Re: ownership of communications

duck (
Fri, 8 Aug 1997 18:15:13 -0700

At 02:23 PM 8/8/97 -0700, Seth Golub wrote:
> (I Find Karma) writes:
>> Is your problem more with the stealing of words not intended for the
>> public, or the forwarding of ideas not intended for public?
>This is an interesting question of ownership.
>If I write something and store it in a box, it's mine.

What's yours? The idea? The words? The piece of paper? What if
you misplaced the box and no longer remember the words or ideas contained
therein? Are they no longer yours or just yours but MIA? Even better,
what if someone stole the box? Would the contents be yours by rule of
origin or his by rule of possession (9/10 of the law, they say). And what
if he's caught and the box is placed in the police evidence locker until
trial. Who owns it then?

>If I write something and show it to you, it's still mine, but it's
>usually acceptible that you share the ideas.

Now you're sharing information. How can information be solely
*yours* if you give it to someone else - does that not instantly give them
every bit as much power as you (depending upon their resources to act on it)?

>If I write something specifically for you and give it to you, does
>that give you some ownership of it?

How can one own a piece of a bit of information? Does not having
information instantly make you the entire owner, even if others have the
same information (hence, each of you *own* 100% of the information)?

By whose rules do you come up with these solutions? I'm not trying
to create circular arguments, i'm trying to show that ownership, especially
when applied to information, is a bogus concept once it's removed from the
laws of a society. In America, ownership rests with whoever registered it
with the government. But the very fact that our society sees this as a
necessary step proves that ownership in nature is a random and transient
property, even if it exists at all. Come to think of it, who created
ownership - Man or God? So in situations where there are no societal laws
to tell us what to do, (such as who "owns" the information in an email),
you have only one thing to rely on: TRUS_ (fill in the blank), which IMHO,
is as random and transient within the boundaries of laws as ownership is
without (the boundaries of laws).

>Quoting is a powerful thing. It removes the uncertainty of
>intervening interpretation. Which one of these is more effective:?
> Adam thinks Seth is an idiot.
> Adam said, "Seth is an idiot.".
>The latter is more credible, even though we lack context. We're not
>left wondering whether how it might have been misunderstood -- we are
>shown the edvidence and are allowed to intepret it ourselves.
>Conversely, material written for a specific audience may be easily
>misunderstood by others. Maybe Adam called me an idiot in private
>email, but I know that with him it's a term of endearment. Quoting
>out of context is damaging to him then, because it's putting his words
>in a position of being misunderstood, though he could have been clear
>if only he knew what audience he was writing for.
>Words and ideas are each potentially damaging in their own way.
>I haven't thought about this much, but I have a vague feeling that
>direct quotes are usually more powerful and should be guarded more

Context aside, i would much rather be quoted exactly by what i said
than try to defend myself against someone else's conjecture concerning my

Parting shots - some interesting quotes on ownership:

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as
sacred as the laws of God...anarchy and tyranny commence."
- John Adams

"In every society where property exists, there will ever be a struggle
between rich and poor. Mixed in one assembly, equal laws can never be
expected; they will either be made by the members to plunder the few who
are rich, or by the influential to fleece the many who are poor."
- John Adams

(Looking at both those quotes - from the same man - would lead one to
believe that the plundering of the rich and the fleecing of the poor are as
sacred as the laws of God)

"The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property."
- John Locke

(I would say preservation of life came first, then preservation of propety
a lucky(?) bi-product. Is life property? Discuss.)

"Property is theft."
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

(It's a given that you can't have theft without property. Is the converse
true? Somebody whip out the symbolic logic tables on this one.)

"By abolishing private property one deprives the human love of aggression."
- Sigmund Freud

"When Marx spoke of private property he was not referring to personal
property. Private property meant the means of production of the capitalist
who hires property-less individuals under conditions the latter is forced
to accept."
- Erich Fromm

"The preservation of the rights of private property was the very keystone
of the arch upon which all civilized governments rest."
- Joseph Choate

(Civilized governments??? History shows clearly that the less emphasis a
society had on private property, the more *civilized* it was. (READ:
Tibet, Pre-colonial America). The unfortunate corrollary is that your
neighbors, who do care a great deal for private property, don't give two
shits about what you think (READ: Tibet, Pre-colonial America).

"This we know: The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not
weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to
the web he does to himself."
- Chief Seattle to President Franklin

(Does this sound familiar, Dirk Gently?)

"It is the preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that
prevents men from living freely and nobly."
- Bertrand Russell

(tidbit: the original phrase was not "life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness," but "life, liberty, and the pursuit of property." Was it
changed at the realization that the latter two are opposites?)

Sorry for rambling.


"Night fell again. There was war to the south, but our sector was quiet.
The battle was over. Our casualties were some thirteen thousand
killed--thirteen thousand minds, memories, loves, sensations, worlds,
universes--because the human mind is more a universe than the universe
itself--and all for a few hundred yards of useless mud."

-John Fowles [The Magus, 1965]"