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Rebranding Fair Use – your answers

PAC to the future

Letters Re:Vote against a paid-for Pigopolist pol!

We asked for more attractive terms for digital rights, as "digital rights" and "fair use" don't seem to be very effective. The word "GeekPAC" sucks too, so could you do better?

(Some campaigns are designed to grab five minutes' attention, and although sincere, GeekPAC looks like it was created up over dinner one night and forgotten with the indigestion the next day).

Bear in mind what happened to software libre after the movement was rebranded as "Open Source".

You've come up with some good suggestions, lots of bad ones, and some thoughts about how this could try and energise middle America (or anywhere that this is needed): your friends who don't read The Register, or Slashdot, or tech blogs: and that's still most people.

And despite the sunny optimism from California that insists things are always getting better, things are actually getting worse very rapidly. So will a name change even fix it?

One correspondent writes that more than branding will be needed:-

"If no person or small group is willing to come up with the necessary seed money to get the ball rolling, the US geek community doesn't deserve to survive," writes one correspondent.

With that, on to your suggestions.

Francois Villeneuve offers, in a parallel to the "Sunshine" legislation, "Harmony" legislation.

Ty Dibble offers ClearNote, FairMeasure (again the musical version of measure with the legal concept), and FairPlay. On a similar theme Don Montgomery offers FairSharePac. PublicNote (Note as in musical note as well as notice). Bob Ramsey is one of several to offer "ComPac".

Even more sarcastically, Phillip Cripps offers:-

DOPES (Digital Online Pirates Equality Society)
DUPES (Digital United Pirating Empowerment Service)
HEARTS (Hackers Eagerly Assisting Recorded Tune Stealing)

Some other suggestions deserve a longer context. This was my favorite:-

Brian Hurt's comments were right on the mark. I suggest and whole heartedly suggest we call this "Good Neighbor Legislation", in reference to the fact that not only do "Good Neighbors" exist between houses, but borders as well. Instead of GeekPAC, why not the "Good Neighbor PAC".

The obvious Christian reference that the name evokes should actually help among the Right-Wingers and God fearers (fear not God but his worshippers...). Plus, if you're against it, what does "Fritz Hollings is against Good Neighbors" play out like as a headline?? (Most people read the headline and first paragraph of a story only.)

As good neighbors are we not supposed to share within our community?? Isn't the power of the internet and the coming of globalization increasing the range of our neighborhoods to encompass a lion's share of the Earth??

Speaking of which, Fair Use goes better as "Fair Play", and alludes to the "playing" of MP3's, so, any legislation proposed to protect Fair Use guarantees could be called the "Fair Play" bill. God I love the sound of that....

The real question is, when will the Democrats and Republicans merge into one party, presumably called "The Guilty Party".

Jason Maggard

And once we've got a nice name, the problems begin.

Brian Hurt's comment about how to get a roomful of geeks, SF fans, or space proponents to look at their shoes is not limited to those groups. If I ask my co-workers, friends, even people I meet in a bar, that same question, almost all of them will be unwilling to vote against their chosen party. It's apathy. It's also a lack of desire to review the candidates stand on issues. Instead, the majority of voters seem to rely on authority figures telling them how they should vote. If there are no authority figures, they apparently vote for their chosen party.

Arguing with them is no good, especially as that labels you as a member of the opposition party.

Forming GeekPAC is a fine idea. I have no trouble with the name, while it may once have had the meaning of a carnival freak, I don't think it is commonly thought of in derogatory terms anymore. Instead the geeks are the people with the neat gadgets. However, after viewing the GeekPAC webpage, they really need an editor. They will be considered unlettered nuts if they don't fix the glaring spelling and grammatical errors on their opening page.

Further, for all that the Internet is a great way to disseminate information, it is not yet pervasive enough to act alone. If GeekPAC really wants to make an impact, they will need flyers, magazine advertisements, television advertisements, etc. This costs money, but it's the only way to reach the majority of voters.

As an aside, I am not completely unfamiliar with the American political game. My mother was an elected official for many years and I have seen many tactics which work, and many backfire. For an issue, one of the best ways of approach is through one-on-one meetings with community leaders. They are all approachable, their job requires it, and even unofficial support by the leaders of a community will go a long way toward getting the issue passed or defeated. Just remember not to lose control when speaking to a community leader, the point is not to convince them your arguments are sound, but to convince them that you are rational, trustworthy, and not a fanatic. If they won't agree, then agree to disagree. Politics is about respect. All politics are local.

Finally, I don't believe that the movement should be portrayed as "anti-corporatist." There is a certain amount of disgust among Americans with the obscene compensation as well as accounting scandals among top management. However, from what I read, the political message of GeekPAC and the complaints of people who want P2P networking, etc., is not an anti-corporate stance. It is a more basic issue. The questions are all about ownership, not about corporations. When I pay for something, do I own it? When I buy an OS for my computer, or a music CD, or a DVD, do I own it completely, or do I only own it in a limited sense. This is the gray area which needs definition. Hollywood and RIAA want to define your ownership as very limited. If they had their way, you would pay every time you watched a DVD or listened to a song on an album. Microsoft wants you to lease, not buy, their software. This would ensure a continuous revenue stream for Microsoft, which isn't all bad. There would not be the pressure for Microsoft to upgrade the OS every couple years in order to generate sales. They might be able to concentrate on providing a quality product rather than marketing.

The vast majority of corporations don't care. When Ford sells you a car, they would be more than happy to consider the transaction ended. If you want them to service it, you would have to pay for it. They offer warranty service because other companies do. In this case, you own the item in totality, you are responsible for it's use and abuse. Ford cannot stop you from modifying the engine control software, taking a reciprocating saw to the roof, or selling the vehicle. This isn't an anti-corporate stance. It is not a freedom of speech stance either. Nothing in what is being proposed limits the freedom of speech more than is already restricted. It is a possible limitation of the fair-use interpretation of use of copy written material. The problems are not constitutional in nature, but inherent in the definition of copywrite.

Once again, the problems are all linked to defining ownership.

With that in mind, don't call it GeekPAC, but Allodial PAC.

(Allodial : \Al*lo"di*al\, a. [LL. allodialis, fr. allodium: cf. F. allodial. See Allodium.] (Law) Pertaining to allodium; freehold; free of rent or service; held independent of a lord paramount; -- opposed to feudal; as, allodial lands; allodial system. --Blackstone. )

I'll raise a pint in your honor tonight,

(Alex Williams)

But any social mobilization needs to recognize who holds the power.

The NRA and AARP also have effective lobbying presences in Washingon.

*Where's ours?*

With respect to the pigopolists... remember that the size as determined by gross yearly income of the Hollywood entertainment industry is about $35,000,000,000 , the size of high-tech industry is about $500,000,000,000.

Someone pointed out correctly what that the great majority of American wealth is held by the top 1% income households. A fair number of people who will lose big-time if Hollywood turns our computers into household appliances are in that 1%. Possibly *most*. A not insignificant number of them made their money in high-tech, and several hundred of them will probably wind up reading this if it gets put on this site. So the excuse that "America's big money people are against us, we can't fight" has been shown as just another excuse for inaction.

Hollywood is the tail, WE are the dog, why are *they* wagging us?

I'm willing to vote single issue... because if we lose, the other issues aren't going to matter in a national economy going into the toilet

GeekPAC is NOT the organization we need. Face it people, an organization that can't put up a decent splash page on their own Website after several months is *NOT* going to organize a mass movement to take back Congress.

The Hollywood future will only happen if we let it. 10 million people throwing in $10 each equals a $100,000,000 war chest. Let MPAA/RIAA try to fight 10,000,000 people in a single group with a war chest *that* size.

If no person or small group is willing to come up with the necessary seed money to get the ball rolling, the US geek community doesn't deserve to survive.

A Lizard
[real name supplied]

As we say in Yorkshire, where there's MUQ, there's brass. Where there's brass, there's muck:-

This is how politics corrupts: If you want to win, you have to play by the system's rules, and in an ultimate sense you still lose.

That aside, the winning technique is clearly to pick the most generic positive-connotation word you can find. There are no "anti-choice" nor "anti-life" movements, only "pro-life" and "pro-choice" ones. (With of course no nonviolent dialogue possible as long as completely disjoint vocabularies are used.)

The most generic positive-load word in politics today is "Freedom" -- everyone from the old USSR to the US, and especially everyone across the hair-thin spectrum of approved US political opinion wholeheartedly supports "freedom". They differ only on the technical detail of promoting whose freedom to do what.

So "FreedomPAC" has to be in the ring.

Since the cause is individual rights vs corporate power grabs, "CitizensPAC" also makes sense. (Half a century of government propaganda has made "people" a negative-connotation word, so the alliterative PeoplesPAC is pretty much out.)

For folks who like wordier, stuff like

Citizens for Net Freedom
Citizens for Corporate Responsibility
Citizens for Free
Computing Citizens for Computing Freedom

come to mind. Or, given the success of the exclamation point in modern propaganda praxis, perhaps

US Out Of My Computer!
Hands Off My Computer!
Don't Tread On Me!

or such.

The basic problem with all such populist efforts, given the current construction of the US Congress as a free marketplace in which legislative services are auctioned off to the highest bidder, is that you can only get tens of millions of people riled up about maybe half a dozen issues at any one time, while the corporate lobbyists can arrange midnight passage of dozens of bills and riders a month. Even when you win one battle, you've lost dozens of other ones through neglect in the same interval. And six months or a year later, the lobbyists will most likely come back and win the rematch on your "victory" too -- mass popular outrage cannot be long maintained. Soon ennui settles in and a sexier issue comes to the fore.

Still, an occasional momentary stand against the relentless US march to the extreme right (remember when Nixon was considered rightwing? -- now he'd be considered a "commie", with such proposals as a negative income tax bracket and guaranteed minimum income) is arguably better than none at all.

The only real solution to the problem would be some brake upon the relentless increase in concentration of wealth in the US. Just the -tax-breaks- the US ruling 1% of the population have given themselves in the last 20 years exceed the entire -income- of the poorest 1/8 of the population. (And this considers only the official US heartland, not the hundreds of millions to billions of people in US-controlled "countries" -- "provinces" would be a more honest and traditional term -- outside of North America.)

Considerably less than 1% of the US population owns more than 70% of basically everything other than cars and private residences -- stocks, bonds, commercial buildings, land, you name it. Wealth and power being relatively easily interconvertable, this means that the ruling fraction-of-a-percent constitute a political majority. They control the government via their corporations and lobbyists, and the government consequently enacts policies to further favor the concentration of wealth in their hands.

Capitalism and democracy are ultimately an either-or proposition on the continental scale: democracy is based on even distribution of power, while capitalism invariably involves 70% of everything being controlled by 1% or less of the population.

(The 70% / 1% ratio isn't unique to the US, by any means. Look at any US-controlled "banana republic" and you'll see the same: circa 70% of the land being owned by circa 1% of the population: A small administrative elite is being bought off by relative wealth in return for giving US multinationals free reign to maximize profit to US stockholders. Numerical simulations suggest that this 70%/1% is a "natural" equilibrium point under very weak assumptions about economic interactions in a large population.)

The classical "democracies" of Rome and Athens arose in societies which had less than a factor of ten spread in wealth between "rich" and "poor" voting citizens -- and collapsed as soon as income from empire created a class of citizens too wealthy and powerful to suffer democracy gladly. (The Roman Senate welcomed Augustus' assumption of imperial power in significant part because he could cover out-of-pocket public expenses which the state itself could no longer afford -- he owned personally among other things all of Egypt and a fair fraction of Italy. Imagine that Bill Gates was the only entity in the US with the funds to cover interest on the national debt and to keep the Pentagon payroll covered. That could -never- happen, of course. History ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, after all.) The US elite now administer the largest military machine and empire in human history, with money flowing into their coffers from every continent except Antarctica. (E.g., "debt service" payments from Africa vastly exceed "foreign aid" to Africa, and Western tables are loaded with food exported from starving nations.) They don't brook Latin American interference in their choice of colonial governments, and they certainly aren't about to brook serious "democratic tendencies" in the US.

Institution of a seriously effective democracy in the US would spell instant civil war as the reigning minority took to the streets to defend by force the "rights" which the government would (almost certainly) no longer be enforcing on their behalf. The US Civil War established the US Army as the fundamental powerbase of the US Federal government, shattering forever any lingering pretense that it drew legitimacy "from the consent of the governed": Lack of consent from the 99% of the population in the political minority does not and would not inhibit the ruling percent in the slightest.

So unless fundamental reform of US capitalism is in prospect (about as likely as the sun rising in the West...) the achievable goals of something like a FreedomPAC are limited to influencing legislation on peripheral issues with no significant impact upon corporate profits or power. Stopping DMCA or RIAA or such is politically possible in contemporary America only by demonstrating an alternative which is equally profitable and equally protective of corporate power and privilege.

E.g., a DMCA loophole specifically for professional programmers is probably politically feasibility. The Fortune 500 care only about control and income from the sheep herd as a whole -- they'll willingly write off a tiny minority as a special case if it demonstrates the ability to cause enough pain. Corporate America is -all- about cutting special-case deals and instituting special subsidies and favoritism for small minorities with clout proportional to the demanded share of the tax take.

What they absolutely won't tolerate is creeping democratic tendencies which threaten either their short-term quarterly profit increases (a fixed share of the GDP is Not Acceptable, the rich -must- grow richer -- check the '70s, when the rest of the US population paid for their ruler's policy mistakes with declining real wealth and income while that of the upper 1% continued its steady rise) or their long-term hold on power.

The US is divided into a ruling minority which is very consciously, deliberately and seriously engaged in "class struggle", and the rest of the population, which the ruling percent treat and regard as sheep for the shearing -- property on which return on investment is to be methodically maximized -- and who are carefully indoctrinated to faithfully believe in a "classless society" despite abundant evidence to the contrary. (If the Church can convince its revenue stream that men can walk on water, the State can convince its "human resources" that Bill Gates has just the same political clout as the bum sleeping in the gutter. Just have figures in authority repeat the statement loudly enough and often enough. "The Big Lie" technique, to coin a phrase.)

If a "GeekPAC" sets itself up as a threat to the ruling elite by attempting to promote democracy -- effectively, by threatening violent revolution, the only possible endpoint of creeping democracy within the US paradigm -- it will be crushed as thoroughly as every other popular revolt in US history, from the Whisky Rebellion to the Wobblies.

If it sets itself up as yet another special interest trying to get its snout into the Federal feeding trough and buy itself special favors proportional to its proven political clout, it may well succeed.

"Cynbe ru Taren"

Also see more of your "Stuckist" Net letters published today [link to follow]®

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