Give a man a fish, make it illegal to teach fishing.

A few media outlets are reporting on Irish rocker Bono's latest rantings. (See: CBC, New York Times, SlashDot). My SlashDot comment summarises my thinking on his views.

"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime."

You forgot the real issue here, which is that Bono, Gates and similar pseudo-philanthropists are actively involved with making a variety of "teaching" (sharing of knowledge) expensive and/or illegal. This is the core of what Bono is ranting about this time, suggesting the world's governments should go as far as the human rights violations in China to (theoretically -- no proof of "benefit") grant him more money.

There are those who think that making knowledge scarce, including criminalising private citizens owning and controlling their own communications technology, is the only way to make it possible to pay authors/inventors for their important contributions to society. This ignores all the experience and research to the contrary. Whether you believe this or not, you must admit that deliberately making knowledge scarce and thus more expensive greatly harms the interests of the worlds poor.

Sharing: the way to Make Poverty History.

The repercussions of deliberately making knowledge scarce will be an underlying issue that will show up in many global conflicts in the next decade, whether talking about poverty, western economic recovery or global climate change.

(Update: This article was linked to by Mike Masnick of Techdirt)

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Unfortunately the business mantra seems to be "Allow a man to learn how to fish, and you can no longer sell him a fish a day."

Paying for files is not death

I am stupider for reading Russell's post.

Illegally downloading music is not learning. Likewise, sharing music files via a Torrent is not teaching.

The bottom line is that teaching is one thing, sharing digitally composed artforms such as music is another thing.

You can say that free sharing of copyrighted materials will reduce global poverty. Saying it does not make it true.

In fact, the true root of poverty is money not changing hands from the rich to the poor. Until there is money in the slums, there is poverty in the slums. Free information can only help to end poverty if it brings money to those with insufficient funds.

Fill libraries with music and books, don't insinuate that poor people should buy a computer and pay for bandwidth to share torrents. There is a great deal of research that shows that libraries and access to books is vital for education. But there is also more research that shows that lack of nutrition really prevents the poorest 25% from achieving well in school. The bottom line is that half of the deaths around the world every day arise from malnutrition; nobody dies from a lack of free music.

Let's work on ending poverty, and stop conflating file sharing with things that really matter.

Not paying for files is not death

I agree that people should stop conflating file sharing with things that really matter, which is why I was critical of Bono's extremist proposals to allegedly solve a minimalist problem. My message said nothing about free music, or made any references to music at all.

If one looks at the article from Bono, you will see the following:

"But we know from America’s noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China’s ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it’s perfectly possible to track content."

What he is suggesting is that our global communications infrastructure should be designed more like what is imagined in China, in order to protect the interests of the entertainment industry. It is Bono, not me, that is trying to suggest that copyright infringement of music is comparable to child pornography.

While he may be trying to distract people into thinking this has something to do with reducing infringing sharing of the products of the entertainment industry, the costs of such a scheme vastly entirely outweigh the theoretical benefits : even if we ignored everyone else on the planet other than musicians.

But we can't ignore everyone who is not a musician, and this is part of the theme in: Google, China, Hillary Clinton and the filtered Internet

I think it is hard for anyone to argue with a straight face that having this type of monitored and filtered communications infrastructure wouldn't have serious implications not only for educational rights, but nearly every right articulated by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The fact is that these proposals to radically change our communications infrastructure in order to re-intermediate them will not help creators, and for the vast majority of them will make or keep them poor.

But lets pretend for the moment that the intent is to reduce infringing filesharing. If any form of infringing filesharing is financially harmful (and the studies are mixed on this), it is the form that is public. In this case no changes in our infrastructure is necessary (no inspection or filtering by intermediaries) as the same way the public gains access to the infringing material becomes the way that investigators would find the infringing material.

The reality is that we aren't talking about a serious problem that requires a serious solution, but an attempt to externalise the costs of enforcement of a private benefit onto the general public. Copyright holders don't want to be responsible for finding and enforcing their own rights through traditional models of copyright. While there are many business model options which radically reduce enforcement costs, they don't want to exist in a free market and and pay the full costs of their business model choices. This is both for financial reasons (enforcing copyright isn't free) and public relations (fans won't like the heavy-handedness, and enforcement may loose them more money than the infringement would), so they are trying to pass the buck onto someone else.

So please, don't get distracted by thinking this has anything to do with free music or music at all. Not only has nobody died from the lack of free music, nobody has or will ever die from music being unlawfully free.

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.