Class 4

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[Due to the format of the class (and maybe also my personal definition of what a liveblog is) I chose not to try to condense the discussion we had, trying to preserve as much of it as possible. Sorry for the resultant length! Also, there are probably some inaccuracies in here, apologies in advance, and feel free to comment if I mangled one of your points.]

DW: Let’s continue yesterday’s discussion about gender. I was surprised at our reaction at the article; we seemed to not want to like the article. Of course, none of us actually read the whole report so it makes it difficult to form a real critique. Why didn’t we want to go along with its conclusions? A: It statistically confirmed gender stereotypes (e.g. men are more technically savvy, women are forwarding pictures of teddy bears to their emails). It might be true, but it’s sad to see. A: While it’s difficult to accept stereotypes, it seems important to understand the baseline, and I agree that there are differences between the genders. Women shouldn’t feel intimidated by technology, but it’s more descriptive than normative. A: Seems to be saying, as long as the two means are statistically different by even a small value, there is some huge difference and overstating what it really means. A: It also seems to overstate differences in another way. Where people use the internet a lot it seems like those differences would even out. On a more casual basis, you might see more differences, but if you are connected to the web all the time, the experience seems to be more consistent between the genders. A: Seems like the study was aimed at older people. A: Along those same lines, one of the things that stood out was how many people said they checked email one time a day, doesn’t seem right, or at least not the people who we consider typical internet users. A: Is there something different about women now that older women use the internet differently than women in our generation? A: Errors based on telephone polling – excluding lots of people, especially in our age group, who don’t have a landline. A: The study was from a few years ago, and it seems like the social networking explosion has been fairly recent, taking the Internet by storm. You can use Facebook to play Scrabble (DW: not for long), or whatever, it’s harder to distinguish these things, it’s harder to say what you use social networking for – is it to maintain relationships etc.? A: But even with the blurring of these lines, self-report data is always going to be based on your own gender conceptions. Also the questions seem to have been skewed by gender conceptions.

DW: is the broader question here less one of gender but one of whether we want or expect the web to be a way to get around or past stereotypes that have plagued us offline? Web utopians would like another chance at it because we screwed it up in the real world. People like me don’t like to hear that the same old crap is emerging online. But you would expect if there were real differences between the web and the offline world, you’d think they’d emerge here. I hope that this issue will be a persistent topic, not just a 5 or 10 minute discussion in class. A: While restrictions based on filtering or gender archetypes aren’t positive, maybe it doesn’t have to be bad thing that there are different webs, in the sense that people just do different things with the web as individuals.

DW: Moving on to copyright: you are HLS students who have taken copyright classes with some of the best legal thinkers in the world. I was a humanities major. I hope to talk about copyright as a social/cultural issue. I’m somewhat qualified to talk about this as I have some first-hand experience with copyright as an author. What should I think about copyright? What do I get out of it? Why should I publish things? A: Because you want to make money (copyright gives you a number of rights, including the ability to sell copies of your work – or rather, someone else sells your stuff, they insist on a copyright, and they pay you). A: It gives you something to sell. It makes something yours. DW: these are two different things. A year ago I self-published a children’s book on Lulu, it’s published under a Creative Commons license, you can go to my blog Joho, you can download it for free, or buy it on Lulu, who gives me a much better royalty than from a traditional publisher. So I don’t need copyright to make money. A: It gives you exclusivity. If the market were larger for your novel, were it not for copyright, people would just pass around free unauthorized copies. A: Copyright supports the entire publishing industry, which is what gets your book to the bookstore. DW: from my personal experience, that’s a lot closer to the phenomenology of the experience. The entire economic system is based around copyrighted stuff that really is secondary to me as an author. I just want them to put the book out there, and to do that I have to give them the copyright. A: Authorship – for a lot of authors, they want people to recognize that’s my idea, that’s my thing. The reason anyone creates anything, they want it to be their thing, recognition of the artistic accomplishment. Prestige. A: It also builds the brand around your name, your reputation. J.K. Rowling can charge a lot more for her third book than her first because people know who she is. DW: suppose someone else copies my book, imagine that there’s no economic impact, but you’d still think it’s unfair. Fairness is the ostensible topic of today’s class, we’ll see if we get to it.

DW: Moving on to Lessig’s Code 2.0. If you have a piece of property, and you want to protect it, what do you do? A: Pass a law. Build a fence. DW: And for intellectual property what is a fence? A: DRM. Websites that don’t let you copy the text, PDFs that disable functions. DW: What are defaults? A: Normal settings, usually you can change them. DW: Facebook’s Beacon was all about defaults. A: Facebook had a relationship with certain third-party websites, and when you bought something on those websites, a popup would show up on the bottom right corner of the screen. DW: this was an egregious example of customer manipulation. The popup said, we will show this information on your Facebook profile, and you pick yes, tell my friends, or no. If you didn’t press the button, it defaulted to yes. That program is on by default in your Facebook account, and unless you went to your Facebook profile and changed it, it will pop up.

DW: Why did Lessig think that Reeves was ultimately wrong? A: Lessig thinks both fences and laws should be used, in whatever mix is most efficient. A: Because the web is always developing, and there are so many reasons why you do things, it’s difficult to figure out when you’re doing something illegal. Doing it by law cuts out too many instances that you might want to happen. DW: As an owner, my intentions might be completely different than what gets enacted in copyright, and that specificity can’t be enacted in law, it can only be done by my particular fence. In order to enable the range of actions, then the default should be open, there shouldn’t be a law that bars certain actions, that’s what Reeves was arguing. But there are also some reasons why we might want open defaults. But first there are reasons why we might not want open defaults. A: If you have owners who are not very savvy who don’t understand what the defaults are and don’t know how to prohibit actions, they may end up making horrible mistakes. A: There’s a public good benefit that underlies the copyright scheme which is that people are adding to a pool that others can draw from, and that has to be taken into account when you consider the costs. Private people won’t be taking into account the public good.

DW: Public goods like Wikipedia are so cool because you know you can go there and add to it or take from it and not run afoul of copyright laws. Why are open systems so great? A: Transformative and derivative uses which build on previous works. A: Mashups and mixes. A: The flip side of the public good problem is that it’s so much cheaper to copy than to create. It might actually deter creating if people can’t get protection for their works, not just for economic reasons but for credit/attribution. It could be a disincentive to people to lose control of their works. A: There’s a problem here in that there’s an assumption that the internet world can operate on a completely different set of rules than the real world, which is untenable. You’ll want to avail yourself of multiple channels, and if the defaults are open in one place where they are closed in the real world, do you lose your rights other places? It’s difficult if you have these two huge worlds with different rules. It’s disruptive to the institutions that have been built up around a certain default. A: Maybe it’s not a terrible thing if it’s disruptive to the world as we know it. A: There is a difference between the costs of copying and the costs of creation. While new technologies have lowered the costs of copying, they have also lowered the costs of creation. We’ve seen this in the music industry. Maybe it’s okay to dismantle the recording industry because it was based on a scarcity that no longer exists. For text, it’s essentially free to “publish” on the web. For film/movies the costs have gone down somewhat but they’re still pretty high, maybe that’s one area where distributing movies for free online really hurts the traditional industry.

DW: with an open system, we can get more innovation. Remember the end-to-end argument; we get an option value that is incalculable. In a purely open environment (not that I’m necessarily recommending it) we create a world where all content is available to everyone, which we never had before. Like it or not, that’s what we have now. Keeping that in mind, what do we lose in the default of openness? A: Anything new. We wouldn’t have new music if people weren’t going to get paid (assuming that in a world of pure openness you don’t get paid). A: I disagree, I think with music specifically that people will still be able to make tons of money because they can sell out shows, and now music beyond the radio top 10 is available and can become popular. I think the best music comes from people who aren’t making tons of money. There’s a hatred for sell-outs, musicians become worse when they hook up with the Britney Spears phenomenon and start sounding the same as everyone else. It’s the best thing for music right now. Response: My statement was based on the assumption that you can’t make money. Assuming you can sell out concerts knocks my argument out. A: But a lot of artists, especially smaller artists, are likely to spend as much money to go on tour as they will make on tour, and they’re really just going on tour to get more exposure. DW: would we create on the web the same bi-polarism that we get in the world that we’re coming from? A: This gets to the economics argument again, which is important. If you look at really expensive works, there is a definite argument that whatever the economics are of an open world on the internet, you lose the incentives to make the hundred-million dollar blockbusters due to the inability to aggregate wealth with a different incentive structure. DW: what do we lose with an open default? A: Maybe alternative methods could come forward, people could sponsor artists. Instead of studios interested in making money with movies, we can have “bill gates” sponsoring movies that are worth being sponsored? Art can become more like art again. A: Isn’t this just a value judgment? To say that independent artists are somehow better? A: If you think that money conveys information, the fact that some artists make more money than others suggests that some artists bring more value than other artists. A: In an open culture people have no protection from having their small, easily reproducible works being ripped off. DW: Someone who is producing that sort of thing is more likely to suffer from openness, as opposed to someone who makes a work that is harder to reproduce. A: What about having a quality filter? Studios and movie industry creates this function, without them you would have to yourself sift the good from the crap. DW: as an institutional author, I know there is an industry that has no interest in purveying crap, and that is a function. This is similar to the argument made by Andrew Keen in Cult of the Amateur. There is of course at least one counter-argument, which is, have you looked at mainstream media recently?