Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Copy This Manifesto

Linda Hirshman is much in the news I read for arguing that well-educated and highly paid women have a moral obligation to stay in the workforce. She recently published a piece in the Washington Post suggesting that, though the internet was full of critiques of her work, women who agreed with her were often too busy to put their agreement in their own words; instead, they were emailing her American Prospect article to one another.

On the one hand, this is so classically "lurkers support me in e-mail!" that it's a bit offputting. On the other, the specific form of support -- reproducing her article without permission in order to endorse the views well-stated therein -- is exactly the kind of thing that shows how pure copying can be a tool of free speech. If, as I believe, the real frontier of scarcity is time and energy, not a printing press or internet access, then enabling people to speak means not just giving everyone access to speech-creation tools but also letting them copy when copying would best say what they want to say.

(It is quite possible that lurkers often support people via e-mail, and indeed Hirshman's anecdote seems quite plausible. But, as with all claims of this sort, the magnitude is hard to assess.)

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