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The "Copyright Black Hole" Swallowing Our Culture 278

An anonymous reader writes "James Boyle, professor at Duke Law School, has a piece in the Financial Times in which he argues that a 'copyright black hole is swallowing our culture.' He explains some of the issues surrounding Google Books, and makes the point that these issues wouldn't exist if we had a sane copyright law. Relatedly, in recent statements to the still-skeptical European Commission, Google has defended their book database by saying that it helps to make the Internet democratic. Others have noted that the database could negatively affect some researchers for whom a book's subject matter isn't always why they read it."
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The "Copyright Black Hole" Swallowing Our Culture

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  • by Neil_Brown ( 1568845 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @02:39PM (#29342695) Homepage

    As a lawyer working in the area, I highly recommend Boyle's book, 'The Public Domain []' - available under a Creative Commons licence, as well as in dead-tree format.

    A fascinating (and easy to read) discussion about the concept of 'the public domain', which is well worth reading for anyone who cares about the future of technological development / societal impact of overbearing IP regulation etc.

  • by RichDiesal ( 655968 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @03:01PM (#29342907)

    Others have noted that the database could negatively affect some researchers for whom a book's subject matter isn't always why they read it."

    This is a little vague. The purpose of one of TFAs is to show how inaccurate the metadata on books in their database can be, and how Google is unwilling to do anything about it. Thus, when researchers use Google book search to look up information about books, rather than read the book (as the summary implies), they can be mislead.

    Two examples from TFA: a search for "Internet" in books published before 1950 produces 527 results, and a book entitled "Culture and Society 1780-1950" was supposedly published in 1899.

  • by mindbrane ( 1548037 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @03:25PM (#29343121) Journal

    Corporations began as a means to limit risk exposure to investors in adventures in trade and, thus, encourage investment. Putting aside, for the purposes of my comment, their current morals & ethics, Corporations still function to turn a profit and limit liability for investors. The world has grown small and overcrowded and everyone wants a big piece of the pie. Urbanization can be viewed as our attempts to deal with relatively high populations and scare resources. The results are often bottlenecks that force compromise and innovation. In a small, overpopulated world wherein we can't export our surplus populations or pollution, problems become even more acute. Corporations, especially where publicly held, are double binded by being forced to maximize profits and protect their investors capital. Due diligence has become a catch phrase used throughout various subcultures, but it serves as the modern day equivalent of caveat emptor. What happens in a situation wherein there's too many players all jostling for scare resources? Double binds, or, multiple ungiving constraints appear. Government is put in place to oversee market conditions, inter alia, and, ideally find ways to ease the pressures coming from too many players and too few resources. Unfortunately when there's no room to export surplus populations and home made externalities like pollution can't be exported and impinge on neighbouring sovereign states things just get worse. Investors want a good return on their investment and a reward for saving against future contingencies, corporations are forced to protect investors' capital and return a profit, Government is saddled with playing all players off one another and borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. It's an ugly situation and IP rights and abuses are just a symptom of more systemic problems.

    May you live long and prosper in interesting times. :)

  • by Pandare ( 975485 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @03:47PM (#29343323)
    Technically, by publishing your comments here, you retain full copyright just like everything else you've ever written under the Berne Convention [] by default. /. is even nicer, since in the SourceForge TOS [] Sec. 13 says that they'll help you if you get your stuff copied without permission and it ends up on one of their websites. A lot of TOS don't even have explicit compliance with the DMCA, love it or hate it (or both).

    Your idea that the site should include some boilerplate that says all content is licensed under the GNU GPL or CC-BY-NC-ND [] would be exactly the opposite of what you want, I think. If they were to do that, they would be stripping the users from the right of total control of their works. Any license that automatically strips authors of their rights to determine how their work promulgates (I'm looking at you, GPL!) to me, at least, seems abusive.

    And while IANAL, IAALS, and as such, this is not legal advice, I can't even be your lawyer if I wanted and all that fun stuff.
  • by sayfawa ( 1099071 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:10PM (#29343511)
    Just wanted to mention that one should also check out Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture [], which has an interesting history of copyright, and the erosion of the public domain.
  • Re:Democratic? (Score:3, Informative)

    by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:25PM (#29343641)

    We have. Look at the Pirate Party in Europe. The difference is here in the USA we have a flawed system... When you are advocating a third choice in a system designed for only two choices, its very hard to get a third choice accepted.

    The American system is FPTP [] like the British one, we managed to get a Third Party [], and a bunch of smaller ones []. Why the USA hasn't developed "The Texas independence party" or "The New York First Party" etc. is beyond me. You guys should have parties from all 50 states represented in congress, where are all your local parties?

    And just because you stand little chance of being elected isn't a reason not to create or join a smaller party. The Greens in the UK have all three main parties spouting their message because they were taking important votes in marginal constituencies. They've never had a single seat, but they've effectively won the argument. That's far more important than getting power, and it's a part of our [] strategy as well. We know we're not going to win a seat, but we can make others lose until they listen to our message (in case it's not obvious enough I recently joined the Pirate Party UK).

  • Re:Democratic? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:12PM (#29344043) Journal

    As I mentioned before, the Chinese are learning English in droves. Why? Because they wish to trade with the rest of the world, and the movers and shakers of the industrialized world (and much of the third world) speak English, for better or worse. Who knows, maybe one day we'll all have to learn Mandarin. But for now, the Big E rules the roost.

    From what I can tell, the most often spoken European language in much of the Third World is French (it's widely spoken in African and still spoken by many in Indo-China). Spanish is also pretty big, dominating Latin America (except for Brazil), and, ironically enough, gaining considerable traction in the Southern United States (doubly ironic when you consider that huge chunks of that region were basically stolen from Mexico, maybe birth rate differentials mean the Mexicans will eventually get it back!)

    English is a dominant language of trade and commerce, to be sure, but it's not the only one.

  • by Nicolas MONNET ( 4727 ) <> on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:19PM (#29344107) Journal

    Frederic Mitterrand, the nephew of the former president, just appointed by our dumbass in chief Sarkzy, just stated that he wanted to fight "free [libre] internet fundamentalists."

    I sooo wanted to cockpunch the son of a bitch. And the god damn sarkock-sucking media who didn't point out the outrageous nature of that fascist statement.

  • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:26PM (#29344155) Homepage

    Have you ever heard of paragraphs? (plural)

  • Re:Democratic? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @06:15PM (#29344469) Homepage Journal

    A major feature of the English language is its ability to incorporate foreign words

    That's how all languages work.

    You're just ethnocentric about your language, and ignorant about other cultures since you don't know examples invalidating your affirmation, like how the Japanese word for "door" is "doa" (they can't finish words in "r"), and for bread it's "pan". Heck, in French an iceberg is called "un iceberg".

    It's a feature of the English language, that's true, but not exclusively so, as you assumed. It's... icky that you'd take that common feature and write a number of paragraphs about how it makes your language better than other languages.

User hostile.