Internet Controls and China Economic Development: Correcting for Geek Bias

October 27, 2011

I’ve been trying to get back to writing a follow-up post on U.S. attempts to build a case against China’s Internet policies as trade barriers. Unfortunately, I keep getting sidetracked. For example, this morning I got sucked into an interesting post by Michael Schuman, writing on Time’s ‘Curious Capitalist’ blog, entitled: “Can China’s Economy Thrive With A Censored Internet?” How can I fail to respond to that one?

Let me start out by saying that I’m predisposed to argue against Schuman’s position. The fact is that China’s economy is thriving and has been for quite some time, and all the while, Net content controls have been in place. So I think Schuman has a tough presumption here to overcome. I also believe that Westerners, because they view censorship as wrong, have a tendency to assume that Net controls are a huge intrusion into the lives of most Chinese, which is not the case. Moreover, a lot of tech writers inflate the importance of social media to economic growth, perhaps because it is been a huge driver of growth in the Net sector in recent years.

Be that as it may, let’s take a look. Schuman is basically questioning whether China will be able to continue growing, and in particular move up the value chain into high-tech product manufacturing, all the while avoiding getting stuck in the ‘middle-income trap.’ His first argument is that China’s Net policies result in productivity losses:

So while businessmen in all of China’s major economic competitors require a mere micro-second to open a web page, here in China everyone is stuck waiting around for several seconds – or depending on the page, perhaps as much as a minute. Add that lost time up over a week, a month, a year, and you’re looking at a ton of wasted time in China.

This is undeniable. Just as we Beijingers lose countless hours of our lives fighting traffic every day, slow Net speeds in China make us less productive. But how big of a hit is this?

I think that’s a reasonable question. It’s easy to point out lost productivity, but much more difficult to quantify it and even tougher to rank that loss in terms of importance and compare it to similar problems faced by other nations. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Western commentators who write about China Internet policies are affected significantly by what I like to call “Geek Bias.”

What is Geek Bias? Imagine you are the Shanghai correspondent of the Daily Blah, a large newspaper chain based out of New York. You are the guy who communicates to the world, through your writing, what it’s like to live in China. You are a 28-year-old graduate of Metropolis University’s School of Journalism and you live in a fairly nice one bedroom apartment with your iPad, MacBook Air, and as much bandwidth as you can pay for.

And yet, half of the time you jump on Google to check your Gmail or check the latest football scores, you can’t get through unless you log in to your VPN first. And forget about using the latest Chrome app to integrate Twitter with G+ or access Facebook to set up a photo gallery of pics from Grandma’s 90th birthday party — not without that VPN. And even then, the speed slows down to a crawl and you end up shouting at your laptop and pounding a beer just to rein in the frustration.

And then, your editor tells you to write something, anything, about China’s Internet policies. That article just might be affected by Net-related rage. Maybe.

I think you get my point. I am exaggerating of course, but I think there is a kernel of truth here. Very often, I read an article announcing that Topic X is now being blocked by a keyword search on Sina Weibo. The foreign Twitterati in China go nuts, as well as the usual Chinese activist folks. When I mention this to my wife, she usually replies with “So what?” and “Shut up, I’m trying to order a new pair of shoes on Taobao.”

Yes, a lot of time is wasted by folks in China waiting a long time for foreign sites to load. However, I think that number is much lower than Western Geeks assume. In any event, Schuman has no statistical evidence to back up his assumptions, and we are left with China’s very fast economic growth on the other side of the ledger.

Schuman’s next point is that Net controls impede information flow, crucial to economic development:

But with the Internet controlled, China is attempting this very difficult task without an important tool – free flow of information. If China is to develop homegrown, innovative industries that can compete on a global scale, its businessmen, scientists and students need to be hooked into what the rest of the globe is doing, to latch onto new trends, read about fresh ideas and connect to how everyone else in the world is living. That’s not possible here in China.

Whoa, hyperbole much? Yes, access to information is important for economic development, and blocking certain web sites and social media platforms could impede that discourse. But again, let’s correct for Geek Bias. Just because that correspondent for the Daily Blah sits at Starbucks every day with his iPad and gets a lot of story ideas from folks on Twitter, this doesn’t mean that a quantum physics researcher at Tsinghua University also looks to social media for inspiration and professional discourse.

Not to be a Luddite or anything, but let’s not inflate the importance of social media, which is mostly used for entertainment purposes here in China. I don’t think that blocking Facebook equates to shutting off all communications between Chinese innovators and the rest of the world, or that Chinese innovators will fail to “latch onto new trends” without it.

Schuman’s final two points are that: 1) China’s home-grown social media alternatives may be popular, but they do not help Chinese communicate with the rest of the world; and 2) if those companies attempt to go abroad (he cites a possible Alibaba acquisition of Yahoo as an example), they will be hindered by customer fears regarding personal security.

Both points are valid, but not quantifiable, and the second issue is subject to Geek Bias. If Alibaba buys Yahoo, will we see American customers jump ship in droves? Schuman might be knowledgeable about data security and therefore sensitive to this, but I doubt most Americans give a damn. In the past decade, customer data was freely given to the U.S. government by American telecom providers, and there was almost no outrage, and certainly no shift in service providers.

Bottom line here: slow load times hurt productivity, and content controls (by definition) impede access to information. But saying that this will therefore translate into a huge drag on China’s economy is just speculation; it might sound “right” because we don’t like censorship, but that doesn’t make it true. Moreover, I suspect that this assumption is colored by Western geek tendencies to inflate the importance of social media and downplay the unfettered means by which innovators are still able to communicate with colleagues around the world and perform research.

34 thoughts on “Internet Controls and China Economic Development: Correcting for Geek Bias

  1. Tanner Boyle

    I think the more interesting point is that Chinese Internet is not a free exchange of ideas and certainly not a place for Chinese to interact with people from other cultures. Having a separate Internet means that their access to information is limited and skewed and at some point that is a disadvantage.

    That disadvantage may not become visible until every Chinese person has their own flushable toilet and access to heat when they choose which is a couple years down the road.

  2. S.K. Cheung

    I agree with you entirely. The flip side, though, is that internet controls can’t possibly be helpful to China’s economic growth either. What we know is China’s economy under the current circumstances which include internet controls. The known unknown (to borrow from some GWB-era vernacular) is what China’s economy might be without said controls. Ironically, when the economy is good, people may not care so much. But if the Chinese economy ever slows, then Chinese people might be a bit more interested in what they might be missing out on, even if they don’t exactly know what that is.

  3. perspectivehere

    Many businesses and workplaces have policies that limit use of the internet to company purposes, and many businesses block their employees from accessing facebook and other social media while using workplace systems. Many will also have policies that prevent employees from using workplace systems to post comments on blogs or media sites, or to use personal email. And many workplaces will censor websites. In fact, my workplace (outside mainland China) does not allow access to China Hearsay blog, because apparently an administrative decision was made by someone in management that China Hearsay is not relevant to work. So China Hearsay is censored not by the Chinese government but by a nameless bureaucrat at a Western company. Go figure.

    Since most Americans who work spend the entire workday in the workplace, unable to access the internet for personal purposes except for small hours in the evening. Considering that many Americans work for companies with such policies and such blocks in place, this inability of workers to access the internet except for company approved sites poses a “chilling effect” on political, cultural and individual learning and expression.

    Isn’t this the same argument?

    You could take it further and argue that because of the chilling effect many Americans face on political expression in the workplace, this is the reason why democracy is failing to represent the 99% of the population who work, accounting for OWS….

    1. S.K. Cheung

      You have a point, although it seems your employer is more draconian than most. To my knowledge, most employers will have some internet usage policy on their hardware, and the stipulation that your traffic can and will be monitored, such that you may have to justify how your internet use contributes to your productivity if they find that you’re blogging half your work-day away. However, I’m not aware that “most” employers physically block access to certain sites. In fact, I think your employer would be among a distinct minority for specifically blocking China Hearsay.

      As far as your point goes, I agree it would be similar in China where, as long as you can access the stuff you need in order to do your job, CCP-mandated controls may not have a material effect on productivity. However, different jobs have different needs. While I assume that your employer blocks the sites deemed unnecessary for your job, I also presume that you can access those that would be essential for your duties. I’m not sure how the CCP GFW system could accommodate all the jobs in China, allowing only what was needed and prohibiting what wasn’t…for everybody. Your employer fits the restrictions to you; in China, it’s one size fits all. There is a difference there.

      Of course, there’s also the small matter that you chose to work for your employer, and chose to accept the restrictions your employer imposes. I don’t think most people in China chose to be born there….they just were. And I certainly don’t think they chose to have those restrictions imposed upon them…they just were.

      And I don’t know how many hours you work, but I think many/most Americans still have plenty of personal time to patronize the sites they want. Your workplace is the place for you to do work. Political expression can be done on your own time..and for Americans, they can.

  4. perspectivehere

    Here’s another example of “internet controls on content” which makes it hard to receive and exchange ideas:

    http://www.racialicious.com/2009/12/17/the-truth-of-lagerfelds-idea-of-china/

    The blogger has embedded videos, but they cannot be shown due to accusations of copyright infringements.

    The text that goes with this post includes the following:

    “Lagerfeld’s latest film has Lithuanian model Edita Vilkeviciute playing a very tightly-wound Coco Chanel who travels to 1960s Shanghai in her dreams. (Vilkeviciute also played Chanel in Paris-Moscow.) There, she meets two “Chinese” youth in Mao-style suits, played by Danish supermodel Freja Beha and Lagerfeld’s French male muse, Baptiste Giabiconi. Both are adorned with Mao-style outfits and heavy kohl-lined eyes. While the Beha character admits that she doesn’t “know much about Western designers,” she admires Chanel’s jacket and is soon invited to try it on. Chanel then offers the Giabiconi character a men’s jacket to try on. As Beha and Giabiconi happily embrace each other in their new jackets and hurry to admire themselves in the mirror (speaking fake Chinese), Chanel beams smugly at the camera, “You see, everyone in the whole world can wear Chanel.”

    ….

    It may be difficult for Lagerfeld and others in fashion who practice and endorse blackfacing or yellowfacing (as well as their supporters) to accept that these cultural modes emerge from and reproduce histories of racism, Orientalism, and xenophobia because Lagerfeld does not fit our image of the virulent racists we remember from sensationalist talk shows like Jerry Springer. Also, aesthetic practices seem far afield from more recognizably racist practices like cross-burning, for example. And it is not my contention that genteel racism and overt racism are the same thing.

    What we have been seeing in fashion magazines and on runways are cultural practices of “boutique multiculturalists,” to borrow a phrase from Vijay Prashad: “boutique multiculturalists like the faddishness of difference . . . they reduce different ways of life to superficial tokens that they can harness as style, but refuse to engage with those parts of difference with which they disagree.” Prashad argues (and I would agree) that boutique multiculturalism is more pernicious than overt racism because it covers over or “occludes the structures and practices of actually existing racism” by aestheticizing their histories.”

    **********************************************
    I’m unable to view the video that goes with this text. As a result, I am unable to receive the ideas of the blogger in its fullness. The accusation of copyright infringement makes it difficult for me to see the video, and hinders the free exchange of ideas.

    Private controls on internet content is as much of a hindrance to the free exchange of ideas as governmental internet controls.

    1. S.K. Cheung

      Again, you have a point…sort of. In the grand scheme of things, society has chosen to place more value in protecting the intellectual property of the maker of that film than on the incremental value that would be added for you to actually see the film in addition to reading the text. That’s the decision your society has made, and perhaps it irks you. If enough people feel as you do, perhaps society will change those laws. But as it stands, the laws need to satisfy the many more than it needs to satisfy the few.

      However, you at least were able to read the text. You’ve been made aware of the video. If you truly want to experience that blogger’s ideas in all their glory, you can track that film down and choose to pay for the privilege of viewing it. I would say that being able to read about it, and being able to pay for it if you so choose, are not currently rights that people enjoy in the CCP system (at least for stuff that the CCP doesn’t condone, and short of hopping the GFW).

      “free exchange of ideas” doesn’t mean “free” of charge. You are “free” to engage in that exchange of ideas…but sometimes you might have to pay for said engagement. If the distinction is unclear, try “freedom of exchange of ideas” which might put it in better perspective. You have that. People in China don’t. Your last statement is over-reaching by a country mile.

      1. perspectivehere

        “In the grand scheme of things, society has chosen to place more value in protecting the intellectual property of the maker of that film….”

        Which “society”? Can you please specify?

        1. S.K. Cheung

          “society” can refer to any one which respects intellectual property rights. In this case, it also refers to the one where the blog in question is hosted.

          1. perspectivehere

            SKC – the question was intended to help you think a little more deeply about a complex issue, but that appears to be beyond your abilities.

            There are cultural, ethical, moral, philosophical, commercial, economic and legal considerations that form the foundation to a society’s knowledge production, dissemination and control structure.

            Schuman’s point is that China’s internet controls will be bad for China’s economic development, especially as it attempts to move up the value chain in more information-intensive and creative industries because it impedes the “free flow of information”.

            My point is that if “the free flow of information” is the principal being argued for, then Schuman should be just as concerned about copyright and other intellectual property controls which interfere with the free flow of ideas.

            For example, according to the South Centre, an intergovernmental policy thinktank of developing countries: “The expansion of protectable subject matter, rights and term of protection of copyrighted works combined with the development of paracopyright rules to enforce copyright in the digital environment will likely limit the opportunities for the full development of the Information Society and in particular for developing countries to access knowledge goods.”

            http://www.southcentre.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63%3Athe-threat-of-technological-protection-measures-to-a-development-oriented-information-society&catid=39%3Aaccess-to-knowledge&Itemid=184&lang=en

            However, as the global IP regime advances, the public domain is shrinking, and that will harm innovation: “The public domain is crucial for any follow-on innovation as the engine of innovation is built on the shoulders of those who came before. Without the public domain, each process or part of a new invention would risk infringing a myriad of prior IPRs relating to its subcomponents. However, the public domain has experienced substantial erosion with regard to the aftermath of an IP regime. The shrinkage is evolving with new emerging forms of business models and IP protection.”

            http://www.southcentre.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1023%3Asouth-perspective-how-developing-countries-can-manage-intellectual-property-rights-to-maximize-access-to-knowledge&catid=39%3Aaccess-to-knowledge&Itemid=184&lang=en

            Professor Lawrence Lessig at Stanford Law School is a leading scholar and critic of the current copyright system and how it limits creativity and criminalizes common creative behavior. He calls this “IP Extremism” and he’s written and spoken extensively on this. This TED talk is a good (and entertaining) 20-minute introduction:

            “Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity”
            http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

            Larry Lessig on why US IP laws are so screwed up:

            “A decade’s work against IP extremism taught me two things: first, that people — teachers, parents, archivists, entrepreneurs, and many many artists — recognized the insanity in the current war; and second, that members of Congress didn’t even understand the issue. Some say that’s because they’re clueless. I don’t think that’s right. Instead, I believe Congress doesn’t get it because it cares less about making sense of copyright policy and more about raising dollars for political campaigns. When you recognize (as it took me way too long to recognize) that this is the same in a wide range of public policy contexts, including some of the most important (e.g., global warming), you realize the root cause here — corruption — is the problem that has to be addressed.”

            Lessig hits the nail on the head. Money’s corruption of the political and law-making process in the US results in IP laws that favor certain interests, which restricts information flow in particular ways.

            The IP regime favors the large media companies. Schuman is writing for Time.com, which is a unit of one of the largest media companies in the world. Time Warner is 33rd on the list of top all-time donors to US political parties from 1998-2012: http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php. Schuman points out how internet controls in China could stifle free flow of information, but neglects to mention that large media organizations (and the IP regime they have put into law through their political influence) will eventually own so much of the knowledge out there that people will have three choices: (a) they pay for it (b) they access it “criminally” (i.e., the law criminalizes their access or (c) they have no access at all.

            Like public commons where people can hunt and support themselves, these formerly public commons areas are being penned off as private property, where you can hunt there only if you are owners, you pay, or you are a “Robin Hood”. What happens to the people when the public domain shrinks so much that they have no access at all? There is a real risk of a “digital divide” with a bulk of humanity not having access to information due not to technology costs (which are falling) nor to censorship but the desire of large media companies (and their shareholders) to profit from the sale of knowledge.

            I think that is a moral failing of the system that has come into place. You can support it if you want, but do you really understand it?

          2. lt

            Oh, I would love to see you rail against the “IP regime” if China becomes a valuable producer of commercial IP in the future. Free flow of information, don’t forget.

    2. Saulan

      But we can discuss and debate that issue freely.

      Quantum difference.

      Censorship is not a simple matter of “can” or “can’t” access. It’s also the accompanying emotional and social implications, and I hear these expressed often among netizens. “Why can everyone else access this, when I either can’t, or have to jump through all kinds of hoops.”

      I’ve heard it said over and over again, “I finally gave up” or “I could only get Baidu results so who knows” (or “tmd zf,” lol).

      It reminds me of the Soviet citizen comments in the 1980s, their sense that their own publications and systems were 2nd-rate (or worse). It has a demoralizing effect, imho.

  5. slim

    I stumbled on this guy, who takes the Schuman argument and really runs with it:

    http://www.technomicasia.com/blog/

    WHY A LACK OF TV TALENT SHOWS COULD STOP THE RISE OF CHINA
    October 27th, 2011 by Michael Zakkour

    This may reek of hyperbole, it may strike you as overly dramatic, it may sound like me departing from my usual optimism, and you may be right on all counts. But deep inside I believe what I am about to say is true and will have an impact on many aspects of doing business in China.

    Beijing’s announcement that a sweeping and thorough new regime of restrictions, censorship and retrenchment on media content and consumption and its desire to dictate what is and is not proper for the Chinese public to consume could have the unintended consequence of stopping China’s breakneck development of the last 20 years in its tracks.

  6. Chris

    Stan, great post. Mixed feelings on this one. As you point out 99% of Chinese internet users focus on locally produced content and their experience is not greatly affected by the restrictions of the Great Firewall. Its effect on productivity of many is limited. Of course, for those trying to research global markets and communicate with international customers, there can be occasional impacts but they are limited. For those without VPNs, using Western-style social marketing strategies for FB, Twitter marketing for global markets is difficult, but these organisations usually fork up the US$8-12 a month to obtain VPN. VPN connections though a becoming slower and more prone to dropouts and interference.

    The issue of the Great Firewall is a minor annoyance in the much great question of the impact of greater Chinese regulatory environment on the efficiency and cost effectiveness of operating a business in China.

    - Getting a business license to operate in the internet sector is difficult (impossible for WOFEs in the e-commerce area) and business scope issues plague every decision about new business areas. Overall licensing (getting basic operating permits) for many business areas is time consuming (fine when people and restaurants were cheap, but these days neither are). The governmental and compliance overhead for compliant or even semi-compliant Chinese business is skyrocketing.

    - Getting (and then keeping) internet website permits is expensive and time consuming. Each new function added to a website appears to involve and increasing number of Ministries and permits. Want video, want to sell things online, add a few Flash games, voice etc, all add complexity and the risk of exceeding permits/business scope to the mix. At the very least, add scope and new permits will take days or weeks of staff time and potentially expensive entertainment bills & consultancy/PR fees.

    - Forbes recently ranked China as the second highest taxing country in the world after France. While this is not true insofar as total tax take as a % of GDP, it is true when measured by taxes on the books. It forces each and every Chinese enterprise into risky non-compliance and into keeping two or three sets of books (an expensive exercise in itself). Most businesses are nervous and in a constant state of anxiety about what will be the govts next focus for compliance. Those who have made it and fearful about keeping it, hence the continued high demand for migration among the rich.

    - Chinese social security taxes are the world’s highest at 64% of staff salary up to 3x average income (around RMB12,00 in most areas). With a 44% on-cost for the employer and a 20% deduction for staff, it is expensive. While larger foreign enterprises are broadly compliant, most Chinese enterprises are not, and the level creates major pain for enterprises that need (or want) to pay staff more as the on-cost is simply too high.

    It is the greater operating environment that threatens Chinese competitiveness, rather than the speed of internet or the blockage of foreign internet sites. When Chinese employees were cheap, it was a minor overhead in a highly profitable market. With very strong employee cost growth, and Chinese govt forcing much greater levels of compliance of Chinese enterprises (tax revenue jumped 30% YTD while GDP growth was just over 9%), margins are significantly lower and any ‘slowdown’ is hitting enterprises in the real economy (the slowness of the internet being the most minor of them all).

    1. Stan Post author

      Agree with you 100% that there are much more important issues relating to PRC competitiveness. On the other hand, I don’t think Net restrictions on ownership and licensing are a big deal in the long run. The industry here already attracted the money it needed from foreigners to get up and running and probably could function OK moving forward even with a significant curtailment of foreign capital.

  7. spandrell

    Good post.

    For all I know, lack of access to facebook and twitter is very good for productivity. I’d rather they put the plug off Weibo too.

    Japan has access to foreign internet, but english literacy is null, so people don’t access it anyway. I haven’t noticed any lack of innovation there.

    1. Stan Post author

      Lost productivity from social media at the workplace is stunning. China has its own social media, though, so the loss of Twitter and Facebook doesn’t necessarily translate into any gains.

  8. perspectivehere

    Here is another example from Lawrence Lessig:

    http://www.openculture.com/2009/11/lawrence_lessig_speaks_once_again_about_copyright_and_creativity.html

    At about 21:20 Lessig talks about how copyrights and costs of subscriptions to academic journals affects the ability of universities and colleges to access research. Subscriptions to paper editions are expensive, and online versions may not be available due to copyright issues. The richest universities do not find this a problem, but for many educational institutions, the inability to pay for access means they are deprived of the knowledge. This affects citizens as well. At about 23:20 Lessig tells the story of how he could not get an article about his daughter’s critical medical condition.

    At 30:30 it talks about how an important work like the “Eyes on the Prize” documentary cannot be released on DVD because it would cost more than $500,000 to obtain all the copyright permissions.

    At 32:45 it talks about how scientific advances are impeded by the copyright model.

    1. S.K. Cheung

      Give me a break. No university has subscriptions to every journal and publication in the world. But hopefully, any institution with the temerity to call itself a place for higher learning will employ at least one librarian who can procure any paper from any journal in the world…albeit for a fee. Depending on the country, and the field, there may also be a national registry of research protocols. If you are really hard up, you can correspond directly with the principle investigator, and I imagine most would happily send/e-mail a manuscript to someone who showed enough interest to make the effort to inquire directly. I don’t know if you went to university, or currently work in any capacity related to one, but you are crying bizarre wolf here.

      Never heard of this “important work”. If enough people feel it is important enough, then maybe enough of them will put enough of their money where their mouth is. It should also be noted that, without the original film-makers having made the footage for this documentary, this documentary would have been about nothing whatsoever.

      Here’s a question for you. If you don’t recognize intellectual property rights, or copy-rights, what rights do you recognize?

  9. S.K. Cheung

    To Perspective Here:
    I’m not sure what your problem is, or who it is you think you’re arguing. If you’re arguing against Schuman’s point, then don’t direct it at me. I mostly agree with Stan’s post, which is to say I mostly disagree with Schuman’s contention insofar as it applies to China.

    I am not Schuman, and am in no position to argue on his behalf. However, when he speaks of “free flow of information” (as I tried to enlighten you before, to no avail), he is speaking of the FREEDOM to access this flow of information. He is NOT speaking of necessarily being able to access this information FOR FREE. There is a not-so-subtle difference there, which you may or may not have grasped. In any event, I do not know Schuman’s position on copyright law or IP “controls”.

    I don’t know (nor care) which society you live in. In my society, laws respect our recognition of the rights of ownership. Ownership has its price, and it has its privileges. When it comes to creative works and IP, there is a real price to be paid before achieving ownership (like producing a creative work for sale or distribution, or the R&D that goes into scientific/technological ventures). The reason why people are willing to make such investment is because our society affords the legal protection for them to at least have the potential to recoup that investment. Without such protection, why would anyone spend money to create or research anything, if the next guy can just leech off the fruits of those labours?

    Now, there is a difference between copyright and IP/patent protection. For artistic works, you have indefinite protection of the work in its entirety, but not of its composite parts ie you have copyright over an entire song, but you have no rights over individual musical notes or chords; or you have copyright over an entire novel with its unique sequence of words, but you have no rights over the individual words themselves. If you want to enjoy a copyrighted work, you have to pay for it. But you’re free to take “inspiration” from said work in order to create your own. There should be no expectation that one can enjoy a work of art (in any medium) without paying for such privilege, just as there should be no expectation that one can enjoy an apple without paying your debt to the farmer who brought it to market.

    IP/patent protection is different in that you can exercise ownership rights over the individual composite parts of a whole, but such exclusive rights are of a time-limited variety. If you want to “innovate” from someone else’s patented work, you can pay for a license, or wait until it comes off patent. You have the FREEDOM to make that choice, but accessing the goods will not be FREE OF CHARGE. This only harms the innovative capacity of those not willing to pay for it. Now, quite possibly, this will restrict the innovative potential of someone who could’ve done great things but for the lack of initial capital to pay for a license. This is certainly a limitation. However, if there was no license rights to protect the original innovator, they may not have bothered to achieve the initial index innovation to begin with. So it’s a chicken/egg conundrum.

    The public domain is in fact growing all the time. Patent protection is expiring every single day, and continually adds to this domain. Lots of potential for follow-on innovation. Indeed, there is even more potential for follow-on innovation for a fee. But “getting what you paid for” should hardly be a foreign concept.

    I agree there should be more tolerance for non-commercial use of copyrighted material. I have no idea what you are arguing. But the discussion should be about the degree of restriction, as opposed to the complete removal of all restrictions which seems to be closer to where you stand on this issue. I feel I can fairly safely assume that you are not a content producer, given such a stance.

    You are engaging in the typical rant of a typical zealot. Schuman works for Time. Time donates to political campaigns. Politicians have made laws where TIme could benefit. Therefore, it’s all corruption. Oh, and because this guy Lessig says so. You barely have enough for a correlative relationship there. And from where you stand, you can’t even see “causation”, nor do I think you comprehend the concept.

    In public commons, people didn’t put the game/prey there for others to hunt. The game/prey were just there, so naturally it was and would be a free-for-all. However, do you think a cattle rancher would be quite as understanding if you decided to stand on his fence, take pot-shots at his cattle, then drag it home for supper? Once again, you have made an embarrassing over-reach with the metaphor. You would be better off to liken it to cattle ranchers who send their older stock out to public commons pasture. There, they’d be game for the taking. Maybe not the most tender any longer, but still perfectly edible meat.

    If you bemoan the fact that people profit from their creative or intellectual work, you would do well to ask yourself what motivates them to do such work in the first place. You seem to think that an absence of copyright or IP protection would spur innovation. You fail to realize that, in such a scenario, there would be nothing upon which any follow-on innovation could be based. Me, i have no moral quandary whatsoever about rewarding those who create the basis upon which others further innovate.

    And going back to China, with a one size-fits-all GFW, I don’t think it’s as dire as Schuman suggests, but I also don’t think that censorship is helpful in any way with respect to innovation. Protecting the regime who is uncertain of the bona-fides of its own existence is about the only thing censorship is good for. THe CCP knows that only too well.

    1. perspectivehere

      SKC – Listen to Larry Lessig’s talks and think about what Lessig says. The TED talk is 20 minutes, the other talk is about 1 hour. It is well worth your time and very enlightening. If you listen, then perhaps you will change your mind. If you don’t bother to listen, or you listen but not think about it, you will not learn anything new. You are free to do that, but that’s pretty sad. If you listen, think about it and disagree, and want to continue the discussion, then come back and argue the ideas stated there. Don’t make personal attacks on me and call me a zealot just because you don’t understand the point I making.

      For example, you wrote:

      “I don’t know (nor care) which society you live in. In my society, laws respect our recognition of the rights of ownership. Ownership has its price, and it has its privileges. When it comes to creative works and IP, there is a real price to be paid before achieving ownership (like producing a creative work for sale or distribution, or the R&D that goes into scientific/technological ventures). The reason why people are willing to make such investment is because our society affords the legal protection for them to at least have the potential to recoup that investment. Without such protection, why would anyone spend money to create or research anything, if the next guy can just leech off the fruits of those labours?”

      Lessig deals with those points in his talk. Lessig would say that the ownership and property model is only half the picture. The other half is that people create things because they are human, humans are creative even without the profit motive – sometimes they just want to have fun or share or are curious. Copernicus did not make his discoveries because he wanted to be compensated. The second point Lessig makes is that the technology of the internet and digital information generally relies on making “copies”. Unlike a book, which could be shared without violating copyright laws, a digital version cannot be shared. Since sharing cannot be stopped, the current system criminalizes it and drives it underground. Lessig is not arguing for an overturning of copyright, but a refinement to adapt to the limits that the technology creates. Unfortunately, neither our government leaders nor the public understand this issue very well. The lack of understanding tends to favor the interests of the large media companies. Lessig thinks this needs to change. However, Lessig also thinks that it is hard to change if we are relying on Congress, because our political system tends to favor those with influence, and our political system is corrupted.

      Professor Julie Cohen of the Georgetown University Law Center makes the similar argument here:

      Abstract
      Intellectual freedom requires a sufficient degree of autonomy for individuals with respect to information flows to, by, and about them. The absence of state censorship is a necessary but not sufficient condition of intellectual freedom; private rights in information also may reduce informational autonomy to an unacceptable degree. Current legal and technological rules that govern information ownership, access, and use increasingly have this effect. Promoting intellectual freedom requires reexamination of the legal categories that are used to structure information rights and policy, and redefinition of those categories to promote both greater public access to information and stronger informational privacy protection for individuals.

      ….
      “For well-to-do individuals, the monetary costs of metered information access will be trivial. For others accustomed to a more varied framework of public and customary institutions designed to facilitate information access and use — public library patrons, used book purchasers, students, academic researchers, and so on — persistent access controls threaten to alter substantially the patterns of information flow.

      “Access also refers more broadly to the process by which individuals locate relevant or desired information — that is, to the acts of searching and finding. The Internet has been described as a medium that allows anyone to be a publisher and enables everyone to find the best prices and the mix of information best suited to his or her tastes. This rosy description increasingly falls short of the truth; instead, the Internet plays host to a series of efforts designed to prevent comparison shopping and funnel individual users to content sponsored by the same large media companies that dominate nondigital publishing.”
      ….
      Professor Cohen concludes: “If intellectual freedom, rather than the legal categories themselves, is the good that society wishes to pursue, then the categories that structure information law and policy must be subjected to closer scrutiny.”

      http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/jec/intellfreedom.pdf

      Note that Professor Cohen points out the role of “large media companies” in controlling and channelling access to the internet and content so they can make more revenues, to the detriment of free flow of information.

      Professor Cohen published the above article in 2001, and Lessig gave his talks I think in 2007 and 2009. These are not new ideas, and I don’t claim any originality in them. I only shared them to you because you replied dismissively to my comment.

  10. S.K. Cheung

    “because you don’t understand the point I making. ”
    —the point you’re making is hardly rocket-science, nor particularly innovative. I couldn’t tell Lessig from a hole in the ground, and clearly, I do not and would not ascribe to his opinion the type of gravitas that you apparently do. That said, he is of course entitled to that opinion.

    Yes, people might and could innovate “for fun”. Are there examples that are slightly more contemporary than Copernicus? It is true that copyright and IP law might constrain those who have no intention of capitalizing on their creation or invention, yet are keen on sharing it. You know what they can do? They can stick it on You-Tube, or any number of sharing sites (heck, Facebook even), and it would be there for the world to see, FOR FREE. In fact, millions of people do that now. For those who want to share FOR FREE, but are nonetheless wary that some vulture might come around and copyright/patent their work for purposes of monetization, they could even apply for copyright/patent themselves, and simply not enforce it. And realistically, you have to ask yourself how often the fairy-tale altruism that Lessig seems to hang his hat on actually occurs in this day and age. “the other half”? If you believe that, I’ve got bridges to sell you.

    I can agree with Lessig with respect to the restrictions on digital copying. There should be a balance struck that recognizes, allows, and legalizes fair usage. Since he’s identified a problem, perhaps he (or you) could go one further and offer a solution that protects both the end-users and the content-creators. That might be something worth listening to.

    It seems Professor Cohen makes similar points. So yes, perhaps a balance needs to be attained. And that balance would look like…..what exactly? I guess if she were to do a 2011 update, Google would probably be in cahoots since it dominates the search process that must funnel stuff into the vacuum cleaner that is the “large media companies”. I do note, though, that she says “The absence of state censorship is a necessary but not sufficient condition of intellectual freedom”. That seems particularly apropos for China.

    Also, you started out with copyright and IP almost interchangeably. It seems you’re now focusing mostly on copyright stuff.

  11. S.K. Cheung

    OK, so i scanned Professor Cohen’s essay. If I were the type given to watching paint dry, I imagine it would provide a similar sensation. That’s a half-hour of my life I’ll never get back.

    “If intellectual freedom, rather than the legal categories themselves, is the good that society wishes to pursue, then the categories that structure information law and policy must be subjected to closer scrutiny.”
    —she just spent the better part of 23 pages providing said scrutiny, yet her concluding thought is to do more of what she just did? Are you kidding me? Navel-gazing is an awesome pursuit, but is it really so nice that you have to do it twice? Give us an alternative or a solution to the perceived problems with the status quo, then we’ll talk.

    “If intellectual freedom rather than ownership is the first-order good that society seeks to promote, these results suggest a need to reevaluate the manner in which information ownership is conceived and assigned.”
    —that’s a false supposition, and a false premise upon which her entire thesis is based. Intellectual freedom is A first-order good that society seeks to promote, but it is not THE ONE AND ONLY one. The question isn’t merely to maximize intellectual freedom as she tries to suggest, but to do so in the context of competing interests and other first-order “goods” that society seeks to promote. Speaking as though this is the pre-eminent and over-arching guiding principle of society pretty much makes her whole paper pointless in the real world.

    “In particular, if limits on the marketplace behavior of atomistic entities are necessary to guarantee sufficient options, or independence of coercion or manipulation, society may conclude that those limits are justified.”
    —yet society has made no such conclusion. This may be because appropriate limits that take into account the various competing interests of society have not yet been proposed. Too bad Prof. Cohen didn’t propose some either.

    “Within U.S. first amendment jurisprudence, however, the prevailing understanding of speech rights equates freedom of speech with the right to control the market disposition of informational property.”
    —is she really reaching for a Constitutional amendment? Seriously?

    Anyway, that was a rather blatant (though nonetheless somewhat amusing) waste of time. In light of that experience, I’ll have to seriously gauge how much more time I have to waste prior to devoting some portion to that to the good Mr. Lessig.

    1. perspectivehere

      Good. At least you are trying to learn something instead of spouting pre-conceived notions.

      You wrote: “‘Within U.S. first amendment jurisprudence, however, the prevailing understanding of speech rights equates freedom of speech with the right to control the market disposition of informational property.’
      —is she really reaching for a Constitutional amendment? Seriously?”

      No, jurisprudence is the philosophy or science of laws, and “US first amendment jurisprudence” means how judges interpret the first amendment in cases.

      In our system of government in the US, laws are written by the legislature and interpreted by judges. But where “interpreting” and “making” law begins and ends is a fine line. Some would say there is a clear difference, others would say it is fuzzy – there is no agreement where that line is. In practice, all judges will say that they are merely interpreting and not making law. If you disagree with a judge’s decision, you will say that they are making law instead of interpreting it. One way to think about how judges understand, interpret and explain judicial decisions is via the judicial opinion, and another is via law journal articles like the one you read.

      Law journal articles are not fun to read unless you are interested in the law and take it seriously. But they have an important function, in that they advance the understanding of a particular subject in a deep way (although sociologists of knowledge will say that they exist only to advance careers of law faculty). Articles like this would form part of the research in cases that come before judges, particularly at the appellate level (i.e., in courts of appeal like the state supreme courts, the federal circuit courts and the US Supreme Court). Law journal articles are edited by law students, but the articles are written by legal scholars. They do not necessarily have to offer a solution – it is sufficient for scholarship purposes to point out an inconsistency.

      Professor Cohen is an intellectual property law scholar who has published numerous articles and books on copyright and the information age.

      http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/jec/index.htm

      “Professor Cohen teaches and writes about intellectual property law and information privacy law, with particular focus on digital works and on the intersection of copyright and privacy rights. She is a co-author of Copyright in a Global Information Economy (Aspen Law & Business, 3d ed. 2010), and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Advisory Board of Public Knowledge. Prior to joining the Law Center faculty in 1999, Professor Cohen was Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She previously practiced with the San Francisco firm of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation. She was law clerk to Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”

      Her scholarship:

      http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/facinfo/tab_faculty.cfm?Status=FullTime&ID=232&InfoType=Scholarship

      She was a law clerk for a judge on the ninth circuit so she has had actual experience researching and writing legal opinions for a judge at one of the highest and most prestigious courts in the US judicial system. She has practiced law for a top law firm. She writes textbooks on copyright law. She is a full-time tenured professor in one of the foremost law schools in the US (Georgetown is ranked 7th in the Law 100 rankings). The students she teaches go on to become legislators, judges, lawyers and legal scholars. You can be dismissive all you want about her essay, but in the real world, her opinions matter way more than yours.

      As good as Professor Cohen is, Lawrence Lessig is a virtual rock star in the legal world and the world of copyright.

      ““Harvard is fortunate to have such an outstanding scholar at the helm of one of its finest organizations,’’ said Hyman of the Center appointment. “Lawrence brings with him tremendous vision and administrative experience, which will serve the center well as he continues to build upon its remarkable success.”

      “Renowned legal scholar Lawrence Lessig has been appointed to the faculty of Harvard Law School, and as the faculty director of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.”…

      “Larry Lessig is one of the most brilliant and important legal scholars of our time,” Kagan said. “His work has recast the very terms of discussion and debate in multiple areas of law, ranging from intellectual property to constitutional theory. His new focus on questions of governance and corruption will be similarly transformative, and I am thrilled that he is returning to Harvard Law School and assuming the directorship of the Center to advance those efforts.”

      “As faculty director of the Center, Lessig will expand on the center’s work to encourage teaching and research about ethical issues in public and professional life. He will also launch a major five-year project examining what happens when public institutions depend on money from sources that may be affected by the work of those institutions — for example, medical research programs that receive funding from pharmaceutical companies whose drugs they review, or academics whose policy analyses are underwritten by special interest groups.”

      http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2008/12/12_lessig.html

      If you think that listening to what Professor Lessig has to say about it would be a waste of time, that’s fine with me.

      1. S.K. Cheung

        Considering that Georgetown is a good university, and it saw fit to offer Prof. Cohen a tenured position, I am happy to assume that she is well-qualified for her post. However, since I’m not in her field, her status in her field doesn’t awe me in any way (unlike a giant in mine might, for instance). So I can happily and freely disagree with her when I see fit, because while an individual has likely done good work to earn a professorship, a professor doesn’t always do good work. I have already identified a few areas based on a cursory scan of her paper where I have serious problems with her argument, not to mention her premise. I have no presumption nor interest in having my opinion matter one iota in the legal field. But considering her paper was from 2001, and you’re still talking about the same thing today, how far has her opinion gotten in terms of results, do you figure?

        I presume law journals are not like scientific journals, where original research involves application of the scientific method onto testable things, the result of which advances scientific knowledge. It seems law journals involve elaborate dissertations of one’s opinion…no doubt a learned opinion, but merely an opinion nonetheless. So I’d be inclined to assume the sociologists’ view of law journal articles. That notwithstanding, publish-or-perish is likely a burden borne by all professors of any discipline, so I imagine law journals sometimes contain a sprinkling of not-so-useful opinion, just as scientific publications sometimes contain not-so-useful knowledge.

        It seems Mr. Lessig is a giant as well, if he is deemed a worthy addition to Harvard Law. Good thing I’m not a lawyer, since credentials like those might render me physiologically incapable of disagreeing with him. But ultimately, I think an opinion should be judged on its merit, and not simply on the credentials of the person making it.

        It is simply insufficient to say that the current legal framework for adjudicating the balance between the rights of content-producers and content-consumers is inadequate. At the very least, it is inadequate to be saying the same thing today as was said 10 years ago. If you, or Cohen, or Lessig have identified a supposed shortcoming, then it’s at least high time to stick your neck out and propose a solution. That way, at least your ideas for a solution can be examined, debated, and adopted or rejected. Short of that, it goes nowhere beyond being a scholarly discussion, which is fine if you have the time or the inclination, but has otherwise little relevance for most people.

        However, since you are a believer in Cohen and Lessig, you should note that the absence of censorship is the most basic of prerequisites for intellectual freedom, at least in Prof. Cohen’s opinion. Considering we’re talking about China, she hasn’t even accomplished step one. And I believe that was the initial point of this thread.

        1. perspectivehere

          SKC, you’re so full of yourself. When I read your writings, they remind me of this famous person:

          “Ah Q, again, had a very high opinion of himself. He looked down on all the inhabitants of Weichuang, thinking even the two young “scholars” not worth a smile, though most young scholars were likely to pass the official examinations. Mr. Chao and Mr. Chien were held in great respect by the villagers, for in addition to being rich they were both the fathers of young scholars. Ah Q alone showed them no exceptional deference, thinking to himself, “My sons may be much greater!”

          Moreover, after Ah Q had been to town several times, he naturally became even more conceited, although at the same time he had the greatest contempt for townspeople. For instance, a bench made of a wooden plank three feet by three inches the Weichuang villagers called a “long bench.” Ah Q called it a “long bench” too; but the townspeople called it a “straight bench,” and he thought, “This is wrong. How ridiculous!” Again, when they fried large-headed fish in oil the Weichuang villagers all added shallot leaves sliced half an inch long, whereas the townspeople added finely shredded shallots, and he thought, “This is wrong too. How ridiculous!” But the Weichuang villagers were really ignorant rustics who had never seen fish fried in town!”

          1. S.K. Cheung

            Trust that your opinion of me will be filed in the appropriate circular receptacle. And unless and until you can come up with even the vague hint of a solution to the supposed problem you’ve unearthed regarding the apparent excesses of copyright/IP laws, your opinion in that regard will also be destined to the same fate. Notice I’m not even asking for a logical, viable, feasible or effective solution; I’d merely like to see a vague hint of a solution of any kind. I don’t want to set the bar too high for you, what with your apparent limitations being as they are.

  12. S.K. Cheung

    Watched the first Lessig video. It was better than I thought it would be. He’s a good speaker. Particularly enjoyed the montage clip with GWB and Tony Blair. Makes me listen to that ballad in a whole new light.

    To be honest, I could do without the sappy melodrama of his concluding point. That being said, that was also my only rolling-of-the-eyes moment, which isn’t bad after 19 minutes.

    He actually offered some quasi-solutions. He would like to see artists “publish” stuff in a sort of open-source format to avail it to people without a license. That was in 2007. This sort of thing is already happening. Of course, it’s the artists’ prerogative as to whether they choose to do so. Part of the reason this hasn’t taken off is possibly because many artists aren’t just doing it “for fun”. At the same time, there is nothing standing in the way of artists publishing without a label, if they so choose. But I don’t see what this has to do with the law. You can’t legislate artists to give away their work for free.

    He also advocated a new “BMI”-style public-domain approach, to act as a competitive market against the traditional “cartel” of copyright holders. Again, anyone is free to do so…yesterday. The fact that BMI succeeded means it can be done, and there was a market and apetite for same…70 years ago. The fact that a similar model hasn’t been replicated today should lend itself to self-evident conclusions, which I’ll leave for you to explore on your own. But again, you should realize it is market-driven, and not legally prescribed.

    Ultimately, at the confluence of artistic creation, legal protection, and public usage, Lessig and Cohen have touched upon some limitations of the current legal framework, but haven’t come close to offering real solutions to what they perceive as the problems. They also focus on copyright rather than patent protection per se. And neither have addresed censorship directly, presumably because it can be assumed as a no-brainer to be bad (or at least not good), but which was actually the more relevant point to this thread.

    I don’t think I have the stomach to sit through an hour-long iteration of Lessig. You can provide worthy excerpts for discussion if you wish.

  13. perspectivehere

    SKC wrote:
    “I agree there should be more tolerance for non-commercial use of copyrighted material. I have no idea what you are arguing.”

    I’m glad you agree. That is what I think, and Lessig does too. The problem is that non-commercial use is increasingly restricted.

    SKC wrote:
    “But the discussion should be about the degree of restriction, as opposed to the complete removal of all restrictions which seems to be closer to where you stand on this issue.”

    I do not suggest removal of all restrictions. Where do I say that?

    SKC wrote:
    “I feel I can fairly safely assume that you are not a content producer, given such a stance.”

    Your assumption is wrong. You misunderstand my words and are putting your own spin on them.

    In fact, you are wrong on many levels:

    “Justin Bieber Lashes Out At Senate’s New Copyright Bill”
    —By Asawin Suebsaeng| Fri Oct. 28, 2011 3:12 PM PDT

    It seems tweeny-bop sensation Justin Bieber wants to be taken seriously as a policy wonk. During an radio interview on Friday morning, Bieber came out against the Commercial Felony Streaming Act, or S.978, a bill that three senators proposed in May that would make unauthorized online streaming of copyrighted material a felony, punishable by up to five years behind bars.

    This law could also affect anybody who covers or remixes a popular song and uploads their work to YouTube. On DC’s Hot 99.5 FM, Bieber singled out Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a co-sponsor of the measure and a member of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. “Whoever she is,” said Bieber, “she needs to know that I’m saying she needs to be locked up—put away in cuffs.”

    “People need to have the freedom,” the pop star continued. “People need to be able to sing songs. I just think that’s ridiculous… I check YouTube all the time and watch people singing my songs. I think it’s awesome.

    As much guff as J-Beebs gets for recording dreadful music and looking exactly like countless lesbians, there is something to be said about his assessment of the proposed legislation. Setting aside the militant call to summarily throw a tremendously popular lawmaker in the slammer, he’s actually right. The Commercial Felony Streaming Act is terrible legislation and even worse politics. Though its sponsors maintain that the bill is designed to target websites and people who profit from streaming copyrighted content, the vague language of the bill leaves the door open for prosecuting the Numa Numa Guy for a felony.

    In an era of viral videos and overnight Internet crazes, the bill—which has been endorsed by the Obama administration and (predictably) the MPAA and unions like the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—is at best unenforceable and unnecessary.

    The bill “supports the one-sided perspective of copyright in the digital age held by some corporate rights holders, as opposed to embracing the ecumenical perspectives of all copyright stakeholders, including users, the public at large, and those who would create new works from pre-existing material,” wrote Lateef Mtima and Steven Jamar, two Howard University law professors, in a statement on behalf of the technology advocacy group Fight for the Future.

    If Democratic politicians want to keep courting the youth vote, it’s probably a good idea for them to stop trying to obliterate YouTube.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Just think – ChinaSmack, ESWN and all the other English language China blogs which embeds video streams could be required to take them down or face criminal liabilities.

  14. S.K. Cheung

    OK, so some people think that there should be some/more tolerance of non-commercial use of copyrighted material. What do you propose as the appropriate amount of such tolerance? How would you go about codifying such tolerance while still prohibiting illegitimate commercial usage of copyrighted material? These are the questions you should be answering, especially considering that the discussion appears to already be a decade in the making. To simply say that “The problem is that non-commercial use is increasingly restricted.” is a motherhood statement.

    If you’re not calling for a complete removal of copyright restrictions, yet are bemoaning the extent of current copyright restrictions, then I’d be happy to discuss your vision of a happy medium. It should nonetheless be noted, as I previously pointed out, that this is quite removed from the topic of the thread. Insofar as China is concerned, it goes without saying that the first order of business is removing censorship, before embarking on establishing a reasonable balance of copyright protection and usage rights. The further irony in China is that copyright protection is relatively meaningless there, such that any restriction on intellectual freedom is disproportionately owing to censorship as compared to most other jurisdictions.

    You’re fretting over a bill being proposed by 3 senators. Unless at least 48 of their friends in senate agree with them, you have nothing to worry about. Even then, you still need several bus loads of congressmen to agree with them before this gets anywhere near becoming a law. But now would be a good time to call your senator to express your displeasure. You might even propose to them a better solution. That would be getting somewhere…

  15. perspectivehere

    SKC:

    “I have no presumption nor interest in having my opinion matter one iota in the legal field. But considering her paper was from 2001, and you’re still talking about the same thing today, how far has her opinion gotten in terms of results, do you figure?….I presume law journals are not like scientific journals, where original research involves application of the scientific method onto testable things, the result of which advances scientific knowledge. It seems law journals involve elaborate dissertations of one’s opinion…no doubt a learned opinion, but merely an opinion nonetheless….It is simply insufficient to say that the current legal framework for adjudicating the balance between the rights of content-producers and content-consumers is inadequate. At the very least, it is inadequate to be saying the same thing today as was said 10 years ago.”

    I think this is very revealing.

    It explains your sophomoric views.

    You’ve no doubt received some form of technical education. This makes you feel so proud and smart. But it fills you with self-conceit.

    Your self-conceit prevents you from learning new things or seeing different perspectives to overcome your ignorance.

    When I read your comments, all I can think of is “he is just like Ah Q but with a technical education.”

    For your own sake, stop being ignorant. Get out of your small provincial mindset and go out and experience the world. It really would do you a lot of good, and make you a more interesting person. Right now you are pretty small-minded and smug. It is in your power to change.

  16. S.K. Cheung

    Perhaps you can explain how asking for a proposed solution following 10 years of complaining about a problem is sophomoric. But more likely, you cannot, as you’re undoubtedly busy carrying on with the complaining aspect that you seem to so enjoy. You’re quite good at it too. To each his own, as I always say.

    Notice also that you spent the entire post talking about me, rather than about the topic at hand. I think that too is rather revealing. It bespeaks a dude with not much of an argument, who is finally and belatedly coming around to that realization. As they say, better late than never, pal.

    I’m not averse to learning new things. You confuse learning new things with accepting them hook/line/sinker just because a Georgetown/Harvard law professor says so. I do the former while you seem to be an expert at the latter. Whatever floats your boat.

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the challenge remains: how would you change US copyright/IP law to improve non-commercial fair-usage while protecting content-producers against commerical misuse? How would you eliminate censorship in China to fulfill (in Professor Cohen’s writing) the most basic requirement to intellectual freedom? Have faith…you can do it. Well, maybe you can’t. But it’ll be fun watching you try. So before the usual fate of a CCP apologist befalls you, I suggest you start engaging whatever stuff exists between your ears.

  17. perspectivehere

    SKC,

    You’ve pretty much demonstrated your ignorance.

    Worse, when confronted with it, you respond with denial, petulance and accusations.

    My point is very simple, and yet you continue to misunderstand it: Schuman complains that Chinese censorship stops the free flow of information which will impede innovation. I point out that he ignores the capacity of copyright law to impede the free flow of information. In the US and the rest of the world, we are facing a serious issue with copyright laws and enforcement practices that regularly interfere with the free flow of information. Capisce?

    Apparently you are unaware of the seriousness of this issue. But when given some more facts, you dismiss the criticisms, without any real basis other than your naive concept of how things work. When shown that your views are naive and without any basis in reality, you respond with denial. That’s fine, but I think it just demonstrates that you are not only an ignorant person, you are an ignorant person with the self-conceit to believe you are knowledgeable and to criticize other people. That is pathetic. You’ve demonstrated very clearly your behavior is the very definition of “sophomoric”.

    You wrote: “I’m not averse to learning new things. You confuse learning new things with accepting them hook/line/sinker just because a Georgetown/Harvard law professor says so. I do the former while you seem to be an expert at the latter. Whatever floats your boat.”

    You’ve obviously failed to understand the point of citing Lessig and Cohen, and you are clearly very confused. Citing the work of someone is not the same thing as “accepting them hook/line/sinker”.

    When confronted with information that you don’t like, you respond with ad hominem attacks. Your last post suggests that I am a “CCP apologist”. This is known as “red-baiting”. Have you no shame?

    *******************************************
    For those who really care about freedom of information, please note the various measures under consideration that will criminalize many forms of internet behavior: E-Parasite, SOPA and Felony Streaming Act.

    For example:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111101/10154016584/white-house-petition-against-e-parasitesopa.shtml

    “The White House has not officially taken a position on the bill, but one thing was made clear from the very start of the meeting: the legacy players in Hollywood and at the US Chamber of Commerce were putting a ton of pressure on the White House to support E-PARASITE, despite the fact that the State Department itself is quite worried about the bill, as it would almost entirely undermine all of its efforts to promote internet freedom around the globe.

    I’m usually not one to believe in the power of various “online petitions,” but since the White House has set up its own petition system, in which 25,000 signatures will guarantee a response, this actually seems like a case where just such a petition would work well. So it’s great to see that someone has created just such a petition against E-PARASITE. Of course, technically it should be against SOPA, since the framers of the bill recognized just how silly E-PARASITE sounds, and removed that from the bill after everyone started making fun of them. Still, it’s important to push this point home and let the White House know, in no uncertain terms, that the public is against this bill.

    And it should be clear, by the way, that it’s not just the public. Many people within the federal government are equally worried about this bill, which appears to serve no other purpose than to keep a few legacy players in Hollywood fat and happy, and keep them from having to actually innovate for a short while longer.”

    Note also this:
    De-lousing E-PARASITE
    Posted on November 5th, 2011 by Derek Bambauer
    http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/infolaw/2011/11/05/de-lousing-e-parasite/

    “America is getting into the Internet censorship business. We started down this path to deal with pornographic and obscene content; our focus has shifted to intellectual property. I’ve argued that this is because IP legislation draws lower First Amendment scrutiny than other speech restrictions, and interest groups are taking advantage of that loophole. It’s strange to me that Congress would damage innovation on the Internet – only the most powerful communications medium since words on paper – to protect movies and music, which are relatively small-scale in the U.S. economy. But, as always with IP, the political economy matters.”

    **********************************************

    SKC, are you going to accuse Techdirt, the State Department and professor Derek Bambauer of Brooklyn Law School of being CCP apologists too?

    You’re a conceited idiot, and a corporate tool.

  18. S.K. Cheung

    “Capisce?”
    —like I said before, your “point” hardly defies understanding. What I don’t get with you people is why you conflate disagreement with your point with failure to understand your point. One can understand your point perfectly, and still disagree with it absolutely…as I’ve done here. Like I said, your point is not hard to understand. But you certainly fail to grasp the concept of which I speak.

    So you’re back to Schuman. Yes, he focuses on censorship. Yes, he didn’t mention copyright/IP law restrictions. However, perhaps I can draw your attention to Prof. Cohen’s words, with which you should be adequately familiar since you enjoy quoting her so much:

    “The absence of state censorship is a necessary but not sufficient condition of intellectual freedom”

    Perhaps I can explain her words to you. Absence of state censorship may not be the only thing you need, but it’s the most basic thing you need, if you want to promote intellectual freedom. Since you purport to support the latter, then in China, first you need to rid the censorship. Then you can talk about modifying copyright/IP laws. See, horse, then cart. You would seem to emphasize putting cart before the horse. Some might call that ass-backwards. Also, Schuman is in China, and he’s writing about China. You’re criticizing his point about China for failing to address issues in the US. Who does that? You, apparently. If you’re not a CCP apologist, you certainly argue like one. In fact, the Pugsters of the world do precisely that. Whenever there is criticism of China, the response is “but so and so is the same or worse”. Your logic is Pugster-esque, with slightly better English. In case you’re wondering, that’s not meant to be complimentary. Notice also that I didn’t call you a CCP apologist, but merely warned you that their fate might befall you with the way your argument and debating style were headed. That fateful day is fast approaching, it would seem.

    I admit, i don’t share your doomsday mindset, so I am certainly unaware of the basis for your fear-mongering. But you are welcome to engage in it as you please. I hope you don’t misunderstand, however, if I don’t agree with you (LOL!).

    Here’s the other thing about you. You function at the level of a well-trained monkey. You are expert at cutting-and-pasting from the likes of Lessig, Cohen, and Bambauer. Have you conceived of one (1) solitary lonely original independent thought yourself? No wonder you want to lower the bar for accessing other people’s work.

    “Citing the work of someone is not the same thing as “accepting them hook/line/sinker”.
    —ok. Then maybe you can wow me with a critical appraisal of their ideas, and perhaps even list some areas of disagreement you have with their theses. I know, it does require original and independent thought, and you haven’t shown yourself to be up to the task, but what good is intellectual freedom if you’re not going to exercise it, right?

    “SKC, are you going to accuse Techdirt, the State Department and professor Derek Bambauer of Brooklyn Law School of being CCP apologists too?”
    —of course not. They’re Americans talking about US issues on US sites. You, on the other hand, are talking about US issues of intellectual freedom on a China Blog in a thread about Chinese government censorship. Logic. You should meet him someday. You could certainly use his help. You, and a bunch of CCP apologists, a group to which you may or may not belong.

    Oh, and if it’s not too much to ask, how about a few solutions to this copyright/IP conundrum that you find so dear to your heart. Clearly a front-burner issue for you, one to which you’ve dedicated much time in reading other people’s learned ideas. And your proposals for rectify your perceived problems with the current system are….C’mon, just one original thought as proof of concept that you are in fact capable of it. Hope that is not too much to ask of an apparent genius like you.

  19. perspectivehere

    SKC –

    1. What do you mean by “you people”?

    2. You wrote:

    “Perhaps I can explain her words to you. Absence of state censorship may not be the only thing you need, but it’s the most basic thing you need, if you want to promote intellectual freedom. Since you purport to support the latter, then in China, first you need to rid the censorship. Then you can talk about modifying copyright/IP laws. See, horse, then cart. You would seem to emphasize putting cart before the horse. Some might call that ass-backwards.”

    Is that right? Think about what you are saying. If US copyright law prevents a website from operating, that stops the information from even reaching China. So you have it ass-backwards. Think before you write.

    3. You wrote:

    “Also, Schuman is in China, and he’s writing about China. You’re criticizing his point about China for failing to address issues in the US. Who does that? You, apparently. If you’re not a CCP apologist, you certainly argue like one. In fact, the Pugsters of the world do precisely that. Whenever there is criticism of China, the response is “but so and so is the same or worse”. Your logic is Pugster-esque, with slightly better English. In case you’re wondering, that’s not meant to be complimentary. Notice also that I didn’t call you a CCP apologist, but merely warned you that their fate might befall you with the way your argument and debating style were headed. That fateful day is fast approaching, it would seem.”

    In case you haven’t noticed, the internet is world wide. Schuman’s article argues that internet censorship in China impedes the flow of information to Chinese and that will limit innovation. Well I ask a pertinent question – if Schuman is concerned about the flow of information to Chinese and how that will limit innovation, what about global internet controls outside China that will also limit the flow of information to Chinese (and to everyone else)? Isn’t that equally of concern? Particularly when the US and other governments have been increasingly pushing legislation, regulations and practices, based upon intellectual property arguments, that limit what we see, not just on the internet, but in other media as well?

    Controls on creativity and free expression due to copyright is a serious problem. That you are dismissive of it indicates your ignorance. I have tried to enlighten you by pointing you to some sources that can give you more facts so you can make a judgment as to whether it is as serious as I suggest it is. But I can see from your response that you’d prefer to make sarcastic remarks, question my motives, and continue to wallow in ignorance. I think that’s pathetic. You are an ignorant person. One cannot be blamed for that if one has not had the opportunity to receive an education. But in your case, you have a serious attitude problem.

    Earlier for example, I mentioned how hard it was for “Eyes on the Prize” to receive the permissions to rebroadcast due to the archival materials that it uses. Your response was that you’ve never heard of the work. That’s a pity. It is widely regarded as one of the best documentaries about the US civil rights movement. I recommend it highly, and perhaps you’d learn something. It is a pity that copyright laws function in such a way that even a work like this with cultural, historical and educational merit is prevented from being more easily shown. It is estimated that it would cost more than $500,000 in legal fees to contact the various rights holders to obtain the permissions needed to rebroadcast the work. If the permissions are not received, those who broadcast the work face potential legal liabilities, and the risk makes many artistic endeavors stillborn, creating a “chilling effect” on expression. There has been a lot written about this issue.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyes_on_the_Prize

    http://www.harborproductions.com/print_files/IDAeyes6-05.pdf

    4. You wrote:

    “I admit, i don’t share your doomsday mindset, so I am certainly unaware of the basis for your fear-mongering. But you are welcome to engage in it as you please. I hope you don’t misunderstand, however, if I don’t agree with you (LOL!).”

    Are you aware of this:

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/11/stop-online-piracy-act-blacklist-any-other-name-still-blacklist

    http://censorshipinamerica.com/2011/10/30/internet-censorship-sopa-hollywood-finally-gets-a-chance-to-break-the-internet/

    http://censorshipinamerica.com/2011/11/08/internet-censorship-study-shows-how-sopapipa-will-harm-investment-in-key-innovations/ (This last article sites research that shows investment in innovative industries is reduced when scope of copyright is enlarged)

    http://pharmacycheckerblog.com/the-protect-intellectual-property-act-s-968-will-prevent-access-to-medicines (how IP laws will interfere with availability of online medicines)

    “At this time, the bill’s loudest and biggest critics, such as Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Demand Progress, decry that it extends government and private sector authority to a level that threatens our right to free speech under the First Amendment, stifles competition and innovation, and undermines our foreign policy stances toward authoritarian governments, as we admonish those states that censor free speech on the Internet. Some, such as Demand Progress, have criticized the bill because it blocks access to safe medicines, as described above, and we hope the others join in.”

    I think your problem is that you don’t know what’s going on, and in your ignorance spew all kinds of dumb opinions. Read and learn, then decide. I don’t say you have to agree with me, but it’s pretty idiotic for you to disagree without even knowing about the issues.

    5. You wrote: “SKC, are you going to accuse Techdirt, the State Department and professor Derek Bambauer of Brooklyn Law School of being CCP apologists too?”
    —of course not. They’re Americans talking about US issues on US sites. You, on the other hand, are talking about US issues of intellectual freedom on a China Blog in a thread about Chinese government censorship. Logic. You should meet him someday. You could certainly use his help. You, and a bunch of CCP apologists, a group to which you may or may not belong.”

    So the fact that I’m trying to look at the problem in a comparative perspective is somehow illogical? That’s an odd conclusion. Compare and contrast is a good way to analyze, learn and understand. It is also good to look at problems in a broader global context. Schuman’s article focusses on the question of whether China’s limits on flow of information will affect innovation in China. If we think of information as a flow of water, you can say that China has various filters administered at the entry point into China, which will limit the amount of water that reaches the populous. However, globally, the volume of water entering into China is also limited by various controls, some of which are determined by copyright laws. What is the overall impact of these combined controls on the information which becomes available to the populace on which to be creative? I don’t understand why you think that is illogical. Perhaps it is a problem you have with conceptualizing issues in a different way, and looking at the same thing from different perspectives, and so you reject them viscerally. This is why I think you need to adopt a more learning-oriented approach, to accept new ideas and ways of thinking that might be unfamiliar to you. At the very least, you need to control your urge to respond sarcastically to things you don’t understand. That’s sophomoric.

    6. You wrote:

    “Oh, and if it’s not too much to ask, how about a few solutions to this copyright/IP conundrum that you find so dear to your heart. Clearly a front-burner issue for you, one to which you’ve dedicated much time in reading other people’s learned ideas.”

    It is too much to ask. There are no simple solutions. Anyone who engages on the issues will understand that there are multiple competing interests – commercial, legal, creative, artistic, policy, political, cultural – to deal with. For you to ask (mockingly without any expectation of a real answer) either shows how simple-minded you are or how insincere in discussion.

    Despite the complexity, I think the approach taken by the US Congress is the wrong approach. Recent bills in Congress seek to give powers to shut down websites accused of copyright infringement without due process review, and for example the Felony Streaming Act gives extraterritorial power to the US to shut down sites overseas. I think this is overreaching and will create a chilling effect on expression and creativity. This is a global issue that will not only affect the US but also China and every other country. This should be of concern to everyone.

    7. You wrote:

    “And your proposals for rectify your perceived problems with the current system are….C’mon, just one original thought as proof of concept that you are in fact capable of it. Hope that is not too much to ask of an apparent genius like you.”

    Mocking condescension is so pathetically juvenile. But it shows just what kind of person you are. Blech.