Friday, September 08, 2006

orderly global economies

"Protecting intellectual property from piracy is a cornerstone of an orderly global economy" (O'Connor 381).

Is this neccessarily so? Why or why not? I'm trying to sort it out.
Comments welcome.

--
O'Connor, David E. Encyclopedia of the Global Economy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.
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Reading: about the antipopes
Feeling: overworked, underutilized.

8 comments:

csven said...

I disagree with the words, but agree with the idea. In today's world I'd use:

"Respecting intellectual property is a cornerstone of an orderly global economy"

There is no protection. Not from hackers and not from corporate corruption. Rather than fight corporate greed by trying to break DRM which protects their precious media, I say people should ignore their product altogether. Much of what's being fought over is a luxury. No one needs the latest Britney Spears mp3. No one needs to watch whatever movie they can download from Pirate Bay. Worse yet, there is still greed behind those activities. Whether it's a Russian website selling lower cost music (bc they have almost no overhead and a giant legal loophool) or whether it's Pirate Bay raking in bushels of ad money (which they don't like to talk about), someone is getting rich. And you can be sure a fair amount of that dirty money isn't going to social programs to feed the poor or organizations trying to stop the AIDs epidemic in Africa. It's most likely just going into some other corrupt person's bank account.

The best way to react imo is to a) buy the offerings of truly independent artists and b) respect their work by giving them control over it's distribution. Don't do it because it's the moral or ethical thing to do; that removes pragmatism, and I'm very pragmatic. Do it because our collective behavior will either help us or harm us in the years to come. Because just in the way cheap goods purchased by the working class sent their jobs to low-wage countries, the day will come when all things will be pirated as easily as an mp3. And the effects of that technology rippling through our social systems faster than we adjust to accomodate them will result in economic chaos. Something is going to rip if we're not more thoughtful.

Because I don't believe people can stop themselves, and because I believe selfishness trumps, I expect that we'll see some very difficult times ahead. The cornerstone will, in effect, crumble. How or even whether we reinforce or replace it is the real question in my mind.

Woody Evans said...

If we accept that disrespecting intellectual property really amounts to theiving, I have to ask: why is stealing a threat to the global economy?

Using strong arm tactics to gain rights (by way of legal loopholes, like you mention they do in Russia), doesn't seem so different from bending international treaties to invade a country for its resources (or whatever other reasons). These moves can destablize the system in the short term, but WHY do they threaten the longterm stability of the system?

Morality aside, how is theft bad for the global economy?

csven said...

If there's no incentive, progress slows. If nobody respects the inventiveness of creators, then the creators won't invest the energy. That's the lesson of the Soviet Union afaic.

Assume for a moment that you've spent three years developing something. You've sacrificed for this creation; not just time and money but perhaps a marriage. And your reward? Someone takes your work and claims it as their own and profits from it. And you have no recourse because that theft is acceptable to society; society approves of the tricksters and the bullies.

Do we really want social Darwinism? Do we really want to remove the protections that intellectual property laws are supposed to provide?

The United States is the powerhouse it is today because of those laws. Unfortunately, they've become corrupted. The solution is not to wrestle product from the corporations, because there are ways to profit from that attention. The solution is to remove those politicians who votes are being effectively bought by corporations. The solution is to stop giving any attention to the products offered by those corporations. Ignore them. Entirely.

The opposite of love isn't hate - it's apathy toward the individual.

The opposite of IP corruption isn't cracking DRM - it's apathy toward the product.

There's a very good reason so much money is spent on advertising. We should not underestimate the power of turning our backs on companies and their offerings. Apple is a good example. I don't own an iPod. I don't purchase my music through iTunes. The reason I don't is because I don't like the restrictions. So I ignore their product. What's baffling is seeing a bunch of iPod owners angry over the DRM. Huh? Like they didn't know this going in? And they're angry with Apple because they purchased something which clearly limited their options? I think it's idiotic. Nobody forced them to purchase this luxury product. What happened to taking responsibility for our own actions? They shouldn't blame Apple, they should kick themselves for giving Apple the market. Apple's dominance is a result of their attention and nothing else.

Now, I'll agree that there are times when IP laws should be set aside. South Africa and Brazil weighed those laws against the AIDs situation in their countries and took action. There's nothing wrong with this and afaic it was the right thing to do; there's a time when excess profit (and by no means were these companies in danger of going bankrupt) should be set aside for the common good in just the same way that IP laws are for the common good. But access to music, movies, software, etc is a long way from that situation. We live in a world where the privileged use the word "need" far too often. No one needs most of what's being taken. All we're doing is teaching younger generations a behavior that will have a dampening effect on the future.

Woody Evans said...

Okay, it makes much more sense when you put it like that. Respecting intellectual property keeps the innovators innovating. Without respecting their intellectual property the innovative lose an important carrot, feel undercut and cheated by the pirates...

The thing is, as important as it is to fairly reward innovation and to keep encouraging it with law and money, I don't necessarily agree with the assumption that innovation will decline if piracy goes up.

I think need is what drives innovation, not the promise of legal rights or recognition, or financial reward. I think 1.3 billion Chinese hack innovations from Korea, Japan, and the West because they have a need -- imagined or not -- for those goods and goodies. Obviously if we're talking about breaking a patent on a water filter, it's a much stronger and more 'real' need than digicamming a blockbuster in the theatre and selling burned discs of it... Certainly there exists wildly different levels of "need" in the world, and the attempt to solve probelms that comes from that need can be as simple as selling copied movies, or as horrifying and selfish as the common folk remedy for male AIDs victims in rural Africa -- which amounts to incest and rape of minors in the belief that sex with a virgin heals the disease.

What you said (csven) about times when i.p. laws should be set aside for the greater good -- maybe the way forward is to create a more lenient legal evironment in the first place. A Creative Commons for patents?

csven said...

"I think need is what drives innovation, not the promise of legal rights or recognition, or financial reward."

Then how do you explain the economic disaster in the former U.S.S.R.?

My mother is German. When the wall fell she heard quite a bit from friends back home about how difficult it was for the former East Germans to adapt to a society in which they couldn't simply walk away from the jobsite when they felt like it. If they ran out of bricks to lay and the truck wasn't there with more to unload, they didn't wait... they bailed. They had no incentive to wait for more and no initiative to determine when they might be needed. Their basic needs were usually met and so innovation crawled forward. They had no experience with the products being developed in the West, so they didn't perceive a need for them. And when they desired something, they could find that item on the blackmarket - which is where organized crime incubated until the system collapsed.

"I think 1.3 billion Chinese hack innovations from Korea, Japan, and the West because they have a need -- imagined or not -- for those goods and goodies."

I don't know if you've been keeping up, but the Chinese are becoming increasingly concerned with the effects piracy is having on their own development. Chinese software companies are often hit so hard they can't stay in business. If there's nothing to be gained, they don't even try. They're now trying to use the same means as companies like Valve and MS to ensure that their fellow countrymen don't put them out on the street. But we all know that software verification systems can be circumvented.

The Chinese are now reaping what Communism has sown: people don't think piracy is wrong. How is China going to stop it now when it's so firmly a part of their culture? How do you convince a billion people to change their habit and pay for what they can get for free? Is the Chairman going to make an argument for Capitalist innovation where people are rewarded for their ideas??? If not, he needs to. Otherwise China is in real trouble. The world is leveling. Labor is making demands. Salaries are rising along with lifestyles and expectations - and much of it is based on old industrial technology. Meanwhile, those smart Europeans are pushing new rapid-manufacturing solutions forward (the kind of thing you get from a system that rewards innovation) and in the not-too-distant future products made in China will be more expensive and less attractive than those which are RM'd at home.

"Certainly there exists wildly different levels of "need" in the world,..."

I disagree. People only need a few things; among them are food, shelter, safety. No one needs what Pirate Bay offers. No one needs Apple to change their business model to give them unlimited use of the content tied to their devices. All those protestors should be protesting real issues - like this one: Blood Diamonds.

We need to get our priorities straight. Music and movies aren't anywhere near being a priority.

...maybe the way forward is to create a more lenient legal evironment in the first place. A Creative Commons for patents?

I've been arguing for this since before Napster (because I was aware of MPEG Layer 3 almost immediately - being a filmmaking buff, I was following its development). I downloaded some music back when a search for "mp3" yielded maybe 30 returns. But it didn't take me long to realize that we had some serious problems. And the patent issues I've known about for much longer, given my occupation.

Yes, we need to fix the system. I've never defended corporate activity in this arena. But I also won't yield to those who take a militant approach; mainly, because it doesn't work. The way to fix this is to use the power we have: with our votes and with our pocketbook. But the sad truth is that people are lazy. Far easier to download whatever you want and excuse it (often with outright lies) than make a real effort to fix the system.

csven said...

"...with our pocketbook"

Correction: with our attention (because that's how corporations can still leverage what people steal).

Woody Evans said...

"Yes, we need to fix the system. I've never defended corporate activity in this arena. But I also won't yield to those who take a militant approach; mainly, because it doesn't work. The way to fix this is to use the power we have: with our votes and with our pocketbook. But the sad truth is that people are lazy. Far easier to download whatever you want and excuse it (often with outright lies) than make a real effort to fix the system."

Now you've got me worried. If the issue is as serious as it seems to be and the only thing that can change it is political will, things look pretty damn bleak.

csven said...

Agreed. Because now boycotting (or stealing from) a company may not be enough. In today's technological world, attention has value. I can't imagine that some piece of music hasn't already been sold for advertising purposes that didn't include as part of its valuation the number of illegal downloads that the music label has tracked.

So even if people think they're hurting the labels, they may not be. This is where the whole "I wouldn't buy it anyway" turns around and bites the pirates in the arse - because one could then say "Well, you still put money in their pocket. Nice job keeping the greedy suits in control."