Bad Ideas: Trying To Make Content More Like Physical Property

from the bangs-head-on-desk dept

Let's play a little hypothetical. Let's say that someone had discovered a way to automatically -- without any additional cost -- create all the food that the world's population needed, and automatically have it appear wherever and whenever needed. Think of it like the "replicator" device in Star Trek, where you can just walk up to it, and it'll create whatever food you want. The entire issue of hunger and worries about the "scarce resource" of food would go away. Who, in their right mind, would want to break such a machine, and force this newly abundant resource back to being scarce?

Yet, that seems to be exactly what's happening in the music world. A whole bunch of folks have sent in this positively ridiculous attempt by some guy named Paul Sweazey to get the IEEE to endorse a new standard to make content act more like physical property by allowing it to be "stolen." It's basically a weird DRM system that would allow the content to be fully "taken away" from the original holder. I've read the article a few times, and I have to be honest, that I don't quite get it. Those who get the content would still be able to share the actual content with whoever they wanted, however many times they wanted it -- but there's a separate "playkey" and someone can "take" that away, such that those who had it before can't use it after. But why would anyone "take" the playkey, other than to be a jackass?

But the bigger issue is why bother in the first place? Why purposely try to limit an abundant resource by making it scarce? Sweazey claims:
His answer is that such freely-copiable goods breaks the basic business model of human commerce by making goods nonrivalrous; it no longer has aspects of a private good, and this makes it difficult to sell.
But, this is wrong. It shows an out-of-date understanding of economics. While it may mean that you can't directly create a (paid) market in that private good, it opens up and enables many more markets. Going back to the food analogy: if you had many more people in the world who weren't hungry, and didn't have to spend all their money on food or food production, would that be good or bad for the economy? It seems rather obvious that it would be good, as money could be spent on higher level things that expand the economy.

Taking an abundant resource and actively working to make it act like a scarce resource makes no sense. It limits progress and the wider economy, and it's the last thing that a group like the IEEE should be supporting.


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  1.  
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    Ryan, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:06am

    The entire issue of hunger and worries about the "scarce resource" of food would go away. Who, in their right mind, would want to break such a machine, and force this newly abundant resource back to being scarce?

    Food producers unwilling to redirect their resources toward other ventures. I'm sure a lot of people would complain about the poor farmers needing to make a living, such that we should outlaw the machine to subsidize them at the expense of everybody else. After all, without their irreplaceable creativity, how would we ever devise new types of food to replicate?

     

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    Josh (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:17am

    Technobabble

    It is just technobabble. I saw this yesterday and am just as confused. Some pretty obvious questions are not being asked.

    The idea seems to be that the content can be copied by anyone, and you need some key to actually listen/watch it. So you can 'share' the content but if you share the key, someone can 'steal' it from you by not giving it back. It supposedly does not need an internet connection to work. It supposedly isn't controlled by any single company, so you don't have to worry about specific servers going dark.

    1) How is this different from half a dozen previous DRM systems that use encrypted data and a key to play it?
    2) How can you stop the key from being copied, as it also is just data?
    3) How can you keep track of who is in 'possession' of the key without an internet connection?
    4) How is this even remotely "friendlier" DRM? It seems worse than most of the systems we already have to deal with.

     

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    captn, tute, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:27am

    "Who, in their right mind, would want to break such a machine, and force this newly abundant resource back to being scarce? "

    Are you serious? I've thought many many times about the replicator scenario. Let's look at the reality of unlimited, free anything. You're essentially removing *power* from those that make decisions, regarding who should have power. They would likely point to some kid that choked on a replicated Lego and ban replicators to protect the children. Then get the hordes mindless drones of indoctrinated mouth breathers to claim that baby Jesus cries every time a replicator is used and that its the work of ... you know .... Baltimore ...

     

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    AW, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:34am

    Let's say this worked, would the RIAA actually then allow us to sell our goods without it being called piracy? They wouldn't make money off of it as a resale, same as they wouldn't off of a CD sale.

     

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    captn, tute, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:35am

    *voldemort

    spell check got me again.. Just to clarify I am not insinuating that the city of Baltimore is analogous to satan :)

    Although I have never been there, and I cant recall it ever denying that it is INFACT ... that was so yesterday..

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    Re:

    More importantly would they acknowledge that the goods have a finite value related to the value of retail? If thats the case then 30 songs would end up in small claims court.

     

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    Zaven (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    So if we actually had replicators the entire food and food distribution industry would collapse. Clearly. But at the same time, if all food was now free, people really wouldn't NEED anywhere near as much money would they.

    I'd love to see this argument go down. How could anyone argue that solving world hunger is a bad thing. It's like saying we shouldn't try to find a cure for cancer or heart disease simply because the population would increase.

     

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    Headbhang (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    There is a book

    There is actually a sci-fi novel about precisely this kind of scenario. Can't remember the title/author of it right now, but will get back if I do.

     

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    zaven (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:44am

    Re: Technobabble

    My understanding is that it can be played/listened to by anyone. But anyone who you give it to can somehow remove it completely from your computer (not seeing how that's possible). So the idea is that people will stop sharing media on P2P programs and bittorrent sites and just share amongst trusted friends.

     

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    zaven (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:46am

    Re:

    Hmm, maybe traditionalists would try and eat only actually grown food (like how some people only eat organic food). And non-replicated food would then sell for a premium as it's a scarce resource.

     

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    Headbhang (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:47am

    Regarding the food analogy

    If there were such a food-copying machine and someone tried to break it to protect their business model, not only it'd be silly, it would be immoral.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:47am

    Re:

    If we had working replicator technology it would crush the word economy and throw us into complete chaos, no question about it. The lazy nature of humans will come out in full swing, why clean toilets for minimum wage when you can get all the food you need. Yes, there will still be people working to make life better for everyone, but they are few and far between.

    After the chaos, if anyone is left, there would arise a society much like on Star Trek. Where everyone works for the betterment of everyone, where the rewards are much different from the materialistic nature that we have today. People still work for personal gains, there is still greed, and there will still be prophet in one form or another to be gained. Much like how it will be after the chaos from the digital revolution we are experiencing now.

    What was that called, creative destruction? Where you have to destroy the old before the new can come in and make everything better.

     

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    John Doe, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Question of the day

    If digital content is a nonrivalrous good but we have a lot of people and companies competing with consumers for it; is it really a nonrivalrous good?

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Re: Re:

    "After the chaos, if anyone is left, there would arise a society much like on Star Trek"

    Well, that sucks because my package looks TERRIBLE in a one-piece...

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 8:56am

    DRM failure #10,234,884,234 and counting.

    I read about this yesterday and thought about submitting it, but decided not to because it was so blatantly stupid, I thought it was a hoax.

    I still think it's a hoax.

    Because the developing idiots still don't get that DRM is bad regardless how "well" it's designed to work with consumers.

    Here, steal my folder. You can't do squat with it unless you have the key.

    Where's the key? Always in the last place I look.

     

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    Kirk, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:00am

    Tribble

    Did you mean "my package looks a TRIBBLE in a one-piece..."?

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:01am

    The Quest for the Endless Toll Booth

    It never ceases to amaze me how people will spend countless hours scheming to extort money.

    Forbes, by the way, ran a similar story: A Scheme For Protecting Content.

    Also, we never seem to stop and ask the question of how expensive implementing these absurd DRM solutions are to the consumer and the economy. Every time a DRM solution is developed it costs money to develop, it costs money to design in, it makes the products more complex and unreliable, it forces the consumer to "upgrade" and throw away good perfectly functioning equipment. In the end, why should anyone have to pay big $$$ so some schmuck can make a penny.

     

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    SomeGuy (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re:

    why clean toilets for minimum wage when you can get all the food you need.

    Because food, though necessary, is only one of many things people want. There're still houses, cars, the Internet, TV, videos, heat and electricity, games, amusment parks, trips to europe, new clothes, stage plays... There are plenty of things people want enough to work for even (especially?) if they don't have to pay a bill for food every month.

     

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    Dan J. (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:03am

    Re: Technobabble

    It is just technobabble. I saw this yesterday and am just as confused.
    No need to be confused. You simply need to realize that the wrong question is being asked. The question being asked is "How can we ignore all of this new technology and roll things back so that our outdated business model still works?" So the proposed solution is to make digital copies somehow work like physical copies. If you look at things through Clueless-Music-Executive goggles, it makes sense. Of course, those goggles hide all sorts of realities that doom the attempt to failure, but no one's ever accused CMEs of being particularly bright or perceptive when it comes to dealing with the realities of the market.

     

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    Ryan, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re:

    why clean toilets for minimum wage when you can get all the food you need.

    Because food doesn't clean toilets?

    Not sure why any chaos would ensue, other than within the food-producing industries. Those individuals would just focus their efforts on any of the many other markets where we still have scarcity and an opportunity to increase aggregate value, similar to current music/video/newspaper industries if governments weren't hindering public progress.

     

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    chris (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:08am

    Re: Re:

    If we had working replicator technology it would crush the word economy and throw us into complete chaos, no question about it. The lazy nature of humans will come out in full swing, why clean toilets for minimum wage when you can get all the food you need. Yes, there will still be people working to make life better for everyone, but they are few and far between.

    i disagree. the human experience is designed by what you *don't have* not by what you do have. in fact, the instant that you satisfy one need, another will immediately appear. this is basic psychology known as maslow's hierarchy of needs:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mazlow%27s_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

    there are thousands of other pursuits besides food, clothing and shelter, and the economy will continue on the sale and trading of those other scarcities.

     

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    Yohann, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Not even possible, really

    Honestly, just implementing a standard like this just isn't possible. In order to identify a 'stolen' item on your computer, it would have to be identified in some way: tagged or untagged. Anything out there can be untagged, and somebody removing untagged files or programs that you created is holding a sign that says "Hey! Come sue me!". Tagged files can be stripped of their bits easily enough and turned into untagged files.

    Names of files can be changed, and pretty much anything digital can be manipulated in some way. Not to mention, this entire idea is based on your computer having a permanent internet connection (which many do now) and being able to pass through all firewalls to connect to your computer and search for those files.

    It's a communist vision of controlling every aspect of what they deem as 'their' property. Those electrical bits on my hard drive came from energy, and I paid my electric company to have those bits. Nobody's taking them away from me, no matter what order they're in.

     

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    Sheinen, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    I'm big on Maslow's heirarchy of needs and I'm afraid you got the point a little wrong...it is designed to show how people prioritise certain needs/wants over another while also indicating how important to their overall happiness they are.

    Food is at the bottom and also the largest because it's a base need, something we all HAVE to have. Once that foundation is layed it gives the person scope to progress onto the next most important element of their lives and so on and so forth.

    You'll notice that there is a top though - it doesn't just keep going...eventually people run out of things to need/want.

    The argument here, and quite a valid one infact, would be that by fulfilling the base, vital needs, you free up peoples priorities to concentrate on more adventurous activities that are more likely to benefit society as a whole.

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    slashdot

    slashdot crew saw through this plenty fast, so I think it's an indication that hopefully this idea will be shot down before it even gets remotely considered. It's a pretty bad idea.

    It's just DRM again, rebranded.

     

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    stat_insig (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:47am

    Fine with me!

    Making content more like a physical property is fine with me. But I should also get all the privileges too.

    1. I should be able to resell content (just like I sold my old car last month)
    2. I should be able to return content (just like the crappy blender I returned to walmart)

     

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    Michael, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:48am

    Replicator

    - Who, in their right mind, would want to break such a machine, and force this newly abundant resource back to being scarce? -

    The entertainment industry, of course. How could they survive if the popcorn being sold at the movie theater that is currently supporting all of the artists making movies suddenly had no value? If people could freely copy this popcorn, nobody would ever pay for movie popcorn again and then the artists creating these movies would have no reason to produce more new content.
    Without being able to charge $6 for a package of milk-duds, they would have to close down all of the theaters and stop making new movies altogether.

     

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    Fuchsteufel (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 9:58am

    You still don't get it

    I'm no fan of IP abuse, but you keep making blatantly incorrect analogies between physical and intellectual goods, and are increasingly out of touch with basic logic.

    First of all, you're right about food: if it were freely replicable, it would be a huge win for 90% of humanity.

    So does freely replicating media solves the world's media "hunger" problem forever? One second's thought shows the answer is no. Because freely replicating existing entertainment doesn't remove the need for new entertainment. People still use it up, i.e. play it until it's no longer entertaining. And then they need new media, and guess what: there's not currently a process for freely creating new worthy entertainment. You still need artists to expend effort and do that.

    And the fact that once they do, they almost can't sell it any more, as it's freely copiable, is currently a big problem. Yes, the economy adapts, and artists can find other ways to make money, but there's no law of economics that replacement monetisation methods will be as lucrative as the ones that were destroyed. Which is another fallacy you seem to believe in...

    I don't know how media creation and enjoyment will evolve in the future, but it seems misplaced to think we'll necessarily have as rich a media culture as we had in the good old 20th century, when entertainment could be physicalised and sold.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, but that's a niche market, much like people who still buy vinyl albums. Assuredly, a vast majority of farmers, grocery store owners, etc would be out of business.

     

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    Yohann, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    In regard to replicators

    Most, if not all, of the world has become very materialistic as that is what we've had drilled into your heads since we were born. A thing only holds value if we treasure it. A $1M one of a kind painting from centuries ago may be a view into the past for some, but for others it has no real meaning other than history. I wouldn't want it hanging in my living room, but other people would beg, borrow, lie, and steal just to get it. When that occurs, merely possessing the painting becomes a way to set the possessor's status high in the social structure.

    Replicators that can make perfect duplicates would destroy that value of the objects, but since that value is only in the eyes that want it, then those people would have an intense fear of not being able to have a high social status. For example, if I announced over the news one evening that I was going to reveal a secret the next morning that would destroy the value of everything (money, gems, etc.) and make perfect replicas that not even an expert could tell the difference, then how much danger would I be in for that night until the next morning?

    It all boils down to the most basic animal instinct that we as a people have not shed becoming human: FEAR. Fear of death, dying of starvation, having nothing, living on the streets, etc. In our society now, it's fear of being sued and losing everything. Take friars and monks who take a vow of poverty. They have nothing that anyone would want, and they lead very good and healthy lives.

    Mark my words: The first guy to create a replicator that can do exactly what we're discussing, better darn well remain anonymous and give it to the world for free (maybe over the internet). Because every government and rich person in America will kill him, you, me, and every other 'rabble rouser' out there just to keep it from getting out. I guarantee that.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:15am

    Re: You still don't get it

    I don't know how media creation and enjoyment will evolve in the future, but it seems misplaced to think we'll necessarily have as rich a media culture as we had in the good old 20th century, when entertainment could be physicalised and sold.

    Why? This is a serious question, because every study has shown that as things like "piracy" have become more prevalent, MORE new content than ever before is being produced. One recent study showed nearly twice as much music being produced today as in the past.

    Why is that? Because the same technology that makes file sharing possible also makes it easier to create, distribute and promote music. Those were the expensive and hard parts, and they're all a lot cheaper now.

    So I see nothing to support a claim that we'll somehow lose out. All the evidence suggests that we actually get MORE content. About the only argument that might suggest less output would be that creators don't make as much money, but again, that's not what we're seeing. Newer, smarter business models are allowing many more people to make more money making music than they could in the past.

    In the past, only a very small number of top acts made any money at all. Most lost money. But with smarter business models, and cheap/free promotion and distribution of music, many more people are making *some* money, with a larger number making a *livable* income via music.

    So, every single bit of evidence points to greater output, not less.

    So, can you please explain why you think media culture will be less rich?

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Re: You still don't get it

    You still don't get it, I'm afraid.

    Musicians don't make recordings of music, Record Labels do. (or, now, pirates, too!)[Wow, check out the commas in that statement!] Musicians make (yup) music. They spent time and effort to learn to make music, and they should (and do) get paid for making music the only scarce way they can-- live shows and selling merchandise.

    Musicians will continue to make music, just as they made music (for free) before they were "discovered" [see: exploited] by a Record Label. They will have to make new music if they want to compete with the numerous other artists out there who are playing live shows. They will have a larger fan base (thus, higher chance someone will come see them live) if they distribute the [now] non-scarce recordings of their talent. Music lives on another day.

    The Record Labels, on the other hand, are going to need to face the fact that, as they are currently structured, they no longer have a place in this world. Simply: Adapt or die, bitches. [PS- Holding back technology to preserve your outdated business model is not, in fact, adapting.]

     

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    Yohann, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: You still don't get it

    As far as musicians continuing to make music, that might need a bit of clarification. I think it depends on the motivation of the musician. True musicians will indeed continue to make music, while musicians that only want to 'make it big' and get lots of money, won't bother if they didn't need to.

    The question then becomes "How many musicians will continue?" Is it safe to say 90% or more?

    Just something to think about.

     

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    Luci, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:40am

    Re:

    You overlooked something: 'in their right mind.' These people aren't in their right mind. They put themselves on a pedestal far above anyone else. This is called Egomania, and is a mental illness. Thus, not in their right mind.

    Remember! Sanity is the delusion of the masses.

     

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    Luci, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Re: The Quest for the Endless Toll Booth

    With comments like 'The moment that happens, consumers can be trusted with content.' I don't see how you could be amazed. They treat us as children with a toy we don't understand while they bicker and quibble over pennies.

     

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    TesserId (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:44am

    The Property Inside Your Head

    I get it, but I don't like it.

    Transmutation of information into information that behaves like physical objects is somehow counter-rational. They want to take something abstract/artificial and use an artificial means to impose abstract rules that mimic a natural/physical behavior. That's like two wrongs attempting to make a right. Umm, the double entendre was totally un-intentional, but might as well let it stand.

    Whatever rights may ultimately come out of this, and other schemes along this line, will remain with us into the times when brains are enhanced by artificial circuitry. And, I very much want to make a distinction between data and human memory. That is, I do not want someone claiming that my memories and experiences of someone's content to be considered the physical property of someone else. Your content may be yours, but my memories are not to be messed with.

    So, I don't want to have experiences residing in a Kindle enhanced brain erased at the whim of someone else, and I'm really not interested in what may one day end up being digital Alzheimer's.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: You still don't get it

    I am of the same mind set as Fuchsteufel, but I think you make a very good point. I'm just not certain if the "create for creations sake" isn't still linked to the materialistic economic world. What I mean is sure, currently people are making more music and art because they can share it, but it's completely possible that the urges to do so are still rooted in a materialistic economy(sure I'm putting this out for free, but maybe I'll be discovered and some record label will pay me big bucks) Money may still be the root of that free-economy, and breaking down the material economy may have the effect of breaking down the free economy too.

    I think though that at the basic level this analogy is flawed. The food replicator is the musical equilivant of the computer speaker, not the music. Sound can be replicated for free for a long time, but someone still have to "create" something. Being able to replicate food still requires a cook, ie someone who create the recipe. It can make endless amounts of rice, but someone has to create food of value, it isn't something that just happens.
    This doesn't invalidate everything, obviosuly there is a HUGE free recipe community, but it's too easy to take that analogy and use it to "prove" something untrue. Food does not equal a "perfectly cooked steak" until someone makes the perfectly cooked steak. Just like sound doesn't equal a symphony without an artist.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    "I think though that at the basic level this analogy is flawed. The food replicator is the musical equilivant of the computer speaker, not the music. Sound can be replicated for free for a long time, but someone still have to "create" something."

    Damn, an Anonymous Coward with an interesting point. Will wonders never cease?

    Let me submit the flip side. Replicator tech will mirror the fashion industry. Everyone's talking about curry this year; who has good curry tech? Sure it will eventually be replicated (and replicated food may well be the knock-off version of real food) but there is a definite prestige, and possibly financial, advantage to being a first mover.

    Here's another thing. EVEN if the supply of new ideas is reduced because of replication advantage (and experience has shown us the exact opposite, but nevermind that) the ability to mine the past resources trades off for an awful lot! The current "lock the past away" concept of copyright is functioning in exactly the way that Jefferson worried it would. The coat of arms of the Copyright Office should feature a wreath of laurels.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Small Dark Helmet? Something does not add up. Are you sure you're not really Light Helmet?

     

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    tashi, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:31am

    "Taking an abundant resource and actively working to make it act like a scarce resource makes no sense. It limits progress and the wider economy, and it's the last thing that a group like the IEEE should be supporting."

    When you have fascism, which equals corporatism, masquerading as capitalism, this is exactly what you get.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:32am

    Analogy not applied correctly

    The analogy is applied incorrectly. If you want to use this analogy (silly one at best) then you should have said, "everyone gets a food replicator" but only certain people have the keys. If you "share" your food replicator key with another person, they can steal it from you. In effect, you assume the risk of going hungry should you decide to feed your fellow human being.

    So...instead of the farmer making the buck, it goes to the manufacturer of the replicator. In this scenario, the key maker is the only one guaranteed to be feed!

     

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  41.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    I'm just not certain if the "create for creations sake" isn't still linked to the materialistic economic world. What I mean is sure, currently people are making more music and art because they can share it, but it's completely possible that the urges to do so are still rooted in a materialistic economy

    In my comment above I explained why that's not a concern. More people than ever before can make money making music. In the past, it was really only limited to a small group at the top. Today that list is a LOT bigger, because the cost of creating, distributing and promoting music has plummeted.

    So even if people are doing it for economic reasons, there's more incentive than ever before.


    I think though that at the basic level this analogy is flawed. The food replicator is the musical equilivant of the computer speaker, not the music. Sound can be replicated for free for a long time, but someone still have to "create" something.


    You say that as if there isn't demand for new recipes.

    The analogy still works. People will still want new recipes and new foods, and someone will need to create them.

    Being able to replicate food still requires a cook, ie someone who create the recipe. It can make endless amounts of rice, but someone has to create food of value, it isn't something that just happens.

    Right, that's why the analogy works.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    Wow...You people sure can take someone else's analogy and bend it to suit your argument. "Cooks" "Recipes", Are you people kidding?

    Try this one out...My food replicator can also create new recipes. You can say, fois gras and my replicator can make the liver in unlimited varieties.

    Oh..And I also have a food replicator that replicates replicators too.

     

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  43.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Small Dark Helmet? Something does not add up. Are you sure you're not really Light Helmet?"

    Terrible != small -- You're giving way to your own insecurities there.

    In fact, I believe the translation of dinosaur is "terrible lizard", making my package the dinosaur of wangs.

     

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  44.  
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    Ryan, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    When you think about it, we wouldn't really need cooks to create new recipes either. Since the marginal cost of creating a new dish is now zero, we could just pump out every possible permutation(or at least a whole bunch) of some set of ingredients. Additionally, if people have their own personal replicators, then they have the incentive and the ability to almost effortlessly try out new possibilities themselves and then share it with the world just as we are sharing our knowledge on this site with each other for free. Depending on how you define the scenario, there might be additional constraints on, for instance, the time it took to replicate a dish, but the point is that so many new options are created by eliminating inefficiency and scarcity. It's just a matter of adapting our thinking to take advantage of new possibilities.

     

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  45.  
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    Ryan, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    In fact, I believe the translation of dinosaur is "terrible lizard", making my package the dinosaur of wangs.

    Crusty, scaly, and dead?

     

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  46.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: You still don't get it

    "In the past, only a very small number of top acts made any money at all. Most lost money. But with smarter business models, and cheap/free promotion and distribution of music, many more people are making *some* money, with a larger number making a *livable* income via music."

    Hrm. It reminds me of the difference b/t the MLB and NFL players' unions. The former have gone for limitless (essentially) compensation for any one player, which enriched a few insanely. The latter have signed on to a (periodically negotiated) salary cap, which floats every player's boat.

    Sounds like the music industry went from MLB to NFL without realizing it.

    (And yeah, MLB has a salary cap-fine, which isn't quite the same thing as the NFL.)

     

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  47.  
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    IshmaelDS (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Replicator

    I know your being sarcastic(or at least I hope you are :) but they would be able to charge more to go through the "movie theater experience" especially being able to give away whatever food you wanted, if anything the experience would be that much better, because instead of crap food for huge prices you could get great food for free(after paying to get in)

     

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  48.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Crusty, scaly, and dead?"

    AND the subject of a Michael Crichton book, the basis for several Final Fantasy enemies, and has its own branch of science devoted to it.

     

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  49.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    "The question then becomes "How many musicians will continue?" Is it safe to say 90% or more?"

    Yes

    The better question is "How many musicians should continue?". While not nearly as many "musicians" will fit that question, more will crop up in their place. If there's a market to exploit, someone (many someones) will.

     

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  50.  
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    Steven (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    I can write a program that pumps out 'every possible permutation' (Which of course I assume you've never taken a discrete math course and don't understand the scale that means) of all cords, so I guess that's why we don't have musicians creating music any more... Oh, wait.

    Now do you see how silly that sounds.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ter·ri·ble
    adjective
    1. distressing; severe: a terrible winter.
    2. extremely bad; horrible: terrible coffee; a terrible movie.
    3. exciting terror, awe, or great fear; dreadful; awful.
    4. formidably great: a terrible responsibility.

    We can probably agree that size matters. In which case the first two definitions would indicate small while the last two would indicate large. If you had said 'terrifying' then I would have thought large but you said 'terrible' which I take to mean small. That has nothing to do with my own insecurities just your choice of words. I think dinosaur is used more to indicate age and so much package size. It just may be that your old, average size, package is terrible to behold - too bad for Old Light Helmet.

     

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  52.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Dude, you totally win this won....

     

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  53.  
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    Richard, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Corn Laws

    Something quite close did happen in 19th century Britain - it was called the Corn Laws.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    Sign me up - first sale and right of repair

    I don't think a DRM system is a bad idea. Commenters above have pointed out that this would open up a secondary market for "used" digital goods. I have tons of crap on iTunes that I can't sell because I am a licensee not an owner. However, if the DRM system made this equivalent to a physical good, the first sale doctrine would apply.

    Also, there would probably be a right of repair. This is present in patent law now but not copyright. However, a copyrighted good treated as physical property would be imputed to include a right of access. Assuming the DMCA exceptions are enacted, this means I get to hack the DRM to allow me to play it on any device, without a registration server. Good news for all people who lost out by buying WalMart DRM or Plays For (Un)Sure Microsoft DRM. Instead of being SOL, you have a right to "repair" the DRM to keep it operating as originally intended.

     

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  55.  
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    Ryan, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    I have taken a discrete math course, and I realize the scale. I mentioned every possible permutation as a theoretical achievement, but I would expect some discrepancy in filtering by expected result. You don't think that by creating a stack of dough and some other ingredients as a template, then replicating 50 times with slight modifications, etc. and basically creating hundreds of permutations based on slight modifications to favorable initial conditions would significantly advance food experimentation? That sounds like a hell of a party to me. I know several guys that have spent decades cooking barbecue in just this way, and this would eliminate a gigantic limitation to their weekly trials.

    Furthermore, you make the comparison with chords for a song; however, these are not the same thing. Whereas in cuisine you can think up a few initial ingredients that might work well together and then try hundreds of small changes based on temperature, time, flavoring, etc., musicians don't really start a song by getting a few chords that might sound good together and then throw them together for three to four minutes. These are completely different things.

    And yet, being able to compose and mix music digitally nevertheless has enabled a lot of things we couldn't do before. Mike has already mentioned the vastly lower cost of production and distribution of new music, and it seems to me that food recipes would only benefit even more from this same type of process.

    So no, it doesn't sound silly to me at all that we might get a lot more recipes and creativity with a food replicator.

     

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  56.  
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    Steven (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You still don't get it

    I think I misunderstood you a bit there, and I think I know why.

    You start off saying 'we wouldn't really need cooks', but then talk about all these people creating recipes but apparently their not cooks (that's the part I missed).

    Yes the food replicator allows for much more creation. That creation is done by cooks, just like there are many more musicians today thanks to the cheap digital audio tools, and there are many more writers thanks to cheap publishing tools (blogs).

    So I suppose we don't disagree that much after all, just a bit of terminology.

     

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  57.  
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    Steven (profile), Sep 9th, 2009 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Sign me up - first sale and right of repair

    So rather than allowing market forces to push prices to zero (yes zero price = marginal cost = 0) while removing ANY form of DRM, and having sane copyright laws, you'd rather have painful, confusing, cumbersome, technical intrusions on your computer that 'allow' things you wouldn't otherwise need.

    And I'm sure he only hits you because he loves you.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 9th, 2009 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Whoa, you must still be under the swine influence. I never win.

     

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  59.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2009 @ 12:33am

    Poorer media culture

    OK, here goes.

    Yeah, there's more music, software, and other media being produced in the digital age than ever before. I agree it's great that everyone can now more easily create and distribute this stuff. It helps people become skilled, and you find some gems among the free stuff.

    But most of this free media is at a rather amateur level. Aspiring musicians and programmers of course love to create stuff for free, partially out of hope for a little fame or money. And, true, they wouldn't make money in the old economy either, so no loss here.

    But consider media that takes more than a few man-weeks or few hundred dollars to make, such as major movies, games, or software products. We're talking millions of dollars here, and dozens of man-years of effort. Do you seriously believe that such works can pay off, in any economic system, without the ability to sell them directly?

    Why are movies still making money? Because (a) people still go to cinemas, (b) movie pirating is still a little too inconvenient for the average consumer, and (c) many older people still have some sense of honesty regarding buying media. Perhaps (a) will still hold in the future, but I see nothing but a downward profit trend here.

    Similar situation with games. PC games almost never make money, due to piracy. Only those with some sort of subscription online component make money, plus a few blockbuster titles, and those only because, again, of the few people remaining with a sense of honesty to buy the game. And that's not going to last much longer. Console games can still make money, only because they're still too hard to pirate, i.e. because of the "artificial scarcity" of content protection that you so despise. Probably some day that will be cracked as well.

    Software? Most of it also pirated, or freeware. Only companies with an online component, amenable to advertising, can succeed. (And Microsoft, which is ... special.) Which really limits the kinds of software that can be profitably created.

    My main point is this: Yes, we will still get a lot of entertainment created, but it's going to be more, not better. Once the last barriers to replication are gone, I don't see major blockbuster works being created any more.

    And the culture will change to adapt. I already call this the "Youtube Age". People are just used to playing vast amounts of 5-minute long amateur crap content. It fills the day, and yields a lol here and there.

    Even personal communication has evolved from letters and phone calls, to email and blogs, and now to tweets (shudder). Soon it will descend to the next level, and we'll have just emoticons, broadcast every second :)

    This is why I think the future media culture will be poorer. Not in quantity, but quality. There's no time, or profit, anymore in making major long-term works. Everyone is adapting to a shallow instant information culture.

     

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  60.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 10th, 2009 @ 2:41am

    Re: Poorer media culture

    But consider media that takes more than a few man-weeks or few hundred dollars to make, such as major movies, games, or software products. We're talking millions of dollars here, and dozens of man-years of effort. Do you seriously believe that such works can pay off, in any economic system, without the ability to sell them directly?

    Yes. Unequivocally. There is tremendous amounts of evidence to support that as well. Why? Because freeing such non-rivalrous goods *expands* lots of other markets. The trick is just positioning yourself to capture some of the revenue from "scarce goods" sold in those expanded markets.

    Do you know how much money IBM makes off of Linux?

    Do you know how much money Google makes off of its software?

    Both of which are given away for free.

    Why are movies still making money? Because (a) people still go to cinemas, (b) movie pirating is still a little too inconvenient for the average consumer, and (c) many older people still have some sense of honesty regarding buying media. Perhaps (a) will still hold in the future, but I see nothing but a downward profit trend here.

    Then you're not thinking creatively. The movie business has always been about selling scarcity, not the content. Marcus Loews properly noted that "we sell seats, not movies." There are all sorts of creative ways for the movie industry to continue to make tremendous amounts of money even if "the content" is free. Remember, movies are a social experience.

    Similar situation with games. PC games almost never make money, due to piracy.

    That's not true at all. Smart PC game makers are doing great. Have you talked to the Stardock folks lately?

    Only those with some sort of subscription online component make money, plus a few blockbuster titles, and those only because, again, of the few people remaining with a sense of honesty to buy the game. And that's not going to last much longer. Console games can still make money, only because they're still too hard to pirate, i.e. because of the "artificial scarcity" of content protection that you so despise. Probably some day that will be cracked as well.

    I've been hearing "but that will end once piracy gets easier" for ages. Never ever seen it happen. It's a myth, get over it. Smarter business models get developed. In the gaming world, we're starting to see them: MMOs charge for access (a scarcity). We're seeing the rise of sponsored games (selling attention - a scarcity) and plenty of other new models will be developed as well. We've been working with some video game companies on some things and I have no doubt that the video game market will remain huge. Just not in the way you expect.

    Software? Most of it also pirated, or freeware. Only companies with an online component, amenable to advertising, can succeed. (And Microsoft, which is ... special.) Which really limits the kinds of software that can be profitably created.

    Really? Ok, let's be clear: just because YOU can't think of a business model, doesn't mean they don't exist. Again, I've already mentioned IBM and Google. But, they're not profitable enough for you?

    My main point is this: Yes, we will still get a lot of entertainment created, but it's going to be more, not better. Once the last barriers to replication are gone, I don't see major blockbuster works being created any more.

    Ok. You're wrong, but you're allowed to be wrong.

    And the culture will change to adapt. I already call this the "Youtube Age". People are just used to playing vast amounts of 5-minute long amateur crap content. It fills the day, and yields a lol here and there.

    What an elitist attitude. If there's real demand for high quality long-form entertainment, there's a business model that will support it.

    Even personal communication has evolved from letters and phone calls, to email and blogs, and now to tweets (shudder). Soon it will descend to the next level, and we'll have just emoticons, broadcast every second :)

    Have you used Twitter? In my experience, that "shutter" you complain about has actually resulted in significantly MORE "personal communications" including phone calls, dinners, gatherings etc. You think just because people Twitter that those other forms of conversation are mutually exclusive? Yikes.

    This is why I think the future media culture will be poorer. Not in quantity, but quality. There's no time, or profit, anymore in making major long-term works. Everyone is adapting to a shallow instant information culture.

    Ok. Good luck with that theory. I've seen *nothing* whatsoever to support that it's true at all, but ok.

    Have you noticed that the movie industry is having its best year ever -- in the middle of a recession/depression? And much of it is built on big long-term works?

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2009 @ 7:01am

    Re: Poorer media culture

    as to video games, I want to point out that besides the fine folks are stardock, there are truly independent developers that are able to make a living because the new tools available to get their name out and draw more people to their game. I am constantly learning about new independent projects and the true fans of said projects gladly pay to keep the developer working, especially when you are able to talk to the developer just like any other regular joe.

    and for Quality? while there are a few crummy games, most of them are as good as the standard big-budget fair and a good number are even higher than that of the big name games that get all the attention because they are labors of love, not churned out for money. yes, there are some really crappy games, but they get lost in the crowd while the true gems shine forth.

    Even if what you say will happen came true and we get tons of quantity but very little quality, due to the quantity good quality games that would never have been made will arrive.

     

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  62.  
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    iNtrigued (profile), Sep 10th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Maybe I'm just overthinking this hypothetical situation, but wouldn't this "replicator" cost a small fortune? Only the mega wealthy and the gov't would be able to afford them. Leaving most people to still require the old-school method of actually growing food.

    But going along with it anyways, baring any huge, widespread pandemics/wars with massive casualties. Won't there come a time when their are more people on the Earth then all the farms in the world could sustain? Which would lead to the necessity for such a "Replicator." Furthermore, if said time did arrive and require a portion of the population to relocate to space, the "Replicator" would be the only cost effective way to feed them.

     

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  63.  
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    iNtrigued (profile), Sep 10th, 2009 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    First of all, Great Name!

    Second, great question.

    Third, I would also ask, wouldn't all the food you need lead to some involvement with a toilet, atleast somewhere down the line? Which, I would imagine, would lead to an increase in the need for qualified toilet cleaners.

    Lastly, wouldn't all the food you need, for free I might add, lead to widespread obesity? Which would lead to the need for stronger and more powerful toilets, possibly designed by said toilet cleaner with his extensive knowledge on the subject.

     

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  64.  
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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Sep 10th, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    heh

    Removal of scarcity would have interesting effects on healthcare reform. :3

     

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  65.  
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    jenningsthecat, Sep 11th, 2009 @ 7:36pm

    Who would break such a machine?...

    "Who, in their right mind, would want to break such a machine, and force this newly abundant resource back to being scarce?"

    Ask DeBeers. You know, the diamond people. For almost 140 years they have made fortune upon fortune from the artificial scarcity of diamonds, a scarcity which they purposely created:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/issues/82feb/8202diamond1.htm

    Engineered scarcity is a great racket for anyone who has no conscience. Those who create, promote, and use Digital Restrictions Management clearly fall into this category.

    As an aside, neither diamond riches nor DRM abuse would be possible without the extensive rights and powers granted by law to corporations. Perhaps we need to turn our focus away from patent, trademark, and copyright law, and work on legislation which would remove corporations' state-supported ability to engage in the modern equivalent of plundering, raping, and pillaging.

    "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..."

    Does that qualify as 'fair use'? I hope so. ;-)

     

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  66.  
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    David, Sep 13th, 2009 @ 8:31pm

    You never know...

    For the record, replicators require fuel in the form of energy and matter, the former being used to transform the latter into the desired form. So, food isn’t really an infinite good in the Star Trek universe. However, if we were living in the Matrix (or, more appropriately, a simulation on the Thirteenth Floor), this would be completely feasible. For all we know, we are (and one could certainly provide some intriguing arguments from Physics for this theory). I almost wish I were living inside a computer simulation that is hackable from the inside.

     

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