Re: Barlow on Napster

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From: Joseph Reagle (
Date: Fri Jun 02 2000 - 16:26:01 PDT

At 11:27 2000-06-02 -0400, Rodent of Unusual Size wrote:
>I'm not into this whole debate, but even I found this interesting

Another rant, along similar lines [1].


[1] | mp3 bull$hit

     "The lawyers in the music industry have skewed the business to work
     beneficially for them and not for the artist." - Chuck D

   In Amsterdam, Law Professor [26]Lawrence Lessig gave a WWW9 keynote on
   [27]Cyberspace's Architectural Constitution. He mentioned that
   copyright (a limited monopoly of expression and ideas) had been
   extended from the original 14 years to life-of-the-author+70. In my
   opinion, there's some problems with the this in particular and many
   problems with intellectual property in general. But it's sometimes
   difficult to voice this opinion because the small encroachments of
   copyright and patent creep that led to the present system are largely
   unseen. It's heavy, but to complain of the invisible weight is thought
   to be unreasonable. On copyright, surely authors should be compensated
   and their work respected? If the intent of the law is to prevent
   unauthorized duplication, then why not build authorization systems
   into the fabric of new technology? And if those technologies can be
   circumvented (for good or bad), why not forbid that as well?


   So, two centuries later corporatists are in control and extending
   their greedy hands into the infrastructure of the future. But I don't
   believe this is about incenting and protecting authors, this is about
   making money off label controlled pop blitzes. If this was about
   authors, the idea of [28]moral rights (rights of integrity,
   attribution, and response) would not be laughed at in the US.


   After Lessig's talk, [29]William Loughborough used the open mic to
   suggest direct action, like that of activists who chained their
   wheelchairs to inaccessible doors and buses. As a self-styled
   anarchistic that has a great deal of respect for civil disobedience, I
   like this idea. (And 'Love' seems like an interesting character,
   including some [30]thoughtful writing and [31]credits as the voice of
   a robot officer in THX 1138 -- the [32]IMDB amusingly shows him as
   [33]credited in Deep Throat as Wilbur Wang as well!)


   Later, at the terminal table I asked Love how do you protest the
   direction of copyright and patents with respect to technology? How do
   I chain myself to the door of cyberspace? Someone else responded that
   one should use [34]Napster and [35]Gnutella to download mp3s.
   [36]These area the controversial tools used to exchange files -- 90%
   of which are copyrighted. Maybe that would help 'bring the system


   As I write this I'm listening to a [37]DarkAngel mp3 that I discovered
   by accident. I can rationalize that I could not have purchased this
   song given I never heard of it! And that it might prompt me to even go
   buy some albums. I can speak of DIY ethics and punk cred; I produce my
   [38]creative content for free and that if I come by way of something
   for free but still want to encourage the creator, I trade, barter or
   even send money.


   However, ripping off mp3s as a form of righteousness strikes me as
   rather self serving. We're not talking about civil disobedience, we're
   talking about getting something for free. The righteous thing would
   mean making a sacrifice that benefits others, not benefiting at
   others' expense. As I frequently repeat, the point of anarchy and
   civil disobedience is not to further chaos, theft, and destruction,
   but to shed the harsh strictures of external authorities and opt for
   [39]ethical self integrity; in the absence of law, one must substitute
   a heavier burden, those of etiquette and ethics. To quote Miss Manners
   (one of my favorite [40]anarchist social theorists), "But for all its
   strictness, etiquette is much more flexible and less threatening than
   law, and therefore more suitable for gently regulating ordinary life."
   This means paying no mind to some laws, but it also requires a
   stricter form of self discipline on many issues. [41]Gandhi wrote,
   "Civil disobedience presupposes willing obedience of our self-imposed
   rules, and without it civil disobedience would be cruel joke."


   So what's a ethical anarchist to do? I don't know. But we can
   challenge the bullshit on both sides of the fence. The music industry
   doesn't care about furthering creativity and access, it's about making
   money. If the whole music industry collapsed today, I don't think the
   world would be any less for it. And while (in principle) the Napster
   server doesn't exchange copyrighted files, let's not pretend that the
   system isn't predominantly used to facilitate it.

   I'm going to keep on downloading mp3s because it's so darn convenient,
   but not because it's a form of protest.

Joseph Reagle E0 D5 B2 05 B6 12 DA 65 BE 4D E3 C1 6A 66 25 4E
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin

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