Monday, 5 June 2006

A Moral Mess

We proudly quote Issac Newton's famous words whenever possible:

on the Shoulders of Giants [see the argument of source of this quote]

But teachers condemn students building their ideas on others when these are not properly quotes. (well, I understand there is a difference between blindly copying and pasting. But just bear with me.)

I have argued that Language is intrinsically “recursive condensation of information”. As a community is negotiating a concept, the details of the concept is examined, discussion, debated and eventually come to an agreement (or an agreement to disagreement). The concept will then be given a term, or jargon. As exchange progresses, the importance of the complex concept behind a term is faded into the background and become transparent to those involved. A large collection of information has condensed into a term. Copying, mixing and sharing IS within our culture, every human culture!

When DJ Danger Mouse took the vocals from Jay-Z’s The Black Album and remixed it with the Beatles’ White Album to create The Grey Album, he was breaking the copyright law. Or was he climbing up on the shoulders of giants. [source]

An artificial "immoral" argument is set up to block some creative activity to protect the business model of some businesses. Laws, which should reflect the accepted "norm" behaviour of the community in which they apply, are put in place to enforce the "intellectual property" of the creator of the work. Initially the compromise was simple. To "encourage" creativity, copyright is given so that you are NOT allowed to exactly copy verbatim the created work. So you are free to copy (as in writing it down again in your own handwriting). You can see lots of art students "copying" great works of art in museum all over the worlds. Then more rights are created: broadcasting rights, performance rights, movies rights, ....

Who have benefited? Not the creator! Only those who have bought the right? Lots of intelligent people (for example Lawrence Lessig) has argued that this copyright regime does not encourage creativity - in fact, it hinders creativity.

On 31st May, the most popular Bit Torrent tracker site, The Pirate Bay (TPB) was down following the raid by the Swedish police and servers being seized. On 4th June, TPB was back online again. It seems that in Sweden, it is a legal operation!

Apparently, TPB servers did not host any "copyright-ed" material. TPB servers host information for people to find material (albeit "illegal" copies). "Knowing where is the crime" is not a crime by itself - otherwise all law enforcing agencies will be in big moral trouble, if not legal!

People involved with TPB has given speeches. Here is a great read: The Grey Commons - strategic considerations in the copyfight. This speech also talked about how antipiracy lobby used less than ethnical methods:

Things escalated in March, when Sweden’s anti-piracy lobby organization – AntipiratbyrĂ„n – managed to arrange a raid at a Swedish ISP alleged to host unlicensed material. The raid was conducted in an unlawful manner and it was discovered that the anti-piracy lobby had in fact paid an infiltrator for several months to upload copyright-protected material and place hardware at the ISP. This got public when a group called Angry Young Hackers hacked their webpage and mail, exposing their mail conversations about the infiltration, held with their American bosses.

Yes, the struggle between copyright owners exerting their rights and information wanting to be free is a "life and death" struggle. Some legal holes needed to be plugged in order to stop one side to die. The question is which side: "the business model of outdated publishers and IP owners" or "the creativity of human being".

Politicians take note please. I know votes are important to you. Think careful which side you should be on, the winning side or the losing side.

Business models have died before, human creativity never. I know which will be the eventual winner!

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