Christopher M. Vanderwall-Brown’s Techdirt Profile

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About Christopher M. Vanderwall-Brown




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  • May 11th, 2012 @ 5:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hardliners

    A friend of mine and professor of physics (he's and elderly Englishman who came to the US in the early 1960's) gave me an interesting notion that the great philosophers in America were laywers (like my 7th great grandfather James Wilson). They were often country laywers like Lincoln. Educated on their own or through small farming schools or land grant universities. Students' education was not free, but subsidizrd by the community.

    Professors made substantially less, but they were professors as a civic duty. Much like teachers. It was also a stable job. A guarenteed job in many ways.

    We also would talk about an American professor on media ecology named Neil Postman. Founder of the NYU school of media ecology. Postman took off where Korzybski, McLuhan, and many others took off, in education, technology (of which he was a skeptic to some extent, but for good reason), and a variety of other subjects.

    Postman's arguably greatest achievement was analyzing the American social narrative and producing tools to said us as a society described our social narratives and determine what problems exist in our society, and how best to deal withthem. Narratives are building blocks which explain to us our purpose and outlook on the world.

    I've been slowly laying out a paper on the topic. It would probably be of great value to the legal world (Postman's theories--not necessarily anything I create), by allowing us to better understand that within any institution there exists narrative--stories--gods to which we serve, and when those meaning making devices break down or are no longer fuctioning satisfactorily, the institution breaks down. People claw onto whatever they can find, or find solace in total disillusionment.

    Postman writes about looking to the 18th and early 19th century to find components and narrative elements to which we can fasten ourselves to, and thereby use to propel ourselves into the 21st century.

    The bridge we are constructing--what are we to take with us?

    What we have brought with us obviously does not serve us.

    We need to look back at what has come before and find new narratives from which to serve, and to serve us. Presently, we have very few if any gods to serve--narratives. Often people get stuck in dogmatism and fundamentalism, because they have no competing narratives to serve.

    In the legal profession, this seemily great tidal wave of formalism may be a direct response to our loss of narrative that was solidified in the 1950's and 1960's with the racial equality movements and the anti-war protest movements where people learned to distrust their society and government. We have to so great an extent given up on living as a society where as a community we can intellegently solve any problem that comes before us, instead replacing this society of idealist lawyers, farmers, and dreamers who took the impossible and made it real (the American dream) with a culture of clans and culture wars--group tribal mentality. We have in so many ways regressed as a society in this pos-intellectual age. People can no longer put their faith and trust in social narratives and institutions which they had at one time confidently confided their fears, hopes and dreams. The social order fell apart. I don't think it was broken for a bad reason, but the after effects have been catastrophic, as no one has come in to set things right--no narratives exist--outside, perhaps, a few good movies or those developed through social movements like Occupy or other left-libertarian movements--that can fill the gaps left by the great American social purge.

    Overall, no meaningful narratives present themselves outside of the occasional film, book, or television show that tell us about ourselves and what our world should look like, or what it does look like, but these stories are like the nightly news--they do not represent themselves inside meaningful order or context. They are merely entertainment as opposed to something the the Greek epics in Ancient Greece, which existed as a platform for human experience and expression. Young Greecians would run about reciting Homer. The society used these stories for many years to fill in the context of life until Olato changed that, replacing it with his Academy, which served for nearly a thousand years as the center for meaningful human endevors. Today, our stories, which could provide us some valuable context for our world are tossed about ineptly in our society. Monty Python has phrase well suited to the world in which we live, "And now for something completely different."

    We live in a time where meaningful context is a near impossibility.

    To endeavor to improve our world, improve our laws, improve our system of government, we need first a meaningful context and social narrative in which to serve, and which may in turn serve us. One that will guide us forward, providing some meaningful order to the world in which we find ourselves. Once these are in place, as it has in past times, society will fall into step behind our new narratives--provided the narratives are functional and mean ngful for the times--but far too often we allow our narratives to stagnate and die, or do not even know they exist. It has come time in our development that we become cognizant of our narratives and seek to improve them or replace them when times and change necessitates it--we must not lose track of who we are or where we have come, lest we will become lost--as we now find ourselves

    We fight, live and die for our narratives, without even knowing they exist.

    The Constitution is no different. We have quite clear purposes and narratives listed in the documents, but our people (judges, lawyers, political leaders) serving other gods--the gods of fundamentalism, social opportunism, and formalism (toname but a few) are conspiring to overwhelm us, because they provide to these men and women the meaningful context for their age. They have no other eak out a life for themselves or hope to move effortlessly through the vast and complex multitudes of change that occur in our world everyday, and they see latching onto these narratives (plugging themselves into the Borg Hive Mind as it were) as a meanigful solution to their woes.

    We who think differently, obviously have fashioned our own narratives of sorts--obviously built out of the culture of the geek-centric world. I don't know what that constitutes, but it's some sort of ready-made patchwork of ideas and past narratives that allows us to survive and provide meaning for our world.

    For the rest of humanity--or at least American humanity (whether life without meaning is even life at all, I cannot say)--no such escape is near. They latch onto whatever they can in the hopes of survival.

    I suspect our problems in patent law are just one superficial example of this fundamental problem with our world.

  • May 11th, 2012 @ 3:51am

    Patents, physics, and nerds, OH MY!

    This probably explains why Einstein worked in a patent office for some years. It was a wonderful place to keep up with tech. Fewer patents get introduced each year. I've wondered if the tech is just that much more complex, or if it really is a result of our system? Same goes with copyright.

    It's the great legal balancing act--purpose as opposed to method. When you forget the purpose, it's really easy to get lost creating convoluted methods--rabbit holes that lead nowhere, or at least that lead to a place determined by someone like the lawyers for big patent mills. You let the Congress publish laws that do not represent the intents given in the Constitution, and people who are meant to be sure law is consistent (law A is in keeping with internal consistency of purpose) i.e judges, and you wind up with laws and enforcement built to support large isolated companies who don't care about inovation, but sustained profits. They don't have to produce anything for them, and since our society is so entrenched in this money game as Hedges and Lessig write about, we end up just letting it happen.

    Meh... the real problem is people are taught to believe law is some esoteric subject they cannot understand. 200-years ago, people read up on this stuff all the time. -shakez head-

    Post-Intellectual society, welcome.

  • May 11th, 2012 @ 3:39am

    Re: Re:

    I'm always surprised at the number of patent lawyers who post on these techdirt discussions. Just goes to show that progress in these fields happens in surprising places :)

    I've learned more about law here than any place else. ;)

    Thanks all!

  • May 10th, 2012 @ 6:32am

    Re: Re: more dissembling

    Edit ...where* businesses should look...

  • May 10th, 2012 @ 6:31am

    Re: more dissembling

    But, small and inovative businesses are generally not using their patents to bludgeon preemptively any and all "competition", even if open-source. The examples previously given are cases were businesses should look at the open-source project in question and try to resolve things peacefully first.

    It seems, however, the vast majority of suits and injunctions that are causing all the trouble originate from either large multinational corporations attempting to exact monopolistic practices onto an unsuspecting market thereby obliterating any and all future competition, or patent farms seeking to purchase broadly defined patents (which the courts need to redefine less broadly and more clearly) and use them to syphen off businesses the world around. This is where we need some limit on patents--either use them, or lose them, or make up some kind of compromise that will prevent patent farming.

    Meh... such a complex mess.

  • May 10th, 2012 @ 6:15am

    Re: Re: Hardliners

    I think this just goes to show we are failing in America at producing fine lawyers. We think Law school is everything, abandoned reading the law, and worst, obliterated our liberal arts education and intellectual society for a posr-intellectual mess. Now, look what it has given us--lawyers incapable of comprehending the subtleties of law, and a complete ignorance and abandonment of a common law system. I wonder if these judges have even read half of the court's previous opinions, let alone the greater body of their peers work (i.e. those that came before on the court and leading scholars of our time)?

    For some reason, I find it doubtful.

  • May 10th, 2012 @ 5:21am

    Re: Re: ...Wha...?

    I hope this is sarcasm. The constitution clearly specifies what patents are to be used for in America (irrespective of past common law precedent). Patents are for the benefit of the public trust--to promote the arts and sciences, the general welfare, and not the patent holder. Whether a particular patent meets this description is for the court to decide.

    It is up to the court to determine whether it is even possible for patents to be issued that equally affect all parties while equally distributing the purpose cited in the copyright and patent section of the US Constitution.

    Moreover, it is not necessary that the government issue them. It is freely up to the PEOPLE whether this is to be done--the people and the courts. Kinda like the inherent contradictions of "seperate, but equal", a.k.a. "seperate and unequal". ;)

  • May 10th, 2012 @ 4:48am

    Hardliners

    Problem is that modern legal theory says the Preamble is meaningless, and the court is not in a position to decide what constitutes these "vague" terms like "the public trust". Law to these people is a deductive science void of any moral underpinnings. Basically, the court is an entity for the purpose of following law verbatim. Problem, of course, is that law is written (as has been written for many years in the past) with specific purposes. These purposes are affected by things like precedents, but formalists won't accept this. I've been getting in arguments with an aquaintence of mine who is graduating from Law School next term.

    It's really a mess, but apparently this formalist trend has infected the court and threatens to usurp 200-year precedents. It's bewildering.

    It seems as though there is an opinion that if I write a preface that provides intent and purpose the court will ignore this, even when that purpose is for the law itself. A.k.a. the Constitution's Preamble is for politicians vs judges. Meh... what utter nonsense.

  • Jan 31st, 2012 @ 11:36am

    Re: one further point

    Note: I use the term 'legal' to mean "all means possible in the legal system... not necessarily permissable, as permissablility changes given the legislative acts and judicial rulings, which are subject to change in the long term."

  • Jan 31st, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Re: Either, or... problems

    Edit: ...because you are not locked into a contract, but do have free publicity and a huge market from which to now choose your distributor for the maximum price...

  • Jan 31st, 2012 @ 11:27am

    one further point

    On Content creators:

    The content creators are told that were the market place to become saturated there exists the possibility that artists such as "The Beatles" would not be in a position to make the astronomical sums of money they did in an open market.

    They operate under the lifeboat plan: those who are in their lifeboat do not wish to help the freezing passengers drowning from the now sinking Titanic, because their lifeboat might tip over or sink, so they will beat people off the boat. In our case, use all legal means to keep the market closed. If they do this they ate guarenteed safety-- or so they think.

    What they do not take into consideration is that the marketplace is best suited to them, not distributors. The market protects bad artists as it now operates that can meet with the look and feel the industry wants to sell--what "creation" it can best market.

    True music artists are not "pop" sensations. They don't necessarily have "blockbuster" written all over themselves. Content creators who are making boatloads of money, don't want to risk the scenario whereby they might tip the boat--in our case, have their talent be subpar.

    As citizens and consumers, in our nation as it is theoretically possible to operate under our as written Constitution, it is in our court to set price. Consumers have all the power. Companies have used their powers developed through market manipulation to press government and manipulate the socioeconomic system to such a degree that they are able to get passed that places market control--price control--in their hands, to the detriment of consumers.

    A better question: " Is it possible for citizens who generally act as consumers to play the middle out of both ends, or can they only support consumers, as any deviation will fundamentally deminish social welfare?"

  • Jan 31st, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Either, or... problems

    Just so people get the point, in formal logic, the logical connective "or" follows this truth table:

    P | Q P v Q
    T | T. T T T
    T | F. T T F
    F | T. F T F
    F | F. F F F

    The inclusive "or" was used. Which means (unlike "and") that "either profits or halting copyright infringement" is a correct use, as it could be the case that both are true. Moreover, it is appropriate to ask what is the final goal of a corporation or group of content owners.

    The objective (given evidence by content rights holders) appears to be an overall increase of control over the marketplace. Lawrence Lessig writes regularly on this issue. By controlling the market for content they have created a monopoly or olligopoly. Content distributors have in the 100 year history of mass media (first in movie distribution, then the recording business, now everything) continued to create a monopolistic market with the intent at collusion. Their objective is to price fix through non-communicatory relations. They are forbidden to "collude" as an industry directly, but indirectly, just like Superpacks, they can look at the screens and set prices according to who is successfully selling for the most.

    By having total control over the marketplace, distributors are able to prohibit individual content creators from entering the market and break their price fixing through a new source of supply. Content distributors do not want a saturated market as that means value is returned to the consumer.

    In microeconomics, pure competition maximizes social welfare, the balance between supply and demand--a shaded area between the price and quantity of a product a consumer will by at that price given any particular supply and demand curve. Pure compstition lowers the overall price of content to its lowest possible level (in theory) thereby maximizing the society's ability to buy products for a lower price--more for less. This is where we get the idea that capitalism promotes a better outcome.

    However, firms will do everything possible to hault this--firms in the media model are distributors who do not inherently create content but at a time gave artists access to means to produce content, and then took that content, providing a fractional sliver of the profit pie. This creates a monopolistic effect. If artists want to make any money, they must go through the established content distributors. That's why it is better to come in second on American Idol. You are locked into a distribution contract.

    The true relationship here is "OPEN" vs "CLOSED" markets. The industry of content distributors would want it "closed" to maximize their profits, while artists would want distributors functioning in an "open" market structure, thereby minimizing cost to entry, and allowing those artists who have talent to become profitable based upon the number of people capable of saturating the market.

    The problem with this is that the market could become oversaturated (i.e. what would happen to the diamond market if De Beers was broken up and supply made competitive) and prices might drop substantially as consumers realize how many artists of great talent exist. Then again, there might not be that many. Only the market can decide.

    Content distributors cannot take a huge cut of an artist's royalties and personal profit in an open market, because the artist can simply go to someone else.

    That's some of the problem in a nutshell. Ergo, content distributors will do whatever it takes--up to an including breaking our system of government--to keep the markets closed.

  • Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 4:50am

    Re: Comedian is to human as satirist is divine

    ...very smart, well informed responses to...

  • Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 4:48am

    Comedian is to human as satirist is divine

    The key here is that Al Franklin is no Satirist. He's just a stand up comedian. Satire is more than comedy--it involves digesting the situation, understanding the players and their positions, the human element and transforming that into comedy that does more than makes people laugh--it presents arguments, points out flawed reasoning--it teaches.

    What would we call John Stewart?

    We need more satirists and "nerds" in Congress--just look at Congress's response to SOPA/PIPA, they even asked for us!

    That said, two days is an unfair assessment of John Stewart. Recently, Stewart had Lawrence Lessig on his program, the legal scholar for open source and community commons. Stewart asked very smart questions and had berg smart responses to his book "Republic, Lost".

    Before Stewart had him on, I had no idea who Lawrence Lessig was.

    Stewart undoubtedly has read his work and is in touch with the issues to some extent--perhaps not the actual acts, but most definitely the keynotes behind it and the criticism.

    I wouldn't"t be surprised if these people in Congress are more out of touch than the average citizen, which I find amusing, given how much access these people could get. If a Congress member called up the leading members of these communities and asked questions, I find it hard to believe they wouldn't drop and bring them up to speed.