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Re: CLUEBAT: copyrights, infringement, violations, and legality

On Tue, 28 Jan 2003, Branden Robinson wrote:

> [Followup to -legal.]
> Okay, I'm going to a pull an RMS and plead for a change in our
> collective use of certain terms.
> * Under U.S. law and the laws of most countries I'm familiar with,
>   copyright IS NOT A NATURAL RIGHT.  It is a government-granted limited


Phil runs to his dictionary of ethics.  A summary of the theories of
1.  Rights are "natural" or "God given".  The US position?
2.  A contract between the state and individual where the individual has
Rights that cannot be contracted away (inalienable).
3.  Prima facie.  Well, it is obvious what is a Right and what is not.
4.  Utilitarian.  Rights promote the general welfare of individuals.
5.  Totalitarian.  The state decides what is a Right and what is not.

If a large company successfully lobbies a government to pass laws
restricting the copying of its product for personal use, a private act,
then that government is going down the totalitarian track.

Brandon's argument seems to me based on 1 "Natural Rights" or 2
"Contractual Rights".  The only quibble I have is that I personally do not
subscribe these theories even though they are highly favoured by lawyers
and law makers.  Societies and nations change, see below for an example.

If the PR machine is cranked up enough then the public perception of what
is a Right changes. The "prima facie" theories at work.

I personally favour the utilitarian approach.  If a powerful organisation
within the state wishes to be protected in a way that interferes with the
freedom of individuals and their general welfare, then that protection
should be denied even if it means the collapse of that organisation.  The
utilitarian theories take into account changes in societies without
falling into the simplistic prima facie trap.  In a state where famine was
endemic it made sense to execute a murderers as the resources used to keep
them alive may well have been used to prevent other people from starving
to death. In a state with more than adiquate resources to provide for its
citizens the death penalty should no longer be an option.

In years past the entertainment industries and the like were structured to
enhance the lives of individuals.  These times have gone and these
industries need to adapt to the new realities and not be allowed to use
law to protect themselves at the expense of individual citizens.

Yes, copyright, patents, and trademarks are of trivial importance to a
citizen compared with freedom of speech and the like.  Unfortunately some
nations, are beginning to follow the totalitarian models of rights.

Please CC me.  I am not subscribed to legal.


  Philip Charles; 39a Paterson Street, Abbotsford, Dunedin, New Zealand
   +64 3 488 2818        Fax +64 3 488 2875        Mobile 025 267 9420
     philipc@copyleft.co.nz - preferred.          philipc@debian.org
     I sell GNU/Linux & GNU/Hurd CDs.   See http://www.copyleft.co.nz

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