Thursday, November 16, 2006

information wars

I posted the following to one of the Victorian IT teachers lists. My fear is that teachers won't get involved politically, that they will grumble about crazy copyright laws but just try to work around them rather than challenge them directly. Hope I'm wrong. My belief is that the intellectual property wars are escalating and that it's necessary to get involved. I'll be writing more about this.
It's about information which makes it more central to our profession than drugs or alcohol prohibition.

In this thread people are saying that they will break the law because it is an ass and turn a blind eye to students breaking stupid laws. Fair enough. However, I feel we have a broader social problem which requires political action when copyright laws exist which turn citizens into criminals.

To look at the US experience:
"According to the NY Times, 43 million Americans downloaded music in May 2002. According to the RIAA, the behaviour of those 43 million Americans is a felony. We thus have a set of rules that transform 20 percent of Americans into criminals ..." Lessig, Free Culture, 199
It's not going to go away. Copyright law is being strengthened in Australia as we speak.

How do teachers feel about the ethical dilemma of teaching copyright law in our courses and encouraging or turning a blind eye to students breaking that law when our employer has a clear expectation that we, as teachers, will not indulge in criminal activity and we can be sacked for doing so. Wouldn't happen you think? Check out some of the things that have been happening in the USA which is a bit further down the track on this issue than us. eg. a young student, Jesse Jordan, prosecuted for $15 million dollars damages for wilful violation of copyright law in 2002

I've recently joined the pirate party of australia, which is ridiculously small at the moment, but, nevertheless, I feel obliged to become political on this issue, based on my understanding of the information wars, which have already started, and which will intensify in the future.

The pirate party originated in Sweden and obtained 34,918 votes, or 0.63% of the popular vote. It's platform is reform of intellectual property laws - copyright, patent and the closely related issue of privacy

Information wars: commons v. proprietary, well, isn't it natural for teachers to support the maintenance or expansion of the commons (and not their restriction which is the way the Law is going), since our profession is based on the free and generous sharing of information?

Nor would it be wise IMO to just assume that the side that supports the maintenance / expansion of the commons will just win because that is "sensible" and the other side is ridiculous and laughable. It is laughable but common sense does not always win.

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