Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Bene Gesserit solution to copyright trolls

So I've found myself re-reading the entire Dune series.  I'd intended to only re-read the first classic book (which I read when I was 12), but it's pretty gripping stuff, if you like that sort of thing.  Certainly, it was really too heavy for me at that age, especially the later books.  Much too abstract.

It's still pretty challenging as an experienced reader.  They are really books of philosophy as much as anything.  In fact I was struck by this passage in Chapterhouse: Dune:

"Don't march in the streets with others who share your prejudices.  Loud shouts are often the easiest to ignore.  "I mean, look at them out there shouting their fool heads off!  You want to make common cause with them?"...

To create change you find leverage points and move them.  Beware blind alleys.  Offers of high positions are a common distraction paraded before marchers.  Leverage points are not all in high office.  They are often at economic or communications centers and unless you know this, high office is useless."

Now that is my kind of science fiction!  And it got me to thinking about the expansion of fair use rights in copyright, and all the forces arrayed against that.

I think its safe to say the RIAA and MPAA are not in a place where they are willing to entertain the idea of more freedom for people on the internet.  For that matter, I don't expect them ever to be--it will have to be imposed on them by force.  Force means government, and if you want the government to do something like that you need to convince a lot of ordinary folks that it is necessary.  Hence this blog.  I realize it's an uphill battle.  Not my fault if I'm right and it's hard!

So...leverage points.  Move them!

What are the leverage points on the RIAA and MPAA?  What are the leverage points on our government?  Remember Wikipedia turning black for a day and SOPA getting shot down?  That was a leverage point being moved.  The hoi polloi did not like their Wikipedia being down!

Obviously, that's not something  you want to use too much.  Also, I hardly think even if you tried it that people would really grok why the expansion of fair use is so important.  Even many people who call themselves computer geeks don't appreciate that as they should.

No, it's going to take a little longer than that, and more subtlety.  Arguments are good, but most folks just don't have a heavy philosophical bent.  Arguments, I think, are for other philosophers, who can influence other people near them.

I think there is more than one leverage point in play, here.  One thing I thought of right away though is custom.  For example, many people I know who pirate music, movies, and tv shows simply are not interested in the philosophical, moral, and ethical aspects of what they are doing.  At all.  Except to snort with contempt when told that it is somehow wrong.

And that, my friends, is the fundamental good sense of the American people.

I do think it is inevitable, in time, that this will happen.  But I would prefer it be less than a couple hundred years as we fight a War on Drugs style campaign against file sharing on the internet.  That is already being a disaster.

So one leverage point, I think, is reality.  How many people are doing it.  How can we expand that exponentially?

One problem with pirating, even today, is it takes work.  I have talked before about how easy it is (one of the most popular posts on this blog, hehe).  And it is easy.  But it still requires a little work.  A little understanding.  It's still too hard.

So what I'm thinking as one idea, is to develop a javascript torrrent tool, that just appears to let you select, say, any song or movie you want to play, and plays it.  In the background it is searching torrent sites and downloading the appropriate data.  But all the user sees is a selection and a play button.  For music in particular this could work very well, since a single song can generally be downloaded in a few seconds over broadband.

But the beauty of this approach is--if you develop the application well, it could be dragged and dropped onto almost any website by any webmaster with no skill.  And--and this is the kicker--they aren't doing any pirating themselves.  It is the equivalent of distributing bittorrent client software, which is completely legal.  Javascript runs on the client (the web site visitor's machine)--but the client won't even know it.

But they'll get used to it.

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