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Streaming/Downloading Sophistry/Duality · Wednesday August 20, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

Ian Betteridge is bothered.

He’s immensely irritated by those ‘assholes’ who give good businesses grief by being big and clever – or not.

In this case, the business suffering from grief – in the form of RIAA’s litigious attention – is Muxtape, an online service that simulates the liberty we used to enjoy in recording great music from the radio receiver or Gramophone records onto Compact Cassette tapes in the privacy of our own homes.

Fortunately, some kind coders realised they could greatly improve the service by enabling people to actually make recordings, rather than just pretend they did. There is no harm in this, after all, Muxtape remains unaffected. The same information is sent to users as normal, it’s just that thanks to neat scripts the users actually get to hold the cassette tapes they so lovingly made in their grubby little hands. The digits in their digits, as it were.

So, strangely, just because of this user enhancement, completely beyond the control of Muxtape, the RIAA is leaning on it. Because the RIAA does that sort of thing – to protect its monopolies concerning who gets to make recordings.

It seems Ian Betteridge blames those who improved Muxtape, rather than those monopolists who would prefer it remained a sham, remained a child’s toy as in “Let’s pretend we’re making recordings”, and “Let’s pretend the cassette tape on the screen is actually real”, rather than a useful tool for adults.

I disagree and suggest that we should not blame those who add value just because it upsets those who’d rather that value not be added.

Moreover, on the subject of assholes, these aren’t those big and clever coders who recognise the technical insignificance of the difference between ‘streaming’ and ‘downloading’, but those luddite legislators who decided that the law should recognise a significant difference. The same digital bits are communicated. The law simply holds that their different names, in indicating a different metaphor, distinguish between the delivery of a copy of a recording and its recordable transmission. This reveals the law to be an ass when it comes to the communication of information. It is folly to shoehorn the Internet into metaphors of inked paper and telegraph.

Revealing this anachronistic sophistry may well upset devout believers in a digital distribution/transmission duality. It is also likely to cause political and litigious grief to those businesses attempting to rely upon it – this technically insignificant, but legislatively critical distinction. However, there’s a greater cause at stake than just avoiding any erosion of a fragile metaphor that might bring little businesses to the bullying attentions of their bigger brothers.

The moral imperative of our time is to abolish these mercantile privileges of monopoly, that not only allow corporate bullying and extortion between businesses, but also allow corporations to persecute individual members of the public should they fail to accept the suspension of their cultural liberty.

Having the streaming/downloading sophistry revealed is an inevitability for all businesses, large or small, YouTube or MuxTape. Those entrepreneurs in this field will be technically astute enough to understand the fragile, technically insignificant, though legally significant, difference between streaming user uploaded works and file sharing. It is not the responsibility of the public to cooperate in maintaining any pretence or archaic law: that, of the music legitimately communicated to them, some bits they may keep, some bits they should discard, some bits they may copy, and some bits they should not.

So, rather than admonish people for pointing out the elephant in the room, they should be commended, for the sooner the law finally recognises it the better.

Free speech is free communication of one’s own or another’s published intellectual works, whether by voice, morse code, or TCP/IP, and whether by physical delivery of paper, piano roll, magnetic tape, acetate discs, or memory stick, and without grant of monopoly over any particular pattern or arrangement of expression.

Ian Betteridge said 2220 days ago :

But Crosbie, producing something which ensures that a product will no longer exist is, in the real world, not improving it. It’s breaking it.

Adults take responsibility for their actions. The scripters do not.

Crosbie Fitch said 2220 days ago :

If you gave one of your neighbour’s kids an MP3 player and later found that they’d been mugged by the bullies at school for it, I can tell you’d blame yourself for being so negligent and irresponsible in causing them such harm.

Privileged corporate bullies may be such an inescapable part of the commercial infrastructure in your world that their bullying is always the fault of the victim (or those that bring the victim to the bully’s attention), but in my world, I believe the bully should be the one to take responsibility for their actions, and for the privileges that so iniquitously empower them to be called into question.

Ian Betteridge said 2220 days ago :

If I gave my neighbour’s kid an MP3 player, nothing in that act would enable the mugging. If I gave the muggers a knife, it would. See the difference?

Xanthir, FCD said 2220 days ago :

Ian: Correct, it certainly would make a difference. Could you now explain why you are implying that the coders produced a knife rather than an MP3 player, and that they then handed this knife to the RIAA?

The knife the RIAA is holding is copyright law, and it was handed to them by Congress (after excessive begging by the RIAA’s lobbyists). Crosbie is correct in that the coders simply produced something which made Muxtape a more attractive target. They did not produce the weapon used in the assault.



 

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