[LINK] "Identity Theft" [was: Copyright Infringement as Stealing: Pfft!]

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Tue Oct 28 14:57:40 EST 2008

Stephen Wilson wrote:
> On the face of it, the significant level of adverse reaction amongst 
> poets to -- shall we say as blandly as possible -- the misuse of their 
> names and associated works, indicates a strong sense of proprietorship.
...and so it should be. The author of the work is the author of the work.
> To those who deny or decry the existence of intellectual property: How 
> do you interpret these responses?  
I interpret these responses as perfectly appropriate. I haven't ever
said, for example, "repeal the copyright act". I have said, as have
others, that (a) the expression "intellectual property" wraps up a host
of different legislated rights under a single and misleading heading;
(b) that the expression "intellectual property" was coined to further
the notion of theft (as of property) rather than infringement (as of
rights); and (c) that the continual expansion of copyright is a bad
thing for various reasons.
> And what if any remedy would you 
> suggest when the relationship between an artist and their works is 
> misrepresented or bastardised?
Too easy. The usual remedies, which as Brendan pointed out exist under
the "moral rights" of an author. Saying "this is a right, not an object
of property" does not negate the right; it's the *nature* of that right
that I argue about.

> Cheers,
> Steve Wilson.
> Anne Hugo wrote:
>> Here I have an example of a kind of randomised "impersonation" that involved
>> me recently:
>> Three guys set up a blog called Forgodot  and then in a posting called
>> "Coming soon to Forgodot" said they would soon be publishing new poems from
>> .... (they listed 3,500 poets or so, some obscure like me, others included
>> long-dead writers like Chaucer etc.) They said the new poems would be
>> published online as Issue 1, in a PDF ...
>> Poets who like me, have google alerts set up to notice when anyone mentions
>> them online, found out about it quite fast and soon began commenting on the
>> Forgodot blog things like, " But but I didn't send you a poem ....?"
>> Others got it and said "Ah how clever you are etc. etc"  (i.e. "How clever I
>> am for understanding the Waiting for Godot reference ...." etc) but lots
>> felt really threatened.
>> Then the PDF was published, and there were the poems, assigned to poets'
>> names.
>> More comments:
>> Poets started saying "That's my name but not my poem" quite politely, and
>> others not politely at all began ranting, and so on and so on. Some
>> threatened legal action and wrote to the bloggers' mothers etc etc. A
>> high-profile US poet blogger Ron Silliman got very rattled.
>> Blogs picked up the story everywhere ...
>> e.g.
>> http://poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2008/10/3785_page_pirated_poetry_antho.html
>> Besides the whole heap of poets (the ones who were still alive that is) who
>> got very angry, there were also poets saying Oh, how I wish I had been
>> included ...
>> All this time the bloggers remained silent.
>> Some poets put up an idea for a class action against what turned out to be
>> three college students and a poem generating machine, because yes eventually
>> the Forgodot bloggers explained themselves
>> (See Polite clarification,
>> http://www.forgodot.com/2008/10/issue-1-polite-clarification.html
>> They were involved in a project to teach a machine, Erika, to write poetry,
>> using whatever the Erica T
>> Carter<http://etc.wharton.upenn.edu:8080/Etc3beta/Erika.jsp>algorithm
>> is ... (And they are now asking for poets to send them chapbooks
>> so they could feed the words into the machine because they needed lots and
>> lots of stuff for it ...) Well that's the one half of the exercise.
>> They harvested names from a discussion list Poetics, and maybe from Ron
>> Silliman's blog (which for example, has links to my blog, North of the Latte
>> Line).
>> Anyhow, the part that interests me is the whole association of a person's
>> "Name" with a "Work" and how we read that relationship on a page ...
>> I was not so much angered by their use of my name as by their long silence,
>> which I found it a bit disturbing.
>> Here are the links:
>> http://www.*forgodot*.com/ <http://www.forgodot.com/>
>> Another of the explanations:
>> http://poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2008/10/anthology_spoiler.html
>> In case you are wondering, I really do write poetry but by the name of Anne
>> Kellas -- the only thing authentically mine in  Issue One is name -- and
>> just to confuse things, I use two names, one for my writing life and the
>> other for my work life (Hi Tony, yes I am still at the Aus. Clearinghouse
>> for Youth Studies and have just recently signed up again to LINK list, which
>> I am really enjoying a whole lot more than computer-generated poetry...)
>> Cheers
>> Anne
>> 2008/10/28 Stephen Wilson <swilson at lockstep.com.au>
>>> Stilgherrian wrote:
>>>> In the case of what is called "identity theft", I never could
>>>> understand what was wrong with the good old words "impersonation" and
>>>> "impersonation with intent to commit fraud" and "fraud" and so on. You
>>>> know, the actual words which accurately describe the crime being
>>>> committed.
>>> At the risk of being accused of "spin", I'd like to suggest that the
>>> deliberate choice of words "identity theft" serves a useful rhetorical
>>> purpose.  After all, words are powerful (which is an important principle
>>> to remember when people decry "spin" without qualification -- that is,
>>> "spin" is used for good as well as bad).
>>> Using "Identity theft", in contrast to the "fraud", draws attention to
>>> several pertinent points, including:
>>> - in its current forms, impersonation on the Internet is indeed novel,
>>>   for it involves avenues of attack and a scale of attack that are
>>>   unprecedented; so it demands a set of responses that are quite
>>>   different from other anti-fraud measures to date
>>> - we are known on the Internet (as opposed to the real world) according
>>>   to very discrete digital identities that are quite often very easy to
>>>   copy; while I take others' point about the uncertain semantics of
>>>   "steal" vs copy, it is still very interesting and noteworthy that
>>>   digital identities can be co-opted, in ways that the mundane term
>>>   "fraud" doesn't really capture
>>> - there is a compelling argument that in the digital world, we have
>>>   multiple digital personae, and not just one organic identity;
>>>   accordingly, it's useful to draw attention to the fact that these
>>>   personae are vulnerable separately to takeover, or "theft"
>>> - in the particular case of biometrics, where crazy claims are made
>>>   about their 1:1 correspondence to "unique" biological traits and
>>>   their *assumed* resistance to takeover, I feel it is rhetorically
>>>   very useful to employ the term "identity theft" to describe what
>>>   happens when someone copies and replays a template, or spoofs the
>>>   measurement.
>>> Some prefer "identifier theft" (or "identity takeover") to "identity
>>> theft" but I think that's splitting hairs.  I subscribe to the view that
>>> I possess a plurality of digital identities (bank accounts, memberships,
>>> personal mail accounts, employment episodes, avatars etc.) and I
>>> certainly feel that each of them is susceptible to theft.
>>> Speaking of avatars -- don't they push the boundaries of the semantic
>>> argument concerning 'stealing' of identities (or IP for that matter)?
>>> If someone takes over my avatar in Second Life, and I lose control of
>>> it, and it is altered in ways that I don't approve of (as an extreme
>>> example, that avatar kills another) then surely I have "lost" it?  The
>>> same consideration might also apply to "reputation".  At a high level of
>>> abstraction, it seems to me that these intangibles start to behave like
>>> they do have physical properties, and that it is therefore sensible to
>>> talk in terms of 'possession' and 'theft'.  Yes, one can always employ
>>> low level functional language to describe what is 'really' going on when
>>> someone takes over an avatar, but then we run the risk of losing the
>>> richness of the virtual experience.  So it seems to me that we cannot on
>>> the one hand celebrate  virtual reality and other epiphenomena of the
>>> Internet, while on the other hand, complain about bending real world
>>> language like "theft" to describe the richness of the new world.
>>> Cheers,
>>> Steve Wilson.
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