Saturday, May 12, 2007

Real World Applications

All this talk about philosophy is fine. However, Triessentialism (like any sufficiently utilitarian philosophy) really shines when aplied to cutting-edge problems.

Questions of intellectual property rights and laws, for example.

Matthew Skala, of the Bonobo Conspiracy webcomic for ultrageeks, has written a piercing examination of intellectual property rights, using a deceptively simple analogy.

He cuts through the intellectual wanking of Monolith, a program that "munges" (reversably merges and encodes) two files. A program that is as legal to own as a radio/tape player that can tape songs from the radio.

Monolith is designed to be a legal shield for unauthorized or unlicensed sharing of copyrighted material. It will fail at this precisely because of the reasons Skala gives.

Lawyers are masters of intellectual wanking, more so than geeks who've read too many issues of 2600.

Consider, for example, that a scratchy analog recording made with a home tape recorder is as much a copyright violation as a perfect copy made with professional sound equipment. The sound may be patchy and unlistenable in places, the song may even start cross-fading into the next song on the playlist and suddenly cut off, but if it is sold or given away, the seller and buyer are both liable. The audio tape is declared illegal, even though an audio tape is not a series of air vibrations, and a series of air vibrations is not the copyrighted material.

Now consider that digital files (an uncopyrightable series of ones and zeros) are already encoded, and as long as the process is reversable, further encoding and file-splitting does not matter legally. As long as the primary purpose of that file is to be turned back into sound when a human is present, any such file is prima facie evidence of intent to violate copyright.

How does this relate to triessentialism? It illustrates the inescapable gulf between the physical and the logical.

Any physical encoding of the intellectual property is subject to intellectual wankery.

For example, it could be argued that since the audio tape is physically different than the original record at the radio station, the one cannot be a duplicate of the other. The sound waves generated when each is played, however, are approximately identical. A bad copy of a movie, taken in a theater by cell-phone camera, is also approximately identical to the copyrighted

However, copyright law is not about sound waves, or patterns of light and color, or any other physical phenomenon. It is about the effect of those sensory inputs on the audience, and where those effects originate. If they originate at a private source, such as the mind of a musician or director or other artist, the approximate duplication of those effects are controllable by their originator.

When someone buys a ticket to a Broadway play, they seem to be renting a seat in the audience (the privilege of being in a certain place during a specific range of time), but that is secondary, as evidenced by rain checks. If the star and understudy both fall ill, that performance is cancelled, and each ticketholder is issued their choice of a refund or a rain check (a replacement ticket redeemable at a later time).

They are actually buying the privilege of the total sensory experiences and the logical and emotional effects they produce in their minds. The logical and emotional effects encoded into the physical by the intentional behavior of the actors (and the lighting and the orchestra), and unencoded from the physical by their own senses.

That is why it is called intellectual property: the word property refers not to a piece of physical personal property, but to the logical and emotional personal property, and only secondarily to the physical/mathematical encodings of those things, and only tertiarily (thirdly) to the licensing of those things.

(Both the Logical and the Emotional are herein counted as intellectual, since they are the two components of the Mind of classical Mind/Body Dualism.)

And now for some intellectual wankery of my own.

This blog post is copyrighted by me, Luke Allen, as of this day, Saturday, May 12, AD 2007. I am solely responsible for the logical concepts and emotional experiences that I have presented to you. However, those ideas are now yours. You own them, because an idea cannot be copyrighted, only my specific creative representation of them. I intend you to now have an approximate duplication of my concepts in your head, hopefully enhanced by my creative presentation of them. However, since I am an amateur, and since you are reading this for free, I have no idea how faithful that duplication is to the original in my mind. :)

I granted you the implicit license to read and link to this post, by placing it on a publicly available website. I encourage such activity. I also granted implicit license to make a copy in your mind. I hereby grant explicit license, at no cost, to archive this posting, in its entirety and with attribution, to a personal storage device, including hard drive, printout, thumb drive, etc., so that you can refresh the degradable copy in your mind. You may also share any such copy with anyone you wish. However, as copyright holder, I do ask that only short excerpts be used in forums and the such, with links back to this post. :P

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