Intellectual property

2006 02 28


There are so many profoundly stupid, self-defeating or slickly corrupt initiatives out there at the moment in the area of intellectual property and digital rights management. The collective impression I get is of a slow form of economic and cultural suicide in which liberal democratic societies destroy the legal infrastructures of the open society while businesses invested in the production and dissemination of popular culture foul their own revenue streams in pursuit of the diminishing returns they can squeeze from untapped sources.

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2005 08 06
Anscombe and the ethics of war

A few blog posts here and there about the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima remind me of Elizabeth Anscombe’s pamphlet, “Mr. Truman’s Degree,” which she wrote to protest an honorary degree that Oxford conferred on Truman. I’m not sure what to make of the main argument of the pamphlet, exactly – I would need to know more about Truman’s decision to drop the bomb – but it’s certainly an engaging piece of writing, full of biting sarcasm and well-argued. (I taught it once, and found that the sarcasm was a bit over my students’ heads. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be over yours, dear reader.) Here’s the full bibliographical information, which I found with a bit of googling:

G. E. M. Anscombe, “Mr Truman’s Degree,” chap. 7 in her Ethics, Religion and Politics, vol. 3 of The Collected Philosophical Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981), 62-71 (essay first published in 1957).

I was unable, however, to find the full text online. Now, that strikes me as very silly. I’m willing to bet that if it weren’t illegal to post the full text on the internet, someone would have already done it. But why should it be illegal? Anscombe surely wrote the pamphlet in order to gain as wide an audience as possible for her views. I don’t see how the prohibition on republishing this one (small) part of the book serves anyone’s interests, since I doubt very much that doing so would chip into sales of the volume in which the paper has been collected. Why, I have half a fucking mind to type out the damn thing myself and post it here.

Please let me know in the comments if I’m mistaken about the legality of reposting it. Perhaps I could figure out how to scan it and post it as a pdf.

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2005 07 10
Hammersley on the BBC and the Creative Archive

Guardian Unlimited | Online | Ben Hammersley: A moral imperative:

It is nearly two years since Greg Dyke, who was then director general of the BBC, announced plans for the public broadcaster to open its archives to non-commercial use. Since then, although Channel 4, the British Film Institute and the Open University have all signed up to the project, the Creative Archive has released only an hour of footage.

So what is happening? The idea, to make the BBC’s video and audio archives freely available to the UK public for non-commercial use, has caught the imagination of everyone who has heard it.

The potential is obvious: hours and hours of unseen footage to be used for education and creation by the very people whose licence fee paid for it in the first place. From your children’s homework, to an artist’s digital palette, to your own simple curiosity and self-enlightenment, the potential for the nation is immense.

But it has run into a snag. Two, actually. The first is that the existing BBC archive is full of footage where the BBC does not own the right to reuse it in this way, or where no one knows to whom the rights belong. The second is that it is unable to negotiate an agreement with independent producers, and their representative bodies, that will allow future programming to be put in the archive, too.

Because of this, the BBC must undergo a year of pilot schemes, tests and inquiries as to whether the Creative Archive might reduce a few companies’ profits before it can be allowed to produce value for the whole nation.

This should not be an option. Unlike other broadcasters, the BBC should be judged by the public good it does. The Creative Archive would be a public good that puts Lord Reith’s original remit in the shade.

It isn’t a fancy toy for iMovie users: it is a vault of the most important public culture of the past three generations. It is a gift for the future that is so far-sighted, and so much a good thing, that it is the duty of the BBC and, especially, the government to follow through.

Read the rest.

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2004 06 02
Help the Beeb

If you’re a license-payer, you can join an organization dedicated to keeping the BBC’s Creative Archive project on track. Cory Doctorow explains.

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