Archive for March, 2008

copyright as “property”? – responding to Doug Johnson

March 31, 2008

Doug Johnson:

Peter, it seems to me (and I am happy to stand corrected), that you are arguing that if you can bring the cost of material and production of something to near zero, one is also obligated to bring the intangible value of that thing to zero as well. Personally, I don’t believe that.

What I’m arguing is that as the cost of copying/storage hits (virtually) zero, the illegitimate pressure put upon the public by the “property” approach is exacerbated. The “property” view (i.e. All Rights Reserved) is inherently antisocial and unethical. A prohibition on sharing is not needed to generate value for works under copyright. What all authors (and lawmakers) are morally obligated to do is allow the public to copy and share culture freely.

So, it seems to me (and I am happy to stand corrected) that Doug argues that if the public is allowed to copy and share, then the economic potential related to works under copyright is brought to (or brought close to) zero. Personally, I don’t believe that, and the evidence suggests otherwise. Forfeiting the “property” approach does not mean giving up any economic value inherent to the work whatsoever. Of course, the economic value of manufacturing material storage (e.g. CDs) and physical shipping may be diminished, but that’s the industry’s problem to solve, not the artist’s. Shipping and handling is not an artistic endeavor. In fact, any artist relying upon shipping and handling as their primary source of income is clearly not authoring art worthy of a livelihood.

Doug’s misunderstanding of my position is significant. If we really felt that artists should be “obligated” to make the value of their work “zero” then we would have to advocate such works be put anonymously in the public domain. In order for a work to have zero economic value to the artist, that artist would have to forfeit attribution and all other identifiable rights under copyright law (even then, it may be difficult to stop some economic value from reaching the artist). Of course, advocating such a position would be absurd. Such a position is the polar extreme of the 20th-century, copyright-as-“property” view Doug holds dear to.

could be Phun if FOSS

March 11, 2008

This “2D physics sandbox” might be useful in my classroom one day. Under the FAQ is the following information:

Is the source code going to be released?

I’m planning on it, yes, but I haven’t decided on a license or set a date yet.

Of course, releasing source code is only part of what makes software Free or Open Source. Restricting the commercial use of software is an enormous practical impediment. Commercial restrictions can turn an otherwise free program into a semi-free but proprietary program. Unfortunately, for now the author wants to restrict commercial activity around his software:

Phun is free for non-commercial use. This means you can download it, copy it etc, just don’t make money using it

Hopefully, the author will reconsider the commercial restriction and make Phun FOSS when he releases the source.

my latest purchase…

March 3, 2008

Unlike Radiohead’s free beer release of In Rainbows, I bought Nine Inch Nails’ free speech release of Ghosts I – IV.

Thank you! Your order is now complete. In a few minutes you’ll receive emails from with your download link and receipt.

$5 download (1) $5.00
Shipping & Handling $0.00
Total $5.00

“protecting the artists”

March 3, 2008

Of course, any artist seeking money that was essentially obtained through legalized extortion is committing a wrong. Artists claiming a “right” to such money should be shunned just as harshly as the Recording Industry itself. However, this simply underscores the fact that the RIAA’s interest has always been in protecting its label’s business models, not artists.

Via boingboing.