For those who were unaware, Thomas Jefferson, (yes... the same one who penned the US constitution) had some very distinct opinions about intellectual property. Here's what he had to say:
For those who were unaware, Thomas Jefferson, (yes... the same one who penned the US constitution) had some very distinct opinions about intellectual property. Here's what he had to say:
"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from any body. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices."
--Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13 1813.
Elsewhere he had this to say:
"...a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government..."
--Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801
So the next time someone tells you or writes that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act is a "good thing" you can quote these comments to them.
Now if you're sitting there and wondering where I'm coming from with all of this you simply must read the idiocy expressed by the DMCA's sponsor in the US House of Representatives, The Honorable Howard Coble, Republican, from the 6th District of North Carolina:
"As far as I know there have been very few complaints from intellectual property holders," Coble, the chief sponsor of the DMCA, said in an interview Tuesday. "I am also encouraged by the Department of Justice's actions in this matter to enforce the law."
See http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,45522,00.html to see the quote in context.
So... the "copyright holders" (should be read publishers by the way) have not complained... uhm... yeah... I wonder why? What a dork (so I debased myself with an ad hominem comment... bite me!)... so this makes me wonder... how many "copyright holders" with DMCA relevance reside in Congressman Coble's district? I don't know... take a poll... but my guess would be none! How many of them lobbied for the DMCA? In all likelihood that number would be zero! So why is the Honorable Mr. Coble so fired up about the DMCA? Uhm... that's easy... money... you see, the Honorable Mr. Coble is 5th in the nation on the list of politicos receiving money from the entertainment lobby (may be read RIAA and MPAA and Disney, et. al. see: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/indus/N00002247.htm for reference). Isn't it amazing that for the 1999-2000 election cycle only 27.9% of Rep. Coble's received donations came from within his own state, much less his own district. Hmmmm... just exactly who does he represent anyway?
Perhaps he actually represents the American Intellectual Property Law Association. A lengthy reading of the activities recorded on their web site reveals that his position as the Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property has allowed him to rubber stamp a great deal, if not all, of their legislative wish list. Wow... what a surprise, a lawyer who favors the wishes of other lawyers. Hmmmph! Maybe someone from the 6th District in North Carolina will read this and figure out that Representative Coble is not their representative, he's someone elses...
That said... who's opinion do you hold in higher regard? Thomas Jefferson, author of the United States Constitution and founder of Monticello... or John Howard Coble, author of the damnable DMCA and owner of a 78 acre farm in Henry County, Virginia that somehow manages to only be worth 50 to 100K?
Note: If you missed it check out the latest edition of dirty bird where our intrepid hero confronts Rep. Coble regarding his support for the DMCA.
I found a really interresting document
about "metaprogramming and the source availability". The document is
in french but could be translated.
The best part is that (but in french) :
Encore une fois, les arguments en faveur de la liberté d'utilisation et de distribution des informations sont de même nature que ceux en faveur du libre échange [Bastiat1850]. Les barrières de «propriété intellectuelle» valent bien les barrières douanières aux frontières des pays, à l'entrée ou à la sortie des villes, au passage des routes et des ponts ; les unes comme les autres s'opposent au libre échange des biens et des services ; les unes comme les autres sont aussi sûrement artificielles qu'elles nécessitent pour être respectées l'emploi de la force armée à l'encontre de citoyens se livrant de manière consentante à des échanges ne lésant les ressources de nul tiers.
La création, la recherche, la distribution, l'enseignement, la correction, la garantie, le maintien à jour d'informations sont des services, que les hommes sont naturellement portés à s'échanger contre d'autres services. Les barrières de «propriété intellectuelle» sont autant d'obstacles à l'échange de ces services, et établissent le monopole d'un éditeur sur l'ensemble des services associés à chaque information rendue «propriétaire». Le marché des services informationnels en devient encore plus fractionné que le marché des biens au Moyen Âge, car les barrières sont maintenant autour de chaque personne, de chaque compagnie, de chaque institution, de chaque éditeur, plutôt que seulement autour des villes, des routes, des ponts et des pays. Le consommateur et l'entrepreneur sont les victimes permanentes de cet état de fait auquel la loi, malheureusement, concourt.
Ce protectionnisme en matière de services informationnels, ô combien nuisible à l'industrie, n'est aucunement justifiable par un droit naturel à la propriété intellectuelle. En effet, si les biens, en tant que ressources physiques limitées en extension, sont naturellement sujets à être contrôlés et possédés, l'information est intrinsèquement et indéfiniment duplicable et partageable, et ne se prête pas au moindre contrôle, à la moindre possession. C'est du reste bien la raison pour laquelle d'aucuns réclament de la loi l'établissement d'une «propriété intellectuelle» artificielle, alors que la propriété matérielle précède de loin la loi, qui ne fait que la confirmer. Nous voyons bien que ceux-là ne font que demander, comme tout protectionniste, la spoliation légale et doublement coûteuse de l'ensemble des citoyens-consommateurs à leur profit personnel ou corporatif de producteurs.
La libre circulation de l'information, enfin, est nécessaire à la définition de conditions équitables dans les échanges. Elle est donc nécessaire au bon équilibre des marchés économiques, et toute atteinte à cette libre circulation biaise les marchés, crée des bulles financières, et engendre la ruine.
It's a really good and small argumentation against intellectual
laws. I really love it.
The Frederic Bastiat reference is excellent too. Bastiat is a well-known french economist and politician (more known in US than in Europe).
Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence of the U.S.A.
James Madison penned the U.S. Constitution. Jefferson was in Paris during the Convention, contributing only via postal correspondence with James Madison and others.
And even Madison did not write the Constitution in a vaccuum, by himself, but rather, after a long summer during which a number of Founding personalities met for the purpose (though they were not supposed to produce a Constitution).
Thomas Jefferson was also a somewhat self-contradictory figure, not only in matters of slavery either -- for example, IIRC Jefferson did not consider monetary wealth to be "property."
The American history of property rights, intellectual, landed, and otherwise (e.g., fluvial, monetary, of the radio spectrum, etc...) is long and quite interesting. And different approaches have been tried at different times, with different results. The "squatters' rights" approach, for example, was applied through much of the 19th century and was a cornerstone of homesteading -- but it was not applied to ownership of radio spectra and broadcasting rights; land property rights are pretty much perpetual, but intellectual property rights are time-limited (but for current efforts to make them perpetual). And Thomas Jefferson doesn't figure too tall in some of these issues -- squatters' rights, homesteading, and such issues were resolved after Jefferson passed away, and a number of Founding Fathers suffered from squatters' taking their property.
You're right... wrong document... but I would still share his stance on intellectual property a lot sooner than I would that of Coble.
The DMCA may be bad, but IP in itself is not bad. Unfortunatly it is easily abused.
I'm not sure I agree with you Iain. At least as it's currently being used. Perhaps that means I do agree but see abuse everywhere I look. I dunno? My fear is that the way we are going right now there will be no public domain for the next generation to build on, and thanx to TRIPS and the WIPO this is a global issue... not just a US centric one.
IMHO the granting of a temporary monopoly to a discoverer is worthwhile, else who would do discovery as there would be no benefit. But that is no longer what's being done... case in point... with either the DMCA or some other issue (there are so many right now) the example trotted out for legislators was an ebook which was encrypted and under the then *proposed* legislation it would be protected from circumvention (interesting no?). The book? A classic (I confess I don't remember the title you will surely get my point without it) that had been in the public domain for at least a hundred years or more. Another example... Walt Disney drew Mickey Mouse and he became a big hit with the kiddies... well Mickey's copyright was supposed to run out next year... what does Disney do? They run to congress and get the copyright law changed so they don't lose the sole rights to their mouse (there are others who lobbied as well for similar reasons). This is not a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It's a government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation.
Is it time to start examining the means whereby corporate charters are revoked in the public interest? I read recently that this is happening in Pennsylvania but I cannot quote details as I've simply been reading too much lately... I know I'm rambling but frankly I'm so beaten down with all of this right now that all IP seems evil to me right now. Was Jefferson right? Are ideas elemental, the same as fire, water, and air?
I feel that Disney should have the rights to make money off of Mickey Mouse for as long as they want. I think that the only person/people who should ever be allowed to make money of off an idea, is the person/people who come up with the idea (or people they allow). This does not hinder fair use, which IMO, is anything that does not make money (directly) from that idea. This is, alas, an idealistic view, and I can already see where loopholes and bitching/lawsuits would come from.
This is not a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It's a government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation.
It's amusing that
James Madison was meantioned 3 comments or so above. James Madison is
the person who wrote the US constituion (or at least had a major part in
it's writing). His views on government are rather interesting (taken
from Profit Over People by Noam Chomsky (yes, I'm still reading it :))
Madison pointed out that if elections in England "were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place," giving land to the landless. The Constitutional system must be designed to prevent such injustice and "secure the permanent interests of the country," which are property rights.
In public discussion, Madison spoke of the rights of minorities in general, but it is quite clear that he had a particular minority in mind: "the minority of the opulent."
As Chomsky points out later on, however, these (and other) comments on
Madison are unfair in one respect
Like Adam Smith and other founders of classical liberalism, Madison was precapitalist, and anticapitalist in spirit. He expected that the rulers would be "enlightened Statesmen" and "benevolent philosophers", "whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of their country."So he was trying to keep the land away from the "unwashed masses", and let the rich people keep it, but the rich people abused their power, so all of this abuse of IP rights and DMCA is little more than a continuation of things that have been going on for many hundreds of years, which is why to fix things up, a completely new system of government is needed, one that isn't founded on the ideals that the current one is, and to create an atmosphere where this new system of government could flourish, would require a massive change in social attitudes, which is going to take a very very long time.
I don't find it surprizing at all that in a time / society where slavery
was still a major economic factor, people were opposed to intellectual
property. You simply couldn't make money with it.
We now live in a very different world, where information and control of its distribution are the main capital. There isn't much to compare.
I don't want to sound as if I'm defending one point or the other, but I'm trying to put things into their historic context. I wouldn't say that intellectual property is 'wrong' or 'good', either; these categories are just inappropriate to pin down the problem. We are opposed to IP because we are suffering from it, so we want to change the way society behaves. This is what will ultimately drive us away from IP, and world economy will adapt and find new 'business models' that better fit our needs.
But how do you balance this against the need for a varied and rich public domain (and yes... I know there is some argument that there is no such thing as the public domain)? If what you're proposing were the law (which it very nearly is to the certain glee of various, well known and well monied, corporate interests) there would be no public domain ever again. The change which made this so is quite recent see: Opposing Copyright Extension for the details. In point of fact the Constitution does not provide these rights in perpetuity as it specifically states that the term of legal monopoly granted is "for limited times". See U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8 for reference. While the constitution certainly grants congress the right to make law concerning copyright they have, at this point, diverged so far from the simple intent of the men who wrote the constitution that current law is wholly unrecognizable in comparison.
Secondly, under your preferred system how do you propose to provide equal representation under the law? Perpetual monopolies are not noted for their willingness to behave with equanimity to all (as our present condition clearly shows).
I love the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights, deeply, fervently.
But watch it: don't quote individual Founders as if their wisdom was endless and timeless -- some of their views were timeless and immensely wise, yes, but read on.
The Founders had major disagreements amongst themselves.
Thomas Jefferson rammed laws through Congress to ban all international commerce back in 1808/1809 as a response to British/French assaults on American commercial shipping to the French/British.
Yes, he, that man who said that a revolution every 20 years would be a good thing nearly produced one when he plunged the nation into a severe recession that took many years to recover from. Jefferson wrote that wonderful document, the Declaration of Independence, was against slavery, and did so much for the U.S., he also did not lift a finger against slavery and fought against the freedom to trade! Take his words with salt!
And the Founders did not like universal suffrage. Universal [white] male suffrage only started becoming commonplace amongst the several States back in the 1820s.
The Founders acheived something spectacular, not achieved in history between the Athenian and Roman republics and the birth of the U.S.
But most each Founder, taken alone, shows serious flaws in his thinking. Their writings must be read carefully and studied in context -- in the context of the times and the debates then raging. Because if you drop the context, you can make some of them seem to argue for a sort of democratic communism, others for a republican oligrachy, etc... yet we have neither today (well, there's plenty of socialism in the Federal gov't today, yes, but, fortunately, it's fairly moderated).
Yes, Thomas Jefferson disliked the concept of treating anything other than land as property. Fortunately that attitude fell by the wayside -- the Supreme Court saw to it, the same Supreme Court that so angered Jefferson (and others) when it claimed the right to judge certain laws, regulations, and government activities as unconstitutional. So be careful, because under a Jefferson ideal world there would be no judicial protection of individual rights against things like the DMCA and much worse -- only juries and revolts. Be thankful that we don't have to resort to pitchforks, guns, bombs and the like, that we have a reliable Supreme Court and a reliable political system.
Intellectual property, as a legal concept, is Good (tm). But we must recognize the limitations of it, that it's not quite the moral equivalent of land property, that the political abuse of IP is a mine-field for a Republic (as is the unchecked abuse of all sorts of law). I am very confident that today's abuses of the IP concept will be corrected in due time because this nation (pardon the U.S. -centrism) has been through much worse problems and has surpassed them every time. Put yourselves in the shoes of a citizen of most other nations and compare this American history of improvement and survival with the history of inanity, failure, corruption, graft, terror and worse abroad -- then thank your lucky stars that the world has this shining model, even with its [minor] flaws.
The system works because people speak out when there is injustice. The most worrisome part of all of this for me is that what's happening with the free speech aspects of law. If that goes too far, unchecked, then there will be no voice left which may cry injustice and remain free. The lunacy of our government arresting and planning to prosecute Dmitry Sklyarov the same week that US headlines were screaming about the unjust prosecution of Gao Zhan in China (convicted of being a spy because she was photocopying magazines). It is that sort of behavior that we must guard against.
In a related note I read this on the free-sklyarov mailing list this morning:
Please give an example where an individual creator of a work (not copyright holder) has prevailed in copyright infringement action, say, in the last 30 years.
I think this is a relevant question... I'm sure they exist but I'll go out on a limb and say that the stats would clearly reveal the grotesque inequity visited on individual complainants in our civil courts. Unless you are a gazillionaire there is no justice any more for individuals because there is no equality under the law. Corporations, have paid for the laws they need to maintain their priority at the head of the line. The rest of us peasants can take a number and stand in the queue!
Interesting article. It is amazing to see vast difference between the those who founded the country and those who supposedly "represent" us today.
From my understanding Jefferson's view is the more traditional view of copyright. That copyright is not the recognition of ownership of ideas, however it is the means by which to encourage creators (writers, inventers, ect.) to publish works they wouldn't have otherwise for the benifit of society.
I personally agree with this, although I lean more toward eliminating copyright all together. People might say "then there would be no motivation to create new works", I disagree. I think creative people will always create, it is in there nature to do so.
Some specific things I must respond to:
nmw writes: Be thankful that we don't have to resort to pitchforks, guns, bombs and the like, that we have a reliable Supreme Court and a reliable political system.
Reliable? To whom? The main benefactor of this "republic" is very small group of wealthy individuals.
Like I said, compare to what you'd get elsewhere.
And look at all the problems the US has had to surpass. These include easily forgotten problems that tend to be hugely debilitating to any democracy/republic, like massive police corruption (back during Prohibition), or the Civil War, but also there's the Depression (it could have led to communism), WWI, WWII, Jim Crow, a number of constitutional shenanigans in the early 1800s, numerous revolts, the Cold War and more.
I come from Argentina, a country whose history parallels much of the U.S.'s. Argentina has never really recovered, always falling back into the same vicious cycle of public graft and plunder, political inanity, civil rights violations, military dictatorships, etc...
And Argentina is not alone.
And yes, ya gotta participate and voice your views and complaints to fix the problems that come up here. So do voice your views on the DMCA. Just be careful when you quote Jefferson -- the man was self-contradictory in many ways and his views can easily be bent to buttress views you might disagree with! And always be careful what you ask for -- you might get it!
Of course there would. Just like they currently do, people could relinquish rights, people could license things to other people. Would people do this, is another question, but given the proliferation of free software at the moment, I don't see any reason why doing this would suddenly stop.
> > lain: I feel that Disney should have the rights to make money off of Mickey Mouse for as long as they want. I think that the only person/people who should ever be allowed to make money of off an idea, is the person/people who come up with the idea (or people they allow). This does not hinder fair use, which IMO, is anything that does not make money (directly) from that idea. This is, alas, an idealistic view, and I can already see where loopholes and bitching/lawsuits would come from.
Are you willing to separate patents from trademarks? Applying the above sentiment to patents would yield a world where there is no incentive to improve on existing IP or no right to improve on existing IP, depending on wether you own some existing IP or not.
Clearly, Mickey Mouse is not a practical invention -- that's why Disney has a trademark on Mickey, not a patent. Disney could own that mouse forever for all I care -- but then, this is a very specific case; cases involving trademarks of common-use words and the like are less clear.
Unlimited patent rights would yield something like Eurosclerosis... but worse.
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