20 September 2003

IP Good, Patronage Bad
(With no apologies whatsoever to Camp Chaos's profanity-laden "Napster Bad" SWF, 592k.) Taking a break for a moment from deceptive brand names in publishing…

   An article in today's New York Times indirectly points out the dangers of patronage.

[E]very accredited American law school has adopted policies that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and that the schools have sought to apply these policies without making any exception for what the suit describes as "the military and its discriminatory policy regarding sexual orientation." …. In 1995, Congress passed the Solomon amendment, named for its sponsor, Representative Gerald B. H. Solomon of New York, barring disbursement of money from the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Education and some other federal agencies to any college or university that obstructed campus recruiting by the military.

Sam Dillon, "Law Schools Seek to Regain Ability to Bar Military Recruiters," New York Times (20 Sep. 2003). The Solomon Amendment is a descendant of the notorious abortion decision of Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991). Rust allowed the federal government to prohibit clinics that receive federal funds under the Public Health Service Act for family planning to counsel patients on abortions. In other words, the federal government need not pay for exercise of a constitutional right with which the administration disagrees. The sneaky bit was the extension from "pay for" directly to "projects supported in part by." Leaving aside the value or correctness of Rust—there are many, many problems with the opinion, beginning with according Chevron deference to an administrative decision that necessarily construed not just a statute, but a constitutional right that was not within the agency's expertise—it is the law of the land.

   Seeing patronage systems in this mess over law schools' attempt to avoid discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, whether directly or by implied support, should not be much of an extension. Whether one agrees with the military's disdain for homosexual conduct or not, this is an inherently political question. In my personal opinion as a veteran and former commanding officer, the military needs to clean up its act concerning nonconsensual heterosexual conduct that inherently impairs military order and discipline before expending any energy or resources on consensual homosexual conduct that does not otherwise impair military order and discipline. It could start by closing all of the military academies, which incubate improper attitudes and conduct in a self-perpetuating fashion. Although I do not get to establish military policy, I object to the silencing of expressive conduct in opposition to that policy by the federal government.

   And if I were an otherwise-starving artist and my patron was the federal government, just what kind of effect do you think that might have on my art? Or even if my patron was a private party? This is the point of the "vacuum" argument I have been making for some time: if not intellectual property, with what will we replace the IP regime that still ensures the survival of creators and particularly artists? That the system is open to abuse is not in question; that it is better than the alternatives of which I am aware is not, either.