When I read Techdirt, one of the things I’m looking for are articles that help me understand the complex considerations between governmental power and individual rights. They interest me because I find that they always force me to deeply consider my own justifications and philosophies, and the debates in the comments are always spirited and thought-provoking. They also interest me because I can’t help but stare in disbelief at the “reasoning” that is sometimes used. For example, take Yet Another Story Of A Guy Arrested For Filming Police. It is amazing to me that fundamental rights (such as those inherent in the First Amendment) can be so blatantly ignored. We’re all human, but I feel like these rights should flow naturally into our judgment. Alas that it is not so. But never fear, there is also hope! As a counterpoint to the prior article, we also have the fact that Boston Pays $170,000 To The Guy Police Arrested For Filming Them.
So, to stay sane, that’s another thing I look for: hope—that those responsible for resolving the complex interplay between government power and our rights will at least consider that limits to government power are valid and necessary. For example the article that came out Thursday, where the court is exploring whether there are limits to border searches: Court Suggests Politically Motivated Border Searches May Be Unconstitutional. If nothing else, that one had a lot of great advice on how to protect your data from the government should you foolishly decide to cross the border carrying your laptop.
Another good article in this area, while not strictly relating to limits of governmental power, Why Infringement Isn’t Theft, should lead people to question the government’s reasoning behind why it is willing to act on behalf of intellectual property advocates, which would be a limit in and of itself. Seeing such a prominent law professor take this stance certainly falls under the category of “hope”, at least for me.
But perhaps the greatest reason I’m drawn to Techdirt is the gobs of articles that undermine widely- and blindly-held beliefs in the intellectual property arena, that challenge the “IP laws=good so more must be better” thinking and explore the unintended consequences of their existence. The first of these addresses one of the areas that most people have very little exposure to, the decision-making behind the scenes in the VC World. Anyone that is a student of economics knows that monopolies carry a lot of baggage and barriers to entry for startups, but this was the first time I thought about how those barriers were perceived. Monopolies Can Strangle Innovation shows us that the “tax” on success is a very real phenomenon.
Mike also pointed us to Jonathan Coulton to show us yet again that not all artists are looking to intellectual property protection to ensure their success. My favorite quote from Jonathan speaking about a free and open internet: “… if as a consequence of letting that do what it wants, we destroy a number of industries, including the record business, and maybe even including the rock star business, I think that humanity will be better off.” Now there’s a man that can see the big picture.
The next article that really struck me (and others too, judging by the volume of the comments) regarding these unintended consequences was Patents Threaten To Silence A Little Girl. I think that most people believe that patents, copyright, and trademarks are the province of the business world only and do not affect the average person in their daily life. That article is a perfect example of how that’s just not true–and the more restrictive the laws around intellectual property get, it’s not hard to see how much more collateral damage there will be.
I’ll close with a confession. There is something else that I sometimes look for in my weekly Techdirt feed: schadenfreude. Yeah, I said it. I can’t help but enjoy the unfolding implosion that is Righthaven, and this week we got two doses, Righthaven Stops Showing up to Court and Righthaven’s CEO Files Statement About How Righthaven’s Own Lawyer Won’t Respond To Him. A little piece of me will die when Righthaven stops being worthy of coverage here, but I’m sure something else of even greater face-palmage will arise. So with that, here’s to the next week!