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  • Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).

Machiavelli's Dilemma Resolved
April 17, 2012 - 11:23am

From philosophy classes to street corners, one can hear Niccolo Machiavelli's famous dilemma between love and fear regaled. Machiavelli instructed "the prince" that it was better to be feared than loved by the people, because in his view compliance derived more from the latter than the former. What is often forgotten about Machiavelli's formulation was his additional comment: the prince should never be hated. Perhaps what he meant ultimately was that the prince should be "respected," but that concept may be more dependent on a democratic society and therefore not even thinkable in the wildly volatile political landscape of Machiavelli's day in fifteenth century Florence.

What does Machiavelli have to do with law, policy and technology?  His dictum came up in D.C. conversations last week among networks, content holders and representatives from higher education.  Specifically in a conversation with representatives of the Recording Industry Association of America.  "Choose the love!" a few of us chanted in a friendly sidebar discussion with one of the architects of the DMCA notice process that they maintain.  Better to be feared than loved?  Perhaps, and no one denies that legally they have the right to protect the intellectual property of the labels that use their trade association.  But it does no good to be hated, if for no other reason that compliance no longer applies except that which is won by brute force.  Alas, talk to just about any student in the last ten years or so, and that is more likely than not to be the emotion that their name inspires for exactly those reasons.  Remember the settlement letters and spooky music videos they produced to warn infringers?

That dilemma is why we chanted "Choose the love!"  A new generation of students emerging can fall in love all over again as the generation before the last one did with an organization that brought them music that translated the cultural experience into a personal one for millions. The RIAA rode the transformative wave of music that shaped the lives of us who grew up with sex, drugs and rock -n- roll.  The Grand Bargain, described in the last post, would be a great way to turn the tide. And there might be a few of us old soldiers in higher education, who dearly want this new generation to take on copyright reform as political reform, who would be willing to work on this issue with content owners in the belief that the end result would be what we all hope for:  respect.

Respect for the law.  Respect for innovation as well as incentive.  Respect for higher education.  Respect for a new generation of students who deserve better than the copyright wars.  Machiavelli's dilemma resolved.


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