After my previous post's brief foray into the world of open source research methods (aka stealing other people's ideas and intellectual authority), here's another one.
I'm wondering whether John Rawl's 'maxi-min' principle can be adapted to underpin an ethical information policy, and a morally coherent intellectual property policy in particular. It might look like this:
Society should tolerate only so much closure around information as to maximise the access of the person who is most excluded.
Two things to note. Firstly, this would not, of course, give a policy-maker much of clue as to how to change the IP regime, any more than Rawls offered a blueprint for fiscal policy. But Rawls did help prop up an existing liberal agenda that was beginning to fall to pieces. And so, just as he managed to justify the existence of the welfare state as it then was, adapting his formula could perhaps do the same for the public domain that we currently have. This is a conservative move, but perhaps a necessary one: it helps us to recognise the moral worth of existing institutions (libraries, say), so as to prevent future attacks on them.
Secondly, and related to this ambiguity, this formula wouldn't necessarily lead to a more open information policy, any more than Rawls's maxi-min principle necessarily advocates greater redistribution. New Labour's trickle down economic approach is arguably consistent with Rawls (in that nobody has got economically worse off under New Labour in real terms), and arguably IP and DRM contribute to the creation of a rich public sphere, even if they don't support rich public domain.
Is this useful and/or meaningful?