Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Salad Dressing Secrets and Our Own

Sometimes American culture looks like one of those circus riders straddling two horses pulling in different directions.

Today’s equestrianism is about individuality. Under one foot is the report that a New York restaurateur is suing a former employee for theft of intellectual property by copying elements of her establishment from the décor to the menu.

Going in another direction is Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column titled “The Whole World Is Watching,” which says:

“When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cellphone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We’re all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer--and each of us so much more transparent.”

There are echoes here of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World where “everybody belongs to everybody else,” and you don’t have to be Ayn Rand to find some of the implications troubling, even while cheering on the kind of open society that people like Dick Cheney hate.

Chef Rebecca Charles will likely not have much luck with legal remedies for claims about appropriation of her recipe for Caesar Salad dressing and touches like little packets of oyster crackers at each place setting, but her sense of feeling violated is understandable.

We may not live in a Brave New World--yet--but it makes sense to be thinking about where all this transparency is taking us while we can still rein in the horses.

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