John Perry Barlow 2.0: The Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace reinvents his body — and his politics. [via Lessig Blog]
Reason: How would you assess the accomplishments of EFF so far?
Barlow: Every existing power relation is up for renewal with cyberspace, and it was only natural there would be an awful lot of fracas where cyberspace met the physical world. EFF has been the primary mediator on that border. We have been very successful at protecting against excessive government encroachment into the virtual world.
Copyright and intellectual property are the most important issues now. If you don’t have something that assures fair use, then you don’t have a free society. If all ideas have to be bought, then you have an intellectually regressive system that will assure you have a highly knowledgeable elite and an ignorant mass.
Reason: Is it your goal to annihilate intellectual property?
Barlow: Let me differentiate my own view from ex cathedra EFF. I personally think intellectual property is an oxymoron. Physical objects have a completely different natural economy than intellectual goods. It’s a tricky thing to try to own something that remains in your possession even after you give it to many others.
Reason: You’ve said it’s better to think of intellectual work as a service you are paid for rather than an object of which you retain ownership.
Barlow: The way most people get paid for work done with their minds is on that basis. Lawyers, doctors, and architects don’t work for royalties, and they’re doing fine. Royalties are not how most writers or musicians make their living. Musicians by and large make a living with a relationship with an audience that is economically harnessed through performance and ticket sales.
Trying to own intellectual products and creating an economy of scarcity around them as we do with physical objects is very harmful to the development of culture and the ability to speak freely, and a very important principle not talked about much, which is the right to know. I think we have a right to know. It shouldn’t be something we have to purchase.
That’s me. EFF takes a somewhat more moderate view, but they are very concerned about fair use, and they don’t believe present copyright laws, especially as defined by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, are in the service of fair use at all. It was a very dumb piece of legislation, and if we could get rid of it, the world would be a better place.