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Lessig and Epstein debate DRM, IP law
May 19, 2005 8:18 AM   Subscribe

In Technology Review, Lawrence Lessig and Richard Epstein are debating intellectual property, free software, and digital rights management. Shamelessly lifted, verbatim, from a post by Reason's Jesse Walker
posted by Kwantsar (14 comments total)

 
That is some pretty purple prose from old Lary.
posted by delmoi at 8:36 AM on May 19, 2005


That is some pretty purple prose from old Lary.

How so? Do you mean that it is pretty prose and happens to be purple? Or do you mean that Lessig's points are strained, causing his (or your) face purple in the reading of it?

Lessig is one of the most common-sensical people I have heard on this subject. The fact that many in the IP/legal community also think his position is responsible definitely reinforces his arguments.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:07 AM on May 19, 2005


beelzbubba, rta.

I doubt Epstein endorses extremism, so it would be great to know how he justifies his Panglossian views.

Panglossian: Blindly or naively optimistic. After Pangloss, an optimist in Candide, a satire by Voltaire.

Using Panglossian in a sentence: Purple prose.

Labeling views that disagree with yours as extremism: Bad prose.
posted by three blind mice at 9:43 AM on May 19, 2005


Purple prose = prose that is flowery or overly sentimental.
posted by biffa at 9:48 AM on May 19, 2005


We entered the youth camp that morning by passing down a long, white gravel road and under a wooden gate. Spread to one side, and for as far as you could see, were rows and rows of tents. In front were scores of showers, with hundreds of kids in swimsuits milling about, waiting to rinse.

Isn't that from Empire of the Sun?
posted by eatitlive at 10:00 AM on May 19, 2005


Using Panglossian in a sentence: Purple prose.

Hardly.

I think your implication is that it's an uneccessarily highbrow reference, or a misstatement of Epstein's position - I would disagree with the former at least, but that's beside the point. Even if it were one of these, it wouldn't be "purple prose". As biffa points out, "purple" generally means overly baroque and hyperbolic prose. The use of a single cultural reference hardly qualifes.
posted by freebird at 10:25 AM on May 19, 2005


Hmm... I didn't mean to dreail the thread so much. It was an off the cuff remark about the first few paragraphs of Lary's paper.


How so? Do you mean that it is pretty prose and happens to be purple? Or do you mean that Lessig's points are strained, causing his (or your) face purple in the reading of it?


to wit:

We entered the youth camp that morning by passing down a long, white gravel road and under a wooden gate. Spread to one side, and for as far as you could see, were rows and rows of tents. In front were scores of showers, with hundreds of kids in swimsuits milling about, waiting to rinse. It felt like a refugee camp.

...The room was being prepared for what seemed like a disco. Three DJ-like characters were huddled over a table full of machines, testing sound and twiddling fantastically elaborate controls. They were not DJs, however, but VJs: video jockeys ...The music would, for all I know, not have been out of place in the coolest New York dance club; but the images were a collage of television and color presented in a way that I had never seen before, anywhere.

...In another room, the yellow light filtering through the canvas roof bathed another 50 machines. John Perry Barlow ... sat stooped over his PowerBook chatting with someone. He looked up with a smile. "It's [New York Times writer John] Markoff at Davos." Obviously, Wi-Fi bathed the room as well.


Etc. Lessig is great at describing ideas, but his descriptions of places and physical things, at least in this essay are cheesy.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on May 19, 2005


A good read all around, thanks for that.
posted by ddf at 10:53 AM on May 19, 2005


Yurp, I guess I actually agree with you delmoi the funky homosapien. Not on the the Pangloss bit! But overall, it's a little breathy and over-the-top, though I wouldn't go so far as "cheesy". No reflection on the content of course, but this *is* Meta, so I think a little discussion of the medium is relevent to the message.
posted by freebird at 10:59 AM on May 19, 2005


To be clear, these are really great pieces to read, and thanks for posting them.
posted by freebird at 11:18 AM on May 19, 2005


I just finished Lessig's essay. Very intresting.

But it's missing something. Lessig seems to be trying to make his case on economic grounds alone. In other words that there is more benifit in having a "Free Culture" then there is benifit in having a "DRMd Culture." Since Economists mesure all benifit as economic benifit, Lessig is saying that there's a greater economic benifit in having Free Culture

But how do you mesure this?

Let's imagine there's a mesure. Would free culture really produce more "entertainment units" per dollar then DRMd Culture? I'm not sure. Especialy when you consider the tastes of the masses. Who's going to make movies like "Armageddon" and "The Chronicles of Riddic" if not for the profit motive?

So in other words, I think you might end up with more art films and whatnot. Entertainment by artists for art lovers, but none for the masses.

----

But I think that there is also a moral issue here. I should have the freedom to use a computer as I see fit. I don't think human liberty should be traded for "entertainment units", and I think it's crazy that anyone would want to do that.

DRM puts a cop in everyone's computer, in everyone's home. And it's a cop designed by people who want a maximum intrepreation of the law.
posted by delmoi at 11:22 AM on May 19, 2005


Intresting bit from Epstein:

The same principle, I believe, applies to the state's own procurement decisions. Governments have fiduciary duties to their citizens similar to those that boards of directors owe to shareholders. Their job is not to satisfy their own ideological predilections; they should buy the software that offers the best combination of price and quality.

That seems rather strange to me, Unlike shareholders of a company, voters can't cash out. A government has far more duties to it's citizens then fiduciary.
posted by delmoi at 11:40 AM on May 19, 2005


kwanstar, I did "rta." I didn't stop at the somewhat effusive (but short of purple, imo) introduction. I also heard Lessig speak here recently and will again when he returns to the are in the fall. Did you "rta"? Much of what we do here every day is an embodiment of remix culture--which may not be possible undr the strictest readings of DRM.

And, delmoi, I think you misinterpret Lessig's (and the EFF's) meaning of "free." This is a common misunderstanding, and one that Lessig goes to great lengths to explain:

"Proprietary Systems
There are a million details to fill in before the story of free software makes sense to anyone who doesn't already know it. Can free software be used commercially? Yes, freedom promise 0 requires it. Can free software be sold? Yes, for whatever price the market will bear. Can businesses make money producing or supporting free software? Some think so, as the billions invested by IBM and Hewlett-Packard suggest. Does free software destroy the financial incentive to produce new software? Not necessarily. Free software simply makes improvements transparent, as they are in any number of other healthy, competitive markets."

"Truly Free Markets
When most people trip upon these free movements, their initial reaction is that both are implausibly utopian. They read "free" to be a rejection of basic economic principles.

But the economy of free software is still an economy. It produces wealth; it inspires growth; it spreads services broadly within a society. It functions differently than the economy of proprietary software--different scarcities are traded--but it is still an economy. And literally billions of dollars have been invested to make it flourish.

The same is true of free culture. Many read "free culture" to mean that artists don't get paid. But here, too, the difference is not that one approach (proprietary culture) builds an economy while the other (free culture) does not. In the way that I've use the term, free culture describes the economy that governed creative industries for at least the first 186 years of the American republic. More importantly, proprietary culture has never yet governed any creative economy, anywhere. No society has ever imposed the level of control that the proprietary culture of digital technologies and DRM would enable."

Problems with DRM"But consider the second complaint against DRM--one generally missed by the market apologists. This complaint is more fundamental: DRM abridges our personal freedoms and inhibits cultural transmission. To appreciate it, step back from the digital for a moment. Think instead about human culture as a whole. Participation in cultural life involves a practice that we could call "remix." You read a book. You tell the story to friends. You see a movie that inspires you. You share its story with your family, to spread that inspiration.
Remixing uses the fruits of someone else's creativity. There's no guarantee that it does any favors to the work that is remixed. There's no requirement that it treat the work respectfully or kindly. The freedom to remix is a freedom to ridicule or respect. Fairness is not the measure. Freedom is.

It is almost impossible to imagine a culture thriving if its people are not free to engage in this kind of practice. Remixing is how culture gets made. The acts of reading, or criticizing, or praising, or condemning bits of culture are how we create things. This is true whether the culture is commercial or not: you cannot limit remixing to things in the public domain. In our tradition, we have been free to remix, whether the stuff remixed is copyrighted or not."


I can forgive Lessig's use of "Panglossian" for the direct, concrete, and sensible advice he conveys thoughout the article. Yes, I "rta." I will probably quote "ta" in some of my own work, as I will with pronouncements on "remix culture" by Goethe, Emerson, Gysin, Aarseth, and others.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:38 AM on May 20, 2005


Delmoi: Would free culture really produce more "entertainment units" per dollar then DRMd Culture? I'm not sure. Especialy when you consider the tastes of the masses.

Absolutely. Just think of how much "free creativity" has exploded on the internet. This was made possible through the unimpeded exchange of content.

Interesting you refer to the "tastes of the masses"-- I think the days of mass media are over, to be replaced by far more democratic media, and niche marketing (the long tail etc.). Given the choice, people will choose far more selectively than simply going to the latest blockbuster, lowest common denominator, trashy Hollywood flick. The "tastes of the masses" will become ever harder to pin down, as people become more accustomed to being able to choose what they consume.
posted by jimmy76 at 1:11 PM on May 20, 2005


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