Duties

By Robert Link, published at 17 June 2008 - 4:03pm, last updated 9 years 1 week ago.

I found a text on line today, but it probably isn't authorized by the rights holder. I wrote a letter to the likely rights holder, notifying her of the existence of this on line version of the text, but pleading with her to not cause it to be removed.

Had I not blown the whistle it might have lived quietly for quite some time and would likely propagate beyond the rights holder's ability to prevent. My long term purposes would be well served by such propagation and thus perhaps I should have let the matter lie. Yet I felt a duty to the author, a man I never met, for I refer to this work incessantly. I've bought many copies over the years, mostly to give to others. But the ideas expressed in that work are arguably better advanced by my doing nothing.

My fall back answer to a quandary such as this is "concurrent games". One level of analysis, and an arguably more objective one, yields the ready conclusion that the world is better off with ready access to and wide propagation of this text. Another tack of analysis yields the ready conclusion that I must be true to the spirit of the author to whom I am intellectually beholden. This tack is subjective, internal, but has a higher signal value, obviously, as evidenced by my acts. I reject the term "altruism" for such acts. It is a much more simple and clear analysis to look at the two contexts from which the different results arise and then simply observe which has the stronger value as evidenced by behavior.

Time will tell if the rights holder pulls the plug or allows this work to remain where we can easily and readily point others to it. I am sure I have done the right thing, even though I don't like it.