Torgo χ (torgo_x) wrote,
Torgo χ

Friends of The Library of Babel

Dear Log,

To repeat a notable quote from Cory Doctorow:

«The copyright wars are a form of contemporary Lysenkoism, a farce wherein we all pretend that copy-proof bits are a reasonable thing to expect from technology.»
--"Copying Is What Bits Are For"

And therein is a dilemma, trilemma, etc:

I own the audiobook CDs of Laurie Anderson reading Don DeLillo's novella The Body Artist. I have heard it. It is strange. And it is good.

I think about giving it to the local public library. I mean, I haven't listened to it lately, whereas if I gave it to the library then somehow it might find its way to another interested listener.

A consideration: the local public library here is... unfathomable. Who goes there? And does that even matter? By donating this audiobook, am I casting it into the void-- or is there any better place to cast something?

"The" library is the main branch, but maybe it's quite smaller than the other local libraries that it freely shares with, namely the libraries of the big high school and the not so big mini-university. But I've only ever been to the main branch; in fact, I used to actually just go there and sit and program, when I used to live around the corner. Now, I'm miles away, so it's back to unfathomable, as I'm rarely there.

But the other day, when I was in that end of town, I noticed that "the" library, that main branch, has an audiobook of DeLillo's Cosmopolis. Yes, they have shelves of audiobooks, altho mostly of Important Old Classics (gathering dust). Or are there legions of Local Little Old Ladies listening to Bleak House on those (dozens of) cassettes? But what do they think of DeLillo?

Then (back to Cory) there's the hilarious Lysenkoist legalities involved. I'm sure that somewhere in my stacks of CDRs, I have one or two, MP3 rips of this audiobook. And because I am, of course, a scrupulous and fastidious observer of all national and international intellectual property laws as well as end-user license agreements, I do have to wonder: Suppose I want to listen to the audiobook again? Should I go to the library and check out their (my, donated) CD box of it, and have it sit there, mutely unopened as I listen to the MP3s?

This is starting to have the feel of sympathetic magic about it, or at least of pumpkinry.

Or, even more scrupulously, must I discard/efface/zorchify those CDRs? But of course, there are other things on those CDRs, mail backups or whatever; so maybe it falls on me to make a copy of the discs' content, minus the MP3s. Good thing CDRs are cheap.

Or, suppose I do donate the audiobook to the library, and that I do go and destroy all MP3s I have of the audiobook; and then later I check out the audiobook from the library-- but suppose my computer's CD drive (that being how I'd listen to an audio CD normally) is being fussy today, reluctant to play the CDs. Can I then legally (or not-illegally?) download MP3s of the audiobook which I have the real-life, library-lent physical CDs of, right in front of me? (It is my working assumption that the MP3s would be effectively identical to what I would get by actually blowing the dust off my CD drive and ripping the CDs.)

And presumably I can't then return those CDs even one moment before I'm done listening to the last chapter's MP3.

I leave to scholars of these increasingly Tlönistic legalities this question: Suppose I enter the library on Friday 4pm, take the CDs from the shelf, rip them to MP3s with my laptop, THEN go thru the formality of checking out the CDs right at "last call"; and THEN as I leave the library (along with all the staff, who are locking up, maybe even for a long weekend-- say, for Saint Patriot's Birthday (observed)), I immediately drop the CD-pack into the library's outside "book drop" slot, where in some sense it immediately (ostensibly?) reverts to the library's possession, but where actually it will not be found and checked in and reshelved until well after the weekend/holiday during which I will have listened to the MP3s? Does this quantum-legal mess get confounded if an asshole cop is walking by?


I have heard it said (erroneously, but let's take that as "mythically") that Rabbinical legalism is the very genesis of western legal(istic) argumentation. Cue a Yentl argumentation montage here. For does it not say in Maimonides 14§3//+ℵ₀ that whoever does not fail to have the book, does achieve its 'having'? Etc. Following this legend/metaphor, then that makes IP law into deepest Qabbalah, where all of the future is already contained in the Torah (and/or the stuff in the Ketchikan Public Library's book drop slot), but not as such predestined, because the occult letters are scrambled and DMCA-protected, and only the movement of the present thru the text will correctly DeCSS it and give us the world, the universe, or at least tomorrow's Battlestar Galactica bittorrent.

Tags: copyright, failure, law, libraries, rumination, writing
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