March 24, 2003
Clear-cutting the Rainforests of Thought

John Perry Barlow continues the bottles discussion at the ILAW conference in Brazil, which Donna Wentworth is blogging.

A couple of interesting points from Barlow: -A song is a verb; a CD is a noun. They keep mistaking the bottle (the CD) for the wine that is in it. We're creating a means of creating an economy around the wine.

-It's very difficult to get us out of the industrial-era thinking that scarcity and value go together--and the developing world has the short end of the scarcity/value model.

-This relationship may be turned on its head in the information economy. A song is different than a diamond. If I give you a diamond, I don't have it anymore. But if I share a song, I still have it. In the US currently, the corporate IP owners have become aggressive in their mission to clear-cut the rainforest of thought.

This last is a different metaphor than the commons/sharing one, even though they have some common roots. They both ask property owners to consider the community, but the rainforest model gives an immediate framework for understanding a rich ecosystem of ideas where dependencies between thoughts and expressions become obvious if we look in ways similar to biological exploration, verses the commons, which evokes the property owner verses pirate/communist model advanced by organizations like the RIAA/MPAA. And yet, the interdependencies of a fragile ecosystem can be less apparent if we take the view that trees and forest on my land are for my taking, no matter what effect I have on my neighbor's land and the rest of the ecosystem dependent on my land as part of a larger fabric of life. Copyright holders, content purchasers and those in and around those two groups, exist in an idea/expressions ecosystem. Locked down through copyright, purchasers get goods similar to those made from cut trees, the result of which is really only a small portion of what is lost in destroying the forest, and the rest of the ecosystem. Those who exist in and around copyright holders, the metaphorical animals, plants, the air regeneration, weather and water, soil and anything downstream, etc. dependent on the ecosystem are simply out of luck, post-clear-cut.

In locking down expressions so tightly, we prevent the known and unknown potential inherent in the ecosystem, for the sake of allowing the content maker to profit from the expression. The Copyright system, as it stands now, is used in the clearcut method of deforestation. The question is do we have some more sustainable way to balance the ecosystem with property owners interests, much the way we have considered these interests in environmental movements around the globe?

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 24, 2003 01:14 PM
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