Thursday, August 19

John Perry Barlow on the Intellectual Property Issue

Some great John Perry Barlow quotes pulled from a Reason interview by Tim Wu who's guest blogging on Lawrence Lessig's blog this week.
'Copyright and intellectual property are the most important issues now. If you don't have something that assures fair use, then you don't have a free society. If all ideas have to be bought, then you have an intellectually regressive system that will assure you have a highly knowledgeable elite and an ignorant mass.'

'I personally think intellectual property is an oxymoron. Physical objects have a completely different natural economy than intellectual goods. It's a tricky thing to try to own something that remains in your possession even after you give it to many others.'

'Trying to own intellectual products and creating an economy of scarcity around them as we do with physical objects is very harmful to the development of culture and the ability to speak freely, and a very important principle not talked about much, which is the right to know.'

'The motion picture industry should realize in an information economy that when you've got a lot of free access to commercial goods it does not necessarily reduce their value, because there is a relationship between value and familiarity in informational goods.'

'I get pilloried for saying this -- 'Oh, Barlow thinks the Grateful Dead model ought to extend to the world' -- but I don't see any reason why it can't. It worked for us and it has worked for everyone else I've ever seen try it. I think that what we stumbled into was a real deep -- we didn't know it at the time -- a deep quality of how an information economy works. We really did just stumble into it. We just decided it was morally shaky to toss people out of concerts just because they had tape recorders. It's bad for your karma to be mean to a Deadhead. And we thought we'd take a hit on it.'
Barlow quotes from Reason: John Perry Barlow 2.0: The Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace reinvents his body -- and his politics via Lawrence Lessig's Blog.

Also, I've added some quotes pulled from the prophetic A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace published by Barlow on February 8th, 1996.
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

... You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.
It is very interesting to note that even when this was written 8 full years ago that John Barlow and those who undoubtedly helped craft this declaration had already been grappling with the tremendous conflict inherent in the "intellectual property" issue. It very well may be an impossibility to separate through law the evils from the goods that come out of a free and open society. However base social engineering like the wiki may one day very well prove that the the answer to law and order on the internet is not in law at all not in the code at all, but in self governance of the masses through the study, faith and encouragement of the mythical inherent good in mankind. What I've called that magical quality that happens when you trust people. Could it really come down to simple faith in the inherent good of mankind and if so will our governing institutions be able to make that leap of faith? Will our industries be good enough to weather it? Most importantly will we as individuals be bold enough, smart enough, motivated and active enough to architect and to develop the necessary mechanisms of change or will we continue to build and use p2p systems that exploit the internet to bad ends rather than build upon it to enable great new beginnings?

Update! Also on topic is this excellent article by Barlow; The Economy of Ideas — Selling Wine Without Bottles on the Global Net. It starts with the following quote which not to surpassingly is from Thomas Jefferson himself. If you haven't already wondered why Barlow has been called the "Thomas Jefferson of the internet" after reading his "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" then you really should be gettin' it by now.
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Good Lookin'
I love the header photo- the toop of a sock monkey's head as he rest against a fruit crate, right?
Let me know when you are back in town.
-D(that which lives down south)

Anonymous said...

Thanks "big D" ; )

talk to you soon