View Full Version : Dialogue on the Ethics of Copyright

05-26-2007, 11:45 AM
] Topic: why the Law is such an-ass!
"... yet most human beings for most of the time cooperate for the common good.
Cooperativeness must be taken as the norm, and why that should be so requires
some explanation, though of no very profound sort, since common observation
will establish that cooperation is in the common interest."
-- Keegan, 'A History of Warfare'
wurm say: hey, birol. sorry about the delay; i just wanted to get all of the small stuff
out of the way before giving you my full and undivided attention. Shall we begin now?
And remember to buckle-up your seat-belts first, folks, cause were all in for a mighty
Wild-Ride this time out.
. . . Yah-Hoo! :D
> In the thread 'copyright contradiction' (in Welcome > FAQs forum) cybrwurm previously
> wrote: [snip] Why should you object? I am not using your words, while at the same time
> claiming that they are mine. Your words are clearly marked as yours. So not even the
> copyright laws should object!.
] on 15Apr Birol replies: It's quite possible I would object. My words belong to me,
] not AW, and not you, even if half of the conversation is yours.
w: what? half (or maybe even more than half) is mine? but actually, all this talk of "yours"
and "mine" is sheer nonsense. the concepts of "individual rights" and "intellectual property"
have blinded you to a very simple, yet unshakable, truth; namely, that any and every
serious dialogue (understood to be a free exchange of views and/or ideas) is *necessarily*
a collaborative affair. this is indeed "my" post, but it is most certainly *our* dialogue, and
as such could not even exist without a creative contribution from *both* sides. thus i will
treat *our* baby with all the dignity and respect it deserves ... how 'bout you?
] B: To use my words without my knowledge or consent, strikes me as sleazy,
] and it's quite possible it would be in violation of copyright law.
w: It could only be sleazy if i used your words to harm you somehow, or if you are
ashamed of the things you wrote. but if my posts (eg. our dialogue) help to make a good
MS even better, then where is the evil in that? once you hit that 'submit' button, your
words are out-there, forevermore beyond your power to take-back or control. you make
it sound like you want total control forever. is this even realistic? and if i use our-creation
(to which we are both *equally* entitled) to create something even bigger and better,
how then is that sleazy and unethical?
] B: How do you know I'm not working on my own non-fiction manuscript?
w: I don't. but if u wished to use your own posts in it, how could i or anyone else object?
Any dialogue you engage in is as much yours as it is the other's. Perhaps the Law is not
entirely clued in to this simple fact of literary-life: that *every* real-world dialogue has, in
fact, at least two contributors (or, if you prefer, "owners"). equal responsibility for creation
means equal rights over that creation. this is only common sense, it seems to me.
doubtless the Law has a logic all its own; but this does not mean that the copyright-laws
are wholly and entirely *rational*!
] B: Even newspaper reporters generally let someone know when they might be quoted
] or confirm the quote with them.
w: suppose you write a book that becomes immensely popular. suppose you wrote the
harry-potter books. millions of people all over the world are now quoting your words
verbally and in print, every day and every hour. do you seriously expect everybody to ask
for your consent and approval for each and every usage? you could spend 24 hours a day
handing out consents and yet never catch up to the demand. in fact, it is unrealistic to
suppose that you could maintain control over such a situation. copyright is not intended
to provide a semblance of control where there is none, rather it intends to prevent others
from *profiting* from your labors! That *is* the whole rationale behind the copyright-
laws is it not?
] B: Do you believe that because you post in a thread, you are entitled to use any or all
] part of that thread in your own work because you were participating in it?
w: of course not. i only port those posts that i have posted into the thread. i consider
the thread itself to "belong" to whoever started it, and to everyone who participated in it.
again, this is only common sense.
] B: By this logic, you could pull up threads on the forum that were years old, post
] something in them, then "claim" them for your manuscript.
w: yes, but that would be unethical ... not to mention blatantly absurd!
] B: Honestly, at this point, knowing your perspective,
w: that's just the problem, birol; you (and all those who were so quick to condemn and
execute me) do NOT know my perspective. but rather than allow me to explain myself,
some here much prefer to jump to rash and unjustified conclusions, and act accordingly
by summarily chopping my head off. :(
] I'm leery about responding to you, since you might choose to use my words without
] my knowledge or approval.
w: birol, really. how can you say that? are you not fully aware that you are participating in
a *public* forum open literally to the whole world? *anyone* with access to a computer
can "use my words without my knowledge or approval" if they so desire. how could you
stop them? moreover, they can use them without even giving you credit for them ... if
they so choose. heck, they don't even have to be cooler-members to do that! do you worry
about that? about casual browsers "stealing" your words? no? then why, for heaven sake,
are you so worried about me? ... are philosophers by definition 'sleazy' maybe?
> wp: I do create. But you don't understand. It's just not that simple. I don't do fiction;
> so it's not really a question of inventing dialogue for cheesy characters or anything.
] Birol: The implication that all fiction characters are cheesy is a tad disrespectful to
] fiction writers.
w: yah? maybe so. in fact, i do like fiction, even science-fiction (eg. Asimov, Saberhagen,
Niven, etc). however, i also find that the current overwhelming preference for fiction (eg.
among "readers-in-general") is sadly *way* overdone, and most unfortunate (not to
mention slightly repulsive), as it tends to reduce *all* literature to the status of trivial-
entertainment. Thus fiction, i dare say, is (for the most part) little more than a "desert of
aimless gratification". (btw: that quote comes from a work of fiction scripted by A.Grant,
1993). fiction is like candy. the kids love it, but adults should have sense enough to enjoy
a more balanced diet. so yes, i do have some small bias against fiction-writers. but then
again i'm sure that there are some fiction-writers who are biased against non-fiction
writers too. it's all part of the package, i guess. writers are a weird-bunch after all.
] B: However, irregardless of that, it is still possible to invent conversation for a non-
] fiction book. Simply state "as an example" and use a made up example that is based
] on, but not direct quotes, of conversations you have observed or taken part in.
w: If i put fiction in a non-fiction book, then surely it would be dishonest and unethical
for me to claim that the book is non-fiction, when in fact it isn't. Moreover, some of
the dialogues are so long and involved that it would be literally impossible for me to
'fictionalize' them, as you suggest. think of it this way: each of my posts in this thread is
a page or unit in a chapter. all the "pages" that i put into this thread are placed in sequence
one after the other so as to maintain continuity, and when they are all gathered together
they constitute one "chapter" in the MS. you can then see at once that there is no way i can
as-an-example-it without seriously distorting and damaging the whole dialogue. the result
would, in fact, be completely worthless to me and my readers.
As you can see, the first post is entirely my words, but after that other elements appear;
mostly comments and questions, but also some quoting of outside, extra-forum, sources
too. of course, the *amount* of material that i did not personally write various enormously
from post to post, but on-the-whole, the majority of the text within the proposed 'chapter'
was authored by da wurm. right, birol? and, of course, the MS has *many* such chapters.
Soooo . . .
"Here you go, lady, have a nice apple-pie. on one side we have a mouth-watering golden-
baked crust with yummy apple-filling, and topped with ooey-gooey vanilla ice-cream. and
on the other side we have ... umm ... Hey! there's nothing there! I ain't eatin *that* pie,
pal; now buzz-off already!"
> wp: That's not very helpful, herr birol. You make it sound like it's impossible to have
> "real-world" dialogue in a non-fiction book. But actually, does it really matter if I get
> everyone's personal permission? Isn't it the websites themselves that hold the rights to
> all member contributions and submissions and postings? If *they* say it's okay to use
> their forum-postings in a book, then there should be no problem. Right? I don't know
> about any of this stuff, that's why I'm here asking about these things.
] Birol: First, if you wish to sprechen Sie Deutsch, I am "Frau" not "Herr".
w: So sorry, frau birol. my bad. :)
] B: The implied insult is also probably not the best approach to use when someone
] is taking the time to respond to you, either.
w: There is no implied insult here. i just happen to like the sound of the german language.
German just has so many *great* words ... and many great german-philosophers too!
] B: Just because you do not like my response does not make it any less accurate
] or any less helpful.
w: Who says i don't like your responses? i think you're doing just fine, birol. in
fact, keep up the good work. i couldn't do this without you, u-know. you're great!
the best collaborative co-author and dialogue-partner i've had in a long time.
] B: [snip] But just taking words because you had participated in the conversation
] and using them? Legal or not, it strikes me as unethical.
w: Suppose i could convince you that there is nothing unethical about my use of *our*
goodly-dialogue? that your inclusion in my project would only improve the MS? would it
still matter so much to you that such usage was legal or not? Let's say that you actually
wanted me to include this post in my MS, but i couldn't because of the copyright laws.
would you not think that the Law is wrong to forbid it? that this is somehow unfair? that
some flaw or injustice is going on here? . . . Philosophy, like dialogue, is a collaborative
process. philosophers use each other's efforts to raise themselves up high so as to get a
better view of everything. among philosophers there is no solipsism simply because they
know well-enough that 'no man is an island'. therefore the Law be damned!
Now let's just stop here for a minute and think about all this. It seems to me (at least that's
one) that the copyright-laws as presented earlier on this thread do *NOT* (in principle,
anyway) explicitly forbid the use of real-world dialogue in a non-fiction book … as long as
it's justified. Right? So let's all focus on that for a second. Once we do this it becomes
immediately obvious that the Law is simply grossly incompetent and incapable of grasping
the concept of collaboration. The Law *assumes* that one document must have one author.
But dialogue? Dialogue is purely and strictly *verbal* and belongs exclusively to the R-W!
Thus as far as the Law is concerned there is no such thing as textual-dialogue born of
dynamic and creative collaboration between two writers. The Law can't even see the true
nature of forum-postings because the concepts of 'dialogue' and 'text' don't fit together
under its fancy little schemes of "individual rights" and "intellectual property". The Law is
an ignorant dawg. The Law is stupid. The Law is .. an ass! So if indeed the Law is irrational,
anti-philosophy, and even (at times) evil, it is only because the Law is a *weapon* of mass-
oppression (ie. WMO) in the hands of the rich and powerful, the economic royalists, and
the lunatics and madmen who are running this planet into the ground. Wake up and smell
the river, people; that's the smell of the Law!
Look, it's really all quite simple. we are all-of-us in this world and in this life *together*.
Right? So let's stop obsessing over what you and i "own", and let's start sharing the
things that *we* create together! ... okay? is that too much to ask for?
- rant-of-the-day brought to you by public-enemy-#9 -- cybrwurm ;>
P.S. next up --> the nasty-ones ... be afraid; be *very* afraid!
OR: ... something silly this way comes!
P.P.S. "They're actually running? Such *serious* folk.
Well, damn them to hell, if they can't take a joke!" -- Etrigan

05-26-2007, 07:25 PM
Whether copyright law is fair, and to whom, is indeed making news again. For example, see this over at Making Light (http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009034.html#009034). It has wonderful quotations from Macaulay (whose writings are public domain, by the way). The same ML post goes on to remind us copyright infringement is a tort, and as such would require someone to sue you, which is probably unlikely no matter what you do. But youíre taking chances on that.

Of course conversation is two-way, and the notion of who owns what can be interesting to talk about. Think about the Wiki concept, for example. But your thread last month began as a question of what was legal, not what was right. As I understand it, your book will take a wide assortment of posted comments and publish them without the postersí permission. As folks told you, even though you canít find those people to get their permission, doing that could get you hauled into court. Macaulay wouldnít like current copyright laws, either, so youíre in good company if you donít.

So I gather you donít like Canadian or US copyright laws. Tough. If you want to rant about that, though, Iíll punt this over to TIO. If you want to ponder the vagaries of language, than we can certainly see if folks want to do that in here.

One more thing: please use the quote function. It makes long posts that quote previous posts much easier to follow. Itís simple and is explained in FAQ.