Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States

Siva Vaidhyanathan On Copyrights and Wrongs 215

Posted by timothy
from the link-to-this-article dept.
Jason Haas (haaz) sent us the transcript below of an in-depth interview he conducted with copyright critic and author Siva Vaidhyanathan. It's worth your time to read -- Vaidhyanathan makes some interesting arguments, concentrating on online consequences of current copyright laws (and bills), but with some interesting digressions. He isn't shy about the effects of laws like the CBDTPA.

Jason Haas writes: "While bad copyright laws such as the DMCA are having strong negative consequences, an even worse bill, the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), is now before Congress. The CBDTPA would have radical effects upon many of the devices that we take for granted -- including the computer you are now reading this on. Bad copyright law is among the many things that we talked about. Siva Vaidhyanathan has a thing or two to say about this. An avid defender of peer-to-peer, Siva recently debated one of the MPAA's top lawyers on copyright law. A recorded version of this will be available on the web in late May.

Furthermore, he has written Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity, the first fully fleshed history of American copyright law ever to be put in book form. The cool thing about this book is that although it's about copyright law, you don't have to be a lawyer to understand it. Copyrights and Copywrongs covers American copyright law's origins in seventeenth century English law, tracks Mark Twain's efforts to extend copyright in the nineteenth century, and ends at the dawn of the twenty-first century with the rise of Napster and the DMCA."

Jason Haas: How are you?

Siva Vaidhyanathan : Stressed. I'm trying to finish my second book, which will likely be called "The Anarchist in the Library." Basic Books will publish it next year.

JH: That sounds like it may be of interest to Slashdotters.

SV: Probably. I lifted many of the insights from Slashdot posts. The book will be an examination of the battles between efforts to centralize information and efforts to decentralize information. It starts with peer to peer, and moves on to battles over encryption, the commercialization and regulation of science, the regulation of algorithms, and the efforts to fight terrorism using information policy. One of the most interesting stories I'm following is the role that encryption plays on both sides of these battles. Some efforts to centralize and control information rely on encryption. For example, DVDs, and some efforts to distribute and liberate information (Freenet) depend on encryption.

JH: Your book, Copyrights and Copywrongs, covers the evolution of copyright law from its origins to the late twentieth century. Where did you get the idea for this?

SV: From rap music. I grew up with rap music. But in the early 1990s I noticed the music was changing. Everyone else was paying attention to the lyrics -- the sexism and the violence and the anger. I was observing how the underlying body of samples were getting thinner, more predictable, more obvious, less playful. I had heard that there had been some copyright conflicts in 1990 and 1991. So I suspected that lawsuits had chilled playful and transgressive sampling. I was right. The courts had stolen the soul. And rap music is poorer for it. We used to get fresh, exciting, walls of sound that were a language unto themselves. By the mid-1990s, all we got were jeep beats and heavy bass.

JH: Are you dissing Ice Cube?

SV: [laughs] No! He's an O.G.! He and other artists are handcuffed by the law. From my research on rap, I got curious about the evolution of American copyright law and how it altered and got altered by the rise of different media technologies and forms of expression. So I traced the changes from the 19th century publishing industries through the rise of film and television, through blues, jazz, rock, and rap, and finally to the digital moment.

JH: The book ends just after the DMCA has gone into effect and Napster has begun its rise. What's happened since then?

SV: I knew that Napster would radically change the ways we interact with the copyright system. And I knew the DMCA would radically undermined the democratic safeguards that were built into our copyright system. But I knew that there was much more to this story. So I wrote an article for The Nation which defended Napster and peer-to-peer. I used this as the starting point for what would become the second book.

JH: In your first book, you refer to the DMCA as an example of what you call a "thick" copyright law. Can you explain the difference between "thick" copyright law and a "thin" law?

SV: I think the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is misnamed. I don't consider it a copyright act. I consider it an anti-copyright act. Copyright is a fluid, open, democratic set of protocols. Conflicts are anticipated by Congress and mediated by courts. The DMCA wipes out the sense of balance, anticipation, and mediation, and installs a technocratic regime. In other words, code tells you whether you can use a piece of material. Under copyright, you could use a piece of material and face the consequences. The DMCA replaces the copyright system with cold, hard technology.

It takes human judgment out of the system and drains the fluidity out of what was a humanely designed and evolved system.

But getting back to thick and thin copyright.

One way to measure the thickness of a copyright law is to look at the duration of protection. If works enter the public domain before an author's life expectancy expires, then it's a thin and democratic system. If the duration of copyright protection is absurdly long and potentially indefinite, then it's way too thick.

JH: Senator Fritz Hollings' has introduced a new copyright bill to Congress, the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act. What what would it do? Is it another "thick" law?

SV: Yeah, it would be as thick as the Berlin Wall. But again, it's the extension of a technocratic control regime and a further abandonment of real copyright. All the attention this bill has received has generated an impressive movement for users' rights. People are finally waking up to the fact that their rights to make private, non-commercial use of material they buy is in danger. I think we should all thank Senator Hollings and the MPAA for sparking a revolt against copyright tyranny.

The title of the bill implies that by giving movie companies what they want, they will give us this wonderful library of streamed films, and we will finally have a reason to sign up for and pay for broadband. Paradoxically, nothing sells broadband like peer-to-peer, which is exactly what it would try to stop.

JH: CBDTPA would make a new computer ship with copy protection. What would it do to things like the iPod?

SV: The iPod would be hard to justify under the new law. But the real issue is the personal computer. The computer does three basic things: it does math, it stores data, and it copies data. A computer can't operate without those three basic functions. The law would limit these three basic functions, thereby cutting the Achilles heel of the PC. It would be just another appliance.

JH: It's that bad?

SV: Yes. If the law passes, I could send you a file that I made, but the machine would prevent you from making copies of just about anything else, including sound from web sites, video from web sites, etc. The law works completely for the benefit of big media companies that can afford to conform to the licensed encryption standards of the industry. Only the big boys could benefit from this law.

The law would only affect new stuff, so it'd be your next DVD players, your next TiVo, your next PC. The stuff you have now is going to do more and work better than any hardware that anyone could roll out after the law passes. But there's another, bigger issue. According to an early version, the bill covers not just hardware but software. Under it, you can't distribute a software package that has copy features. Furthermore, how in the world can anything released under the GPL have closed copy-protection standards embedded in it? It can't. It would make the GPL illegal, and future versions of Linux illegal. Even if Congress focused on hardware and excluded software, we all know that distinction is a matter of modular convenience and industry practice rather than a natural distinction. But nobody ever accused the U.S. Senate of understanding technology or thinking through long-term effects of tech policy.

JH: What can people do to stop this bill from passing?

SV: The first thing people should do is check out and support such organizations as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, digitalconsumer.org, and publicknowledge.org. The latter two are fairly new. And they are a sign that people are getting angry and active about these issues. I am particularly excited about publicknowledge.org, a public interest advocacy group that is coordinating and publicizing the concerns of a wide array of concerned citizens and groups.

But just as importantly, discuss this measure with your local librarians. Librarians are very active in opposing it. In 1998, very few groups actively opposed the DMCA, but librarians were at the front lines of its opposition. And once again, librarians are our best friends in this battle. And of course, the simple answer is, write members of the Senate Judiciary Community. [The American Library Association is a national organization of librarians that is active in defending freedom of information and access. The Senate Judiciary Committee can be found over here.]

If public anger doesn't stop this bill now, then we know that the corrupting power of the entertainment industries is at crisis level. The changes in copyright have not been great for our culture and our democracy. But I am optimistic that this new level of awareness and activism will make a difference.


Jason Haas retired from the computer industry in April 2001, and now juggles being a student, fatherhood, and progressive political activism.

This past year, Siva Vaidhyanathan has been an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin, but is moving to New York University in the fall. The web page for his book, Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity, is at NYU Press.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Siva Vaidhyanathan On Copyrights and Wrongs

Comments Filter:
  • Archiving (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm working on a large (HUGE) archiving project with a major library and the copyright issues are becoming increasingly stickly. All the librarians want to do is rip the cd's/lp's and stick them in a vault for protection. Then allow a (highly) limited number of users to access the ripped versions.

    It's gone far enough that Hillary Rosen (of RIAA fame) has become involved. Woohoo.

    • by ckd (72611) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @03:45PM (#3525377) Homepage
      I'm working on a large (HUGE) archiving project with a major library and the copyright issues are becoming increasingly stickly. All the librarians want to do is rip the cd's/lp's and stick them in a vault for protection. Then allow a (highly) limited number of users to access the ripped versions.
      It's gone far enough that Hillary Rosen (of RIAA fame) has become involved. Woohoo.

      Sounds great to me. You've got a big vault, which may or may not be airtight. You've got Hilary Rosen. The possibilities may not be endless, but they're certainly obvious.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        That, my friend, is just way too funny..

        Hrm.. what would you do with a big vault and Hillary Rosen.

        Is there anybody cool named Hillary? So Far, all the ones I've seen in the public are royal bitches.
  • by tps12 (105590) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @02:20PM (#3524760) Homepage Journal
    I lifted many of the insights from Slashdot posts.

    This comment intrigued me, so I looked in Mr. Vaidhyanathan's latest book:

    Table of Contets

    1. What's wrong with the DMCA
    2. What's wrong with the CBDTA
    3. CmdrTaco has tickets for the 12:01 Star Wars show
    4. What's wrong with the MPAA
    5. What's wrong with the RIAA
    6. Anakin turns into Darth Vader
    7. Apologies for the spoiler
    • Table of Contets [emphasis by me]

      Would that mean he got the section title from somthing CmdrTaco wrote?
    • I wish I could have not watched the last three Star Wars movies so I wouldn't know Anakin is Vader :)
      • He isn't; Vader is Anakin -- there's a difference. (Sorry for the spoiler)
      • I wish I could have not watched the last three Star Wars movies so I wouldn't know Anakin is Vader :)

        So when you introduce your future children or grand children to the Star Wars saga, in which order will you show the films?

        On the order they were shot (4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3), or in the order of the story (1, 2, 3, 4 ,5, 6)?

  • JH: That sounds like it may be of interest to Slashdotters.

    SV: Probably. I lifted many of the insights from Slashdot posts.


    And I'll bet he didn't use full source documentation, either!

    :-)
  • I love his concept of Copyright as it should be, "open and fluid", of use, not abuse.

    Finally, too, the first GOOD thing that EVER came out of somebody listening to Rap:

    "JH: Your book, Copyrights and Copywrongs, covers the evolution of copyright law from its origins to the late twentieth century. Where did you get the idea for this?

    SV: From rap music. I grew up with rap music
  • Slashdot TV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Telastyn (206146) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @02:23PM (#3524772)
    Slashdot should televise a conversation between this guy and RMS. This of course assumes placing the two close together doesn't cause reality to tear asunder.
  • Uh-oh (Score:2, Funny)

    by The Bungi (221687)
    JH: That sounds like it may be of interest to Slashdotters.

    SV: Probably. I lifted many of the insights from Slashdot posts.

    The last chapter is called The Next Frontier: The DMCA, Frist Prost, Natalie Portman and The Battle For The Goatse Trademark. How Far Hot Grits?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    > the first fully fleshed history of American copyright law ever to be put in book form.

    Come on. There are MANY, MANY histories of American copyright law. Just because this dork and the interviewer are not familiar with them doesn't mean they don't exist.
  • The title of the bill implies that by giving movie companies what they want, they will give us this wonderful library of streamed films, and we will finally have a reason to sign up for and pay for broadband. Paradoxically, nothing sells broadband like peer-to-peer, which is exactly what it would try to stop.

    Why does Hollywood think that people will sign up for broadband for movies? There are plenty of viable delivery systems for movies in place now.

    Most people wish for broadband mostly for online gaming and even simply for faster web surfing in general. There are plenty of reasons right now to get broadband. The main problems for broadband are that not everyone is eligible for a connection, reliability issues, and cost.

    Improving broadband service by improving reliability and ensuring ease of installation will help broadband more than movies ever will.
    • Why does Hollywood think that people will sign up for broadband for movies? There are plenty of viable delivery systems for movies in place now.


      And you actually get a pretty good quality picture with current ones. Considering the image quality that you can get down a typical cable connection, I can't think why anyone would want to pay money for that. I buy the DVDs of TV series I could much more easily have downloaded.
      What do they think people are willing to pay for an Mpeg1 quality video? The quality stinks too much unless its being given away.
  • by thrillbert (146343) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @02:44PM (#3524930) Homepage
    At many times, I think to myself "These laws will never pass.. they have got to have at least some brain up there..."

    But as history has shown, they __CAN__ pass these laws. And they have. And unless we start a fund to buy ourselves our own politician, know that the RIAA and MPAA are saying "All your politicians are belong to us!".

    We do need to be vocal about this, but not just in /.land. We need to contact our representatives and let them know how we feel, but we need to do it intelligently and respectfully. No trolling allowed.

    Become a member of The Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org] or of one of the other sites mentioned in the article. Let your voice be heard!!

    ---
    Strong with you, the force be. -Yoda
    • And unless we start a fund to buy ourselves our own politician...

      No! Don't do anything to encourage them! You'll only legitimize the concept that politicians should be bought and sold.

      What we need instead is to attack, undermine and evenutally abolish this whole notion that power is a salable commodity. There's a difference between the baksheesh used to grease the wheels, and the wholesale auctioning off the wheels themselves.
      • I admire your integrity, but the fact is, just buying a politician would be a lot more effective.
        • Politicians on the open market it always bad for the minority [insert group here]. Let's say we all band together and buy a politician. What prevents them from selling out again to a Microsoft/MPAA/RIAA coalition? Maybe if the politicians stayed bought it might be worth considering.

          As long as the majority is apathetic or ignorant, the minority will never be able to afford keeping a politician in its back pocket.
  • Defend humanity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shrikel (535309) <hlagfarj@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @02:45PM (#3524935)
    Under copyright, you could use a piece of material and face the consequences. The DMCA replaces the copyright system with cold, hard technology. ... It takes human judgment out of the system and drains the fluidity out of what was a humanely designed and evolved system.

    Wow, that point hit home. If we remove all the instances of human judgement from our social activities and interactions (like what we do with our spare time, music, movies, etc.), our society ceases to be a human, flexible, diverse society, and becomes a rigid, homogenous, and sterile machine which is merely comprised of humans.

    If this legislation (and consequential social shift) sets the precedent for removal of the human factor in our societal system, where will it end?

    I didn't like Brave New World.

    • Wow, that point hit home. If we remove all the instances of human judgement from our social activities and interactions (like what we do with our spare time, music, movies, etc.), our society ceases to be a human, flexible, diverse society, and becomes a rigid, homogenous, and sterile machine which is merely comprised of humans.

      Somehow I heard all this before...

      Resistance is futile...
      You will be assimilated.
      We are the Borg collective. You will surrender all your intellectual property to us.

    • If this legislation (and consequential social shift) sets the precedent for removal of the human factor in our societal system, where will it end?

      What do you mean, where will it end? Big tobacco has been held liable for the deaths of people who didn't simply continue to smoke, but actually started smoking when the warnings were on the packs. Cities have sued gun manufacturers for making faulty products (?). Personal responsibility went away a long time ago, my friend.

  • RAP vs. Hip-Hop (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by mr_don't (311416)

    Siva and Lawrence Lessig (regarding L.L.'s comments about rap from THE FUTURE OF IDEAS) both need to understand that RAP is just one part of a larger culture of Hip-Hop. Vocalists and MC's are just one fragment of a culture that includes DJ's, artists, dancers, etc...

    Referring to a whole branch of music, one that began with DJ's and Break Beats is ignorant and almost insulting to the artists that create the music. You can tell - Siva's depth of understanding of Hip-Hop culture and sampling stops at corporate mega-artists like Jay-Z and that guy on all the Jennifer Lopez albums - hardly representative of much of Hip-Hop...

    • Siva and Lawrence Lessig (regarding L.L.'s comments about "rap" from THE FUTURE OF IDEAS) both need to understand that RAP is just one part of a larger culture of Hip-Hop. Vocalists and MC's are just one fragment of a culture that includes DJ's, artists, dancers, etc...

      Perhaps Siva is not a fan of the larger culture of hip-hop, but rather of rap music in particular, and YOU are actually the one conflating "rap" with "hip-hop." This makes sense, given that the Mr. Vaidhyanathan is speaking about the music - specifically, the density and complexity of the backing tracks of rap music - and not about dancers or MC's.

      Sometimes, people mean what they say, and not more.

      -Isaac

    • I beg your pardon. How do you know what I know and understand about rap and hip-hop?

      Have we met? Have we discussed music and culture?

      Not to be difficult, but please don't judge me based on a few dozen words in an interview.
      • I don't know you or how much you understand about the type of music you listen too, but I do know that "Rap" is something that occurs in (and is merely one component of) "Hip-Hop" music. A rapper may be one component of a Hip-Hop song. "Hip-Hop" is a type of music, culture, and lifestyle. When you talk about Jazz, do you say, I listen to Trumpet music?

        It is just this type of language that does a disservice to the cultures you are discussing. I would argue that DJ's have had much more to do with the practice of sampling and creating new music from copyrighted material than rappers - although of course, MC's do their fair share of mix and match themselves. By saying that you like rap music, are you trying to say that it was the rappers who turned you on to explore the history of Copyright? Is it mainstream made-by-MTV artists like Ice Cube who really prompts discussion about the boundaries of copyright, or is it more the work of lesser known artists like Afrika Bammbatta and Funkmaster Flex, etc., that really show us why copyright law should be criticized?

        If you mentioned the term Hacker to a group of Slashdot folks, or EFF people, or the GNU people, many (most?) would think you are speaking about "Computer Programmers" or "Technical Explorers" or whatever. People in the mainstream, thanks to various media and silly use of terminology, would probably think you are talking about those who break into computer systems and vandalize web pages.

        The last thing we need are academics deciding what terms and language falls into the mainstream consciousness. If you are willing to write books about how cultural precedents, like those in Hip-Hop or Computer Programming are pointing toward a future of copyright reform, I would hope that you would take the time to really delve into the cultures that you are writing about. If you are willing to co-opt a cultural reference to add credibility to academic writing, the least you can do is give credit where credit is due!

        • I don't know you or how much you understand about the type of music you listen too, but I do know that "Rap" is something that occurs in (and is merely one component of) "Hip-Hop" music. A rapper may be one component of a Hip-Hop song. "Hip-Hop" is a type of music, culture, and lifestyle. When you talk about Jazz, do you say, "I listen to Trumpet music?"

          You do, if that's the kind of jazz you like. Perhaps you particularly like jazz that features trumpets, as opposed to, say, a piano trio.

          Rap music has rap over a backing track (or sometimes over nothing, though an older generation might simply call that poetry). It is a form of hip-hop. Consider Timo Maas, who makes some of the freshest beats today - are his releases hip-hop? Sure! They're not rap music, however, because . . . there's no rap! Afrika Bambaataa was a pioneer of electro-funk, another genre that we might include under the general rubric of hip-hop, but it would not be heresy to refer to his music as electro-funk, even though it is also hip-hop.

          Face it, "rap music" is a genre of hip-hop. You may not like rap music, you may think that the MC gets too much attention in rap music, but to say that rap music is not itself a genre is simply wrong. It is at least an identifiable genre or subgenre of hip-hop.

          By saying that you like "rap" music, are you trying to say that it was the rappers who turned you on to explore the history of Copyright?

          Perhaps this is exactly what Siva is saying - and what is wrong with this? He's not talking about the people that pushed the bounds of copyright the furthest - in a legal sense, it is arguably Biz Markie, since he was the artist whose albums were pulled from the shelves because he used, without clearance, a sample from Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again, Naturally", and whose court case established the principle that the number of notes that may be sampled without permission is zero. He is talking about how his personal experience with rap music got him interested in the law of copyright. Your posts seem to be nothing more than showy attempts to berate Mr. Vaidhyanathan for liking Ice Cube - the insufferable MO of the hip-hopper-than-thou - and offer nothing nearly so informative as Siva's observations about how changes in copyright law and jurisprudence were reflected in popular music.

          For what it's worth, I think he's right - the era of the aggressive sound collage largely vanished from popular rap music in the post-1991 era. Now, I wouldn't condemn all modern rap music or hip-hop generally as being mere "jeep beats and heavy bass" - I think the "Nathaniel Merriwether" projects of Dan the Automator and Prince Paul are genuinely creative. They are not, however, collages of samples in the same style as, say, Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Hat, which is composed entirely of samples, carefully assembled, and which predates Grand Upright Music v. Warner Brothers Music (the Biz Markie case).

          -Isaac

  • Well put. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rhadamanthus (200665) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @02:48PM (#3524955)
    Not quite as well put as Lessig put it, but very enlightening all the same. The issue really is fair-use vs. piracy. CURRENT MEDIA COMPANIES HAVE NO IDEA WHAT FAIR-USE IS. period. If it was up to Disney and the RIAA, everything not bought at exorbitant prices continually (i.e.:rented media) is piracy. The Sony vs. Betamax case doesn't exist in their cosy little world, and the mountain of legalese supporting fair-use is an apparent myth of popular culture from their perspective.


    There are intentional limitations to the power an author holds over his/her respective copyrighted works. These limitations exist to encourage other individuals or companies to expand and build upon those copyrighted ideas/works, thereby increasing innovation and promoting scientific development for the benefit of the public. The most important limitation on author control is the "fair use privilege". This right of the people specifically addresses the ability of an individual to use copyrighted works without consent of the owner to a reasonable degree. In Sony v. Universal City Studios; the U.S. Supreme Court stated that, "any individual may reproduce a copyrighted work for a 'fair use;' the copyright owner does not possess the exclusive right to such a use." This "doctrine of fair use" was initially created via judicial review, but has since been intentionally written into copyright law. Although this principle may seem to be counterintuitive to the overall premise of copyright, it is an extremely important link between the inventor who wishes to recieve payment for his work, and the public that wishes to access and make use of it. The U.S. Supreme Court remarks, ""the fair use doctrine exists because copyright law extends limited proprietary rights to copyright owners only to the extent necessary to ensure dissemination to the public." This is directly correlated to the goals of the constitutional explanation of copyright.


    The obvious issue associated with this doctrine is how exactly to detirmine what is fair use as opposed to copyright violation. The law is not at all clear as to how a process is to be determined "fair use", but over the years many examples have surfaced. In general, criticism, comment, parody, new reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, or personal use such as time of format shifting are considered to be within the guidelines of fair use. Companies have in the past been relatively acceptant of the fair use clause within copyright law. As of late though, the tide has shifted as corporate profits have taken an ever increasing priority over public relations and proper customer satisfaction. Older ethical standards for customer rights have become less important to business executives then their efforts to increase profit margins and market domination.


    Just how exactly media corportions lost site of the usefulness of this doctrine is beyond me. Think of video rental stores: They facilitate piracy. With two VCRs I could own every movie under the sun for about 5 bucks a pop. I don't. Both is it not worth the time to pirate, but it is also easier to pay the extra coin to ensure a good copy. People will pay to support media they like and to ensure good quality fun. They will NOT pay for over-priced crap forced down their throats.


    Likewise (and perhaps more importantly), it is idiotic of the RIAA to assume that every person downloading an MP3 is a "diehard" pirate. Since the media companies have not ventured into this new market (digital music) they facilitate the piracy better than any P2P network could.


    I will not support corporate theivery.


    -----------------rhad

    • I think you answered your own question:

      Just how exactly media corportions lost site of the usefulness of this doctrine is beyond me. ... People will pay to support media they like and to ensure good quality fun. They will NOT pay for over-priced crap forced down their throats.

      People will and regularly do pay for over-priced crap, but before Napster and P2P, there was no mainstream viable alternative. Now consumers have a choice between over-priced and free, and it's the copyright corporations that are forcing that choice. They continue to attempt to legislate around it, but it will continue to fail.

      With all the brainpower that exists in the world, you'd think a middle-of-the-road solution that maintains fair-use while allowing quality media to be developed could be created. However, as maximizing profit is the ultimate (only?) goal of corporations, they're hooked on getting $18 for crap.

  • by jeffy124 (453342) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @02:48PM (#3524961) Homepage Journal
    A few months back there was a Justice Talking [justicetalking.org] (a show on NPR) that debated the DMCA, Siva was the voice against it, an MPAA rep (sorry, I forget the guy's name) the pro voice. I was in attendence at it's recording.

    Some of the interesting tidbits from that session that I can remember (this was in October I think, so my accuracy should be called into question):

    Someone suggested that DeCSS may not exist if there were a DVD player available for Linux. The MPAA guy argued that all programs written for Linux must be open-sourced, which would compromise what is essentially their security-through-obscurity scheme of handling CSS. And Siva AGREED! Now correct me if I'm wrong - isnt it possible to write programs for Linux that are closed-source?

    Tidbit #2 - Someone asked about making backup copies and their allowance under fair use. The MPAA rep countered that making a backup of a movie (whether it be video or DVD) is not permitted under fair use. A big look of shock on many people's faces after that statement.

    Justice Talking used to keep RealAudio recordings of their shows on their site, but I never did see this session on the site in the weeks following the debate for whatever reason. (I suspect maybe it didnt appear because they played a 3-5 second clip from a musical version of DeCSS during the show, and then asked the MPAA rep if they violated the DMCA) Unfortunately, looking at the site now you have to buy a transcript or CD recording.
  • by anser (224618) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @02:50PM (#3524973) Homepage
    The original concept of copyright was based on the notion that by producing creative works, authors benefit society, and so were entitled to make a living from a time-limited legal monopoly on the reproduction and distribution of their creations -- which would otherwise be technically easy for anyone to do, if the law didn't forbid it. As long as the creator (or other owner of copyright) had that control, everything else was basically OK. There was a clear and logical distinction between copying a book and reading it, and nobody was interested in preventing someone from reading, only in preventing someone from unauthorized printing.

    The new notion of copyright seems to be based on a cyptographically and legally enforced "secure pipeline" from the content creator to each individually authorized end user. All new developments trend towards this end. Unauthorized viewing is as serious as unauthorized copying, in fact the distinction often disappears. The right to make a living from printing and selling a creative work has been replaced by the right to control how a creative work is used, and to be compensated for each use, every step of the way.

    It is an entirely new paradigm, and if it succeeds in establishing itself, an entirely new information economy will result. Unfortunately, free speech will be an early casualty. Orwell's 1984 will no longer be a dystopian speculation, but a first-year business text.
    • First, that was a great post. Second, part of the problem we're facing today is that unauthorized viewing, when the internet is involved, is often the same as unauthorized copying. Or at least indistinguishable from it. Also, when numerous people can simultaneously, and convieniently, view one thing at any time then copying becomes unnecessary.

      I think that's why copyright is such a problem right now. Computers competely destroy all the rules that used to exist regarding how information was used, shared and accessed. And while the people in power see that and over react the people not in power see the over reaction and try to push the other way.

      I'm not saying that the current situation is acceptable or that P2P things are wrong, I'm just saying there is a real reason for the current situation. I hope that a new system that more accurately considers the desires of the consumer and the rights of the content creator can be found.

      (How in the world did the idea that all the rights of the content creator should be passed to the content distributor, and then held in precedence over the rihts and desires of the consumer ever get any weight?)
      • First, that was a great post. Second, part of the problem we're facing today is that unauthorized viewing, when the internet is involved, is often the same as unauthorized copying.

        The issue is more that there is a basis for their having authority to control copying, but there is little or no basis for authority over viewing. Basically they have been working hard over the last 20-30 years to blur the distinction in peoples' (especially judges and legislators) minds.

        Or at least indistinguishable from it.

        So enforcement is difficult, tough. The US Supreme Court recently threw out a similar argument over simulated child porn, something of far greater importance than some corporation's profits.

        Also, when numerous people can simultaneously, and convieniently, view one thing at any time then copying becomes unnecessary.

        What do they want next, cameras in peoples' houses in case they invite friends around to watch a rented video/DVD?
    • the notion that by producing creative works, authors benefit society, and so were entitled to make a living from a time-limited legal monopoly


      There is a court case to the Supreme Court that is worth supporting, Ashcroft vs. Eldred [harvard.edu]. They are trying to fight the Sonny Bono act. If this act get repealed, Mickey Mouse and other copyrighted materials will become public domain.

      The good news is that the Supreme Court announced that it will hear this case.
    • by FreeUser (11483) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @03:41PM (#3525343)
      The original concept of copyright was based on the notion that by producing creative works, authors benefit society, and so were entitled to make a living from a time-limited legal monopoly on the reproduction and distribution of their creations

      ahem. No.

      The original concept of copyright was instituted by the British Monarchy to facilitate authoritarian control over the then-emergent printing press, by requiring all works to 'register themselves' and provide certain information making the publisher known, accessible, and ultimately accountable to the Crown if they printed something the Crown found offensive. It was a means of controlling the printing press (by banning unauthorized printing presses) and, most importantly, controlling what was printed.

      In other words, copyright was designed from the beginning to do exactly what it is becoming most famous for doing today: facilitate censorship.

      Later refinements insured the profitability of those publishers so "blessed" by the crown, by setting up a book in which they could register works they were publishing so that the oligarchs wouldn't be competing with one another.

      It wasn't until much later that the justification of "protecting the artist's right to profit from their works" was introduced, almost as an afterthought, well after the publishing oligarchy was well entrenched and generally as a way to mitigate criticism in some quarters with respect to the restritive (and monopolistic) nature of copyright. Unfortunately for the artists, copyright law then, as now, favors the publishers over the authors in most respects, belying its real intent (today: the maintenance of the copyright cartels and oligarchs, then: the maintenance of the authority of the Crown over what information was, and was not, available in print).

      The United States adopted both copyright and patent law more or less intact from our former British overlords, with little questioning of the propoganda that justified such strictures (Thomas Jefferson was a rare exception who did question, and criticize, both concepts). The British Empire rose upon the force of tightly controlled trade monopolies and ultimately met its demise when said force, coupled with their weakening navel power to enforce it, couldn't withstand the pressures of a more open, modern marketplace. It is interesting that the two most restrictive, dangerous democracy-threatening aspects of American law both have their roots in British monopoly regimes we adopted more or less unchanged and without question.

      The new notion of copyright seems to be based on a cyptographically and legally enforced "secure pipeline" from the content creator to each individually authorized end user.

      Again, this is really only new in form, not in underlying substance. There have even been people drawn and quartered for copyright violation in England, and more recently, at the turn of the 20th century shopkeepers were beaten, businesses burned, and people perhaps even killed for copyright violations when the copyright holders of musical scores hired thugs to enforce their copyrights in accordance to a new law granting them such powers. Coercion has always been a part of copyright, as it must be since it creates an unnatural monopoly and artificial scarcity out of something which is inherently bountious (information).

      if it succeeds in establishing itself, an entirely new information economy will result. Unfortunately, free speech will be an early casualty. Orwell's 1984 will no longer be a dystopian speculation, but a first-year business text.

      That economy is likely to be relatively short lived and short circuit itself. Monopoly economies never operate at anything approaching the effeciency of an open, more or less free market, and there is only so much people are willign to spend, and so many hoops people are willing to jump through, before they will simply say "to hell with it, I'll do without." The Copyright Cartels, if they get what they want, will likely make far less than will if freedom of information wins out. It is similar to when they tried to ban videotape, only to have more than half their profits coming from video tape sales and rentals a decade later. Multiply that by a dozen emergent technologies, and who knows how many more that will never emerge if "Disney" Hollings has his way.

      You are right, though, the first casualty of the New American Copyright will almost certainly be freedom of speech, exactly as copyright was designed to do in the first place, four centuries ago.
      • Your comments about the true origins of copyright in England are "spot on", but when it comes to the US I would definitely not say that the US "adopted both copyright and patent law more or less intact from our former British overlords".

        In the US constitution (article I section 8), it is stated very clearly that the primary purpose of copyright and patent law in the US is "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries".

        I will not speak for whatever crazy notions the British have of copyright, but in the US at least I feel the constitutional principle of copyright is sound. However I also feel that current copyright law in the US is unconstitutional, for the following reasons:

        • Portions of it (such as the DMCA) cannot be in any way construed as promoting progress in science and arts.
        • The constitution requires copyright to last for limited times, but the current copyright term (95 years after the death of the author) is being periodically extended by Congress in a way that makes it virtually unlimited.
        • The constitution confers copyrights and patents to authors and inventors, not to publishers and record labels and employers. Courtney Love should never be in a position as an author of ranting about having no rights to her own songs.
        • by alext (29323) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @05:49PM (#3526144)
          You guys aren't too shabby at a bit of 'propoganda' yourselves.

          Far from freeing itself from oppressive monopolies, the framers of the US constitution used the British copyright law as a model. The controlled press to which you make rather hysterical reference in fact lapsed in 1694. It was replaced by the Statute of Anne in 1709, intended to free the press while protecting the rights of authors.

          Attempts were made by copyright holders to increase their power, including extending the term from the then 14 year period to permanence, but these were struck down by Parliament in 1774. These issues were therefore much in the mind of the framers, and, as with the Bill of Rights, they made free use of the example set.

          Perhaps the UK should have copyrighted the civil law book?

          Reference: Law Professors Amicus Curiae in DMCA Case [eff.org]
        • the current copyright term (95 years after the death of the author)

          I'm pretty sure it's 75 years after the death of the author, or a flat 95 years for "works for hire" (That's when someone pays you to make something. In that case the author gets zero rights. Just cash up front.)

          -
        • I will not speak for whatever crazy notions the British have of copyright

          The point of various treaties and "harmonization" is to make copyright laws around the world similar (if not the same). With the result that current UK copyright law is similar to US copyright law than it was a few decades ago.

          but in the US at least I feel the constitutional principle of copyright is sound.

          Most of the principles in the US constitution are very sound. The problem is having them followed...

          * The constitution confers copyrights and patents to authors and inventors, not to publishers and record labels and employers.

          This is a consequence of copyright being seen as "property". Rather than an intrinsic right of the author which stays with them no matter who they may appoint to act as their proxy.
      • In other words, copyright was designed from the beginning to do exactly what it is becoming most famous for doing today: facilitate censorship.

        Please explain how the hell copyright has anything to do with censorship? You have never been required to register copyrights in this country, so tracking down anonymous authors is out. Copyright certainly doesn't prohibit you from expressing unpopular views in your own words. Copyright only prevents you from making use in various ways of other people's creative works. The DMCA may go too far in the extention on contributory infringement, but WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CENSORSHIP?

        • Well, let's see. First of all, you most certainly did have to register copyrights in this country originally. The law was later amended to remove this requirement. Second, copyright law is becoming more draconian in its restrictions. For instance, today I can show a clip of a movie (VHS) and comment on it. However, I cannot legally extract a clip from a DVD because I would have to circumvent the encryption in order to do so. Since it is illegal for anyone to offer me a program that can accomplish this, my ability to criticize or comment on a work is restricted. The additional changes proposed in Congress will only make this situation worse.

          • Registration is only a requirement for certain types of enforcement actions. If you are claiming there was once a law in the United States that made it a requirement that all publications be registered please furnish a source.

            Your argument about criticism is just blatanly stupid:
            1. You can still extract a clip from a tape and comment on it. You can even play a clip from a DVD and comment on it. You can film yourself watching the DVD and commenting the whole way through. Etc, etc.
            2. Fair use is an exception to the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. It does not grant you any specfic rights other than the protection from the charge of Copyright Infringement.

            I acknowledge in my previous post that the DMCA goes too far in the regulation of tools and behavior that CAN be used for infringement. I am still wondering how copyright can be used for censorship. Other than me "censoring" your ability to copy my work, which isn't censorship at all.

            • 1. You can still extract a clip from a tape and comment on it. You can even play a clip from a DVD and comment on it. You can film yourself watching the DVD and commenting the whole way through. Etc, etc.

              Tapes are being phased out in favor of digital media. Playing a clip is only suitable for live presentations. Even then there could be a problem as DVDs all contain warnings about public display. I'm not sure how enforceable those are in any given situation now. Filming yourself watching a DVD is a very poor substitute for embedding an actual clip. The quality is bound to suffer quite a bit and look quite unprofessional. So don't tell me we aren't losing something here. Before the DMCA, we could have extracted clips to include in our own works. Now we can't. Plain and simple.

              2. Fair use is an exception to the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. It does not grant you any specfic rights other than the protection from the charge of Copyright Infringement.

              Semantics. If the law prohibits me from doing something, then any exception will (re)grant me permission to do that thing. There is little, if any, difference.

              Other than me "censoring" your ability to copy my work, which isn't censorship at all.

              That happens to be exactly what it is. Just because the government has legalized that form of censorship doesn't make it any less a form of censorship. The DMCA and the proposed new law will just carry it even further and allow a greater degree of censorship.

        • Please explain how the hell copyright has anything to do with censorship?

          It was originally a right to copy granted by and subject to the whim of the state. Specifically the British monarch. This kind of copyright never existed in the USA, because by the time the USA came into existance copyright in Britain had been changed. It was this later version which was written into the US constitution.

          You have never been required to register copyrights in this country,

          Assuming "this country" is the USA then copyright registration existed up until the 1970's, IIRC.

          The DMCA may go too far in the extention on contributory infringement, but WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CENSORSHIP?

          It's called "history"...
          • Maybe you should reread my post. I didn't make any claims about the history of copyright.

            This kind of copyright never existed in the USA, because by the time the USA came into existance copyright in Britain had been changed. It was this later version which was written into the US constitution.

            The post I was replying to asserted that copyright is being used as a form of censorship TODAY.

            Assuming "this country" is the USA then copyright registration existed up until the 1970's, IIRC.

            Registration still exists, it just isn't and has never been "required".

            • The post I was replying to asserted that copyright is being used as a form of censorship TODAY.

              You haven't gotten out much the last few months, have you?

              I am assuming you are not a troll, merely uninformed. I suggest you begin by going to eff.org [eff.org]. Then continue your education by looking up information on digital watermarks, and how the DMCA was used to initimidate and, initially, prevent the publication of a scholarly paper demonstrating how ineffective watermarking is (the work was later published, as a direct result of the widespread public outcry, much of which was stirred up by the reporting of that very story here on slashdot).

              I would then refer you to Dmitry Sklyarov, who was imprisoned in the United States for giving a speech on the weaknesses of Adobe's eBook encryption while attending a conference in Las Vegas (hint to Adobe: rot13 is NOT encryption!), under the incredibly weak notion that he as an employee was responsible for his employer having sold software illegal in the U.S. (but legal and, under Russian law, required before any eBook may be legally sold there!).

              Ever wonder why Prince is now 'the Artist formerly known as Prince?' No, it wasn't arrogance. He signed a bad contract with a record label, so draconian he wasn't even allowed to use his own stage name anymore, unless he continued working for that label for pennies on the dollar. Instead he wrote the word "SLAVE" across his forhead and performed (on MTV IIRC) as the guy 'formerly known' as Prince, and for a while (perhaps still) he couldn't even perform his older material that he, as an artist, created. This is censorship, brought to you by modern American copyright law.

              There are numerous hip-hop and rap artists who have been censored from presenting their work because of copyright, not necessarilly because their sampling isn't fair use (in most cases it is), but because the threat of a lawsuit by deep pocketed Copyright Cartels like the record labels is sufficient to silence their speech. This is censorship, brought to you by modern American copyright law.

              More recently, George Lucas co-opted the Star Wars Fan Fiction Convention, then summarilly disallowed any and all fan fiction that wasn't a parody or spoof, eliminating many, many works (including some of the IMHO most interesting ones) from competition or exposure, effectively silencing those authors. Copyright allows him to do this (it grants him exclusive ownership of the Star Wars universe and will do so for the rest of our natural lives), despite the fact that the Star Wars mythos has ingrained itself into our cultural fabric.

              Silencing those authors is censorship, brought to you by modern American copyright law.

              There was an attempt to use copyright law to silence the author of The Wind Done Gone, a retelling of Gone With the Wind from a black American slave's point of view, an attempt which very nearly succeeded and didn't mainly because of the racial overtones and the amount of attention (and funding for the defense) that particular aspect of the issue brought to bear.

              Had she not had such strong public opinion on her side, and such wide public exposure as a result, she too would likely have fallen prey to censorship, brought to you once again by modern American copyright law. For every author like that who does manage to get into the public eye, there are hundreds of others who do not, and whose work you never see, never hear, as a result.

              Finally, have you tried to get a copy of Du Pont: Behind the Nylon Curtain by Gerard Colby? Good luck. The book was privished by its publisher (against the author's wishes, obviously) at the behest of one of America's most powerful families. I suggest you look up the word "privish" ... authors' own publishers can and do use copyright to silence books they do not want to see the light of day, and much of this censorship is politically motivated. (See Into the Buzzsaw, edited by Kristina Borjesson, for other accounts by Pulitzer and Peabody Award winning journalists for testimonials about the current state of the "free press" in America today. It will make you hair stand up on end.

              Whether performed by corporations, by powerful individuals, or by government, silencing the words, thoughts, creativity, and opinions of people is censorship, and the most common tool in use today for accomplishing that is Copyright Law.

              Copyright Law was initially created and designed to facilitate censorship. It has since been subject to some minor modifications and reforms, but its inherent structure remains largely unchanged. No one has even considered trying a different approach to granting exclusive monopolies as a means to compensating the artists, in large part because, by the time the question ever arose, there were already large publishing interests in place who benefited from the old, censorship-prone copyright regime.

              This is why copyright, more than any other set of laws, is so effective at facilitating censorship in countries that otherwise are fairly open and permissive. It is why websites can be taken down at the merest allegation of copyright violation, even while the supreme court with the other hand defends the rights of adult websites to remain on the 'net. Of the two approaches to censoring the net, the DMCA, and copyright, has been vastly more effective than the SCA we all feared so much a couple of years earlier.
              • I'll assume that you aren't a communist moron, merely you just don't know how to think for yourself. All of your examples have one thing in common. The copyright holders voluntarily witheld their own works. Whether it is because the fear of lawsuit, the fact that the orignial author sold the rights to someone else, or the author never had the right to publication in the first place, none of the actors in your story were censored by anyone but themselves.

                The DMCA is a bad law, I agree. Professor Felten could have faced criminal charges under the DMCA, but there is nothing that would have prevented him from publishing the paper anonymously is there? The first ammendment does not protect you from the consequences of your speech, it only protects you from a priori censorship; so sayeth the Supreme Court.

                Censorship is not about people being able to sell books or publish papers, censorship is about preventing ideas from being shared. This is not the case in any of your examples.

                I couldn't find "privish" in any of the dictionaries I tried, but I assume it means "available at Amazon.com" since that's where I found the book you refered too.
                Here: a link [amazon.com] I assume if you are against copyright you are against Patents too, so you'll probably want to get it from Barnes and Noble [barnesandnoble.com]. Maybe you couldn't find it because the authors name is "Gerald" not "Gerard".
                • I'll assume that you aren't a communist moron, merely you just don't know how to think for yourself.

                  So you were a mindless troll after all, not merely uninformed. My mistake.
                • I hate to respond to what is now obviously a troll, but just in case some cursory reader sees your links and is mislead into believe your reply is a relevant rebuttal (it isn't, it underscores my very point about privishing, assuming one knows what the word means ... it is a word specific to the publishing industry) I must respond.

                  If you really are not a troll, and our personalities are merely clashing online (a possibity I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on) I would plead with you to inform yourself about these issues and think for yourself, rather than simply spouting the media line on what is and is not censorship, and what copyright does and does not do.

                  I couldn't find "privish" in any of the dictionaries I tried, but I assume it means "available at Amazon.com" since that's where I found the book you refered too.

                  You found four used copies (three of which are also available at Barns and Noble). The book is out of print, and having been privished it never enjoyed widespread availability and was always very difficult to obtain, despite significant demand during the author's book tour (for which the books were not delivered, denying those who were interested access to the material at the time). The book was privished in 1974. It is now 2002, and you can buy a whopping 3 used copies on the net, and probably not more than a dozen nationwide altogether.

                  [a 0.1 second google search yeilds]


                  To "privish" is to print too few copies to make a book financially viable. I hope that this is not the fate of this book, as it is a true eye-opener.


                  Censorship is not about people being able to sell books or publish papers, censorship is about preventing ideas from being shared.


                  censorship

                  n 1: counterintelligence achieved by banning or deleting any information of value to the enemy [syn: censoring, security review] 2: deleting parts of publications or correspondence or theatrical performances [syn: censoring]

                  censor
                  n.

                  1. A person authorized to examine books, films, or other material and to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable.
                  2. An official, as in the armed forces, who examines personal mail and official dispatches to remove information considered secret or a risk to security.
                  3. One that condemns or censures.
                  4. One of two officials in ancient Rome responsible for taking the public census and supervising public behavior and morals.
                  5. Psychology. The agent in the unconscious that is responsible for censorship.


                  Censorship is most certainly about publishing papers and (being allowed to) sell books. If a publisher deliberately prints too few books, and deliberately doesn't ship them out to bookstores for book tours in an effort to insure the book is financially unviable (that is privishing), then they are most certainly "preventing ideas from being shared" (your words), and they are using copyright law to do so. If a professor cannot publish his research results for fear of prosecution under copyright law, that is censorship. In both cases people are being prevented from sharing their ideas. What is your next argument, that suppression of a work or idea in a mass medium isn't real censorship because the people being so silenced could go door to door and share their thoughts in person?

                  Each and every one of my examples demonstrated how copyright law is being used to censor people in various professions and walks of life. Your argument that people "voluntarilly" are giving up their rights is akin to the notion that prisoners are "voluntarilly" giving up their freedom. Copyright law in its current form allows, even facilitates, the wholesale swindling of artists and consumers by the Copyright Cartels, and The Artist Formerly Known as Prince is but one of many artists trying to let the uninformed world know that, despite being very effectively silenced by the media controlled, in many instances, by those very same cartels.

                  Those people were no more censoring "themselves" than the millions in eastern Europe who remained quiet beneath an authoritarian regime were ... those artists are being censored by the copyright cartels, throuhg a process made possible by the very same copyright protocols that were originally designed to do just that. It is as much censorship as that which silenced the masses in eastern Europe, and in neither case is it appropriate to be blaming the victim or accusing them of "self-censorship."
    • The original concept of copyright was based on the notion that by producing creative works, authors benefit society, and so were entitled to make a living from a time-limited legal monopoly on the reproduction and distribution of their creations -- which would otherwise be technically easy for anyone to do, if the law didn't forbid it.

      Actually it's more the right to persue making a profit. In a free market economy no entity has any right to make a living from any commercial enterprise.

      As long as the creator (or other owner of copyright) had that control, everything else was basically OK.

      Problems arise when copyright is most often held by publishers and distributers. Which is why copyright law was deliberatly changed a few hundred years ago to assign copyright to authors.

      There was a clear and logical distinction between copying a book and reading it, and nobody was interested in preventing someone from reading, only in preventing someone from unauthorized printing.

      With books there is a distinction made between copying to create a copy and copying which is incidental to normal use. Reading a book, including reading it aloud would never be considered copyright infringment. Also copying a book, by hand, photocopier, even scanning and OCRing it probably just isn't worth it. (Unless the book is out of print.)

      The new notion of copyright seems to be based on a cyptographically and legally enforced "secure pipeline" from the content creator to each individually authorized end user.

      "Content creator" being a codeword for "major corporate publisher". Since none of these schemes would do anything much to protect the likes of "garage bands", independant video producers, etc.

      All new developments trend towards this end. Unauthorized viewing is as serious as unauthorized copying, in fact the distinction often disappears.

      In some cases the lack of a distinction between copying to copy and copying as part if the process of using is made explicit in statute or case laws, which major corporate publishing has lobbied hard for.

      The right to make a living from printing and selling a creative work has been replaced by the right to control how a creative work is used, and to be compensated for each use, every step of the way.

      Another thing has changed, works are now easily copiable. What prevented copying was more that it was was difficult, time consuming and expensive. Now we have a situtation where machines which can do easy copying, be they 20 year old double cassette tape units or personal computers are easily affordable. The practical barriers to easy duplication have gone.
  • Even if Congress focused on hardware and excluded software, we all know that distinction is a matter of modular convenience and industry practice rather than a natural distinction.

    We all know that anything that can be implemented in hardware can be implemented in software (sans physical devices like storage etc.), so isnt this point moot?

  • flag stripes? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by flynt (248848)
    Where is the top red stripe on the American Flag? It looks a bit awkward without it, agreed?
  • Perhaps if software moved to a model where the programmers got royalties, copyright would concern me. The music industry disburses royalties to its performers... Fact is, I'm not going to pay the exhorbitant software costs to the big companies. Big software companies don't lose all that much to individual piracy -- they have multi-million dollar contracts with big companies to give them crap software... I can't sympathise with Bill Gates, Adobe, Macromedia (although I daily use products from each of them) I have figured the cost of the AVERAGE software to be a complete webmaster using a windows box. WIN XP Office XP Dreamweaver MX Flash MX Adobe Font Folio 9 Adobe Type Manager Adobe Photoshop Adobe Illustrator These are the basics, but I'm already in the hole several thousand dollars bah! with the advent of broadband and cd burners, it's put software piracy in the hands of everyman instead of just the ubergeek... When the software houses implement a royalties system of $10 or $20 to be distributed to the programmers for every license, I'll consider paying for my win software... I myself am both artist and programmer... it's not the little guy getting screwed... If you're bored, please visit my site, Web Kiss 101, personals for geeks! [webkiss101.com]
  • The courts had stolen the soul. And rap music is poorer for it.

    That's just bizarre. So rap is completely dependent on sampling the music of other artists? That's like piecing together a book based on snippets of other books.
    • That's just bizarre. So rap is completely dependent on sampling the music of other artists? That's like piecing together a book based on snippets of other books.

      Most artwork is designed by ripping off snippets of other works. Ever heard of a literary allusion?

      Instead of ripping off, some call it standing on the shoulders of giants.

      Nobody complains when guitarists rip off each others licks, but when someone participates in the same type of activity digitally, then it is suddenly a copyright issue. Even if the samples are intermingled in a technically difficult and clever manner transcending the intent of the original works.

      -Syllepsis

    • That's like piecing together a book based on snippets of other books.

      You ever read any academic works? Heh.

    • preface: I am a musician and I work hard and make great music and make no money at all from it, I am way biased on this issue:) The first thing that ran through my mind after reading the phrase about rap musicbeing poorer was "wow copyright law has done some good"

      Seriously, when Peter Gun (guy can't even come up with an original name!!) samples steely dans "black cow" (which is a work of art) and sings "yo nigger whoa nigger!" over it, he has contributed *nothing* to art, *nothing* to music, and nothing to society. Theres no stifling of art here. He should have to pay for that sample, he's making money from their hard work.

      Contrast that to Enigma's "The Screen Behind The Mirror" which is an electronica album based around the Carmina Burana -- an absolute masterpiece -- and this album contributes volumes to music and art ... if this album hadnt existed, we really would be poorer ...

      I think in this case, trajedy is in the eye of the beholder. The same way that disney dosen't care that you can't make your own episodes of Ducktales.

  • by Dirtside (91468) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @04:19PM (#3525594) Journal
    Okay, so the last ten years has seen a revolution in technology. Specifically, the ability to create, copy, and widely disseminate digital data -- be it music, movies, text, images, whatever.

    One side effect of this is that it is now trivially easy for a sizable segment of the world's population (and an even larger proportion of the U.S.'s population) to violate copyright laws by (for example) purchasing music legally, making copies of that music, and disseminating it (illegally) for free to thousands of other people all over the world.

    I argue that the primary purpose of law is to impose order upon a society, in a form of natural selection. Societies that lean toward laws and order are more likely to survive than societies that tend toward anarchy and chaos. Laws themselves tend to reflect the moral character of the times they are created in. Laws, like any moral system (or system of controlling behavior) are never absolute or inherent to the fabric of the universe (unless you believe that some god's laws are the "inherent morality" of the universe, but good luck getting me to believe that).

    When laws conflict with reality, social stress results. There are those in society who hold the law as (almost?) sacred, and those who (in my opinion, more rightly) see the law as merely the current set of rules we must live under. (Tangent: I was dismayed to see a DEA official state that the DEA "does not want to encourage anything which might lead to a lessening of drug laws" (paraphrased) -- nevermind that the DEA, as a part of the Executive branch of our government, should not have any interest in WHAT the law is, merely in enforcing the CURRENT law, whatever it may be.)

    This particular issue of stress has a particular set of industries on one side, and the bulk of the nation's citizens on the other. (I refuse to refer to people as "consumers"; it is demeaning.) Content creation industries -- music companies, film companies, publishing companies, and others who control large numbers of copyrights -- have historically based their entire business model on the idea of scarcity. They could charge money for good like music and books, because those goods could not be easily replicated by individuals. In this respect, books, music, and movies were much like any other product -- cars, power tools, furniture, or even food.

    But with the dawn of the Internet and the abilities mentioned above, information like movies, music, and books can be endlessly replicated at almost zero cost by virtually any individual. Hence, the obvious conflict -- many people do not see such copying as "wrong". Why not?

    The traditional view of "stealing" or "theft" involves taking an item from someone, such that the person no longer has that item. They have suffered a real, measurable loss in this instance. If I steal your car, your power tools, your furniture, or your food, you no longer have those things. Inversely, if you freely give me those things, you no longer have them to use. But information is different. Nowadays, I can freely give you a COPY of a piece of music, a book, or a movie, and still retain the original. Each of our two copies are indistinguishable -- they are identical and interchangable.

    This was vaguely recognized by the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution -- they understood that works (mainly books, at that time) could be bootlegged and sold illegally. They believed that a goverment-granted, and government-enforced temporary monopoly on the right to make money from the production of easily reproducible works, would help the nation, its economy, and its citizens. By giving authors that temporary monopoly, the law would encourage authors to produce more without fear that their work would be profited upon by those who had contributed nothing to it.

    This was a fair idea, at the time, and indeed it is still a fair idea today. Unfortunately, the content creation industry has made great efforts toward extending the length of copyright, and if current trends continue, we can expect that no copyright will ever again expire. This obviously goes against the original intent of the copyright provisions, which was to allow authors a chance at fair compensation for their works, in exchange for that work entering the public domain after a certain period. Technically, that is still true, but it is quite obvious that the content creation industry has no intention of letting it continue to be true.

    Back to the issue of being able to cheaply replicate any data. The problem here is that since many people do not see copying as theft, they are inclined to believe that the law is wrong and can be ignored. There is obviously a wide variety of views on the subject; some citizens believe in sticking to the letter of the law, while others will do casual copying in certain circumstances, and yet others will massively and freely distribute copyrighted information to anyone who wants it. Even further along are commercial pirates, those who actually try to make money selling copies of copyrighted works.

    The content creation industry is generally responding to this widespread "threat" by trying to purchase legislation that specifically preserves their business model. Either they do not want to embrace new technologies and figure out how to profit from them, or they are just lazy, or whatever... but the upshot is that they believe that they have a right to profit, and that it is moral to buy legislation in their favor. Some citizens and government officials believe this as well, and support such legislation, either because they REALLY believe it's wrong, or because they've been bought off by media companies.

    Depending on your political views, you may or may not support the idea of direct interference in an industry by the government, for purposes of "saving" that industry. I personally believe the following: A free-market economy is generally a good thing, but if left completely unregulated, it will lead to severe abuse by the most powerful entities in the economy. Certain governmental measures are warranted, in order to prevent such abuse. Rescuing a faltering industry can be warranted, but it depends on the particular instance. If privately owned utility companies (power and water) are faltering and cannot easily be saved by the market, it is acceptable for the government to intervene -- if those companies disappear, millions of citizens may be left without water or power for extended periods of time, which is not acceptable.

    However, the content creation industry is not so critical. For one thing, they do not have localized monopolies -- if I live in Westwood (a suburb of Los Angeles), I don't have any option for who provides my water and power. I get it from the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (yes, we make our own power, so no rolling blackouts for us!). If they go under and cannot provide power, then there is no way (aside from moving, which isn't feasible for hundreds of thousands of families to do at once) for me to get water and power until someone replaces the DWP. However, I can get music from numerous companies -- any of the big media conglomerates will have their music available for sale in numerous stores in the area, many of which are owned by different companies. If one (or five, or half) of the music companies goes out of business, I can still get music. Even if all music stores and companies went out of business simultaneously, I would still have all the music I had ALREADY purchased, and could listen to that while new music companies and stores were formed. (Unlike electricity, which you can't really store up in significant quantities.)

    Essentially, industries which meet a certain limit of criticality are GENERALLY acceptable targets for government intervention when necessary, but of course that depends on exactly what the situation is. Trying to apply the same rules to everything, all the time, is stupid.

    If the content industries can't hack it with their current business models, it will not significantly hurt anything for them to have to adapt -- even if some of them end up going out of business. It makes no sense to attempt to cripple the pace of technology and social development so that a few (relatively small) companies can survive. (By relatively small, I mean, for example, taht General Motors grosses more money in a year than all the music and film companies... COMBINED.)

    Well, that's enough rambling for now. Hopefully this will inspire some creative thought in readers. :)
  • Double edged sword (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quixote (154172) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @04:59PM (#3525847) Homepage Journal
    Technology is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it helps you, sometimes it hurts. You can't just take the good without the bad.

    Let me explain. A 100 years ago, when there was no concept of recordings, musicians performed in the public. Anybody who was adept enough could listen to their music, and perform it as his own a few miles down the road.

    Then came the recording technology. Suddenly, a musician could be in a 1000 places at once, performing live! Wunderbar, isn't technology great? This also gave birth the recording companies.

    Then came the digital music. It allowed the recording companies to make millions of identical copies of a piece of music. The industry was happier than ever, with record revenues(no pun intended).

    Now, suddenly this digital revolution has turned around and bit them on the ass, with P2P, DiVX, etc. Suddenly, the recording industry wants to control the technology now.

    The fact of the matter is, you don't see anybody else complaining that their livelihood is being hurt by technology! Why should there be an exception for the RIAA?

    • You see many, many people complaining their livelihood is being removed by technology - factory workers into robots, craftsmen replaced by factories.... musical groups replaced by one producer and a machine. Local businesses going under because transportation technology is good enough that importing is cheaper.

      Hint - these people aren't getting a break. Now look at the size of a break these associations are getting.
      • You see many, many people complaining their livelihood is being removed by technology - factory workers into robots, craftsmen replaced by factories.... musical groups replaced by one producer and a machine. Local businesses going under because transportation technology is good enough that importing is cheaper.

        You are right, I misspoke. What I meant was, "you don't see anybody _doing anything_ about that". By "saying" I meant the decisionmakers, those who are now championing the cause of the RIAA and their ilk.

  • Way to live up to your namesake, mate! Keep up the good work, wreckin' the big boys grill...
  • by isaac (2852) on Wednesday May 15, 2002 @05:21PM (#3525957)
    If none of you know where to look, the case that established that unauthorized samples were always copyright violations is called Grand Upright Music Ltd. v. Warner Brothers Records, Inc.

    The injunction [detritus.net] handed down on December 17, 1991 forced Biz Markie's hit album, "I Need a Haircut," off the shelves for including a sample of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)." This case marked the end of sound collage in popular music, since it firmly established that the number of notes that may be sampled without permission is zero.

    The US Supreme Court was a little bit looser in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc [benedict.com] (the 2 Live Crew / Roy Orbison "Pretty Woman" case), and allowed 2 Live Crew the affirmative defense of fair use, overturning past decisions that had held commercial appropriation to be presumptively infringing.

    These are probably the cases of the early '90s to which Mr. Vaidhyanathan is referring.

    -Isaac

    • Isaac wrote:

      >The injunction handed down on
      >December 17, 1991 forced Biz Markie's hit album,
      >"I Need a Haircut," off the shelves for including >a sample of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)."

      I believe that Siva has specifically referred to that case at his coloquims (sp.)? and book signings. You are right on, Isaac!
  • Indeed, it is one thing for critics of IP to diss technology regulation such as the DMCA and TLAVOTSHB (The Latest Acronym Version of the Stupid Hollings Bill). The key point here, is that principled advocates of strong intellectual property protection, such as myself, feel equally strongly that these laws have no place in America.

    Technology regulation is an abomination to the careful balance of intellectual property rights, and affirmatively stunts economic and technological growth. Giving patent-like protections to copyright holders on unpatentable technologies for indefinite terms would be an anathema if proposed as an amendment to the patent system -- why does doing it in defense of the copyright laws make it less awful?

    IP works if, and only if, the careful foundations on which it is predicated are followed. Technology regulation is a blight on the face of the IP universe, and is bad on balance for our nation and all of its authors and inventors, whether or not you are a critic of the Copyright Act in the first place.
  • IANAL, but isn't there some clause in copyright law stating that you can produce a derivative work using sampled music royalty- and permission-free as long as you sample less than 4 bars?

    I was under the impression that this was how MC Hammer's "You Can't Touch This" was not only possible but inpsired (it's ripped from that "Superfreak" song, the name of the artist escapes me at the moment), as well as many works by Weird Al Yankovic. Does this apply to only parodies? I'm pretty sure if the song is a remix of the sampled song you need permission no matter what, but for simply taking a small clip for yor own purposes is legal.

    I know for a fact in techno/house/other electronic music many producers rip drums and hi hats from existing records because it saves production time, especially if you find the sound you where trying for already created. Of course, most of these producers probably don't give a sh*t because they realize it's no biggie...

    I hope someone can answer this because it may mean I need to strip a phatty lil Biz Markie sample from my latest :-D
    • IANAL, but isn't there some clause in copyright law stating that you can produce a derivative work using sampled music royalty- and permission-free as long as you sample less than 4 bars?

      Nope ... a composer can use *4 bars* of another song as *written notes on paper* in his own composition... but legally even 1 sample is a copyright violation ... the reason is this:

      Copyright law protects works fixed in a *physical medium*. Notes on paper, while copyrightable, are a very weak fixed medium. If there were not limits on what constitutes copyright violation, someone could copyright notes, scales, chord progressions, time signatures, etc ... the basic building blocks of music -- so at some point a limit had to be established (and long before a sampler existed I might add). This kind of abuse is basically whats hapening in the patent system right now -- people patenting basic principles of science (music). Imagine if roger waters started patenting rythm guitar riffs -- chaos.

      Now a recording is a very *strong* fixed medium -- very easily identifiable, and more then that it *exists*. A note on a piece of paper dosen't exists until someone plays it. So this is the interesting thing -- it is not infringing to put up to 4 bars of the rythm guitar from "wish you were here" in your song *if you play it yourself*, but it is infringing to sample *his* performance of those notes.

      And if you think about it it's really pretty fair. If someone hears something they like they are free to play it themselves, but they aren't free to rip you off wholesale.

    • I was under the impression that this was how MC Hammer's "You Can't Touch This" was not only possible but inpsired (it's ripped from that "Superfreak" song, the name of the artist escapes me at the moment), as well as many works by Weird Al Yankovic.

      Sampling is treated differently from creating a parody.
  • ... so just imagine what it must be like in Australia. Here we're under the thumb of your laws thanks to a legislature that thinks we're an American state (but are even stupider, so we end up with stunningly badly drafted laws) but we don't get any vote or say in the US laws.

    US passes law.
    Aust citizens protest and are ignored because "the US did it" so:
    Aust passes same law drafted even worse.

    I never thought I'd say this, but at least for Australia, US citizens really can "save the world".

    *sigh*
  • Coincidence du jour: InfoAnarchy [infoanarchy.org] has just posted a review of Siva's Copyrights and Copywrongs. Check it out!
  • Fellow /.ers,

    A friendly debate: Which book is a better read: Lessig's Code or Vaidhyanathan's Copyrights and Copywrongs? We're not looking at the specifics of the content -- Code being about the regulation of cyberspace -- but their readability. I will take no offense at those who give Code the nod. ;-)
  • National Public Radio's legal magazine show Justice Talking [justicetalking.org] has just released the show in which MPAA attorney Fritz Attaway debates the virtures of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with Siva Vaidhyanathan [nyu.edu], author of Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity [nyu.edu]. The show was recorded on March 4 in Philadelphia and is available in RealPlayer format and is archived here [justicetalking.org].

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder

Working...