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Objectivism Research Cd-rom

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Jason Fowler
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Phil surely knows that -- or should have surmised it.

Perhaps this is old news (I haven't checked), and it is certainly hearsay, but I recall Phil talking about the CD ROM back on the old Hypermall IRC server before it came out. If my memory serves me (this was a decade ago), he said that he went ahead and created it without the Estate's permission, that they were not amused when they found out after he approached the ARI with the idea, and he knew they wouldn't be. So, yes, he knew very well right from the start that Dr Peikoff was not and wouldn't likely ever to be too disposed to accommodating him. That Phil may now be involved with groups that attack Dr Peikoff and others is additional grounds for rather than the original source of any animosity towards him.

I don't know (and not much interested in knowing) how he turned that around and finally got permission to publish the CD ROM. I do recall that the annoying copy-limitation was part of the deal, so there wont be a new version of the interface without it any time soon - at least not from Phil anyway. Given the ease with which digital copyright protection systems can be broken despite even billions spent on the issue, I just hope this hasn't soured Dr Peikoff or other representatives of the Estate on the idea of a CD ROM as such.

I also raise an eyebrow at the luddism being ascribed to Dr Peikoff, and as Diana points out I imagine he himself would too. While rapid text-search is invaluable for research I have no illusions about a piece of high technology being able to replace (or even merely supplement) the role that print may serve come TEOTWAWKI. Acid-free paper in caves, as Dr Peikoff has half-jokingly suggested, will be far better for the job as it does not presuppose the existence of entire systems whose destruction will themselves be an essential part of the context that such a safe-store is valuable for.

JJM

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Dr Peikoff's objections to the ARI creating their own Research CD-ROM is TEOTWAWKI?

That was just a reference to the half-serious discussion about strange technologies to store the content with in response to potential TEOTWAWKI scenarios, found on the thread sNerd posted the link to.

I don't know why the ARI wont produce / hasn't produced their own, beyond that Phil presently appears to have ownership of the license. I was thinking perhaps copyright fears, but that horse has already bolted. For all I know there could be one in the works intended to replace Phil's next year.

JJM

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Perhaps this is old news (I haven't checked), and it is certainly hearsay, but I recall Phil talking about the CD ROM back on the old Hypermall IRC server before it came out. If my memory serves me (this was a decade ago), he said that he went ahead and created it without the Estate's permission, that they were not amused when they found out after he approached the ARI with the idea, and he knew they wouldn't be. So, yes, he knew very well right from the start that Dr Peikoff was not and wouldn't likely ever to be too disposed to accommodating him. That Phil may now be involved with groups that attack Dr Peikoff and others is additional grounds for rather than the original source of any animosity towards him.

Phil would have had the right to create such a CD so long as he didn't sell it. Anybody would have the right to scan in all of Ayn Rand's works, and write a program to present the text to them in any manner they desire, so long as they don't sell it. I see it as a rational risk to present the product in a complete form, because then he's more likely to convince ARI, or whom ever, of its value. Clearly he was able to do that and was accommodated, and I don't believe for a minute that this was anything but a win-win trade. I've seen people like Dr. Binswanger promote Phil's CD. Phil, in fact, was at one of the recent conferences autographing the CD.

As to Dr. Peikoff taking umbrage at Phil allegedly attacking him, I can't say. That's possible.

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Phil would have had the right to create such a CD so long as he didn't sell it. Anybody would have the right to scan in all of Ayn Rand's works, and write a program to present the text to them in any manner they desire, so long as they don't sell it.
This is a factual legal claim: I dispute it. Presume that I have rudimentary familiarity with Title 17; given that presumption, what would you say is the argument that there is such a right, especially given 17 USC 106 as the basis?
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Let me also add that a review of posts on The Forum do not at all support the idea that Phil ever attacked Peikoff. The crucial difference lies in the fact that he has and still does actively participate in The Forum, and there have been attacks against Peikoff coming from The Forum. My eyes tell me that they did not come from him.

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I second DavidOdden's dispute of the claim that Mr. Oliver was legally entitled to create the copies without authorization so long as he did not intend to sell them. Any such entitlement would have to come from §107 which is arguably bad law; see past threads on this subject. Even under §107's influence, on the facts as we know them to be, I do not think a fair use exception would be applicable in this case. The copies were clearly made with a commercial purpose in mind. Whether that purpose was ever achieved is not particularly relevant to the fair use analysis. (At least, not anymore. It used to be.) Even if we were to change the facts to say that Mr. Oliver made the electronic copies solely for his own personal research use, he would be hard pressed to come up with a research task that justifies complete copies of (nearly) all Ayn Rand's published writings. Unless he is researching ratios and frequencies of definite and indefinite articles or something.

-Q

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This is a factual legal claim: I dispute it. Presume that I have rudimentary familiarity with Title 17; given that presumption, what would you say is the argument that there is such a right, especially given 17 USC 106 as the basis?

Does anyone have a link to this law, because I've always been of the understanding that so long as you don't sell, nor distribute a product, you have the right to modify it in any way you wish (barring some additional contract.) I've always acted on that belief. In so doing, I'm not stealing from the original seller in any way.

Anyway, I see nothing unethical about what Phil did whatsoever.

Qwertz, regarding Phil's intent to sell the product. Yes, he had that intent, but only with permission.

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Does anyone have a link to this law, because I've always been of the understanding that so long as you don't sell, nor distribute a product, you have the right to modify it in any way you wish (barring some additional contract.)
Cornell has the US Code online: all hail to Cornell. What you want is here generally and here for the basis statement of rights. Let me advise you that, if this is the first time that you've contemplated taking on the US Code, frankly it is a pain in the ass. You must read it very literally and ignore a lot of the socialist propaganda that you've heard. Much cross-referencing is needed.

Consider this. Copyright law protects a property right. When something is the property of another person, he has the exclusive right to that object, period. It doesn't matter if I take for non-profit or personal use, taking is taking. I suspect that what you have picked up on is a perversion of the actual "fair use" doctrine, which allows "no impact on the market" to be part of considerations that might lead to an exception (the topic of another thread), but many people pervert that to mean "as long as it's not for profit". Basically, giving stuff away could have a disasterous impact on the market, and what the law is intended to protect (and only in part) is whether limited copying may be allowed as long as it has little impact on the market. (I still think 107 sucks, the way it's written). A 107 argument for destroying the property right would be just so foul and vile (and possibly the (il)logical absursity that that section will reduce to).

That said, I don't condemn Phil for his earlier unauthorized copying. First, the actual law on the matter is murky (did I mention, I think that 107 sucks? And yet something along those lines is necessary). Second, as Lon Fuller has mentioned, ignorance of the law is at once no excuse and almost inevitable. Almost a half dozen times over the past dozen years, I have had to call upon the institutional suits to bump up my understanding of copyright law. As far as I know, Phil's actions were totally moral, and if actually illegal were so because the law is itself unclear and, rather importantly IMO, not self evident.

In an unwritten FAQ, I will show why copyright cannot be subsumed under contract law. But I have other things to write first.

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Does anyone have a link to this law, because I've always been of the understanding that so long as you don't sell, nor distribute a product, you have the right to modify it in any way you wish (barring some additional contract.)
Here's a link to Title 17. The relevant provisions are §§ 106 and 107. §106 grants exclusive rights to copyright holders and §107 takes them away under certain circumstances. The test in §107 is a balancing test that must be adjudicated; there is no hard and fast rule (which is one of the less significant features that make §107 a bad law).

I'm not stealing from the original seller in any way.
There are other threads on this subject, but one key thing to remember is that you are increasing the number of functional copies - something only the creator (or someone authorized by him) may rightfully do.

Anyway, I see nothing unethical about what Phil did whatsoever.
Under the facts as they are, I don't think he did anything particularly unethical, either. At least, nothing major that wouldn't be forgiven by a reasonable Dr. Peikoff. Oliver took a calculated risk to produce a near-complete product to present as a prototype in order to secure a license. Retaining the prototype after denial of a license would have certainly been unethical, as would handing out duplicates of the prototype before getting a license. I can say that I would have preferred to play it safe by creating the software and including only one text, say, Anthem, which has lapsed into the public domain, in order to demonstrate the functionality of the software, and then sought licensing to incorporate the other texts. If Oliver did anything unethical, Dr. Peikoff clearly didn't see it as a major stumbling block to the initial licensing.

Yes, he had that intent [to sell the product], but only with permission.
The factor is "of a commercial nature," see 17 USC §107(1). His intent to sell with permission is "use of a commercial nature." An intent not to violate copyright doesn't translate into fair use. Fair use is a complicated and, as has been argued here before, highly inappropriate legal doctrine that is widely misunderstood outside of practicing copyright lawyers and judges. I do not fully understand it myself, but my research to date strongly suggests that, should the Estate have chosen to pursue the issue, Oliver's initial unlicensed duplication would not have been excused under fair use.

-Q

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I do not fully understand it myself, but my research to date strongly suggests that, should the Estate have chosen to pursue the issue, Oliver's initial unlicensed duplication would not have been excused under fair use.
At what point of confusion/complexity is the public not expected to follow a law? I would rather have no law at all than one which requires a seemingly endless quest of checking and cross-checking to ensure my compliance.

Anyway, I thought a Q&A by Dr. Peikoff on his home page is relevant, posted on April 12th about a third way down. Mr. Oliver was OK as far as Peikoff himself was concerned, so long as he destroyed the original copies. I can't see how a hope to sell the CD afterward makes any difference as long as Oliver sold with permission.

Edited by JASKN
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That said, I don't condemn Phil for his earlier unauthorized copying. First, the actual law on the matter is murky (did I mention, I think that 107 sucks? And yet something along those lines is necessary). Second, as Lon Fuller has mentioned, ignorance of the law is at once no excuse and almost inevitable. Almost a half dozen times over the past dozen years, I have had to call upon the institutional suits to bump up my understanding of copyright law. As far as I know, Phil's actions were totally moral, and if actually illegal were so because the law is itself unclear and, rather importantly IMO, not self evident.

Thanks to the both of you for those references. 107 is murky to me as well. I'm not sure what to make of it, because it's given in general terms.

Regarding the affirmation "ignorance of the law is at once no excuse..." I've always liked Ayn Rand's (and Thomas Jefferson's) corollary to that, which is that the law should be clear.

Just for the record, I’d like to reaffirm that to me the ethical issue on which this should rest is the stealing of a value. This is where the rubber meets the road, and that should be the criterion for copyright law.

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At what point of confusion/complexity is the public not expected to follow a law?
You are completely correct that the complexity of §107 makes it extraordinarily difficult to conform to the law. My conclusion that the law would find Oliver's copying (should it have been pursued) to not be protected under §107 does not mean that I believe that to be the morally correct answer. I do not undertake an ethical analysis at this time. Dr. Peikoff's comments draw what I think is the essential distinction; to wit, an unauthorized increase in the number of functional copies (duplicates). I would like to have his viewpoint on whether someone who scans OPAR into his computer to make it more easily accessible to himself must also destroy the original.

-Q

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Sorry for the double post, but I had a separate thought.

The default rule is pretty clear - §106 says the copyright holder has exclusive rights to do or authorize the so-and-so. The exception is the ambiguous law - §107. Because it is impossible, under §107, to know beforehand whether or not a copying action falls within the exception (see Ayn Rand, "The Nature of Government," in The Virtue of Selfishness 125, 128-29.), the safest action is simply not to copy at all, while arguing for a change in the unclear law. The degree to which an individual is willing to risk violating the law by failing to fall within the ambiguous legal exception depends on the values at stake and the risk he is willing to accept.

-Q

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The default rule is pretty clear - §106 says the copyright holder has exclusive rights to do or authorize the so-and-so. The exception is the ambiguous law - §107. Because it is impossible, under §107, to know beforehand whether or not a copying action falls within the exception (see Ayn Rand, "The Nature of Government," in The Virtue of Selfishness 125, 128-29.), the safest action is simply not to copy at all, while arguing for a change in the unclear law.
You are right that that is safest. However. Safety would also mean that serious discussions of Objectivism would have to halt, since it could be against the law to quote Ayn Rand, and in order to accurately paraphrase her. I don't think I could say that she believed that the proper purpose of government is protection of rights, and that there are no rights without property rights (at least, I couldn't say that safely). So I would be hard-pressed to discuss Rand's philosophy. It's also not clear to me that I could safely read a web page (making a copy onto my computer), listen to a CD (another copy), and certainly taping Buffy when I'm out of town or using those wonderful DVR boxes that let you save two channels while watching a third would be unsafe. 106 purchased clarity at the price of being unreasonable -- by itself, 106 is an unreasonable law.

Uh, actually.... I just looked at 106(3): "to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending". Noting that 106(1) grants the exclusive right "to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords", then this law actually says that only the copyright owner can sell or authorize sale of copies, even when the creation of the copies was independently authorized. Then what that means is that I could not sell my spare copy of AS without the permission of Leonard Peikoff, and that the guy who gave me the copy (Rand was the copyright holder at the time) also violated the law by transferring ownership of a copy without permission. The only excuse I could imagine would be that I might not be "the public", since it was a friend to friend transfer and not a general public offer as in Ebay. How is this clause possible?? Have people just been ignoring the law on the theory that anything so stupid couldn't be part of the law?

BTW thankx for the link to Peikoff's discussion of copyright; the practical question is how to encapsulate his understanding of the matter into concise legal language.

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Yeah, they did indicate that. Were you under the impression that I thought it was you who had made a "Phil attacked Peikoff" suggestion?

Yes, I was. You didn't reference anyone in particular, but I was the person who first brought up Phil's posts on The Forum. So it was a reasonable assumption, albeit apparently a mistaken one. That's why it's helpful to actually name and/or quote the person to whom you are replying on a discussion board, so that everyone (not just me) can be perfectly clear about what is being said to whom.

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but I was the person who first brought up Phil's posts on The Forum. So it was a reasonable assumption, albeit apparently a mistaken one.
Right. What was supposed to have happened is that my second post would get auto-merged with the previous one where I responded to Thales, which included the bit "taking umbrage at Phil allegedly attacking him", and the point would have been clearer. Inspector in #26 replying to you also refers to the question saying "be that not attacking Dr Peikoff or convincing him of its worth or whatever the cause of the trouble is". Those statements don't directly assert "Phil Oliver attacked Leonard Peikoff", but if one doesn't pay enough attention to the "or whatever" and "allegedly" statements, one might reify the imaginable.

Phil declined to make public the details, and unless Peikoff wants to directly address the matter here (yeah, right), I think discussion of the "why won't he extend the license" type are unproductive. My goal is to encourage people to not engage in unresearched speculation. It's easy to use the search function on The Forum to see who said what about whom, though not easy to wade through the mass of posts.

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... Oliver's claims of irrationality, ludditism, and so on on the part of Leonard Peikoff should not be accepted at face value, as was happening here (and elsewhere).
I doubt any OO.net member accepts Oliver's views at face value. It should be obvious to anyone that they're getting the story from "one side" alone. Edited by softwareNerd
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To be clear, the primary point of my original post was that Oliver's claims of irrationality, ludditism, and so on on the part of Leonard Peikoff should not be accepted at face value, as was happening here (and elsewhere).
I agree, and while it's clear that Phil didn't previously attack Peikoff on the Forum (so that could not have been the cause of "the problem"), his snarky comments from July 12th are an unjust attack. In the meantime, I am still very glad that the product exists and that I got mine.
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I agree, and while it's clear that Phil didn't previously attack Peikoff on the Forum (so that could not have been the cause of "the problem"), his snarky comments from July 12th are an unjust attack. In the meantime, I am still very glad that the product exists and that I got mine.

You're right about that, that wasn't a good comment. I've learned a great deal from Peikoff through his lectures and books, and he's one of my all time favorite intellectuals. As a teacher, he's my favorite. The guy is damn good at what he does.

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You also said, "From what I can glean, it is not so much a question of permission being withdrawn as it is a lack of enthusiasm about renewing." Perhaps I'm wrong, but that seems to be nothing more than an inference from what Phil said, meaning that you took his account at face value too. You certainly didn't question any part of it.
You're reading more into that than I meant. Your own post implied that the copyright holders would not be enthusiastic about renewal with Mr. Oliver.

Of course, since someone produced the CD once, someone else can do so in the future. I hope someone does.

[Added: As for enthusiasm about having someone else produce the CD: a lack of enthusiasm does not imply that one would reject someone else's attempt to make such a CD, it just means that among one's personal values, it does not rank at a level where one puts the effort into finding such a person and so on.

Anyhow, let me state the following for the record: I have no idea what plans are in progress on this front. For all I know, a great replacement CD, with more modern technology will come out sometime later in 2008.]

When I revived this thread, I only did so because I'm sure there are people here to whom the possibility of non-availability of the CD (even if for a short duration) after March 2008 would be important news. I do regret posting the link to the other forum, and did so hesitatingly, and only because I thought it fair to cite the source.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Safety would also mean that serious discussions of Objectivism would have to halt, since it could be against the law to quote Ayn Rand, and in order to accurately paraphrase her.
Of course, I meant 'safer' within the context of the situation. Actually, given that my safer suggestion only involved the use of Anthem, there still wouldn't be a problem, as Anthem is, for better or for worse, no longer covered by copyright. But you are correct: whenever there is ambiguous law, there is always a risk that you might violate it with the tiniest of acts.

Then what that means is that I could not sell my spare copy of AS without the permission of Leonard Peikoff, and that the guy who gave me the copy (Rand was the copyright holder at the time) also violated the law by transferring ownership of a copy without permission.
Fortunately, §109 covers that. Also a confusing statute. I think we can agree that much of copyright law is poorly drafted, and the courts have done little to clarify and much to obfuscate.

On the other subject, when I read through the Forum thread, I ascribed a "lack of enthusiasm about renewing" to Mr. Oliver, not to Dr. Peikoff or the Estate. Oliver said something to the effect of not wanting to go through another "irrational" licensing process. I thought he was ascribing that "irrationality" to licensing in general or to Dr. Peikoff, but he refused to give any facts to support such claims. I thought Mr. Oliver was, at least, being very lazy. He wouldn't have needed much to argue that there are problems with copyright law as it stands, but if he's going to go up against an intellectual giant like Dr. Peikoff, cheap shots and whiny complaints are totally inappropriate. Much of the thread didn't make any sense (e.g. the naked assertion that Dr. Peikoff didn't "see the value" in the CD-ROM, which I think is contradicted by Dr. Peikoff's Q&A of April 12th), and some of it read like something out of Scientology.

-Q

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Fortunately, §109 covers that. Also a confusing statute.
My god, that is like a parody of law. Okay, so 106(3) says you can't sell or give away, or rent or lend. Then 109(a) say "despite that, you can sell or give it away", but you can't rent or lend it. So the correct answer, when a friend asks if they can borrow my copy of AS, is "Under US law, no, not without permission of the copyright holder". I'll see if there's another "notwithstanding clause" lurking in there.
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