The Anti-Darknet

Lucas Gonze pinged me with a good mental framework for our current moral crises over file sharing, DRM and all that other stuff that makes me tired from being so angry. I’m answering my email in my blog.

Four researchers at Microsoft coined the term “Darknet” in their 2002 paper The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution. Put briefly (and largely incorrectly), people copy things privately on Darknets, whether over IRC or IM or trading DVD-Rs.

Lucas looks at the flip side: Lightnet.

He cites as examples of the Darknet WinMX, Kazaa, Napster and iTunes. All of which are closed systems that you can’t go on national TV and say “here, have this.” The first two because most users are infringing on someone’s copyright, the last two because the music is locked up in DRM.

The current state of copyright infringement reminds me of prohibition-era drinking: a lot of people doing it but there’s no constructive conversation.

Lucas also identifies lightnet systems: Creative Commons, Magnatune, Our Media, etc. This is lightnet media, something you link to, use, shuffle around and share. Not necessarily something that is under a CC license, but something that I can post a link on my blog and say OMG PUNK RAWK!

The free software community has built a viable ecology on lightnet software. Lucas is consuming lightnet media. I think that’s pretty cool.

See also:
Mike Linksvayer: Redefining light and dark
Eli Chapman: Lucas’ lightnet vs. darknet

Google vs. Book Monopolists

In an article on Google’s efforts to scan books USA Today highlights part of what’s wrong with the US copyright law:

Richard Hull, executive director of the Text and Academic Authors Association, called Google’s approach backwards. Publishers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of record-keeping, agreed Sanfilippo, the Penn State press’s marketing and sales director.

“We’re not aware of everything we’ve published,” Sanfilippo said. “Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were no electronic files for those books.”

Memo to Richard Hull: Google is forwards, you are backwards. Why do you care if Google makes a few sentences from books you’ve never heard of available? If you’re really all that concerned with keeping control of those books, you would have kept track of them. In a sane system you have to actually know what work you’re protecting the copyright of. You can’t just say “well, I don’t remember my copyright work and can’t show any infringement, but dammit they better stop because they might infringe on my copyright!”

Our current copyright law gives a monopoly to people who don’t even want one thanks to the US Copyright Act of 1976. Why are we giving monopolies of human knowledge to absentee landlords who can’t be bothered to keep track of their work, but who freak out at the possibility that their long-forgotten work might be used without their permission?