C.P. Snow and the Digital Divide.

C.P. Snow lamented a gulf between science and literary intellectuals. That gulf still exists (perhaps it is a little different now than in the mid-20th century), and the explosion of technological development highlights it. Video games (and other entertainment media) offer a chance to bring together the left and right sides of society’s brain.

It may be that the law feels the distance between art and science that Snow considered in the context of academia. Patents may be associated with the protection of the scientific world (though they protect technology, not science) while copyright protects artistic expression. Does a distance between science and art keep a distance between two halves of IP (Trade secrets and Patents vs. Copyrights and Trademarks)? I think it does, but I’m not convinced this is altogether terrible: there are good arguments for treating patents and copyrights differently.

Law is sometimes seen as being an institution of order, measurement, and judgment. However, law is also the tool by which we gauge and weigh other institutions in society— and it is not reasonable that the instrument of measurement can measure itself. Law is often an effort to balance art and science, logic and experience, is and ought, the many and the individual—yet, if it is fair, it cannot wholly be any of these things. Perhaps an effort to bridge Snow’s Gulf could benefit law as it could bring a more holistic context to choices about either art or science. Understanding the technology and science underpinning patents as well as understanding the cultural implications of artistic expressions help each respective discipline grow. More importantly, this cross-information becomes essential as these disciplines overlap. Legal practitioners are better able to make proper legal decisions if they understand both what YouTube is (how the technology works) and what the economic and cultural implications of posting videos with copyrighted materials on YouTube are.

Law and Science

A debate arose in class concerning whether an electricity company was responsible for delivering a service or a product (“electricity”) to its customers (because products and services are sometimes regulated differently). I liked the question for several reasons. As my science-degree-holding brother noted, there is a scientific fact of the matter as to what electricity is: alternating current is the oscillation of electrons. You are not getting new electrons pouring into your house, but having energy put through electrons in the wiring. General, the expenditure of energy is considered a service. However, we can quantify electricity (in Kwh, for example) in a way that allows us to talk about it in the way we talk about solid, tangible goods.

The takeaway isn’t about whether electricity is a good or a service, but this issue can be reasonably debated. It is also important that the science of the matter does not determine the law, and Oliver W. Holmes explains why in his adage, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” Law is an odd, swirling mix of logic, language, and science on one hand with anthropology, sociology, ethics, and emotion on the other.

My core interest is how the law can meet the emerging technological issues of the 21st century. It is clear that, as in the debate I described, the science of digital technologies alone is not enough to dictate the law that governs it.

If culture evolves and science expands, the law cannot remain stagnant.

For a different view on the relationship between science and the law, I recommend this presentation:


The Law and Art

Art can be at odds with law at times. The law is the essence of order and structure, in the tradition of Apollo. Art, especially in the last 50 or 75 years, has something rebellious, chaotic, and even destructive or reconstructive about it—it smacks more of the orgiastic tradition of Dionysus. Yet the law sees a need to protect art. In the US it does so through both constitutional free speech provisions as well as through copyright protection.

What makes art powerful? Art takes the small pieces of our lives that we don’t notice or don’t want to think about and magnifies them for us. It helps us (or compels us) to see what we don’t [want to] notice. Art is necessarily always a little closer to the edge, because its function is to explore those fringes and bring back to us the parts of ourselves and our realities that we omit. It is easy to be afraid or critical of art in society because if it is done properly, it brings us face-to-face with some truth—and that can be an uncomfortable experience. From the protest songs of the 1960s to the Gothic Architecture of the high Middle Ages, art has felt a need to express the feeling of a generation distinct from its predecessors; art is forever dabbling in change, shift, exploration, progression (even if through regression), or rebellion or some sort.

How can something rebellious and chaotic be protected by order and law? Why should it be? Perhaps it is because the law sometimes understand its own need for growth and transformation—a need to endure through flexibility rather than to break as a thing brittle and rigid. Perhaps art both crafts and chronicles the human condition and our human experience. Inasmuch as “the life of law… has been experience,” it is entirely fitting that art and law be friends.