Semantic Web , IP Rights,

The Logic of Money and The Law

By Marc Gauvin (c) 17/01/2014

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In my work as editor of the now published ISO/IEC 21000-19 standard,  known as the Media Value Chain Ontology (MVCO) and in order to make the ontology decidable,  we needed to use a version of the standard Ontology Web Language (OWL) that uses description logic (DL).  Decidable means that all the propositions within the ontology or knowledge base,  must be wholly logically consistent,  otherwise decisions cannot be automated pursuant to common standard terms and definitions.

The problem that the MVCO addresses,  is that of a correct identification and association of the content of digital files via an unambiguous set of core definitions used to define intellectual property rights and dependencies.  The objective is that all and any creative agent be able to license their contributions: works, performances, editions and productions with standard computer applications managing those rights and their dependencies at the moment of file transfer and sharing in a way that adheres to the rights all possess.

In order to make that possible,  we had to take language that humans use on a daily basis and analyse the exact logical definitions of each noun and verb, such as to eliminate all and any ambiguity between how those terms are used by different agents.  A producer may define the term "Work" differently than a performer,  such variations needed to be resolved in a way that is logically consistent not only between the generic definition of say the noun "Work" and all instances of "Works" but also with all dependent definitions such as "Adaptation" (a derivative "Work"),  Instance (performance or other rendition of a Work), Production etc...  

The only way to succeed was to identify a minimum and necessary logic and scope of the associate nouns and verbs/functions (e.g. a Work is "Created") that provide the exact cardinality of relations and dependencies between these, agents and entities.

I drove the process by insisting on the provable logic of definitions already assumed and that presented a high political cost for certain agents to deny such logic to other agents.  For example,  the producers could not deny that all original rights to a Work and its Performances belong to the corresponding author's and performers,  PRIOR to the producer becoming involved, such a denial represented a political price that could not be assumed. This in spite of revealing how on a (assumed) level playing field,  producers are vulnerable and dependent on not one but two links in the value chain (Author and Performer).  This logic has always been the case,  but in a world where big money controlled the physical support and distribution of content and also just happened to own a significant share of content production means (expensive studios etc.),  the meaningful or productive economic expression of author and performer rights was not a menacing issue,  as all becomes contingent on access to the capital intensive means for creation and distribution of the physical support for content.  However,  no longer is this the case in the digital age and hence the importance of the MVCO as an international standard.

There is an exact parallel between the above adventure and that of money and to what we are doing at,  which is to provide a set of logically consistent definitions of the terms; money, wealth and value with the exact unambiguous relations and corresponding cardinalities.   The particular difficulty with this approach applied to money systems, is that the very definition of money itself is historically nonsensical and ambiguous and only persists because it is simply assumed without question, rendering any subsequent rules invalid, arbitrary and ultimately enforced by authority rather than by objective logic.   What is worse, is that the standard definition of money is often assumed by well intentioned initiatives that aim to remedy the inequities that arise precisely because of this flawed underlying logic, such that if these efforts do not correct the underlying definitions, they often fail to fully resolve key issues.

For example,  the argument that interest on money IS the root problem is false.   While it is undeniably true that interest will destabilise a correctly defined and stable money system, it does not follow that interest is required to destabilise a money system that adopts the current working definition of money, particularly in the current de facto standard money design.   Why?  Because money defined as an object of independent value that is subject to being "supplied",  requires money to be "circulated" and if made compulsory (through taxation for example), then the value of the unit becomes subject to change without bound on the basis of availability and/or practices of hoarding for example.  This means that the key sine qua non function of money as a measure becomes wholly unstable even without any interest function being applied.  

Furthermore and under the most correct notion of individual rights, given such a current definition of money,  the argument for charging interest becomes a question not of policy but of individual prerogative,  i.e. if money is a scarce object of value needed by others, then why wouldn't lending part of one's balance not imply a charge (i.e. interest)?  This of course is what further drives instability in the system as it is predicated entirely on the fact that money is defined to be a scarce circulating object of value. 

However,  not all is lost because ultimately such a definition of money proves to be logically incoherent and in order for contracts to be legitimately enforceable, the definition of all aspects of the contract must be objectively and logically coherent.  In this regard,  it is interesting to note how in general,  any rigorous definition of money is absent in most legal systems.  Only in Napoleonic code based law is there an indirect implied definition of money in terms of distinguishing between the debts of fungible vs non fungible things.  This would tend to indicate that in order for legal systems to retain their moral objective authority,  the legal system can only entertain money questions where the disputing parties mutually agree to an assumed legitimate and rational definition of money, i.e. as long as the matter put to the court is anything but the definition of money. 

Only thus can the judges legitimately and morally preside over money disputes. However, if judges are presented with defining money,  as a question of first impression (priorly never addressed legally),  then and only then,  does the legal system's objectivity and moral fibre come into question on the basis of whatever definition the judges provide as required by such proceedings.   If the logic of the current definition of money is truly flawed,  then all existing contracts become void and for the legal system to retain its moral authority it must adhere to an objective and logical definition.

In my personal experience, it seems that the judiciary is consistent in this regard and may very well be assuming that the financial sector has done its job of providing although esoteric at least legitimate and logically tenable definitions.  The question is will the judiciary squander its credibility in the public eye when confronted with the issue,  by either evading the issue or coming up with a nonsensical definition?  We the people only have one move and that is to formally present a demand for a legal logically consistent definition of money as a matter of first impression and let the cards fall as they may. 

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