Full groove ahead, or the end of the public domain? [cca2.0 knipstermann]
Lucia, possibly the smartest lady in the blogosphere [herpartials are just as strong as the boys’] has had a series of posts up recently at her climate oriented blog The Blackboard that strays from her usual blog-fare: toy worlds and the intricacies of modeling thermodynamic systems; betting quatloos on the monthly UAH temperature anomaly; how-to sessions on anti-bot script writing for self-hosting WordPressians; and knitting.
The subject of this series of posts at The Blackboard is one Linda Ellis, author of the 1996 inspirational poem The Dash, and her propensity to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the OCILLA code to guard – very closely – the unauthorized use of her work on the internet. Ms. Ellis’s behavior has been described by some in the blogosphere as “trollish“, and by some others as a “shake-down operation“, though I’m sure if you asked Ms. Ellis she would say she is only defending the integrity of her intellectual property and trying to make a living from her work. To find out more about the specifics of the controversy at Lucia’s peruse the relevant blog posts of: 18 February, DMCA Takedown: Linda Ellis; March 19th [which seems to have disappeared from the front page of The Blackboard], Don’t Post Linda Ellis’s ‘The Dash’; and March 27th, Linda Ellis DMCA follow up. Lucia loves a puzzle and the most recent post from her fits that tendency to a T. Lucia is also: feisty, smart, and doesn’t like the idea of someone gaming her. There are some very good comments so it is worth at leas skimming those as well [Lucia attracts very smart commenters].
It is not the intent of this post to discuss the specifics of the legalities or even the ethics of the ‘trollgate’ controversy [feel free to comment at Lucia’s], but in the usual Meme Merchants fashion take a slightly tangent tack and look at a few of the deeper issues of culture and society that form the basis and rational for intellectual property rights and law.
Tolling through the AsiaTimesOnLine archives I came across a highly provocative item by Henry C. K. Liu, a writer the Meme Merchants have followed for a number of years. What came up today was the first installment of a series he wrote back in July 2003: The Abduction of Modernity, The Race towards Barbarism. I say provocative in two senses: being thought-provoking in Lui’s inimitable way, and also provoking some very strong disagreement.
Before I was halfway through the article I found myself doing a kind of point by point rebuttal, the genesis of this piece, which I had to eventually push mentally aside in order to finish the article. The article was so thought-provoking that I feel I have to give myself a kind of ‘intellectual time out’, before I proceed with a more serious analysis or criticism of the article. Mr. Liu is a very smart and thoughtful writer, one has to at least try to meet him at his own level.
This morning in way of introducing the topic I will anticipate that much of the further discussion on the subject will revolve around two rather different world views, one the so-called ‘modern’ Western world view and the other the traditional Eastern Confucian world view. To be fair to Mr. Liu, the point of at least the first article of this series is precisely the nature of that ‘modernity’ and its relationship to Western civilization.
A strong dichotomy it appears.
Of the many possible dichotomies of civilizations you can draw, one is the dichotomy of a civilization that sees what is noble and valuable in the individual as what is in conformance with the cultural model, and another civilization who’s culture sees what is rare and valuable in the individual as everything that is different from the cultural model.
One of those world views, I propose, is ‘modern’, the other is not.
There has been an interesting congruence this week between the workings of the Meme Merchants Consortium and Richard Landes’s, blog the Augean Stables, which has been cited here before on several occasions, most recently: Poison in the Well of Culture. Landes’s latest article, Romney Cites Landes, Offends Palestinians is a discussion of the recent controversy surrounding US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that key differences in Palestinian and Israeli culture are responsible for the stark divide between the two societies economic productivity.
In reading Landes’s article I was struck by the congruence between our separate conclusions about two ostensibly different societies, in Landes’s case the Palestinians of the 21st century, and in the Meme Merchants case the Barbary Corsairs of the 16th to 19th centuries. Landes concludes [emphasis mine]:
On the other hand, Arab political culture, amply embodied by the Palestinian variety, promotes a cultue of contempt for hard work by leisured elites, widespread commitment to zero-sum games of dominance, an distrust of intellectual openness and external influences, a strong emphasis on rote learning and respecting those older and more powerful, hostility to women in the public sphere, ubiquitous protection rackets (e.g., Arafat the PA), a violent repression of public criticism… in a phrase, a culture dedicated to taking, not making.
Eventually someone will comment on one of our blog posts – it is possible – certainly it can’t yet be excluded from the realm of possibilities at least while the issue of having people actually reading the blog is still such an unsettled issue. Never the less, the editorial staff of the Meme Merchants have been carefully examining the issue we have come to a few initial conclusions as to what may be going on. The first most obvious issue is that at the current hit rate the blog has achieved up till now has not allowed the vapor pressure of the blog to reach the point necessary for spontaneous commenting to occur. Another factor could be an insufficient number of nucleation sites available in the currently available raves to catalyze auto-comment formation, this could be do to inadequacies in editorial practice, or people are just hanging back while we get the administrative preliminaries of the blog out of the way – in other words people are waiting for the first REAL post to jump in and comment. In the interest of exhaustive thoroughness the possibility of reader apathy was discussed, but tabled as unlikely. A third and more disturbing possibility is that because Meme Merchants has not yet announced its Moderation Policy the few readers that we do have are hesitant to jump in and post a comment for fear or uncertainty over what may happen if they do.
Not to worry, there is no Moderation Policy here, or rather to say that our policy is no moderation.