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Lethargic Man (anag.)

Lethargic Man (anag.)
Date: 2005-05-31 20:21
Subject: Decisions, decisions
Security: Public
This Sunday, I have the choice of:

At the New North London shul, Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg speaking at the launch of the former's book Judaism and Theology: Essays on the Jewish Religion.

Or, alternatively, the Marom Shmooze on "Halachah - Jewish law, Masorti, What I'm Obliged to Do and Liverpool Football Club": "[...] If the law does not seem to reflect the values of its adherents, at what point does one say 'screw the rules'?"*

Aagh, decisions, decisions. Both sound interesting... but I've already passed by the opportunity to hear Louis Jacobs speak once, and I don't want to repeat what happened when I missed (though no fault of my own) the opportunities to hear both Jim Watson and Francis Crick speak within weeks of each other in 1995, and knew that would be the last chance I'd get - and indeed Francis Crick has since died. (Louis Jacobs is 84.)

OTOH Louis Jacobs is speaking again in a few weeks on the relevance of the Rambam.

I expect I'll probably go to the Jacobs talk...

* Case in point: the translation of various tractates of Talmud I referred to on my blog earlier this week. Copyright law has become grossly extended by the multinational corporations; why on earth should an author's descendants seventy-five years after their death (in the States) still be receiving royalties on their work? (Speaking as a writer myself, I'd revert the cut-off back to death plus twenty-five.) And why should it be illegal to make compilation CDs of the tracks I like off the CDs I bought legally? (Previously legal here but outlawed by the EU Copyright Directive the other year.) But what about a corporate work produced forty-five years ago. Where does the ethical cut-off lie?
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Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al: ewe
User: livredor
Date: 2005-06-01 09:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:ewe
That thing about the copyright in a translation of the Talmud is a really stupid example of the kind of thing you're talking about. FFS, the argument on that webpage is basically that Jews pose such a devastating threat to society that it's a matter of public interest to appropriate Jewish property. There is no way that is an ethical position.

I have a lot of other issues with that example, even leaving aside the particular problems I have with that website. I agree with your basic premise that there are problems with the current copyright system. I actually quite like your proposal that 25 years after an author's death is plenty. It's also true that copyright is being abused in a way that serves corporate interests when it was meant to protect artists against corporations. Fine. I share your concerns about perfectly legitimate copying (such as your compilation CD example) being banned in an effort (misguided, IMO) to block the means by which criminals make illegitimate copies.

But what you're talking about here is equivalent to saying, I believe property is theft, so it's ethically ok for me to shoplift. And anyway, when I do that I'm only stealing from ebul multinational corporations. And everyone does it so why shouldn't I?

If you don't approve of the copyright system or the current implementation of it, it's reasonable to stipulate when negotiating contracts that your own work must revert to the public domain 25 years from your death. It's reasonable to encourage other people to do so. Hell, you can go all the way and do the Open Source thing. If enough people take that route less restricted stuff can easily become commercially competitive with highly restricted stuff and the inappropriately applied copyright laws will become irrelevant. That's how to deal with a law not reflecting your values, not by unilaterally deciding that you're above the law.

Once we draw the analogy to Jewish law, well, things get interesting. But I would argue that the Jewish community is even more mutually interconnected than society in general. And the law is even more enforced by general consent rather than external forces.

Yes, that was ranty. I apologize not, it's basically the icky website that made me angry, I can't believe you're in favour of it.

PS: Go listen to R Jacobs, you won't regret it.
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Lethargic Man (anag.)
User: lethargic_man
Date: 2005-06-01 11:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Okay, first point. I never said I supported the ethical position of that website. Indeed, when I first linked to it I wasn't really aware of it, having done less investigation than you and pseudomonas. I was merely using it as a general example.

That's how to deal with a law not reflecting your values, not by unilaterally deciding that you're above the law.

But that only applies to such works as I produce, which is going to be a tiny fraction of copyrighted work affected by the principle. And the subject of the discussion was not unilaterally deciding you're above the law but if the law does not seem to reflect the values of its adherents, when should the law be disregarded? Particularly if, as in the case of the copyright system in the US, the law is in the hands of the multinationals?

Regarding a law as wrong is not the same as deciding you're above the law; rysmiel and I had a discussion about this a while ago. For example, the law says that cyclists may not have flashing lights on their bike unless they have a non-flashing one as well. However, from my point of view a flashing one is much more visible to the surrounding traffic, and at the end of the day, it's visibility that saves my life as a cyclist on the street at night.
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Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al: teapot
User: livredor
Date: 2005-06-01 12:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:teapot
I want to turn this into a good knockdown argument; may I?
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Lethargic Man (anag.)
User: lethargic_man
Date: 2005-06-01 12:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
*Ulp* Go on.
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Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al: ewe
User: livredor
Date: 2005-06-06 11:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:ewe
I never said I supported the ethical position of that website.
No, but you strongly implied it by giving it as an example of ethical dissent against laws that don't reflect one's values.

Indeed, when I first linked to it I wasn't really aware of it
But when you mentioned it again, you were. And you linked to its page on why the people on that site think copyright doesn't apply to them, which boiled down to, well, someone else copied this material and Soncino never sued so that makes it ok. Even if you didn't notice the oh-so-subtle antisemitism.

having done less investigation than you and pseudomonas
So investigate! The nasty stuff was only a couple oflinks deep. And if you see someone doing something that is obviously legally and morally dodgy, you should start with a sceptical approach. Assuming everybody is nice like you is all very well, but there were plenty of things about that site that should have been huge red flags. Particularly if you care enough to make a post about the site; realizing who was behind it wouldn't have been any more effort than that.

But that only applies to such works as I produce, which is going to be a tiny fraction of copyrighted work affected by the principle.
That's taking my comment entirely out of context. I also said you should encourage other people to take the same approach, and maybe get involved in some official movement to change the nature of copyright. If I'd only said that you should apply your principles to your own work, this would be a reasonable argument. But that's quite the opposite of what I believe, I do think that if you want political change you have to do something beyond modifying your own individual behaviour.

And the subject of the discussion was not unilaterally deciding you're above the law but if the law does not seem to reflect the values of its adherents, when should the law be disregarded?
But I am arguing that your proposed method is so unilateral that the effects are going to be that, even if your intention was otherwise. You're part of a society which, collectively, has influence on the development of laws. There are cases when breaking the law is ethical, but you'd have to do a lot of convincing to persuade me that simply helping yourself to unlicensed copies of copyright works is an example of that.

Particularly if, as in the case of the copyright system in the US, the law is in the hands of the multinationals?
You don't seem to be making any argument beyond the one I already dismissed, here. It's easy enough to appeal to emotion by talking about how you're only harming "multinationals" which are big enough to dismiss your actions as collateral loss and are evil anyway. But this is hopelessly naive; in reality stealing from corporations harms individuals, including artists, including poor people, including people to whom you do have an ethical obligation.

Regarding a law as wrong is not the same as deciding you're above the law
Regarding it as wrong isn't, gratuitously breaking it very likely is. Not absolutely necessarily, but you have provided no convincing reasons so far why what you're proposing counts as an exception here.
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Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al: ewe
User: livredor
Date: 2005-06-06 12:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:ewe
rysmiel and I had a discussion about this a while ago.
The fact that you had a discussion with rysmiel is not liable to convince me of anything! You might actually present some of the arguments that came up in this discussion. If you meant to imply: and rysmiel agrees with me, that still doesn't count as an argument.

For example, the law says that cyclists may not have flashing lights on their bike unless they have a non-flashing one as well. However, from my point of view a flashing one is much more visible to the surrounding traffic, and at the end of the day, it's visibility that saves my life as a cyclist on the street at night.
But the law doesn't (AFAIK) forbid you to have a flashing light! You can preserve your safety and still keep the law by having both. And if you think the law is inappropriately formulated, there are lots of channels, official and unofficial, by which you can try to get it changed.

Also, how is that analogous to the copyright issue? You're not hurting anyone by having a flashing light when the law prefers a steady light. Unlike when you're disregarding copyright protections and making it less likely for artists to be rewarded for their work.
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