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The Wicked Neglect of Orphans · Wednesday October 21, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

Glyn Moody beseeches Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Orphans?

Clearly, the fundamental issue of preserving our cultural heritage is being neglected in favour of either protecting the privilege of copyright against inexorable, pragmatic dilution, or squabbling over the imagined treasure Google must have scryed in the fruits of scanning vast libraries of printed works.

It’s a combination of Idiocracy and the deplorable destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria.

In other words, we’re looking at the moronic perpetuation of a culturally counter productive privilege by morons for morons (publishing corporations), simply because it helps their bottom line and damn the preservation of mankind’s cultural commonwealth.

In the case of orphan works, instead of being unwitting arson, it’s more like the slow fire of rust, i.e. the irresponsible neglectfulness typical of kids who leave their bike out in the rain when they’ve been distracted by something more worthwhile, but who will scream blue murder if they see any other kid lay a finger on it.

Far better to harness the vast information storage resources we have to store great numbers of redundant copies, than to leave the last remaining books or manuscripts at the mercy of ‘Soylent’ caretakers still deliberating as to which shelf should next be emptied to stoke the building’s central heating furnace.

This is why Google’s book scanning should be embraced irrespective of any handwringing angst over the potentially unauthorised copies so made.

What would people prefer in a few decade’s time?

  1. The preservation of unethical legislation that prohibits unauthorised copies, OR
  2. A digitally preserved cultural heritage that also includes printed works?

Sod the printers’ prerogative, what’s the point of them publishing mankind’s knowledge if their petulance prevents its preservation?

We need to have a Fahrenheit 451 day, where in an act of civil disobedience people bring out their book scanners and wilfully take pains to preserve that which a corrupt state has prohibited them from preserving.

Then we’ll see the police come out and burn these unauthorised copies, in just as corrupt a fashion as Amazon withdrew copies of unauthorised books from its Kindle.

Does it really take this sort of symbolism before people recognise that copyright is a corrupt constraint of their culture?

Ibutton77 said 4022 days ago :

Yay, I said something similar in the middle of a slashdot comment rant a couple weeks back :D


I’ve been noticing that people get hung up on the idea that “creating original work” is the only means by which value can be created. Google indexing the web is “making money on the backs of everyone else”, and so forth.

People don’t grok that pattern and organization are at least as valuable as raw data is. Of course they might change their minds if you ran a utility that rearranges every byte on their hard drive so as to be sorted in numeric value. All the raw information is still there, but is absolutely meaningless without it’s context of organization.

Crosbie Fitch said 4022 days ago :

It’s a good slashdot comment. :)

I think creating ‘original’ work is great, worthwhile and valuable, however, the value is best determined in a goodwill or monetary free market exchange with the interested audience. Such value should not be presumed and should certainly not constitute sanction to suspend the public’s liberty to share and build upon that work (to profit publishers and the interests of the state in controlling the press).

Spacial or temporal pattern/organisation is information. A rearrangement thus affects the information. If irreversible then information has been lost. If you write a poem in Scrabble tiles and someone then comes along and sorts them into alphabetical order, the information constituting the poem is lost and one must hope the poem is memorised elsewhere. That’s not the same as an information preserving rearrangement, e.g. where a code is used to encrypt the poem.

Ibutton77 said 4017 days ago :

Yep, my “rearrangement” comment is a jab at philosophical reductionism. A whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts simply because “sum” does not infer the original organisation nor relationship of those parts.

For example a reductionist might argue that a human being is nothing more than a collection of chemicals you can get for a few dollars at a chemistry store. The truth of course being that while there may by no other significant physical ingredients present, the immensely intricate organisation of those ingredients is not only noteworthy but almost exclusively important to the inestimable value of a human person.

By the same token, it is foolish to overestimate the value of “original work” so much as to prefer such work remain forever separated from anyone who may benefit from it than to allow it to be organized.

Be it trillions of web pages with no comprehensive index due to the perceived IP invasion of the indexing process (in a hypothetical past where search engines could legally never get started), or millions of out of print books languishing forgotten in bookstores and libraries scattered over the globe today for precisely the same reason.

Crosbie Fitch said 4017 days ago :

Unfortunately, in oberving the value of a selection or index, people believe that some of that value must be due to what is being selected or indexed. However, even if it was (which it isn’t), the thing indexed has already been paid for.

If someone arranges a box of matches into a work of art, the artist has no dues to the match maker, even if the matches remain valuable. Of course, if the match maker had been given the privilege of collecting a royalty should any of their matches be used commercially (as opposed to domestically), they may well still have a claim for a share should the work of art be sold.

It is only the privilege that has value to its holder, and its infringement that seems a loss to them. Those who have grown up with privilege see it as a right, and can’t see the natural right that it violates, and the real cost it represents to others who have lost that natural right.

Everyone should be free to index published works, not just Google.

Everyone should be free to broadcast published music from their radio station or make and distribute copies from their website. And that’s free of royalty or tax.

Similarly, all musicians should be free to exchange their labour of producing new music that builds upon the music of others, with the money of their enthusiastic audience. Those musicians will in turn be among the audiences of those artists whose work they build upon.

To instead suspend people’s liberty, to place constraints on society’s cultural productivity and progress in order to reward and control the press, is an 18th century corruption that should have been abolished along with slavery.




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