John Gilmore on the implications of copy protection
March 16, 2001 11:04 AM   Subscribe

John Gilmore on the implications of copy protection "If by 2030 we have invented a matter duplicator that's as cheap as copying a CD today, will we outlaw it and drive it underground? So that farmers can make a living keeping food expensive, so that furniture makers can make a living preventing people from having beds and chairs that would cost a dollar to duplicate, so that builders won't be reduced to poverty because a comfortable house can be duplicated for a few hundred dollars? Yes, such developments would cause economic dislocations for sure. But should we drive them underground and keep the world impoverished to save these peoples' jobs? And would they really stay underground, or would the natural advantages of the technology cause the "underground" to rapidly overtake the rest of society? -- I think we should embrace the era of plenty and work out how to mutually live in it."
posted by aurelian (10 comments total)
This argument is flawed relative to copy protection. You wouldn't need a copyrighted design to make a bed. While some designs may be copyrighted, it isn't the same as the current debate with "art."

On a larger scale, I'm sure manufacturers everywhere would try to bury such a device. However, it would probably be prohibitively expensive at first. As the price slowly came down, it would replace existing manufacturing just like robots are currently replacing people in factories.
posted by quirked at 12:20 PM on March 16, 2001

John Gilmore's metaphor is definitely flawed.

One can safely assume that this "matter duplicator" would be able to produce more matter duplicators.

Need I say more?
posted by saturn5 at 1:04 PM on March 16, 2001

Like wishing for more wishes :)
posted by terrapin at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2001

This thread is a duplicate, although the focus is different.
posted by tingley at 2:04 PM on March 16, 2001

The metaphor is fine. His reasoning is flawed.

First of all the machine exists. Such a machine would require a pattern or blue print that would be very difficult for average users to come up with. Just as it is difficult for average users to create their own music, novels, etc.

So people would still have to pay. Same as now.

But of course there would be plenty of "open source" furniture patterns. Same as now.

Even with Gilmore's machine we still have a place for copyright - protecting people who expect to be paid for what they produce. No amount of whining will change that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:05 PM on March 16, 2001

I think he makes a good point...and many of you seem to be missing it. Vested interest does not necessarily lead to greater good. It does, however, usually lead to political decision.
posted by rushmc at 12:37 AM on March 17, 2001

Okay, I realize this is a duplicate thread and all, but I just wanted to point out that an analogy isn't necessary to get the idea across. Gilmore does an excellent job of summarizing his argument with this single sentence:

"What is wrong is that we have invented the technology to eliminate scarcity, but we are deliberately throwing it away to benefit those who profit from scarcity."
posted by Potsy at 5:15 AM on March 19, 2001

Bad analogy.

If we were outlawing machines that can create and perform excellent music to keep musicians in business, if we were outlawing computer progams that write great books, if we were outlawing intellegent agent software that helps us find artists we like, then it would apply.

Music and books are not expensive because it costs so much to print a CD or a book. So digital copying is not eliminating scarcity by making copying cheap it's eliminating scarcity by starving the people who either produce the original or do stuff to help you find out about the original.
posted by straight at 7:14 AM on March 19, 2001

Instead of complaining about one particular analogy which isn't central to the argument, why don't we discuss the bigger point, which is this: you have the right to time-shift broadcast material and to make backup copies of copyrighted material you own. The music and movie industries are conspiring with the hardware companies to effectively remove those rights.

Sure, you still have that right, but just try to buy hardware or software that will let you. Worse yet, you can't produce your own content-protected media for a reasonable price because the hardware to do that has been artificially inflated in price to keep it away from the common consumer, while hardware sold at the consumer level is artificially restricted from doing tasks it is perfectly capable of. You won't be able to exercise your rights if the industries get their way. That's the point, which everyone seems to be missing.
posted by daveadams at 9:23 AM on March 19, 2001

straight said:
So digital copying is not eliminating scarcity by making copying cheap it's eliminating scarcity by starving the people who either produce the original or do stuff to help you find out about the original.

You have restated the problem, but do not seem to understand its implications. The analog publishing industry is built on the assumption that the only way to get some bits is to buy a physical object containing those bits. Thus the cost of creating those bits is recouped by selling instances of them. This assumption is no longer true. Now what are we going to do about it? Are you suggesting that the best way to take advantage of digital publishing is to force it to abide by the limitations of analog publishing, thereby throwing away most of the point of going digital in the first place?

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2001

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