Writ of Nuh-Uh

16 January 2003

I find that since I finished The Paths of the Dead, I want to use the word "nearly" a good deal more than it warrants. But it was a fun book anyway, and now I'm reading Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle, so evidently someone declared it Fun Book Week in M'rissaland and didn't tell me.

I dated a guy once who was convinced that I'd had a deprived childhood because I was a babygeek, politically aware from a young age, etc. I totally disagreed with him, but if he'd argued that I'd had a deprived childhood for not discovering Diana Wynne Jones until this year, I might have conceded the point.

One of the important points my dad tries to get through to his sixth graders (in his Sunday School class) is that there is no later when their lives will start mattering: they matter now. What they do is important now. I think this gets lost with kids, a lot of the time, possibly because a lot of adults think that it doesn't matter, or else because other well-meaning adults think that if it matters what kids do, the answer is to schedule them into as many résumé-building activities as possible. Sigh. Extremes of stupidity.

And speaking of which, how 'bout that Supreme Court? Wooo yeah. Way to make sure that some works never, ever regain popularity and others don't get reprinted on the web where they might do someone some good. Who did the Public Domain ever help, anyway? Oh yeah: everybody. (This is how Moby Dick got popular, people: it went out of copyright. And have you ever tried to find books about when Malaysia was Malaya? Try it. Nobody can reprint the ones from the early 20th electronically for cheap, because they're still under copyright, but nobody wants to pay to reprint them because the market is so specialized. So nobody has any access to them unless they can manage to find them in a used bookstore. Great.) Limited is unlimited; the E.U. should set policy for intellectual property in the U.S. with blackmail. Yick. We just kept wanting to issue a writ of nuh-uh to some of the majority assertions (although the dissenting opinions got pretty wacky, too).

Seriously, can someone tell me: what's the moral justification for saying "if you don't extend copyright as many years after a creator's death as we do, we won't protect your citizens' copyrights ever"? If extension of copyright is supposedly a grand moral principle, how do they justify that complete leap? Anyone? You don't have to be from the E.U., so long as you can grasp a moral principle here. We talked about it last night, and none of us could find one.

But it also doesn't sound like Lessig feels he did the best he could have, and it's not like I expected any better from the Supreme Court. As Timprov kept saying, "7-2 was 2 more than I'd thought!" We didn't expect better, even if Lessig had been totally satisfied with his case. We couldn't expect better.

(Dan Gillmor pointed out the obvious: that Disney itself has benefited from the Public Domain numerous times. "The Jungle Book." "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Even "The Swiss Family Robinson," for heaven's sake. But that, obviously, was somehow Different.)

I should be pretty speedy about posting this entry, actually, because our DSL could go down today if it wanted to. It could go down tomorrow. We don't know. The company that provides it is going out of business and will shut down...sometime. We've got cable modem lined up for next week (bleah! but our DSL options weren't good at all), and we can use Stanford dial-up if things do go kaput, and Mark and his brother-in-law Jeff have gotten our backup system set up so that we shouldn't lose any e-mails. My hotmail address is a good backup, too. We'll be fine. I just hope the inconvenience stays minimal. But if I don't post every day, that'll be why.

So, today I'll be writing and reading and then heading up to Berkeley to have dinner with Wendy and Daniel. Oh, and eating sugar snap peas for lunch, because, dang, they're good. Priorities, after all. Oh, and wishing my Uncle Phil a happy birthday: that's a priority, too. Have a good day yourselves.

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