indeed, the one good thing that came out of the 2600 appeal was a clear affirmation by the Second Circuit that "code is speech." But among constitutional lawyers, that "code is speech" is not the hard question. The hard question comes next: even if it is speech, how much power does the government have to regulate it. For just because "code is speech," it doesn't follow, under standard First Amendment law, that the government can't regulate code. Think again about copyright law. Obviously, what copyright law regulates is speech. But even though speech, under some circumstances the state can regulate it.

I think the place where technologists could do the most good is by showing the rest of the world something much more fundamental about the network. Not just how code is speech, but also:

(1) how the architecture of the Internet built a set of values,
(2) how those values are fundamentally linked to the most important freedoms in our tradition, and
(3) how changes in that architecture of the net could undermine those values.

Find ways to demonstrate how the architecture built a commons, and how that commons induced innovation: That's the stuff that lawyers, and politicians, don't get.

13) International Freedom
by bfree

We seem to be living in "Interesting Times". The events of 911 have given law-makers the impetus to have acts passed which would have been at the very least debated for a lot longer pre 911. Up until now the Internet has been an incredibly open network with minimalist intervention and legislation from individual countries governments (a few notable exceptions). It seems as if we are going to enter a new legal phase for the internet where legislators in many countries will try to enact and apply laws to take control of this wild beast. Each countries individual efforts will hamper their own citizens without overly effecting the rest of the net.

My question is how much of the above do you disagree with and why? And what body (UN, w3.org, wipo, coporation of ISPs, Microsoft) do you forsee holding the international legal legislatory responsibility for the net at large in 1/5/10/25/50 years time?

LL:

I don't disagree with any part of your description. That was the argument I tried to make in my first book - that the original freedom of the Internet could be changed by relatively small changes in the architecture, and we should expect governments to work hard to effect those changes. I made a bunch of dark predictions in that book. History has proven I was not pessimistic enough.

I don't know what body can resist these changes. I would have hoped the IETF would play a bigger role. And W3 too should see what's at stake. But the fact is that the strongest advocates for freedom are overwhelmed by those who have the most to lose from freedom. The key to our success would be if a strong commercial actor became deeply invested in freedom. Except for its patents, I would have said IBM was that commercial actor. But we'll need more than Big Blue.

14) DMCA
by Amazing Quantum Man

What, in your opinion, are the chances of getting the DMCA declared unconstitutional?

Given the recent court defeats in both the Felten and 2600 cases, do we even have a chance?

LL:

The DMCA as a whole won't be struck down - ever. But I continue to believe that at least the parts that disable the use and deployment of technologies to protect traditional fair use will eventually fall. At least they will fall if litigation about them could continue. But notice again: the only group out there supporting this litigation (Felten and 2600) is EFF, and EFF's resources are, surprise surprise, limited.

Skeptical on both, though as I've said, I do think there is a way that .NET could get implemented that would reenforce freedom on the Internet. That's not to say Microsoft would on its own follow that path. But it is important to see that if it did follow that path, its architecture could reenforce freedom.

The same could be said about the Liberty Alliance. Nice title, but Sun has never quite resolved itself to the idea of open and free networks, so I'm not convinced Liberty is what it calls itself. I do think we as a community need to develop a much better authentication architecture - one that is not controlled by any one single, or group of companies, but instead a platform upon which authentication services could be built. I hear whispers from Red Hat that they would be interested in such a future. I hope that's true, but its too soon to tell.

The dangers in both .NET and Liberty could be better resisted if we would only develop a consistent and clear message about the importance of neutral platforms to innovation and freedom. When we built the highway system, we didn't say to GM: "if you build the highways for us, you can build them so that GM trucks run better than Ford trucks." When we needed a passport system, we didn't tell Chase Manhattan bank that they could develop the passport system in exchange for a piece of every transaction. In both cases, there was a recognition of the importance of neutral, commons-like, infrastructures upon which others could build neutrally.

We need to relearn this lesson - in general, and in the context of the Internet. You guys could help teach that lesson. Indeed, only technologists have the credibility to speak reason to this idiot power. But that will require something more than a life of quibbling on Slashdot. And so far, you've not shown you're up to very much more.

15) .NET-enabled futures?
by Nikau

What is your opinion on things like Microsoft's .NET or the Liberty Alliance (I believe that's what it's called - the one being developed by AOL and other companies to counter .NET)? Do you see these as a potential problem in terms of a free online world?

LL: p>Skeptical on both, though as I've said, I do think there is a way that .NET could get implemented that would reenforce freedom on the Internet. That's not to say Microsoft would on its own follow that path. But it is important to see that if it did follow that path, its architecture could reenforce freedom.

The same could be said about the Liberty Alliance. Nice title, but Sun has never quite resolved itself to the idea of open and free networks, so I'm not convinced Liberty is what it calls itself. I do think we as a community need to develop a much better authentication architecture - one that is not controlled by any one single, or group of companies, but instead a platform upon which authentication services could be built. I hear whispers from Red Hat that they would be interested in such a future. I hope that's true, but its too soon to tell.

The dangers in both .NET and Liberty could be better resisted if we would only develop a consistent and clear message about the importance of neutral platforms to innovation and freedom. When we built the highway system, we didn't say to GM: "if you build the highways for us, you can build them so that GM trucks run better than Ford trucks." When we needed a passport system, we didn't tell Chase Manhattan bank that they could develop the passport system in exchange for a piece of every transaction. In both cases, there was a recognition of the importance of neutral, commons-like, infrastructures upon which others could build neutrally.

We need to relearn this lesson - in general, and in the context of the Internet. You guys could help teach that lesson. Indeed, only technologists have the credibility to speak reason to this idiot power. But that will require something more than a life of quibbling on Slashdot. And so far, you've not shown you're up to very much more.

cancel ×

326 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Objection (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738497)


I can't tell you how much I disagree with what was spouted forth in this interview.

Re:Objection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738644)

do you want to elaborate on that?

Re:Objection (-1)

VALinux (449801) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738717)

No, because he can't tell you.

Re:Objection (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738955)

I can't tell you how much your pig-headed attitude astonishes me. Just because someone doesn't bow down and blindly worship the almighty Linux beside you, doesn't mean that he's a moron and should immediately be discredited. You disagree because you fear the future. I believe that he has a pretty good idea of what will happen. Microsoft could be an ally just as easily as any other corporation. However, they are not, because they don't support freedom in the sense it should be supported. One day they might find it necessary to change tactics, or else they will become extinct.

Merry XMas! (-1)

Guns n' Roses Troll (207208) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738498)

I'm taking a break from my company xmas party to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Here's to another year of trolling and crapflooding..

Cheers!

FP? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738500)

Do people who try to get the first post have a twenty second timer so they know when to hit enter?

W00t (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738504)

WHO LET THE HAX0RS OUT?

W00T W00T

Re:W00t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738585)

HAhahahah mod this up!!!!!! stupid ass moderators you guys suck.. you have no sense of humor.

Micro$oft "Settlement;" MOre Pies for MS (1, Offtopic)

TRoLLaXoR (181585) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738510)

By allowing MS to donate hardware and software to schools in an attempt to make amends for playing dirty on so many fronts, the gov'ts involved have allowed MS to peddle there wares free once and collect money thereafter, thus giving MS an in to the education market it wouln't have had before.

MS should be given props for being clever, at least. But a side-effect is harm to others.

Doesn't this seem a little obvious? The first hit is always free.

Missing Comment (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738516)

Mr. Lessig forgot to write:

"Timothy, STFU."

Aside from that, great responses.

Long (0, Flamebait)

hether (101201) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738517)

Probably interesting, but entirely too long to read. Its the holidays - I'm not in the mood for pages and pages of stuff about law, I'm in the mood for candy canes...

Re:Long (5, Interesting)

imac.usr (58845) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738573)

Probably interesting, but entirely too long to read. Its the holidays - I'm not in the mood for pages and pages of stuff about law, I'm in the mood for candy canes...
No problem. Here's the only part people like you need to read:
I am not optimistic, however. Those who get it (e.g., you) are pathetically apolitical. You're proud of your apathy. You're disgusted with people who try to persuade politicians. So am I. But while you do nothing, the future of creativity and innovation is sold in DC - typically to the highest, and most disgusting bidder.

Hope that helps.


Re:Long (1)

hether (101201) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738729)

Oh, were you saying that's part of the article? I thought that was directed at me being apathetic. Sorry and thanks for the information.

Re:Long (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738582)

This is insightful?! And a baboon's multicolored ass is informative too, I guess?

Re:Long (2)

hether (101201) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738599)

It wasn't meant to be insightful. It was just meant to be a legitimate comment about the article. It is damn long for a slashdot article. I figured I'd get modded down for being off topic perhaps, but didn't plan on the personal attacks. I guess I should be used to that by now.

I am not apathetic. I am interested in this topic. I am one who writes to my government figures, takes part in the political process, etc. - but I have no reason to prove myself to you! I am just not interested in reading this long piece right now.

Re:Long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738743)

If you're not interested in reading it right now, then don't. But why are you posting such drivel?

It did hilight the 'intelligence' (sic) of the moderation system here, though.

Re:Long (5, Funny)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738610)

Probably interesting, but entirely too long to read. Its the holidays - I'm not in the mood for pages and pages of stuff about law, I'm in the mood for candy canes...

Bookmark it and read it Wednesday. Merry Christmas.

Re:WHAT?!?!?!?! (2, Insightful)

davebo (11873) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738631)

Interesting, but too long to read? And this gets moderated as insightful? WHAT THE HELL?

Story after story gets posted about how our rights are being taken away, about how "the man" is trying to bring us down, and thousands of posters respond with "right on!"

and then when somebody who really understands the issues, understands the system, and gives great advice about what we can do to help or organizations [eff.org] to which we could donate to fight for us all, and you decide it's "too long to read at christmastime?" and some other bonehead thinks that's a great comment?

Well, cry me a river.

Re:Long (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738653)

So don't complain when you have to pay to sing "Jingle Bells" next year.

Re:Long (2, Insightful)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738657)

In response to one of the more level headed, articulate, and insightful discussions on the importance of our freedoms, what some of the root causes of their erosion are, and what we as individuals and technically savvy professionals can do about it, Hether writes:

Probably interesting, but entirely too long to read. Its the holidays - I'm not in the mood for pages and pages of stuff about law, I'm in the mood for candy canes...

and thereby demonstrates why it is profoundly unlikely that our children, much less our grandchildren, will enjoy anything even remotely resembling liberty or freedom in any form, much less the freedom to speak.

Candy canes indeed. Why don't you just go ahead and get your fiddle? Some dinner music might be nice while America^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Rome is burning.

Re:Long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738668)

People like you represent everything that is wrong with Slashdot.

Re:Long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738738)

people who post as ACs are what's right with slashdot? oh wait I'm being hypocritical

Re:Long (2)

hether (101201) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738678)

I don't understand what the big deal is! One flippant comment like this has people jumping all over it??

Apparently my failure to read this article and instead post what I considered a somewhat insignificant post will result in the loss of our liberty to sing jingle bells. It will kill the future for our children and grandchildren, it will destroy the environment, bring hell to earth. You're right. I am what's wrong with the world today, a person who said they didn't have time to read something becuase they are filled with the holiday spirit. Damn me!!!!!

Wait a minute! (2, Troll)

joshjs (533522) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738527)

"The law targets illegal uses of technologies, not the technologies - at least where there is a legitimate and legal use of that technology."

Does anybody in any position of authority know this?!?!?

Re:Wait a minute! (2)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738774)

Yeah - my thoughts too!
The comment below is a little disconcerting, because we're dangerously close to where a Smith & Wesson *will* become worried about govt. holding them liable if someone kills a child with one of their handguns!

The problem is much larger than people not differentiating when it comes to computer technology vs. illegal use of said technology. This refusal to differentiate happens with even simple, relatively low-technology products and services!

As a whole, we have a need to shift blame. AKA. It's currently understood that if you do a poor job of shoveling snow and ice off of your driveway, and someone comes along and slips/falls on it, you are responsible if they sue you. Since it's *your* property and they chose to walk on it without your consent or invitation, I fail to see how this makes any logical sense! When this does make sense to lawyers and judges though, how can we move beyond that to encryption and programming issues??

"You'd think this would be an easy distinction to understand: We live in a country where 10 children are killed by hand guns every day. But Smith and Wesson doesn't worry that the FBI will come arrest them because someone used their technology to commit a crime."

Re:Wait a minute! (2)

ahde (95143) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738949)

actually smith & wesson is playing both sides of the fence. consider their lobbying for "child protections" on guns that helped them get exclusive contracts with many government agencies and police forces

whoa... (1)

Schwamm (513960) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738535)

Real answers to real questions... On /.?

Yes I was wondering.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738550)

I am a 32 year old male and have been wearing glasses for as long as I can remember.. I have oblong shaped eyes and was wondering if your procedure was right for me, and what risks I am running, if any, by getting this procedure done. I hate my glasses with a passion.. (the lenses are like half an inch thick!!!!) I really don't want to risk it too much, but if I have at least a 10% chance of success, then it's all systems go!

Looks like a typo in there... (2)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738571)


Just a comment, looks like the answers to 14 and 15 got mixed together by accident. I assume the answer to 14 was the first paragraph only, since the rest was referring to authentication and .NET.

Re:Looks like a typo in there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738709)

No breaking the rules! This is slashdot...you're not expected to read ANYTHING before posting... =P

The source (-1, Flamebait)

El_Smack (267329) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738572)

Hey, why are we taking advice from Dr. Seuss's alter ego?

Re:The source (2, Funny)

raincrow (61535) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738733)

>Dr. Seuss's alter ego?

Lawrence Lessig
Theodore Geisel

I suppose one could get the names confused. If you were squinting. While reading in the dark. And you'd been drinking.

Re:The source (1)

cbowland (205263) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738823)

Actually, Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) also used the nom de plume Theo LeSieg, with LeSieg obviously being Geisel spelled backwards. So the comparison of Lessig and Dr. Seuss is not really all that strange.

This guy... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738577)

...is a little shy. Maybe he should hang out with Marcelo Tossati.

I can't wait to see a vacancy on the Supreme Court (2, Interesting)

vaxer (91962) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738578)


...because I would LOVE to see Lawrence Lessig appointed!



(I'm not advocating any particular way of opening a vacancy on the Court, mind you... Perhaps Scalia would be so kind as to retire.)

Re:I can't wait to see a vacancy on the Supreme Co (3, Insightful)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738597)

I suspect that, should any of this come to SCOTUS, that Scalia would actually be friendly to what we're trying to do. He's a strict constructionist.

I'm not sure friendly is the right word, but I can't think of the proper word at this moment.

Speaking of Government @# +1 ; Informative #@ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738611)

My complaint about John Ashcroft:

May I be cynical for a bit? I hope you don't mind,
but with Ashcroft's latest barrage of
malodorous notions, I can't resist the urge to make a few cynical comments. To get right
down to it, some of the facts I'm about
to present may seem shocking. This
they certainly are. However, it's time that a few
facts had a chance to slip through the fusillade of hype.

What's my problem, then? Allow me to present it
in the form of a question: Where are the people
who are willing to stand up and acknowledge
that Ashcroft, in his infinite wisdom, has decided
to destroy the natural beauty of our parks and forests? On the surface, it would seem to have something to do with the way that his whole approach is repugnant.

But upon further investigation, one will find that
by allowing Ashcroft to put mephitic thoughts in our children's minds, we are allowing him to play puppet master. As for the lies and exaggerations, Ashcroft's epigrams are rife with contradictions
and difficulties; they're entirely maladroit,
meet no objective criteria, and are unsuited
for a supposedly educated population.
And as if that weren't enough, if Ashcroft is going to obstruct important things, then he should at least have the self-respect to remind himself of a few things: First, a true enemy is better than a false friend. And second, many people respond to his debauched vituperations
in much the same way that they respond to television dramas. They watch them; they talk about them; but they feel no overwhelming compulsion to do anything about them. That's why I insist we pronounce the truth
and renounce the lies.

Even people who consider themselves scornful
foolhardy-types generally agree that Ashcroft's slurs symbolize lawlessness, violence, and misguided rebellion-- extreme liberty for a few, even if the rest of us lose more than a little freedom. One might conclude that Ashcroft is incapable of writing a letter without using
such phrases as "crapulous pop psychologists", "loquacious exhibitionists", "oppressive personae non gratae", or some combination thereof. Alternatively, one might conclude that Ashcroft has a different view of reality from the rest of us. In either case, if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem. His historical record of fickle pleas is clearer than the muddled pronouncements of his apple-polishers for a variety of reasons. For instance, the worst sorts of inconsiderate Neanderthals there
are must be treated with political justice, not with civil justice, as they are sincerely not real citizens. Let me rephrase that: I wonder if he really believes the things he says. He knows they're not true, doesn't he? A complete answer to that question would take more space than I can afford, so I'll have to give you a simplified answer. For starters, if we let him cause riots in the streets, then greed, corruption, and tribalism will characterize the government.

Oppressive measures will be directed against citizens. And lies and deceit will be the stock and trade of the media and educational institutions. Even Ashcroft's bedfellows couldn't deal with the full impact of Ashcroft's refrains. That's why they created "Ashcroft-ism," which is
just a garrulous excuse to force square pegs into round holes. He plans to drag everything that is truly great into the gutter. He has instructed
his votaries not to discuss this or even admit to his plan's existence. Obviously, Ashcroft knows he has something to hide. Most of you reading this letter have your hearts in the right place. Now
follow your hearts with actions. I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people. I can therefore assure you that Ashcroft's artifices cannot stand on
their own merit. That's why they're dependent on elaborate artifices and explanatory stories to convince us that Ashcroft's warnings can give us deeper insights into the nature of reality. We can and we must protect ourselves by any means
necessary against the unrestrained bestiality
of stupid, quasi-macabre paper-pushers. And that's the honest truth.

Re:I can't wait to see a vacancy on the Supreme Co (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738615)

Like apeface would appoint Lessig

Re:I can't wait to see a vacancy on the Supreme Co (1)

scheming daemons (101928) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738693)

If a vacancy did come during this President's term, you would definitely not get Lawrence Lessig appointed.

Probably would be some ex Enron lawyer that Dubya owed a favor to.

Re:I can't wait to see a vacancy on the Supreme Co (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738726)

You wouldn't see anyone 'appointed' -- because they're not appointed. They president nominates someone, and the senate confirms/denies them.

Re:I can't wait to see a vacancy on the Supreme Co (5, Funny)

fmaxwell (249001) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738777)

You wouldn't see anyone 'appointed' -- because they're not appointed. They president nominates someone

The Supreme Court justices appoint the President, not the other way around. People didn't learn anything from the last election.

the highest bidder (2, Interesting)

Bandito (134369) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738591)

I am not optimistic, however. Those who get it (e.g., you) are pathetically apolitical. You're proud of your apathy. You're disgusted with people who try to persuade politicians. So am I. But while you do nothing, the future of creativity and innovation is sold in DC - typically to the highest, and most disgusting bidder.

This quote seems to contradict itself. We can bitch and moan to Congress about our disagreement with copyright, but face it, those who get it are by far in the minority. Even if a good lot of us complained, the future of creativity and innovation is still sold in DC - typically to the highest, and most disgusting bidder because that bid still outweighs the voices of the few.

Re:the highest bidder (5, Insightful)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738612)

Despite your disdain for the political system, the United States is a democratic republic.

When Senators hear alot of complaints about an issue, they immediately see that their jobs are in jeopardy and act accordingly.

Ever wonder why the elderly get so many benefits (like Medicare, SS, etc)???

Because organizations like the AARP are loud and vocal in the pursuit of their interests.

Re:the highest bidder (1)

Bandito (134369) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738672)

When Senators hear alot of complaints about an issue, they immediately see that their jobs are in jeopardy and act accordingly.

This is exactly my point. I don't think that there are enough of us to make a Senator fear for their job.

I don't wonder why the elderly get so many benefits for the reason above: There are plenty more elderly persons in the United States than there are people who get technology.

The EFF and others are loud and vocal in pursuit of our interests, but we're having this discussion now which would seem to suggest that I'm correct that we're not a large enough crowd to make enough noise.

Or maybe I'm completely wrong and Mr. Lessig is correct that there are plenty of us, just not enough of us are making noise.

Re:the highest bidder (2)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738784)

If people spoke out, they would convert others.

Does my 95-year old grandfather who was a machinist 40 years ago understand the subtleties of health insurance? No. But he can and does inform himself about what is and isn't in his best interest. He votes accordingly every year.

I don't think you are one, but many techies are smug punks who don't listen to what others have to say. They assume everyone else is too, hence the jaded and apolitical attitudes.

Re:the highest bidder (1)

ahde (95143) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738965)

there isn't enough people in the electorate (counting the majority who didn't vote) to make a Senator fear for his job.

Absolutely phenominal! (3, Troll)

jd (1658) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738600)

Any chance Slashdot could hire him as a guest article writer, from time to time? This is a guy who knows what he thinks& feels, and knows how to put that on paper. A VERY rare beast, indeed! (Mayhap, rarer than the new squiddy thing that's been found. Though I suspect the new squiddy thing might make a more powerful presence in court, versus Microsoft. Especially if it eats the defendents.)

Re:Absolutely phenominal! (1)

Peter Dyck (201979) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738675)

I agree.

It's been a while since I've read something as insightful and thought provoking on Slashdot as this article was.

Re:Absolutely phenominal! (5, Insightful)

EricWright (16803) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738706)

Maybe you haven't noticed, but Lessig's work is far more important than writing articles for an online community. I'd rather see him continue his work with the EFF, argue cases before the Supreme Court, and get some of the more ridiculous laws off the books.

THAT is doing something worthwhile. Let's not reduce him to the same level as JonKatz...

Eric

Maybe, maybe not. (5, Insightful)

nyet (19118) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738811)

The whole point to having a regular contributor to /. is to spur not only debate but action. Since nobody takes Katz seriously, all that results from his writings is debate (and usually not very insightful debate at that). Maybe somebody like Lessig can help crystallize the /. community into getting real grassroots political leverage.

Personally, I'm doubtful - too many of us are frustrated, cynical, jaded, and face it, just plain lazy (myself included). We feel powerless and disenfranchised so not only do we stew in apathy, but we also express views which remain inaccessible and incomprehensible to the type of optimistic, motivated people who form the base of a successful movement.

We need somebody who can translate our whining into clever 30 second sound bytes for mass consumption. And there is NO way Katz is up to that. Maybe Lessig is.

Re:Absolutely phenominal! (1)

karb (66692) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738735)

It would be cool to have him around more often. But can you imagine what he is worth? A professor at a prestigious (sp?) school, a lawyer, a revered author and a political figure? I think any of those, by themself, would make him out of /.'s price range :) But he might just do it because he's cool (as is the case with this interview, I assume)

Not that he actually makes any fraction of what he's worth (as is true with many great scholars). It's just easier sometimes to get them to volunteer than to try to afford them. :)

Townhall meeting across America? (2)

2Bits (167227) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738934)

Better yet, could any organization sponsor a tour of townhall meetings across America, to educate the general population what is going on? And have Larry Lessig explains in the "easily comprehensible english terms"?

I'll donate $100 to support this tour.

Re:Absolutely phenominal! (1)

c0rtez (443072) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738936)

as much as I'd enjoy reading Lessig's take on every little thing, I'm in agreement with the other replies, his time is better spent elsewhere.

You could alwasy go read his books, Code: and other laws of cyberspace [amazon.com] and his new one The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World [amazon.com]

Or jsut check out his website [stanford.edu]

Rights of authors to control their works (i.e. Gnu (3, Interesting)

vkg (158234) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738605)

Mebbe these DRM systems will actually help.

No, really, think about it.

If you're a small artist, and DRM actually works, you can put a couple of your songs up on Napster-clones with the copy bits set to "Copy Forever".

Then put the rest of the album up with "Pay me for a licence".

People who want to distribute for free can, as can people who want to police. What's the problem with this?

I think it may just be building a technical infrastructure for trust.

Vinay

PS: and no, I don't like the mandating of DRM - but I think it itself may be savable.

Re:Rights of authors to control their works (i.e. (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738765)

I think it may just be building a technical infrastructure for trust.


Actually, it would render trust unnecessary.

Re:Rights of authors to control their works (i.e. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738779)

> If you're a small artist, and DRM actually works, you can put a couple of your songs up on
> Napster-clones with the copy bits set to "Copy Forever".

You make the mistake of assuming that small artists will have access to the DRM systems.

more likely, the 'master keys' to the DRM systems will belong to a handful of corporations, who will get to decide who can and cannot publish using DRM.

the small artist will get the choice: either sign your rights over to us in exchange for .01% of the revenues (i.e. the existing situation), or you can't create any content that will play in any DRM-enabled systems.

people who create content without using DRM will of course be classified under the law as "pirates", all non-DRM content will be assumed to be an illegal copy of something, and will be automatically deleted by your DRM-enabled computer in the small chance that you are able to evade the United State's DRM firewall and download it from Cuba.

Re:Rights of authors to control their works (i.e. (2, Interesting)

vkg (158234) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738866)

Ok, where's your evidence for this?

Even if a DRM licence costs $50K, hell, even if it's $100K, companies or groups of artists can buy a key and then syndicate the service: you send in your work and an affadavit that it's yours, they charge you some cash to sign it, and off it goes into the content pool.

Don't knock it: widespread deployment of cryptographic systems may require government mandate.

Vinay

HOLY SHIT! (-1)

Ronco Pocket TrollMa (523524) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738606)

This guy just sent out a big rousing "FUCK YOU" to every hypocritical Slashdot reader. If I'm reading this correctly, he just said "You guys seem to have the right idea, but the chances of any of you doing anything about it are about the same as me getting a blowjob from Jennifer Lopez!"

If this had been an article comment, it would be -1, Flamebait!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The last two answers (3, Informative)

epepke (462220) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738628)

The last two answers seem exactly the same. There's also a stray right angle bracket in the second which suggests an HTML goof.

Awww !@#$ !! (1)

TheRain (67313) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738637)

"I am not optimistic, however. Those who get it (e.g., you) are pathetically apolitical. You're proud of your apathy. You're disgusted with people who try to persuade politicians. So am I. But while you do nothing, the future of creativity and innovation is sold in DC - typically to the highest, and most disgusting bidder."

he caused me to think and want to alter my behavior! DRAT!

:)

Re:Awww !@#$ !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738763)

Don't worry. You don't get it anyway.

Indefinite copyright destroys culture (5, Insightful)

mttlg (174815) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738658)

In 1930, there were 10,027 books published. Today, 174 of those books are still in print. Yet it would be illegal because of copyright law for Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg to take those 9,853 books not in print and make them available on the Internet for free - at least without tracking down the present owners of those copyrights and getting permission.

This is one of the most significant arguments for reasonable copyright terms, but it should not be forgotten that this goes far beyond books alone. What about all of the films from this era that are quickly disappearing because the copyright holders either don't care or don't even know that they hold the copyright? What about songs about our heritage or songs that have become part of our culture (Happy Birthday comes to mind)? We are in the information age, when our very culture is shifting toward a distributed electronic form, but key elements that either have become fundamental parts of our culture or are forgotten elements of previous cultures are being blocked for no reason other than corporate greed. At the very least, copyright should expire if the work is not being produced after a set time period (10-20 years seems reasonable). Ideally, everything should fall into the public domain after a set period of time (half a lifetime or so should be sufficient). Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming a cultureless people at the mercy of corporate copyright holders (if we aren't already).

Re:Indefinite copyright destroys culture (5, Interesting)

Transwarp Conduit (398219) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738871)

At the very least, copyright should expire if the work is not being produced after a set time period (10-20 years seems reasonable).

In other words, give the concept of "abandonware" a legal, clearly-defined standing? Now that's an idea worth pursuing, especially if the terms were codified in such a way as to take into account the different rates at which different works become "obsolete." (For example, I think a 20-year "out of print" period is about right for books, movies, music, etc., while I think a 5-year period would be more appropriate for computer software.)

I wouldn't say that an "abandoned" work should become entirely public-domain right away, though. This could raise the spectre of a publishing house (movie studio, record label, etc.) only putting out a single printing of a work, waiting long enough for the abandonware term to expire, then "re-issuing" it without having to pay the author any further royalties. (This would, for example, allow MGM to drag their heels on a reissue of Nelvana's "Rock and Rule" for a couple more years, then issue it as soon as it becomes "abandoned" without paying Nelvana a dime.)

I would suggest, rather, than when a work becomes "abandonware", the copyright holder only loses the right to control non-profit copying and distribution of the work. Thus, if MGM (to refer to the example above) is still dragging their heels on a Rock & Rule DVD release after 2003, under my proposed "abandonware" scheme I could legally make DVD-R copies from my laserdisc and give them away; such copying would only be illegal if I tried to make a profit off of it. It would also, in the case of Project Gutenberg, allow for the not-for-profit digitizing and distribution of those out-of-print books, but would allow the original author to keep his right to sue anyone who tried to plagiarize his work and claim it as their own.

Seems like a fair balance to me... what do you think?

Re:Indefinite copyright destroys culture (3, Insightful)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738950)

And imagine, for the last decade or so, we have had the ability to basically archive *everything* of cultural value that crosses the net. In the future, even more things will be digital. If we don't reform copyright, copyright holders will not only be able to snuff out *new* creativity...they will be able to completely destroy rich records of history. Imagine if the entire contents of usenet were just thrown away or "lost" to history. What an absolute shame.

Complaints about Slashdot (5, Insightful)

adamy (78406) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738661)

I find it interesting to hear him call for things like a neutral commons, and yet criticize the Slashdot audience for not working together for political ends. Slashdot is a forum, and as such, courts dissenting views. If the Slashdot audience was able to unite and force a politician to support a particular view, we would be nothing but a mob, swayed by whomever could give the best speech.

Slashdot's audience is very non-monolithic. While the postings are usually anit-microsoft, obviously some people who are very pro-microsoft read on a regular basis, and feel compelled to post. Granted that good chunk of people wil post an opposing view to anything just to still debate. But this is a place for people to voice differeing opinions.

Not everyone that reads Slashdot is tech savvy, and those that are understand best the portions of technology that they use: I am a programmer, and not a very good system administrator. I understand business software a hell of a lot better than I understand embedded programming.

I enjoy the debates on Slashdot. I enjoy learning an opposing point of view to somthing I've held as obvious, and find out that there is a hell of alot more on Heaven and Earth than is dreamt of in my philosophy [appologies to the Bard]

I appreciate the post, and the fact that he answered the questions. And I generally agreed with his point of view. But Slashdot is not a political party.

Not a "Slashdot Party" (4, Insightful)

Telex4 (265980) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738737)

He wasn't espousing a political party containing eveyr Slashdotter. One of the worst features of the American and British political systems at the moment is that they only recognise large, monolithic parties. The many interest groups that exist ge tsidelines - that's why the all the groups who have a problem with the economics & politics of today have grouped under the "anti-globalisation" umbrella, whether they're strictly anti-globalisation or not.

Back to the point though, Slashdotters could easily start by lettering MPs, Congressman, MEPs etc to voice their concerns. Pro-Microsoft Slashdotters can urge their representatives to drop proceedings. Anti-DMCS Slashdotters can urge them to re-structure the digital-law travesty. Even if the Slashdot audience divided into about 20 or 30 interest groups, it would still provide a useful and effective lobby.

As Lawrence pointed out, posting comments to Slashdot may give eveyrone here a great chance for debate, but it's not going to achieve any more than that in the long run.

Apathetic "damn those commies" Slashdotters (5, Insightful)

Telex4 (265980) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738669)

I think he was spot on when he said that there are too many very intelligent, technically minded people on Slashdot who either don't think about, or actively shirk, essential issues of freedom and politics surrounding technology.

Take the way a lot of people dismiss the Free Software Foundation, for example, believing that GNU/Linux, Slashdot and other great "programs" could have been created without the ethic and philosophy behind Free Software. Anybody who talks about freedom gets called a commie and is modded down by ignaramuses who are more interested in the fine details of mallocing than the yare in being able to malloc without being sued to hell for it.

People also bitch a lot about cryptography, the DCMA, Skylarov, etc. but what do you all do about it? And you dismiss those anti-globalisation, feminism, vegan, anti-war etc. protesters out on the street at least *voicing* their concerns, however valid they may be.

It's time Slashdotters took pen to their concerns and started writing to local papers, and organising local groups to demonstrate against these problems we face. Otherwise we might as well fiddle with code while Rome burns.

Re:Apathetic "damn those commies" Slashdotters (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738687)

It's time Slashdotters took pen to their concerns and started writing to local papers


Dear Appleton Times (incorporating Springfield Gazette),

FIRST POST!!!!!

Yours,

Slashdot

Re:Apathetic "damn those commies" Slashdotters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738723)

Commie!

Commie! You are such a commie! I can't believe how commie-like you are, you freakin' commie!

;-)

Wow, long but... (2)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738670)

"If you think it [file sharing programs] should not be legal, what remedies should the law consider, since these systems can have significant non-infringing uses as well?

LL:

I support these technologies. More importantly, I support the right of innovators to develop these technologies. But I don't support copyright violations using these technologies.

You'd think this would be an easy distinction to understand: We live in a country where 10 children are killed by hand guns every day. But Smith and Wesson doesn't worry that the FBI will come arrest them because someone used their technology to commit a crime. The law targets illegal uses of technologies, not the technologies - at least where there is a legitimate and legal use of that technology. Yet because of our extremism when it comes to copyright law, we ban technologies that threaten copyright interests whether or not they have legitimate, independent uses."

How insightful. The line, however, gets blurred when I say that a legitimate useage constitutes sharing copyrighted works for free because it means I have access to more works that I would not otherwise have access to which I could then be making MORE purchases of copyrighted material for full-quality versions (which I do believe is true in most mp3/online digital works cases), versus someone who finds this to be the exact copyright violation that is harmful to a company or individual.

Although I did not ask a question last time, my question now would be, how do we draw the line? I'm not going to bend on my values, and the RIAA sure as hell won't bend on theirs, so who is right? Those who scream the loudest? If that is the case, then I have sorely been far too quiet for far too long already.

pathetically apolitical? (0)

afidel (530433) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738692)

Those who get it (e.g., you) are pathetically apolitical. You're proud of your apathy. You're disgusted with people who try to persuade politicians. So am I. But while you do nothing, the future of creativity and innovation is sold in DC - typically to the highest, and most disgusting bidder.

We are apolitical because we refuse to sink to that level. I personally believe that the paper I write my letters on should count just as much as the paper that the lobbiest's money is printed on. But alas this is not so, and consequently I refuse to become a political activist. I do not have the time or money to fight the corporations that are raping our system on a playingfield of their choosing. Until true campaign finance reform is enacted there will only be two groups who's voices are heard in Washington, the extreme groups who sway enough voters to matter to the politico's, and the coroporations with who's money they can buy the great uncaring masses. While I think it is pathetic that less than 1/3 of the REGISTERED voters(nevermind that less than half of people of legal age are registered) turned out for the last local election, I am beginning to understand. People in other countries die every day for the right to vote, yet with greed and corruption the corporations and special interests have taken away our spirit to vote.

Re:pathetically apolitical? (1)

lunaman (412514) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738785)

...But alas this is not so, and consequently I refuse to become a political activist. I do not have the time or money to fight the corporations that are raping our system on a playingfield of their choosing. Until true campaign finance reform is enacted there will only be two groups who's voices are heard in Washington, the extreme groups who sway enough voters to matter to the politico's, and the coroporations with who's money they can buy the great uncaring masses.
Catch 22.

Until we "fight the corporations that are raping our system", there is ABSOLUTELY NO CHANCE that any meaningful campaign finance reform will be enacted.

Choose or lose. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Re:pathetically apolitical? (1)

Schrodinger's Mouse (466881) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738790)

Just how, exactly, do you intend to achieve campaign finance reform if you are unwilling to participate in the political process??? Do you expect Trent Lott to wake up one morning and say, "Gosh, I've been betraying all those people who didn't vote for me by taking all of that money from corporations and PACs. Today I think I'll fix that so that everyone has equal voice."?

Hate to remind you, but if you can vote but don't, politicians don't give a flying f*ck about you. They're more interested in those that do vote. And since those are primarily senior citizens and the Christian Right, we get overreaching protection for Social Security and <pulling out the big guns> JOHN ASHCROFT.

Fer cryin' out loud, man, WAKE UP!

Re:pathetically apolitical? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738850)

I DO vote, I just don't bother to write my congresscritters nearly as much as I would If I thought it might change anything. Like I said I think it's sad that people don't vote, but I am beginning to understand their apathy. In fact I haven't missed an election since I became eligable to vote, 9 days before the 96 presidential election.

Oh. My. God. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738724)

WORST....ARTICLE....EVER

Wow, a lawyer who gets it (5, Insightful)

Pinball Wizard (161942) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738736)

(1) how the architecture of the Internet built a set of values,
(2) how those values are fundamentally linked to the most important freedoms in our tradition, and
(3) how changes in that architecture of the net could undermine those values.

This needs to be conveyed loud and clear to every one of our legislators. As an article posted previously today stated, content providers want to take away general purpose computers and replace them with specialized devices. We must not let them!

Non-Americans Response? (5, Interesting)

Mister_IQ (517505) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738758)

As a Canadian, and a Slashdot lurker, I must say that I feel rather strange about this whole issue.

I feel rather like I'm standing watching through the keyhole as my fate is being argued and decided by people that I don't know.

I have less-than-zero say in the American system, yet the American system will essentially be deciding what's "right" for me and the rest of the world. (Foreign coders being held for work they did in foreign countries that breaks American law...)

My first thought when I read the article was "So, you have lots of critique of our sloth, but very little specific direction to get us off our butts". My second thought was "And if he DID give suggestions, they would most likely be directed at the American government (like writing congressmen, etc) and therefore essentially useless for me."

Anyone out there feel the same? What can I do as a non-American? Yes, I can give to the EFF, and yes, I can write to my own government, but let's be honest: The next time Chretien is in town, Dubya ain't gonna be asking him his country's stand on Copyright Law...



Re:Non-Americans Response? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738776)

Not to worry - Canadians can't think for themselves. All they are capable of doing on their own is clubbing baby seals.

Re:Non-Americans Response? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738963)

Only thing they do!

I believe the national past-time is called "Making infinately better beer than the piss you Yankees try to pass off".

Re:Non-Americans Response? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738945)

Well, there's no much we Canadians can do...

But the European Union will be becoming an increasingly economic power and should be able to stand up to the States, so Europeans should write to whoever...

Re:Non-Americans Response? (2)

Galvatron (115029) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738953)

It's important to recognize that Skylarov's company was selling to Americans, that's how he got into trouble. As long as his product had remained exclusively Russian, he would have been fine.


Obviously, it was a bad arrest, and in violation of all kinds of things, but it was still a bit removed from your claim that the American government will dictate to the world.

Congressman's Mailbox (5, Insightful)

GrEp (89884) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738768)

Great article. Hmm. For some reason I doubt my congressmen read Slash.

I am going to mail a copy of it with a short intro from yours truly to all my congressmen/representitives. I encourage all of you, even those not in the US to do the same. This article does a lot better in their hands than ours. For those in the US that are lazy here is a list of your House members [house.gov] and Senate members [senate.gov] that has their adresses and such.

EFF Lobby (3, Insightful)

quark2universe (38132) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738781)

If we do donate to the EFF and the like, what are they prepared to do? Do they have a lobby in DC to pull back the ears of the congressman and get some real results? Like it or not, hardly any congressmen read email or snail mail. They have staff people read and summarize what they receive. The only thing those guys hear is cash registers, cha-ching! And a lobby in DC for the EFF or some other similarly minded organization is the only way to effect real change.

Will we do it? (2)

ahde (95143) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738821)

Mr. Lessig complains about the complacency of the Slashdot crowd and suggests we are lazy because we do not participate politically or (even better) donate enough money to political organizations like the one that pays him (the EFF).

He calls for us to become "environmentalists" for the internet, and I think there is where he finds issue with us most. Slashdot readers do not ascribe as a whole to all the political beliefs he supports, even if many share his concerns regarding privacy, copyright, and technical issues.

Well, I am not an enviornmentalist, and I do not approve of environmentalist tactics, and I do not consider the internet an "envirmonment" that needs preserved. I don't share a full range of political beliefs that coincide with his, or with John Perry Barlow's, or with Richard Stallman's.

I don't agree with everything Eric Raymond's views either, although I believe his Geeks With Guns movement does a better job of relating personal freedoms to cyberspace. But he has earned my respect because he doesn't ask for my money, and also because he helps with some of the most unloved and unappreciated open source jobs (like correcting documentation).

The way to fight a corrupt political system is not to feed it. I'm sure someone said something about replacing one tyrant with another. I'm not saying Mr. Lessig, or RMS, or the EFF are bad or wrong. But just because I don't pay your salary doesn't mean I'm not doing my part for freedom.

75-year copyright term (5, Insightful)

Boatman (127445) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738829)

Great words from Lawrence, but I have to take issue with his notion of a copyright renewable up to 75 years. At least he would require renewing every 5 years, but that's just an inconvenience, not a limit. We need the keys to our culture back within a sufficient time period that we can actually allow our culture to continue to develop!

When something like "happy birthday to you" or "gone with the wind" becomes so much a part of our culture, how can we justify leaving its reins in the hands of the person who happened to put the words together - for an entire lifetime? The author synthesized it from the intellectual beams and trusses of our culture, and our culture then assimilates it. We whistle its tunes and quote its catchphrases, but we can't use it to build larger monuments in the commons. With current trends, none of our descendants will, either - but even with a 75 year copyright, our children's children will be grown before that right would become available to them.

I'll be dead before I can write variations on "Just another brick in the wall", share a copy of the out-of-production "Swing Kids", or put on a production of "Phantom of the Opera" in my neighborhood.

The tragedy of the Commons (5, Insightful)

Desperado (23084) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738837)

Dr. Lessig's comparason of the Internet as a Commons created for the free use of all and its gradual co-option by corporate/national interests reminded me of an old poem:

"The law condemns the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose."

We need to focus more on the Commons and how it benefits us all and less on the individual transgressions on the Commons.

Challenge to Slashdotters (5, Insightful)

Mr. Fred Smoothie (302446) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738838)

There's a challenge to slashdotters here, and I wonder if anyone reading this is up to it. Lessig is absolutely right that an important role for us digerati is to convince more Americans that there is a real threat right now to our core values as a society.

I am thinking of Forming a PAC (Political Action Committee) to handle the PR/political machine side of this issue, as the EFF seems to be focussed more on the courts and influencing legislation *before* it's passed, and I think they do a good job at those activities. I almost registered a domain for such an entity today, but I think I want to research some of the relevant regulations WRT PACS and non-profits before I invest my personal cash in this.

The two first objectives I think I'd personally have for this organization is to build a war chest to campaign VERY AGRESSIVELY against any member of Congress who votes for anything remotely resembling the SSSCA. I'm not sure if that would mean campaigning for a particular opponent in each race, or just lots of negative advertising about the candidate.

Additionally, I'd like to see a TV commercial in heavy prime-time rotation which tells Americans how the MPAA & RIAA don't want them to have empowering technology and how Jack Valenti thinks the right of African Americans to creatively interpret their experience of our country's history is "insignificant."

As I said, I'm going to look into this. If anyone else thinks this is a good idea and is actually willing to do something about it too, let me know.

Good idea (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738876)

Where will you get the $millions to run hit TV ads? I love the concept ("Ernest Hollings wants to take away YOUR freedom") but where are the bux?

Re:Good idea (2)

Mr. Fred Smoothie (302446) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738904)

That is the point. It's a PAC. The bux will come from me, you, and anyone else reading this or subsequent info about it and deciding that they agree and want to give money/get a tax credit for standing up for their ideals.

Absolutely (2)

Galvatron (115029) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738976)

A question though. Do you know anything about how to go about this, or are you just looking to recruit someone who knows what to do?

LL's Radio Interview (3, Informative)

sphix42 (144155) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738846)

L.L. Talked with Diane Rehm yesterday about his new book and one of the callers was Hillary Rosen.

Listen to link [wamu.org] at bottom of page.

If not, what can be changed? (2)

2Bits (167227) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738860)

The DMCA as a whole won't be struck down - ever

If stupid legistations like this can be passed, and can never be struck down, wouldn't any political activism be a lost cause, then?

If this is the case, what's the message to the mega corp? They can buy all the laws that will favor them, as they know that none can be struck down later.

I believe there's a need to "do some clean-up", at least, clean up the irrelevant, the stupid, the ugly, the unjust, and the redundant laws.

Or can this only be achieved through a bloody revolution? I hope not.

best... inverview... ever... (5, Insightful)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738861)

That was by far probably one of the best /. interviews ever to grace this site. You know, I always get fed up with the content of this site now and then, usually when things are slow and boring, but the #1 thing I like about /. (eat your heart out K5, nothing over there even touches it) is /.'s interviews.

There have really been some absolutely excellent interviews here on /..

Really, that's the only positive thing I usually have to say about /., but even still just for that and the mindless linking to good content, really makes this site still worthwhile.

With that out of the way... ;-)

This is an extremely important interview, this guy makes some really powerful points. WE (the people that "get it") need to get off our asses and do something. It's going to take serious sacrifice on our part though. It's going to cost money, time, energy and it's going to be one hell of a stressful ride.

First thing you can do is get out that credit card or checkbook and send money to the EFF or freedom fighting organization of your choice. Don't just give a little, give a lot! If it doesn't hurt, then you're not giving enough. They NEED money to fight this fight!

Write your representitives, both e and snail mail.

Other than that I really don't know, I'm not good at this type of thing, but we all need to learn. We need some leaders to step up and lead us in fighting this fight. And we need to give them our full support, and we need to gain the support of the public.

Keep Your Hands Off My IP (3, Insightful)

hubbabubba (309496) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738881)

More importantly, I think we need to restrict the scope of "derivative rights" more than we do today. Copyright owners deserve to be paid for the use of their work; they should not be allowed to veto follow on work that builds on theirs.

This view is almost always espoused by people who don't actually create anything that has value. When I take a series of photographs, they are MINE. Period. End of story. Nobody should have the right to incorporate MY images in derivative works without my permission. It isn't about getting paid, it's about having control over what *I* created, and to ensure that no one can pervert my work by using it in ways that I don't like. If you want a photo that looks like mine to incorporate in your own work, GO TAKE ONE YOURSELF.

Compulsory rights require that the author of the original work get paid, but the rate is either set by the law, or set by a panel to be relatively low. This will give artists more than they would have had, had there been no Internet. But it will assure that innovators can build out the future of the Internet without the control of dinosaur industries.

More than they would have had? Says who? The market determines the value of IP, and that's the way it should stay. Building these values into the law or setting them by committee is preposterous. Sorry for the photo-centric examples, but I can't imagine that a classic image by Ansel Adams, which is worth enormous sums of money, should have a value fixed by a copyright law that says you can pay his estate $30, then go right ahead and incorporate "Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico" in the graphics for your new website. That's just wrong-headed, and I'd love to hear Lessig defend his view. Cuz I just ain't buying it.

Mea culpa (4, Interesting)

jayed_99 (267003) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738907)

He does have a point.

We can't delude ourselves into thinking that whining on /. accompishes anything other than creating more input for a vicious feed-back loop that results in more whining on /. Someone can make a wonderful, insightful post, and it's like throwing chum into the shark tank. Nothing happens except we use it to justify the opinions that we already have. Hell, I'm just as guilty of it as anyone. I'll read a bunch of stuff, and just file it away so I can use it the next time I get into an argument. But I don't actually *do* anything about it.

(And please, don't think that illicit, annonymous MP3 trading means you're engaging in civil disobedience. If it's not public; if it's not en masse; if the cops aren't tear-gassing your unruly mob; if nobody outside of /. is appaled about it -- it's not civil disobedience...the value is in the "civil" not the "disobedience").

The only time I ever did anything differently was when the news about Dmitry broke. I was so appalled that I donated $250 (roughly 0.3% of my annual salary -- less than that after I figure my tax deductions for this year) to the EFF so I could feel good about myself. Sure, it helped the EFF, but really it was to sooth my own guilt about not doing anything. See, I can now go around and say, "I gave money to the EFF. Did you?" (Of course, I made them send me the hat and the tshirt).

Did I write one damned letter? To anybody? Nope. No email; no snailmail. Becuase I had given some pathetic amount of money to the EFF, I was a good person. I didn't need to do anything else to feel good.

I spread the word about Dmitry by telling my wife (who is only a techie by osmosis). For months, she randomly would ask, "what's going on with the poor Russian guy?". Of course, I track the news -- I'm aware of the issues -- so I'd tell her what the latest Dmitry news was; we'd commiserate about the stupidity of it, and we'd be done.

Once again, because I knew what was going on...because I could explain about this hideous assault on our rights...I felt good about myself.

I think that this disjunction between what I believe and what I do about those beliefs is due to the fact that, as a geek, I'm used to dealing with two types of arguments: one without an answer and one with an answer.

The first type has an indeterminate answer (the religious wars)...vi versus emacs (vi)...BSD versus Linux (BSD)...GNOME or KDE (KDE).

It doesn't really matter what the answer is, we all just like to argue about it and we all (hopefully) realize that ultimately it doesn't matter. No matter what side of the argument you choose, you'll still be able to get the job done. Your answer has more to do about differentiating yourself into the appropriate geek-tribe than it has to do with anything else.

The second type of argument is the one with a definite answer...How should I upgrade this Oracle 8.0 database to Oracale 8i? What is the best way to backup this contacts database? How do I write a bubblesort routine?

There are definite right and wrong answers to these questions. And if you pick the wrong one, you are going to suffer. And when you call me at 3:00AM, I am going to say, "I told you so!" and count my big geek-coup as I dance the victory dance on your stupid ass when I come in Monday morning. And you'll owe me many favors because I helped you out of the mess that you got yourself into by not listening to me.

We all agree that the DMCA/copyright/trademark/patent/IP (hereafter known as "the issues") issues are of the second category. They have a right and a wrong answer. We are conditioned that when arguing about these type of questions all we need to do is say, "Your answer is wrong because of XYZ." Because we know that if you choose to make the wrong decision after we told you, you will be bitten on the ass and come crying to us to fix it.

The problem is that the domain of the "the issues" is such that we will be penalized as well. And it's not going to be some short-term-next-Saturday-night kind of punishment. It will be a long-term, corrosive punishment. One day, we'll all wake up and say, "Fuck me. How did this happen?" But that's OK...because deep in our hearts, we'll all be saying, "I told you so."

re: Lawrence Lessig Answers Your Questions (1)

theNeophile (238938) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738919)

I know there are many who resist this view. Many believe MSFT is the devil. I'm not one of those people. And my concern is that if we obsess about old wars, we won't understand the nature of the new.

Look everyone, a big wooden horse, it must be a gift. Come on everyone, lets get it into the town. That walls going to have to come down though.

all or nothing (1)

Eugene O'Neil (140081) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738922)

The problem I have with disobedience is that it reenforces the Valenti-way of looking at the world. Copyright hoarders demand increasingly extreme rights so that they may exercise almost perfect control over how their content gets used. In response, the civil disobedience movement sends a message that they should have no control over how their content gets used at all. Between perfect control and no control, most would choose perfect control. And hence, we lose.

I disagree. I find that most people are easy to win over to the side of no control, especially if you give them a taste of what that forbidden thing called freedom tastes like. The only people who want to enforce total control are the people who would have total control, and they are few and far between. The vast majority of people would be controlled by these laws, and nobody who really understands that position wants to be in it. The more we flaunt the uninforcability of these stupid laws, the sooner we will be free of them. It is too late for comprimises: congress has already shown that it cannot be trusted to leave the laws alone in any sort of reasonable state. If they demand all or nothing, I will give them nothing!

watch valenti vs lessig round 2 for some hope... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738943)

By sheer coincidence, I watched the video of lessig vs valenti round 2 right before reading this. Seeing the calm, reasoned, (and humourous, even) Lessig vs the pointless-anecdote-spouting, point-avoiding, blusterous and just generally bullsh*t ridden Valenti (he introduces Elizabeth Shue in the audience as a response to one point), I can hardly believe that intelligent people would buy his viewpoint over Lessig's.

Lessig is... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2738960)

a minor diety. "Code" is insightful and meets in the middle of geek & law. I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with him when i was taking 6.805 [mit.edu] last spring at MIT, and found him an elegant and persuasive speaker.

Personally, I think most geeks are ignorant of what's really going on, legally, and instead rely on second hand or /. style information. Why? We'll, it's easier to be 'cynical chic' than an activist (and I mean not just sending emails around and signing petitions).

The cases are out there, you can read them for free and learn how to think like a lawyer. "They" aren't willing to learn to communicate with us but we're smart enough to learn how to communicate with them.

Think of law as code for our government. Just like real code, there are loopholes, exceptions, vague error handling, etc. But if you're a hacker, you'll find the loopholes, the exceptions, the tools you need to 'write' a good argument and if you're involved you can start educating lawyers and effect the 'code' being written & 'checked in' -right now-! :)

limor (ladyada@mit)

Never going to happen (1)

Rkane (465411) | more than 12 years ago | (#2738975)

All of this talk about sending emails and snail mail to representatives will never happen effectively as is. Picture this: A room full of people packed in like sardines. Each one of them turns to face you and says "what can one person do?"

People can be so closely tied together and STILL not make a difference because they don't believe they can. If you want to make a difference, I hate to say it but you may need to form an actual group of some sort. A leader may help.

Honestly, though, 2000 slightly related emails to a senator mean nothing. When he gets 5000, all saying the same things, backed by an organization with the power of 5000 people behind it, they have to respect that.

I'm not saying that sending a letter is worth nothing, but it could be worth so much more if it was organized properly.

Just
my ($.02)
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>