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Digital Copyright 56

People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made. Law professor and copyright expert Jessica Litman takes a hard look at the process which makes copyright law, and most readers will likely finish her new book, Digital Copyright, with their respect for the law substantially lessened. This is the book for everyone who has ever gotten fed up with IANAL posts and wanted answers that were a bit more informed, everyone who's gotten tired of soundbite analysis of Napster and overheated mailing list discussions. If you're looking for one book to help you understand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the past and future of copyright law, this is it.

Digital Copyright
author Jessica Litman
pages 208
publisher Prometheus Books
rating 10/10
reviewer Michael Sims
ISBN 1-57392-889-5
summary how copyright law is like sausage-making

For a free introduction to Professor Litman's work, you may want to see her webpage, taking special note of the various articles and papers linked at the bottom. Several of her previous articles have been revised into chapters of Digital Copyright, so if you don't find them interesting, the book isn't likely to interest you (though the book is written for a slightly more general audience than the papers).

Almost every discussion of copyright on the web degenerates into name-calling between a faction that insists "copyright is property - you're STEALING!" and a faction that insists "copyright is a bargain between the public and producers, it exists solely to promote the progress of science and the arts, and the producers are trying to gouge the public within an inch of its life". Litman's book will show you the roots of those two viewpoints, the heavy propaganda effort by the copyright industry that has made that shift in law from the second to the first and is trying to make that shift in public perception, and you'll be one up on the average copyright debater.

She goes into excruciating, fascinating, absorbing detail about the process that produced current copyright law and is highly likely to produce future copyright law - the bribes to Congress, the back-room deals, the slimy public relations tactics, the elected officials who don't want to spend the time to learn about a tangential, unimportant issue like copyright. The history of copyright law shows that this is not a new issue - these same battles have been fought over each new medium of storing or transmitting information, and Litman mentions, at least briefly, each of those battles. With each new medium came an expansion of copyright law to cover that medium and a narrowing of the rights of readers/viewers/listeners, until we've reached the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which arguably allows publishers cradle to grave control of every copyrighted work they produce.

One of the major themes expressed in the book is the disconnect between how the average layman supposes that copyright law is and how it actually works. In general, people who haven't read copyright law have many misunderstandings about it, and often refuse to accept the real law when it is presented, because it doesn't make a lot of sense and they have a fundamental belief that law should make sense. Indeed, the odds are (at least in my experience) that any individual random person asserting facts about copyright law is dead wrong.

When you have laws that have been written and revised for one hundred years with no significant input from the public, only people who want to maximize their profits from the resulting law, there's going to be a disconnect.

And that's the "sausage" aspect of this book. Most people respect the law, even copyright law, even if they don't understand it (they obey what they think the law is, or what they think it should be). But after reading this book, I think most people won't respect copyright law any more - they'll realize that copyright law is just a method for a very few companies and industries to maximize their profits at the public's expense, and they'll simply cease to respect it. I'm not at all certain this is a bad thing. A little less respect for authority would probably do American society some good. But be aware of the consequences: if you want your daughter to grow up thinking that making an MP3 from a CD you own is theft, don't use this book for bedtime reading. It will warp impressionable minds.

Chapter 1, Copyright Basics, is just as you'd expect: an overview of copyright law. It's not deep, but the rest of the book does not require in-depth knowledge of copyright law. It's a book written for a popular audience, with enough footnoted references that scholars won't be disppointed or short-changed.

Chapter 2 is available online (so is the introduction). Litman maps out where she intends to go in chapter 2, so it's really the best sales pitch for the book: read it, and you'll either be hooked or not.

Chapter 3 covers compromise - the compromise between copyright interests that creates modern copyright law. When you realize that Congress literally and explicitly (and apparently, shamelessly) rubber-stamps the law written from start to finish by corporate copyright interests, you may feel the bile rise in your throat.

Chapter 4 is a short thought experiment: if you were a lawyer representing the public, and the "bargain" of the 1976 copyright statute was presented to you, would you accept it?

Chapter 5 is an important chapter for advocacy efforts. It covers metaphors, and the important role they play in debate. We've seen this play out in recent news as perjorative terms like "pirate" are applied to organizations like 2600, which, after all, is not even accused of copying a single thing unlawfully, while the New York Times and other large publishers, which freely admit that they copied tens of thousands of articles which they had no rights to in order to sell them for a profit, are called pirates by no one (one newspaper article, in the Christian Science Monitor, mentioned that the individual writers describe this as "cyber-piracy" - that's the closest I got to an adverse characterization of the publishers' position). This "piracy gap" illustrates perfectly Litman's point - controlling the metaphor for any given debate or conflict is of utmost importance.

Chapter 6 covers the collision between copyright lawyers and computers/the internet. Imagine: a world where every single use of any piece of information involved making a copy, if only in a computer's RAM. Suddenly, the right to "make copies", which once covered only the initial production of copyrighted materials, is invoked with every single usage of a material. And instead of revising the law to have roughly the same effect as it used to, copyright interests seized on revising the law in favor of its letter, not its spirit. (Though Litman doesn't mention Lessig here, she's making exactly the same argument that Lessig is in his book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace , and I wish it was expanded just a bit.) The chapter generally covers the efforts in the early 1990's that will lead up to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Chapter 7, Creation and Incentives, examines what sort of incentives are actually needed to get people to create copyrighted works. In the face of all evidence, the copyright industry argues that massive incentives are needed. There's a great hypothetical, which I won't ruin for you here, that looks at the copyright incentives needed in two major industries today.

Chapter 8 is titled "Just Say Yes to Licensing!". I don't think I really need to discuss the subject matter here, do I? She points out that the paper which led to the DMCA recommends massive citizen re-education programs - since the law didn't fit with public perceptions, clearly the public's perceptions were at fault, not the law.

Chapter 9 covers the DMCA's passage - each little bargain hammered out by one copyright interest or another, all at the public's expense.

Chapters 10 and 11 cover Napster, DeCSS, and similar areas that regular slashdot readers will be familiar with.

The final two chapters examine the requirements for a digital copyright law that will comport with the expectations of Americans - whose expectations include items like being able to read a work they've published on a device of their own choosing without violating copyright law - and yet still provide an incentive to authors. Although there is nothing wrong with the solution Litman proposes, one gets the impression that it is a sort of pro forma exercise, that she knows there is no realistic hope of her solution being implemented.

Overall, the work is both a strong piece of scholarship (Litman has been studying this for years, and it shows in every footnote) and solid read. Readers on a budget can get the flavor and most of the arguments by reading her papers online, but the work as a coherent whole is solid addition to the library of anyone who cares about copyright issues. Highly recommended.

I'd like to also mention another book about the DMCA, one that I'm not going to do a full review on. Marcia Wilbur has a self-published book titled DMCA, which can be located through various booksellers. I received a copy from the author, and it is about as different from Digital Copyright as night is from day. DMCA draws very strongly from online debates -- it's fast-paced, rushed, very much a persuasive work rather than an informative, scholarly one, and could use some serious copy-editing. Nevertheless, it's an interesting read, and the only paper work I've seen to date that accurately captures the flavor of online discussions about the DMCA.

You can purchase Digital Copyright at Fatbrain.

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Digital Copyright - UNFINISHED

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Thank you for the (mostly) kind words. I think the accusation of bias is probably fair.

    For a good exposition of the pro-DMCA position from an independent copyright scholar, see Jane Ginsburg's "From Having Copies to Experiencing Works: The Development of an Access Right in US Copyright Law." The only online citation I am aware of is at the Social Science Research Network archive: 93 [] . Ginsburg has also posted a slightly more recent paper, "Copyright Use and Excluse on the Internet," to SSRN. That URL is 47 []

    -- Jessica Litman

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:11AM (#206285)
    Not to mention the artistic loss: we used to think of artistic works as being something that was part of the community, at least after a few years (with copyright ensuring that artists could make some money and encouraged them to create).

    Now they are a product that is owned indefinitely... it's a fundamental change in how we think of art, and I feel that it is a detriment to our society and culture.
  • by bluGill ( 862 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:32AM (#206286)

    Yes and no.

    US law doesn't apply in the UK (and vise versa), but both countries atempt to influence each other. Keep an eye on us (we keep and eye on you), to prevent the bad things the other guys are doing from happening to you.

    Your right though, you need a UK version of this book.

  • I really have no idea why a lot of stuff gets rejected. There seems to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to it at all. Maybe it just depends on who happens to review your particular submission. I'm sure they get a lot of junk every day to sift through, but damn, it sounds like they really dropped the ball on that one. Maybe you should try submitting it again. Perhaps someone else will review it this time and post it.

  • ...your stupidity is showing.

    Have you even read the book, or any of her papers? Apparently not. She's not arguing for the elimination of copyright. She's arguing for copyright reform. Yes, producers should get paid. The real questions are "for how long?" and "for what uses?" Take your uninformed trolling elsewhere.

  • Yes, I know people have mentioned before that with a DVD burner you can make as many copies as you like without DeCSS, but has anyone pointed out that there's nothing stopping you copying a whole DVD to your hard disk and sharing that over the internet, viewable by anyone with an appropriate player (or is there something stopping this - have I missed something?).

    Ok, you're misinformed. First of all, without DeCSS, only licensed players can exist. These players cannot not play an encrypted DVD without the encryption keys. Nor can you burn a bit-for-bit copy of a DVD with consumer-grade DVD burners. They cannot write to the portion of the disc that contains the encryption keys, therefore you can't make an exact copy. It will be unplayable. The only ways to make mass-copies of DVDs are to acquire a commercial-grade DVD burner (not easy to do) or somehow decrypt the DVD and distribute it in a non-encrypted (and usually compressed) form (which is what you can do with DeCSS). Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons why DeCSS is good, and even necessary, but the argument you're talking about isn't one of them.

  • Sorry about the abuse, but yours is about the 4th or 5th post saying basically the same thing and it was getting on my nerves. I apologize. Now, about your post. Think about it. Do you really believe that she thinks she can convince people that copyright law should be changed to allow the "free flow of ideas" for everyone except herself? Jeez, give her SOME credit at least. She's not an idiot. She is arguing for copyright reform. She wants people to realize what has been done with the law over the years and what effect it has had on them. She knows as well as any of us that copyright is a good thing in theory. But what it has become is no longer a good thing. We need to change it so that it will be good again. If we got the DMCA repealed next week and copyright term limits changed to 20 years the week after, I'm sure she would be as happy as the rest of us.

  • by Danse ( 1026 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:09AM (#206291)

    I've been arguing almost exactly what Ms. Litman seems to be saying for quite a while now. Here's an email I sent in response to a recent InfoWorld "Ethics Matters" article by Carlton Vogt regarding music sharing.

    Mr. Vogt,

    Please forgive the longwindedness of this email. I really tried to cut it back :)

    If we want to discuss this strictly at the ethical level rather than the legal level, then I think it becomes quite a bit simpler. We have 3 sides trying to get what they want. The consumer wants good music at a low price. The artist wants their music to be available to as many people as possible and for those people to pay them for that music. The recording industry wants to own or control as much music as possible for as long as possible in order to continue selling it to the consumer for the highest price possible while paying the artist as little as possible.

    Now, ethically, I think the recording industry (along with the movie industry and certain [other] huge corporations) has behaved atrociously. They are the part of the system that is most at odds with both the artist and consumer. They have lobbied hard over the years for copyright term extensions, and have snatched many works away from the brink of becoming public domain as all copyrighted works are supposed to eventually become. I believe this has harmed consumers. The government is supposed to grant copyrights for a limited time to encourage the creation of new works, not to continually increase the term limit so that corporations can continue to profit from these works indefinitely. Copyright is supposed to be a bargain between the creators and the rest of the people. Without it, everything that is published or revealed somehow would be public domain. Since such a situation is not terribly encouraging for creators, we acknowledged the need for an incentive. Thus Congress was given the power "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." Under copyright law, the people agree to grant the creators a limited period of exclusive control over the copying and distribution of their work so that they may earn a profit from those works. This is to encourage them to continue to create new works. Once that period ends, the work belongs to the public.

    Unfortunately, due to their huge amounts of money, the copyright industry (music, books, movies, software, etc.) has been able to secure longer and longer periods of control and more and more restrictive terms of control. I believe the bargain has been broken. I believe that people instinctively realize that they are getting shafted and this is why so many people don't really respect copyright laws anymore. The law seems arbitrary and unfair now (and I think most of us can see this, which is why we spend more time discussing the ethics of copyright than the law itself). We see nothing in return. Practically nothing has entered the public domain in decades. Copyrights now last longer than a normal human lifetime. I think that defeats the purpose of the "limited period" portion of the Constitution. What we need now is some serious copyright reform.

    That's the most relevant part, anyway. I went on to talk about the music industry specifically, but that's less relevant to this discussion. I think I've posted things here that were written better than that reply, but it does contain the gist of my arguments.

    I just heard Ms. Litman on NPR last Friday along with Lawrence Lessig. It was interesting, but frustrating since they really don't get enough time to talk and the host tends to redirect things too often to keep it "light" enough for the listeners. I'm ordering her book today though. Sounds like it would be very interesting reading. Might help me make my point better next time we have a Napster argument here on slashdot. I just wish there was some good way to get more public attention on these issues. Most people I know really don't have a clue what copyright laws really say. It's exactly as Litman says, they just do what they feel they should be able to do. It's hard to figure out where things will go now. I think that the copyright industry is bound to start drawing some real public attention in the next few years as their various "content protection technologies" come to fruition. It could be a bucket of cold water to wake up consumers to what's been going on with copyright law for the last century or so. Or maybe their propaganda will have taken hold by then and people will simply accept it. I don't know. It worries me though.

  • I have written another review of Digital Copyright [].


  • Trouble is, even with some glimmer of rights activism on the left, and strict constructionist activism on the right, the Supremes are reluctant to take an axe to the vast body of laws that trample 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 9th amendments, plus the whole whopping overhang of Commerce Clause abuse that stuff our Federal Government with laws of dubious legality.

    In this context, what chance do relatively fine points, like the meaning of "limited" in the Copyright clause, have of evoking some respect for what was meant when it was written?

    Remember, the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee your rights. You have natural rights that need no guarantee. The U.S. Constitution is a document that explicitly addresses the government and tells it what it may not do. Sadly, it seems like 90% of government activity is directed toward getting around these restrictions. When you vote, vote for people who care about the constitutionality of what they are doing! Next, we could get NBA referees to start calling traveling.

  • I definately agree with what you're saying. It saddens the hell out of me that I pretty certainly won't be able to share the things that I enjoyed growing up with my children later on.

    I am not a consumer, dammit! That's not my role in life, and I refuse to play it for the convenience of those who stand to make money from that.
  • 1) Successful authors have a guaranteed income. They have no need to produce additional works. For instance much as I enjoyed Ellison's "Invisible Man" it's not a good thing that he never finished another work in his life. Copyright is not intended to let authors get rich - only to get them to produce.

    2) Derivative works cannot be produced during the lifetimes of people who would be inclined to make such works. Imagining that the copyright on Star Trek expires in a century, and that there are no intervening new works to preserve an audience for it, no one will even notice. Copyright is not permission for authors to exclusively strip mine a work so that no one else may derive value from it when it eventually is openly available.

    3) The public, through Congress, can arbitrarily set the length of term and coverage of copyright within certain bounds. It would be entirely possible for books to have copyright for five years, movies for one, and software not at all. The optimal state would be works that were never copyrighted with authors who could afford to continue to produce. NOT one in which authors had perpetual copyrights.

    The balancing act is between the promotion achieved by the creation of new original works and the promotion achieved by the refinment of derivative works. The welfare of the authors is of secondary concern.

    And I'd like to point out that I'm a an artist by trade, and I know perfectly well that our present system of copyright laws is an outrage. Artists are members of the public too!
  • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:51AM (#206296)
    But I disagree with a near-eternal guarantee, that might stifle creation in the future because current creative minds can rest on their laurels.

    You have that exactly right. Copyright isn't -- or wasn't -- founded on the premise that you own your ideas. (The idea of owning ideas would have struck nearly everyone as absurd up until comparatively recently. It should still strike people as pernicious.) Copyright was founded on the premise that individual creators need to be protected from giant companies -- like the RIAA members -- long enough to make a reasonable profit before their creations fall into the public domain which is their natural place.

    The modern copyright's near-permanent duration turns that on its head by disincentivizing future work. The idea of a copyright that endures for the lifetime of the author is a sure sign of the perversion of copyright law's original intent.


  • However, the character copyright expires when the first copyrighted work containing that character expires.

    In other words, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" would still have decades left of Disney ownership, but anyone in the world would have been free to create new Mickey Mouse cartoons, because the character would be out of copyright. That's what Disney was so desperate to prevent.

    BTW, Here [] is an interesting article that makes the argument that Mickey Mouse is already in the public domain, due to a defective copyright notice on the first Mickey Mouse film!
  • I propose that we discontinue the use of the words "pirate" and "piracy".

    Hear, hear nytes! When I read your post, the first thing I thought of was the short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance, which is the apparativ for Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Now *there's* a way to scare the suits! ;-) All we need to do is get Lawrence Lessig to start issuing letters of marque. :-)

    Arrr, matey! These CD prices be too high, says I!

    Cheers, matey,

  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:31AM (#206299) Homepage
    as Mickey Mouse would have lost its copyright in 2004

    What's important to clarify here is that this is NOT at all true -- although it IS the "nightmare" scenario that Disney would like us to believe.

    Copyright only covers individual creative works -- not characters. The only copyright that would be expiring would be the VERY FIRST Mickey mouse drawings and animations, NOT everey single Mickey Mouse cartoon.

    "Steamboat Willie" would thus fall into the public domain, but "the Sorcerer's Apprentice" would still have decades left of Disney ownership.

    And I would contend that this is exactly what was meant to happen by the expiration of copyright -- has "Steamboat Willie" not yet become a part of American history? Has it not yet become an item of cultural significance separate from the company that produced it? Has not yet enough time passed for artists to begin exploring the effect of the animation, to begin playing with it and recreating it as a statement of history and culture?

    Of course it is time for the creative world to have access to these early works -- for their significance and value as cultural touchstones.

    Mickey Mouse will still belong to Disney, the public will merely gain possession of our own history.

  • I take it this book isn't much use to those of us who live outside the US?

    I could really do with a book like this for UK law...

  • You can't eat your pudding if you don't eat your testicles rectums and udders! [].

    -1 offtopic.


  • ""publishers cradle to grave control of every copyrighted work they produce""
    I would be happy if their control was only cradle to grave.
  • I think artists should be able to make as much money as they can. I hope they make enough so that they can create more.

    However, I think the perpetual extension of copyright is bad. It's the rare piece of work, like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon which is profitable ten or more years after it's release. These things are generally regarded as classics. With perpetual copyright, we stand to lose those things completely. I'm quite sure that there are computer games we've already lost. Being able to copy these things allows those who don't care about profit, or those who can pursue a miniscule profit to ensure that these things survive.

    Would we be better off without the works of Shakespeare or Chopin or Van Gogh? I think not. But, then I'm writing on Slashdot, so I'm just preaching to the choir.

    Hopefully there will be a revolution soon -- but I don't count on it.

  • it would have been helpful to read the arguments of the other side (an unbiased person from the other side of the argument; not someone who has a significant financial interest in supporting the DMCA).

    Better start with an easy practice round: find someone who has not been paid by the tobacco companies to argue that cigarettes do not cause cancer.

  • I searched for "digital copyright" on fatbrain [] and came up with Litman's book, but the 2nd book that came up was Peter Wayner's book "Digital Copyright Protection: Techniques to Ward off Electronic Copyright Abuse []". Ouch.

    p.s. my humble apologies for blatantly attaching to a high mod post...
  • This book has really inspired and intrigued me. I have posted about it many times here on /. and I think that reading it is a necessary prerequisite to having an intelligent opinion (one way or the other) about copyright law. Please, please, please go get yourself a copy.
  • As part of one of his recent copyright-related rants. I know because it's the story that led me to buy the book in the first place. Well worth the money, btw. Anyway, I don't have a link but check under features, not book reviews and you'll find it.
  • That is really sad. Maybe they'd do an interview over at Kuro5hin?
  • Okay, I gotta ask.. How would Ms. Jessica Litman feel if people violated the copyright of her book that's on the same topic? :-)

  • by puppet10 ( 84610 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @03:06PM (#206310)
    You can see this now in all its glory in early silent era film.

    I was recently looking into finding some early silent era films for which copyright has expired. I figured that since they had fallen into the public domain it would be possible to find copies on the web (although most DivX people are interested in only copying recent releases, I thought there might be a Project Gutenburg equivalent somewhere on the web for people interested in early film). However my search was short lived for a cheap source of copyright free film (although you can purchase DVD of some of the few remaining viable early silent film, for $20.00 a film). Then I thought, what prevents me from purchasing a DVD, and then copying it and setting up my own site (besides the obvious bandwidth costs) or posting DivX copies to newsgroups. Well it seems that the companies who restore the films do everything they can to prevent this. They add music which is still under copyright. They add hand done tinting (ruining the film experience in my opinion) to add creative effort to the work. They release versions of the film still under copyright (a German release of the Cabinet of Dr Caligari, rather than the public domain US version). They also try make the argument that their restoration work adds originality to the work (yes I understand that restoration is important and takes money but does that deserve another 90 year monopoly lease?). Etc...

    Not only that, it is difficult to get access to original prints because of their fragility and rarity. Part of the reason for this is that the studios who owned the copyright had no incentive to preserve the work which they copyrighted for posterity. In fact there's more incentive for them to make a "modern" update of the story to "regenerate" their copyright in a new film.

    I think that some percentage of the profits made by a copyright should be funnelled back into the preservation of the work for the public (this should only apply to registered copyrights) and again require a copy of the work which is released to the public after the expiration of the copyright. As it is now the sole remaining copies of the work can be locked up in one persons private collection or one studios vault and no one can access it.

    Some of the preservation work needed for more recent films is already being done at taxpayer expense. However the parties who own this material (and were not properly taking care of it, or making an effort to restore it before it was unrecoverable) are the ones benefiting (For more info [])

    Simply they copyright holders in general aren't keeping their end of the bargin by keeping works flowing into the public domain to stimulate the arts and sciences. (This is not to say that we shouldn't hold up the public's end of the bargin and all go download the latest movies and music for free, its just understandable when it happens)
  • by mOdQuArK! ( 87332 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @06:43PM (#206311)
    I think Mickey Mouse would probably fall under a trademark of Disney, and I think that trademarks are good for as long as their owner is willing to defend them.
  • Wonderful!

    This post is one of the best i've ever read here on slashdot, and even more so in the copyright debate. It's well written and thought out, and a genuine comment of what SlippyToad thinks, not just a heated rant. My only fear is that a reader with little time will notice the length, and the 2 (currently) rating of the comment, and not read it.

    Being a casual musician myself, and having a vague hope of someday creating something myself, with a couple of friends in a band, i have no idea what i would want to do if i created something i could sell. The typical way is to sign to a record label, and subsequently have your works now owned by the company, who's sole objective is to make as much money as they possible can on it. That's too far reaching for my apparently humble aspirations. I think it would be amazing to be a musician, full time, and make a comfortable living. Earning the most money i possibly can is not my goal in life. I find joy in a great many things, and look at money as only a vehicle to get some of the things we all like. Toys, mainly.

    However, to have my name and my works associated with one of the most heartless compainies that exists would disgrace me personally. This company that would 'protect' me, has no qualms about charging people, indefinately, for every time they listen to my song. Their actions remind me of tax collectors from children's stories. They tax people for no reason, except living happily.

    The point is, i would never want to be a professional musician, simply because there is, at the moment, no fair way for me to distribute my music. As i understand it, the RIAA, while 'acting on behalf of the artists' really acts on behalf of myself, and i could not even copy my own cd for a personal friend, without paying them, so that the funds can get distributed to the proper people.

    SlippyToad's romanticised view of what music should be is exactly what i would like it to be. It seems like he's taking too nice of a view, but i like it. I like it a lot. I hope someday that we can return to this ideal of music as art.

  • Now we'll see IANALBIRDC (I Am Not A Lawyer But I Read Digital Copyright)

    "Goose... Geese... Moose... MOOSE!?!?!"
  • I could swear I read a review of this exact book here in the last month, but I don't find it in older stuff [] (by titles, authors, or comments).

    Am I a victim of a time fold again, as my wife says, or wtf?

  • Here, I'll save you 20 need to go out and buy a book explaining the DMCA. It's like this: Go to your bank, take out all your money, send it to the RIAA. Everytime you think of a song or hum or whistle, send 5 bucks to the RIAA, after engaging in an hour of self-flagellation...
  • Give this book as a surprise gift to a lawyer you know. Yes, spend the $20 + s&h. If the lawyer in question does IP-related work, all the better. And bug them later to make sure they read it.

    Barnes & Noble [] allows you to ship a book to an address of your choosing, gift-wrapped. Probably Amazon does that too. I don't know for sure because I don't do business with them [].

  • She goes into excruciating, fascinating, absorbing detail about the process that produced current copyright law and is highly likely to produce future copyright law - the bribes to Congress, the back-room deals, the slimy public relations tactics, the elected officials who don't want to spend the time to learn about a tangential, unimportant issue like copyright.

    Today there seems to be a growing anti-linux theme happening on slashdot. Did MS buy /. out?
    3 S.E.A.S - Virtual Interaction Configuration (VIC) - VISION OF VISIONS!
  • "Copyright only covers individual creative works -- not characters."

    Wrong. Copyright protects the characters through the part that gives the creator a right to control derivatives. A character loses copyright protection when the first work he/she/it appeared in is elevated to the Public Domain. Mickey Mouse's first published appearance was in 'Steamboat Willie' which would have become Public Domain in 2004, and therefore freeing Mickey from Disney's locked vault.

    For more information on copyright - visit my website or read Jessica's book.
  • >it would have been helpful to read the arguments of the other side (an unbiased person from the other side of the argument; not
    >someone who has a significant financial interest in supporting the DMCA).

    But where would you find someone like this? I don't think any exist. Honestly, unless you stand to gain from this law, there's no way you could honestly support it unless you really want to live in a world where you have to pay-per-view for everything you do.
  • First of all, easy on the abuse there! I'm sure you're the smartest kid in your school and there's not much of a rep to be gained thrashing on me.

    Anyway, the last time Slashdot reviewed this book [] (do the editors ever read the site any more?) Jon Katz wrote:

    Publishers, movie studios, record companies and other content owners -- especially rich ones -- successfully got laws enacted that use technology to ensure they get paid whenever their works are used or transmitted. These new laws, Litman argues, are not only invasive, they corrupt the purpose of copyright and damage the free flow of ideas.

    Unless Katz utterly missed the point, which I'll admit is hardly inconceivable, I'm thinking the author is less than totally committed to "the free flow of ideas" with respect to her own work. Same with Jon Katz, for that matter.

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by Poodleboy ( 226682 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:17AM (#206321)
    Looks good! But don't stop here--for anyone really serious about understanding copyright law's foundations I highly recommend Lawerence Lessig's Code [] as well. This examines the law in detail from a constitutional (and historical) perspective. Further, he explains how the actual structure of this law has influenced software development in the past and how it may continue in the future. This includes many excellent discussions about the oft forgotten concept of "fair use," and how commercial closed-source interests threaten our existing rights w.r.t. software and even more.

    The 'sausage factory' is one thing--you can always stop eating sausage. If we give away our rights to fair use, though, it seems we could easily lose such common institutions as free libraries--an unarguably Bad prospect...

  • This ought to settle the matter of copyright and IP here on /. once and for all...

  • I propose that we discontinue the use of the words "pirate" and "piracy".

    We must start pushing the use of the term "privateer". There are two conflicting national/international interests at war - that of the corporations, and that of the public. Use of the word privateer will help to inform the public of the conflict and help them to realize that they are taking sides in that conflict.
  • Please, please, please go get yourself a copy.

    Better yet, check it out from the library, scan the pages into your computer, run it through some OCR software & make it available via Gnutella and/or Freenet.

  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:12AM (#206325) Homepage

    A month ago on 4/19 I got Jessica Litman, the author of the book & a renowned copyright law professor, to consent to a moderated interview for Slashdot. I then came to this website & submitted it to the Slashdot Gods, only to have it be completely ignored. I took a risk for Slashdot & they made me look like a stupid geek.

    Sigh. And I told her that us /.ers were really interested in the subject, too.

  • an unbiased person from the other side of the argument; not someone who has a significant financial interest in supporting the DMCA

    I submit that you will never find such an opinion. Anyone who does not make money from this scheme will immediately recognize the DMCA for what it is: a con perpetrated upon the public through the abuse of the legislative system. Those who do make money from it will be tripping over themselves to justify it.

  • by SlippyToad ( 240532 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @09:04AM (#206327)
    Time once again to post my "black hole" meme, which I hope will propagate up to the people who need to hear it the most, and encourage them to vote with their work for the system that benefits them the most: I speak to the artists, authors, and creators of copyrighted material.

    Current copyright laws are, in my opinion, going to put the 20th century's greatest artistic outpourings into a legally mandated black hole. Most artists and authors have an expectation that their work will immortalize them. Otherwise we wouldn't have such things as the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame (as biased and political an organization as it is) or the Grammys, or the Oscars, or any other prizes and awards for great contributions to the field.

    The problem with this expectation is that in order for your work to be immortalized, it has to survive beyond the first generation of its fans. Just because the Baby Boomers put down in their book that Bob Dylan was somebody fuckin' great, doesn't mean that I will. And it is my generation that will be responsible for ensuring the longevity of art created by my parents' generation. In order for a work to survive past a generation, copies have to be made. Lots of them. Vinyl albums are incredibly fragile, and are easily scratched by careless children, and left on radiators or in attics and warp. CD's get dropped behind the sofa. Cassette tapes are left on the dashboard and melt. Boo.

    Since copying all of these media is now illegal, I won't be making any copies of them. The only entity authorised to copy the media is the record company. They only make copies when they think they'll get a sale. Now, as the generation who popularized the work starts dropping off, sales of the work drop off as well. Fewer copies are made. But the copyright term still stands. Before the copyright expires, virtually every "consumer" of his work will have expired as well. Their collections will be sold at estate sales, thrown in the trash, or left in the attic to decay.

    Finally, the copyright expires and people are now free to distribute their own copies of the work. But who cares anymore? The first generation that will be legally able to make free and clear copies of Bob Dylan's work, as I understand it, will be my own grandchildren, who will not be born for another twenty years.

    The possibility exists that there will be few private copies after 75 years. The company that owns them may clear them out to make more room in their vault.

    Put that in the wayforward machine and imagine any type of bleak orwellian culture you like. The results are in the long-term detrimental to that which most artists crave: their continued adulation by a rapt audience. It is the cheer of the crowd that keeps them going. Knowing that the cheer goes on after their funeral has to be a significant part of what they expect as their legacy. Over-restrictive copyright laws will cut that legacy short, and their life's work will be merely "product," to be disposed of immediately upon consumption.

  • Better start with an easy practice round: find someone who has not been paid by the tobacco companies to argue that cigarettes do not cause cancer.

    I would use a different tactic. I would find someone not paid by the tobacco companies to argue that the companies should not be liable for consumers usage (after all, they smoked of their own free will, even after massive publication about the dangers of smoking).

    I believe that, if someone truly believed in the doom-and-gloom naysayers who argue that, without strong copyright protection, the United State will lose it dominance in the Intellectual Property area (supposedly it dominates, although that may be because everything is considered IP here) or/and believed that strong copyright protection produces more works of better quality, and weakened protection weakens our economy, they may be for the DMCA even without any direct financial motivation.

    I do not agree with any of these points, and I am fairly unsure of their validity, I am just saying that it would be nice to hear a good argument for the DMCA so I could know what sort of areas to counter for--I mean, if you have never heard your opponents strongest arguments in a debate, you stand a good chance of not being able to win

  • Could someone please mod this parent post up? It is submitted by jessica Litman and has two links to some interesting papers from people who agree with current copyright protection.

    By the way, thanks for the links to Jessica Litman

  • I read the book and loved it. It was extremely informative and very easy to read. However, if you are looking for an objective analysis, this book is not very helpful. The author's bias against most copyright law and, specifically, the DMCA, is dominant in almost every part of the book. I agree 100% with her viewpoint, and I probably would not be able to write anything less biased, but it would have been helpful to read the arguments of the other side (an unbiased person from the other side of the argument; not someone who has a significant financial interest in supporting the DMCA).

    Still, a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone

  • You don't even really have to go back a generation to see this happen -- try 16 years. Case in point: The Goonies DVD is set to be released in August. On the DVD will be the movie, cut scenes, interviews, and part two of Cyndi Lauper's two part Goonies music video.

    Why just part two and not part one? "Jonathan Gaines, the producer of this DVD, said that it is only being released with part II of Cyndi Lauper's music video because they are only able to find that one. They are unable to locate the master for part one... " []

    There are those who say that having less Cyndi Lauper works around may be a good thing, and Lauper herself will tell you that the song is at the bottom of her list (she made a point of keeping it OFF of her Greatest Hits album), but if the copyright holder of a work can't keep the work themselves for 16 years, well thank goodness for the "pirates" (and the Sony case) who taped the video off the air in the mid-80's. If not for them, there's a good chance that this small part of 80's pop culture would be lost forever. Maybe for the better, but you get my point.

    (A little more off topic: Another thing I miss about Napster (yes, I now use Gnutella and AudioGalaxy, but the alternatives still don't have as deep a user base, yet) is being able to find really esoteric stuff from the 70's and 80's, like the Sesame Street pinball song, or the theme from Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.)

  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:35AM (#206332)
    By opening the cover of this book, you agree to the following license terms: [This is printed on the inside of the front cover, so you already agreed to it.] You do not own the book, you are merely licensed to read it. The publisher may revoke the license and take back the book at any time they think you might have violated the license. You may not copy the book or any portion of it allow anyone else to read the book or any portion of it, nor read it or any portion of it aloud. You may not sell the book without consent of the publisher. You may only read the book using a lamp approved by the publisher. When such lamps are withdrawn from the market, you may not read the book, even if the copyright has expired.

    Of course, this won't happen with printed matter. A very long time ago some publisher put small piece of that "license" on the flyleaf of a book (just the part about re-selling), and sued some used book store; the Supreme Court threw that out, and formulated the "first sale" doctrine, that is, when you buy a book you own it. We merely have to convince them that digital publications are no different... Meanwhile, I would suggest boycotting all products that come with unreasonable restrictions, and making darn sure the store manager understands why you aren't buying.
  • Does this mean we can't post IANAL anymore? Is there going to to be a new (-1) IANAL moderation setting?
  • For starters, IAAL, finally. You're not exactly right. The 95 year duration is based on corporate authors, mainly because coporations don't "die."

    A copyright in a work created by a real person, after 1978, lasts for the duration of that person's life plus 70 years. Authors who have assigned their copyrights to someone else have the right (which cannot be waived) to terminate the transfer after 35 years or so. This was supposed to address the fact that a publisher takes a risk on an author - will the book/CD/whatever tank, or will it do well? Most published works lose money for the publisher. The few that don't recoup those losses and then some, both for the author and the publisher. Ask JK Rowling about that. The termination provisions allow authors, or their heirs, to take back their rights and exercise control over those works with real staying power.

    Is it perfect? Not hardly. But things like this represent something - copyright law is still about finding a balance. If you think about it, what we have is a result of the voices that speak loudest. Maybe it's the result of a representative democratic system. Congressmen get angry when the industry makes a fool of them, but generally, they have a very hard path to tread.

  • Unfortunately, Law is one of the very few areas of human knowledge that is geographically dependent and must be dealt with by local experts; all the rest you can find on ./! (With the appropriate disclaimers [], of course!)
  • People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made.

    Make that three things: legislation, sausage, and software.

  • I hope this isn't offtopic - it's an idea I've had for a while, and this seems as good a time as any to suggest it.

    A long time ago, there was a copyright hearing - someone or other vs. George Harrison . The judge - presumably a complete musical illiterate - ruled that because George Harrison's song used the same 3-note sequence as the plaintiff's song, this was a breach of copyright.

    Now when I heard this, I wondered why George's lawyer didn't do some research and bring up this argument:

    The Even-Tempered musical scale contains the notes C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B. That's twelve notes.

    The number of possible three note combinations is therefore 12**3, or 1728.

    The entire public domain of classic music in the even-tempered scale (the basis of all western music) dates from J.S.Bach (before 1700 if I remember right) to 1905. In this time, every single three-note sequence would have been used by some composer. Hell, J.S.Bach wrote a series of fugues in every single key, and each of those fugues probably contained every single three-note sequence you would use in that key, so they were probably all used by him. And almost all rock/pop music today relies on the most basic of the note sequences.

    The conclusion is, every three note sequence has probably been public domain since J.S.Bach, and is definitely public domain by now. Thus all music based on the well-tempered scale (i.e. all western music on western instruments) is public domain and holds no copyright.

    The downsides with this are that it screws over the artists, and you'd have to find that judge that ruled against George Harrison. But It'd be nice to see someone argue that songs based on classical chord sequences (read: every single pop song today) cannot be copyrighted.

    "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." -- Douglas Adams

  • For the convenience of slashdot readers, I have posted the entire text of the book about the evils of the DMCA below. Feel free to read it at your leisure.

    Due to the DMCA, this portion of the post has been removed

    I hope you enjoyed reading the book as much as I did.
  • by Blue Aardvark House ( 452974 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @08:00AM (#206339)
    I have debated this hot topic on the Napster Forum at great length, with people ranging from typical ranters to a small record label owner.

    The biggest issue I have is with the duration of copyright. Originally set to last 14 to 28 years from date of creation, it now stands as 95 years from the death of the copyright owner. The latest lengthening (the Sonny Bono Act) might have to do with strong lobbying from Disney, as Mickey Mouse would have lost its copyright in 2004. And to extend it again, 20 years at a time only takes a mere act of Congress.

    On one hand, I'd like to see creators get just rewards for their work. But I disagree with a near-eternal guarantee, that might stifle creation in the future because current creative minds can rest on their laurels. In other words, they can stop working and continue to enjoy a revenue stream, while I need to keep working to get my next paycheck.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972