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From a missive to my Über(6x)-Boss

It is my belief that CIS needs to review its policies about log maintenance, use tracking, and data retention in order to better protect our users and the integrity of our network from organizations that have hijacked the DMCA and the notion of copyright. Entities such as the RIAA and MPAA are transitioning from sales-based revenue streams to litigation-based models, and other property holders are following their lead. CIS, as a department, and U…, as an institution, need to recognize that we are victims of a abusive litigation-based blackmail scheme, in which we are being extorted for both labor-resources and information about users.

To summarize the larger conundrum, I advance this thought: that human kind are not creators, but rather discoverers, of information. Sequences of musical notes, the arrangements of shapes, and the arrangement of words on a page are all finite resources, shared among 6 billion minds at present. The movement toward enduring copyright - of ideas, arrangements of data and information, etc, will result in the shrinking of the pool of a un-discovered sequences, that have been heretofore available for re-discovery. As the length of our “memory” increases, we deprive ourselves of the value of re-discovery of forgotten information, and the opportunity to treat it as new. The long term effect of the perpetualization of copyright, particularly when held as corporate property, is the intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual impoverishment of the human race, by the limiting of social discourse, through the destruction of the public domain, and the abuse of the creative commons.(1)

Consider the example of a class which from year to year gives the same essay assignment. If that assignment is given to 60 students per semester, for 30 years, in the 30th year of that class, how many of those essays, despite the fact that the students did their own research and and genuinely believe their output to be original would find that their work would not meet the current legal requirements for originality, when held up against the work historically generated in the class? Are they guilty of plagiarism? Is it not simply the case that the repetition of the assignment over time reduced the available number of approaches to the material, such that duplication was inevitable?

It seems to me that enabling the corporate-mafia with the weapon of enduring copyright is precisely counter to the mission and ideals of an educational institution; it is something that we should be actively be combating as an institution. The staff and leadership of CIS are the custodians and caretakers of information and data at U… . But as our capacity to store and maintain this information increases, so does our responsibility to those who discover and and will, in the future, rediscover it.

“There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know.”
          –Ambrose Bierce (1 842 - 1 914), The Devil’s Dictionary

(1): This argument is based, in part, on that advanced in Spider Robinson’s story Melancholy Elephants. It also relies on work I have done tinkering with information acceleration and storage.
Estimates for 2 002 state that approximately five exabytes of data were created in 2 002 alone PDF(<–NOT my research).

I’m trying to track down a source, but I recall reading some years ago that humanity exhausted all original combinations of musical notes sometime around the turn of the 21st century. I guess it all really is derivative crap.

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