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The Internet

Ask Lawrence Lessig About Life And Law Online 218

Posted by timothy
from the voice-of-reason dept.
Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law School, and before that of various other places, is one of the best-known voices in the world of electronic freedoms. Lessig's new book, The Future of Ideas, is the latest work of many in his efforts to illuminate and create a freer world online. Lessig has agreed to answer your questions; please be courteous by limiting your questions to one per post.
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Ask Lawrence Lessig About Life And Law Online

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  • Is there really some kind of way to expect that the net will forever remain free as we know it?
  • by Nikau (531995) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:03PM (#2687982) Homepage
    What is your opinion on things like Microsoft's .NET or the Liberty Alliance (I believe that's what it's called - the one being developed by AOL and other companies to counter .NET)? Do you see these as a potential problem in terms of a free online world?
    • I believe that's what it's called - the one being developed by AOL and other companies to counter .NET

      Isn't the liberty alliance trying to combat passport? .NET is microsoft's counter to Java (at least according to their whitepapers). It's a development suite, etc. If I recall, it doesn't really have anything to do with a one stop shop for personal information (which is passport and liberty), other than Passport might be re-implemented with .NET tools.

  • DMCA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:05PM (#2687994) Homepage
    What, in your opinion, are the chances of getting the DMCA declared unconstitutional?

    Given the recent court defeats in both the Felten and 2600 cases, do we even have a chance?
  • John Ashcroft (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by sulli (195030)
    Should he be fired, impeached, or both? And am I aiding and abetting terrorists by asking such a question?
    • Unless the US is way off, you can't impeach an attorney general, just the president. he can be fired of course ;)

      • Not really. Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution allows impeachment for "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States." IANAL, but it seems to me that this would cover the Attorney General. I know it covers members of the Supreme Court; I also know it doesn't cover members of Congress. Anyone here know for sure?
    • Other than not understanding technology, and of course not agreeing with all your views? What has he done wrong?
      • Locked up over a thousand people without criminal charges, without private access to legal counsel, and without so much as releasing their names to the public. Last I heard ~600 were still in custody.

        Damn, you've been on that desert island a while, huh? Wait until you find out what happened to the World Trade Center while you were gone...
        • > Locked up over a thousand people without criminal charges, without private access to legal counsel, and

          ...in doing so, disrupted the network of cells operating with in the United States to the point where they have been unable to mount a second attack, likely saving the lives of thousands of Americans (citizens and aliens alike) in the process.

          > Wait until you find out what happened to the World Trade Center while you were gone...

          Yeah, I noticed. And y'know what else I noticed? I noticed that compared to the abuses our enemy has already inflicted upon our population, anything we've done to ourselves in order to defend against further threats is pretty small potatoes by comparison.

  • by bfree (113420) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:10PM (#2688019)
    We seem to be living in "Interesting Times". The events of 911 have given law-makers the impetus to have acts passed which would have been at the very least debated for a lot longer pre 911. Up until now the Internet has been an incredibly open network with minimalist intervention and legislation from individual countries governments (a few notable exceptions). It seems as if we are going to enter a new legal phase for the internet where legislators in many countries will try to enact and apply laws to take control of this wild beast. Each countries individual efforts will hamper their own citizens without overly effecting the rest of the net.
    My question is how much of the above do you disagree with and why? And what body (UN, w3.org, wipo, coporation of ISPs, Microsoft) do you forsee holding the international legal legislatory responsibility for the net at large in 1/5/10/25/50 years time?
  • AOL-TW & MS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FortKnox (169099)
    Big name companies (with lotsa money to throw at lawyers) are hovering over the net (AOLTW, MS), and Microsoft is getting off so lightly with their monopoly suit. Will the internet become dominated by big companies with no real way to freely get in, or will the law allow the net to stay free and kick out the big companies? To load the comment, I think that its only a matter of time before the big companies close in on the internet. How long and how do you anticipate the law will keep the wolves at bay??

    (1 question per comment, I know, but everyone else does it) :-P
  • Activism by coding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by melquiades (314628) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:12PM (#2688036) Homepage
    It seems like a lot of judges who face abstract technology questions -- code as speech, DMCA, etc. -- just don't get it. And can we really blame them? Technology is complicated; can we expect every judge to be an uberhacker?

    Perhaps it would be helpful to have some bright programmers set up some concrete examples for judges to consider, which clarify the problems we all see, and help judges refine their intuitions about code and digital information.

    For example, to further the "code is protected speech" cause, we could create a full-fledged programming language which reads as plain English, then use it to implement a copy protection circumvention program (DeCSS or the like). This raises all sort of interesting questions: it's English and code; is it protected under the first amendment? Presumably it was before it could be run as a program, so does my inventing a programming language change the status of existing speech? If it's protected as only source code, is an interpreter for that language illegal? Is bundling the English script with the interpreter illegal? And so forth....

    ...but that's a very thorny example. Are there examples of this kind that we programmers should be producing -- software that makes these theoretical arguments more concrete? Is there anything in this spirit that won't just confuse and/or piss off a judge? What examples do our causes need? We're ready to implement them!
    • Yea, right. Have you ever read plain english writeouts of DeCSS. It still reads like a math equation, there is simply no way to simplify it for the common person to be able to read.
      • It reads like math because it is math! And expressing it in mathematical notation is actually more expressive than the lawyer-esque prose required to say most formulae out loud.

        My question: rather than convincing judges that software is speech, wouldn't it be more efficient to convince the establishment that most of this stuff is just math? At that point, wouldn't algorithm patents (thinking mp3 here) fall away, and wouldn't it be pretty obvious that things like DeCSS are hardly less appropriate than teaching children to do long division?
      • It still reads like a math equation, there is simply no way to simplify it for the common person to be able to read.

        That's completely beside the point. Comprehensibility is not a criterion for first amendment protection. The courts have upheld publishing of the details of making nuclear weapons as protected by the first adendment, even though such descriptions inevitable read like science and are incomprehensible to the layperson.

        The simple fact that it is human language, clearly expressing ideas and not merely implementing them, is what needs to be proved to a judge. The fundamental question: is code a machine, or is code speech? The answer, of course, is "both" -- and we need to help judges wrap their brains around that fact.
      • The common person has a lot more chance of understanding that than say the IRS tax code.

        What's your point?
    • by ninewands (105734)
      English, is by its nature, extremely poorly suited for an exercise such as this. A large portion of the meaning of an English statement is derived from context and the order of words in a statement, while the meaning of a C, Pascal or Fortran expression is almost purely a matter of syntax. I believe that it would be extremely difficult to write a compiler or interpreter that could process nature-looking English into computer code.

      OTOH, there is already a "natural-language" programming language available for a project such as this ... Perl! Don't laugh yet.

      Damian Conway's paper, Lingua::Romana::Perligata -- Perl for the XXI-imum Century [monash.edu.au] demonstrates that "natural language" programming IS possible in a quasi-grammatical way, while also pointing out WHY English really just doesn't fit the needs of a programming language. The "Latin" code that results from using Lingua::Romana::Perligata is "sort of" grammatically correct, quite readable, although somewhat "forced", to those with a grounding in the Classics (which many judges have), and lacking a LOT of the special characters that make most programming languages look mysterious to non-techies.

      You'll have to read the paper to see the effect of using the module ... the lameness filter stopped me from including any of Conway's examples.

      I don't claim to be enough of a Perl hacker to even begin trying to convert one of the perl versions of DeCSS to a Perligata script, but I feel I know enough linguistics to consider an attempt to create an English-based "natural language programming language" that would come CLOSE to being grammatically correct and comprehensible to non-programmers to be quixotic.
    • I've had to take a long hiatus from my project [mit.edu] for various reasons, but now that the appeal was lost, I plan to restart it. On my list of things is to change from my style of translation to Jonathan Baccash's, [cmu.edu] which is better in several ways, while retaining my code's ability to deal with preprocessor directives (which Mr. Baccash's code lacks). If anyone feels like sending me diffs, I'd be much obliged.
    • Isn't that called "HyperTalk" :-)
  • Cyberspace Amendment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kzinti (9651) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:12PM (#2688039) Homepage Journal
    Many years ago, in the early days of the WWW, Laurence Tribe proposed a "Cyberspace Amendment" to the US Constitution that would explicitly extend all the rights and freedoms of the Constitution to all forms of speech, regardless of the medium. The idea was brought to many of us geeks in a Dr. Dobbs article by Michael Swaine. I know what many of my fellow Slashdotters opinions probably are, but I'd like to have yours: how have our Constitutional protections held up on the Internet, in e-mail, and in WWW publishing? Do we still need a Cyberspace amendment - or do we perhaps need it now more than ever?

    --Jim
  • by Artifice_Eternity (306661) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:13PM (#2688043) Homepage
    Do you think that the gradual increases in the length of time that works can remain copyrighted (most recently the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act" of the 1990s) will continue every time that the media companies feel that they are about to lose control of some of their "intellectual property"?

    Or do you think that the public interest will reassert itself and hold or even turn back some of these copyright extensions?

    When a work's copyright is extended, one person (the author or the corporation that owns it) benefits. But when its copyright expires, everyone benefits by being able to copy, modify, expand on and extend it. Can we convince lawmakers with this kind of social and economic argument?
    • As a followup: is it even possible, legally, to turn back copyright extensions on existing works? For instance, could some future act which would eliminate the 20 additional years the Sonny Bono act tacked onto copyrights be applied to existing works, or would it necessarily be grandfathered?
      • And if so, would this constitute as a taking, so that the government would be responsible for re-imbursing the holder of the copyright for the loss in value.

        For example, let's say I hold the copyright on Mickey the Rat. Current law says that I have the copyright for 20 years (I know; this is an example). If I can get licensing fees of 1,000,000 dollars a year, I'll have 20,000,000. If the government reduces the copyright to 10 years, I only get 10,000,000, a loss of 10,000,000 dollars. And we'll assume that all experts in the field agree on that money amount. Should the government pay for costing the person money?

        If not, why not? Remember, if the government condemns your house to put a road through, they are supposed to pay you the market value of the property they take.
    • Here's some more information about the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act:
  • by Bonker (243350) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:13PM (#2688046)
    May be a futile question to ask, but we're in probably the intensest period of debate on freedom, law, justice, and crimincal conduct since the American civil war.

    Since you are such a big figure in the realm of online freedom, where do you *hope* the level of online freedom is in about 2101, and where do you realistically *think* it will be?
    • where do you *hope* the level of online freedom is in about 2101

      Probably not very high, especially now that a war was beginning. The CEO of UniViaDisFox, Richard Cats, has declared that "All your I.P. are belong to us."

  • by gdyas (240438) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:14PM (#2688051) Homepage

    Dr. Lessig,

    Looking from the outside in on the legal community's response or lack thereof to the constitutionality and legal basis of recent court rulings (Napster, Eric Corley), the DMCA/SSCA, etc, I see very few lawyers taking a stand against this -- there's mostly a massive shrug. There's the ACLU, the EFF of which you're a part, and Jessica Litman, and that's all I see trying to do something about the co-opting of copyright and patent lawmaking by corporations through appeals based on the interest of business, lobbyists' dealmaking, and outright graft. By and large however there seems to be little interest even amongst lawyers and congressmen about the arcana of copyright and patent law, and thus it's left to such companies and libraries because they're the only ones who both have power and care about it. Has trying to fight this caused conflict in your professional work? Is it lonely being a "vox clamantis in deserto"? What's your game plan for beating these guys back, or do you have one? There's a certain sadness and resignation in both your and Litman's writing that's very disencouraging that would lead me to think that even our flag-bearers feel there's little hope at this point.

    --Gregory Dyas

    • flag-bearers can only do so much alone. there are a couple such people who are trying to draw attention to the attacks on the internet but they can only do so much with out an army to back them. right now the public is rather indifferent about civil liberties online and they just assume use what is placed in front of them. the 'battle' will continue to be lost until more people start paying attention to what is going on.

      the question i would ask you, Dyas, is what are you going to do about it?
      • ignis wrote:

        "the question i would ask you, Dyas, is what are you going to do about it?"

        The same things I'm doing now -- donating to & remaining active in organizations that support my civil rights online (EFF, ACLU), writing my congresspeople, informing my friends and family about their rights both online and in the real world (some in my extended family thought copying their own CDs to MP3 was illegal because of the hype they'd heard in the news!), encouraging those who agree with me to do the same.

        This is a civil democracy you know, so I'm not about to pick up a gun or anything if that's what you mean. If the same actions above performed at large by many people isn't enough to change things for the better, then we've lost already.

  • by Catiline (186878) <akrumbach@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:15PM (#2688056) Homepage Journal
    Rather than ask about current copyright/patent laws, or pending ones, I would like to know what you think the ideal Intellectual Property laws are (assume you could rewrite them as you wish). Also, what sort of international agreements would have to be passed alongside this?
  • With the increasing ease of distributing copyrighted works, do you think that the "Fair Use" clause of copyright law will have to be modified or eliminated completely?
  • by burris (122191) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:16PM (#2688063)
    Back near the turn of the last century, book publishers printed contracts on their books, limiting the ability of the customer to resell or lend his purchases. This practice was halted by the US Supreme court and the consumers right to do what they wish with legitimately purchased copies (with certain limited exceptions) was eventually codified in the US code as part of the '76 Copyright Act.

    Given that software is a work of authorship protected by Copyright law, how is it that software publishers get away with these old tricks of printing restrictive contracts on their works, claiming assent simply by using the software, denying people their rights under Copyright law?

    burris
    • The judicial system is actually are slowly piercing these hot air balloons. A HUGE step foward occured recently in Softman/Adobe case, where a court ruled specifically that "software is sold, not merely licenced".

      Of course, the DMCA puts a bigtime spike into First Sale, because your right to use your property doesn't transfer to you when you buy it, but that is a different issue.
    • A related question regarding first sale and digital:

      The First Sale right is bound to the physical copy.

      To explain:

      One of the exclusive rights of the author is the distribution right. When you buy a copy of a book, movie, whatever, the distribution right to that particular copy is said to be "exhausted". In other words - once the first sale of the copy has happened, resale/redistribution of that particular copy is unrestricted.

      This is the mechanism that give me the right to give away or resell a book once I have read it, donate it to a library, etc. In other words - First Sale creates the second-hand market for copyrighted works.

      However, when we go digital we are effectively denied the First Sale right.

      If I buy and download an eBook, I have no physical copy. With no physical copy, the distribution right has not been exhausted, and I have no First Sale right. The act of "giving" my eBook to someone else is thus illegal, since I don't have a physical copy to give.

      Thus, no more First Sale for me, no second-hand market. The digital equivalent of the 'used book store' won't exist.

      This issue might be unimportant today, but it will have a huge effect on the digital IP marketplace in the not-so-distant future.

      So, my question to you is:

      It is quite obvious to me that we need a digital right that is equivalent to First Sale. Do you have any ideas about how this right should be written as law?
      • If I buy and download an eBook, I have no physical copy . With no physical copy, the distribution right has not been exhausted, and I have no First Sale right. The act of "giving" my eBook to someone else is thus illegal, since I don't have a physical copy to give.

        Unfortunatley, your predicate that there is no physical copy is wrong. The copy on your hard drive is certainly a physical copy for the purposes of copyright law ("fixed in a tangeable medium.") Namely, the work is fixed in the magnetic particles on the drive platter. Even the copy in RAM while executing/viewing the work is physical copy! For this case, the law specifically allows copies to be made that are necessary to utilize an authorized copy.


        You are right though, that there is no law or precident for supporting the secondary market when authorized copies are made directly onto a general-purpose storage device owned by the consumer, where transferring ownership of the device is not feasable.

        burris

        • You are right though, that there is no law or precident for supporting the secondary market when authorized copies are made directly onto a general-purpose storage device owned by the consumer, where transferring ownership of the device is not feasable.

          mea culpa, you're right.

          Perhaps it would be more correct to explain it in this way:

          When I buy an intangible work, the following happens:

          Technically, a copy of the digital work is transferred over the network and permanently stored on a medium I own - usually a harddrive.

          According to copyright law, the sale of the work authorizes the creation of temporary copies required to transfer the work to my computer/device and also the creation of a permanent copy on a storage device in my possession.

          Now, to 'give' an eBook to my mother require the following steps:

          1) create a new copy on a device owned by her.
          2) delete my own copies.

          Fair Use allows me to make further copies for my personal use (copy music to my MP3 player, etc) but does not allow creation of copies on media owned by anybody else - even if I delete the copy/ies in my possession. Copyright law doesn't seem to make a distinction between 'moving' and 'copying' digital works. 1) above is copyright infringement.

          If it isn't feasible to transfer ownership of the storage device itself to someone else, I have no First Sale right.

          It even gets worse than that. Digital contracts coupled with the anticircumvention provisions like 1201 in the DMCA or Article 6 in the EUCD is effectively killing copyright law.

          Copyright itself is supposed to be a balance between the interests of the public and the author. The author is given a set of exclusive rights (distribution, public performance, ...), which are then limited for the sake of the public interest (Fair Use, quoting, derivative works, limited time, etc).

          This balance has historically been created/maintained by laws and legal precedent.

          However, in the digital world much of the power to write copyright law has been put into the hands of large publishers and distributors.

          To listen to a digital music file, you need a player. In order to listen to, alter, take quotes from or perform any other action on the music file, you need digital tools that understand the file format. Thus, what you can and can't do with a digital work is determined by the functionality of the digital tools available.

          The anticircumvention provisions are effectively giving the owner of a copy protected digital format complete control of these tools. For example, the movie industry is using their control of the DVD format to impose region locks on all 'legal' or 'authorized' DVD players.

          In other words - we are entering a world where code is law. By enacting the DMCA and the EUCD, our governments are giving away much of their power to control copyright law. Lex informatica will be written by large publishers and the movie and music industry.

          On top of this, add mass-market online contracts similar to the software EULAs.

          So, copyright law is six feet under. Buried below technology, anticircumvention and EULAs.
  • by morzel (62033) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:17PM (#2688065)
    What is your stance on the USA trying to regulate a global medium (ie: the net)?

    Is cyberspace part of some geographical territory, or should it have it's own legislation and jurisdiction (based on global interests), or will it be an anarchy by design?

    As a European (Belgian) citizen, I'm wondering why US legislature is trying to take control of a network, that isn't US-only anymore for some time now. Both the DecSS/Sklyarov cases are quite frightening.

    • As a U.S. citizen, I can answer that.

      The U.S. legislature is composed entirely of Americans. It is well known that a rather high percentage of Americans ignore the fact that there is a world outside the United States (except when it comes crashing into us). Hence, one may conclude by admittedly oversimplified logic that a high percentage of legislators also suffer from this sort of ignorance, and furthermore, that when the world on the other side of the border comes across, that they will want to push it out.

  • A large portion of most representatives of the democratic goverments in the western world come from a legal/govermental burocratic background (laywers etc.)

    So I sometimes wonder if all the laws these people create are really needed. It seems that many constructions are really of academic nature. These days it seems that the internet will be drowned by overregulation. Why can't we get around with more "common sense" laws instead of trying to create thing which really cover everything ?

    It seems to me that the main reason for this is that too many laywers etc. are in the goverments. A mathematican would never ever create such a heap of laws. He would just create some simple, understandable rules from which everything could be easily derived. I very often wonder if there are the wrong people in the goverment. Perhaps should we just use the proposal of Douglas Adams (of course we'll keep the telephone disinfectioners).

  • With South Korean President Kim Dae-jung bringing the Digital Divide back into focus, the gap between the rich technology "haves" and the poor technology "have-nots" seems to get wider all the time.

    What can we be doing "officially" to make sure that gap disappears? I know of several organisations that provide computers and technological assistance to the "have-nots", but should the government play a role? And if so, what should that be?
  • by ApoxyButt (536650) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:18PM (#2688076) Homepage Journal
    It seems that the internet has the power to render ineffective the claims of intellectual property holders, such as authors, musicians, and software developers. A large portion of people who download music, software, etc., wouldn't actually buy the CD or game if they didn't have access to it for free. They would just do without. And in several examples (Radiohead comes to mind) musicians have released their work in mp3 format and been quite successful at making money off of that data.

    Do you believe that it would be accurate to say that not much money is actually being "lost" to the internet? If so, how would you go about proving this?

  • Champ or Chump? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alphabet26 (534873) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:19PM (#2688081)
    The initial request for questions almost paints you as the Champion selected to fight the good fight of online rights. Meaning no disrespect, I appreciate people trying to be heard, but did you always want to champion a cause like this or were you drawn into it from a past incident?
  • How likely do you think that the DoJ's proposed settlement with Microsoft will be accepted by the Judge?

    If the DoJ's seattlement gets accepted over the 9 renegade state's proposal, what effect do you think the DoJ's seattlement will have?

  • I think that the future of Free Software ultimately depends on it becoming an economically rewarding activity. Do you agree, and do you have any ideas on how that can/will come about?
    a.
  • Ed Felten vs. RIAA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shankark (324928) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:22PM (#2688099)
    What's your take on the case between Ed Felten and RIAA? What we saw there was a poaching on the right to pure academic pursuit to safeguard selfish corporate interests. Do you see the legal infrastructure evolving to give (pardon the pun) the underdogs the upper hand?
  • What non-techie people, ie: who doesn't write code or is actively involved in computers, can do to help our ideas come true?

    From lawyers to musicians, how can we discuss with them and present arguments that will convince them that this is a good war to fight for? Why should they 'buy it'?
  • by Lumpish Scholar (17107) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:24PM (#2688113) Homepage Journal
    What is your take on the proposed settlements in the antitrust and civil Microsoft cases? To most Slashdotters, the former seems like a slap on the wrist, the latter like a a punishment turned into a reward (increasing dominance of the U.S. education market). Is there something we're missing?
  • by stevenj (9583) <(stevenj) (at) (alum.mit.edu)> on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:26PM (#2688131) Homepage
    What do you think of OpenNap [sourceforge.net], Gnutella [wego.com], Freenet [sourceforge.net], Morphius [morphius.com], and similar file-sharing systems? Do you think it is legal for a person to distribute unauthorized copies of a copyrighted recording or video that way, especially if no commercial entity is involved (e.g. excluding Napster or Morphius)? Should it be legal? (Should it matter how many copies you distribute, or to whom?)

    If you think it should not be legal, what remedies should the law consider, since these systems can have significant non-infringing uses as well?

    • Do you think that we have to outlaw webrowsers, ftp, irc, email that do not have a built-in check that prevents anyone from violating a copyright, trademark, or license agreement?
    • With most P2P systems, the solution is obvious: Law enforcement should connect to the networks themselves, seach for copyrighted material, download it to check that it really is copyrighted, identify the criminal by IP (hard, but not very hard), then prosecute. That sort of "undercover work" is essentially what they've been doing with prostitution for decades, a more victimless crime.

      With Freenet, though, it's impossible to find the person who inserted copyrighted material. It's impossible to find which node you're getting it from. It is possible to tell which node you're immediately connected to is automatically caching and passing you copyrighted material, but is that enough to prosecute? If not, then the Freenet people are currently debugging and improving the ultimate piracy network. If so, then the very act of running a Freenet node would be illegal... and it would be very hard to distinguish the Freenet node's actions from those of, say, every router and proxy server on the internet.
  • by 2Bits (167227) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:30PM (#2688149)
    A lot of obscure laws have been passed, and the majority of the population are not even aware of their existence. However, the technical community is watching the legislation quite closely. And we seem to understand the potential impact and risk on freedom and privacy. But the technical community has a very small influence on politics, and seems almost clueless in "playing political games".

    How can we leverage the knowledge of the community to help educate politicians and the general population in terms of technologies, and the impact of the proposed bills? Briefly, how can we help better, not just sending letters to congress people or senators?

  • This is one question, with multiple parts. Some of your defenders have asserted that you are only opposed to Intellectual Property in the hands of corporations. Is this true? Do you favor strong protection for IP produced by individuals as opposed to corporations, or are you opposed to strong IP protection generally?

    Also, many people in the AIP movement frequently cite the fact that IP has not been historicly enshrined as a "natural right". However, isn't this just an academic question, important only for lawyers when formulating the basis of the law? After all, we have rights to our physical property, but that doesn't bar the government from confiscating it when such confiscation is deemed to have an overwhelming public benefit. In light of that, why do so many people in the AIP movement feel motivated to make it a point that IP is not a "natural right". My own view on this is that it is simply a rhetorical technique designed to nudge people towards the AIP movement's point of view, but I'd be interested in your take on this.

    Finally, what say you to the irony of the fact that if I OCR your book and post it on line I'll get in trouble?

  • by Marx_Mrvelous (532372) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:31PM (#2688155) Homepage
    When the industrial revolution hit, the United States saw a major change in the legal rights of industrial workers. At first the government supported the businesses, but later gave in to popular demand that workers maintain rights above the employers.

    Due to popular beelifs, do you think that we are going to see a major legal shift in IT rights from business to individuals, similar to the way rights shifted about 100 years ago?
  • Hello.

    In the future, do you envision some sort of mechanism that will reconcile different laws between different countries when it comes to the creation and distribution of online content?

    I suspect that there will be as there are already certain structures in places (such as the World Intellectual Property Organization) that seem to take steps toward this goal. However, to refine my question, do you believe we will see any organizations more oriented toward the rights of world citizens rather than multinational corporations (or zaibatsu, as one might call them ^_^)?

    Thank you.

    R. Suzuka
  • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:32PM (#2688165) Homepage Journal
    If your fairy godmother visited you tomorrow, and would grant you just one wish, with respect to Microsoft, what would that wish be?


    (For this, I'm going to beg you to ignore any nicities, political considerations, and even the Constitution. We're talking purely feelings here, intellectual rationalizations on what is either possible or likely need not apply. And since this is Slashdot, you don't even need to care if anyone likes it.)

  • Talking about various slashdot issues with friends and family has made me realize that ensuring that (new) technologies are not detramental our social values, rights and freedoms is a very difficult cause due to the lack of knowledge by the casual user (ie, end user).

    I'm curious about what you think are effective ways of ensuring that our technologies continue to uphold our basic and civil rights when the populations you are attempting to protect will never be well versed in the details of both the technologies and the cause? Or, more generically, how do you amass popular support for issues that are too complex for the popular vote to comprehend?
  • Lessig,

    Given that intellectual property ownership is justified by the need to provide an incentive to create new ideas, what is your view of the of the appropriate time duration of intellectual property ownership? Lifetime of human inventor/creator? Fixed period of years? Indefinite?

    Is there a coherent rationale for duration of ownership other than arbitrary legistlative choice?

    Also, does IP ownership serve other goals (have other justifications) besides fostering innovation, that might be met by other means more effectively?
  • by lblack (124294) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:37PM (#2688192)
    I just wrote out way too long of a question, so I'm deleting and starting over.

    Members of the judiciary are largely unqualified to comment or judge upon issues of a technical nature, simply because their careers do not incorporate a great deal of technical knowledge, and also because they have not sought it (and I don't blame them, probably didn't have time) on their own.

    Now, they *are* qualified to comment on matters of criminality, which are supported by a huge amount of precedent, legislation, etc that has been repeatedly modified, challenged, or simply let stand.

    However, there are new "crimes" coming into being, called "cybercrimes" by the buzzwordish. Our judges, lacking technical skills or a real awareness of digital culture, are passing judgement in cases that have either very loose or no precedent to be found, or that are the result of new and innovative legislature (see: DMCA).

    My concern is that the judges who are making the decisions are the least qualified to do so -- that we won't have a lot of judges with a high awareness of the intricacies involved for several years. However, the judges presently seating are essentially creating a body of law to govern what they do not understand.

    My question: How large of a threat will these precedents pose to the continuation or reclamation of freedoms? Will we be able to take back the ground we've alrady lost, or will the intricacies of the legal system vis-a-vis tort & precendent, ensure that we cannot?

    -l

    (this one is way too long too. I just can't seem to make it fit)
  • Have all of the piecemeal "adjustments" taken copyright law beyond repair as Jessica Litmann says in her book, "Digital Copyright"? Do we need to start over after throwing out the current copyright law, or should there be legislative attempts to correct the problems in the current law? What would be a good balance between creators rights and "fair use"?
  • What do you think we, as a community and as a society, can do to preserve our online freedoms?
  • by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:39PM (#2688204)
    In the early days of the automotive industry, GM was effectivly immune to lawsuits (what's good for GM is good for America!). In the earliest part of this century, there was an attempt by the publishing industry to prevent the resale of books. Similar events are now happening in the tech sector with attempts by the BSA to ward off liability issues related to software, laws against software resale, and even new problems such as patenting of genes and other expansions of IP law inconsistent with the goal of moving information into the public domain while rewarding its creator.

    My question is; will the influence of the software industry fade as these new technologies become less new or will these trends, which seem to contradict legal precedent, only gain legitimacy as they establish a precident of their own?
  • by KjetilK (186133) <kjetil@NOSPaM.kjernsmo.net> on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:40PM (#2688211) Homepage Journal
    Here's a thought from Norway: Around here, we have a law known as "Every man's right". Basically, what it says is that you can walk, camp, pick berries etc. on any man's land, provided you stay well away from houses, drinking water and developed land. We do have quite a lot of undeveloped land here.

    Effectively, as I have understood the term "common", the land, or perhaps rather the right to recreation on any land is a common around here.

    While this has a very long tradition, the law has come under attack from various groups, often arguing that if no money is invested in preparing recreational areas for people, people will not be able to use the land for recreation.

    Would you think that this attitude has some resemblence to the notion that without the labels, no music will be made, as there will be no money to be made from making music?

  • Dr. Lessig,

    To me it seems that for the majority of my lifetime (Reagan administration - now) has been a time where the United States government has to an increasing degree used the inherent 'checks and balances' in a much more forceful way than perhaps they were intended. To be more specific, congress seems to be passing many more laws at are questionably, and even at times blatantly unconstitutional. The large amount of time involved in judiciary process allows lawmakers to pass such questionionably unconstitutional bills knowing full well that they may only last four to eight years or so.

    While this delay may have been less effective in the past, in the "Internet Age" four to eight years is enough to wildly shape emergent technologies and processes to the government's whims (which by extension is the lobbyists' whims in this day and age).

    Do you feel that these 'temporary' laws (such as the new anti-terrorism bill, which I believe even has an explicit expiriation date) have a place in modern US government as it is now?
  • Dr. Lessig,

    Any security protection will deter 80-90%of the people. Of the remaining people, 1-2% will not be deterred by anything and the rest will take advantage of the work of the 1-2%. Copy protection doesn't work in the digital world as well as it works in the analog world. It would seem that perhaps the laws governing the digitial world ought to be different from the analog world, perhaps even different for different types of digital "ideas".

    What is your opinion of the best way to implement copyright, patent, or other Intellectual Property protection for authors while protecting fair use rights of consumers?
  • I've heard you interviewed several times, you've asserted that today's Music industry is deliberately trying to impede technological advancement by digging their heels in against new delivery technologies such as Napster, P2P networks, MP3.com, etc. You've likened this to the Horse and Carriage industry fighting against the adoption of the automobile.

    While I agree with you that these industries are obviously resistant to these sorts of technologies, I can't make the leap and say that they are stifling the technology itself. As proponents for these 'file sharing' technologies will tell you, they are content neutral. The copyright owners are resisting having *their* copyrighted material copied and distributed freely and without compensation. I don't see that they are against the technology per se.

    If the only viable way that these technologies are able to develop (i.e. get funding, have sufficient network externalities to be useful as a sharing network, etc) is on the backs of the copying and trading of copyrighted material, then maybe there is no substantially non-infringing use for them. Sure, you could come up with 1000 *theorhetical* uses for the technology, but only one realistic one, which also happens to be based on infringement.

    With all that said, I've burned my share of Napster/Morpheus/KaZaA mp3s, and am damn glad that VCRs weren't smothered at birth, etc. But I'm having a really hard time reconciling the two views, and when I try to argue against the copyright holders, my two solid arguments are:

    1.) Copyright law has morphed considerably from what the Framer's originally intended and is wildly out of control

    and

    2.) I want a lot of free music.

    The problem with these arguments is that one is arcane, and doesn't resound with too many folks and the other is, well... anyway...

    Help me Prof. Lessig, you're my only hope...
  • by bwt (68845) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @01:59PM (#2688322) Homepage
    It seems increasingly appearent to me that Intellectual Property law generally and Copyright law specifically, has become a corrupt instrument whereby campaign finance coffers are filled by metering out favors to large monied special interests. I am basing this on personal observation after having attempted to participate in the process. For example, I participated in several of the Copyright Office requests for public comment that produced easily 10X as many anti-DMCA comments as pro, only to see the Copyright Office ignore what seemed to me to be the clearly expressed objections of actual people in favor of the large corporations who lobbied for the bill. Worse, no serious attempt (in my view) was made to respond to the issues raised by the public. Congress is even less responsive, in my observation.

    If and when I conclude that the deck truly is stacked, such that the political process producing copyright regulation is a sham, should I not also conclude that the best course of action is to engage in covert civil disobediance targeted to deprive the specific entities responsible for the corruption of profits? My question is not whether the DMCA is a corrupt law, but rather what moral obligation one has to obey a law that you earnestly believe symbolizes corrupt government.

    After all, if push comes to shove, the anti-circumvention provisions are utterly unenforcable (to the point of being a joke) if they are disregarded in ways that do not attract attention. I'm not someone who has decrypted any DVD's or downloaded many MP3's, but I'm wondering what reason there could possibly be not to start.
  • Should an eleventh circuit be established to
    handle cyber cases which span geographic
    boundaries and require understanding of
    things not imagined before Bill Gates and
    Al Gore invented the internet.
    • Um, there already is an eleventh circuit, with jurisdiction over Florida. There are also Federal and D.C. Circuits.

      In general, creating "special" courts like the Federal Circuit, which handles Patent and Trademark cases is a REALLY, REALLY bad idea, since it creates a single point of failure for the regulated special interests to infiltrate. Just look at the complete mess in patent law for examples, but hurry because I hear somebody has filed a patent for answering questions using a computer.
  • cause of the Justice Department's amazing propensity to approve merger's and acquisitions at a phenominal rate (since 1990's) ?.


    And do you see this trend changing anytime soon, and why?

  • by jACL (75401) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @02:07PM (#2688369)
    The SSSCA is for now, presumed dead [slashdot.org], but mutant varieties will most likely appear in the future. With the protectionist environment towards intellectual property in Congress today, future digital rights management variants would continue to provide the means to positively identify individuals online.

    A lawyer friend tells me that nothing in the US Constitution grants the right to anonymity (as opposed to privacy) and that a means of identifying individuals online is inevitable. That said, do you think the OSS world should preempt efforts such as the SSSCA and provide an open means of positively identifying individuals online? Has it come down to choosing the path to walk vs. being forced down it?
  • What solutions do you see to Congress's current trend of accepting legislation written by the industries that they are trying to control? (Ex: Copyright legislation written or heavily contributed to by MPAA and RIAA)
  • Geeks trying to sound like lawyers, or lawyers trying to sound like geeks?
  • Optimism? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sterno (16320) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @02:18PM (#2688436) Homepage
    What trends do you see on the Internet today that give you a glimmer of hope about what the Internet is becoming? With recent DMCA rulings, the growing power of WIPO, etc, it seems like a lot of the freedoms people assumed were built into the Internet are getting eliminated quickly. So given that, what do you see that gives you hope?
    • 128-bit encryption is on the vast majority of internet-connected desktops now. There's absolutely no way that it's possession or use will be made illegal now ("Okay, Granny, we're putting the cuffs on. You should have downgraded your web browser, and you definitely shouldn't have clicked on that https:// link! What do you mean, you don't understand what you did wrong?"), and so any software that wants to escape monitoring can make it's communications indistinguishable from secure HTTP.

      Just the first thing that came to my mind.
  • Background: Recent American books (Rifkin in the Age of Access, yourself) seem to leave little hope of avoiding a tragedy of enclosures. In Europe, the common good of information and software commons benefits from a wider and more politicised support. This is not due to a difference in industry: European corporations are as keen on building enclosures. But there is a stronger resistance in public opinion. Can it suffice, and help with the US situation?
  • Given how easily the ACLU gets up in arms about very small issues related to things like the 10 commandments on plaques, buildings, etc., why do you think that we aren't reading about the ACLU attacking bad legislation or proposed legislation(s) such as the DCMA, UCITA, the SSSCA (?), etc. ?
  • by caduguid (152224) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @02:29PM (#2688509)
    In round two of Valenti vs. Lessig a crucial question arose but due to the to-and-fro of debating was only addressed anecdotally.

    The question was one Valenti posed to you. To paraphrase it roughly: "Who cares? I would like someone to explain to me what harm is being done to the world by Mickey Mouse's copyright being extended twenty years. How does that harm anyone's ability to be creative or incentive to be creative."

    In the debate you only had the opportunity to present an anecdotal response. (A teacher whose class film projects couldn't be shared due to copyright infringement fears, I think.)

    Beyond the anecdote, however, a clear answer would be very helpful. We can all see that the copyright extension bargain was one-sided: copyright holders profited and the public gained nothing. We see the inequity in the action, we sense that the fix was in, and we resent it. But resentment over seeming corruption and the copyright holders' good fortune can only take us so far.

    A clear conception of direct harm to the public might be far more persuasive than the secondary harm of the copyright holders getting a really sweet deal. I kept hoping during the debate that the opportunity would come for you to address the question more fully, but it never did.
  • If the government refuses to prosecute a SPAMMER (in the USA) for violating the DMCA can we use that as a start to destroy the DMCA?
  • member ownership? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by twexter (527979)
    Could a thriving member-owned multinational, VISA, serve as some kind of organizational template for a global trade in ideas?

    The SCSL, Jini and more recently the Liberty Alliance seem to be somewhat inspired by the member-owned "chaordic" model. What if such a model were applied to Napster? What if participants who added extra value could earn extra rewards? Could such a model decrease legal friction encountered when trying to add value to copyrights?

    (btw -- Visa's founder, Dee Hock [fastcompany.com], believes that if member-ownership had been extended to all participants, including merchants and cardholders, Visa would be an $8 trillion business today.)
  • One thing I have always found challenging is that the legal system does not use word like common speech or even the Queen's English, so when trying to read raw legal material I find it confusing and frustrating because I know that I am not getting the full meaning out of the material.


    I have tried to look for books which give an introduction and overview of the law and legal system to adults, but all I can find are Civics textbooks for high school students and practical howto books like those published by Nolo.


    Any recommendations?

  • by scruffy (29773) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @02:52PM (#2688632)
    In your writings, you make an analogy about how computer communication protocols are like laws (or a system of laws) in that the protocols require anything that interacts with them to behave in a certain way. The constant threat is that corporations or governments might impose protocols that limit freedom.

    What are examples of protocols that exist (or are soon to exist or you feel will soon exists) that would limit the freedom we currently enjoy? By freedom, I mean the freedom to communicate my thoughts or creative works freely with anyone else on the internet. I don't assume that I have a general right to distribute or copy anybody else's material without permission though I think I should have the right to sell (with the result that I no longer own or have it) anything I buy.

    • I guess I didn't state my real question carefully enough. I am not so worried about "consumer freedom", which worries about licenses, fair use, etc. If the terms are onerous enough, then no one will buy.

      I am more worried about "creative freedom". People who create/produce/contribute need to have freedom of speech, freedom to distribute, freedom to put their thoughts and creative works on the internet. I think they also should have the freedom to set the terms of use.

  • Dr. Lessig,

    Any security protection will deter 80-90%of the people. Of the remaining people, 1-2% will not be deterred by anything and the rest will take advantage of the work of the 1-2%. Copy protection doesn't work in the digital world as well as it works in the analog world. It would seem that perhaps the laws governing the digitial world ought to be different from the analog world, perhaps even different for different types of digital "ideas".

    What is your opinion of the best way to implement copyright, patent, or other Intellectual Property protection for authors while protecting fair use rights of consumers?
  • What do you see as the social and legal impact of so called 'digital divide' between the 'haves' with ready net access and the 'have nots' without such access? Are there steps, legal, social or otherwise, that should be taken to minimize this divide? If so what should those steps be?
  • by ephraim (192509) on Tuesday December 11, 2001 @03:03PM (#2688728)

    Many of your bio-blurbs state that you clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who is the most conservative justice on the current court.

    In contrast, your own recently published writings have taken a more liberal or libertarian viewpoint on many issues.

    I'm curious to hear about how your time as Scalia's clerk affected your views. What did you learn about civil liberties and technology law while helping to draft opinions for Scalia? Have your views changed since then? If so, why?

    /EJS

  • I think one of the recurring questions that underlies many legal issues on the Internet has to do with jurisdiction: How do you even determine a location in which an activity is taking place in order to decide which laws might apply? This question arises in topics as diverse as suppressing so-called hate speech or levying sales taxes. It's inconceivable that every government on the planet could possibly agree on a universal set of legal standards for the global Internet, and yet it's equally implausible that governments will maintain a hands-off approach in perpetuity (as much as many of us might hope for it). Given the seeming catch-22 inherent in this situation, I'd be very curious to hear how Mr. Lessig thinks this will play out over the next decade or so. (I'm less interested in the philosophical arguments about why things should be one way or another than I am about a pragmatic assessment of what scenarios seem most likely.)
  • Read thing you have written, Ideas (I will admit I have not finished it yet, I just got it in the mail a few days ago) and this [duke.edu] conference paper as well as Code to some extent, I get the idea that what you call for is not possible under the current political system. The distributors of the 20th century want to keep their hold on the right to distribute without competition from the common person and they will not support a politician that advocates a system that will challenge theirs. Generally it seems as if working within the current political system is not possible if we (the ones who will be benefited by the new "regime" as you call it in Ideas) want to protect the commons. In light of this, would you advocate starting a new political party with this as part of its platform? Or do you think that corporate money will always be in American politics and that the only way to protect the public domain will be for producers to mandate that their work goes into the public domain much like Open Source software does?
  • I'm very concerned about the tendency in today's software products to reduce the capabilities of the software, and guide the user to certain services. For example, Microsoft recently made its search engine the default engine in IE if you don't type a web page address correctly. This routes a great deal of search traffic to their engine, and gives them substantial control over where the user goes next. This behavior is not configurable.

    The tendency in the past has been for applications to do more and more, and have plenty of options. Now, companies aren't as concerned with what users want; they're more concerned with controlling that user's experience.

    What stops Microsoft from altering IE so it doesn't show certain pages? What stops Microsoft from routing page views? Nothing. The browser is the choke point of the web.

    It seems unthinkable that a company would alter its software to prevent users from accomplishing certain tasks, but it is entirely likely from where I stand. The functionality should be part of the commons. A browser should not influence the information. I suppose we could argue that Netscape did the same thing.

    The final twist of the knot is the DMCA. If the browser architecture won't do what you want (no option to stop its search behavior, for example), why don't we just hack the app? You can't. That's a violation of the DMCA. So you're not allowed to alter your browsing experience. You have to take the one that's given to you.

    I guess my point here is that functionality is a rightful part of the commons. We shouldn't be denied it by monopoly or anti-hacking law. Is there any chance that the right to do things is going to be recognized?

    As it stands we are utterly at the mercy of Microsoft's next alteration of the browser interface...

  • I'm a first year law student, and I am very interested personally in computer-related law, copyrights, etc. I hope to specialize in some field along these lines, e.g. copyright litigation, once I finish school. Hopefully, I'll be lucky enough to be able to 'fight the good fight.' Unfortunately, I don't have the background in the hard sciences or engineering I'd need to even take, much less pass, the Patent Bar, which, as I know, is an important requirement of many IP firms. Given this, do you have any suggestions which might be useful in any way?

    Thanks very much for your time
    (And now, back to exams. Nothin' I like better!)
  • What are your views on societal transparency, as put forward by David Brin in his book - "The Transparent Society - Will Technology force us to choose between Privacy and Freedom".? (chapter one available online [kithrup.com])

    In this book, Brin argues that, given the existence and proliferation of surveillance technology, one of the few ways to avoid a "Big Brother" scenario is to make the surveillance networks real-time public-access, and "democratic"/all-encompassing, so that "The watched may watch the watchers". Brin then expands upon the possibly viable, perhaps even pleasant, social structure that might then evolve, rather than the usual dystopian vision of a police state.

    (Of course, Popper covered the same ground, but Brin's more accessible, and deals particularly with the technological enabling factors of open societies)

    Brin's observation that "In any situation involving a conflict between privacy and accountability, people demand privacy for themselves and accountability for everyone else", is particularly applicable, in my view, to the online-privacy debates. One core insight is that it is the asymmetric flow of information that often gives one group power over another.
  • In the Constitution, the founders, products of the book-powered Enlightenment, naturally gave a special monopoly (copyright) to writers to give them a weapon with which to fight entrenched cultural interests. These monopolies only granted a fighting chance, however, as the capital required to publish was always greater than the resources of writers. So the Copyright Monopoly was created, and was reasonable, because publishing was expensive.

    But, a few decades ago, technology made it possible for certain publishers (studios) to beat the creators -- analog recording (film and vinyl) required a studio not only to make copies, but to produce the work in the first place. The creator was stuck in the bind of having to have a studio to be heard and seen. The studios used this advantage to force creators of music and movies into a work-for-hire situation. The Copyright Monopoly was no longer reasonable, it now gave the creator no help. The beginnings of the cultural wasteland of the 20th Century were set.

    About the same time, Congress found it necessary to ration speech by granting a monopoly over the airwaves to licensed broadcasters. The balance that held up for the first few decades was that the broadcasters did not produce the works they broadcast, and they were not consolidated. The Broadcast Monopoly was created, and was reasonable, because there was no other way to get broadcasting done, but to make it a public utility.

    But then, starting a couple decades ago, the studios bought out the broadcasters, who after all were a competitive medium. So now the studios had both the Copyright Monopoly and the Broadcast Monopoly. Suddenly, the Broadcast Monopoly was a very bad idea, as it was not a public utility, but a private pipe for pumping the publishers' content. The cultural wasteland accelerated, and the political process was poisoned by the need to go through the broadcasters to get to the people.

    Then you get the web. The web doesn't need the Copyright Monopoly, since publishing is cheap. The web doesn't need the Broadcasting Monopoly, as everyone can broadcast without interference. And finally, the web takes the uncopyable analog advantage away fromthe studios, so creators don't need them any more.

    So the "problem" created by the web is only a problem in that it means that the power of the studios now serves no public interest, and only remains because of the obsolete legal monopolies they enjoy.

    Doesn't this mean that our politics and culture won't be restored to health until these monopolies are not only contained where they are, but eliminated?

    And further, how do we perform these miracles from within the system that's been corrupted?
  • What are your feelings about using the ideas behind the second amendment as a means to think about the right of encryption? I recognize the fact that the 2nd amendment is only about guns. However i do feel that in an information age where power is vested in information not physical things that in order to defend against a tyrnical government encryption will prove far more useful than a 45...
  • In the name of Digital Rights Management, corporations prevent you from editing or saving stuff they have published to you. This is odd, and at at odds with the spirit of Copyright.
    No-one can tell you how much of their book to read, or the order you can read it in. Why do they presume to do so with sound or video? Why must I look at a green FBI notice for 15 seconds at the start of a DVD? Why should I be forced to listen to the information-thin taunts the news programs interlev with the comedy I'm watching beforehand?

    It is the act of re-publishing where the potential copyright violation occurs, not the act of viewing or editing.

    Is my right to selectively view defended in law?
    Its obviously foolish in practice to force me to make an 'all or nothing' decision; is it illegal too?
  • Mr. Lessig,
    I guess you are tired of me by now, but anyway - here is a simple and practical question to consider.

    You are wideley considered and acclaimed to be one of the most famous and prominent--and rightly so--legal scholars promoting free software. You are probably only surpassed by Richard M Stallmans pro bono legal counsel professor Eben Moglen of Columbia University.

    So - why do you use Microsoft Outlook on your Macintosh?

    In theory, practice and theory is the same. In practice, practice and theory is never the same. is this the case or something else?

    Regards

    Mikael Pawlo
    Pine and Eudora user - heresy is my middle name .-)

  • You've written a lot about the sad state of copyrights, but what about the other government-granted monopoly: patents? Now that the MPEG folks are suing Compaq [newsbytes.com], it seems likely that cease-and-desist lawsuits against the developers or distributors of the variety of free MPEG software can't be too far away. The GPL and software/algorithm patents would seem to be completely incompatible. How do you see the proliferation of such patents affecting software and the Internet?

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