Brian's Tirade on Censorship and Intellectual Property Rights
I belive this document represents a fair analysis of the current situation in Intellectual Property Law. I have tried to anticipate the ramifications of both current technology and the implementation of the Data Universe concepts. I would appreciate reasoned feedback from any viewpoint.
Back to Basics
Intellectual Property protections are guaranteed by a single clause in the United States Constitution.
Section 8 The Congress shall have the Power [...] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries [...]
This brilliantly concise instruction, penned over 200 years ago, has evolved into a bewildering array of well-intentioned but conflictory and frequently misguided rules. Entering the twenty-first century it is time to completely reevaluate the goals and structure of intellectual property protections. Too much protection of Authors and Inventors has been granted while overlooking the most important goal of the entire system: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".
Make no mistake, I am all in favor of creative individuals being able to benefit from their creativity. They should not, however, be allowed to impede the efforts of others who want to build upon their foundation, or who want to make the works more widely available. Also, they should not expect to live forever on the glory of a single work - they should continuously strive to better themselves.
Examples of Abuse of the System
The patchwork of laws and international treaties have led to a number of bizarre situations. Unfortunately, these misguided or short-sighted decisions have led to entire industries predicated on the status-quo.
Many of the concepts implied by the Data Universe will tend to render moot these legal decisions and the industries that depend on them. I look forward to exploring the legal ramifications of this technology with open-minded individuals from each of the multiple opposing camps.
Privacy and Censorship
The concepts of data integrity, anonymity, security and universal access are inherent in the design of the Data Universe.
The operation of the Data Universe is non-deterministic. Some Queries may take longer than others to return the requested data. The data returned, however, is guaranteed to be intact. The chance of corruption is impossibly remote.
The automatic, continuous, random replication of data blocks and the propagation of queries throughout the network will eliminate the possibility of a "traffic analysis" attack on individual privacy. Computers with small disks and slow connections will be (slightly) more vulnerable to end-point snooping than large, fast systems. This is great news for hardware manufacturers and communications companies: the demand will continue to grow.
From a network standpoint it will be virtually impossible to identify the origin of a particular file or block of data. The continuous "stirring" or replication of blocks throughout the network will diffuse the data like a raindrop in the ocean.
To counter this inherent anonymity in situations where the user desires to claim authorship, there is the Public Key Signature. Such a signature, voluntarily added to the File Description block, would identify the author and guarantee the authenticity of the data.
In order to understand the implications of true universal access many of the current perceptions concerning data locality and control must be revisited. Concepts such as "my software on my computer", "my music on my iPod" or "my web site at this IP address" lose their current meaning. Inherent replication and "holographic" distribution of data is what allows universal access and prevents data loss due to hardware failures, natural disasters, or deliberate attempts at censorship. Copies of this data scatter in an uncontrollable manner throughout the Universe. It is true that there will be a single, ultimate source for each piece of data ("my copy of Microsoft Word", "my music play list", or "my biography") but, each time it is updated, a new version splashes into the sea of Universal data. This means that the loss of a computer is transformed from a personal catastrophe to an inconvenience as the hardware is replaced and the network re-acquires any needed data and programs.
It is anticipated that automated web crawlers will place pages from anywhere on the web into the Data Universe. This means that virtually the entire web will be archived on a continuous basis. Network failures will not prevent access to these historical versions of each site. E-commerce sites will continue to provide real-time transactions via the World Wide Web. Static or informational portions of a web site will be more broadly accessible, proof against disaster, and free of bandwidth or storage constraints.
New features, such as "historical time travel" will be available. Queries that return "the most recent version of a file before a given date" would allow review of a web site, online catalog, or particular document.
Law Enforcement Issues
For more than a hundred years telecommunication systems have allowed one to simply "pick up the extension phone" in order to listen in to a conversation. This primitive concept has been the basis of all current wiretap laws. Attempts to preserve this archaic capability have caused developers to implement progressively more arcane, elaborate and expensive systems. These systems simply cannot keep up with progress in the areas of digital technology and cryptography.
It is time for a major rethinking of communication strategy, such as the Data Universe concept.
Law enforcement should focus their attention on the end-points of the communication. It is well known that poor key management and carelessness are the greatest enemies of secure communication. Law enforcement should focus on the individuals at the end-points and not expect a free ride from technology by tapping the transport media. In the future the end users will be vastly easier to target than the technology.
Unfortunately, all that I have said about law enforcement also applies to oppressive political regimes. Political activists, take heed.
This "focus on the end-point" argument applies equally to political speech, pornography, organized crime and terrorism. The technology is a neutral tool, its use is subject to legal and moral interpretation.
Security and Intellectual Property
It is recognized that the Data Universe will be used for the distribution of all types of data. The distribution and ready availability of data from anywhere in the world is one of the fundamental tenets of the entire Internet.
Certain jurisdictions and organizations attempt to exercise arbitrary dominion over what they consider proprietary, copyrighted or unlawful sequences of data bits. The Data Universe architecture is designed to protect storage and transport providers from arbitrary legal or regulatory action. All data files in the Universe are separated into at least two parts: a File Description (FD) and the User Data (UD) Block(s). The Description and Data need not reside on the same host, but both are required to re-create the original data file. This insulates the Host computer and its administrator from any claims that it contained proscribed data.
A series of policies enforced on the Host can provide any desired degree of protection from such claims.
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