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Information Doesn't Want To Be Free; People Want It 501

Captain Pooh writes "Nicholas Petreley expresses his opinion about how "Information Doesn't Want To Be Free--People Want It To Be". " Pretty provocative piece - although his reasoning is sound.
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Information Doesn't Want To Be Free; People Want It

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  • Sorry, but you're confused. Even as an idiot I see these things clearly - so I think there just might be a chance for you too.

    There is, of course, an intrinsic rate of decay in any physical representation of information - this is obvious to any high school student and isn't what we're talking about here. In these discussions, I am not refering to the degradation of the specific instances of information, but the temporal-spatial distribution of information, which is also subject to the second law (entropy increases).

    If you still don't understand this, let me make it simple for you. Consider a collection of marbles on the floor during an earthquake. Each marble may be subject to chips and degradation - a more disordered state. But the collection of marbles as a whole is also subject to the statistical mechanics of entropy the promote their spread throughout the room.

  • So why do you hate the record companies? You buy cds at small independent stores. The music you like obviously still gets made. What have the record companies done to you exactly? Created an "environment"? Whatever. They promote their stars to make millions. But you can choose to spend you money on smaller artists instead. Where 's the problem? Where's the conspiracy?
  • Geez- even the real Napster zealots dont trot out this old argument. It isn't fair use to pass around music on a mass distribution system. IT's fair use to make copies FOR YOURSELF on different media. You can't have rights over property you don't own!
  • the very phrase "information wants to be free" makes the distinction. That's isn't a rallying cry to abolish Intellectual Property, it's a statement about something Else. The distinction needs to be made. And it needs to be made legally, else we will lose our rights. If the legal world thinks we mean "Content" when we really mean "Information" then judges like Marilyn Hall Patel will trample all over us and we lose. if you think all content is equal to information in the sense of "Information wants to be free" then you are wrong. And thats why judges rule against Napster. think outside the box
  • You are forgetting that by copying music and distributing it is breaking your agreement with the Cd vendor. Take the DNA cloning example. Let's say you go willingly into the machine, but you do so under the agreement that they'll only take certain chromosomes. And THEN they take samples of all of your chromosomes. Is that really any different than forcing you into the machine in the first place? They got you in their under false pretenses. THAT's a better analougy.
  • This is potentially incorrect, depending on WHICH Mill we're talking about. The younger one very much DID believe in natural rights- in fact he really founded the modern version of that school of thought. Kant did to, in a different sense- it's quibbling over opinion and slander to write him off as a mystic.
  • I can't fathom how Napster's desire to suck at the trough overrides the desire of some musicians to charge for their recordings

    At a superficial level, it sounds like it may be a good thing to let musicians control their recorded works, but when you think through the ramifications involved, the complexity of licensing and enforcement, the slow unequivocal degradation of our fundamental freedoms that are needed to enforce IP laws - the ugliness of it all - I no longer think "intellectual property" is a good idea. I think our society and business environment would be much healthier without it. And I don't think a wholesale abandonment of IP, as I have advocated, is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    But obviously, a lot of people disagree with me either because they don't want to open their mind (my opinion) or because I'm not thinking clearly (their opinion).

  • I never said information was *immortal*. My point is that it cannot be effectively *restrained*. If it lacks value, it will be lost. If it has value, you will not stop people from getting it.
  • Since I create information, I ought to have the freedom (yes, it is a freedom) to control that information as I see fit.

    Why should this be true? Why should you be entitled to control the information once it reaches someone else's mind. You aren't entitled to mind control.

    Information does exist in nature. It certainly can't exist independent of nature. And we are not independent from nature.

  • by fingal ( 49160 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:32PM (#795929) Homepage
    You don't need to but you are assuming the web is the best possible method for distributing files.

    Sorry, don't understand. Do you mean the web as the IP transmission protocol or the http protocol. Any information that is going to be sent anywhere is going to be going over the web is it not?

    While it is good for many things I do not think it is a very reliable source for distributing binaries.

    Again, slightly confused. If you mean reliable as in trusting that the binary that you think you are downloading is really what you wanted then I agree.

    A file-sharing approach allows you to mirror on a scale impossible to acheive with the web.

    Yes you can mirror the information in many places, but this gives you no guarantee over the bandwidth that the end user will get when they download the file. For all you know, the mirror that you happen to choose to download the file is going to be sitting on someone's box with a single ISDN connection and 10 other people already downloading and its going to crawl. However, if your central legal service is working, ie enough people are choosing to buy the music that the digital distributor is making money (and therefore by definition the record company and the artist are also making money) then they can invest in a controlled distributed network of servers that are all offering the same services located at the right places in the net to maximise bandwidth to the subnets that are currently choking (a la yahoo).

    The trick is to make digitally signed music that can be verified by the end-user as the original before downloading the music.

    only necessary if you don't trust the site. place the site on an https connection with a signed certificate and the overhead of having to sign all the files individually disappears and your operating costs go down (more money ultimately to the artist (hopefully)).

    Also I'm a geek and therefore it is in my nature to explore new possibilities. :)

    New possibilities are always good. The trick is to find the new possibility that enables people to fight against the major labels while giving people what they want (ie access to music). The only way to build a sustainable system against the creatures of chaos with their law suits is to make something that is so legally airtight and not open to abuse that it can grow to its logical conclusion without having to factor in $120,000,000 dollar fines (or whatever the figure was). If the model works, then there will be plenty of opportunities to geek out on distributed download systems within the umbrella of the parent company. I'm quite sure that if someone started an open source project to run the site which was secure then the distributors would welcome it with open arms (less in house costs, probably better product etc etc).

    Remember, when you write code, it is your choice as to what licence you release the code under. Same for musicians. All the artists at atrecordings must have given their permission to let their music be downloaded for free because they think that it is good for them and i totally respect that opinion. But, if an artist chooses to release their work under a 'closed' model then that is their right and your distribution system for 'open' works must be able to protect itself from license abuse.

    Personally I would like to see a situation where it makes economic sense for all concerned to go for the open model. Only time will tell if this is the case and the only way you are going to buy time is by keeping it legal long enough for the momentum to build up.

  • by fornix ( 30268 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:07PM (#795931) Homepage
    Information wants to be Free

    Superficially, it may seem anthropomorphic. But it is essetially the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    Nitrogen molecules do not want to gather in the corner of my room - they want to spread out. In the same way, information wants to be free. And it will be.

    It's a law of nature. And if a government or corporation wishes to oppose a fundamental law of nature, then they must spend a proportionate amount of energy to maintain the highly ordered state of control or secrecy.

    And the higher the temperature in thermodynamics, the more effort is required to maintain that ordered state.

    The internet has raised the temperature in the information mileu by an order of magnitude. I don't think any company or government will have the resources to maintain the highly ordered and unlikely state of control.

    Information wants to be free. Regardless of your moral position, it's a law of nature. This is what the author of the article fails to see or acknowledge.

  • Amen... I don't see many people arguing that doctors' advice should be free (well, there is that whole welfare state thing in Europe, but people do pay for it) or lawyers' counsel, or --much closer to home-- software consulting.

    Information *doesn't* want to be free. Information is knowledge, and knowledge costs money; either through the experience of trial and error or through the time in education. The fact that some (a lot of) people offer information for free (on the web or as OSS) is great, but they *volunteer* to do so. On Napster, the artists (starving or mega-millionaires) *don't*. That makes it theft. If you're cool with theft, so be it, but making it sound like a revolutionary call or something, that's hypocricy.
  • Everything created by man is natural, as man is a part of nature.
  • Of course beer wants to be free. This was one of the motivations for humans settling down and becoming agrarians instead of hunters and gatherers. There was a time when every farmer worth his hops knew how to brew beer with the stuff he grew himself. What do you think the "Whiskey Rebellion" was all about? Whiskey wants to be free, too :)

  • In terms of physics and thermodynamics, information by it's existence violates the 2nd law.

    Really!?!?! Then submit that to the Annals or Physics. Information does exist and it does not violate any physical laws.

    It's easy for me to relate entropy and the spread of information. I don't see how entropy or any laws of physics impact the "usefulness" of the information though unless you are talking about degradation though lossy transmission. How do you quantify or measure "usefulness"?

    The association of information=money cannot be valid. Money cannot be copied.

    Information is simply a pattern that is subject to interpretation. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • The problem with your interpretation of my argument is that I cannot read or control your mind, and I cannot access or distribute your experiences. I can only know and control my own experiences. I have a right to share my life experiences. It does not follow that I no longer have this right simply because someone else had this experience before I did, or because someone set into effect a sequence of events that caused my to have the experience. Once I have an experience, it is my experience too - no matter what lead to the experience or how many other people have similar experiences.

    The very large integer that makes up a representation of the sounds of a song in an AIFF or MP3 format triggers experiences in the brains of those who interpret that number with a suitable device (cd player or mp3 decoder). If I come across and enjoy this number, then it joins the fold of my experiences and I might want to share this interesting number with a friend.

    If someone invents a memory/sensory scanner, then you have right to reproduce a perfect copy of your experience/memory of your exposure to the event (including any attendant tinninitus, frequency limitation in your hearing, memory problems, etc which you have).

    This is similar to what an mp3 file does. It throws away most of the info and keeps only those sounds that have solid mental triggers. The scanner you refer to will be possible in our lifetime, IHMO.

    What is the fundamental difference between recording my experiences with my brain only and using brain augmenting devices such as tape recorders, web browsers, video cameras, etc.? I don't think there is a moral difference.

    Simply, you don't have ANY rights to my Intellectual (experiencial and expressional) Property which I do not grant to you.

    Simply put, I do not believe that you can own a pattern or idea. I think such claims of ownership are are invalid prima facie.

    ...He does not have the right to distribute direct copies of Elvis's recorded version. That is theft of experience. That is wrong. That is immoral.

    I'm sorry, but I cannot make any sense of "theft of experience" since I fail to see how you could remove someone's experiences from them. If you just mean to say "theft of intellectual property", then we're back to square 1. You believe ideas and patterns can be owned and I do not.

    Your rights stop where mine start.

    Your rights stop where my body begins. Once a pattern leaves you, through whatever means of transmission you care to name, it is no longer part of your corpus. You have no right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my experiences. My right to self determination of thought and communication outweighs any right you believe you have to strictly control all the ripples of information spreading from your direction or elsewhere.

  • You completely missed the whole point of Nick's article. If you don't like proprietary information, stop whining and go create your own non-proprietary stuff.

    Stop and think what the world would be like if a young Richard Stallman really behaved as if information really should be free. GNU would not have been created, and he would have instead created an organization devoted to liberating the existing software by urging the distribution of unauthorized multics, SV4 and other software.

    Sure, it would have been against the law, but so what? Go read your Thoreau...

    Don't whine, just do.
  • Okay, I'll accept your arguments, totally. The big question is, will you? Do you believe that you have the right to take GPLd software, combine it with incompatibly licensed code, and redistribute it? Do you advocate to RMS that he should put emacs and gcc into the public domain? Is all the code you write in the public domain?

    If any of your answers were no, then you are being inconsistant. If information should not be owned, then it should not be owned by anyone. Any software/information that has a copyright notice is owned software. Anyone that sues, complains, or even demands begging for forgiveness, over copyright violations is actively affirming their ownership of the information.
  • Your black hole comments are very nice! I didn't have this in mind, but I'm probably not as smart as you.

    In my opinion, the Second Law not only states that "Information wants to be Free" from a locally constrained system, the Second Law wants the information to be mangled and forgotten.

    You are right. There are statistics relating to the temporal-spatial distribution of information (information wanting to be free) and separate statistics relating to the degradation of the fidelity of particular physical renderings of the information (information becoming mangled). I made an analogy of a radioactive gas elsewhere. It still spreads out in the room. And it still undergoes radioactive decay. But the two processes are fairly independent.

  • I am not familiar enough with the GPL to give a proper answer to your question. My understanding is that it requires modifications of GPL code to be released under the GPL, thus promoting growth in the body of freely available code. I think this is a desireable goal, but it does limit what you can do with the code if I understand it correctly. I believe the BSD license allows more personal freedom with the code, but does less to prevent plagiarism. And I hate plagiarism almost as much as I hate restrictions on sharing. Almost. So I guess I would lean towards a BSD license. There would be no OSX (mouth waters, though still an avid Linux fan) without the BSD license.

    The question of whether I or RMS should put things into the public domain is not my concern. The issue is can we put things into the public domain. There are many details about my life that I hope to never put into the public domain. Trying to keep a personal or trade secret is fine by me. Telling me what I can and cannot share with friends is not OK. I do not think that this is an inconsistent viewpoint.

    I have written some software to do neurophysiological simulations, complete with a little parser and language made possible by C++/YACC. I will release that into the public domain. Before that I made a pre-web era non-networked hyperlinking program that stored text and pictures. I doubt anyone would want it, but I'll look for it and put it up. I have been working on some mod perl stuff for database backed object persistence and editing. I'll put that up too when I get it working. I haven't decided which license to use yet. All I care about is that it is not plagiarised.

    And I will put my songs up on when they are done.

    I would much rather have my software and songs spread around as a testiment that I once lived than to hoard them away and allow only 216 paid copies (or likely less) to exist and then eventually become lost.

  • Creating information has a cost (in time at least), but duplicating it does not. You pay the doctor, or lawyer, or consultant to create information that you need. Do you think your doctor should be able to sue you if you tell your Wife what what the doctor told you? Should a laywer be able to sue the government for keeping cort records? If you pay a programmer to write a program for you, shouldn't you be able to distribute it however you see fit?
  • Are you saying that there is a natural right to control the thoughts and words of other humans?
  • The rock may not be able to think but it has lots of stuff it will tell you if you know how to look at it. Define IP as the RIAA and the MPAA want to, and they'd restrict the ways you could look at the rock and you'd have to pay them to look at the rock.

    In many cases, looking at the rock would be far more entertaining that their putrid offerings.

  • The phrase information wants to be free. is not just an evocotive figurative statement, it is simple truth about information. It takes effort to prevent information from being freely exchanged. One can also argue that it takes effort to vigorously communicate it, however the fact remains that it is hard to keep a secret.

    This is true not just figuratively but physically. A source of light can be seen unless blocked, and sound is heard unless absorbed. If you say something, you have to whisper if you want no one to hear it (and yell if you want everyone to hear it).

    There is a strong ethical dilemna to be considered in keeping any secret (for instance a given secret might diminish the community while benefiting an individual and thus ethically good for the indivdual and bad for the community).

  • by fornix ( 30268 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:21PM (#795968) Homepage
    And now my moral argument:

    A priori, there is no moral reason why copying and sharing pure patterns, regardless of their origin, is immoral. I don't care if somebody spent a whole lifetime to create a pattern. I have considered several kinds of moral thinking - Kant's categorical imperative, Mill's utilitarianism, Chritianity, and my own intuitive ideas on what is moral. I simply fail to see how, in light of these moral theories, copying patterns could be immoral.

    I believe it is immoral to unnecessarily limit the freedom of a human being. Copyright and patent laws seek to limit our freedoms in profound ways, and increasingly so. Does the benefit the we, as a society, gain from these laws outweigh the sacrifice of our freedoms? I say that the benefits are to very few while the freedoms of everyone are sacrified. I don't think it's good social policy.

    I believe people have a basic human right to record and remember their life experiences as accurately as they see fit - using their brains or brain aumenting devices such as computers, tape recorders, or some day neural implants. I also believe they have the right to share their experiences with arbitrary fidelity. If you seek to limit these self-evident (to me, at least) rights, you had better have a damned good reason that benefits everyone more than it harms everyone. I can't think of such a reason.

    If you don't want your information to be spread, the keep it in your head. If you send sound waves, text, or code in someone's direction, then that becomes part of their life experience which they then have the right to remember and share as they see fit.

  • Information doesn't "want" anything. Specifically, information doesn't exist, except as a construct of man (for "man" you can insert "conscious sentient beings," if you wish; I won't quibble).

    Some information is obvious, some isn't. The information - or knowledge - which has been patiently and laboriously gleaned by ""conscious sentient beings" has the capacity to be shared, and nothing more. Ethically, some might argue that information _ought_ to be free, but I don't think that moral arbiters are generally a good idea. Freedom of choice, not freedom to know, is the more important value (IMHO).

    If I am a free man, then I have no obligation to share with you the fruits of my labor (whether fruits of the intellect, or otherwise). If you can persuade me, either through appealing to a shared philosophy/politics - or my own love of self - that I _should_ share (because it profits me, or I am convinced that altruism is a good and proper motive), then the decision is still mine.
  • I personally don't mind paying for music, if it music that I like. I've worked in the music industry for 8 years as a bass player and as a sound engineer so I've had the opportunity to see the process from both sides of the fence and to be perfectly honest both sides stink at the moment. The music is currently too expensive and the artists do not get the benefits they deserve.

    However, don't place all existing record companies in the same categories. Smaller independant labels quite frequently do try their best to offer the best deal to the artists that they can, but they are currently fighting a losing battle against the majors because the record industry is geared to fast massive turnover of disposable music where people buy the currently hip tune each week and then move onto the next one. And who decides what is hip? The same people that control the advertising in the high street record chains and who dictate the playlists to the national radio stations and who also have interests in the distribution channels for the music: the major record labels.

    In order to beat the RIAA at their own game it is necessary to change the rules because the economic reality of running a small record label is that it is quite often impossible to give a good deal to the artists, no matter how much you want to. Recording albums and pressing albums costs money and without the distribution and exposure, you are not going to cover your costs. A politically sound label is absolutely no good if it is a bankrupt politically sound label.

    If atrecordings []' business model works and the small and unheard of labels that they support sell more records than they would if they played the conventional game then you are in a position of power and you can afford to move some money back to the artists. Yes, a lot of people will download the mp3's and give nothing back, but if a large enough percentage of these people do purchase the music (if they like it), then everybody wins. Napster is never going to gain legal acceptance because people will always use it for distributing music that the labels (or artists) haven't given permission to be distributed, but if all the music is available directly from the labels themselves at no cost, then what is the advantage in Napster? And what can the major's do about it? Absolutely nothing. Who are they going to sue? And for what?

  • I'm sorry, but you will have to explain to me why I have no concept of natural rights when my entire post was about our natural rights to record, remember, and share our life experiences. Your chain of reasoning does not connect.

    And which mystic man were you referring to? Kant, Mill, or Jesus? And which moral theories, other than the ones I listed, have more influence on our society?

  • by KnightStalker ( 1929 ) <> on Thursday September 07, 2000 @05:46PM (#795976) Homepage
    Saying "information wants to be free" is like saying "water wants to run downhill". Sure there's a force behind it (people want information). But IMO the saying just means that stored data will tend to become free.
  • Fair use is 'sharing with immediate family and friends.'

    No, fair use is defined under 17 U.S.C. s. 107, and applicable case law. As between what you think it is, and what the Congress and Supreme Court think it is, well, let us let our colleagues decide.

    In Sony, it was held that time-shifting was fair use, and precluded liability of the vendor of the VCR. In Diamond, it was held that space-shifting of MP3's is fair use, and precluded liability of the Rio. The Supreme Court has said that all that needs to be the case for Napster to prevail is that Napster be capable of some substantial noninfringing use. If so, it is irrelevant how much infringement is going on . . .

    Ironically, in the Sony case, the Eleventh Circuit initially adopted a test very much like the one adopted here in Napster by the District Court -- the very test that the Supes rejected. While it is certainly an open question, and only time will tell, any learned student of the applicable law reading the briefs and the case law has to like Napster's chances.

    2) It is only the injunction which has been stayed. It has not been remanded.

    True. Time will tell how the Courts will treat the appeal. However, for an appellate court to stay a preliminary injunction, it must determine that the order below had serious questions both as to form and to the merits. And so the 11th Circuit found.
  • Which issue am I confusing?

    The concept of "owner" doesn't apply particularly well to ideas (even including music). How can you own an idea? Can you keep someone else from thinking thoughts that you've had?

    Trading digital music or other information may be illegal, but it's not necessarily immoral -- it depends strongly on your moral views regarding imaginary property.

    Laws don't make morality. They're a framework for structuring a society -- hopefully one rooted in some decent morals. There's certainly such things as bad laws.


  • Again you are confusing "must be shared" with "can be shared". Different things entirely.

    By saying "must be shared", I am talking from the perspective of the information producer (and not information "horder", more below). That is, from the perspective of the information producer, once I've (as a producer) created information (in the form of a song, an essay, a computer program, whatever), in your world view I face the problem that the moment I release the information to someone, unless I hunt down everyone and deal with them on a one-on-one transaction (which is impractical for something which I may want to mass produce and sell), I must eventually deal with the fact that my information will be shared freely without my control or even consent.

    That is because it is inevitable that, while not everyone may wish to share my information freely, some will--and in your world view, there is not a damned thing I can do about it.

    Thus, from a practical perspective, it's "must be shared," not "can be shared."

    And again, you're assuming that you have a right to make money on that information. Sorry, but in my book you don't have a right to make money by hoarding information.

    Again, I am talking from the perspective of the information producer, not the information agrigator (or "horder.") In fact, I do have the right to "hoard" information that I may produce--I just don't publish. For example, I may have in my posession nude pictures of my wife which we took one evening when we had too much wine and nothing else to do. Am I a "hoarder" because I choose not to publish the information (electronic images) even though those pictures have already been produced?

    So the question is, do I have the right to make money producing information? Do I have the right to sell naked pictures of my wife (say) in compensation for the embarasment she may feel about having naked pictures of her floating around? Or, do I have the right to make money selling computer programs I wrote?

    The question here is not one of "hoarding"--I can do that by not publishing. The question is do I have the right to control who gets the information I produced when I publish it, and can I do so in a way which permits me to be compensated for the time and effort it cost me to produce that information?

    Again, I say that if I do not have the right to get paid for my time in producing information that I may have otherwised wished to sell, my incentive to produce information (naked pictures, music, essays, computer programs, whatever) is singificantly less--if only because I need to do something else which does make money so I can continue to put food in my table. And that something else is time which I cannot devote to taking nude pictures, programming, or writing essays.

    And again, the fact that lies are immoral has no bearing on this topic. Whether or not IP is allowed to exist, lies will still be immoral.

    But lies are information, and it is clear that you do see limits on what sort of information may be propagated, and how they may be propogated.

    So then the question is not one of if the free flow of information should be restricted (you just admited that "lies" are immoral, and perhaps should be restricted), but how and why information flow should be restricted.

    Sucker bet anyways, as it's pretty obvious that only a damned fool would deny the stupidity of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded room. (The penultimate example of "free flow of information" which perhaps shouldn't be permitted.)

    You have a right to make money by providing a good or service that I cannot or do not have time to provide for myself. If you aren't motivated to provide a good or service that is in demand, then you lose.

    But this is completely at odds with your earlier assertion that information should be freely exchanged in a sort of "high fidelity" meme transfer. That's because as an information producer, if I am unable to control in any way when (not "if") information I produce will be shared, then I am unable to control any sort of income which may be generated by controlling how that information gets spread.

    I want to see art created by people doing it because they are compelled to by something in their soul.

    But we're not just talking about art, aren't we? We're talking about software, pictures, essays--a whole range of "information" that goes beyond some painting or little ditty about Jack and Dianne.

    Besides, why should attempting to make some money off the art you produce be a bad thing, or even degrade the quality of the art produced? Michelangelo was commissioned (read: paid) to paint the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel, yet I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who would disagree with the notion that Michelangelo's work isn't a masterpiece of high art.

    I'm sorry for you if you've bought into the corporate notion that sharing experiences in high fidelity is immoral.

    As someone who actually produces information I have no problem with your desire for "high fidelity" memory sharing, except when you "share" work produced by me in a manner which prohibits or eliminates my ability to be compensated for my hard work and effort.

    And that's what this whole argument boils down to: to what extent should my rights to make money off work I produced be taken away from me in order to better society. It's pretty damned clear that things like the DMCA is a really fscked up idea in that it stifles our Founding Father's notion of the ineffiable search for Truth by restricting the ability for people to build off each other's works.

    On the other hand, it's pretty clear that this notion of "high fidelity" meme sharing, while in and of itself not inherently bad, does not justify posting Metallica songs on Napster. That's because you're not sharing your experiences that you may had when listening to Metallica (be it revulsion or just annoyance)--you're just publishing Metallica songs without authorization.

    I've been accused of GIGO!

    That's because when you did your "philosophical search", it appears to me you started with a bunch of assumptions: that (a) "high fidelity" meme sharing is a good thing, and (b) existing IP laws interfere with "high fidelity" meme sharing (like you can't invite your friend over and play your Metallica disk for him in person--that you can only engage in this transaction by publishing, without comment, Metallica).

    Further, you assume (c) that "high fidelity" meme sharing is achieved through publishing Metallica without their permission (regardless if you need their permission to publish), or equivalently, (d) that publishing is a form of "high fidelity" meme sharing--dispite the fact that you are not sharing your experience, only the song itself.

    These (and other) apriori assumptions are the garbage in--it appears you do not prove these assertions, only make them. What do you expect, but garbage out?
  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:50PM (#795989)
    ...or, more accurately, we need it to be. The recent abuses of the patent system and the sudden expansion of IP law all point to the fact that the idea of intellectual property may look good on paper -- as does communism -- but in practice, its benefits are more than outweighed by ever larger abuses of the system. More and more information that used to be in the public domain is in danger of becoming proprietary, database copyrights being the first example that springs to mind. That's stealing from the public domain, our common public property, but you don't hear the megacorps say anything about that; it's just when some 14-year-old steals a copy of a Metallica song that they get upset.

    This problem is expanding fast, fueled in part by the technology that the more naively ethical among us thought would be used for the common good. Every significant corporation on earth is now trading in "customer profiles", information about you and me that they can use against us. That's not just spam -- that's employers being able to fire you over Usenet (or Slashdot postings), overzealous politicians using your purchases at to ferret out your private beliefs, and insurance companies discriminating against people on the basis of behavior and genetics. It's fair to say most people don't want that information getting out, much less distributed to the highest bidder, but they won't come to you for licensing fees -- they'll just take it and then get Congress to expand copyright law to protect their "right" to your most intimate details.

    Intellectual property would be a good idea, except that more than in almost any other area, virtually any IP system favors the rich and powerful over the common man. Increasingly, it institutionalizes the plundering of common knowledge by corporations while depriving the public of the right to actually own anything they pay for. Opposing IP rights isn't communism or airy-headed idealism -- it's cold, hard common sense aimed at protecting the rights of private individuals and preventing the arbitrary abuse of corporate and governmental power.


  • The claim 'Information wants to be free' is not trying to anthropomorphise information. All the little 1s and 0s are not jumping up and down with placards demanding freedom.

    What it's saying is that the quiescent state of information is free (as in speech). Information locked up has to be kept locked tight; once it gets out in the open it can never be locked back up again. Ie, having information out in the open is the only stable state for information.

    Information wants to be free in exactly the same way as a rock at a top of a hill wants to be at the bottom of a hill.

  • So property is... what? A rule/wall/convention/memething designed and implemented to preserve desirable resource flow patterns? A theory glued to a desire? An ought? One might say: "I uphold the convention of property because I think that the alternative would be to suffer deprivation at the hands of chaos". The theory of property binds resource-hunger to morality. Those guys who grabbed what I wanted aren't just competitors, they're thieves, so if I go retaliate on their asses I'm not just a dog versus other dogs, I'm a holy warrior. Justice is a stronger rationale than mere hunger. Property justifies. So what precisely is inherently negative about thievery?
  • Napster was a cute idea, not very original but they did a good job of promoting the service better than any previous file/music sharing service and making it easy enough for even a novice to use. File-sharing is here to stay and nobody will be able to stop it. Some of the files will be legal, others will be illegal. If a label that owned the rights to the music (or other content) provided a Napster-like service while itself dumping a lot of quality content into the service they'd gain a large market hold without nearly the hassles Napster had. You could still allow peer-peer file sharing that was unmonitored but you could also mark certain files that you proved yourself as known legal and of high quality.
  • Music is not a Nitrogen molecule.

    Gases don't "want" to spread out. They don't "want" to not all be in the same part of the room. That is a gross oversimplification of Thermodynamics. Individual molecules fly around at random and bang into each other, bouncing this way and that until their random distrobution becomes more or less uniform. The Nitrogen isn't "spreading" it's achieving pressure equilibrium with Oxygen.

    Information is not a particle of matter. Information is not really energy, either. Information has no tangible existence at all. To say that "information wants to be free" gives this "information" thingie more credit than it is due.

    In the simpliest sence of the word, "information" is simply data. You can use that data to choose a course of action, or you can not. You can present this data to others and allow them to choose a course of action based upon it, or you cannot. In either case, you still have this information. (Yes, information is created with no loss of matter or energy, it is therefore a completely different animal.) That does not mean that data "wants" to be "free." "Free" doesn't exist in this sense.

    Things only become interesting when the data/information in question is desired, either for personal satisfaction, entertainment, or some other reason. You will only pay someone for their "information" if you have a desire to know that information. If you don't, you won't pay them for it and won't seek it out in the first place. Still, however, the information itself doesn't "want" or "need" to be "free." It doesn't exist in the first place, so the words have no meaning.

    The concept of "information wants to be free" should really be more accurately stated "I believe information has value to everyone, and make the moral claim that it should therefore be equally available to everyone, regardless of the type of information." Is that moral claim "right?" Well, since the word "right" is so subjective, I really can't answer that question one way or the other.

    Laws of Physics do not apply to something which does not exist as a physical body. Neither do laws of Supply and Demand apply to something for which there is no inherent "supply." (A book that is sold does have substance and supply, as there is a limited quantity of dead trees in the world.) It's the same difference between hardware and software (if you can drop it on your foot, it's hardware). None of the traditional models of looking at "stuff" apply to something which is not made up of "stuff" in the first place. The distrobution method maybe, as it does potentially involve "stuff." (ISPs charge for using their wires, which are stuff, book sellers charge for the paper, which is stuff, etc.) But the information itself does not exist in any corporeal sense, and to speak of it as if it does only clouds the issue, regardless of which side you take.


  • Do you honestly believe that the amount of theft or unauthorized, uncompensated copying would decrease if the record
    companies sold "ISO9660 CDROM with professionally encoded MP3's?"

    Yes, I do. Try, for example, to download a good (that is, one which mpg123 returns no errors on) copy of the entire Mark Twang album by John Hartford. How long does it take you? How much is your time worth? How much money did it save you? Oh, but I forgot -- you can't buy what you just downloaded. It's literally priceless!
  • by Rasha ( 105435 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:34PM (#796007)
    I hear your credit card screaming, sitting captive in your wallet. "Free me post my number on the web where all the world can know me!" it says.
  • How we protect that information is really the issue, then, and not whether it ought to be protected at all.

    I don't think we've necessarily established that information ought to be "protected", if by "protected" you mean that a person should be able to control how others use the information in their lives. I don't see how society benefits any longer from thie kind of protection.

    Imagine, if you will, that information isn't protected. Would our way of life change for the worse? I honestly don't think it would. Programmers would still have plenty of work. Musicians would still create music as they always have and make their money the way they always have - live shows (only the rare musician makes significant income from royalties). Competition among producers will become healthier and consumers will reap the rewards. Instead of somebody sitting on their monopoloy power that a patent provides, they will have to get off their ass and keep up with the competitors who are working on superior and cheaper implementations.

    I need someone to try to give me a good solid argument that the abstraction we call "intellectual property" that so severely limits our freedoms ought to be allowed to continue as law.

  • by kris ( 824 )
    This is my mail to Nicholas Petreley.

    In response to 000904oppetreley.xml
    "Information does not want to be free -
    people want it to be"

    In your article you describe a "Napster system for software"
    called "Crookster" and basically deny that peer-to-peer
    networking does not have a free speech dimension.

    Unfortunately, it has, and a very fundamental one. For
    background reading, I recommend starting at noon.html,
    specifically 3.8 "Blacknet"
    ( cknet.html).

    Basically, what we are experiencing now is the beginning
    of mediator free communication first time in history of
    mankind. If you look at the history of communication, in
    the past it usually involved a number of people helping
    the sender and the recipient to talk to each other and
    exchange information as well as value. Think for example
    publishing a book or a record. In the past you needed
    the author, the editor, the lectorate, the printer,
    a number of people to ship the work, a number of people
    to sell it and make individual contracts manually, a
    number of people to shuffle the money and prepare the
    bills, and, if the recipient could not read, someone
    reading it to him or her.

    Each improvement in technology has not only put a number
    of people out of work, the scribes at the monasteries busily
    copying books being only the first. It has also shortened
    the length of the pipeline between the sender and the
    recipient and it has lowered the transaction cost of

    With the internet this cost is near zero for a single individual
    communication, and the length of the pipeline is at two
    (sender and receiver) and it is still shrinking. The number
    of people working in the communication industries is
    increasing, but these people are no longer involved in
    YOUR communication, publishing YOUR work, but they are busy
    maintaining a communication network open for ANY communication,
    and your specific communication is only a few packets in that
    sea of information. This is a shift from personal craftsmanship
    to industrial infrastructure maintenance: People produce
    goods or services no longer for a specific individual or
    individual project, but the are maintaining a general
    infrastructure used by more or less anonymous clients. You
    do not know the names of the people who fabricated your car,
    or your hot dog, and you do not know the names of the people
    working together in order to have this email reach your desk.
    There is no longer an editor and a publisher to thank in the

    This leads to a number of paradigm shifts in communication,
    because a lot of concepts like protection of minors, copyright,
    taxes and others depended on the presence of mediators involved
    in any communication. For example, when you enter a video rental
    in germany, there is a section that is blocked for minors, and
    protection of minors relies on the shop owner to act as a mediator
    and block access to certain stuff. For example, when you try to
    import certain prohibited Nazi propaganda into Germany, customs
    as a mediator will take care of that and conficate the stuff at
    the border.

    With the advent of the Internet, there is no longer any mediator
    between the sender and the recipient AND the Internet provides
    the technology to make sure of that. Cryptographically hard
    technology, that is.

    For example, using the SSL protocol, sender and receiver can
    establish an encrypted communication channel between each other,
    which cannot be intercepted. There is no way for any outside
    party to tell what S and R are talking about and what kind of
    information they exchange. SSL is designed to make this impossible.

    Protection of minors currently relies on being able to tell what
    is going on between S and R, though. Filters are listening in,
    and change communication if they deem it unsuitable for R. This is
    called a man-in-the-middle attack, and SSL certificates are specifically
    designed to protect against these. You do not want an attacker to
    listen in into your ecommerce transactions and change the account
    number and amount in a banking transaction - SSL protects you. You
    do want your filter to listen in into your childs communication
    and change the content of the pages you think it should not see.
    SSL protects against that, too. The MPAA and the RIAA want filters
    to listen in into your communication and change the content of the
    MP3s you did not buy. SSL protects against that, too.

    Cryptographically enhanced communication protocols do even more,
    though, and this is what Blacknet is really about. Using MIX technlogy
    as applied to the remailer network or as discussed in Onion routing,
    a cloud of encrypted communication is created in a peer to peer network.
    Nodes inject encrypted packets of a standardized size into the network
    and packets bounce through arbitrary number of random nodes, with
    each node decrypting the packet and revealing an enclosed encrypted
    packet with the next hop destination in it. This creates a cloud
    of untraceable, anonymous communication, so that an outside watcher
    cannot even identify (S, R) pairs. You could not even tell who
    talked to who in such a network.

    Such networks already exist in research implementations, and some
    companies such as Zer0 Knowledge in Canada are testing commercial
    variants of it. The net result is total privacy in communication:
    Outside watchers cannot tell who talked to whom, and they cannot
    tell what is being talked about. Note that this does not apply
    to S and R: Inside their eastablished anonymous communication
    channel they may or may not exchange certificates and thus can
    establish a cryptographically hard and undenyable, hard to fake
    proof of identity.

    Both of this is already built, and available on a large scale (SSL)
    or will be available on a large scale (ZKS Freenet).

    For complete mediator free communication there is only one piece
    missing in the puzzle, and that is anonymous cash payment, digital
    coins. David Chaum invented that technology in the seventies, and
    tried to market his product under the name Digicash. I don't know
    about the current status of it, but I know what will happen once
    this becomes available on a large scale, too:

    People can search and find each other anonymously, thorugh services
    just like Napster. In Napster I am not really interested into your
    identity, I just want some goods. I can then establish a MIXed anyonymous
    connection to you and exchange some files and a bit of digital cash.
    From the outside, no party will be able to even observe that such
    an exchange has taken place, or that you and I even know each other.
    Nonetheless, in the end I will have one more file on my disk, and
    you will have a bit more money in the wallet.

    That is the concept of Blacknet.

    It challenges fundamentally the rules our society is build upon, down
    the the financing of our states. The crux with Blacknet ist: To protect
    against blacknet, you must abandon the concept of mediator free
    communication. To each and all communication there always must be
    a big brother listening in and decide whether this is lawful and
    licensed exchange of IP and money, deduce the tax from the money,
    and grant permission to communicate. No more free and secret sped.
    This too is no longer the world we are currently living in.

    So one way or the other, Blacknet will destroy or society.

    And that is the free speech dimension of things like Napster.


    Permission granted to do with the mail as you see fit.

    © Copyright 2000 Kristian Köhntopp
  • by quux26 ( 27287 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @09:03PM (#796017) Homepage
    In the Slashdot blurb, captain Pooh writes:
    "Nicholas Petreley expresses his opinion about how "Information Doesn't Want To Be Free--People Want It To Be". " Pretty provocative piece - although his reasoning is sound."

    I think we can come to this conclusion ourself, if need be, thanks.

    Petrely writes:

    "The fact is our current system entitles us to some free information, and it requires us to purchase or license other information. You may not like the fact that some information must be licensed, but that's how it is. Those who want information to be free as a matter of principle should create some information and make it free. But what they shouldn't do is license or buy existing information that is not free and then cut it loose without permission. That's just plain wrong,..."

    There are two types of objects - tangible and intangible. Tangible objects (food, your car, a minidisc player) can only have one owner at any given moment. Intangible objects (music, inventions, words) can have any number of owners. Physical objects have a single owner out of nessesity - it cannot exist in two places at the same time. But what about an idea? Clearly I can make a copy of your poem without depriving you of that poem.

    So what is the point of giving exclusive ownership of an idea when it can be shared by all without depriving the creator of that idea? It is power, clearly enough. I have, you don't, let's negotiate. It is easy to use Napster as a sort of strawman to attack, but it's another issue entirely when you look at intellectual property in the light of the AIDS epedemic where millions have died and continue to die because pharmecuticals own the right to the knowledge. "Give us a half billion for the rights to create our vaccine []. OH, you don't have that kind of cash? Oh, your entire country's GDP isn't even half that? Sorry." How about irrigation technologies? I could go on but I think my point is made.

    I'll grant that there needs to be an impetus for the company to create the vaccine in the first place, but once it's created that knowledge should be in the public domain.

    "...and it demonstrates that what they are interested in is not free speech at all but getting stuff without paying for it."

    This is akin to saying electronic hobbyists are only interested in descrambling their cable feed. Can it be a side result? Yes. Is it the point? No.

    Are you not aware of what a 21st century, western idea ownership of knowledge is? Is it beyond your ability to comprehend - not even nessesarily to understand but to just acknowledge - that ownship of an idea is repugnent [], almost humorous?

    As an aside, I enjoy the fact that I can get a song and erase it if I don't like it. No blood no foul. I appreciate the fact that I haven't heard a single radio ad in 2 years. I can't name a single radio station and I live in metro Boston. I haven't seen a single TV ad that I haven't gone out of my way to see [].

    Free speech, Nick, isn't only about the right to speak myself but the right of others to speak so I might hear them. You've got this idea that free speech means "me me me" but what it really does (and should) stand for is "them them them". And what does a company that control information fear more than anything? Loss of market share, loss of mindshare, loss of control.

    And what is intellectual property about if not control?

    My .02

  • Stallman (and others who think similarly) do not base their philosophy on anything so abstract as "information wants to be free". RMS's starting point is that sharing is good, that people working together is good, and that he wants to live in a society based on those things. Dependence on proprietary software (and copyright monopolies) is a hindrance to this, therefore free software needs to be created to provide an alternative.

    At least, that's the way I understand him.


  • What you are neglecting here is that you have a right to your body and everything you can protect. If you need to make a deal with the people -- that you'll eventually make your content available for free in return for them not copying your content -- then you have to live up to your end. Tell me, please, what copyrights have expired in the last fifty years?

    Copyright's dead, but not because of anything we did.
  • If you are offering the music for free download, then why do you need to offer file sharing? All the music is available directly from the source so there is no need to let users upload files. If you are going to maintain quality control and free yourself from any legal hassles then you need to just supply the music that you know is legal and that you know has been encoded cleanly and so forth. The target then is to make it so that you have a wide enough range of music that you hold the attention of the public. How much music do you download a week? From a quick scan, they appear to have CDs from around over 70 labels with around 4 or 5 hundred artists. With this amount of music available (and it appears to be growing all the time), the sharing argument is relatively irrelevant.
  • Dark Side of the Moon? In MP3 format? URL??
  • If you're in Stalinist Russia, and you don't like bread lines, you should boycott bread and starve to death -- that'd show them. Yea, right.

    There is no remote connection between doing what is necessary to prevent one's own starvation and worshipping at the altar of consumer culture. As far as I know, no one has ever died from lack of television.

    In other words, while your anarchist sentiment might be sincere, your analogy sucked.

    I hate corporations. I hate them because they constantly steal from me, lie to me, buy politicians that are supposed to represent me, buy laws that line their pockets and punish me, and just all around make the world a shittier place to live.

    They steal from you? Give me a dozen examples. It should be simple for you to do, as corporations are "constantly" stealing from you. They lie to you? Bullshit. Corporations exist to make money. That is the truth, and all of the advertising jingles are just tools to help them achieve that end. If you don't like their products, or are repulsed by their advertisements, HURT them. Stop buying their products, and they will become the company that you want them to be, because that is the only way for them to continue making money. And, again, as the adjective "constantly" applies to all of the other accusations in your diatribe, providing a few dozen examples of each offense ought to be easy.
  • The problem here is that copyrights are NOT property. Property as defined in the traditional capitalist economic theory is forever

    Wrong. All forms of capitalist theory except the most simplictic and caricatured have accepted the concept of property rights for limited times in numerous forms.

    And it exists for one reason...It exists because one object cannot be owned by two persons at the same time. They cannot use it both.

    Wrong. Labor creates property in the theories of Locke, Smith, and the Chicago and Austrian schools. It exists because you have a right to the products of your labor.

    Please learn capitalist theory before you lecture about it.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • Yours is the most well reasoned post I've seen on this issue in a long time. I'm quite impressed.

    I use Napster, and here's how I rationalize it...

    I've been made to feel like a criminal every time I walk into a CD store, even though before Napster, I hadn't done any of the things the people who make me feel that way considered wrong. My technological choices (no audio DAT players, why?) have been artificiaclly restricted. The people who's work I appreciate have been stomped on and badly treated. The people who want me to pay are busily trying to take away even more of my technological choices, and ever restricting whole classes of technology from ever being researched. Stupid media that I don't want are shoved down my throat with all the art of a vetrinarian trying to make a horse swallow a pill.

    Needless to say, I'm pretty angry. Perhaps that's a bit of an understatement. Anything I can do to poke these people in the eye, and remove them from my life, I'll do.

    If the artists had PayPal accounts that were completely ungarnished by the music _industry_, I would gladly send some money their way.

    If I'm stomping on some current artists rights, tough patooties. They chose to align themselves with a band of thugs in the hopes of financial reward. Let them suffer. When they break ranks with them, I'll be happy to help.

  • In this message [], adamsc writes:

    "Why do so many people have trouble accepting the fact that life is not fair? Even if you really, really, really want something, you still have no right to property belonging to someone else."

    My initial premise is that you don't have right to own knowledge in the first place - an idea that you're not addressing, just hurdling. But you bring up some interesting points.

    "This sort of "logic" comes up so often in public health debates and all it really reflects is that the person voicing it lacks critical thinking skills. Taking the creation of someone else is a good way to ensure that they either prevent you from doing that ever again or stop making things."

    By this logic nothing was ever created before intellectual property laws.

    "Consider - it would be infinitely more productive if everyone who complains about those evil pharmaceutical companies would instead conduct or fund research into public-domain equivalents. Why don't they do that instead? Well, it's expensive and hard to do; the people who can do the hard work and their backers might decide that after all that effort they'd like to have something show for it."

    Agree, and I did mention that certain endeavors need to be given a profit motive.

    "The only way communism (which this is a form of) works is if everyone involved is willing to put the welfare of the group ahead of their own and has a sufficiently broad definition of "group"."

    Here is where you leap the track a bit. Communism [] is for the distribution of all material. I believe I have the right to my bicycle exclusively, communism does not. My rant against intellectual property is that it corrals knowledge which - IMHO - is evil. Again, you can have a copy of my poem without depriving me of my copy. This is a Good Thing.

    "Linus didn't waste time whining that (Microsoft|Sun|IBM|DEC|etc) didn't give away their source code"

    No, but Stallman did. And it's worth noting that Stallman and GNU is something that quite literally made Linux possible. This is obviously not a new or uncontrovertial subject and not something that is said with an eye toward a flamewar (others; read that twice if you need to).

    "Does anyone think things would have been the same if someone had stolen the source?"

    Probably worse, or at least that's what the folks at Microsoft think based upon their leaked Halloween docs [].

    • "Decent food and sanitation would help at least one order of magnitude more people than an AIDS treatment."


    • "Widespread use of condoms would not only take care of AIDS but also reduce the birth rate enough that children aren't doomed to poverty and disease because there's too little money providing for too many people."

      I agree with the former, everything after "because" is debatable.

    • "There's a perfect cure for AIDS which is completely free: don't have sex with anyone you don't trust with your life. Oops, that would be the smart thing to do and requires personal responsibility, too. Never mind."


    • "The most important change, however, would be political. There have been countless stories about grain shipments rotting on the docks while the political leaders decide whose tribe gets the most. Money which could have been spent improving an entire country is instead lining the coffers of the resident dictator and his friends. Supplies are often sold on the black market, again to benefit a well-connected few."

      I see a conflict here between #2 and #4. You say there isn't enough to go around but then admit there is a political and/or greed factor that prevents existing resources from being distributed equitably. I agree with this and would suggest that it precedes #2.

    "Stealing intellectual property won't change any of the real problems..."

    Again, unless you believe that IP is morally reprehensible. If you want to debate the ethics and merits of IP, that's great. What I object to is Nicholas taking Napster, interpreting the users actions in a narrow way then foisting his notions on the entire "Free Speech" crowd. Your reply to my post is far more well thought out than his essay.

    My .02

  • From the Viz Profanisaurus: Bollocks n: 1.Testicles 2. Nonsense.

    I've got a ten year bond in my account. It's my property. After ten years, it doesn't exist anymore. Case closed.

  • by fornix ( 30268 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @09:13PM (#796039) Homepage
    If I am a free man, then I have no obligation to share with you the fruits of my labor (whether fruits of the intellect, or otherwise).

    You are absolutely right. If you don't want to share it, then don't share it. If you do share it with someone else, then they, as free men, might wish to share it with others without requiring any additional effort whatsoever from you.

    If you discover or synthesize a pattern, then do you own this pattern? Do you believe that some patterns can be owned and others not owned. Could Newton own his laws of physics and dictate the terms of how others use them? His laws, which are his interpretation of the universe, are patterns which he synthesized or discovered (depending on your viewpoint) though hard work. Shouldn't he then be allowed to own and control them and be compensated for every use of them? If you say no, then you then have to justify to me how other patterns can be owned. What, then, is the moral test to determine which patterns can be owned and which cannot? And if a pattern can be owned, then how can we ever objectively prove whose pattern it really is? First to the patent office? I don't buy that.

  • Locke specfically points out that labour only creates property if "as much and as good" is left for others, which would definitely rule out artificially created monopolies.

    Please learn what you're talking about yourself before you patronise others.

  • by sparrowjk ( 214769 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @09:15PM (#796041)

    The central problem here, which this article makes perfectly clear, is that someone who owns and creates something has every right to sell it under any terms they want. If those terms suck, no one will buy it.

    Exactly. They will download it on MP3.

    Just because people want something does not mean they deserve to have it- especially not on terms THEY choose.

    Paying money doesn't mean I "deserve" to hear a song. I am entitled to use my ears whether the record execs want me to or not. If someone is playing a CD on their speakers and I walk by, I suppose you could say I don't "deserve" to be able to hear it, but it seems rather silly. Similarly, if I download a song and play it on my computer, you could say I don't "deserve" to be able to hear it. But it misses the point, really.

    The point is that artists and record companies need to be reimbursed or else they won't be able to continue producing music. We shouldn't reimburse them simply because to do otherwise would be "wrong." We should reimburse them because we appreciate their efforts, we enjoy their songs, and we want them to produce more. If we do not enjoy the songs, if we wish they'd stop putting out such crap, then to reimburse them would be counter-productive. (Some might even say harmful.)

    But you don't have the right to change the terms of their sale just because you don't like it, or because you think they're behind the times.

    The way you're wording this is a bit odd. I suppose you could think of MP3 trading as "changing the terms of sale" but it only serves to obscure the issue. You could say "it is illegal to distribute copies of their copyrighted work" and I would say, "you know your Title XVII." When you say "you don't have the right" do you mean that we don't have the legal right, moral right, or what? Your own personal idea of what "rights" we have?

    Speaking for myself, I believe we have the right (and sometimes obligation) to reimburse those who provide a valuable commodity, such as music or software; and we have the right to withhold reimbursement from those we choose. You may have your own idea, and the law certainly provides a different viewpoint.

  • I've had enough of paying $16.95 for a CD which has only one track that I like on it -- I'd much rather download that track directly and pay the artists $0.50

    This is not a moral view; what you want has no moral relevance when we're talking about someone else's rights.

    rather than on the basis of bland, vulgar, corporate propaganda.

    Oh fuck off. There is no huge corporate conspiracy to keep whatever shit home-town folk band you like off the airwaves. The reason that the music you like is not popular is that it is shit. The record companies have no secret mind control formula which is not accessible to anyone else; what they do have is a skill in producing a product (the "marketing" is part of the product; people like to have "stars" rather than bearded recorder playing granolas). Your music is shit. Deal with it.

  • at last, intent is hard to prove and even harder to define.

    I beg you please, do not ever go into a courtroom under this dangerous delusion. A court will not try to read your mind, fail and then shrug its shoulders and say "well, we can't prove intent". The standard of proof is "reasonable doubt", and there is no reasonable doubt that someone posting copyrighted music on the Web intends to aid and abet copyright violation. A reasonable person would not carry out the action unless they had this intent, and you are assumed to be reasonable unless there is powerful reason to suppose you are not.

  • The author suggests that the Napster case is not about free speech, but rather "free stuff." Perhaps for many users of Napster -- the ones taking proprietary content without consent -- this may be the case, but that is not the point of the Napster lawsuit.

    Napster is about two things -- whether or not a person may enter into the business of providing a communication and file-sharing forum without undertaking a duty to enforce the universe of third-party proprietary rights. This question was settled decades ago in the Sony Betamax case, but the IP world (ironically including Sony) now wants a second bite at the apple. Napster distributes software that is Napster's own intellectual property, and does not itself distribute any third-party content. How far are we to permit the reach of Copyright to impinge upon non-infringers? How is any sensible person ever going to get into the information distribution business should the Napster ruling stand?

    The question is not whether underlying use of Napster by particular persons is unlawful, it is about whether underlying use by particular persons makes Napster itself unlawful. Be careful, with that we make hall monitors -- and with that private free speech censors -- out of every Internet ISP -- which is why the ISP's have filed an amicus brief on behalf of Napster.
  • Anything good in pop-culture exists because it was created by talented people -- talented people that get ripped off by those same corporations. And I know I'm not alon.

    So the scriptwriter for The Matrix didn't get a cent for his contribution? I bet Matt Groening is close to flat broke, too. And all those bands with million selling CDs, they shouldn't quit their day jobs.
  • I hate to get nitpicky here, but the statement I made, "No other property can be given away without loss by the owner," refers only to other (non-information) property. I did not explicitly say that information could always be given away without any cost to the owner. Rather, I said that if you give away information, you always still have it, which is a different thing. You're reading something in to my argument that I didn't actually say or intend to say.

    That being said, it's worth clarifying the difference between information that is valuable only for reselling to others (i.e., music, movies, art, etc.), and information which has intrinsic value to the creator (i.e. credit card numbers, bomb-building secrets, business plans, etc.) The former is generally protected by IP laws, while the latter is usually just kept really, really secret. I was talking about the former type of information. I should have clarified that in my argument.
  • Also, RMS's use of the phrase "information wants to be free", DOES have a moral foundation. Not one that you have to agree with, but a soundly thought out one none-the-less.

    His reasoning is that since Information can be free, (and wants to, in the water sense), it is immoral for it not to be free. Reason being that it deprives millions of people of the use of it which is a larger moral consideration than the one person who may or may not be deprived of some royalties.

    It's the same thinking that causes intellectual property to expire - that the good of society is an overriding moral principle.

    So "information wants to be free", is a literary device - sure, but underlying it is an important point: that information can be free, that people like it to be free, and there is a perfectly defensible moral stance that it should be free. You might disagree in the end, but don't say it's not a valid point of view.
  • The major problem with your analogy is that it wrongly assumes that information has anything to do with nature. It doesn't. Information is an intellectual creation of mankind.

    Unfortunately you are totally wrong.
    To have some fun, I am quoting Schneir, Applied Cryptography, Second edition, p. 157.

    "One of the consequences of the second law of thermodynamics is that a certain amount of energy is necessary to represent information. To record a single bit by changing the state of a system requires an amount of energy no less that kT, where T is the absolute temperature of the system and k is the boltzman constant"

  • Can't beat money as a motivation, mate...

    What about sex? Many people gladly trade money for sex =^). Or a threat to your health / life? That's probably a superior motivation.

    Money is not the supreme motivator. A cow orker of mine just gave up a much higher paying job so he could have more time with his daughter. I would do the same for my son. Unfortunately there are too many people who live for money and that's just sad, not an argument for draconian laws.

    "Free your mind and your ass will follow"

  • by radja ( 58949 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @04:51AM (#796062) Homepage
    >The Africans are free to develop their own chemical compounds, and to do with them as they please.

    and if they dont want to pay, or cant pay it is their choice, they have themselves chosen to die. Because our revenue-stream is more important than human lives.

    yup.. makes perfect sense...

  • A priori, there is no moral reason why copying and sharing pure patterns, regardless of their origin, is immoral. I don't care if somebody spent a whole lifetime to create a pattern.

    Interesting choice of words... I'm assuming then, that we could take the argument one logical step further and say that since you yourself are essentially a pattern of DNA and moluecular mass you would have no problem with stepping into a machine and allowing someone to make a copy of you. How does that fit with your morality?

  • no moral reason why copying and sharing pure patterns, regardless of their origin, is immoral

    Well, here's how I see it. YMMV.

    • There is a cost associated with producing or creating information or knowledge. This may be measured in any unit you please, for example, time of the researcher, cash value of the reference materials and processing equipment, cost of the coffee drunk during the process, whatever.
    • There is a cost associated with producing food from farming. This may be measured in the farmer's time, the cost of his equipment and supplies, energy consumed, etc.
    Now, here is the relationship:
    • Information can be traded for money.
    • Food can be traded for money.
    • Therefore, Information, indirectly, can be traded for Food.
    Now, the problem is that once a piece of information has been produced, it can be duplicated indefinitely. However, once a piece of food has been eaten it cannot then be given away. Which leads to the conclusion:
    • You cannot have an "information must be free" based society until you have unlimited and freely available tangibles such as houses, cars, loaves of bread, etc.
    Of course, producing information is often fun (observe the popularity of grad school). Farming, on the other hand, or digging foundations, or working on an auto assembly line are not generally pleasurable, and people do them because they need the money to live.

    Therefore, while you are free to develop your own software or record your own music and distribute them at no cost to anyone who wants them, how exactly do you expect to pay your gas bill, or buy groceries based on this activity?

    Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that Free Software is an abberation caused by economic surplus, and cannot be a viable system in the long term.


  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Thursday September 07, 2000 @05:50PM (#796075) Homepage
    You claim, in your September 4 Infoworld column, that Napster is all
    about greed. The jury is still out on that. And it will stay out
    until you can go buy the MP3 for an artist you hear on the radio, or
    even an artist you heard when you were a teen (e.g. 10CC, or Seals and
    Crofts, or Styx). Whenever you interfere with a market -- whenever
    you tell people that they can't buy something -- you get a black

    Napster functions exactly like a black market, except that the price
    is solely your time spent finding a good copy of what you want. Black
    markets aren't about greed -- they're about buying what you want to
    buy, not necessarily what's for sale. The RIAA wants to sell music
    one way, and consumers want to buy it another way. They happen to be
    paying a low price to get it that way, but there's no reason that has
    to last.

    If the RIAA *really* wants to find out if Napster is about greed or a
    new business model, it'll go into competition with Napster. Surely
    the RIAA knows how to set up a web server big enough to sell the same
    content available via Napster. And they have very little to lose by
    doing so, since most people are aware of the existance of Napster, and
    frankly, Napster works, at least if you want a popular piece of music.

    Only then will we be able to say whether Napster is about stealing or
    sharing. One thing this economist can tell you for certain: the RIAA
    will be as successful at suppressing music file copying as the US
    government has been at suppressing some drugs. And the US government
    has been throwing many people in jail for decades -- something the
    RIAA has only fantasized about doing.

  • This isn't about artist's rights anymore. This is a war the music industry started against its consumers long ago. The chickens have come home to roost. When the industry is utterly razed to the ground, we can start thinking about what to do instead to ensure artists rights.

    I think that copyright is largely dead and gone. It can't be enforced without imposing a police state. The media industries have abused its protections so badly that nobody takes it seriously anymore. They are the ones who broke the social contract first.

    Copyright and patent law are not about any 'natural' right. They're about trying to make sure tht people who create things can continue to spend time doing it. That's all they're for. Not some silly notion that something that can be given away without costing the giver anything has any intrinsic value.

    Stop trying to keep a stupid and pathetically inadequate system alive, and think of something better. Your insistence on keeping something that no longer works around smacks of dogma, not reason.

  • Why do so many people have trouble accepting the fact that life is not fair? Even if you really, really, really want something, you still have no right to property belonging to someone else.

    Sickening, truly sickening. IP rights only exist because they are enforced. Nothing prevents us from not enforcing them when they're harmful.

    Stealing intellectual property won't change any of the real problems...

    Stealing? Stealing what from who?

  • You don't need to but you are assuming the web is the best possible method for distributing files. While it is good for many things I do not think it is a very reliable source for distributing binaries. A file-sharing approach allows you to mirror on a scale impossible to acheive with the web. The trick is to make digitally signed music that can be verified by the end-user as the original before downloading the music. Also I'm a geek and therefore it is in my nature to explore new possibilities. :)
  • No other property can be given away without loss by the owner.

    As well reasoned as your post is, this one sentence completely destroys your argument.

    Information is the most powerful piece of property someone can own, share, give away, sell, or keep a hold of. Entire courses in human history were charted by men and women maintaining a grasp on information (Manhattan Project comes to mind). Furthermore, entire other courses were charted by the dissemination of information (the Bible comes to mind). The point is, information being held on to can be /very/ beneficial for the owner, both in terms of monetary value and in terms of control. At the same time, giving away information can be /very/ detrimental to the owner.

    People talk about how the next war will be the Information War. Media groups, from Slashdot to NBC base their entire livelihoods on information gathering and choice dissemination. Whether information gets given out or protected is the most crucial decision anyone can make.

    And if you need an example that may hit closer to home, how come you haven't given me your credit card information? We get up in arms because people are giving away our information, and little do they realize that they already gave it away, much to their harm.

    Do not underestimate how much of an effect giving away information can have. Not all information is harmless.
  • Every time I see people mindlessly parrot that trite saying, I cringe. It's a meme that's gotten distributed far enough and used as a battlecry for so many causes, both crackpot and legitimate, that people have lost track of what it was originally supposed to mean. "Information wants to be free" is only half of the original meme!

    As recounted in this website [], the phrase "information wants to be free" has a little-known counterpart: "information wants to be expensive." It was first uttered back in 1984 (now there's an ironic year for information wanting to be free!) by Stewart Brand:

    "In fall 1984, at the first Hackers' Conference, I said in one discussion session: "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other." That was printed in a report/transcript from the conference in the May 1985 *Whole Earth Review*, p. 49.
    (emphases mine)

    So, people, next time you use the phrase, please take a moment to reflect on what it really means?

  • That was always my favorite analogy. Both freeing information and rotting meat are events that are easy to instigate, hard to prevent, and harder to undo. But just because something seems like a "force of nature" in this fashion doesn't make it a good thing.
  • The right to "property" and the right to "life" have to be enforced to mean anything. You seem to imply that the former is more important than the latter. Billions of people on this planet might probably want to differ.
  • Yes, I am sure that some people would pay for their MP3s if they could. No doubt you are among this group. However, that still doesn't make it ethical to use Napster to copy this music illegally. The RIAA has the right to package and sell it's intellectual property any way that it sees fit. You can't go into KMart, break out a package of Wrigley's spearmint and then try to pay for just one piece. KMart isn't interested in selling you just one piece. The RIAA, likewise, isn't interested in selling you just one song (yet).

    Like I said, if you really want to screw the RIAA the best thing to do is search through the piles of freely redistributable music and find some that you like. There are lots of bands that are offering exactly what you purport to want (the sale of singles at a decent price), they simply haven't signed contracts with the RIAA.

  • I think we have again a case of the "beer vs speech" ambiguity with the word "free". Petreley apparently interprets the phrase with the "beer" sense of the word.

    But I have never thought that "Information wants to be free" says anything about price. I think that the meaning is that since one can duplicate and distribute information utterly effortlessly nowadays, it only takes a single small leak for a piece of information to spread all over the world, if there is interest in it.

    Of course, since this makes information common, it consequently often makes it pretty cheap. But that is just a side effect.

    Information doesn't want to be costless, information wants to be unrestrained.

  • Which rights, exactly? The intellectual property rights in question aren't some sort of natural or god-given right -- they were created by our government as a way of benefitting society. If all they're benefitting is some rich record company execs, it's time to re-examine why exactly we're giving these rights -- and perhaps to change the way they're structured.


  • why -should- you pay for something (or why should lots of people pay for something) when the producer only produces it once?

    Because the producer did produce it once, and they need to be compensated. Put it this way -- if you don't pay for it, who will ? Ultimately, someone has to fork out to get the software written, and the current licensing model is a reasonably fair distributed payment system. if a specific item required nothing to create, isn't its inherent value zero?

    A program takes quite a lot of effort to create. Therefore it's inherent value is most certainly a lot greater than zero, which explains why the market is prepared to send their checks to the software companies for making their software available.

  • The Nitrogen isn't "spreading" it's achieving pressure equilibrium with Oxygen.

    Sorry, but the presence or absence of oxygen has nothing to do with nitrogen's entropic tendencies. The "spread out" condition is highly entropic, and therefore has a much higher probability of existing than the "all in the corner" condition. That's how it goes in statistical mechanics. It's not an oversimplification. The laws of thermodynamics are actually quite simple.

    Information is not a particle of matter. Information is not really energy, either. Information has no tangible existence at all. To say that "information wants to be free" gives this "information" thingie more credit than it is due.

    If you like that angle, then you could also say that matter and energy have no tangible existence either. They are merely abstractions in our mind based on the information we glean through our senses from experiments or experience.

    Yes, information is created with no loss of matter or energy, it is therefore a completely different animal.

    This is not true.

    It doesn't exist in the first place, so the words have no meaning.

    Well, if it doesn't exist, then I'm definitely not going to pay for it!

    Laws of Physics do not apply to something which does not exist as a physical body.

    But the laws of phyics apply to everything in the universe, including information. Information cannot exist independent of some representation in matter and energy.

  • by Stu Charlton ( 1311 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @02:21AM (#796117) Homepage
    Nick Petreley really hit the nail on the head here. PEOPLE want information to be free, and seem to have a tremendous lack of respect (or perhaps just a tremendous amount of ignorance) about our current economic system, so they just go about circumventing it without allowing the market to operate. The market *needs* at least a minimal notion of intellectual property in order to function.

    Very often I see a lot of arguments that "information has no scarcity", and I reel back in horror at that inaccuracy. Raw, unfiltered data has no scarcity. It's just bits. Information, however, is a specific configuration of bits that adds value. The fact that there is a lack of "valuable information" (i.e. good music, good software, good books) implies that there is a form of scarcity involved -- a scarcity of skill and talent to create valuable information.

    Information creation is a scarce service.

    So this implies that we probably should have mechanisms to require payment for information if the market finds it valuable. What's at question is whether we should have to pay for it as a product, like we currently do, which is clearly inefficient from an economic perspective as it leads to excessive profits, or in english, "rich rock star" syndrome.

    So the question really shouldn't be about how to destroy intellectual property. It should be about how to come up with new business models that are much more efficient than the "shrink wrap" business model... and this actually seems to be what the industry is doing. Subscription-based software, ASP's, etc. are all signs of the times.

  • Just another trick to generate ad revenue. It also badly (possibly willfully) misconceived the meaning of "information wants to be free". Obviously it attributes intentionality to something that doesn't have it, but so do well accepted aphorisms about "water seeking its own level", etc. These are statements about phenomena that say how they behave. Its certainly not a moral statement. Although, for one reason or another, many people also believe it to be a good thing, the statement itself is not "information should be free", or "I want information to be free", but "information behaves as if it were free".

    It wasn't originally a statement about *price*, but one about *control*. As making copies of information and transmitting it (which are the same thing, in the final analysis) becomes easier and quicker, it becomes harder and harder to control access to information. This was initially thought to be a good thing because it could be used to circumvent *censorship*, not copyright.

    Of course, the reasons for loss of control are economic: the cost of copying has fallen to almost zero, and thus the primary barrier which copyright holders and publishers used to control copying is fast disappearing.

    And, of course, since censorship and copyright are both about controlling information, an increase in its "leakiness" will undermine both. This whole area is interesting and deserved a much better article than this weak troll full of stupid ranting about things being "just the way it is".
  • This is a bit off topic, but still fits. In the "Pirates of the Silicon Valley" there is question made about Apple: "When did this business become a religion?" This statement not only applies to Apple, but the Open Source movement as well. People come in with their moral judgements on the population just like most religions do, and everyone is trying to find out who is right. There are people on all sides that think they are right, but there is only one truth. The truth as you see it.

    Is Open Source for the masses? You might say yes, but then I might say no. We both have our reasons for supporting either cause. Just because something isn't physically tangible doesn't mean that I can't say it's mine. And if I say it's mine, then I should be able to choose who I let play with it.

    If I make a painting or a sculpture, I might let my friends look at it, but maybe not my younger cousin with the greesy fingers. I may not also want a person who I might believe will steal it and call it their own -- or worse yet, copy it and call it mine (it will never look the same).

    Value judgements on what's right and what's wrong are best left for the masses to deside, we were given the ability to choose since we came upon this earth.

    Just my few cents...or maybe more.

    ~KONala >^..^

  • i assert that the licensing model is NOT appropriate, i suppose i should have been more clear on that in my original post. it makes no sense in general that if something, say an album that takes a few days for a recording group to create (and really, they can bust em out that fast), has work put into it one time, it seems logical that the producers/artists should receive appropriate payment one time.

    That's bogus because it is hardly ever that someone knows an "appropriate payment" at the moment the work is created. Britney Spears albums make millions of bucks when really the "appropriate payment" for these crimes against art would be a horsewhipping, whereas the author of Moby Dick doesn't get diddly because he's dead by the time anyone noticed his work is worth anything.

    I suppose you could have some sort of Communist model of intellectual property where a group of apparatchiks decide what is important art and what is an appropriate payment, but the current system, as stupid as it is, is probably preferable to that.

  • If you really like one songs, buy it as a single. But just because you don't want the whole CD doesn't make it right for you to steal even part of it.

    Oh, of course, let me see... Now... where IS that purple haze single... Hrmmm. That's right, there isn't one! Well... I'll just buy the original album that had it on CD, what? No cd for that album! All they have is Band of Gypsies and Greatest Hits?! But all I want is Purple Haze.... Well, I guess since they aren't selling Purple Haze they can't possibly lose money if I download it. So there.

    Not all songs are offered as singles, and not all albums are available in CD format, or even Tape format. What if I want music that the RIAA has decided there is no market for and so stopped selling? What am I supposed to do if there is no way for me to BUY the music I want? Buying it at a used CD shop or used Record shop doesn't give the RIAA a dime... So why should they care if I download it instead? If you aren't selling a product anymore, and someone can get that product for free without taking it away from you then no one is stealing from you.

  • Ironicly I actually made more money when I was in highschool than I do now since at that point I could get away with charging $50/hr to work on computers. Add that I have a lot more bills now and I would be lucky to be anywhere close to what I made then. I buy more CD's because MP3's restored my interest in music which had been burnt out by years of radio and MTV that didn't serve my tastes in music. I also buy more books and movies now largely due to my growing interest in media.
  • by Robert Link ( 42853 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @05:42AM (#796127) Homepage

    This sort of "logic" comes up so often in public health debates and all it really reflects is that the person voicing it lacks critical thinking skills.

    Before you impugn the critical thinking skills of others, you might want to break out a logic textbook and look up the term "begging the question". In this case your thesis is that ideas are property per se, and therefore using those ideas without their owners' permission is theft. You then go on to prove your thesis by assuming as a premise that ideas are property per se, and therefore using those ideas without their owners' permission is theft. That is not logic in any meaningful sense. No progress is possible in this debate until people recognize that the real question is not, "Is it ok to steal?" but rather "Does it make sense to classify something that can be endlessly replicated without cost as `property'?"

    The argument in favor of intellectual property is that creators need incentive to create. I'm not entirely sure I believe that, but it is certainly true that creative people need to pay their rent and grocery bills the same as everyone else. The arguments against intellectual property are, first, that people are naturally creative, and they create more efficiently when they are free to build on previous work, and, second, that intellectual property laws can be used to stifle freedom.

    The latter point is most troubling to me. As our economy evolves, we expect information products to become every bit as much necessities of life as food and shelter; in fact, in many cases we expect information products to displace physical goods as necessities of life. With physical goods the economy has always worked on the principle that once you buy it it's yours, and the seller has no further say in what you do with it. Not so, intellectual property. Intellectual property is governed by a license which binds you to an ongoing commitment to the seller. Vendors of intellectual property would have us believe that the terms of these license could be literally anything: a continuing financial commitment, refraining from using competing products, and disclosing sensitive personal information are all terms that have appeared in intellectual property licenses, and we can only expect the license terms to grow bolder.

    To me, finding a balance for intellectual property law is the single most important challenge facing our civilization today. What good are the guarantees of liberty we have worked so hard to build (literally centuries of human endeavor) if we and our posterity are going to have to license ourselves into bondage just to participate in the digital economy? A fair and equitable balance must be found. I don't pretend that that balance will be found in "information wants to be free", but there's a lot less danger in that than in the "mine, all mine" espoused by the intellectual property industries and their apologists.


  • I guess, but I don't think it's any more inflamatorry than saying that people want to maximize their own advantage. That's not news - most economic models (but interestingly enough, very few compsci models) assume that user-agents are "greedy maximizers" out for their own gain. The trick to creating a market is to set up a system in which everyone wins without having to change this property. Whenever you see a black market (like Napster, as another user already pointed out), you're witnessing a problem with the market structure. Greedy maximizers (IMHO) will be willing to sacrifice their time and energy to get a poor copy of a pop song rather than spend $20 for a high-quality copy. However, I also believe that these same people would gladly pay for a nice, clean, high-quality copy of that same song for a reasonable price. I bet they'd even be willing to pay microcharges on a per-listen basis.
    Anyway, you should go look up the old editorial "Drug Dealers Don't Sell Aspirin" for a good summation.
  • that's why I hotwired it and drove it off the lot one night, honest your honor, it's not my fault!

    One car dealer has this slogan: "I'd give them away but my wife won't let me"

    I tell potential employers, "I'm not a free man, I'm expensive"

    I think what ppl are getting at with the "wants to be free" slogan (and who could be against freedom??) is the low cost of copying, compared with purchasing an official license - something that costs $499 only takes a few minutes and a .50 cent platter, why is this so expensive? It's so easy and natural, the limitation is a purely artifical human contrived scheme to limit supply and keep demand and prices up. I always have to giggle when I order a copy of MSft OFFICE and am told they are out of stock, har har. I just put 'em on backorder and install from another disk, at least a license is on the way. But Msft is going to turn real fascist and enforce electronic registration so we can't even do that as a way to get around their user inconvience problem.
  • Oh fuck off. There is no huge corporate conspiracy to keep whatever shit home-town folk band you like off the airwaves. The reason that the music you like is not popular is that it is shit. The record companies have no secret mind control formula which is not accessible to anyone else; what they do have is a skill in producing a product (the "marketing" is part of the product; people like to have "stars" rather than bearded recorder playing granolas). Your music is shit. Deal with it.

    So, by this rationale, the only good music is the music that sells the most? Ergo, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync are the best music of the 90s?

    What I'd like to see is sales figures for albums that ignores all sales in the first 5 or 10 years or so since the album was released. I.e. how well does the album sell once the marketing hype wears off, and how well does it last? Just for the sake of example, Michael Jackson's _Thriller_ may have outsold Dark Side of the Moon, but I'll bet DSotM outsells Thriller at least 5 to 1 nowadays.

  • by Somnus ( 46089 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:02PM (#796150)

    The first time I read Stallman's manifesto, the first thing that popped into my mind was, "Information wants to be free?" Now, FSF advocates under close scrutiny will admit that this only works as a figurative statement, but the fact of the matter is that Stallman uses it as base for his ethics of intellectual property.

    What people need to realize is that information is such (vis-a-vis white noise) because someone put effort into creating it; to say that information has some intrinsic quality, or worse desire, to be free is ascribe behavior that is downright anthropomorphic to well-defined, abstract concept. That it is infinitely duplicable does not mean that there is not compensation due; a person is providing you a service, and you should reimburse that person for his time and effort. I like the author's charge: If you don't like the pay music, create and distribute free music.

    To this end, I like Stephen King's revenue model: Honesty. He writes "Don't steal from the blind newsboy;" he has successfully gambled that people will pay the small one time fee to experience his work, not just out of grace ("patronage"), but due to a sense of ethics ("captialism").

    *** Proven iconoclast, aspiring epicurean ***

  • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:05PM (#796174) Homepage Journal
    I for one would be interested in helping fund (with my cd buying money) a label that plays a part similar to that of the Free Software Foundation. Such a label would require the artists signed to them to release their music under an open-content license. In exchange the label would provide the normal features such as production, distribution, publicity, etc and only take their royalty from those sales up to the point where they've made back their costs. This would allow artists to keep a lot more of their own money and still provide the community with free music. Since free music drives sales (I for one bought far more CD's since MP3's) their should still be a lot of money to be made. A lot of new artists would also be interested as they'd have a lot more options with our FreeMusic Label.
  • by adamsc ( 985 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @10:55PM (#796178) Homepage
    It is easy to use Napster as a sort of strawman to attack, but it's another issue entirely when you look at intellectual property in the light of the AIDS epedemic where millions have died and continue to die because pharmecuticals own the right to the knowledge. "Give us a half billion for the rights to create our vaccine. OH, you don't have that kind of cash? Oh, your entire country's GDP isn't even half that? Sorry." How about irrigation technologies?
    Why do so many people have trouble accepting the fact that life is not fair? Even if you really, really, really want something, you still have no right to property belonging to someone else.

    This sort of "logic" comes up so often in public health debates and all it really reflects is that the person voicing it lacks critical thinking skills. Taking the creation of someone else is a good way to ensure that they either prevent you from doing that ever again or stop making things.

    Consider - it would be infinitely more productive if everyone who complains about those evil pharmaceutical companies would instead conduct or fund research into public-domain equivalents. Why don't they do that instead? Well, it's expensive and hard to do; the people who can do the hard work and their backers might decide that after all that effort they'd like to have something show for it.

    The only way communism (which this is a form of) works is if everyone involved is willing to put the welfare of the group ahead of their own and has a sufficiently broad definition of "group". Consider also that most high-tech activities require an extremely large support base - as an example, it's been estimated that, alone, the entire United States might be able to support a single microchip fab. High-end medical research might be less research intensive, but not that much. While I'd like to live in a world where millions of people would do such things out of the goodness of their hearts, it's just not possible.

    Note to /. flameaholics: OSS works because people can afford to give away their work and the cost of entry is very low. The areas where OSS lags furthest behind the commercial software are those areas which are difficult, limited in scope and expensive to develop. Most importantly, however, is that OSS is voluntary. Linus didn't waste time whining that (Microsoft|Sun|IBM|DEC|etc) didn't give away their source code and trying to get someone to force them to do so; he made something of his own and gave it away. Does anyone think things would have been the same if someone had stolen the source?

    If you actually care about the plight of the poor and aren't just trying for some emotionalism, we can ignore the fact that that miracle AIDS vacine doesn't even exist and realize that it would would be by no means the only, best or cheapest answer:

    • Decent food and sanitation would help at least one order of magnitude more people than an AIDS treatment.
    • Widespread use of condoms would not only take care of AIDS but also reduce the birth rate enough that children aren't doomed to poverty and disease because there's too little money providing for too many people.
    • There's a perfect cure for AIDS which is completely free: don't have sex with anyone you don't trust with your life. Oops, that would be the smart thing to do and requires personal responsibility, too. Never mind.
    • The most important change, however, would be political. There have been countless stories about grain shipments rotting on the docks while the political leaders decide whose tribe gets the most. Money which could have been spent improving an entire country is instead lining the coffers of the resident dictator and his friends. Supplies are often sold on the black market, again to benefit a well-connected few.
    Stealing intellectual property won't change any of the real problems...
  • by B'Trey ( 111263 ) on Friday September 08, 2000 @03:36AM (#796181)
    If this is Petreley's best article, I'm glad I missed the rest of them. The article is shallow, cursory and the few valid points made are quite obvious.

    The phrase "information wants to be free" is a description of how the system functions, not a moral judgement. People naturally tend to spread information. It takes a lot of work (encryption, propretary formats, restriction on the production of various types of hardware or machines, vigorous prosecution and enforcement of a host of laws, etc) to prevent it from happening. And despite the best efforts of the multi-million dollar companies involved, info continues to spread. You can argue about the morality of the situation all you want. But you can't argue with the reality of the situation. Information tends to spread. It "wants" to be free.

    As for Napster, the real issue isn't whether distributing copyrighted material is wrong. The real issue is - should a technology with perfectly legitimate uses be restricted because it is used by some for morally questionable purposes? Should Napster be held responsible for the uses to which their users put the system?

    Finally, I have no problem with someone being compensated for their efforts. In the case of the music business, however, this isn't happening. You have a situation analagous to feudal England. The "lords" (ie, the record companies) collect all of the produce (music) from the peasants (artists), who get next to nothing for their labor. If you take a bit of that produce, the lords are screaming that you're heartlessly stealing from the poor, pitiful starving peasants.

  • by AdamHaun ( 43173 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:08PM (#796204) Journal
    It doesn't matter whether or not the RIAA is bad--and I'll be right there with you saying that they are. The problem is that whether you like it or not, the music shared on Napster is someone else's property. And taking that property makes you a thief.

    If I write a piece of software that I want to sell commercially, I don't want the l33t skr1pt k1dd33z spreading it all over the net. I want my money's worth. Sound greedy, immoral, and ineffective? Think of it another way.

    If I write a piece of software that I want to distribute under the GPL, I don't want Microsoft to take, modify, and resell it as proprietary software. I want the users to get their freedom.

    If you're going to argue against rights to control your own media, then you're going to have to get rid of the good as well as the bad. You can't have it any other way.
  • I think Nick's missed the real meaning of the (over-used) phrase.

    "...wants to be free" doesn't mean that everyone has a right to copy any information. We still, now, mostly respect the idea of old-school copyrights with all their in-built fair-use provisions.

    What it means is that it's very difficult to stop people copying information. To do it would require not only complicated and annoying copy-protection and licensing schemes that kill the traditional copyright-based rights we have, but also an insanely harsh set of laws against circumventing them. To effectively stop copying, you have to build what is more or less a fascist state []. Most people consider this sort of effort to counter information being free far too much hard work, if not simply unnatural.

    Of course this is exactly the action the MPAA, RIAA, and other DMCA proponents are working on right now. They'd happily screw up the world to protect their right to make a buck from someone else's work. Because the world owes them a living, you see.

    This comment was brought to you by And Clover.
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Saturday September 09, 2000 @08:55AM (#796255) Homepage Journal
    How can there be plagarism if software cannot be owned? How can you compel attribution without ownership rights?

    As I said earlier, I can go either way with respect to intellectual property and specifically copyright. But I do like things to be consistant. If something cannot be owned then it cannot be controlled. If you should not own software, then you may not control, restrict or limit it in any way, including restrictions to prevent restrictions.

    I am glad that you are putting a lot of your work into the public domain, it is a mark of your consistancy. I just wish others in the community were equally consistant. If the FSF (as one example) does not want software to be owned then it should do away with copyrighting their own works under the (L)GPL. But if it does want to use the power of copyright to protect their works, then they should not decry software ownership.
  • by delmoi ( 26744 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:32PM (#796277) Homepage
    The fact is our current system entitles us to some free information, and it requires us to purchase or license other information.

    Why? Why should that be? Why is that morally right? There have been lots of systems, and they have had lots of different rules. Some have been better then others. I don't accept what The System entitles me to. If you have a problem, go cry to you're precious system, see what they do to me

    But what they shouldn't do is license or buy existing information that is not free and then cut it loose without permission. That's just plain wrong

    I'm sorry, but because The System believes something doesn't mean its true, and if you take that statement as fundamentally true, then you should seriously reconsider you're criteria for fundamental truth. WHY Is it 'just plain wrong'? Why should ideas be controlled? Saying simply that huge corporations loose money if it isn't observed is certainly not going to convince me.

    This paper is seriously lacking in foundation, if this paper had been turned into my freshman English class at ISU, it would have been returned with a big fat F. I've heard this idea repeated with an almost religious air. And while there maybe economic reasons for this, I really don't get the moral ones. I'm not a religious man, and pirating is a lot more fun then not pirating.

    And as far as his incendiary 'crookster' challenge, its 'gnutella' and win2k isn't exactly hard to find out there.
  • by tbo ( 35008 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:21PM (#796308) Journal
    "Information wants to be free" really should be "Informations can be free." No other property can be given away without loss by the owner. You give away a physical thing, you don't have it any more. You give away information, you've still got it.

    What Napster has done is encourage others to break the law. Is the law just? Depends on whether it's right to create artificial scarcity of information (i.e., copyright). How do we determine what's right? Look at the consequences of making it legal versus making it illegal.

    Case 1 (copyright): Copyright exists so that information can be shoehorned into traditional economic systems that are based upon scarcity, supply and demand, etc. If copyright is enforced, it's business as usual. If it's poorly enforced, you get the chaos that's happening now in society (a Bad Thing, since it discourages content creation and encourages the lawyers). How to enforce copyright in the *gag* "information age" is the big problem.

    Case 2 (no copyright): Without copyright, traditional economic systems fail, and information creators are not rewarded. Thus, production of information decreases. This is a Bad Thing. The only solution is to find an alternate economic system. Just as a quick reminder, communism doesn't work, and all those other cool-sounding systems (street performers' protocol, etc.) haven't been tested in a large-scale economy. There's nothing that's known to work.

    In other words, behind door A, we have chaos and uncertainty, and behind door B we have uncertainty and chaos.

    I personally would like to see a system where all artists get accounts on PayPal or something like that, and we can just donate whatever we feel like for each MP3 we download (preferably off of the artist's high-speed, high-quality site). Of course, people will rationalize their way into not paying: "they're already rich", "musicians get all the chicks", "they suck too much to deserve to get paid for this MP3 that I'm keeping"... Nobody really knows if enough people will pay to make it worth while for artists. And before you start yelling about indie bands giving away their work, remember that a lot of them are doing that to build a fan base so they can start charging for it.

    Finally, remember that what's right and wrong (and legal) is decided, to some extent, by society. Copyright is currently part of our social contract. For it to be right to ignore copyright would require a fundamental shift in the public viewpoint. This shift seems to have already begun, but it hasn't happened yet.

    Do we have to abide by copyright until such a shift happens, or are we morally justified in ignoring copyright since we are leading the charge into this new economics of information? That's the real question.
  • by fingal ( 49160 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:38PM (#796317) Homepage
    This is not exactly what you are looking for, but I recently discovered an on-line music distributer for underground and electronic music named []. Not only do they sell CD's at lower than normal prices, but their entire catalogue is available for download for free in mp3 format. That's the whole cd's, not just 'sampler tracks'. Now as far as I can tell, this means that all the record labels for whom they have distribution rights to must have signed agreements with the company to permit the free distribution of their music. Time will tell if this business model works, but for me if this is ideal - why bother taking a 'risk' in a record shop buying something that you might not like when you can preview your sale at your own leisure.

    I really hope that more labels give permission for their music to be sold in this way (although I don't see the major's getting in on the act anytime soon), but they allready have distribution rights from labels such as Ninja Tune, Sub Rosa, Knitting Factory etc etc

    If this model does generate significant sales, then it will make the creation of your FreeMusic label considerably easier, because the distribution barriers come down and therefore you can rebalance your margins to a much more artist friendly status.

  • by plunge ( 27239 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:41PM (#796322)
    Bullshit. The central problem here, which this article makes perfectly clear, is that someone who owns and creates something has every right to sell it under any terms they want. If those terms suck, no one will buy it. Just because people want something does not mean they deserve to have it- especially not on terms THEY choose. Piddling about what file format the music comes in is just plain cheap. It's like saying that just because a car doesn't come in red, you have the right to steal a car and paint it red. Now obviously Intellectual Property is a whole different ballgame. But the issue there is that it's very hard to regulate and define- NOT that people have any moral right to what they want. Metalica wants to sell their music in Cd format only? You think that bussiness model sucks? Fine- drive them out of bussiness with your own wussy rock band and its leet online distribution. But you don't have the right to change the terms of their sale just because you don't like it, or because you think they're behind the times. And seriously, it's maddening how little anyone knows about the real costs of the music industry anyway. People go on and on about Cd pressing as if that was even a drop in the bucket of what it takes to make, market, and promote a hit band (plus lots of bands that never get a hit). Now I hate the way the commercial music biz works and degrades musical spirit, but the fact is, musicians trade their song rights and autonomy for that chance that the record comapny can make them famous and rich. You may think that's sickening, but it's a choice they make, and the legal terms they agree to. If you don't like it, well, no one is forcing you to buy their music. Downloading it off the internet for free and claiming you're "freeing" it is a thin lie to conceal that you DO want the music produced in that way- huge promotional charges, slick studios- it proves that you want that, and like anyone else, you just want it for free. So: here's your high horse, and here's "off." I'd suggest "off."
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:42PM (#796323)
    Maybe it isn't fair to pin this on most open source advocates, but there are certainly interesting dichotomies in what Slashdot considers "news for nerds." On the one hand, any license that isn't strictly free is shouted down. Borland C++ is branded as free-as-in-beer and therefore unacceptable. Any story that mentions freedom of speech gets hairtrigger responses. Stories about The Man (i.e. Microsoft) are snickered about in a frenzy of populist hooplah.

    At the same time, there's a worship of corporately created pop culture: The Simpsons, X-Files, Hollywood movies, big budget anime, The Cartoon Network. Now wait, this isn't corporate-fed culture, it's special stuff created only for geeks in the know, right? Not like other crap, like Friends. That's for the masses.

    I think quite a few people would like these to collide, so everything they are interested in can be free of charge. But they are two completely different things, the second of which is created by a system that arguably would not exist if free everything was the order of the day. If you're really anti-corporate, then you should stop watching TV, stop buying CDs from major labels, and stop watching anything but indie films. That's much better than whining about how corporations should spend millions of dollars entertaining you for free.

Live free or die.