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On Public Property, Grokster and Feisty Innovation

So i was talking to a good friend and awesome scratch DJ, Andrew Flaherty, the other day about my Contribution Society idea – it ain’t what you own or take out; its what you put in…

He said: ‘Most people believe in public property, but most people don’t believe that we have the right to decide what is public property.’

i think that gets to the nub of some major issues right now, concerning patents, digital music, destruction of natural resources and so on. They call it the Tragedy Of The Commons. The tragedy is not the the Commons doesn’t work, its that the apostles of markets persuaded us that TTOTC is an inviolable law, rather than a powerful meme. We’re seeing the debate played out out in one area this week in an attempt to kill the Betamax precedent. The judges seem to understand that innovation is not always in expected directions, though, which is good. Although having Scalia as an intellectual bedmate is strange, strange, strange… i feel…. violated… heh.

According to A Few Notes From The Grokster Argument (via Cory at BoingBoing):

At least some of the Justices, Scalia in particular, seemed troubled by how an inventor would know, at the time of inventing, how its invention might be marketed in the future. How, some of the Justices asked MGM, could the inventors of the iPod (or the VCR, or the photocopier, or even the printing press) know whether they could go ahead with developing their invention? It surely would not be difficult for them to imagine that somebody might hit upon the idea of marketing their device as a tool for infringement.

Please excuse my “commie” rant- but i wanted to flag Andy’s quote.

How can anyone in software argue they know exactly how software will be used by customers before its released? i defy anyone to make that claim. In general it will be BS. The most successful software companies look at what their early adopters and mainstream customers are doing, package that knowledge and community experience, and feed it back into the product design process. Technology is only useful and interesting insofar as it is extensible. Lock down is anathema to innovation. So Microsoft users make an unpaid contribution to further Windows and Office developments (that’s called marketing not intellectual property theft, right?)

Some of this thinking in the techspace has been codified by Tim O’Reilly, in the Architecture of Participation, and Dan Brickin, in The Cornucopia of The Commons. Says jon.

A rhetorical question – do “values voters” believe in making a contribution? I believe many do. Meanwhile in the UK Will Hutton argues we’re witnessing the emergence of 21st Century friendly societies. Folks do want to make a contribution and the surprise (for market fetishists) is public/charitable sector organizations can get stuff done.

I can’t tell you how happy i am too see that Bush’s real base (the people that vote for him, not the ones that bankroll him) is beginning to focus on environmental issues. Whatever you believe, surely God approves of good environmental stewardship. You can bet the supreme being believes in public property.

So thanks to the NAE and to Justice Scalia for making important contributions.

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  1. i hope like hell you’re right, but this would argue otherwise:

    http://omega.twoday.net/stories/265726/

    The Christian Coalition rates members of Congress according to their votes on issues, giving us a way to measure the influence of conservative Christians within the Republican Party. Here
    are the ratings of the 10 most powerful Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Following each person’s Christian
    Coalition [CC] rating, I have added the person’s rating by the League of Conservation Voters [LCV] to show how Republican Christian leaders vote on environmental matters.)

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.): CC: 100%, LCV: no data;
    Majority Leader Tom Delay (Tex.): CC: 100%, LCV: 0%; Majority
    Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.): CC: 92%, LCV: 0%; Chief Deputy Whip Eric
    Cantor (Va.): CC: 100%, LCV: 0%; Republican Conference Chair
    Deborah Price (Ohio) CC: 58%, LCV: 4%; Republican Conference
    Vice-Chair Jack Kingston (Ga.): CC: 100%, LCV: 0%; Republican
    Conference Secretary John Doolittle (Calif.): CC: 100%, LCV:
    0%; Republican Policy Committee Chair Christopher Cox (Calif.):
    CC: 100%, LCV: 14%; National Republican Congressional Committee
    Tom Reynolds (N.Y.): CC: 92%, LCV: 18%; Chairman of the
    Republican National Leadership Rob Portman (Ohio): CC: 100%,
    LCV: 18%.

    And here are the Christian Coalition (CC) and League of
    Conservation Voters (LCV) ratings for the 7 most powerful
    Republicans in the U.S. Senate: Majority Leader Bill Frist
    (Tenn.): CC: 100%, LCV: 0%; Assistant Majority Leader Mitch
    McConnell (Ky.): CC: 100%, LCV: 4%; Republican Conference Chair
    Rick Santorum (Pa.): CC: 100%, LCV: 4%; Republican Conference
    Vice Chair Kay Hutchinson (Tex.): CC: 100%, LCV: 4%; Republican
    Policy Committee Jon Kyl (Ariz.): CC: 100%, LCV: 4%; National
    Republican Senatorial Committee George Allen (Va.): CC: 100%,
    LCV: 0%.[3]



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