Eric Miller on 26 Jul 2000 16:11:28 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] RE: <nettime> Terror in Tune Town

ooh, this is starting to get good. [sic]

First off--Mr. Fisher makes a great point here, and one that I must
acknowledge as valid and relevant.  My arguments partially rested on an
assumption that current IP and copyright law are our assumed baseline for
managing the rights of the content creators/owners as well as the consumers.
If we step back and say "this system is potentially no longer
applicable/relevant" than the debate certainly changes.  

So barring revolution (or a truly liberal Congress/international consensus,
which seems equally likely) I'm not sure that we'd be able to realistically
achieve a radical restructuring of our current legal framework.  But that's
beside the point...I think we could all agree that there must be a better
way to handle this.  

Also, I'll grant that the notion of "property" being applied to
thought/intellectual labor is a hard one to swallow.  But I'd propose that
this capitalistic philosophy is the most pragmatic in light of human nature
and behavior.  To paraphrase..."Democracy is the worst form of government,
except for all the others."  Churchill, right?  Apply it to free-market
capitalism as well as democracy.  Anyone got a better system?  Let's hear

I've been called here on my "grey area" argument...not to use it as an
escape hatch here or anything, but I don't think that there's consensus in
the artistic community (let alone in the business/legal realm) on what
constitutes "fair usage".  For example, many people have questioned hip-hop
artists and pop musicians (Beck in particular) who appropriate other musical
elements to create their work.  At what point does it cross a line?  Ask ten
different musicians, you'll get ten different answers.  And
usage/format/style also plays a role...many people support what Negativland
does, but there's been a huge stink over Kenny G's recent verbatim lifting
of a Louis Armstrong recording.  So in the end the answer seems to be "it

One specific response to Pat ( who writes "They [Napster]
have created a market with an infinite supply."  I'd differ with you on this
point...the supply may seem infinite, but the resource (the artists) is
finite.  the individual distribution nodes for Napster, though, have the
effect of increasing available content sources exponentially in relation to
the original resource.

Okay, after all this, what's my point?  Setting
semantics/philosophy/politics aside for a moment...I still believe that we
don't treat artists fairly if they don't have the right to determine the
use/distribution/profit from their work.  At least to a certain extent that
allows them to maintain the integrity of their product.  Regardless of what
the technology can do, or what the law says, I firmly believe that letting
the masses appropriate the labor of the individual without consent is a
violation of that individual's rights.  Furthermore, it dilutes the
integrity of their work, and can have the net effect of discouraging them
from pursuing or distributing their work.  And that's everyone's loss.


-----Original Message-----
From: Jeffrey Fisher []
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 4:41 PM
To: Nettime
Subject: Re: <nettime> Terror in Tune Town

Eric Miller wrote:

> In the end, I don't think this argument can hold up.  I think it partially
> boils down to your statement about IP rights being a creation of the
> borgeoise...I just can't buy that.(bad pun intended)

interestingly, your ally in this debate mckenzie wark's historical argument
actually undermines your point, here.

> I don't buy any argument that legitimizes self-serving behavior
> by framing it as a class struggle issue.

well, first of all, class struggle is self-serving, not philanthropy or
altruism. just pointing out a category error.

> Taking content without paying for
> it certainly qualifies in my book.  Doesn't matter if you're a bona-fide
> blue-collar member of the proletariat complete with union card and
> oppressive bourgeoisie overlords...if you take what doesn't belong to you,
> you're stealing.

but this is the whole point. what belongs to you and why? if  intellectual
property is a natural right (a la mckenzie and his locke reference), why
copyright ever end? why is there such a thing as public domain at all? is
the limitation of copyright essentially theft, according to your
i'm serious.

> I'm sorry, but the bottom line is IF YOU DIDN'T PAY FOR IT, IT ISN'T

hm. how much do i owe my parents for my life? or they their parents for
and so on . . . do i even own the life that i invest in my works of art? by
right do i do so? is such a right naturally endowed by our creator? at what

i'm being sarcastic, but i recognize the conundrum here.

we want people to be able to make a living doing things like writing, or
composing, or performing, or painting, or whatever. but i think the
reduction of
that problem to copyrights and intellectual property actually avoids the
fundamental issues: why do people need to create and/or experience
art . . . culture . . .  in the first place?

the notion we have now of intellectual property i think conforms (like many
ideas we have) to a romantic notion of the individual whose solo sturm und
issues forth in deep thoughts or provocative tunes or whatever, rather than
sense that we are engaged in anything fundamentally collaborative as a
or as a species -- i.e., as a community. "you can use some of my ideas with
ideas if you pay me to do so. you can experience my ideas if you pay me to
so." because the only measure of value we seem to have any more is money.

which leads to a second problem, namely that we are supposed by this
(the market) to weed out the good from the bad -- people who do worthwhile
will be able to make enough money (by way of their ip rights) to make a
continuing to think deep thoughts or make groovy music. those who can't,
it's a competitive marketplace, and if you ain't hip to the zeitgeist, your
IP(O) will be worthless. is this really what we want? i doubt it. but we've
built a culture that tends to respect deep thinkers who make a living on
deep thoughts, and musicians who make a living on their music, and so on,
because we presume that if they're not good enough at it to make a living at
they probably aren't worth me spending my 15-25 hard-earned bucks on.

i apologize for not having the answers (beyond revolution ;-), but it seems
me that the debate over napster and IP has fallen apart into fairly
sets of positions.


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