Fairplay ≠ Fair Use?

January 15, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Posted in arguments, nytimes, opinion, rambling | 1 Comment

Well, looks like both boingboing and kleinschmidt beat me to this critique in the NYTimes of Apple’s use of DRM in iTunes, but just thought I’d add a link to this in the Straight Dope on the Fair Use clause, that ubiquitous piece of copyright legislation that some of my friends swear justifies their peddling of bootleg movies on eBay. (Actually I think the argument was that it was legal to copy CD’s to give it to friends, which is still untrue, “technically” or otherwise.) Lest we might get “legal” confused with “everyone does it,” here’s the Straight Dope on Fair Use, inspired by common sense for the most part:

  • It’s OK to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes.
  • It’s also OK to copy music onto special audio CD-Rs, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) but again, not for commercial purposes.
  • Beyond that, there’s no legal “right” to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of a CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:
  • The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own.
  • The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use in fact, it’s illegal to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.
  • The owners of copyrighted music have the right to use protection technology to allow or prevent copying.
  • Remember, it’s never OK to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.

There are certain exceptions to these general principles Continue Reading Fairplay ≠ Fair Use?…

Metaphysics, etc.

January 2, 2007 at 11:20 pm | Posted in nytimes, philosophical | 1 Comment

My friend Dave posed a question on his blog a while back, to the effect of “Can non-physical things exist, and how?” Far from being exhausted by philosophers over the years, the topic has inspired some interesting and modern ideas. A recent article in the NYTimes on free will mentions one such idea that I’ve been trying to get my mind around for a long time. It’s called emergent phenomena, or emergence, and provides a sort of explanation for the metaphysical conundrums that give scientific positivists a lot of grief.

Simply put, emergence is the idea that things we consider “abstract” can often be produced through the combination of many simpler, less abstract building blocks. The complexity of the combination is what then gives the phenomenon its non-physical nature. For example, neural synapses combine in the billions to produce not only the functions of a biological brain, but an arguably metaphysical construct–the mind. In a less dramatic (and more tenable) way, billions of simple on-and-off transistors combine to form a computer, and the possible metaphysical manifestations of software. The survival instincts of individual creatures combine to produce an ecosystem, and those of investors, a stock market. As the article explains, hopelessly complicated systems such as

brains and stock markets, or the idea of democracy, grow naturally in accordance with the laws of physics. But once they are here, they play by new rules, and can even act on their constituents, as when an artist envisions a teapot and then sculpts it — a concept sometimes known as “downward causation.” A knowledge of quarks is no help in predicting hurricanes — it’s physics all the way down. But does the same apply to the stock market or to the brain? Are the rules elusive just because we can’t solve the equations or because something fundamentally new happens when we increase numbers and levels of complexity? (NYTimes)

The last question there is the “deepest” question, Continue Reading Metaphysics, etc….

You want WHAT in Asia?

December 21, 2006 at 5:50 pm | Posted in arguments, international, news, nytimes, philosophical | 1 Comment

The Christian Democratic Party and the Vatican are up in arms again in Italy, after poet Piergiorgio Welby passed away by means of a rather creative interpretation of Italian right-to-die legislation. The NYTimes reports, “a doctor sedated him and removed the respirator that had kept him alive for the last nine years.” Sound familiar? Dr. Kevorkian and his throngs of supporters have more or less given up on the issue in the United States, after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1997 to side with state courts in banning the practice of doctor-assisted suicide, or euthanasia. More precisely, the supreme court decision refused to allow federal appellate courts to impose a constitutional or statutory right to euthanasia, perhaps correctly deducing that this decision should not, if only for the time being, be made by a federal judiciary. It’s not news that Europe is somewhat more progressive on this issue than the U.S., but now, maybe they’re not as progressive as one might think. As the NYtimes (mentioned above) explains,

Direct forms of euthanasia, such as doctor-assisted suicide, are illegal in Italy and are only permitted in Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. But Italian law allows patients, other than those with psychiatric problems and infectious diseases, to decline treatment they do not want.

The ambiguity of that last condition is what Welby wished to challenge legally, and now it seems that he has failed. The religious right are the most vocal in the wake of Welby’s death, revitalizing the argument elsewhere in Europe. As a matter of principle, doctor-assisted suicide finds supporters among moral philosophers and medical associations in the U.S. The “Philosophers’ Brief” (NYTimes Book Review), filed in the 1997 U.S. Supreme court ruling by a group of six ethicists (including 20th-century giants such as Rawls and Nozick) considers the right to die a constitutionally protected decision invoking “fundamental religious or philosophical convictions about life’s value for oneself.” More recently, a study of European medical practices in the British weekly The Lancet admits that euthanasia is emerging as a medically sound option:

there is increasing recognition that extension of life might not always be an appropriate goal of medicine and other goals have to guide medical decision-making at the end of life, such as improvement of quality of life of patients and their families by prevention and relief of suffering. (Online link to Van der Heide et. al., “End-of-life decision-making in six European countries: Descriptive Study,” The Lancet.)

The social activist group Not Dead Yet was one of many other groups in 1997 to submit briefs opposing assisted suicide, citing two basic arguments Continue Reading You want WHAT in Asia?…

Want AIDS? How about dwarfism?

December 7, 2006 at 6:12 pm | Posted in nytimes, opinion, sarcastic, social | 2 Comments

All the cool people are doing it. Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about bare-backing, or unprotected sex. You probably only know what I’m talking about if you’ve read this article about bug-chasers, i.e. “The men who long to be HIV+”? In case you don’t have time to read a million pages of repetitive prose (like me, Rolling Stone writers just love watching themselves type), here is a pretty good excerpt of what on everyone’s mind these days. And by everyone, I mean every sadomasochist homosexual with no regard for the intrinsic value of their own life:

Carlos is part of an intricate underground world that has sprouted, driven almost completely by the Internet, in which men who want to be infected with HIV get together with those who are willing to infect them. The men who want the virus are called “bug chasers,” and the men who freely give the virus to them are called “gift givers.” While the rest of the world fights the AIDS epidemic and most people fear HIV infection, this subculture celebrates the virus and eroticizes it. HIV-infected semen is treated like liquid gold.

Is Carlos an idiot? The Traditional Values Coalition seems to think so, and considers homosexuals like Carlos to be “actively seeking death” and “willing to kill others as part of a sickening ‘erotic’ thrill.” Here’s a legal question no one wants to answer — can deliberate HIV infection be considered murder? Suicide? Manslaughter? Probably none of the above. I’d say it’s more like delayed potential murder with mutual consent, with no real intent to kill since none of these men worry about the efficacy of anti-retroviral drugs other than that “it works.” Has anyone explained drug resistance to them? Continue Reading Want AIDS? How about dwarfism?…

Hello world! And thoughts of a non-parent

November 29, 2006 at 2:14 am | Posted in nytimes, social | Leave a comment

Well it seems that my addiction to the NYTimes has outpaced my literary inclinations. To kick off the new habit, I’ll point your way to an interesting article in the Sunday New York Times magazine that contained some analysis on class differences in how parents raise their children. Anthropologist Annette Lareau explains the parenting strategy of “concerted cultivation,” which in her study was observed primarily in middle-class families where parents

engaged their children in conversations as equals, treating them like apprentice adults and encouraging them to ask questions, challenge assumptions and negotiate rules. They planned and scheduled countless activities to enhance their children’s development — piano lessons, soccer games, trips to the museum.

On the other hand, poor and working-class parents tend to a strategy that Lareau calls “natural growth”. Her study concluded that these parents

raised their children the way most parents, even middle-class parents, did a generation or two ago. They allowed their children much more freedom to fill in their afternoons and weekends as they chose — playing outside with cousins, inventing games, riding bikes with friends — but much less freedom to talk back, question authority or haggle over rules and consequences. Children were instructed to defer to adults and treat them with respect.

Lareau’s argument then draws a fairly predictable conclusion — that these differences in child-rearing perpetuate existing inequalities of class and wealth, by fostering very specific attitudes in these children as they mature. Middle-class children who are the product of concerted cultivation “become used to adults taking their concerns seriously, and so they grow up with a sense of entitlement, which gives them a confidence, in the classroom and elsewhere, that less-wealthy children lack.” Consequently, “In public life, the qualities that middle-class children develop are consistently valued over the ones that poor and working-class children develop.”

I’d like to take a look at that research, because as intuitive as Lareau’s theory of parenting seems, her argument strikes me as a little bit culture-centric. Continue Reading Hello world! And thoughts of a non-parent…

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