1994-02-02 - The Death of Statutory Compensation for Intellectual Property (was pissing contest)

Header Data

From: Jason Zions <jazz@hal.com>
To: Joe Thomas <jthomas@access.digex.net>
Message Hash: 150230ca575bd6c20014f29f45779affc712a18c6f4e2979e4a90dc03d015149
Message ID: <9402020038.AA02579@jazz.hal.com>
Reply To: <Pine.3.05.9402011809.B17142-b100000@access1.digex.net>
UTC Datetime: 1994-02-02 00:40:53 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 1 Feb 94 16:40:53 PST

Raw message

From: Jason Zions <jazz@hal.com>
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 94 16:40:53 PST
To: Joe Thomas <jthomas@access.digex.net>
Subject: The Death of Statutory Compensation for Intellectual Property (was pissing contest)
In-Reply-To: <Pine.3.05.9402011809.B17142-b100000@access1.digex.net>
Message-ID: <9402020038.AA02579@jazz.hal.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

>Have people here thought about what happens to the concept of intellectual
>property in an environment of strong cryptography and cheap anonymity? 
>When there's no way for the government to enforce Berne on movies and
>electronic books, what hope is there for Usenet postings?

I was wondering when it was going to come around to this.

Surprise. Within ten years, the entire concept of intellectual property will
be radically altered, if not completely gone. The whole thing will become so
completely unenforceable that something will give; I'm not sure what, but

At the Austin Crypto Conference, John Perry Barlow was asked what he thought
would happen to copyright. As I recall, he said something along the lines of
this: that compensation for intellectual property would cease to be a thing
of law and become a thing of interpersonal relationships. That people would
pay the producers of stuff they liked as an incentive for them to produce
more. That the ability of the Internet and its services to make
widely-separated people into a community, with all the emotions and duties
humans tend to experience in communities, would ensure a kind of darwinism
amongst the "stuff" out there; the stuff people liked would get supported
out of that sense of community, and the stuff people didn't like would not.

Would you pay $895 for a CD-ROM version of the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary?
If you could get it for almost nothing on the net, would you be willing to
send a check for $10 to the Oxford folks who made it possible?

Shareware is the future of just about all intellectual property. Once a
movie is released on video, it will be cloned and copied to rapidly that
they'll sell, what, a few hundred? Everyone else will trade perfect copies
around. There are only a few ways the studios could get huge bucks:

1) Shareware. Ask each owner of a copy to send a few bucks. Personally, I'd
rather send it to the director and actors and crew than to the back-office
overhead, but what the hell.

2) Stick with theatrical release. It'll get swiped from there too; film is
so expensive that the first users of really high-quality digital video will
be the studios, at which point it's just a question of dubbing the digital
bits (no film involved anymore).

3) Charge out the wazoo for the video tapes. Doesn't matter; the
Blockbuster's of the world will pay for one copy, which will be rented and

4) Serializing digital copies to track down the "leaker". All you need is
two copies from different sources to find steganographically-hidden bits or
to produce a combination of the two that has a unique fingerprint that
doesn't match anything already shipping.

Within ten years it's all over.

Until then, until societal changes occur to help creative people get paid
the money they deserve for the fruits of their labors, try and stay honest
with the law as it is, eh? It's not that expensive to do it by the book
(send your check to the copyright clearance center for printed matter, for
example) and it's the primary feedback mechanism you have to the creators of
the works you like.


Copyright 1994 Jason Zions. You can copy this to propagate cypherpunks
mailing list as email or local newsgroups; no permanent digital optical
copies allowed (except for backup purposes, which I can't restrict anyway;
see relevant case law).