Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Comments on Lessig and Question Answers

Lessig seems to be quite a proponent of shortening copyright and patent lengths. He claims that many of the extensions on the lengths of copyrights were made simply so that Walt Disney wouldn't lose control of Mickey Mouse. Disney didn't want Mickey Mouse to pass into public domain, so he kept lobbying for extensions. The extensions on copyright length didn't just apply to new copyrights, it applied to old ones as well, therefore protecting Mickey and Disney. Lessig believes that copyrights have been taken too far for the wrong reasons. He advocates short copyright lengths which would eventually provide more information to the general public, driving creativity forward more quickly.

Now, the answers to the questions:

Utilitarianism is concerned with the greater good, so one might argue that stealing is okay in order for more people to benefit from the music and, ultimately, be happier. Social Contract theory pretty much puts a stop to any illegal copying because our laws do not permit it. According to Kant, stealing would not be permissible because if I were an artist, I certainly would not want others to steal my music, therefore I shouldn't do the same to them.

I really like the direction that Radiohead seemed to be going. My idea is to abolish record labels entirely and along with it, CD's. Make music an entirely digital item, completely rethink album covers and such. Don't put any protection software or device on the music. Try the approach where you appeal entirely to consumers integrity. Yes, music will still be stolen on a very large scale, but I think that artists will, ultimately, get more money for their efforts than they ever could with a selfish, stuffy, money-grubbing, tasteless, greedy, and corporate record label. This way artists costs will be to their recording studios and to their web hosts/distributors, and that's it. No more huge chunk of cash going to the record label big-wigs. Basically, the best protection is none at all. The likely losses can be recovered by eliminating the middle man. Some people might complain about not having a hard copy of the music or say that some people don't have computers, they just want a disc to put in a CD player. To alleviate this, you could have a system similar to the one used by disposable digital cameras. You take the pictures, then you go to a machine in a Walmart or Target and the machine takes the pictures off of the camera and puts them on a CD. Perhaps you could have a machine that would detect the music you have on your iPod, then allow you to choose an album that you own and the machine will burn the CD, put the graphics on the top of the CD, print the album cover, fold it, and dispense the CD case so that you can assemble the hard copy. The machine would have to somehow verify the files and only allow you to create one hard copy. Also, it would have to charge a small fee. Anyway, it's just an idea.

I think that a lot of people rationalize it by assuming that the artists whose music they are downloading are probably wealthy enough as it is. The artists aren't going to be hurt that badly by it, after all it's only one, two, ten songs. No big deal, right? Furthermore, once the music is downloaded and stolen, it's hard to delete it. Very hard. Then you promise yourself that instead of deleting it, you'll buy it all over time, but who are we kidding, we're college students. We don't have that much extra cash to spend on music, so, realistically, it'll probably take us years to purchase all the music that we've stolen since it's probably numbering in the thousands of songs. And of course during these years in which we're paying for all the stolen music, we're not once going to choose to spend our spare $10 on a new CD instead. Certainly not. Honestly, I have no idea how people really rationalize it, because even after considering all the things above, it still seems quite wrong. Personally, I have 1200 songs, and out of those 1200, there are only 20 songs (two albums) that I didn't purchase. I borrowed the CD from a friend and ripped them onto my computer. I'm still working on getting those paid for.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Notes on Chapter 4

First of all, in my opinion, I hate the argument for stealing music that goes something like this: "It's not stealing because I didn't take the songs from someone, I just copied it. We can both still listen to them." I hate this argument because it completely ignores the fact that the thief is denying someone, somewhere, their living. You may be not stealing the song, per se, but you are stealing money from them. By not paying for something they worked to produce, you are essentially stealing money from them. While I have long since sworn off stealing music, there was a time in my life when I indulged in a little sampling of music from kazaa. What I did is I would download songs from bands that I had heard about and that I thought I might like. I would listen to them and if I liked them I would go out and buy their CDs. I've bought at least 20 albums by this method, and I have deleted all of the original stolen songs since then, keeping only the ones that I ripped off of the CDs that I bought. While I certainly don't expect everyone else to have done this as well, I bring it up because of the vicious nature in which the RIAA has gone after people who stole music at some point. Even if they have deleted all of it, even if they never even listened to most of it, even if they bought dozens of CDs from artists as a result of sampling stolen music, the RIAA will still heartlessly drain the person for as much money as they can. I think that is wrong. I think the RIAA should use far more discression in the area of seeking compensation for stolen music.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Notes on Chapter 3

I think there are two types of advertisements in the world. Those that we are forced to witness as a way of paying for something (this is the ok kind). For example, when we watch our favorite television programs, we are forced to watch commercials, basically, as a way of paying for having TV shows to watch; commercials are what make TV possible. The other kind of advertisements are unsolicited ads. These are ads that are forced upon us in places where they don't belong; they are forced upon us simply because they are not outlawed. They can, and so they do. One example of this, in my opinion, is billboard ads. Billboard ads do not pay for roads or highways. They in no way benefit the roads themselves, rather they leach off of the roads. Billboards are wrong, in my opinion. Spam email is similar to this. Spam does not fund the email service. Profit from spam emails does not go into ensuring that our email service continues. If anything, spam email makes reliable email service harder. For this reason, in my eyes, spam email is wrong. It's not a benefit to the system, it's a leech on the system.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Notes on Huggins and Postman

Both of these articles mention the two-facedness of technology, how every benefit derived brings problems as well. "Culture always pays the price of technology" says Postman. My question is who is deciding what is better for culture? Just because our culture is different doesn't mean it's worse; just because our culture as it exists now is not the same as the one we grew up with, does not make it bad. Are technology naysayers merely uncomfortable with change?
I understand some of the arguments made in these articles, but some statements, especially ones made Postman's article, are simply absurd. "We can say that the computer person values information, not knowledge, certainly not wisdom. Indeed, in the computer age, the concept of wisdom may vanish altogether." This statement, needless to say, is pompous and inaccurate. I would say that wisdom and computers are two very unrelated things. Certainly the former can be propagated by means of the latter, but the existence of computers in no way undermines the persistent need of wisdom.
I find the point to be quite valid that Postman makes about how technology changes our culture rather than adds to it. American culture with television added does not equal old American culture + television; contrarily, our culture now is completely, entirely different now than it was when we had no television. With that in mind, it is important to consider if our new technologies are actually improving our culture rather than simply providing another way to spend money.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I haven't been able to find the book yet. :(