Tuesday, January 31, 2012

History and Piracy: A History

Benji Edwards writing for Technologizer.
And what about cloud software? If all of our software tools become centralized and run over the Internet, it will be hard to pirate them, which also means they won’t get preserved. That’s bad for history.
When paleoanthropologists wonder if a 13,000 year-old Clovis point can take down a Bison, they tie one to a spear and let it fly. If spear points had been automatically cloud updated over the course of their development, however, we would only know of the most recent iteration in the design process. Clovis points wouldn’t exist today, and we’d be wondering how ancient Native Americans managed to hunt game with uranium-tipped bullets.
I had never thought about software and games, and the like, quite in the way of Beowulf and arrowheads before. Now I have. My brain is a better place for it, too.

Also, in light of a possible, eventual, transformation of the paper book industry to e-books, there's this to think about.
Current U.S. copyright laws have good intentions, but they ultimately jeopardize the survival of digital property because they do not take into account the rapid pace of digital media decay and obsolescence.
Our body of copyright law makes a 19th-century-style legal assumption that the works in question will stay fixed in a medium safely until the works become public domain, when they can then be copied freely. Think of paper books, for example, which can retain data for thousands of years under optimal conditions.
In the case of digital data, many programs will vanish from the face of the earth decades before the requisite protection period expires (the life of the author plus 70 years in the U.S.). Media decay and obsolescence will claim that software long before any libraries can make legal, useful backups.
Consider: Will an e-book of today run on an e-device 100 years from now? If only e-books are published, how will we archive them?


1 comment:

  1. Though I'm many months late, this is something that is crucial in several books I read over the last few years: in Charles Stross' GLASSHOUSE, basically our time is a big black hole in history because of these very problems (plus copyright law giving people the right to let cultural creations rot in film cannisters, etc). And in Vernor Vinge's A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, there's software archaeology, which is both important to the story, and a cool concept.