November 6, 2005
Since you asked, Merriam Webster's Concise Dictionary defines sport as "physical activity engaged in for enjoyment". That's really not a good definition though is it? According to that a sexual act, or even a massage could be considered sport and all professional activity previously called sport must be excluded because the participants are engaged in the activity for money, not enjoyment. According to Webster's Encyclopedia of Dictionaries, sport is that which amuses; diversion, pastime, an outdoor game or recreation esp. of athletic nature. This is a poor definition as well, but I think I can work with this one anyway. NASCAR may very well be an excuse for rednecks to drink beer outside -- a sort of ethnocentric awareness seminar for the culturally deprived. The cars go around and around in a blur until someone is declared the winner. Well let's compare that with basketball -- clad in what amounts to their underwear, a group of people with obviously malfunctioning pituitary glands race back and forth attempting to score more points than the other team. Points may be scored in sets of one, two or three, depending on the situation, by throwing the ball through a hoop ten feet off the ground.
Both events sound extremely dull to me, but they both fit the definition. NASCAR includes engineering, aerodynamics and several other sciences I'm sure to produce the fastest car. I would be surprised if these advantages weren't somehow incorporated in street vehicles.
Horse racing must be a sport. Yachting must be a sport. Hockey must be a sport. Bicycle riding must be a sport. It's just a matter of how much equipment the humans particpating in the activity are allowed to use.
While I must add that I do not enjoy NASCAR, basketball, hockey,or any other of the sports I mentioned, I say that they are indeed sports. Therefore, it must be so
September 21, 2005
copyright and cyberspatial ethics
Another extended quote from Lessig:
Wars of prohibition are nothing new in America. This one is just something more extreme than anything we've seen before. We experimented with alcohol prohibition, at a time when the per capita consumption of alcohol was 1.5 gallons per capita per year. The war against drinking initially reduced that consumption to just 30 percent of its preprohibition levels, but by the end of prohibition, consumption was up to 70 percent of the preprohibition level. Americans were drinking just about as much, but now, a vast number were criminals.17 We have launched a war on drugs aimed at reducing the consumption of regulated narcotics that 7 percent (or 16 million) Americans now use. 18 That is a drop from the high (so to speak) in 1979 of 14 percent of the population. We regulate automobiles to the point where the vast majority of Americans violate the law every day. We run such a complex tax system that a majority of cash businesses regularly cheat. 19 We pride ourselves on our “free society,” but an endless array of ordinary behavior is regulated within our society. And as a result, a huge proportion of Americans regularly violate at least some law.
This state of affairs is not without consequence. It is a particularly salient issue for teachers like me, whose job it is to teach law students about the importance of “ethics.” As my colleague Charlie Nesson told a class at Stanford, each year law schools admit thousands of students who have illegally downloaded music, illegally consumed alcohol and sometimes drugs, illegally worked without paying taxes, illegally driven cars. These are kids for whom behaving illegally is increasingly the norm. And then we, as law professors, are supposed to teach them how to behave ethically—how to say no to bribes, or keep client funds separate, or honor a demand to disclose a document that will mean that your case is over. Generations of Americans—more significantly in some parts of America than in others, but still, everywhere in America today—can't live their lives both normally and legally, since “normally” entails a certain degree of illegality.
The response to this general illegality is either to enforce the law more severely or to change the law. We, as a society, have to learn how to make that choice more rationally. Whether a law makes sense depends, in part, at least, upon whether the costs of the law, both intended and collateral, outweigh the benefits. If the costs, intended and collateral, do outweigh the benefits, then the law ought to be changed. Alternatively, if the costs of the existing system are much greater than the costs of an alternative, then we have a good reason to consider the alternative.
My point is not the idiotic one: Just because people violate a law, we should therefore repeal it. Obviously, we could reduce murder statistics dramatically by legalizing murder on Wednesdays and Fridays. But that wouldn't make any sense, since murder is wrong every day of the week. A society is right to ban murder always and everywhere.
My point is instead one that democracies understood for generations, but that we recently have learned to forget. The rule of law depends upon people obeying the law. The more often, and more repeatedly, we as citizens experience violating the law, the less we respect the law. Obviously, in most cases, the important issue is the law, not respect for the law. I don't care whether the rapist respects the law or not; I want to catch and incarcerate the rapist. But I do care whether my students respect the law. And I do care if the rules of law sow increasing disrespect because of the extreme of regulation they impose. Twenty million Americans have come of age since the Internet introduced this different idea of “sharing.” We need to be able to call these twenty million Americans “citizens,” not “felons.”
When at least forty-three million citizens download content from the Internet, and when they use tools to combine that content in ways unauthorized by copyright holders, the first question we should be asking is not how best to involve the FBI. The first question should be whether this particular prohibition is really necessary in order to achieve the proper ends that copyright law serves. Is there another way to assure that artists get paid without transforming forty-three million Americans into felons? Does it make sense if there are other ways to assure that artists get paid without transforming America into a nation of felons?
Now,as I have been saying, I agree with the notion of protecting the labors of creators and innovators, but to make this issue about that is truly misleading. This issue is about a few major corporations and their profits. Do you think those corporatins are interested in protecting the rights of artists? Of course not. Their function is to squeeze as much profit for their shareholders out of artistic labor.
The function of media corporations is to exploit creators and innovators for profit. That exploitation has been, is, and will be far worse than any everyday citizens could accomplish by sharing media.
I would contend our rejection of copyright, as a culture, is not a rejection of or disrespect for artists' rights but a rejection of the role of corporations in regulating our culture.
September 17, 2005
Copyright to privacy...it's more than you might think
Check out this Wired Article on legal issues surrounding accessing information on computers linked to the Internet. Fundamentally, as I see it, the issue is whether the Internet is a public or private space. If you visit a website, are you in someone's store/house or are you outside, in public space, viewing it. If that analogy holds, and the latter is the case, then anything you see is public (i.e. I can stand on the sidewalk and take a picture of your house without your permission--you don't own the view).
Clearly there are some privacy issues here. If the Internet is a public space then we can't expect the same level of privacy as we have in our home. Maybe reading e-mail is like reading a personal letter on a bus.
On the other hand, this issue is primarily about corporations seeking to profit by keeping information proprietary.
As always, it isn't a black or white issue; it's a matter of balance. What's your thought?
September 14, 2005
Where should we go?
Here's a question for you to consider. In chapter eight, Lessig writes:
We live in a “cut and paste” culture enabled by technology. Anyone building a presentation knows the extraordinary freedom that the cut and paste architecture of the Internet created—in a second you can find just about any image you want; in another second, you can have it planted in your presentation.
But presentations are just a tiny beginning. Using the Internet and its archives, musicians are able to string together mixes of sound never before imagined; filmmakers are able to build movies out of clips on computers around the world. An extraordinary site in Sweden takes images of politicians and blends them with music to create biting political commentary. A site called Camp Chaos has produced some of the most biting criticism of the record industry that there is through the mixing of Flash! and music.
All of these creations are technically illegal. Even if the creators wanted to be “legal,” the cost of complying with the law is impossibly high. Therefore, for the law-abiding sorts, a wealth of creativity is never made. And for that part that is made, if it doesn't follow the clearance rules, it doesn't get released.
To some, these stories suggest a solution: Let's alter the mix of rights so that people are free to build upon our culture. Free to add or mix as they see fit. We could even make this change without necessarily requiring that the “free” use be free as in “free beer.” Instead, the system could simply make it easy for follow-on creators to compensate artists without requiring an army of lawyers to come along: a rule, for example, that says “the royalty owed the copyright owner of an unregistered work for the derivative reuse of his work will be a flat 1 percent of net revenues, to be held in escrow for the copyright owner.” Under this rule, the copyright owner could benefit from some royalty, but he would not have the benefit of a full property right (meaning the right to name his own price) unless he registers the work.
Who could possibly object to this? And what reason would there be for objecting? We're talking about work that is not now being made; which if made, under this plan, would produce new income for artists. What reason would anyone have to oppose it?
How does Lessig answer his rhetorical question? Why haven't we moved in this direction? Should we?
(nb) I've post-dated this entry so that it will stay at the top of our posts for a few days.
September 12, 2005
How I might feel?
What if I wrote and published a book... how well would I want my rights to be protected?
Okay, let's stretch our imaginations for this example. I write some amazing, original story and get it published. Now, with myself in those shoes, what kind of rights do I want/expect to have for my work? Good question.
The last thing I would want is for someone to duplicate something I created without getting any profit. Although, at this point, it wouldn't be me making the profit. In Lessig's writing, he describes the idea of property in literal terms in the case of piracy. I agree that I consider my creative piece my property and that I would feel that my rights had been violated if someone produced my story without my permission.
On the other end, as a "pirate," I would feel that my creativity would be limited if I have to worry about whether the subject of my story crosses the boundary of another. I also believe that this boundary is loose enough as it is that you aren't too held back
So in the end, I side with the published writer who does not want their work to be pirated. Once you've put enough effort into something to get it published, you should never have to put up with your hard work just being taken away from you. Hard work deserves more than that.
September 6, 2005
Maybe doujinshi is where we need to be
It seems today that copywritten material has become far too strict. In order to be creative you can't be looking over what you have done and wondering if you might get in trouble for it.
One's creative potential is shriviling underneath copywritten material. I believe as long as you are not making an exact replica of someone else's work you should be able to create as you please. In Japan, the idea of doujinshi seems to be the kind of creativity that we are not allowed to think twice about doing. I believe doujinshi should be the boundary we hit when it comes to how far we can go when it comes to violating copywritten material. What good is creativity if you have to keep looking over your shoulder to make sure you aren't breaking any laws.
Free culture and proprietary culture
What is your initial opinion regarding copyright? I'm guessing that most of us do not support the idea of people stealing from others. Perhaps you have in mind that you will be a writer or an artist of some kind in the future, and you will want to be paid for your work. On the other hand, when copyright limits our ability to innovate, to create, then it stands in the way of public interest.
Lessig is in search of some middle ground. He has no interest in abolishing copyright. However, as he notes in this week's reading, we have recently seen the expansion of proprietary culture. We used to have far more freedom to develop and share culture on our own. In a sense technology like the Internet has made it possible for the average person to create and distribute culture on nearly the same scale as major corporations. This new power has raised concerns among corporations as they desire to protect their market share.
So where do you come into this debate? What do you think is in our society's best interest?