27 June 2005

Information everywhere wants to be free but is in chains

A couple of Supreme Court cases dealing with very different aspects of
the freedom of information and ideas have come down, and they are blows
for those who want free inquiry and the growth of understanding to

First, the court refused to hear the appeal of the reporters in the
Valerie Plame case.  So, for doing their jobs, these two people
will go to jail.  What’s infuriating here is that the law, in its
majesty, has been applied and used unevenly.  The reporters from
the New York Times and Time Magazine may go to jail.  But the
leaker and the syndicated right-wing columnist Bob Novak (who
originally leaked the material on Valerie Plame) haven’t been pressured
at all.  The leaker can’t be punished because we don’t know who it
is.  But Bob Novak is quite obviously a good shill for the
administration, whereas real reporters aren’t easily controlled.

The Court also ruled that the software companies who create file
sharing programs can be held liable if their software is used to do
illegal things.  This seems rather odd.  If the principle
were applied evenly, then we’d hold auto companies liable when drivers
speed, computer companies responsible when users hack into private
sites and data, or phone companies liable when people conduct illegal
business over the phone.  And, lacking evidence that does not come
from a record company or some other “interested party” about how file
sharing networks are actually used, I won’t buy the argument that the
only or primary use of such software is for illegal purposes.

But hey, free, open, and honest inquiry and learning is hardly valued in our society.  Not when there is money to be made.

Posted in Politicks on 27 June 2005 at 1:01 pm by Nate