Why it is more inconsiderate than immoral to mirror some texts without permission or notification.
The argument ∞
Within the vast uncharted wasteland that is the internet are disconnected pockets of life. There are massive text archives and individual rants. There are well-knit communities forming supporting forums allowing free access for the public to edit texts.
These places exist indeed, but individually they will not exist in perpetuity. A concept called "link rot" describes the eventual and expected virtual loss of these sites. This loss may be real in the sense of misplacing, or this loss may be more permanent in the sense of death when a text or it's support base are removed from the world. Furthermore, sites can have unplanned and unexpected problems. Some complex sites can have internal scripting problems, others can have problems with their hosts. At any rate, it may be understood that there is a measure of uncertainty as to the reliability of any links one chooses to have on one's site.
At length there have continued discussions over the property of the 1s and 0s making up the various things available to computers. Many have solved at least a form of this problem by maintaining an infrastructure of laws and agreements. While there are scattered forms of international agreement, what has remained globally consistant is the value of information.
While this information exists and is accessible, there is at least the potential for benefit. The concern of control does remain, however, with discussions of the need to have the author define who may benefit from the work. This control is a desire to maintain a sort of balance such that the less reproducable information can be linked to the originator. Such a person would not want others to covet, say, wealth attained from a work.
One argument is that the value of a work is also defined by how reproducable it is. If, for example, a text were to be written on how a certain candy is tastier than another, one reader may not value the work as much as another if that first reader feels the work itself is easily reproduced and the second feels less so -- irrespective of their agreement with the work. Along these lines, it may be seen that a diary has less value than a thesis.
Circumstances exist such that one may argue that if a non-author were to benefit in ways that the original author could not, then this is morally acceptible. A form of this argument may be seen in the concept of "abandonware". Part of the abandonware argument states that if a work is no longer being sold, then it should be given away, assuming those receiving it for free are not less likely to purchase future works.
It may be argued that the value of information can only exist with not just the possibility but the actual realization of worth -- in the use of said information. Afterall, what use is something whose potential is never realised? A text can exist, but if it is not read then it has no value save perhaps for the author. This argument continues that if no benefit other than that attained by reading a work may be realised - like financial benefit - then there is no reason to restrict distribution.
Perhaps a form of gratification exists in holding control of one's work. Certainly, recognition is a driving force for the creation and maintenance of a work. If this were the sole concern, then the propagation of the work would surely be seen as desirable.
One concern, however, exists in the notion that a work of knowledge is never truly complete. Language evolution alone can render a text less salient, if not entirely obsolete. Surely there is historical value in dated works, but there is also a value in maintaining an accurate and contemporary work. This may be a compelling reason for the covetous nature of some authors. Perhaps they feel they may look bad if their work becomes dated, and they feel there is less control and less of a guarantee for a work's due upkeep if it is held by others.
It is the value in the contemporaryness of a work which causes some concern over the continued control an author has. This perception of less gratification is an argument for the centralization of a work and for strict author control . Without some form of central control to keep a work updated, and further control to maintain updated mirrors throughout the world, a work's relevance and value would decline.
Concern exists as to the need for mirroring permission. As stated earlier, some authors derive maintained gratification as a benefit through the control and contemporaryness of a work, and this control may include being at least notified and perferably being asked permission for the redistribution of a work. An author may feel slighted if a work is mirrored without permission.
So, assuming no detriment to the author's benefit from a work, and special concern regarding continued comtemporaryness, an outside party could morally redistribute a work. Mirroring would have to be maintained if an author updates a work. What level of detriment exists in ignoring an author's opinion of the benefit in maintaining centralized control? This case would probably be considered more insulting than immoral.
In closing, with an understanding that the value of a work may only be present if it is used, and if a work's author no longer maintains or derives value from a work, unless the author is covetous, dissemination under these circumstances could only be considered just and right. This may be seen with the public works of deceased poets, philosophers and play writes. Let the world benefit. Let a text not rot with it's link, but live in a freely mirroring internet.
- Sep 16 2002 - This argument could also apply for the publishing of email. I don't believe there is anything more than an assumption that emails (or even instant messages, IRC chat etc etc) are private. Quite frankly, they're not.. privacy and it's assumptions are a huge annoying issue.
- Sep 16 2002 - Transcription from my HP 200LX - 2 typos. =)
Sep 11-12 2002 - Creation - 3 man hours.
Excerpt Copyright vs Community in the Age of Computer Networks, by Richard M. Stallman ∞
Mirror sites are essential, so the journal should only provide open access but they should also give everyone the freedom to set up mirror sites with verbatim copies of these papers. If not then there is a danger that they will get lost. Various kinds of calamities could cause them to be lost, you know, natural disasters, political disasters, technical disasters, bureaucratic disasters, fiscal disasters... All sorts of things could cause that one site to disappear. So really what the scholarly community should logically be doing is carefully arranging to have a wide network of mirror sites making sure that every paper is available on every continent, from places near the ocean to places that are far inland and you know this is exactly the kind of thing that major libraries will feel is their mission if only they were not being stopped.
So what should be done, is that these journals should go one step further. In addition to saying everybody can access the site they should be saying, everyone can set up a mirror site. Even if they said, you have to do the whole publication of this journal, together with our advertisements, now that would still at least do the job of making the availability redundant so that it's not in danger, and other institutions would set up mirror sites, and I predict that you would find ten years down the road, a very well organised unofficial system of co-ordinating the mirroring to make sure that nothing was getting left out. At this point the amount that it costs to set up the mirror site for years of a journal is so little that it doesn't require any special funding; nobody has to work very hard: just let librarians do it.