Sunday, February 24, 2008

Civil disobedience

I've followed the progress of the Copyright Wars with great interest. Kahle vs Eldred, Gonzales, etc etc, which has gone to the Supreme Court, and the quieter resistance of Google Books.

Kahle is the man behind the Internet Archive and a partner in the OCA. He started archiving the internet in 1996. For the young people out there, in 1996, less than 1% of the population used the net. AOL was a big player, Google was still two years down the road. And Kahle started saving those few early web pages.

Without Kahle, there would be no record of the online world in those formative days. The lifespan of a webpages is the same as fruitflies,we hear; two years is geologic ages in web years. So Kahle is the hero of our age, he is, in effect, the man with the fire extinguisher at the Library of Alexandria. He's fighting for the right to save our cultural heritage from the copyright sharks.

Kahe is doing it in the legal arena, without much success. He has some high profile partners here, too, like the Library of Congress. So Kahle is taking the polite path - if you object, and can prove it's your intellectual property, he'll take it down from the IA.

That's the same path that the Google guys are taking - if we scan your book, and you object, we'll take it down. And while there have been some challenges, no one has stopped them.

So in their quiet way, they have stopped Mickey Mouse from stopping progress. The endless extensions of copyright terms has made lawbreakers out of many of us, without our knowledge (which is not a legal excuse). The purpose of copyright law is twofold, according to the Constitution - to protect the rights of the creator for a limited term, and to end that term to foster progress. Current law reverses that intent.

So here's to three guys who have taken the path of most resistance, who have stood up for the rights of people everywhere to know their history.

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