Friday, November 25, 2005

Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another

Got a bunch of hits the other day from Technorati searches on Penn Jillette's essay on atheism. (Note to the overeducated: is atheopistis - faith that there is no god - a word?)

It's no surprise to me that a lot of the posts were basically "I heard this and it was good" (or "I heard this and it was bad"). What surprised me a little was the number of posts which were just a wholesale reprint of his essay, with virtually no context. Needless to say, Mister Library Man has deep thoughts about that.

One of the few library acronyms I like is LOCKSS: Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. If NPR has the only published copy on the web, it's too easy for them to just take it down. (It doesn't really matter whether it's political purpose, general housecleaning, or accident, if the only copy gets lost.) This widespread copying works kind of like the hand-copied libraries of old: the more copies there are, the more safe the content is. Of course, this also introduces a lot of editorial and provenance problems (c.f. the sunscreen speech).

On the other hand, all that copying may trample Jillette's copyright (or NPR's, depending on their contract). By taking the whole of a creative work, it definitely fails 2 components of the four factor fair use test. Of course, you can argue about the nature of the copying work, and what effect, if any, it has on a potential commercial market, and those are currently the big legal questions.

More important to Mister Library Man is the lack of context. The essay even points it out: Jillette says that "this 'This I Believe' thing seems to demand... some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture." In a hypertext world, I think it's irresponsible not to point out that you should explore the This I Believe archives to see why Jillette wrote what he did. Not that it's necessarily bad to copy only the article you want - just that it's bad bloggery to do it without context.


I also get a little stream of people looking for Rick Bayless' chicken recipe. (And my link to Frontera Kitchens probably doesn't satisfy those folks, since it only points you toward the cookbook.)

Recipes, as it happens, can't be copyrighted. Legally, a recipe is considered a process; if you want to protect it, you have to patent it. The part where the cook describes the process might be creative enough to be copyrighted, but you can strip that down to just the facts.

So I'd be in the legal clear to reproduce the recipe here. Why don't I? I can only say that it doesn't feel right. From his TV personality, I thought Bayless was an annoying Gringo poseur - one of those people who uses an exaggerated accent to show how smart he is. Then I got into Frontera Grill for lunch this summer, and had one of the top 5 meals of my life. You know what? He can talk however the hell he likes if he keeps cooking like that. And you should watch his show and buy his cookbook. What a difference a meal makes.

On the other hand, my Bayless-inspired turkey brine 0.5 is my own derivative work, so I have no problem giving you that. Feel free to reverse engineer from it. (And if you get the seasoning right for an 8-12 hour brine, please let me know!) Or if you really want a copy of the original, email me and I'll send it to you. (I'm talking to everyone, but I'm looking at Spoon.)

What's it all mean? I guess it's that I don't see a lot of respect in the intellectual property debate anymore. On my side, there's this undercurrent that the RIAA, MPAA, and AAUP are out of step and out of line, and on the other side, Sony exemplifies the belief that the customer is the enemy. (Remember: nothing under the Christmas tree this year should have a Sony logo on it.)

Well, OK, Sony actually is evil. But if the rest of us started showing some respect, for each other and the creative process, maybe something good would happen.


Blogger tommyspoon said...


You lookin' at me?

You lookin' at me?

Actually, I really love the flavor of turkey itself too much to mess with it. The last time I brined I used Alton Brown's recipe and it seems to work pretty well. Maybe next year I'll add some more pepper to the mix.

12:27 PM, December 06, 2005  

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