A Just and Fair Digital Society

I have long held the view that the claim that "piracy is theft" is based upon a mistaken view of the connection between the how the physical and the digital relate to each other. (I wrote this post on it and have contriobuted to this forum post.)

In a nutshell I think that:

• Piracy of the digital reduces to the unauthorised duplication of information.
• Information is not an object nor does it have any properties shared with objects.
• Theft is the unauthorised acquisition of an object.
• Unauthorised duplication is not theft.

The claim that piracy IS theft and that pirates should be criminalised has two bastions in its support:

The first is the companies who rely on the physical control of information for profit.
These are industries that have to either adapt or die. They just won't be around in ten or twenty years' time unless they do.

The second are people who haven’t really thought about the issues enough so this is for them…

Fundamental Tenets of a Just and Fair Digital Society

I believe that future generations will see our current media and information laws as like window tax. I'm talking here about the tax levied on houses in old Europe, not anything to do with Der Family Gates. The fact that an individuals who copy a CD or a movie can now be sent to prison in some countries will make us look like idiots in years to come. And it is idiotic.

We should be talking about the piracy = theft issue any more than we should be campaigning to end window tax.

What we should be asking is, for example, how will people deal with issues around information morality/ legality in 200 years' time?

Surely it would be arrogant of us to expect our current approach to persist two centuries on? That's a very long time for such a legal stasis to persist.

Of course the system will change. Of course my great-grandkids won't go to jail for unauthorised copying.

What we should be discussing is, in 200 years time, what kind of key principles to do with information and ownership will be in place?

Here is my attempt to supply some core principles of a fair and just digital society:

Fundamental Tenets

  1. All authors/companies are entitled to ask for whatever reward they wish for their work or service.
  2. No person or group can make money from anyone else's work without permission.
  3. It is never illegal to possesses or share information that you could otherwise buy.

Their effects would be, for example:

• Authors and publishers etc. could use DRM as much as they want. If it gets broken that’s their problem.
• If I download a DRMed movie, I can't give it to "you just like that" – one of us would have to break the DRM, which is an effort, but not illegal.
• If anyone tries to make money from selling your band's song, then they can be sued.
• If a 30 second snip from your TV shows is played on another TV show you get paid.
• If a radio station in South Africa plays your song, you get paid.
• People can pirate your software, reverse engineer it, release open source versions its up to you to keep innovating faster than the duplicators, provide support, training etc.