the red scare

well, the creative commies graphic i whipped up a couple of days ago continues to make the rounds. today wired news has a story about the web community’s reaction to bill gates’ comments to likening intellectual property reformers to modern day communists. normally i’d be pleased to see a piece of work get such widespread circulation, but in this case i’m actually a bit torn.

I’m crossposting this from J-Walk Blog, as this topic is hot at the moment, and I think the essay I mention at the end is a must-read:

Intellectual Property is a great underreported war of this century. Some people are getting their hard work ripped off, such as game designers and rappers who see their own work bootlegged before it is even finished. On the other hand, novelists used to get the same treatment from foreign printers, and record labels have sucked musicians dry for most of a century. I think most of the excesses now are coming from those who want to fence off the intellectual commons for private profit:
* Monsanto tries to sell poor third-world farmers patented seeeds which cannot be saved for next year.
* Scientology uses copyright law to go after critics who quote from ‘secret’ church documents.
* University professors worry about the legal ramifications of exposing flaws in film encoding schemes.
* The pharmaceutical industry pushes drugs still under patent and spends research money on finding new patentable variants, even though the basic research was taxpayer funded and older drugs no longer under patent are more effective.
* Turn on the television and notice how often you see hats, t-shirts, and other things blurred out, not because they are ‘obscene’ but because they depict trademarked brand names, or even the trademarked images of well-known people who would have to be paid for the use of their ‘likeness’!
* These days, you can even trademark a lie, as in ‘Fair and Balanced,’ the Fox News slogan.

For a stirring and compelling demolition of the idea that ideas can ever really be owned, see Brian Martin’s essay “Against Intellectual Property,” at

posted by .  on  01/08  at  10:27 PM

i don’t know. open source and ip are related but definately not the same. i personally use and share my code with others. if they find a way to get rich off it, go nuts. usually open source thrives at the foundation level of an application, the legos if you will. i gladly share my legos and have definately borrowed a bunch in my time. what i assemble with those legos, i may try to package and sell and hopefully do so in a way that is competitive. if the idea is good, everyone is gonna try and snag it and try to sell their own version of it, perhaps slightly altered. good for them. i don’t expect the government to say, “hey, this guy’s legos are arranged in this order, no one else can use this combo”.

just my opinion as a software developer and business owner. i have to stay competitive by always being better than the competition and anticipating their next move. i guess some people want to cry out to mommy and say, “time out, they stole my idea, make em give it back”. grow the fuck up bitches.

also its hard to have a debate when so many things are jumbled into one huge basket labeled “intellectual property”. is biting a music sample the same as copying a java method you found on sourceforge? seems like an oversimplification and forcing too many ideas into one heading.

moreover, its seems whack to assume that communism and capitalism are mutually exclusive. both ideas can co-exist. the “you are either with us or against” mentality is the core error that underlies this debate.

posted by .  on  01/11  at  01:06 PM

I dunno…For me personally, the whole issue is amazingly simple.  I work for a corporation during the day (as a programmer) and write open source software on my own time.  I can tell you that I have a genuine sense of being something of a “social outcast” or somehow being “against the system” by trying to do this, simply by virtue of the contrast between the money-grubbing motivation and the desire to create great things.

As a result, I find it hilarious and frustrating when people with essentially infinite money (like Bill Gates) have the audacity to try to tear us down further.  It intensifies my feelings of being an underdog, an outcast…and it creates a strong need to unite with like-minded people.

That’s what has, IMO, driven this whole “Creative Commies” response.  People can call it silly or whatever, but people need flags to rally behind, and that mirrored C, itself an affront to establishment, is simply such a flag.  “Any port in a storm.”

It is the taking on of the absurdity, taking ownership of it, and turning it against the asserters of it as “fact” that makes it a uniting force.

The only sad thing I see in all of this is that the artists have /any/ sense of guilt or resposibility whatsoever.  Art doesn’t have to be responsible to be valuable.  Sometimes its very irresponsiblity is what makes us connect with it as emotional beings.

I didn’t want an image that explained my view of copyright law.  I wanted a flag to rally behind.

posted by Brandon Franklin  on  01/12  at  06:52 AM

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