Free Culture and the constitution

Jack Valenti, longtime president of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) said this in 1982 in a testimony to congress: "Creative property owners must be accorded the same rights and protection resident in all other property owners in the nation." Valenti and the MPAA aggressively lobby our government for stronger copyright laws, and this is his basic reason. It sounds logical enough, but it goes against a long legal tradition regarding 'creative property.'

Article I, section 8, clause 8, of the Constitution says, "Congress has the power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." This clause does provide for protections on creative property for the purpose of promoting progress. Why would someone work hard to create a new idea if it could be easily stolen? But this clause does make an important distinction; it says that exclusive rights should only be secured for a limited time. This contradicts Valenti's claim that physical property and creative property should be given the same legal protections.

I'm learning a lot about copyright law from Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. I first saw Lessig on The Screen Savers, and I went to his website where the book is available for free in several formats (I went for audio and MS Reader).

The problem with current copyright laws, according to Lessig, is not that they give protection to creators, but that those protections have grown beyond what was intended by the framers and what is healthy for our culture. Take the limited time mentioned in the above quote from the Constitution. The original length of a copyright was 14 years. It could renewed, if the author was still alive, for another 14 years. That would cover the commercial life of just about any creation, allowing the author to make money, but sending the creation into the public domain while it's still relevant. Today the copyright term is 95 years. The only ones who benefit from such a long term are the corporations who hold the copyrights. No artist is still alive and hoping to profit from his creation after 95 years. This extended term also means that the public domain is starving.

I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't know what Lessig suggests as a solution, but it's been interesting to learn how copyright law has changed over the years. And, sadly, those changes protect corporations and make it harder for individuals to be creative without fear of litigation.

Back in town

Well, we're back in town. Coming soon:

Pictures from the trip

Discussion on Free Culture, the book I'm reading.

Why American young people don't vote

If US politicians want to get the young vote out, they should take a page from Pakistan's book:

Man campaigns with rat in mouth

Kearney, not just for carnies anymore

Yesterday we drove the longest leg of our trip. We were on the road about 7 hours. As I write this Emma is playing with Eden, the Smiths' one-year-old. They're pretty cute. The city of Kearney seems pretty nice. Brandon and Keri say it's growing quite a bit, and there are lots of things to do.

A blog is born

We've got Kyle's weblog set up at

Brendan, thanks for creating it so quickly.

Vacation update

We're having a great time on our vacation so far. We're in Kirksville, MO, now. Brendan's graduation and party were fun, and we had a great time visiting our friends in Macon. Joe showed me some music he's been recording, I might post some clips, with his permission, later. His wife Amanda teaches graphic arts in Macon and she had the coolest G5 Mac I've ever seen. It had an enormous LCD monitor. I think they said it was 23 inches. I'll definitely post a picture of that soon. Kirksville has been great, too. This afternoon we went to a CCF service and saw some people we haven't seen for 2 years. In a few minutes we're going out with Kyle and Erika to a new restaurant in Kirksville. This is exciting. Kyle, a fellow Truman English major is interested in getting his own blog. (Brendan, if you're reading this, check your email and drop me a line tonight if you can.)

Rolling out

We're leaving on our vacation today. First stop: Brendan's graduation. Congratulations, Brendoman! I've got my dad's GPS receiver loaded with all the maps we'll need on our trip. I'm just about to wrap up all the work stuff I need to get done before leaving. We'll try and post some updates when we can.

Don't get Sasser'd

Sasser Worm Strikes

You've probably already heard about this worm on the news. It's a result of yet another security hole in Microsoft Windows, and it's hitting pretty close to home. A couple people I know have already had it, including my mom's company. Here are some things to do to protect yourself from Sasser and other security threats.

1. Run Windows Update often. You have to do this in Internet Explorer (it's one thing that Firefox can't do). Run this about once a week or set your computer up to do it automatically.

2. Never open attachments from people you don't know.

3. Get DSL and a modem/router with a hardware firewall. If you live in Adrian, MO, it's available now.

Numbers one and two are the most important, but it's also a good idea to install a personal software firewall and some Anti-virus software (which you must also keep updated). Excepting DSL, all of these tips are free.

Communion meditation

On Sunday I was responsible for a communion meditation at church. I decided to use a passage from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. The book was written in the 15th century and it's in the public domain now, so you can read the entire thing online. I made took one of the chapters about communion, trimmed it down, changed some wording and added a response part. Here it is.

Thomas à Kempis
The Imitation of Christ
Book four
The Second Chapter

TRUSTING in Your goodness and great mercy, O Lord, I come as one sick to the Healer, as one hungry and thirsty to the Fountain of life, as one in need to the King of heaven, a servant to his Lord, a creature to his Creator, a soul in desolation to my gentle Comforter.

Who am I that You should offer Yourself to me? How dares the sinner to appear in Your presence, and You, how do You condescend to come to the sinner? You know Your servant, and You know that he has nothing good in him that You should grant him this.

[With the congregation repeating each line]
I confess my unworthiness.
I acknowledge Your goodness.
I praise Your mercy.
I give thanks for Your immense love.

For it is because of Yourself that You do it, not for any merit of mine; so that Your goodness may be better known to me, that greater love may be aroused and more perfect humility born in me. Since, then, this pleases You and You have so willed it, Your graciousness pleases me also. Oh, that my sinfulness may not stand in the way!

O most sweet and merciful Jesus, what great reverence, thanks, and never-ending praise are due to You for our taking of Your sacred body, whose dignity no man can express!

But on what shall I think in this Communion, this approach to my Lord, Whom I can never reverence as I ought, and yet Whom I desire devoutly to receive? What thought better, more helpful to me than to humble myself entirely in Your presence and exalt Your infinite goodness above myself?
You invite me to Your banquet! You desire to give me heavenly food, the Bread of Angels to eat, none other than Yourself, the living Bread Who come down from heaven and gave life to the world.

Brother-in-law home from Iraq

We're in Clever, MO, visiting Sara's family. Her brother Lucas is on leave from the Navy. He just returned from Iraq. He brought home two chunks of the big bronze statue of Saddam. Yes, the one you saw on the news. I was holding them and a few things occurred to me: 1) This is a little piece of history, 2) It's really heavy, no wonder it took them so long to knock the statue over and 3) How many people starved so they could make this statue? Anyway, it's been great having Lucas home again. No matter what you think about the war, you just have to be proud of guys like this.

I'm writing this post on Sara's parents' new computer. It has a beautiful 17'' LCD. I'm taking their old computer home so I can throw it into my Linux mess. I might frankenstien it or just try for a dual-boot system. If nothing else I'll wipe the hard drive and stick it into my current Linbox. (If you're interested, here are the specs of the old one: 366 Mhz Celeron processor, 32 MB RAM, 4 G hard drive and a 14” CRT monitor.)

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