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Ayn Rand Institute denounces Eldred, Lessig as Marxists

[I read the prohibition on sending this to the media as the Ayn Rand 
Institute wish to control the republication as an op-ed piece in 
newspapers, a not-unprecedented request. Background: 
http://www.politechbot.com/cgi-bin/politech.cgi?name=eldred --Declan]


Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2002 21:49:59 -0400
Subject: Fwd: Ayn Rand Institute on copyright
From: Scott Johnson <viruspublishing@mindspring.com>
To: declan@well.com

I've been an avid "Politechnical" for a while and thought you might
find this "interesting" ...Lawrence Lessig is a Marxist!
of note especially is the prohibition of sending this to the media!? I
think it's notable that the "Randists" (and Rand herself to a certain
extent) have been known to use of copyright law to quell criticism in a
manner similar to the Scientologists.

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Ayn Rand Institute Media" <davidh@aynrand.org>
Date: Mon Oct 7, 2002  8:10:04 PM US/Eastern
To: <Op-ed.list@heroic.aynrand.org>
Reply-To: davidh@heroic.aynrand.org (David Holcberg)

Op-Ed from the Ayn Rand Institute


Those who are spearheading the current legal challenge to the copyright
law favor intellectual cannibalism masquerading as creativity and free

By Amy Peikoff, J.D.

         In 1998 Congress, pursuant to its Constitutional power to
determine the duration of federal copyright protection, passed a law
extending the term of that protection by 20 years. This law brought
United States copyright protection in line with that already afforded
Europe. In addition, as the average life expectancy in the United
now exceeds 70 years, the law brings copyright protection in line with
the legal vehicle for the posthumous control of tangible property--the
law of testamentary trusts, which bases the term of such control on a
human lifespan.

         Despite the reasonableness of this law, Stanford professor
Lawrence Lessig is spearheading a legal challenge to it, culminating in
his argument before the Supreme Court this Wednesday. Lessig, who seems
to have become, in the words of New York Times writer Amy Harmon, "a
rock star for the digital liberties set," is expected to argue that the
law is "overly restrictive of the free-speech rights of would-be users
of copyrighted material that previously would have been in the public

         In recent decades we have already seen the "right to free
speech" extended to mean the "right" to be provided with a free
for one's speech. Anyone who dares to be successful enough to own a
property where the public enjoys gathering--e.g., a shopping mall--is
for that reason compelled to allow people to speak on that property.
"Free" speech thus means: free of any need to earn one's own physical
instrumentalities or audience, or even to pay for the right to borrow
someone else's achievements.

         Lessig would have the Supreme Court extend this perversion of
free speech to mean: free of any need to pay for the borrowing of
someone else's greatest achievement: original thought. Or worse: free
any need sufficiently to digest that original thought so as to be able
to put it into one's own words. Appropriating and parroting the
of others is now, according to Lessig, "free speech."

         Lessig and his allies try to downplay what they are doing by
making it an issue of finances. They say things like, "the copyright
used to restrict only big business, which is fine--but now it restricts
anyone who has access to the Internet." "Only 2 percent of works
protected by copyright," they go on, "create a regular stream of income
for their creators." Translation: only a small minority of "non-little"
people will be hurt by repealing this law, so why not do it? This
on money, success and big business--no doubt another symptom of the
"Enron" era--is shameful and Marxist. How is the Court, as Lessig
demands, to "balance the interests" of original thinkers against those
for whom "creativity" consists of cannibalizing--and even
vandalizing--the products of others' thought?

         The government is expected to argue--properly--that the Supreme
Court cannot arbitrarily impose a definition of "limited times." In
other words, the power to set an appropriate time period for copyright
protection lies with Congress. Congress has clearly been reasonable in
its exercise of that power.

         The other main argument offered by supporters of the 1998 law
that, in the long run, the law will promote creative work, and thus the
national welfare, by offering higher profits to those who invest in it.
This argument--based on the "public good" standard--is intellectually
bankrupt and doomed to failure. Opponents simply counter that more
creativity will be fostered by allowing people to obtain and build upon
existing works. Many "conservatives," such as Milton Friedman, use the
same "public good" standard to argue that the incremental economic
payoff provided by the 1998 law is not significant enough to encourage

         Anyone who raises the standard of the "public good" in this
context had better be ready to have his rights in any field adjudicated
according to the latest iteration of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarian
calculus. In practice, this means according to the premises,
preferences, and whims of the judge sitting before him.

         An artist or intellectual is often not only or even primarily
concerned to reap the monetary benefits of his works; in addition, he
wants to be sure that the integrity of the work is protected against
mutilation as long as possible. This is especially true if the work
conveys an important artistic or philosophic message. If those in the
"digital liberties set" plan to have a field day with others' works of
creative genius--bastardizing them into whatever fragments they find
appealing, adding any distorting content they choose, then blasting the
results all over the internet--what is the point of trying to convey to
the world one's own vital viewpoint? What is the reward offered for
trying painstakingly to create one's vision of truth or of the ideal
universe, and to invite readers to share in it, if our nation's highest
court gives Lessig's gang a formal sanction to practice intellectual
vandalism on the finished product?

_______________________________________________________________________ _
Amy Peikoff, J.D., is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in
Irvine, CA. The Ayn Rand Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand,
author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Send responses to:

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