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August 14, 2002

2002 August 14 Links [8:26 am]

(entry last updated: 2002-08-14 18:00:34)

So, we get some truly "Flash"y refutations of Declan’s position from Larry Lessig. And the Yankee Group predicts the future of P2P music sharing. With Dave Winer’s comments.

But something that really caught my eye was this article from today’s Boston Globe: Princeton says curiosity led to Yale files by Patrick Healy. This discussion of the penalties that Princeton plans to impose includes this extraordinary assertion:

In accessing the files of eight students who had applied to both schools, the officials yielded to human error, compounded by the temptations of the Internet, said Princeton’s president, Shirley M. Tilghman, as she described the results of the investigation at a news conference yesterday. (emphasis added)

"[T]emptations of the Internet?" What the heck is that supposed to mean?

Now, I am willing to admit that I may be getting a little paranoid here, but the continuing discussion of the power of rhetoric in the copyright debate has made me sensitive to some of the nuances in the general discussion of the Internet. As a result, this phrase jumped out, particularly in conjunction with the closing paragraph of this piece:

”One of the lessons of this experience is that even individuals with a high degree of sensitivity to ethical principles in traditional settings can fail to be equally sensitive when technology is involved, as when someone who would never open a sealed envelope addressed to another person enters a secured Web site,” Tilghman said.

"The technology made me do it" is going to be this person’s defense, supported by the institution that employs him? The idea that this updating of the "twinkie" defense is going to be employed is scary, in that it plays into what looks to be another dimension of the MPAA/RIAA rhetoric: the Internet is inherently lawless and unethical, so of course we are justified in taking whatever measures are necessary to clean the place up. And Declan’s position that one should just code more and more subversive stuff plays right into this perception.

Memes are scary things - once they take hold, there’s not much that can be done to displace them, except to start another, more compelling one. And, in America today, the "freedom" meme is not terribly robust.

(Note: Slate has a followup on the overall issue that makes a vitally important point that has not made the press, although it’s been a part of lunchtime discussion here at my lab.
Update: So does InfoWorld)

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