Issue 2 - Spring 1995
The New Information Proletariat and its Platform (page 1 of 2)

A Class Study Project by Devry University Students

The following four short articles were written by students at the DeVry Institute of Technology in Chicago as part of a classroom exercise. The class was given the assignment of breaking up into groups, forming political parties, and developing a platform that spoke to current issues and pointed to solutions. One group--Anthony Graff, Robert Gehr, Noel Galang and Robert Thomas--decided to call themselves the NIP Party for the New Information Proletariat. They addressed the issues of education, temporary work, privacy and intellectual property rights.

Cy.Rev felt the papers merited publication as a fascinating example of how young people see the political and economic implications of information technology and how their consciousness is taking shape. If the NIP advocates are at all representative of an emerging trend, the future holds exciting possibilities for us all.

The New Information Proletariat's Stand on Intellectual Property Rights
Empowering the Digital Laborer

By Noel Galang
DeVry NIP Project

Imagine yourself giving a friend one of your favorite books, so that you can share your enjoyment and satisfaction with them. Now imagine yourself incarcerated for the infringement of a copyright law because of your generosity. When books become software, this is what can happen, even if this example is exaggerated. Under existing laws, software copyright infringements are considered serious instances of piracy and theft.

Who owns intellectual property, such as the flow of logic behind a computer program? How long can someone own an idea? What if someone else comes up with the same idea independently? These questions are an unprecedented outcome of the information age. In the area of property rights, they lead to two more critical questions: First, should something as abstract as logic be patented? Second, do patents of this nature hinder the evolution of the information age or violate the rights of workers in this field?

To answer the first question, let s assume there were no copyright laws. You and all your friends would have the same software. All you would have to do is gather your money together purchase one copy of the program and some disks. Of course some of you may not have the instruction manuals, but that's nothing a Xerox can't handle. From a business or reseller's standpoint, there would be no need to obtain a 20-user license agreement or purchase 20 copies to sell; one copy of the product would suffice.

Without the regulation of ownership, then, the opportunity for business to exploit the labor of the programmer increases. Without the right to protect intellectual effort, a programmer may become disempowered and poor. In addition, the absence of copyright laws may possibly affect the quality of future programs. In order to sustain an income, the programmer could deliberately downgrade the code, since more money can be made on maintenance and upgrades. So to protect the rights and well-being of the software laborer, as well as the quality of software, it is necessary to support the existence of copyright protection.

But can the existence of software copyrights ultimately lead down a similar path of unfairness? The patent laws were written to protect the hardworking entrepreneur; but these laws can also inhibit growth in the market and restrict the rights of consumers. First, copyrights prohibit growth by fostering an environment that suppresses standards and eliminates communication, which is crucial for evolution within this field.

For example, the company Compton s New Media was granted a patent, which allows them the control over most of the industry s popular methods of retrieving data from a multimedia database. Compton s has stated they will be expecting to receive royalties from multimedia hardware and software companies. These companies argue that the retrieval process used by Compton s is an industry standard. Compton s copyright does not allow others to grow without paying a royalty. This hoarding of information thus hinders the creation of standards, which is crucial for software development and should be accessible at no cost. The process of determining patents neglects any prior development work done by others; in fact, these prior ideas may become the next standard of development in the industry.

The NIP party moves to restructure the copyright system so that the inventor/worker is protected and ensures an environment where communication is facilitated without the fear of knowledge monopolies. First, the awarding of copyrights should be heavily scrutinized. The Patent and Trademark Commission should not only conduct the evaluation; it should also include individuals aware of developing standards in the information business, such as members of ANSI. Their job is to screen out any invalid or unfair patents. Unfair patents would be those that are not obviously new and innovative ideas, ideas that are currently widely in practice, and those ideas on their way to becoming standards. Second, the time of the patent should be shortened to prevent copyright abuse and info hoarding.

As time moves on and an intangible idea travels from mind to mind, its "belonging" to a solo entity becomes intangible itself. Once it's widely spread around, knowledge cannot be bottled back up and taken away. Ideas can also change and evolve into something completely different. Making all those who benefit from an idea pay a royalty after an undue period of time is unfair. Thus shorter patents are generally better. A patent with a one-year time constraint will put pressure on the owner to sell quickly before the patent expires and thereby circulate the idea. Finally, at the end of the copyright's term, the board should again decide if the idea is still innovative, has become standard, or is on its way to becoming common practice.

In conclusion, until we can get beyond scarcity and live in a world where money and ownership are not needed to spur growth and innovation in our society, the copyright system is needed. But it needs to be redesigned to take into account the current realities of the knowledge revolution.

The Clipper Chip and Privacy: Keeping the Fox Out the Chicken Coop
By Rob Gehr
Devry NIP Project

Companies and individuals alike are using computers and networks to conduct not only their day-to-day affairs, but also to manage their business dealings with other establishments. Considering the sensitive nature of many of these dealings, it's no wonder that security and privacy are major issues.

The recent introduction of the "clipper chip" has intensified the debate. The encoded chip provides a government-standard encryption method for the safeguarding of your confidential documents. The government would like everyone to use their encryption method, boasting its cost effectiveness and strength. The only catch is, government and law officers have the right, with authorization, to decrypt your private documents as they see fit.

But are we going to let "Big Brother" interfere where it is neither wanted nor needed? By submitting to the clipper chip, we are welcoming government eyes into our homes and offices. If the clipper chip is widely accepted, what stops the government from simply tapping or hacking into the system of everyone it suspects of some crime or conspiracy and sorting through or monitoring everything in your archives?

The public does not need to have its private matters monitored or protected by the government. The government is once again taking the right of privacy away from the individual and giving it to a government organization.

The solution is simple: let the people be responsible for encrypting their own information. It is our belief that the rights of the individual should be protected, including the right to keep confidential information private. Instead of spending its time and money on privacy infringement, the government should concentrate its efforts on other problems.

By letting the public decide on its own method of encryption, the American people benefit in two ways. First, they keep their information safe from the prying eyes of people who would do them harm. Secondly, the economy benefits. When the public goes out and buys their own encryption devices, they circulate money into the economy and create jobs. It is therefore the policy of the NIP that the rights of the individual stay with the individual unless they are restricted by the due process of the courts. There should be no action on the part of the government to encourage or force any sort of government regulation on the encryption of information. More >>


WELCOME! You are visitor number

Designed by ByteSized Productions © 2003-2006