Thursday, April 27, 2006

Even though my friend Mr. Steve dogged on me in his comment (by paraphrasing Ezra Pound, no less!), I thought I'd quote him to see what people think about a new subject:

Intellectual Property is the new frontier. The web-gen thinks it's their manifest destiny to be able to do with all electronic content as they please.

Intellectual property is, as you might imagine, a perennial subject at the publishing house with which I work for (I'm an editor). We're ferocious about protecting content; I've known people to actually invoke the phrase "Cease and desist!" On the flip side, the junior-high confirmation class at my church--people on the verge of spiritual and ethical adulthood, right?--keep wanting to borrow my CDs so they can burn them onto their MP3 players. (Not all of them, of course; Generation Z doesn't seem to have developed a taste for Crowded House.)

It's like David versus Goliath. Wait, that's not quite right. It's like Luke Skywalker versus the Death Star. Oh--I don't like that either. Is it like Gulliver versus the Lilliputians? Someone give me an example that's more morally complex than these!

So my question to all of you is, how do we solve the crisis of intellectual property?

4 comments:

Mr Steve said...

1. My paraphrase of Mr. Pound may have been harsher than the original quote. I'm going to try to track it down this weekend.

2. An important, and oft overlooked, aspect of the IP debate that needs to be considered is Content vs. Form. One o' my co-workers is draggin his feet in the transition from VHS to DVD. His argument is that when you purchase a movie you are purchasing the rights to own the content. His reasoning is that he should be able to trade his VHS copy of Fletch for a DVD of the content. My reply is that the DVD has aditional content that he does not own the rights to. But I do agree that he has an interesting point. It is one that Apple is rumored to be fighting movie studios about. The rumor is that Apple wants to sell movies through the iTunes store. Flat out ownership of the content. Studios want some sort of subscription service. I have not yet purchased a TV show from the iTunes store. Mostly because I don't have a nifty video iPod (the screen is way too small), but also because I don't want to pay $1.99 for an episode of LOST that I can only watch on my computer. Until I am able to download a movie or tv show and transfer it to my TiVo or some other box hooked up to my nice big tv, I'm not buying a thing.

It is interesting to see how much more demanding we have become as consumers. Not only do we want it, we want it NOW! And then we want to be able to do whatever we want with it.

This whole IP battle is like:
Martin Luther vs The Church

Margaret Feinberg said...

I have no answers, but the trend is permeating all areas of our culture...from music to movies to blogs affecting the written and spoken and sung word. It's pretty amazing. And in many cases it very gray as to where to draw the line.

Pete Juvinall said...

It really boils down to the idea that we are in transition. Historically, this kind of thing has happened before in transitions from sheet music to recorded music to tapes to CDs, etc. Structures have shifted for management and people have adapted to different business models.

I think as a Christian, it boils down to following laws and trying to live peaceably. If social justice is an issue for you, there are venues to accomplish those goals but you aren't going to change the system by copying the latest Crowded House CD.

But yet, the reality is that we all have dark hearts and relying on the inherent goodness of people really is naive.

Anyway, there's a fairly decent treatment of the whole issue that I've read called 'Free Culture' by Lawerence Lessig; he gives some historical background that I didn't even know.

But even as I write this, there are things I struggle with like how reality is a bit of a blurred line. Example: itunes has DRM on their tracks that you download. Let's say you want to hear the tracks on an incompatable player? Just burn them to CD and re-rip them as .mp3 files; voila no copy protection - Apple turns a bit of a blind eye to this practice. Or, let's take content that was freely available last week and now suddenly is only obtained via a download service; is it 'yours'? You bought it? How much right do you have to pass it off to your friends? All of this seems to be a legal moving-target as we move into the digital age.

I fudementally believe, however, that books won't change; they seem to have a bit of a different audience in which an electronic format doesn't fit. My editor wife fits in the core demographic for books and I don't see her taking to an e-book format for widespread use anytime soon.

--pete

Pete Juvinall said...

Just as an aside, don't you think at some point that this is where relativism ends up biting us in the backside?