April 18, 2003

Digital strategies in the "real" world

Donna Wentworth at the newly-URLed Copyfight has asked about the next step in the copyfight. Here's an exchange I think about, which is from the Copyright And Culture Forum which took place at MIT last November.

SETH FINKELSTEIN, programmer: We've talked about what the problem is, but what are the best ways to get to the results we want? What can non-lawyers do? I asked Richard Stallman this question (see Stallman's 2001 Forum talk on copyright). He said if you see a movie by a big studio and you don't like it, then don't pay for it. That doesn't go very far. I am amazed by the amount of money on the other side of this battle. If we don't have millions of dollars, what do we do? Just sit back and cheer on Lawrence Lessig?

VAIDHYANATHAN: That's part of it. What can we do? Plain talk is one thing. Everyone involved in this is trying to come up with a better vocabulary for discussing it. We actually have a growing army. It's a loosely knit bunch that includes hackers, users of material, and, most importantly, librarians. There are 30,000 librarians in this country who are very upset by all of this. They all vote and they talk to their congressmen. They are politically active right now, and if an objectionable piece of legislation is under consideration, they'll write letters and circulate petitions.

Once you bring in religious conservatives who want to show movies to their kids without nudity, then you have a bigger group. Then you get a group of talented lawyers involved. It is starting to happen. Unfortunately, the battlefield is global now and we don't have troops aligned globally, except for the hackers.

ZITTRAIN: This suggests a three-pronged attack. First, you instruct people that this is a political issue, just as the environmentalism movement had to do.

Second, you work through the judiciary such as the Eldred case is doing in challenging the Sonny Bono copyright extension. That's what Lawrence Lessig calls "speaking reason to power." And the third thing, also sometimes used by the environmental movement, is to realize that what's on the other side is not something evil, it's an economic and predictable force. Then, you try to co-opt those on the other side, again as the environmental movement has done.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on April 18, 2003 05:13 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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