The first question that needs to be answered is, ``Is there any need to re-analyse the ethical situation? Can our current legal/ethical framework handle the challenges posed by modern communication technology?'' In this chapter, I'm going to cruise through history and extract an overview of the development of the concepts that the legal system has developed to handle various issues as they arose. We will re-examine the history of content distribution and the history of copyright principles, and draw some connections between them, both traditional and novel. We will examine how we lost track of the ethics of copyright and got stuck in the trap of believing that ad-hoc, expedient solutions were instead immutable wisdom of the ages. In the end it should be clear that the introduction of the Internet and associated technologies constitute a qualitative change in communication technology that will require extensive further refinements This is a high-level summary, not an enumeration of the thousands of details added over the years. The intention is to lay the groundwork for a demonstration of the deep flaws in the current system. Because the conventional view freely mixes laws and ethics, this chapter will not go to great lengths to separate them either. I'm going to assume that the readers of this essay are already familiar with both the justifications for intellectual property and free speech, and the basic historical reasons for the creation of each of those, and do not need Yet Another (Probably Oversimplified Anyhow) Explanation of why Gutenberg's printing press more-or-less caused the creation of the concept of copyright. (Again, this is already long enough without rewriting that yet again.) Therefore, since you know the basics of the conventional view of copyright, we can focus on synthesizing a new and better understanding of communication issues, rather then re-iterating conventional understandings. Definition of Information
Information is used loosely in this essay to mean anything that can written on some medium and transmitted somehow to another person. Writing, sculpture, music, anything at all. Information can be communicated, which will be more carefully defined later. Yes, this is broad, but there is a rule of thumb: If it can be digitized, it's information. Note that digitization is very, very powerful. While few people may own the equipment to do it, there is no theoretical difficulty in digitizing sculpture, scent, motions, or many other things people may not normally consider digitizable. Even things like emotionscan be digitized; psychiatrists ask their patients to do so all the time (``Describe how anxious you're feeling right now on a scale of 1 to 10.''). While something like a written letter may be fully analog, one can generally create some digital representation that will represent the letter satisfactorily, such as scanning the whole letter and sending the image file. With that out of the way, we can discuss the history of information transmission, also known as ``communication''. Historical Overview Of Information Transmission
Reduced to a sentence, Gutenberg's printing press's primary effect on information reproduction was to make the production of words relatively cheap. For the first time in history, the effort required to make a copy of a textual work was many times less then the effort required to create the original copy, thus making the production model of ``Make an original copy of a book, then print thousands of copies of it quickly for a profit'' practical. Ever since then, technology's primary effect is to lower the cost of various production models with various media until they are practical for an increasing number of people. Every major challenge to intellectual property law has come from this fundamental effect. Hand Copying
Let's create a graph to look at how various parameters affect the ability to do something profitably,...