posted May 29, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for The Conventional View of Communications. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

The first question that needs to be answered is, "Is there any need to re-analyze the ethical situation? Can our current legal/ethical framework handle the challenges posed by modern communication technology?"

In this chapter, I'm going to cruise through history and extract an overview of the development of the concepts that the legal system has developed to handle various issues as they arose. We will re-examine the history of content distribution and the history of copyright principles, and draw some connections between them, both traditional and novel. We will examine how we lost track of the ethics of copyright and got stuck in the trap of believing that ad-hoc, expedient solutions were instead immutable wisdom of the ages. In the end it should be clear that the introduction of the Internet and associated technologies constitute a qualitative change in communication technology that will require extensive further refinements

This is a high-level summary, not an enumeration of the thousands of details added over the years. The intention is to lay the groundwork for a demonstration of the deep flaws in the current system. Because the conventional view freely mixes laws and ethics, this chapter will not go to great lengths to separate them either.

I'm going to assume that the readers of this essay are already familiar with both the justifications for intellectual property and free speech, and the basic historical reasons for the creation of each of those, and do not need Yet Another (Probably Oversimplified Anyhow) Explanation of why Gutenberg's printing press more-or-less caused the creation of the concept of copyright. (Again, this is already long enough without rewriting that yet again.) Therefore, since you know the basics of the conventional view of copyright, we can focus on synthesizing a new and better understanding of communication issues, rather then re-iterating conventional understandings.


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