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The Copyright Crusade a Lost Cause? 253

Posted by Zonk
from the got-lost-in-his-own-museum dept.
A. Smith writes "Ars Technica is exploring the relationship between property rights and copyright, arguing that copyright holders are making a mistake by stressing similarities between property rights and copyright. They compare P2P users to 18th-century squatters in North America: 'Like squatters of old, many ordinary users find copyright law bewildering and are frustrated by the arbitrary restrictions it imposes. Customers wanting to rip their DVD collections to their computers, download music they can play on any device, or incorporate copyrighted works into original creative works find that there is no straightforward, legal way to do these things.' They conclude by offering that more reasonable, understandable copyright restrictions would result in a user base friendlier to publisher interests."
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The Copyright Crusade a Lost Cause?

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  • by jt418-93 (450715) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:03PM (#22654248)
    if they are arguing property is property no matter what, then it would seem to me it should be taxed as such.

    just an idea i read about in the last week or so.

    • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:07PM (#22654322)
      And not a new idea.

      The last time this came up on slashdot, a point was made that until some income is derived from a copyrighted work it has no value. Thus taxes paid on such works are via income tax.
      • Inconsistent Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheMeuge (645043) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:10PM (#22654370)
        Would that mean that unless my business is profitable, I don't have to pay property taxes on the warehouse, factory, or store?

        Does that also mean that if I own an unoccupied residence I don't have to pay property taxes on that?
        • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:15PM (#22654438)
          Well then we have to consider that copyrighted works are intangible, and bare little resemblance to physical property. You can appraise the value of a warehouse, factory, store or residence. How do you appraise the value of a copyrighted work?

          How would you determine the tax to be paid on an open source project? Or on this post?

          Mind you I'm just carrying forward a point someone else brought up, not necessarily vouching for it.

          • by techpawn (969834) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:22PM (#22654532) Journal

            How would you determine the tax to be paid on an open source project? Or on this post?
            Your posts? I'd say they're worth two cents, maybe a penny for your thoughts...

            Then again that's just my $0.02
            • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:38PM (#22655570) Journal
              The problem is capitalism, and private property in general. The tragedy of the commons, the commonly accepted justification for its existence, only occurs when the interests of the individual are not in sync with the interests of the society. This is an example of a system that ill suits its participants, and is something that can be solved with a better system and better infrastructure. The current system is one that is intrinsicly unfriendly to the creation of subsystems that result in "plenty for everyone". We're actively destroying our more intelligent systems and creating scarcity at this point, they call it "privatization".

              These various artificial scarcity conditions are meant to deal with the fact that a few rich people control everything you need to live. If there wasn't the illusion that you might get leverage through these artifical scarcity rules, people would see how powerless they really are, and then they'd revolt and kill the rich bastards and take what they need. That's how WWII started, with enforced systematic economic hopelessness.

              As the fictions start coming down and more and more people realize that their leverage was never real leverage at all, just a fiction, the disparity will become increasingly obvious, and there will be a revolt. It's just a matter of time.
          • Possible model (Score:5, Interesting)

            by TheMeuge (645043) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:25PM (#22654562)
            Well, we have appraisers (my gf is one) that can assign value to personal property based on past sales, market conditions, etc... etc... I really don't see why that cannot be done with ideas. And just like tangible properties, this value may change.

            For instance, to claim a copyright over an essay you write on slashdot, may cost you $0.01, based on how much ad-based revenue can be expected from reading a web-page containing it. If you then proceed to publish this essay in a personal blog, you'd need to pay $0.10 to claim copyright. If it gets published in NY Times, you'd need to pay $100/year to keep it. (all the prices, of course, are purely arbitrary)

            Guidelines can be made that would allow people who generate content, to pay for blanket copyright of similar kinds of content... while especially valuable objects would need to be individually appraised. This would work the same way that property insurance works - your insurance will cover anything in your house up to a certain value... but any objects that are over that, have to be declared individually.

            Maybe if Disney had to pay a few million $ per year to maintain copyright of Mickey... and BMG had to lay out a hundred thousand for every album they'd like to keep out of the public domain, we'd have a much more balanced system.
            • by hedwards (940851)

              Well, we have appraisers (my gf is one) that can assign value to personal property based on past sales, market conditions, etc... etc... I really don't see why that cannot be done with ideas. And just like tangible properties, this value may change.

              Even then the value tends to be somewhat arbitrary. The assessors around here for the county, and the appraiser for banks have had very little reason to bother with reasonable numbers.

              The prices of property wouldn't be declining the way that they have been lately if the value estimates correlated to reality.

              Assessors being responsible for assessing the value upon which to tax a property, and appraisers that are working for banks both have a vested interest which doesn't necessarily correspond with accurate

              • Re:Possible model (Score:5, Interesting)

                by aix tom (902140) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:08PM (#22655188)
                Heck, WE don't need to figure out or appraise how much one copyright for one work is worth.

                Just take the amount the RIAA wants as damages for one copyright infringement, since that is what they TELL us their copyright is worth, and multiply that with the amount of copies they can theoretical make of that work, and compute the tax based on that amount.

                After all, when they calculate their damages on the theoretical copies sold without pirating, why shouldn't the taxes also be calculated on the theoretical amount of possible copies.

                For works that are never involved in lawsuits there would be no tax, so that would take care of those frivolous lawsuits once and for all.
              • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

                by CodeBuster (516420)
                Maybe I am way off base here but it seems to me that the value of the real property (i.e. land plus fixed buildings) should be the present value [wikipedia.org] of the expected rents, perhaps taking into account the possibility of periods of vacancy and variable rents for greater accuracy, OR if one is planning on living in the buildings (i.e. primary residence) then the value should be compared against the present value of expected rents that one would pay for an alternative perhaps also weighed against what one could ear
              • by sconeu (64226)
                The assessors around here for the county, and the appraiser for banks have had very little reason to bother with reasonable numbers.

                One could argue the fact that said assessors and appraisers have a conflict of interest.

                The prices of property wouldn't be declining the way that they have been lately if the value estimates correlated to reality.

                "The value of a thing is what that thing will bring".
            • Why is the above post moderated Flamebait? It's a valid contribution to the discussion.
            • Re:Possible model (Score:4, Interesting)

              by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:55PM (#22656568) Homepage Journal
              How can you appraise the story that's in my head? how can you make a qualified guess at market acceptance?

              More importantly, why would you want to tax ideas out of existence?

              You can imagine owning a beach house all you want and not get taxed for it.

              "BMG had to lay out a hundred thousand for every album "
              That's insane and stupid.

              So I have to pay a 100,000 dollar tax to make my own album?
              Not to mention taxes are generated whenever BMG makes an album, but lets not have reality stand in our way shall we?

              "o pay for blanket copyright of similar kinds of content."
              and what the hell is similar content? use letters? has a certain theme?

              How about we tax the revenue generated by the items and keep the barrier to entry as close to zero as possible. What you propose would destroy almost all beginning creators.

              "Maybe if Disney had to pay a few million $ per year to maintain copyright of Mickey"
              ah, I see you are letting your haters towards some companies blind you to the fact that they are exceptions, as well as lett it dampen you thinking abilities.

              How about an increasing copyright fee over time?
              I purpose:
              all material is copyrighted upon creation for 10 years. A fee to register it the creator wants to.
              After 10 years it goes into public domains. Unless 10,000 dollar renewal fee is paid.
              after five more years 100,000, five more 500,000, five more a million dollars - no more exceptions.

              I would even compromise and allow existing copyrights start over. That grates me, but something like that will need to happen unless they abolish copyright; which they shouldn't do.

              A property is something you posses. There are many definition to the word 'property' and you seem to be getting hung up on the land definition as being the only one.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                A property is something you posses. There are many definition to the word 'property' and you seem to be getting hung up on the land definition as being the only one.
                And since you can not posses an idea, imaginary property really isn't property at all.

                Sure, go ahead and try to argue that possesion does not mean the ability to exclude.
          • by MMC Monster (602931) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:24PM (#22655382)
            Simple: The creator/owner sets a price for the intellectual property, and is taxed based on that price. If they want to change the price, they have to back-date taxes for 3 years. If a person wants to buy the intellectual property, it must be up for grabs for a certain multiple of the price the creator sets.
        • by Khaed (544779)
          The difference is, land is the only thing they're not making more of. Property tax is partly an incentive for people to *use* property and not sit on it.

          IP is much the same as other properties -- such as your computer, your books, your chair. Most places in the US don't tax these (I was shocked to find out some places actually tax you on the value of your property -- so in addition to income and sales tax, you have a "keep it" tax.)
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by DaveV1.0 (203135)
          You are using the same fallacious logic IDiots use when referring to evolution as a "theory".

          Property has multiple meanings. The "property" in "property tax" has specific meaning. But, property has a different meaning when used in "intellectual property".

          Consider this: If one has to pay property tax on intellectual property, one would also have to pay property tax on cars, bikes, books, furniture, and everything else one owns.

          Are you sure you want that?
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by japhering (564929)
            Consider this: If one has to pay property tax on intellectual property, one would also have to pay property tax on cars, bikes, books, furniture, and everything else one owns.

            Depending on where you live you may already pay property taxes on said items. In some states .. the value of the property is determined to be a fraction of the value of the residence.. in other an appraiser comes by to look at everything you own....
          • by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:18PM (#22655296) Homepage
            "Consider this: If one has to pay property tax on intellectual property, one would also have to pay property tax on cars.."

            I just DID pay a property tax on my car. I was just told by the state that my car is worth $7300 and I have to pay $25 for every $1000 of value. Even if it just sits in the garage. It's not a road use tax, it's a "value of the item" tax. Don't pay it and you can lose it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tkrotchko (124118) *
            "one would also have to pay property tax on cars, bikes, books, furniture, and everything else one owns."

            Several U.S. states do have personnel property tax on cars. I suspect the only reason that car, bicycles, furniture and other non-durable goods are not taxed is because it is impossible to know you own them. But with a car, if you wish to register the car (to drive), you'll have to pay the property tax.

            Do I want a personal property tax? No. I consider even real estate taxes extremely regressive and an
        • by MrZaius (321037)
          Would that mean that unless my business is profitable, I don't have to pay property taxes on the warehouse, factory, or store?

          I've heard worse ideas - Tax breaks like this are already offered when trying to attract entrepreneurs to a specific market, they just often lack the clear automatic cutoff.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MontyApollo (849862)
      Other than my home, none of my property is taxed unless I buy or sell it (sales tax). I'm not sure what you are getting at.
      • by Otter (3800)
        He read about it here and, yeah, it's that stupid. The submitter seems to have heard of "property tax" and concluded that all property is taxed, doesn't know that patents have renewal fees, and concocted a theory around that.
    • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:11PM (#22654382)
      if they are arguing property is property no matter what, then it would seem to me it should be taxed as such.

      Really? I have stapler on my desk that I don't pay property taxes on.

      On this desk alone I also have a mouse, a telephone, a can of coke, a screwdriver, a keyboard, 2 monitors, a flashlight, a spindle of blank DVDs... all property, all completely exempt from 'property taxes'.

      I'm curious what idiot convinced you that all real property is taxed.
      • by shentino (1139071) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:15PM (#22654434)
        a mouse, telephone, coke, screwdriver, keyboard, 2 monitors, flashlight, and blank DVD spindle are not real property.

        Real property refers to real estate, which is "the land and anything permanently affixed to it". Personal property is everything else.

        Get your definitions straight.
        • The whole "IP = real property" is just a contrivance for an anti-IP argument. As far as I know it is not IP owners that are claiming this. You have to buy the original argument first that IP = land for the taxation issue to make any sense, and nobody is really arguing this except those looking to take a swipe at IP to begin with. IP = land is a silly argument; IP = personal property makes more sense to me.

          You generally can't create real property; you just make improvements upon it. IP is fundamentally a cre
        • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
          And intellectual property is personal property. The OP suggests that IP == Real estate property, when in reality IP == personal property.

          Get your own definitions straight.
        • by vux984 (928602)
          My point is that personal property has a lot in common with real property too, at least as much as intellectual property... and we don't go around asserting that it too should be taxed, now do we?

          Why should IP be considered real property and taxed, but not personal property? What's the compelling trait shared by IP and real-P that is not also shared by personal-P?
        • That's exactly the point he was making. Who's claiming that IP is like real property?

          Get your discussion interpreter fixed.
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        Are you really that ignorant of context? Property in this sense means land. Does that clear things up for you?
        • by Knuckles (8964)
          FWIW, he just might not have English as his first language, and be more used to a language that actually tries to come up with different words for different concepts. English is pretty hard to get right in this regard.
        • by vux984 (928602)
          Are you really that ignorant of context? Property in this sense means land. Does that clear things up for you?

          Not at all.

          My point is that personal property has a lot in common with real property too, at least as much as intellectual property... and we don't go around asserting that it too should be taxed, no do we.

          Why should IP be considered real property and taxed, but not personal property? What's the compelling trait shared by IP and real-P that is not also shared by personal-P?
      • by Skevin (16048) * on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:30PM (#22654632) Journal
        In California Real Estate Law, your mouse, stapler, telephone, can of coke, screwdriver, keyboard, 2 monitors, flashlight, and spindle of blank DVDs are personal property, not real property. It's all "Chattel".

        Real property is considered tangible and mostly immovable. The grandparent post's warehouse, factory, and store are real property.

        Now before people complain that it must be "real" because they can touch it, I should point out that the word "real" in this case derives from the Spanish word for Royal. "Real Estate" doesn't mean an estate that's "fake"... it was traditionally land granted to you by the king, hence "Royal Land".

        So, buildings and land are considered Real Property (and therefore fall under a slew of taxation laws). The chattel on our desks, including the desks themselves are Personal Property.

        IANAL, but I'm having a problem with the claim that IP is "Real Property". What kind of claim is that? Is it legally clueless media companies (despite large legal teams) trying to enforce the idea that IP is "not fake"? Or are they trying afford the same protections for which we provide to "Royal Land"?

        So MPAA/RIAA, which is it - are movies and music Personal Property, or Real Property? Answer carefully, because one answer will cause you give up several contested channels of distribution, and the other will let the State tax the hell out of your IP.

        Solomon Chang
      • by JonWan (456212) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:21PM (#22655342)
        Really? I have stapler on my desk that I don't pay property taxes on.

        hmmm, I have a computer,desk, counters, displays, pizza oven, freezers, and inventory I pay tax on every year. Around here it's called Personal Property Tax even tho it's only on business now days. I can remember about 30 years ago we had to pay a tax on cars, boats, RV's and refrigerators.Each year I get a declaration form in the mail and I have to fill it out with my estimated value. If they think I am fudging the numbers they will send someone by to do an inventory.

        so yes this kind of tax exists.

      • by sconeu (64226)
        You're not claiming that your stapler is worth $150000 a copy either.
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:17PM (#22654468) Journal
      In Missouri you pay propertty tax on your car. In Illinois you don't.

      Property tax is the most onerous of all taxes. You don't pay income tax unless you make money, you don't pay sales tax unless you have money to spend, but if you don't have money for property tax you can lose* your home.

      Please don't advocate that I have to pay property tax on my imaginary property. None of it in any way brings in revinue, and one of the two works I've registered is on a software program for a computer that has been obsolete for a quarter century.

      Considering all the gibberish I've spread all over the internet since 1997 (sorry guys, still no new ./ journal, having a hard time topping the last one) I'd be living in a cardboard box starving to death if I had to pay tax on my copyrights.

      -mcgrew

      *If you leave your door unlocked you'll loose your home.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by evilviper (135110)

        Please don't advocate that I have to pay property tax on my imaginary property. None of it in any way brings in revinue,

        Well then, the assessor should find it worth almost nothing, and tax you an appropriate amount.

        and one of the two works I've registered is on a software program for a computer that has been obsolete for a quarter century.

        Well then, if it's worthless, you should simply give up your copyright on it, rather than keeping it from the public.

        • by sm62704 (957197)
          Well then, if it's worthless, you should simply give up your copyright on it, rather than keeping it from the public.

          I would if I still had a copy. All I have a copy of concerning it is the documentation stating that I have copyright. The other is going to be reworked in javascript and licensed with a Creative Commons copyright.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:26PM (#22654574)
      And last week, I suggested the following "tax":

      - Each copyright must be re-registered on a yearly basis. The fee for re-registration depends solely on the length of the copyright term. By this formula:

      $0.01 * (2 ^ number_of_yearly_renewals)

      Thus, it is $0.01 for the first registration, $0.02 for the second year, $0.04 for the third year .. and doubling.

      So, after 10 years, it's only $10.24

      But, after 16 years, it's $655.36

      And after 32 years, it's $42,949,672.96

      And after 50 years, it's $11,258,999,068,426.24

      This means that any small guy or girl (no matter how poor) can easily keep his or her copyright for 10 years. However, no individual or company will be able to copyright out of the public domain for 50 years!

      I consider it the perfect balancing factor between "publisher's rights" (limited rights, granted to PROMOTE THE USEFUL ARTS AND SCIENCES) vs. the public interest (that'd be ME, YOU, and EVERYONE else).

      Update: If you want to avoid the hassle of re-registration, you can pay in advance. $10.24 as a pre-payment means you're good for ten years without the need to re-register. You can extend by paying the difference ($645.12 after 10 years will give you another 6 without need to re-register) as many times as you can afford.

      The rate $0.01, doubling every year thereafter, is to be enshrined as Amendment 0 in the Constitution and unable to be changed except by 80% vote of Congress, approval by minimum 7 out of 9 supreme court justices, the signature of the President and Vice-President, and an 80% popular majority of the voting population.

      Can anybody see any reason why this isn't the perfect plan?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      I suggest that we rename it notional property, and then it can be treated in the same way as property if they can prove that NP = P.
    • by Znork (31774)
      That would be rather ironic, considering that intellectual 'property' would more aptly be called intellectual 'taxation right'.

      Economically the monopoly rights of IP are much closer to taxes such as alcohol or tobacco tax. Best way they could be described as privately held taxation rights on copies of certain material.

      Of course, that would be far to close to describing the purpose of the medieval origin of the concepts (enriching the aristocracy and paying their merchant friends for support (privately held
    • by Zugok (17194)
      yes I recall that and I have tagged this story as such
    • Property != taxable property. My guitar is my property, but I don't pay taxes on it. So no, IP being property doesn't mean we should tax it for consistency's sake.
  • ...friendlier to publisher interests
    The time for middle men to play nice was 10 years ago. Their abuse of the system has allowed us to see the light-

    We will now use technology to ensure that only the content producers are rewarded.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Microlith (54737)

      We will now use technology to ensure that only the content producers are rewarded.

      If the pirate bay is any indication, we will use technology to ensure that the creators are shafted directly, as opposed to shafting the middle-man (who in turn provides fewer opportunities for content producers.)
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      They conclude by offering that [1] more reasonable, understandable copyright restrictions would result in [2] a user base friendlier to publisher interests.

      1 of these things is a legislative issue. The 2nd is a public relations matter.

      The **AAs of the world already have #1 heading in the opposite direction and I find it hard to imagine their "user base" will be able to do much to halt this trend.

      You claim they are abusing the system... I would contend that corporations created the system as it is today. They aren't abusing the system, it is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

  • Ideas cannot be owned - 99% of them are not original, chances are that ANY idea that you've had ... has occurred to at least ONE other person in the past.

    Given that ideas are not property, why can't society simply accept that people should profit from the application of ideas and not from the idea itself?
    • by njfuzzy (734116)
      I think the point is that if you're one of the rare people who actually does come up with original ideas, you should be able to benefit from contributing them to society.
    • by mrbluze (1034940)

      Ideas cannot be owned - 99% of them are not original, chances are that ANY idea that you've had ... has occurred to at least ONE other person in the past.

      There is more to this than an idea. If someone is creating a work which took them, say, 100 hours, then what is it worth? 100 hours of work multiplied by the skill level of the person, I would say.

      If a work took 100 hours per person and 100 people, then it's an expensive work. The company/individual is entitled to make a reasonable benefit from this work (royalties), such as pay their expenses and pay a reasonable wage for it.

      My point is, an idea can be owned in the sense that an idea should be protecte

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PitaBred (632671)
        Dude... so that means that all that time I spent masturbating is worth an actual monetary amount?

        Just because someone spent time on it doesn't make that time automatically worth something.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Ideas cannot be owned - 99% of them are not original, chances are that ANY idea that you've had ... has occurred to at least ONE other person in the past.

      I wish you'ld tell legislators that. The insane copyright terms make for a barren landscape for creative types.

      Just as Newton (among others before him) said "If I see farther than other men, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants" referring to science, the same is true for painters, writers, mucisians, programmers, and all other artists and artis
  • by Orig_Club_Soda (983823) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:06PM (#22654302) Journal
    It doesn't change the fact that you don't own the content. If you bought a book, you own the paper. If you bought a cd, you own the plastic. You don't have a right to distribute that content to 100s of thousands of people. The efforlessness of reproduction does not nullify the ownership of content.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mordors9 (665662)
      I think most people understand that. But the more the RIAA tries to argue that I can't take my CD, rip it to my computer to put it on my iPod, the more likely people are to say, screw them and their stupid rules. Most of the analogies they try to make comparing someone building a shack in my backyard to someone downloading a song is not going to make much sense to most of us non-intellectuals. The squatter is depriving me of the use of part of my land.
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:22PM (#22654528)
      If I bought a book, I could lend that book to my friends as much as I wanted to. I could take the pages, rip them out of the binding and scrapbook them. If I did it in such a way that the book's pages were merely decoration, I could even reproduce that scrapbook for non-profit use. I could scan that book into a computer and read it to my heart's content.

      If for some reason the book had a lock on it, then I could break that lock to read it. If the company uses a special kind of binding that's supposed to allow me to read the book, but not take the pages out of it, I could circumvent that binding all I want. I could sell the book to somebody else for whatever price I wanted to. If a page of the book started fading or was scratched, I could photocopy the page so I'd have a backup.

      Just because it's in a digital format doesn't nullify my rights to my copy of the work.
    • by Chas (5144) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:28PM (#22654600) Homepage Journal
      No. Nobody's twisting the issue.

      If I buy content to consume (because that's what I'm buying, the packaging, including the disk, drive, whatever it's on is only a means to an end, nobody buys an optical disk to moon over...well, unless they're very VERY disturbed), I want to be able to consume it any damn way I please.

      And NO, consumption does NOT mean "redistribution". I want to be able to make fair backups (which I won't be giving to people), or shift it off to a computer, digital video player, iPod, whatever.

      Recorded media is NOT the same as a live show (as every live show is different, even if an identical set is performed). Thus there's no justification for what is, essentially, pay-per-play.

      Additionally, we're not talking about public exhibition of the material either. We're talking about viewing in the privacy in the privacy of my own home, or on the street watching a screen small enough that it's only meant for me to view it anyhow.

      I can, and DO, pay for the content I consume. I also comprehend the fact that the media on which this content comes is not indestructible. Thus, in addition to media shifting, I will make backups.

      I refuse to be sold the same content, over and over again. And I refuse to be labeled a pirate or grouped in with pirates simply because I take care of my investment in my own entertainment.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by db32 (862117)
        You pirates are all the same. You can't justify your crimes with "I want to make backups" or any of this nonsense about transfering. You didn't buy the content of the DVD, you bought content for use in a DVD player. That means you need to pay up again if you want to watch it on a iPod because you didn't purchase content for use in an iPod. Don't you know that making backups and transfering content supports terrorism? People like you are how 9/11 happened! Making copies of movies and music costs this c
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)
      Of course I don't own the content. Content is unownable.
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:33PM (#22654672) Journal
      Maybe in your country, but in the US you're dead wrong. The US Constitution says [cornell.edu] "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;"

      If you rent a home, you have exclusive right to that home but you don't own it. If the founding fathers meant that one could own content, it would have read "granting ownership" instead of "securing for limited times the exclusive right".

      I asked in another thread why, in this light, a law school had "intellectial property" in its name and Ray Beckerman (AKA "NewYorkCountyLawyer") responded (and I'm paraphrasing here) that it was just a name, not descriptive.

      The efforlessness of reproduction does not nullify the ownership of content, but the US Constitution does.
    • by FredMenace (835698) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:53PM (#22654962)

      It doesn't change the fact that you don't own the content. If you bought a book, you own the paper. If you bought a cd, you own the plastic. You don't have a right to distribute that content to 100s of thousands of people. The efforlessness of reproduction does not nullify the ownership of content.
      However, the entire justification for copyright (and patent) in the first place was to benefit SOCIETY by making creative ideas MORE WIDELY AVAILABLE. It was considered at the time that an evil such as limited (in both duration and scope) monopoly on distribution would be a necessary incentive to encourage such publication (so that others could then benefit). That presumes that not only is paper expensive, but so are printing presses, etc. - expensive enough that some financial return would be required to pay for the cost of those supplies.

      Fast-forward to today, where nearly any media can be created with low-cost (or free) tools and also distributed freely, and the argument about needing to recoup costs to distribute no longer has any meaning.

      The point here is that copyright was not meant to reward having a good idea; it was meant to reward DISTRIBUTING that idea. (Similarly, patents are meant to reward PUBLICATION of ideas for others to learn from; that is, to facilitate new ideas building on old ones by making the details of the old ones explicitly public.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Wildclaw (15718)

        was to benefit SOCIETY by making creative ideas MORE WIDELY AVAILABLE

        Actually, the US constitution says it is there to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts. This is important because copyright and patents can never make creative ideas more widely availible. By definition they make the ideas less availible.

        What they can do is increase the total number of ideas produced (although even that can debated). The price of getting those extra ideas produced is that the ideas that would have been produced anyway becomes less availible (due to inherent inefficencies of the

    • by Dog-Cow (21281)
      You are wrong. Just because there is a law against reproduction of copyrighted works does not mean that I have lost my rights regarding such actions. The premise of the Constitution is that rights cannot be taken away. Just because there are legal consequences does not mean my rights are any less.
    • "You don't have a right to distribute that content to 100s of thousands of people"

      Sure, that's pretty clear, at least on the surface.

      But do you think we have the right to take our CD's and DVD's and "rip" them to our iPods?
  • I don't believe the article mentions P2P, which can encompass a whole different set of concerns.
  • Customers wanting to rip their DVD collections to their computers, download music they can play on any device, or incorporate copyrighted works into original creative works find that there is no straightforward, legal way to do these things.

    These 'customers' only 'find' this out if they start making money by doing this illegal activity. As long as you make no money, there is really very little legal recourse that copyright holders have unless they go to the trouble of trying to demonstrate that you have c

    • Re:What a shocker (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FauxPasIII (75900) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:13PM (#22654414)
      > These 'customers' only 'find' this out if they start making money by doing this illegal activity.

      Tell it to customers of 321 Studios [wikipedia.org].
      • Re:What a shocker (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tomhudson (43916) <barbara DOT huds ... a-hudson DOT com> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:21PM (#22654512) Journal

        Customers wanting to rip their DVD collections to their computers, download music they can play on any device, or incorporate copyrighted works into original creative works find that there is no straightforward, legal way to do these things.

        That's because in RIAA Amerika, DVD rips YOU!

        What amazes me is the absolute whining about the "need to extend copyright beyond 50 years because people are living longer, and a writer con't be able to make (even more) money in their old age off something they created when they were young." Extended copyright discourages innovation by encouraging people to "rest on their laurels". 50 years is too much. 20 years should be more than enough.

        • by emj (15659)

          Extended copyright discourages innovation by encouraging people to "rest on their laurels". 50 years is too much. 20 years should be more than enough.


          You could also say that it encourages innovation because people have to iterate over the same subject several times, making new variations of it. Instead of just copying something old.
        • Re:What a shocker (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jwiegley (520444) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:59PM (#22655068)

          And why should "artists" be given preferential treatment compared to "inventors"?? Patents have a term of 20 years. period. Not after death and not extendable. Why should "artists" enjoy revenue two and half times as long?

          I'll tell you why. Because the world is run by looters. Patents cover things like machines, manufacturing processes and drugs. Everybody acknowledges that without these things people get sick or quality of basic life is diminished. So the looters use their majority to vote that in a short period of time they can take any practical invention they want for free.

          Just take the time to look at how much better copyright protects the creators profit compared to the tons of loopholes present that can invalidate a patent.

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      DMCA aside, the only time one violates copyright is when one copies a work so there are two copies of the work and then gives one copy to someone else and keeps the other for one's self.

      The DMCA and the rest of the copyright enforcement laws all follow from arrogant people violating the legal right of the copyright holders by doing exactly what I outlined above. It doesn't matter if it is Napster, LimeWire, BitTorrent; the moment you down load a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holde
      • DMCA aside, the only time one violates copyright is when one copies a work so there are two copies of the work and then gives one copy to someone else and keeps the other for one's self.
        This is false, try reading 17 USC sometime. Modifying or copying something is a copyright violation regardless of whether you distribute the result. There are a few exceptions (like fair use), but they don't reduce things to what you claim.
  • That's the silliest argument ever - somehow, if a publisher lets everyone else duplicate their stuff, then, they will get more money. The whole point of modern thinking on copyright is that you don't need publishers any more. Anyone can make a million copies of something any more. While I for one tend to side with those who favor strong copyrights, you can't help but notice that the idea of a centralized publishing agent, any more, is just obsolete. You don't need a service to distribute something, beca
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      You don't need a service to distribute something, because computers do it so very naturally.

      Computers can't distribute printed volumes and CDs. That is what we need publishers for. If a million MP3 downloads sell ten CDs, then that's ten CDs' worth of profit. It doesn't matter than nobody made any money off the download.

      But I agree, we don't need publishers for "content". We only need publishers for the physical media that hold the content.
    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      "That's the silliest argument ever - somehow, if a publisher lets everyone else duplicate their stuff, then, they will get more money"

      Please explain in detail how a publisher will get more money if everyone is able to duplicate "their stuff" without paying anything to the publisher and then give it away to other who also do not pay the publisher?
  • ... is that the resulting documentation would have to be written by lawyers and technical writers.

    Long have I said that if the BC Building Code (1400+ pages, almost 17 lbs of book) were ever written in plain, straight English, it would fit in my back pocket, and I have no doubt copyright info would be much the same way. HOWEVER, it's never going to happen, because you're never going to be able to get any sort of concrete, prescriptive documents that the lawyers could get behind.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:32PM (#22654656)
    It is hard to imagine, for example, that Hollywood studios would spend tens of millions of dollars producing a new blockbuster if the law didn't grant them exclusive rights in its commercial reproduction.

    Its not that hard to imagine at all. Its hard to imagine they would spend tens of millions of dollars producing new movies if they couldn't make their money back and profit from it. But that has nothing to do with a "law that gives them exclusive rights in its commercial reproduction".

    They could always find a new way of making their money back. -gasp-

    Hell, "blockbuster movies" generally make their money back from theatre ticket sales, before even going to DVD. As long as you had a law in place that gave them control over public displays at theatres, in airplanes, satellite subscription services, etc they'd survive, and there would still be adequate incentive to make new movies.

    And even if consumers were free to copy movies provided they did it non-commercially that wouldn't kill DVD/bluray sales anytime soon, and when the internet is fast enough that physical media is actually threatened, they can sell copies of them via itunes music store type services. A lot of people will pay a modest amount for a copy even if they can get it free legitimately, if the paid version invariably meets a high level of quality and is more convenient and is always available.

    All the industry has to ask is: how do you compete with free? And the answer: better service. As long as copyright gives them the monopoly to charge for content they will always be able to compete, and profit.

    If they don't want to, fine, they can get out of the business, and someone else will come along see the money on the table, and get in on this 'making movies thing'. Its not our job to ensure that something becomes increasingly lucrative as time goes on, and that's what hollywood is essentially demanding... that their profits not be allowed to fall... at all... ever.

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      They could always find a new way of making their money back. -gasp-

      Please explain in detail how?

      Hell, "blockbuster movies" generally make their money back from theatre ticket sales, before even going to DVD. As long as you had a law in place that gave them control over public displays at theatres, in airplanes, satellite subscription services, etc they'd survive, and there would still be adequate incentive to make new movies.

      So, you would support moving every work into public domain once said work has made

      • by vux984 (928602)
        So, you would support moving every work into public domain once said work has made back the money invested in creating the work, yes?

        I said 'big blockbuster movies' make their money back before being released to DVD, so its not like hollywood would stop making them even if they went into the public domain after their theatre run. But I didn't actually say they should go into the public domain at that point.

        Which would mean that Linux gets put in the public domain because it has made back the money invested
    • All the industry has to ask is: how do you compete with free? And the answer: better service

      That's like in the 90's when companies who weren't profitable would make up for it in volume
      You do realize that if content as a service takes off, the service level you're expecting will actually decrease. Content will become more locked down and centralized and you'll only be able to access it under ceratain conditions.

      Its not our job to ensure that something becomes increasingly lucrative as time goes on, and tha

      • by vux984 (928602)
        Content will become more locked down and centralized and you'll only be able to access it under ceratain conditions.

        That is not 'competing with free'. That presumes free has been removed from the equation.

        How does hollywood compete in a world where exchanging movies via p2p/torrent for noncommercial purposes or gain is 100% recognized legal. A locked down restrictive centralised system is not going to make a dime, ever.
  • by PhantomHarlock (189617) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:34PM (#22654690)
    It would be nice to see a blanket or low cost system for amateur short form video makers that post to YouTube and the likes. It would allow people who make AMVs and other short videos to use commercial music, so long as the videos are not sold directly for profit. Websites like YouTube would be allowed to host them (and make money off of advertising) in exchange for this. Perhaps a low blanket fee paid for by the ISP, or paid per individual per use. (but it would have to be very reasonable.)

    Right now it is impossible for the average joe to license a Bon Jovi song for his home-made video. The industry is missing out on some cash flow and great publicity by not looking at this market.

    --M
  • I think their conclusion is wrong because, as demonstrated repeatedly by comments on /. and other sites, users only feel copyright should be respected when it is to THEIR benefit.

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @04:54PM (#22654992)
    When you establish a scheme where you withhold your exclusive rights from your contemporaries for their lifetime, you will have contemporaries that will say, "Nuts to that," and disregard your rights. There's no benefit for them to wait until the work passes into the public domain if they'll be long dead before that ever happens.

    As it stands now, copyright law might as well be based not on author's lifetime but rather the lifetime of the last (mortal) survivor of the year when the work was first published. Disregarding Disney, that would appear to be the goal of Lifetime + 70 years: to ensure that your work is never exploited by anyone that directly knew of your being alive.
  • Copyright is hard to understand because it's made up complexity at odds with our actual rights. Copyright isn't an "inalienable right" that's protected by the government. It's a made up privilege that's just called a right to make people obey it. The Constitution actually abridges the First Amendment right to freedom of the press, which would have no restrictions, to compromise with the late-1700s commercial necessity of a monopoly on copying printed matter so competitors don't have lower costs just reprint
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Copyright isn't an "inalienable right" that's protected by the government.It's a made up privilege that's just called a right to make people obey it.

      No, it is a "civil", revocable right granted by law. Apparently, you do not understand that there are rights other than "inalienable" rights.

      Constitution actually abridges the First Amendment right to freedom of the press, which would have no restrictions, to compromise with the late-1700s commercial necessity of a monopoly on copying printed matter so competit

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:33PM (#22655516)

    Ars Technica is exploring the relationship between property rights and copyright, arguing that copyright holders are making a mistake by stressing similarities between property rights and copyright.


    Timothy Lee (the author of TFA) makes qutie a few errors. First, they claim "Critics of the practice [filesharing] analogize copyrights to property rights" -- this is flatly factually wrong. Critics of the filesharing note, correctly, that copyrights are a subset of property rights (not something merely analogous to property rights), and draw an analogy between violations of copyrights and violations of rights in tangible personal property. Mr. Lee has misidentified where the analogy is drawn.

    Second, Lee counts the one argument for property rights as two different arguments, by falsely splitting it into the "scarcity argument" (which he claims doesn't apply to copyright) and the "reward" argument (which he claim does.) In fact, the scarcity argument (that property rights are beneficial because they promote a more efficient use of scarce resources) is simply an application of the reward argument (that people will be more motivated to create and preserve value when they are able to exclusively control all or some part of the value created and/or preserved by their action) to the case of management of existing resources. By falsely counting the general argument and its specific application as two independent arguments, Lee paints a picture of copyright being an area with a "weaker" argument for property rights, when in fact it has the exact same argument (at least, in terms of the basis of argument, which is what is at issue in this part of Lee's pience) for property rights.

    Third, Lee miscategorizes the argument for property rights (and, therefore, for copyrights) as being about "necessity", when its not about "necessity" (which is conceptually binary -- something either is "needed" or not) but about utility (that, on balance, people are better off with property rights, even though some are denied access to that which they would otherwise have, than without property rights.) This mistake leads to him dismissing the need for copyright "for certain classes of creative work", because those forms would not completely disappear without copyright. This misses the point of the reward argument for property rights entirely, which isn't about necessity but net gain. (Note, I'm not arguing that, viewed through that lens, copyright, and particularly not especially the increasingly rigid system of copyright we have now, is justified, merely that you need to focus on the real basis of property rights argument to challenge it meaningfully.)

    That being said, eventually Lee (after all the errors and unnecessary diversions) does get around to the rather simple observation that applies to all laws: that no law is effective (he narrowly applies this property rights, but it is far more generally applicable) unless the people subject to it generally accept it (either by accepting it as legitimate or at least by deciding its not worth the cost of violation), and attempting to more strictly enforce a rule that most people don't believe is right rarely produces that respect, even in the more minimal form. (It can, if the government is able to drive the combination of the cost and certainty of being caught out of compliance high enough, but that usually takes insane levels of enforcement that threaten the general perception of the legitimacy of the government, rather than just the particular law, if the prohibited act is widely accepted as something people should not be punished, or punished as harshly as is necessary to secure general compliance, for doing.)
  • by Garwulf (708651) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:44PM (#22655664) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but with articles like these, it's no wonder that the copyright debate is so muddled. This is a very clueless article.

    It all becomes clear with this statement: "The copyright system is currently undergoing rapid changes as technology undermines old business models and enforcement regimes."

    Um, no, it isn't. The only way you can think this is if you don't understand what copyright is and does. And that's because copyright's primary purpose is to provide a legal framework between a creative artist and his/her distributor in regards to his/her art. So long as there is a legally binding agreement to do it - copyright provides the protection to the artist to allow negotiations - how the distributor distributes that art is inconsequential to the actual law.

    Aside from which, last time I checked, change involved something, well, CHANGING. The law has not been rewritten, the Berne convention is still the international yardstick, and the necessity for a framework to allow a creative artist to submit work to a distributor without having to worry about being shafted before a contract is even signed is still there. The RIAA trying to abuse the law and failing does not mean that the law itself has been stricken down.

    Who fact checks these things?
    • The law has not been rewritten
      It has been rewritten as well as reinterpreted. Things like Sony VHS, copies of programs in RAM, DMCA, etc., have all provided newer interpretations of how copyright and technology coexist.

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