Having a mini debate with Ron about jacking code, started here.
The Net is a fundamentally different physical plane and physical property rights do not apply here. When I ‘steal’ code I don’t destroy it for other people, I create more of it. Copying is creative. Christ, it’s the fundamental Creative act, copying code from your mother and father to make you.
Ideas are free by nature. Copyright only applies to their physical manifestations, printed books or records. Once the idea becomes physical you can apply physical law to it. Property Law.
The Net is a different plane, however. You can open an MP3 in notepad, it looks like “!ÈÐInÄ‘éH? Ø?Î¹›ª6ÓjªCÔˆ¤é`ìcS%I÷LÒ?.Ä?ÆœŽ9#?.” It’s just Computer Language. It’s just ideas. You can write it in an eMail or on a napkin, language is independent of any one physical manifestation. It’s just ideas.
Ideas are free by nature and Freedom of Expression is a right. Intellectual Property is lawyer bullshit. Thomas Jefferson knew what he was talking about 200 years ago.
“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 everyone, 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 at 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.”
– Thomas Jefferson (from here)
I’m not just talking out my ass, I got people behind me. I mean, there are numerous popular media references on this subject.
Pretending that intellectual property is the same as any other kind of property is deeply misleading. For while there is clearly no gain to society from plundering other people’s physical property, there is clearly a social benefit from the wide dissemination of intellectual property – ie ideas and their expression. As Picasso said – and Steve Jobs famously repeated when explaining how the Apple Mac came to bear such a striking resemblance to the Xerox Alto – ‘minor artists borrow; great artists steal’. We make progress, as Newton observed, because we are able to stand on the shoulders of the giants who went before us. Even Walt Disney lifted the idea of Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie.
Throughout the time I’ve been groping around cyberspace, an immense, unsolved conundrum has remained at the root of nearly every legal, ethical, governmental, and social vexation to be found in the Virtual World. I refer to the problem of digitized property. The enigma is this: If our property can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession, how can we protect it? How are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds? And, if we can’t get paid, what will assure the continued creation and distribution of such work?
Since we don’t have a solution to what is a profoundly new kind of challenge, and are apparently unable to delay the galloping digitization of everything not obstinately physical, we are sailing into the future on a sinking ship.
This vessel, the accumulated canon of copyright and patent law, was developed to convey forms and methods of expression entirely different from the vaporous cargo it is now being asked to carry. It is leaking as much from within as from without.
Legal efforts to keep the old boat floating are taking three forms: a frenzy of deck chair rearrangement, stern warnings to the passengers that if she goes down, they will face harsh criminal penalties, and serene, glassy-eyed denial.
Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain digitized expression any more than real estate law might be revised to cover the allocation of broadcasting spectrum (which, in fact, rather resembles what is being attempted here). We will need to develop an entirely new set of methods as befits this entirely new set of circumstances.
Most of the people who actually create soft property – the programmers, hackers, and Net surfers – already know this. Unfortunately, neither the companies they work for nor the lawyers these companies hire have enough direct experience with nonmaterial goods to understand why they are so problematic. They are proceeding as though the old laws can somehow be made to work, either by grotesque expansion or by force. They are wrong.
The source of this conundrum is as simple as its solution is complex. Digital technology is detaching information from the physical plane, where property law of all sorts has always found definition.
I copied all the content of this post. Am I a thief or a DJ?