The First Amendment vs. Patents in Web 2.0


Right now, the fate of Digg is in the hands of the HD-DVD consortium -- the very people the Diggers tried to destroy. And it will very likely return the favor. I see big civil suits in Digg's future (and likely its demise) as well as in Rose's, who was actually dumb enough to post that note with his name on it.

As for Diggers, like self-obsessed post-adolescents everywhere, they are justifying their deed as an act of liberation, arguing that copy protection is evil, and -- applying the same defense corporate crooks used 20 years ago with gullible juries -- that they really weren't stealing anything more than a bunch of numbers.

The great Web satirist Iowahawk has already punctured that argument by posting Kevin Rose's home address (after all, it's only numbers) and suggesting that every Digg user head over to his house for a giant party. So I'll make the more sober argument.

It is this: all information is not equal in value. Some of it was created with considerable investment in time and money that needs to be paid back. Other information is the product of creative minds that deserve to be rewarded for their contributions to humanity. And still more is vitally important to the ongoing employment of thousands of people and the families they support.

How appropriate that this scandal occurred on May Day, because only a utopian fantasist would argue that all information should be free. It was Abraham Lincoln who said that America's two greatest contributions to mankind were the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Patent (i.e., intellectual property) law. And while I empathize with the frustration of folks who find themselves impeded from the full use of the latest technologies, those morons who want to destroy private property (and that includes trade secrets) put at risk the very future of innovation itself -- not to mention that great creator of human freedom, entrepreneurship.

Can we expect the children of Digg to understand this? No, but they will in time. But what we can expect is that individuals in positions of responsibility -- especially founders/CEOs -- get it.

Tad's Tab: The latest from the teen tech trenches, by Malone's 15-year-old son, Tad Malone:

Wasn't the Web supposed to improve productivity? Not anymore. Not when you click on a Web site and the screen instantly fills with distracting advertising windows and banners. Now a cool new app, called Clutter Cloak ( ), lets you focus on one window at a time as it blacks out everything on your screen except what is under your mouse pointer.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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