posted Aug 18, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for An Attack?. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

One seemingly clever attack on this model that is to write a program that can output every possible web page in theory, then claim that you have rights to all web pages in the world because your program could theoretically generate them. I know someone will email me this if I don't address it here. This is wrong in at least three ways:

  1. Only messages received by a human matter under this formulation. If a human never sees it, then the theoretical capability of a process to generate the message is irrelevant. Remember, only humans matter! So, you're welcome to make this claim if you're willing to sit in front of your computer for billions of years waiting for something interesting to turn up.
  2. Even under current copyright law, if two people come up with the same expression fully independently, they both have rights to the expression. Similarly, if everybody creates their human-received messages or concrete parts fully independently of this program, which they did, it still gives the 'random web page' program writer no claim to anybody else's work, present or future.
  3. No judge in the land would ever imagine that one person could claim all such works like that in one fell swoop. That's the great thing about having humans as a critical part of the law.


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