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Lessig on Copyright Abolitionist "Extremists"

In this talk Larry Lessig explains how copyright law chokes creativity ... but that copyright abolitionists are wrong and extremists. Hunh?

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Stephan, a populist "being subject to another's constraint is wrong," but inconsistent "but controlling the use of your work is right." position is a more lucrative position to hold than that held by the natural rights libertarian, and even more lucrative than that of the IP nihilist.

It's also a tad populist to resort to the logical fallacy of 'appeal to moderation', i.e. extremists are a priori wrong as the correct solution is always a balance or compromise.

Thus those who would abolish slavery are extremists and thus wrong, as the solution to maximising the extraction of labour from slaves lies somewhere between continuous labour and manumission, e.g. complete rest on the sabbath, and 18hour working days otherwise.

Are we extremists? Yes, certainly. But in this case, the extremist position is right.
I just listened to Lessig's talk and must have missed the part where he mentioned copyright abolitionists. His discussion of the battle between ASCAP (boo!) and BMI (yah!) is not mentioned in _Free Culture_. Did he mention it in _Remix_, which I haven't read?

As I listened, my mind drifted and I picked up _Power and Market_ by Murray N. Rothbard (if anyone reading this hasn't read it, do yourself a favor and liberate a copy; it might be webbed at the Mises Institute's website too), then opened it to the chapter on "The Economics of Violent Intervention in the Market," where he pioneers (yes, pioneers) the theory of autistic, binary, and triangular interventions. Copyright/patent are forms of triangular interventions, whereas chattel slavery, which shares characteristics with them, can be either a binary or a triangular intervention.

I remember vivedly listening to Lessig when he gave a talk at NYU three years ago, and wanting to stand up and shout in the middle of it "it's a form of slavery." He's in the reformist camp, the same one as Josh Lerner and his co-author of a book on patents (Adam ?, can't remember his last name now). Would they have wished to reform slavery, maybe by giving slaves the right to holidays from their masters and their bondage?

Today's Wall St. Journal has an interesting front pager on the inventor Nikola Testa, whose ideas seem to be enjoying something of a renewal these days. It mentions that Thomas Edison, who is so 20th century, covertly copied, then released a French filmmaker's 1902 work, "A Trip to the Moon," without paying him, resulting in the latter's financial distress. (It doesn't mention that that makes the patent-engorged TE a hypocrite.) I can't find this episode in Robert Conot's bio, _Thomas A. Edison: A Streak of Luck_. Can anyone confirm/disconfirm this story?
That type of hypocrisy is a recurring theme among IP advocates. For a modern example you need look no farther than Nikolas Sarkozy.
Crosbie:

Interesting point. I wonder whether abolitionists were truly the extreme?

I must admit that I have said before, particularly when working at midnight on a Sunday to prepare a system for delivery, after working nearly 80 hours that week, on salary (no overtime for me), whether I was essentially a paid slave.

My curiosity is whether abolition of slavery was truly an extreme or whether there were a range of abolitionist positions versus what seems to be extremes (abolitionist versus slavery). If there were a range of positions from extreme slavery (slave are property and I may do what I like with them) to extreme abolition (no one can place themselves in servitude to another under any circumstances), I wonder whether the system we have is actually the middle position? That might mean that moderation was grounded in abolition when all slavery and abolition positions were plotted.

Another perspective is the extent of belief. If 99% of society believes in slavery, then is that an extreme position? What if 99% of society believes in abolitionist positions, albeit with a range of positions? Just how does one really know what an extreme position is?

Crosbie:

Interesting point. I wonder whether abolitionists were truly the extreme?

I must admit that I have said before, particularly when working at midnight on a Sunday to prepare a system for delivery, after working nearly 80 hours that week, on salary (no overtime for me), whether I was essentially a paid slave.

My curiosity is whether abolition of slavery was truly an extreme or whether there were a range of abolitionist positions versus what seems to be extremes (abolitionist versus slavery). If there were a range of positions from extreme slavery (slave are property and I may do what I like with them) to extreme abolition (no one can place themselves in servitude to another under any circumstances), I wonder whether the system we have is actually the middle position? That might mean that moderation was grounded in abolition when all slavery and abolition positions were plotted.

Another perspective is the extent of belief. If 99% of society believes in slavery, then is that an extreme position? What if 99% of society believes in abolitionist positions, albeit with a range of positions? Just how does one really know what an extreme position is?


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