Friday, May 22, 2009

Rosa Parks v. Random college student downloading bad movie

Social Contract Theory, nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that persons' moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement between them to form society. REF

Hobbes argues that we will do ANYTHING to avoid the State of Nature and will always, rationally, pick absolute authority.

This could not be told better, from the same article:
According to Locke, the State of Nature, the natural condition of mankind, is a state of perfect and complete liberty to conduct one's life as one best sees fit, free from the interference of others. This does not mean, however, that it is a state of license: one is not free to do anything at all one pleases, or even anything that one judges to be in one’s interest. The State of Nature, although a state wherein there is no civil authority or government to punish people for transgressions against laws, is not a state without morality. The State of Nature is pre-political, but it is not pre-moral. Persons are assumed to be equal to one another in such a state, and therefore equally capable of discovering and being bound by the Law of Nature. The Law of Nature, which is on Locke’s view the basis of all morality, and given to us by God, commands that we not harm others with regards to their "life, health, liberty, or possessions" (par. 6). Because we all belong equally to God, and because we cannot take away that which is rightfully His, we are prohibited from harming one another. So, the State of Nature is a state of liberty where persons are free to pursue their own interests and plans, free from interference, and, because of the Law of Nature and the restrictions that it imposes upon persons, it is relatively peaceful.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
Humans are essentially free, and were free in the State of Nature, but the ‘progress' of civilization has substituted subservience to others for that freedom, through dependence, economic and social inequalities, and the extent to which we judge ourselves through comparisons with others. Since a return to the State of Nature is neither feasible nor desirable, the purpose of politics is to restore freedom to us, thereby reconciling who we truly and essentially are with how we live together. So, this is the fundamental philosophical problem that The Social Contract seeks to address: how can we be free and live together? Or, put another way, how can we live together without succumbing to the force and coercion of others? We can do so, Rousseau maintains, by submitting our individual, particular wills to the collective or general will, created through agreement with other free and equal persons. Like Hobbes and Locke before him, and in contrast to the ancient philosophers, all men are made by nature to be equals, therefore no one has a natural right to govern others, and therefore the only justified authority is the authority that is generated out of agreements or covenants.
Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison on Shay's Rebellion (a violent opposition by ~1200 farmers regarding free trade agreements with Spain on the Mississippi River. Farmers feared the agreement would affirm sovereignty of Spanish traders):
I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government. REF
In another letter criticizing the (not yet ratified) constitution:
I do not like... the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land... The saying there shall be no monopolies lessens the incitements to ingenuity, which is spurred on by the hope of a monopoly for a limited time, as of 14 years; but the benefit even of limited monopolies is too doubtful to be opposed to that of their general suppression.REF
In another letter Jefferson states:
since there is no natural right to property in land, how much less is there a natural right to a property in ideas Specifically on the topic of copyright, just in case you didn't know, Madison said:With regard to monopolies they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in government.
Jefferson, with good insight to the importance of the individual in an age of enlightenment, had many theories about appropriate copyright terms. If you are interested, check out more of the discussions between Jefferson and Madison; he actually makes arguments using actuarial tables (that personally, I don't think account for enough, but gives an idea of what he was thinking) of between 14 and 19 years. The following, unamended, continues to be in our constitution:
Article 1, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. REF
The clause itself is clearly taken, as much policy was set at the time, from earlier century English common law, Statute of Anne, 1710:
An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or
Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.

Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting, and Publishing, or causing to be Printed, Reprinted, and Published Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families: For Preventing therefore such Practices for the future, and for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books; May it please Your Majesty, that it may be Enacted, and be it Enacted by the Queens most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons in this present Parliament Assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That from and after the [1710], the Author of any Book or Books already Printed ... shall have the sole Right and Liberty of Printing such Book and Books for the Term of [21] Years ... and no longer; and that the Author of any Book or Books already Composed and not Printed and Published, or that shall hereafter be Composed, and his Assignee, or Assigns, shall have the sole Liberty of Printing and Reprinting such Book and Books for [14 years].REF.
It took over 60 years for the courts to settle how to interpret Anne with regard to unpublished works. In Donaldson v. Beckett in 1774, court ruled that copyright for unpublished works would be perpetual, but null immediately following first publication. REF

You can see that the scope of copyright was such that it was agreement between book publishers and artists, exclusively. This philosophy, social contract, of ideas and artistry in relation to distribution rights continued with very little revision up until the end of WWII. For the history of influences and changes in the scope of copyright law from then to today in the United States, I would highly recommend the book Free Culture. For a more European view, and broader history of Copyright law back to the beginnings of the written word, I would highly recommend Steal This Film part II which covers in some great detail the violent persecution of Gutenberg and the publishers that followed him.

Short version each of those, people have always tried to control the spread of ideas, and copyright today is not what it was very recently.

Copyright of the past represented proper, social contract; copyright was an agreement between two groups of people that mutually benefit from each other, but could not agree, and such disagreement was causing harm to each.

Some would like to believe that the law is that which you can write on paper, in the same way people were convinced for a long time that the King was appointed by God. Violate the word of the paper, violate the law; violate the word of the King, you are violating God.

In a republic, we elect representatives to serve our best interests at our will, as our Declaration affirms. Through manipulation and corruption, our representatives have violated their oath of office to protect and serve the Constitution, what it represents, and what was intended by its authors. But these were not just documents that were revered, but the work of philosophers that were torn with the thought of leaving a nation that they loved dearly, that they regarded as the greatest nation on the earth, but did not love them in return with the same respect. They moved on to form their own government, under fear of death, and fear of a return to a natural state.

So our OP may not be a lawyer, publisher, artist, politician, author, inventor, lobbyist, or any other character we identify with on the battlefield of copyright reform.

But he is a human being. He is a human being. Maybe not one that revers the law, but enjoys a civilized society. He did not break the law because he has contempt for the ordered society, but because he knows by instinct that his natural right as a human being to learn has been violated; he has returned to his natural state because there is no social contract to guide him.

In his natural state, he pursued the culture that was right in front of him, sought to gather information that would serve him in whatever manner that information does.

The result? Many of the social contracts that he had made voluntarily, consensually, and in good faith are void. For words paid for to be written on paper without respect for the law that were not further respected by the OP, he would be denied the right to participate in civilized society; his school, his home. We will now deny him the right to be a civilized member of society.

By contrast, Rosa Parks rode the bus. The 'law' at the time said that if you want to ride the bus, you could sit where ever you wanted, unless you were non-white when a white person was on the bus. Then, white people could sit wherever they wanted, but non-whites had to sit in the back. Just as Homor Plessy had been paid by the then ACLU provide a test case to challenge the 'separate but equal' doctrine, so was Rosa Parks. In each case they LOST. Separate being inherently unequal was not brought forward and won until MUCH later in Brown v. Board of Education. The biggest difference here was that a young child is strongly influenced by the necessity to go to a very far school rather than one that is near, not because of their intelligence, but the color of their skin. This fight was WON. But back to 1955...

So the ACLU working with many others needed a way to get to the courts. Conspiring to make a point, on the designated day planned ahead of time, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person after the bus driver asked her to move. She was arrested and made an example of by the ACLU. The courts did not favor with her, but it got enough peoples attention to do something else. The bus systems in Montgomery, despite being favorable to white passengers, was greatly dependent on the patronage of non-white passengers. Thus, the Montgomery Bus Boycotts began. Non-whites (and some whites as well) in a joint campaign with the ACLU and other civil liberties groups demonstrated the mutual benefit of a more proper social contract between non-whites and the society. Hobbes says that humans will do anything to avoid returning to their natural state, but personally, I see this as the free market being the true and righteous judge in this case: people had to pick between walking, or riding segregated buses by their rules, the buses (for sake of simplicity) can either meet the demands of non-whites by giving color-blind accommodations, or go on the assumption that they could continue to operate without the patronage of those that are boycotting figuring also they probably would not enjoy walking for so long. Well, the buses tried to operate for awhile, but were unable to continue and were forced to change. Shutting down the bus system was also an option, but not one whites willing to deal with.

So yeah, in so many words, they have a lot in common. Of course they are different, different people, different places, but the ground they share is strong. The OP may not be getting paid by the ACLU to make some kind of point, and didn't go into the situation to make some kind of big political scene with lawyers in tow.

Societies don't exist for their own sake. They are there to serve. If I buy a bus ticket, I don't care where I sit so long as it is in a seat. If the buses are so crowded that I do not get a seat, I am going to be pissed. Back to basics; for people to want to cooperate together as a team, each person much "bring something to the table". The butcher and the cowboy can work together for mutual benefit. The blacksmith and the miner can work together for mutual benefit. The farmer and the brewer are each better off forging a relationship with their neighbor in this respect. Get them all together for a party, who needs more than steak and beer, with the blacksmiths mug, and the miners coal for the barbecue, who could resist such a great evening after a glorious day of working in your trade so obviously appreciated by your community. Add to this situation the musician. All great parties recorded in history have had music. If this musician comes to the party, you will see me leap from my seat to bring that fellow a hot steak and a cold beer, and I know no friend that would not do the same.

But the man who would damn me for singing his song so shall be damned from ever sitting at my table.

Criticize me all you like for being untalented and tone deaf; music is not my labor.

If you don't want your work "pirated", that's easy. Keep it to your damned self. I stand by that position morally, justly, and in the right, even if it takes a little while for the "law" to catch up.

Oh, and one last thing; Fuck You Jack Valenti.

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