This was originally posted to Slashdot on May 25 2002:
It was in relation to an article: "MPAA to Senate: Plug the Analog Hole!"
about the MPAA wanting copyright protection built into all computer hardware. I sent a copy to Richard Stallman back then and he said it made him laugh. :-) My comments to the Department of Justice request for comments were in the form of this satire:
Transcript of April 1, 2016 MicroSlaw Presidential Speech (Before final editing prior to release under standard U.S. Government for-fee licensing under 2011 Fee Requirements Law)
My fellow Americans. There has been some recent talk of free law by the General Public Lawyers (the GPL) who we all know hold un-American views. I speak to you today from the Oval Office in the White House to assure you how much better off you are now that all law is proprietary. The value of proprietary law should be obvious. Software is essentially just a form of law governing how computers operate, and all software and media content has long been privatized to great economic success. Economic analysts have proven conclusively that if we hadn't passed laws banning all free software like GNU/Linux and OpenOffice after our economy began its current recession, which started, how many times must I remind everyone, only coincidentally with the shutdown of Napster, that we would be in far worse shape then we are today. RIAA has confidently assured me that if independent artists were allowed to release works without using their compensation system and royalty rates, music CD sales would be even lower than their recent inexplicably low levels. The MPAA has also detailed how historically the movie industry was nearly destroyed in the 1980s by the VCR until that too was banned and all so called fair use exemptions eliminated. So clearly, these successes with software, content, and hardware indicate the value of a similar approach to law.
There are many reasons for the value of proprietary law. You all know them since you have been taught them in school since kindergarten as part of your standardized education. They are reflected in our most fundamental beliefs, such as sharing denies the delight of payment and cookies can only be brought into the classroom if you bring enough to sell to everyone. But you are always free to eat them all yourself of course! [audience chuckles knowingly]. But I think it important to repeat such fundamental truths now as they form the core of all we hold dear in this great land.
First off, we all know our current set of laws requires a micropayment each time a U.S. law is discussed, referenced, or applied by any person anywhere in the world. This financial incentive has produced a large amount of new law over the last decade. This body of law is all based on a core legal code owned by that fine example of American corporate capitalism at its best, the MicroSlaw Corporation.
MicroSlaw's core code defines a legal operating standard or OS we can all rely on. While I know some GPL supporters may be painting a rosy view of free law to the general public, it is obvious that any so called free alternative to MicroSlaw's legal code fails at the start because it would require great costs for learning about new so-called free laws, plus additional costs to switch all legal forms and court procedures to the new so called free standard. So free laws are really more expensive, especially as we are talking here about free as in cost, not free as in freedom.
In any case, why would you want to pay public servants like those old time -- what were they called? -- Senators? Representatives? -- around $145K a year out of public funds just to make free laws? Laws are made far more efficiently, inexpensively and, I assure you, justly, by large corporations like MicroSlaw. Such organizations need the motivation of micropayments for application, discussion or reference of their laws to stay competitive. MicroSlaw needs to know who discusses what law and when they do so, each and every time, so they can charge fairly for their services and thus retain their financial freedom to innovate. And America is all about financial freedom, right! [Audience applause].
And why should your hard earned tax dollars go to pay public citizens to sit on juries and render open justice when things could be done so much more quickly and cheaply by commercial organizations working behind closed doors? Why, with free law each and every one of you might have to take time out of your busy schedules to sit in a court room and decide the guilt or innocence of a peer!
And why pay a judge's salary out of taxes, such has been proposed? Judges clearly should be compensated on a royalty basis by anyone referencing decisions a judge produces. This encourages judges to swiftly produce more decisions as well as decisions that big legal corporations like MicroSlaw want to cite more often, which is good for the economy.
Top law schools would have to shut their doors if most law was not proprietary, as who would pay $100,000 up front to join a profession where initiates release their work mainly into the public domain? Obviously there would no longer be any legal innovation without private laws requiring royalties when discussed, since who would spend their time writing new laws when there is no direct financial return on their investment?
And of course, lawyers will not be paid well without earning royalties on private laws, since if they can't sell all royalty rights to their legal work directly to large corporations, how will they make a decent living? Why, even if public money is spent on developing laws, say, at universities, it is clear such laws will not be respected, further developed, or widely distributed unless somebody owns those laws too and so can make money from selling access to them. It's beyond me why people sometimes act like there could be a spirit of volunteerism in this great land of ours after all the effort we have put into stamping that out, such as by making it illegal to help someone for free. Also, since the Internet had to be shut down early in this administration to prevent children from viewing pornography without paying, distribution of new information will always be expensive.
Each lawyer out there should remember to uphold the current proprietary legal system, because you too may win the law lottery and become as rich and famous as the founder of MicroSlaw -- but only if you start with a trust fund! [Indulgent audience laughter]
I know some lawyers out there are concerned about being replaced by the lawyers most major law corporations are now importing from India and China. Let me assure you, this does not threaten your livelihood, because there is currently a lawyer shortage restricting our economic growth, and those Indian and Chinese lawyers have extensive resumes indicating years of experience developing U.S. laws. For you business people out there, it is also my understanding those imported lawyers make model workers because they can't easily change jobs. Thus I have supported removing all restrictions on bringing over such imported lawyers, in an effort to stimulate economic growth in this fair land of ours.
[Inaudible shouted question] Citizenship? Naturally we would not want to offer such imported lawyers any form of citizenship when they come over because they are not Americans -- that should be obvious enough. We're hoping they go back to where they came from after we are done with them, since there are always eager workers in another country we can later exploit at lower wages, I mean provide economic enhancement opportunities for. Besides, dammit, have you seen the color of their skin?
[Inaudible shouted question] Ageism? I remind everyone here that, obviously, as has been conclusively shown by studies MicroSlaw itself has so charitably funded, older American lawyers can not be retrained to know about new laws, so I implore all lawyers as patriots to plan to learn a new profession after age thirty-five so you do not become a burden on your beloved country.
[Inaudible shouted question] Prisons? There are only a million Americans behind bars for copyright infringement so far. No one complained about the million plus non-violent drug offenders we've had there for years. No one complained about the million plus terrorists we've got there now, thanks in no small part to a patriotic Supreme Court which after being privatized upheld that anyone who criticizes government policy in public or private is a criminal terrorist. Oops, I shouldn't have said that, as those terrorists aren't technically criminals or subject to the due process of law are they? Well it's true these days you go to prison if you complain about the drug war, or the war on terrorism, or the war on infringers of copyrights and software patents -- so don't complain! [nervous audience laughter] After all, without security, what is the good of American Freedoms? Benjamin Franklin himself said it best, those who don't have security will trade in their freedoms.
I'm proud to say that the U.S. is now the undisputed world leader in per capita imprisonment, another example of how my administration is keeping us on top. Why just the other day I had the U.N. building in New York City locked down when delegates there started talking about prisoner civil rights. Such trash talk should not be permitted on our soil. It should be obvious that anyone found smoking marijuana, copying CDs, or talking about the law without paying should face a death penalty from AIDS contracted through prison rapes -- that extra deterrent make the system function more smoothly and helps keep honest people honest. That's also why I support the initiative to triple the standard law author's royalty which criminals pay for each law they violate, because the longer we keep such criminals behind bars, especially now that bankruptcy is also a crime, the better for all of us. That's also why I support the new initiative to make all crimes related to discussing laws in private have a mandatory life sentence without parole. Mandatory lifetime imprisonment is good for the economy as it will help keep AIDS for spreading out of the prison system and will keep felons like those so called fair users from competing with honest royalty paying Americans for an inexplicably ever shrinking number of jobs.
Building more prisons... [Aside to aid who just walked up and whispered in the president's ear: What's that? She's been arrested for what again? Well get her off again, dammit. I don't care how it looks; MicroSlaw owes me big time.]
Sorry about that distraction, ladies and gentlemen. Now, as I was saying, building more prisons is good for the economy. It's good for the GNP. It's good for rural areas. Everyone who matters wins when we increase the prison population. People who share are thieves plain and simple, just like people who take a bathroom break without pausing their television feed and thus miss some commercials are thieves. Such people break the fundamental social compact between advertisers and consumers which all young children are made to sign. And let me take this opportunity to underscore my administration's strong record on being tough on crime. MicroSlaw's system for efficient production of digitized legal evidence on demand is a key part of that success. So is the recent initiative of having a camera in every living room to catch and imprison those not paying attention when advertising is on television, say by making love or even talking. Why without such initiatives, economic analysts at MicroSlaw assure me that the GNP would have decreased much more than it has already. Always remember that ditty you learned in kindergarten, Only criminals want privacy, because a need for privacy means you have something evil to hide.
[Inaudible shouted question] Monopolies? Look, nothing is wrong with being a monopoly. It's our favorite game, isn't it? Sure, we might slap somebody on the wrist now and then [winks] but everyone in America aspires to be a monopolist, so why not just have more of them? Why not let every creative lawyer be their own little monopolist permanently on some small piece of the law. It's the American way; it's the will of the people.
Look, these questions are getting annoying. The next person who asks a question will have their universal digital passport suspended immediately via video face recognition! [Hush from crowd.] Or at least, someone who looks like you will! [General relieved laughter.]
Here is the bottom line. If all law was not proprietary, lawmaking corporations like MicroSlaw wouldn't be able to make as much money as they do the way they are currently doing it. So the economy would further collapse, plunging the U.S. into an even worse recession than the one we are in now, which, as experts have shown, is the legacy of all the illegal software and media copying in the late 1990s. Look, we've already cut all nonessential government programs like Head Start, monitoring water quality, researching alternate energy, and improving public health. Free law would mean a further reduction of tax revenues and we would have to make tough choices about reducing spending on essential things like developing better weapons of mass destruction, imprisoning marijuana users, propping up oppressive regimes, and promoting unfunded mandates like higher school testing standards. I assure you, these priorities will never change as long as I am president, and I will always make sure we have money for such essential government functions, whatever that takes. So I urge you to never support the creation of free law, which might undermine such basic government operations ensuring your security, and further, to turn in anyone found advocating such.
By the way, I am proud to announce government homeland security troops are successfully retaking Vermont even as we speak. Troops will soon be enforcing federal school standards there with all necessary force. Their number one priority will be improving the curriculum to help kids understand why sharing is morally wrong. Too bad we had to nuke Burlington before they would see the light, har, har, [weak audience laughter] but you can see how messed up their education system must have been to force us to have to do that. And have no fear, any state that threatens the American way of life in a similar fashion will be dealt with in a similar way. I give you my word as an American and as your president sworn to uphold your freedom to live the American lifestyle we have all grown accustomed to recently, and MicroSlaw's freedom to define what that lifestyle is to their own profit.
So, in conclusion, a body of legal knowledge free for all to review and discuss would be the death of the American dream. Remember, people who discuss law in private without paying royalties are pirates, not friends. Thus I encourage you all to report to MicroSlaw or your nearest homeland security office anyone talking about laws or sharing legal knowledge in other than an approved fashion and for a fee. Always remember that nursery school rhyme, there is money for you in turning in your friends too.
God Bless! This is a great country! [Wild audience applause.]
Addendum -- March 4, 2132 -- Freeweb article 2239091390298329372384 Archivists have just now recovered the above historic document from an antique hard disk platter (only 10 TB capacity!) recently discovered in the undersea exploration of a coastal city that before global warming had been called Washingtoon, D.C.. It is hard for a modern sentient to imagine what life must have been like in those dark times of the early 21st Century before the transition from a scarcity worldview to a universal material abundance worldview. It is unclear if that document was an actual presidential speech or was intended as satire, since most digital records from that time were lost, and the Burlington crater has historically been attributed to a Cold Fusion experiment gone wrong. In any case, this document gives an idea of what humans of that age had to endure until liberty prevailed.
Copyright 2002 Paul D. Fernhout Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
Copyright 2002-2008 Paul D. Fernhout
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