Culture vs. Copyright just happened to me, and maybe because of that it is neither a strictly scientific investigation nor a purely fictional, political or autobiographical work. I cannot determine its genre. It is what it is. If I wanted badly to label this book, I would call it the diary of a naive philosopher. “A diary of what events?” you may ask.
Version I, Somewhat Real
It all started when Russian researcher Dmitry Sklyarov was arrested by the FBI in 2002. He gave a presentation on digital security using the example of a flaw in Adobe e-book encryption. But Adobe did not thank Sklyarov. Instead they accused the researcher of violating DMCA and put him in jail. The software development community around the US was outraged. Programmers staged street protests and started on-line discussions. My son Ilya participated in the protest in front of the Adobe headquarters, and this got me involved in the discussions. This is how this book came into being, piece-by-piece. It explores different aspects of culture, its relationship to human beings and to the human condition, to civilization in general and to economics in particular. The explorers here are five first-graders and their teacher, the naive philosopher. The issues they are focused on revolve around exclusive rights. The teacher gets inspired by the discussions, writes down his own thoughts, has doubts and new ideas, brings those back to the kids, discusses them and writes again.
Version II, Somewhat Fictitious
It all started accidentally. I was talking to colleagues and happened to mention an educational experiment I had participated in, in the past. It was related to the School of The Dialogue of Cultures (SDC). The theory of SDC has been developed cooperatively among philosophers, scientists, and educators in the Ukraine and Russia. The foundation of that School’s educational process is dialogue and is comprised of at least two elements. First, a subject is presented to the students not as the firm and absolute truth but as a source of questions. Second, teaching is not done in the traditional manner but organized through dialogue and exploration. These ideas may sound pretty casual to the modern ear, but when specifics were considered the theory and practice of SDC appeared rather unique, effective, and appealing to my colleagues. They were intrigued by experiments I described. For instance, I told a story of first graders enthusiastically debating the human soul with Plato and Aristotle. And there were many examples of the kind. That conversation with colleagues started a chain of events which culminated in another experiment with five Bay Area first graders who had dreamed of becoming famous writers. During after-school activities we agreed to work on “exclusive rights.” Because exclusive rights are important to writers, they and their parents enthusiastically agreed to participate. The experiment, in turn, resulted in this diary, where my thoughts alternate with slightly edited shorthand records of our discussions.
I haven’t used the debaters’ real names here, but refer to them with letters of the Greek Alphabet. I do so for several reasons. First, the kids and their parents didn’t want the real names published. Second, I follow a tradition of certain philosophical texts. Third, real participants do not fit exactly in the characters of the book. Finally, as the author it just feels right to me this way.
Version III, Somewhat Poetic
This book is written many times
A scrupulous reader
Will easily extract
From chaotic dialogues, that
Five wonder kids conducted
I have done, as well.
What do I want?
It’s to remind you
What you already know
About life in some respect.
And thus, I want to ask
Why don’t we put
Two and two together ? ! .
And now, on to our dialogues with the first graders!