http://www.cic.unb.br/~rezende/sd.htm > english: cyberlaws

Cyberlaws and Metaphors

Sugestions to Lawrence Lessig

Prof. Pedro Antonio Dourado de Rezende
University of Brasilia - Computer Science Dept.
Jan 16, 2003


From Lawrence Lessig's blog, Jan 9, 2003 
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Research Question: Help

I've been hiding away in Japan working on a book that's tentatively titled "Free Culture"--"free" as in the verb. I'd be grateful for any help with two questions: (1) Seeking an analogy: I'd love to find an example from popular culture (e.g., at TV show, or famous movie, or cartoon) that would be a useful analogy for an idea that is hard to get across. Here's the hard-to-get-across version: I'm trying to give people a sense of how the reach of copyright has changed for totally unintended reasons. Because the internet is a digital network, every action on the network is a copy; because copyright law gets triggered whenever there is a copy, it follows that every action on the network is potentially subject to copyright law. 

The analogy would be to a story where some slight technical change happens, and it has a radical change for some unrelated feature. I've a vague sense of a batman episode, where the villain drops a chemical into the water and the world changes dramatically. Something like that. I tried an analogy in my last book which is good but old: the framers of the constitution gave Congress power over "interstate commerce" intending that to leave lots of exclusive legislative jurisdiction to the states; but because the economy has changed, and the range of commerce "in or affecting" interstate commerce has increased, the scope of exclusive jurisdiction in the states has shrunk. 

I'd love a sexier example of the same form: technology changes, and the very nature of some unrelated feature changes radically. 

(2) copyright law's effect on weblog space: 

I've got some nice examples of how copyright law has interacted (to good and bad ends both) with weblog space. But I'd be grateful for any examples of weblog content being restricted or supported by copyright law. 

Thanks in advance. 

Lawrence Lessig (photo)
 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Research Question: help
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003
From: pedro rezende <rezende@cic.unb.br>
To: ________

Dear professor Lessig. Here's an analogy for: 

"because the internet is a digital network, every action on the network is a copy; because copyright law gets triggered whenever there is a copy, it follows that every action on the network is potentially subject to copyright law."
When Gutemberg "invented" (movable) typeset printing, he was looking for a way to make the act of replicating texts (books) more practical and less error prone. The unintended conseqences of his acomplishment was the practical possibility of books being made faster than the Church could burn them (in the literal pirotechnical sense), eroding the pillar of its method for socially controlling access to and validation of knowledge. 

In their essence, both Gutemberg's "invention" and the original Chinese invention are realizations of ocurrences of the same idea: movable typeset printing. They acomplished the first level of dematerialization of Text's mould. However, this caused distinctive impacts in their respective cultural environments, due to the distinct nature of their writing systems. The difference comes from one detail: unlike the Roman's, the Chinese "alphabet" is huge, making it impractical for anyone to set up an all-purpose typeset printer in his garage to run an editing business. 

Gutemberg's accomplishment's unforseen consequences -- the Reform -- yelded a swift reaction from the Church: the Counter-reform, with its iron fist, the Inquisition. The Church, no longer able to control the spread of knowledge through the phisical destruction of Text's carriers, turned to the the state of knowledge prior to carriage and started screening people's mind, based on the evidence minds may have leaked or absorbed through its carriage mechanism (the books). 

Now, the internet. We can see it as a further stage of dematerialization of Text's mould, yelded by the first stage of dematerialization of its carriage mechanism (the hypertexts). Consequently, if the analogy is retained, we can see another version of the Reform -- cyberculture -- and, obviously, its twin Counter-reform, only now with the neoliberal's market ideology replacing the Roman Church's. We are also begining to see the waving of its iron fist, in the push through legislatures around the world, by the market fundamentalist's lobbies, of the breed of cyberlaws epitomized by DMCA, SSSCA, CDBPTA, etc. A breed of laws that ideology has been labeling as "mature". 

Pedro A D Rezende

From Lawrence Lessig's blog, Jan 16, 2003 
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The Supreme Court has rejected our challenge to the Sonny Bono Law.

It has often been said that movements gain by losing in the Supreme Court. Some feminists say it would have been better to lose Roe, because that would have built a movement in response. I have often wondered whether it would ever be possible to lose a case and yet smell victory in the defeat. I�m not yet convinced it�s possible. But if there is any good that might come from my loss, let it be the anger and passion that now gets to swell against the unchecked power that the Supreme Court has said Congress has. When the Free Software Foundation, Intel, Phillis Schlafly, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Kenneth Arrow, Brewster Kahle, and hundreds of creators and innovators all stand on one side saying, �this makes no sense,� then it makes no sense. Let that be enough to move people to do something about it. Our courts will not. 

I will always be grateful to Eric Eldred, and our other plaintiffs, for putting his faith in this case. I will always regret not being able to meet that faith with the success it deserves. 

What the Framers of our constitution did is not enough. We must do more. 
 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Research Question: help
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003
From: pedro rezende <rezende@cic.unb.br>
To: lessig@pobox.com
 
I have often wondered whether it would ever be possible to lose a case  and yet smell victory in the defeat. I'm not yet convinced i's possible. But if there is any good that might come from my loss, let it be the anger  and passion that now gets to swell against the unchecked power that the  Supreme Court has said Congress has.
Dear professor; 

    A defeat like this will be an enduring source of dignity for those who fought in against the power of greed. As for the smell of victory, perhaps, for they let the defeated see through the fog of entangled values weaving the field of battle. If there is a road to victory, this defeat clears up its signs, and the metaphors you are looking after can be among them. 

    To find and walk that road, if there is one, we need the power of your vision. 

    Sincerely, 

    Pedro A D Rezende