Doonesbury savages Pepperland's copyright utopians

It's a revolution, dudes!


As anyone involved with the original Apple Newton project knows only too well, when Garry Trudeau's satirical eye engages a target, there's only one winner. The Doonesbury cartoonist has a gift for holding up a mirror to bad ideas so they collapse under the weight of their own absurdities. This week[*] Trudeau has turned his attention to the "Creative Commons" project.

Beginning with Monday's comic, radio interviewer Mark questions aging rock star Jim Thudpucker about "free music". Thudpucker returns with a barrage of techno utopian babble that suggests he's been inhaling the heady vapors of the blogosphere.

"There are no rock stars any more!" insists Thudpucker. "With file sharing, we're being liberated from the hierarchical tyranny of record sales… Careers henceforth will be concert-driven, fragmented, and small!"

"And fan bases?" asks Mark.

"Will be kept in Palm Pilots!" replies the blog-brained Thudpucker.

This brilliant satire of the belief that technology can by itself topple entrenched institutions will be familiar to anyone who's picked up a copy of Wired in the last decade. Thudpucker is an ever-present type at any blogging convention. The conversation continued throughout the week, and we won't spoil any more of Trudeau's punchlines, except to note that he captures the other worldliness of this strand of techno utopian idiocy very sweetly.

What's wrong with this picture?

Well, there's nothing wrong with utopianism in itself: it's simply a wish for a better world, and we should all be able to imagine something better. But when utopianism becomes a denial and a retreat from the real world, it serves no useful purpose. It becomes a distraction, draining time and energy from what can be achievable. And like fringe political activism, it can eventually become no more than a psychological crutch for its advocates.

Creative Commons - launched by Professor Lawrence Lessig after a catastrophic Supreme Court defeat two years ago, which set back the copyright reform cause by many years - is one such noble idea.

But there are reasons why the campaign - widely blogged, but even more widely ignored - has failed to gain much traction.

Broadcaster Bill Thompson picked on one reason why the campaign has got nowhere fast. (Try calling the Creative Commons office in the hope of finding a human on the other end of the line and you'll realize another - there's no one home.)

But Thompson highlights the legalistic, American-centric basis of the campaign.

"Lessig doesn't understand why people in Europe care about an author's moral rights, which are inalienable in European law. And because he doesn't understand, he dismisses it. To an American constitutional lawyer copyright is simply an economic matter," Thompson told us.

"I have an objection to the British National Party using something I wrote in their party political broadcasts. That's my right."

"I'm a critical supporter of Creative Commons, but I don't accept US hegemony in this or any other area."

So Creative Commons is emblematic of how even the best of the US fails to understand how the rest of the world works. Is this a failure of empathy? Or a deeper philosophical failure which places too much emphasis on the law, and therefore "hacking" the law? Your thoughts, as ever, are most welcome. As we know, you can't throw an iPod in the United States without it hitting either a lawyer or an economist. And look where they've got us.

Fortunately we have more practical remedies to such escapist fantasies to hand. We only need to put them to work.®

Bootnote:Big Reg oops: Trudeau's strip, which captures the flavor of the debate today, was originally published two years ago. And as the Professor says, you can't hold the cause responsible for the wilder fantasies of its supporters. Quite correct.

Related stories

How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved
Digital music: flat fee futures
We're not so inEFFectual
Germany debuts Creative Commons
Tech heavyweights explain how to destroy the Internet
Internet is dying Prof. Lessig
Lawrence Lessig's birthday spam
Supremes back Disney and pigopolists vs science and culture


Other stories you might like

  • Assange can go to UK Supreme Court (again) to fend off US extradition bid

    Top Brit judges may consider whether an American prison is just too much

    Julian Assange has won a technical victory in his ongoing battle against extradition from the UK to the United States, buying him a few more months in the relative safety of Her Majesty's Prison Belmarsh.

    Today at London's High Court, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Burnett approved a question on a technical point of law, having refused Assange immediate permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court. The WikiLeaker's lawyers had asked for formal permission to pose this legal conundrum about Assange's likely treatment in US prisons to the Supreme Court:

    Continue reading
  • They see us Cinnamon Rolling, they're rating: GeckoLinux incorporates kernel 5.16 with familiar installation experience

    A nice, clean community distro that works well

    Most distros haven't got to 5.15 yet, but openSUSE's downstream project GeckoLinux boasts 5.16 of the Linux kernel and the latest Cinnamon desktop environment.

    Some of the big-name distros have lots of downstream projects. Debian has been around for decades so has umpteen, including Ubuntu, which has dozens of its own, including Linux Mint, which is arguably more popular a desktop than its parent. Some have only a few, such as Fedora. As far as we know, openSUSE has just the one – GeckoLinux.

    The SUSE-sponsored community distro has two main editions, the stable Leap, which has a slow-moving release cycle synched with the commercial SUSE Linux Enterprise; and Tumbleweed, its rolling-release distro, which gets substantial updates pretty much every day. GeckoLinux does its own editions of both: its remix of Leap is called "GeckoLinux Static", and its remix of Tumbleweed is called "GeckoLinux Rolling".

    Continue reading
  • Running Windows 10? Microsoft is preparing to fire up the update engines

    Winter Windows Is Coming

    It's coming. Microsoft is preparing to start shoveling the latest version of Windows 10 down the throats of refuseniks still clinging to older incarnations.

    The Windows Update team gave the heads-up through its Twitter orifice last week. Windows 10 2004 was already on its last gasp, have had support terminated in December. 20H2, on the other hand, should be good to go until May this year.

    Continue reading
  • Throw away your Ethernet cables* because MediaTek says Wi-Fi 7 will replace them

    *Don't do this

    MediaTek claims to have given the world's first live demo of Wi-Fi 7, and said that the upcoming wireless technology will be able to challenge wired Ethernet for high-bandwidth applications, once available.

    The fabless Taiwanese chip firm said it is currently showcasing two Wi-Fi 7 demos to key customers and industry collaborators, in order to demonstrate the technology's super-fast speeds and low latency transmission.

    Based on the IEEE 802.11be standard, the draft version of which was published last year, Wi-Fi 7 is expected to provide speeds several times faster than Wi-Fi 6 kit, offering connections of at least 30Gbps and possibly up to 40Gbps.

    Continue reading
  • Windows box won't boot? SystemRescue 9 may help

    An ISO image you can burn or drop onto a USB key

    The latest version of an old friend of the jobbing support bod has delivered a new kernel to help with fixing Microsoft's finest.

    It used to be called the System Rescue CD, but who uses CDs any more? Enter SystemRescue, an ISO image that you can burn, or just drop onto your Ventoy USB key, and which may help you to fix a borked Windows box. Or a borked Linux box, come to that.

    SystemRescue 9 includes Linux kernel 5.15 and a minimal Xfce 4.16 desktop (which isn't loaded by default). There is a modest selection of GUI tools: Firefox, VNC and RDP clients and servers, and various connectivity tools – SSH, FTP, IRC. There's also some security-related stuff such as Yubikey setup, KeePass, token management, and so on. The main course is a bunch of the usual Linux tools for partitioning, formatting, copying, and imaging disks. You can check SMART status, mount LVM volumes, rsync files, and other handy stuff.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022