3.736 copyright, cont. (122)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Sun, 12 Nov 89 17:21:24 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 736. Sunday, 12 Nov 1989.

(1) Date: Sat, 11 Nov 89 14:39:00 EST (299 lines)
Subject: Re: 3.725 copyright meditations (188)

(2) Date: Sun, 12 Nov 89 12:54:25 +0200 (65 lines)
From: choueka@bimacs.biu.ac.il (Yaacov Choueka)
Subject: Copyright (?!) --Bible and Talmud

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 89 14:39:00 EST
Subject: Re: 3.725 copyright meditations (188)

what is exquisitely painful about the arguments over electronic
transmission of texts and copyright is the fact that anyone who copies a
text and knows that it belongs to another (because it was produced by
another) also knows that a theft is being commmitted. Appropriation,
copying, cloning, repeating and original, it is all theft. The fact
that electronic transmission and scanning copying are available makes
it so easy to do, because it is also dematerializes, or spiritualizes
the property, the thing, stolen. Prometheus was a thief. Perhaps the
myth has to do with the theft of a certain clan/guild's firemaking, that
is, ironmaking craft. The flame was taken in a hollow tube, a reed,
and that means it was taken from someone's hearth by the method of
carrying coals. Similarly, if you take someone's yeast to make your own
bread and then culture it, you are stealing that one's beer or bread.
Everyone has always known the difference between being gifted with a
thing, or its (misappropriation). We are not talking about learning
birdsong as chicks from our tribe: we are talking about theft.
Copyright is a weak attempt to protect property and investment. Because
the computer age has changed the form of property and as it were
dematerialized its transmittal does make a difference in the moral
aspect consideration of crime, I think. And those who thieve are still
paying for the juice they need to run their machines, often from
universities supported by taxes paid by those who labor. It is a big fat
ball of tangled yarns, so to say. But we know in our hearts and should
know in our minds when we steal. Perhaps the species is from its
origins a thieving species, perhaps animal life itself is a form of
thieving vegetable or carnivorous...? We need to know what Loki did
too, and all his thieving incarnations. But we know, do we not? We
steal because we dont want to pay for a thing partly because we are
inherently labile and in constant need of input into ourselves and
partly because we want to spend our money elsewhere, but not in paying
for what we may think we like to use, these keyboards. But we know when
we steal, and should begin our discussion there. it has something to
do with the philosophy of economy, I guess. Kessler at UCLA

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------79----
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 89 12:54:25 +0200
From: choueka@bimacs.biu.ac.il (Yaacov Choueka)
Subject: Copyright (?!) --Bible and Talmud

I just read Mark Olsen comments on my short note about certain
Biblical and Rabbinical texts from Bar-Ilan databases, and I don't
really know how to react to it.

"I did not realize", he says, "that the Bible and ancient texts of
Judaism were still under copyright protection. Who, pray tell,",
he asks in disarming innocence, "holds the copyright? And how has
Bar-Ilan gained right to those texts?"

Either he didn't read my note carefully, ridiculously misrepresenting
it as if I, or someone from Bar-Ilan, or anyone for that matter, is
fool enough to claim for "copyright protection" for the Bible or
the Talmud, or he understood my note perfectly, since indeed it was
written in very clear (albeit cautious) terms, in which case his
attitude and reaction are outrageous.

The hundreds of thousands of works of Jewish heritage, or of any
other ancient culture for that matter, are lying around unprotected, for
anyone to pick them up and do with them whatever pleases him.
Any true lover of wisdom would be indeed more than happy if
Mark or anyone else would put two billion words of these works
on computer, and i can assure him that nobody will ever
never "sue" him in any way; quite the contrary,
he will be overwhelmed by blessings and gratitude!

Does this mean however that anyone can merrily go ahead and
take (or "share") possession of the ELECTRONIC version of these
texts, which may have cost a tremendous effort, time
energy, money and sweat to build, by just spending a couple
of hours downloading it on a tape, selling it then for $9.95 a
copy, even making profits on it, since he didn't have to
invest ten years and half-a-million dollars (say) producing it?

Yet, Mark would like to "raise the question of whether ANY (sic)
text can be considered fully in the public domain". Well, yes,
any text published more than one (three?) hundred years ago is most
probably in the public domain according to any written or non-written
law. ANYTHING, however, that was put by ANYONE on the computer,
with his OWN resources and without violating OTHER people's rights,
is HIS OWN, (at least for one generation?) and he is the only one to
decide whether it will, or will not be, put in the public domain.

We are in general lenient today about people copying other people's
properties, if it is for their own private and "innocent" use; we
should not be lenient however when this is done for greedy and
"business" purposes, when even appropriate recognition is denied.

It was not my intention, then, and it is not now, to
initiate or participate in any "general debate" about
"copyright" issues, or to issue any "warning" or suggest any
course of action. I simply stated a fact that I thought
should be known by interested Humanist readers, and this
only after Boyarin message was distributed.

A famous Rabbi once said: "Not every thought that crosses your
mind is worth recording, and not everything that is worth recording
is also worth publishing, or should be". A wise dictum indeed, from
which all of us here, Humanist subscribers, can certainly benefit.

Yaacov Choueka.