23 November 2013

The Juxtaposition of Jewish Ethics and IP

Copryight, patent, and Pirkei Avot? Really?

Yes, really.

Harold Feld, public interest telco lawyer, and apparently a decent Talmudic scholar writes a well documented explanation of why our current IP regime is actually immoral under Jewish norms.

A sample:
As I shall explain, many people think that the debate around intellectual property and public policy involves a conflict between the first type – hasheli sheli v’shelcha shelcha (what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours) – and the second type “sheli shelch v’shelcha sheli” (what’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine). The media (which come down firmly on the side of their owners for expanding copyright) frame the debate as the well-meaning but foolish ‘Information wants to be free’ v. the more intuitively appealing respect for ‘intellectual property.’ Unworldly academics and idealistic young hackers, we are constantly told, simply don’t understand that without a way to control and make money from things like copyright, patent and trademark we would have no publishing industry, no movie industry, no medicines and technology and other inventions.

In reality, however, the modern debate over intellectual property policy in the last 30 years actually takes place solely in the context of the first sentence of the Mishna. The question is not whether we should have copyright or patent or trademark in an abstract sense. In light of our constant creation of new rights of enforcement and burdens placed on others for non-infringing uses, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its “anti-circumvention provision,” and our efforts to force these ever expanding policies on other countries through trade agreements negotiated in secret, such as the recently reported Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the question is whether we have departed from ethical laws and increasingly come to resemble the injustice and cruelty of Sodom.
As an FYI to the gentiles reading this, the idea that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for sexual improprieties is not a part of normative Jewish theology.

Rather, it was destroyed because of the greed of the people and the way that they treated foreigners.

Read the whole thing.

To the Jews among my readers, this would be an excellent d'var for Vayera.


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