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Copyright Issues in the Mainstream 307

Posted by Zonk
from the when-everyone's-a-crook dept.
dmayle writes "Recently, the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled on a momentous topic, the Grokster case (as covered on Slashdot). It turns out, however, it's not just geeks who are taking notice, and we're not the only ones who think things are getting ridiculous. The Economist has a great story on the subject, noting among other things, that if the cost of publishing had come down with the internet, perhaps the amount of protection needed to encourage publishing is less as well." From the article: "Both the entertainment and technology industries have legitimate arguments. Media firms should be able to protect their copyrights. And without any copyright protection of digital content, they may be correct that new high quality content is likely to dry up (along with much of their business). Yet tech and electronics firms are also correct that holding back new technology, merely because it interferes with media firms' established business models, stifles innovation and is an unjustified restraint of commerce."
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Copyright Issues in the Mainstream

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:22AM (#12960448)
    The cost of publishing is rapidly approaching zero. The cost of creation, at least for Hollywood and game companies, is rapidly approaching infinity.
    • by Zphbeeblbrox (816582) <zaphar@gmail.com> on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:31AM (#12960530) Homepage
      The cost of creation doesn't have to be approaching infinity. Only because they insist on a model of business that focuses on flash and hotbutton formula's (eg brad pitt, angelina jolie heat up on screen) big names, high software costs, and feeding everyone's ego is what drives the cost up. The same thing happens in sports too. The industry cost of doing business skyrockets as the top players insist on having their ego boosted. Personally I'm looking forward to a day when indie films are readily available and the big studios have been put in their place. I like a good blockbuster film as much as the next guy but I also like a little substance and it's becoming preciously difficult to find. And some of the tools to make those wow effects are coming available in the open source arena soon. Maybe the studios should be looking at ways to cut costs to save their industry?
    • I think the cost of creation/production for movies/games is increasing due to a lack of real creativity in these industries (as well as the music industry). They have to increasingly rely on special effects, while using the same storylines over and over again (or making the same games over and over again with better|different graphics and sound). I'm not saying that there aren't creative people, just that most of them have been marginalized because they know they produce a quality product and do not want to be ripped off by the big boys.

      The more support that independent artists get, the better, including OSS.

      • "I think the cost of creation/production for movies/games is increasing due to a lack of real creativity in these industries (as well as the music industry). "


        Not to mention that costs could be considerably lower if companies started joint ventures to develop open source engines for their games.

        How many times are companies going to start from scratch creating FPS and RTS engines when they could just make the same engines evolve?
        • How many times are companies going to start from scratch creating FPS and RTS engines when they could just make the same engines evolve?

          While I agree for the most part, it should also be mentioned that as hardware technology and software techniques evolve, an existing game engine is likely to become increasingly stale and limited (not to mention bloated and buggy as support for new technologies is hacked in as an afterthought). Examples that come to mind include many console games such as the Dynasty
      • by l2718 (514756) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:50AM (#12960715)

        Actually, special effects (especially CGI) are cheaper to buy than acting talent. Movie success is becoming increasingly dependent on star power, allowing the cast to command incredible salaries.

        I think this has little bearing on the copyright debate though. Today, many people want to see Tom Cruise, and are willing to pay for it. A studio is thus justified in paying him US$20M to act in their movie. This is an investment they make -- they hope his name will attract move people to see the movie, thus increasing their profits. Now, the time frame for the studio to profit from this is actually quite short -- let's be conservative and say that it is no more than 30 years. After that, most people will only watch the movie for historical reasons, since there will be many newer releases with more current stars (e.g. Sean Connery).

        What is my point? That, assuming 30 years is enough to make a profit (or not) from a movie, the motivation of the studio to make it (independently of how astronomical is the cost of productions) only depends on the returns during that period. Therefore, there is no need to give the studio a 95-year monopoly on reproduction of the movie. A copyright term of 14 years, renewable once [if the movie turned out to be good enough to make it worth their while] would be sufficient and will not reduce their innovation.

        • Today, many people want to see Tom Cruise, and are willing to pay for it. A studio is thus justified in paying him US$20M to act in their movie. This is an investment they make -- they hope his name will attract move people to see the movie, thus increasing their profits.

          I can't wait till some actor in Hollywood lets a studio lease their likeness and put a CGI version in a live action movie or three. Some of the CGI characters are getting better and better (think Spiderman, LOTR, etc.).

          Get famous, lea


        • ...Today, many people want to see Tom Cruise...

          That is obviously true, but what about the mass psychology behind it? Why do people flock to/glom on to entertainment that feature big names? It's certainly usually not for the quality of the performances.

          All those "celebrity magazines" in the checkout lines of supermarkets must exist for a reason, the question is whether they actually get bought (I've never seen anyone buying one) or if they're really just loss leader advertising for the star-making factor
        • Today, many people want to see Tom Cruise

          In a movie? Maybe a month ago. Today, most people are looking for Cruise in the tabloids to see what crazy-ass thing he'll do next. The Michael Jackson trial is over, sumer reruns are on TV, and the hoi polloi are bored.
      • Making a movie isn't all that expensive by itself. The real cost is in marketing it. There are countless examples of movies that were produced relatively cheap, and still mass marketed (eg. Blair Witch Project).

        But producing lots of movies on a small budget is very risky and laborious for large media companies. They'd rather spend 80% of their annual budget on one or two blockbusters. Sure it's a much bigger gamble, but at least the marketing costs (and revenues on merchandise) can be estimated with some a
    • The cost of creation, at least for Hollywood and game companies, is rapidly approaching infinity.

      That's somehow our fault and we should be punished for it? It is *not* the public's burden to have to support crazed, millionare actors; over-budget films with bad acting, no plot, and too many special effects; fad, cookie-cutter bands, that exhaust their appeal in two months, and expensive videos that may run for one week...

      If the media companies want to waste their money on that, fine, but don't expect us
      • Perhaps if movie companies had to make sure that they recouped all their lost money in less than 10 years they would stop paying artists the exorbidant salaries they do

        But here's the fucked up part, a movie is considered a failure if it doesn't recoup its cost in the first few weeks. Add DVD sales and a movie is going to make 90% of the money they can hope to wring out of it in 2 years max. And I would suspect thats a long estimate.

        So why the hell do they need 90 years to sit on these thing!!!

      • I take great offence to your post! First, there are many talentless people in hollywood that don't have boobs. They suck too, and it's unconscionable that you'd ignore them. Second, there are scores of talentless people that have boobs and yet no boob job. Top-notch boob jobs are not the sole indicator of suck. I dare say they are not even a primary indicator.
    • Just more proof that the media company model is not working. Some of the best films I've seen have budgets under 5 million, many under 1 million. Watch the film Primer, that was made on a $7,000 budget by someone who previously had no experience in film making.

      Talking about music. While an idie artist can put thier music out for free and make money off of touring and contract work, record labels on the other hand only own the recording. For them, giving away free music is giving away thier product.
    • Good day. My name is Rudi Cilibrasi. You may email me at cilibrar@gmail.com

      I am a lifelong computer programmer and open source author. I have contributed to the Linux kernel. I have also worked at Microsoft for a few months. You can see some of the software I am now writing at

      http://complearn.org [complearn.org] which allows you to do advanced data-mining for free.

      I am writing this now to address what I consider to be a very serious matter. It is relevant to the moral basis upon which Intellectual Property is fo

      • This is a hearbreaking story. Have you tried submitting it to Slashdot as an IP story in and of itself complete with your plea for help?

        Unfortunately, your story may not even be noticed by the moderators and could get lost in the noise.

        Consider submitting to Slashdot. Maybe, even Kuro5hin.

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moz25 (262020) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:24AM (#12960469) Homepage
    And without any copyright protection of digital content, they may be correct that new high quality content is likely to dry up...
    Actually, I find that high quality content and ideas are harder to "rip" and replicate. Maybe not the best example, but Slashdot's code and ideas are out in the open, yet there aren't many competing sites for the same audience. The problem, to some extent extent, thus perhaps lies with the quality of content.
    • I think the point of the quote is that high quality content is likely to dry up because high quality content is often costly. If a return is doubtful, there is no impetus to create it in the first place.

      interestingly enough, the reason television is beset with reality shows is because less of the desirable demographic is watching television. thus ad rates are lower, so cheaper programming is necessary to support the business model.

      Slashdot is free (at least I've never paid for it); there is no reason to s
    • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by m50d (797211)
      There are, they're just not popular. And since the community is small, the discussions aren't as good, so less people like them. Slashdot's value isn't in its content but in its communities. You can get better actual stories (better written, and often more interesting) at osnews or ars technica or for the less directly technical ones plastic and K5 any day of the week.
  • Status Quo (Score:3, Informative)

    by DanielMarkham (765899) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:26AM (#12960489) Homepage
    This is an excellent article, and one that anybody with a brain could agree with. But it looks like the history behind this (the last 30 years or so) and the high-priced legal firms will do everything they can to keep the status quo.
    I'm afraid that we will eventually have to push for a constitutional ammendment to fix this copyright issue -- there is simply too much inertia for the law to catch up with reality. Who knows how long this will take? If you thought the "war on drugs" was fun, just wait until we do about 40 years of the "war on pirates"

    See "SarBox And The World of Tommorrow" before it hits the theatres! [whattofix.com]
    • by mattbee (17533)
      This is an excellent article, and one that anybody with a brain could agree with. But it looks like the history behind this (the last 30 years or so) and the high-priced legal firms will do everything they can to keep the status quo.

      Hmm, I don't know; they've been around for at least 30 years, but I always thought Status Quo's longevity was down to their catchy three chord tune structure and energetic live performance. While I'm in no way a fan, I'm not sure we need to push for laws against them.
    • That'd be so sad. I can see it now... eye patches, peg legs, gold teeth and broken rum bottles everywhere.

    • Re:Status Quo (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RicktheBrick (588466)
      I believe that within 10 years there will be so much bandwidth that there will be people trying to figure out how to use it. When this happens there will be video, music, software, and wideo games on demand. Most people will not bother with storing anything at their home and will leave that headache to their isp. Then the problem with pirates will largely disappear. This will happen for two reasons. First the demand for copying equipment will decrease and second the cost of the equipment will therefore
  • The Economist (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HipToday (883113) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:28AM (#12960507)
    Is this meant to imply that people who read The Economist aren't geeks?
    • Re:The Economist (Score:3, Insightful)

      by l-ascorbic (200822)
      The important thing to consider when the Economist picks up issues like this, is that its readers include a great number of those in power around the world.
  • Insightful article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:28AM (#12960508)
    A first, useful step would be a drastic reduction of copyright back to its original terms--14 years, renewable once. This should provide media firms plenty of chance to earn profits, and consumers plenty of opportunity to rip, mix, burn their back catalogues without breaking the law. The Supreme Court has somewhat reluctantly clipped the wings of copyright pirates; it is time for Congress to do the same to the copyright incumbents.

    This is perfectly in line with what i've heard from copyright experts and people who _used_ to work for copyright protection groups/organizations.
    • I agree with this, but in addition:

      - Software should not be a patent. It should be Copyrighted. (same for business processes, and the biggie: chemical manuf. process; which may actually happen in our post-peak-oil era in the next few decades.

      - The Constitution also says "to promote the useful arts and sciences"; I would like to see IP law include some kind of test, to PROVE that the grant of a copyright or patent will actually promote new IP to be created (to discourage the kinds of patents and copyrigh
  • New Era? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:29AM (#12960516)
    I said it before [slashdot.org] and I'll say it again:

    Exchanging goods for money is an old and well trusted system. It has worked well for centuries because those doing the selling were generally the only ones who could comfortably produce the product.

    However, we are now entering The Information Age. Many businesses no longer sell goods, or services, but rather sets of instructions, plans and ideas. As these are not tangible objects, they are easily reproduced.

    Previously it was possible to bind these ideas to tangible objects, thus making them harder to reproduce. Recipes were printed in books. Music was pressed into vinyl. Because of this, businesses could stick to the age old business model, but now that the consumer can also easily reproduce products, cracks are forming in this model.

    All well and good, but what's the solution? How can businesses make money on the ideas/information/programs they produced initially? At the moment there seems to be a knee-jerk legal response, but this doesn't seem to me to be a viable solution in the long term (but I am not an economist). One alternative could be to scrap the "sell multiple, low-cost copies" model and go with a "Sell one, high cost copy which will cover expenses and profit". For example, 20th Century Fox makes a new movie costing $100,000,000. They release it to the public for free (and Free) and keep track of how many copies are in circulation. Depending on how popular it is, they are then paid $5,00,000,000, or what ever, by a central organisation. The consumers have to pay this organisation a set amount each year to cover their costs, but are then free to do whatever they want with the movie/music/software.

    Will people be happy being forced to fork out a few grand a year for products? They fork it out already voluntarily.

    Do people get a say in what's produced? How do we insure the producer is producing a quality product? Through market research and strict auditing of the producers.

    A crazy, poorly formed idea, but one which does eliminate the problem sellers we are now facing.
    • Re:New Era? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mithrandir86 (884190)
      You're exactly right. You're not an economist.
    • Re:New Era? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mjh (57755) <mark@@@hornclan...com> on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:59AM (#12960814) Homepage Journal
      They release it to the public for free (and Free) and keep track of how many copies are in circulation. Depending on how popular it is, they are then paid $5,00,000,000, or what ever, by a central organisation. The consumers have to pay this organisation a set amount each year to cover their costs, but are then free to do whatever they want with the movie/music/software.
      Isn't this socialism? Hasn't the world demonstrated that socialism is an inherently failed distribution system?
      Will people be happy being forced to fork out a few grand a year for products? They fork it out already voluntarily.
      Yes, but that's a pretty significant distinction. When people voluntarily spend their money, you can discern what's important to them. When people are forced to spend their money, the enforcer of the spending is responsible for determining what's important to the public. But that enforcer doesn't have the data to determine what's important... that data only came from people voluntarily spending their money. As a result, overtime the enforcer will become incredibly inefficient at providing what the public wants. Which is what we see everytime some central authority tries to take control of production. [techcentralstation.com]

      But that's not all. The consumer of {movies,music,software} will perceive it as free. As a consequence they'll consume more of it than they would if they had to pay for it. This will lead to escalating costs for everyone. [invisibleheart.com]

      A crazy, poorly formed idea, but one which does eliminate the problem sellers we are now facing.
      I think it will create many times more problems than the single problem it might solve.
      • Pretty much, yea. Everyone hates capitalism (when they're not on the top of the food chain), but it is by far the most efficient way to allocate limited resources. Not saying efficient==good, because it often doesn't, which is why we have copyrights (etc) in the first place.

        Anytime you add a central authority into a system with diverse individual authorities, you exponentiate its inefficiency. You also open the door for corruption, and give people the incentive to try and circumvent the process, both of wh
    • Re:New Era? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Friday July 01, 2005 @11:05AM (#12960875)
      Depending on how popular it is, they are then paid $5,00,000,000, or what ever, by a central organisation

      Are you even hearing yourself? A central organization (sorry, I'm not a Brit, so I spell it with a "z") with the authority to handle purse strings, and with the authority to collect that money from someplace (taxes? from whom? do all people consume all entertainment in equal measure?) is called The Government. The crazy notion that there is some fixed-size pie out of which all entertainment funds would be paid to creators misses the entire point of creating something new in the first place. Without the prospect of being the person that brings some huge, wildly popular new creation to the audience, all you're talking about is just creating an army of mediocre pie-slice-takers.

      Will people be happy being forced to fork out a few grand a year for products? They fork it out already voluntarily

      But they fork it out according to their tastes and willingness to spend. "People" do not all spend the same on their entertainment. Not even counting the people who cheat and pay nothing, there are people who will actually go to the theatre and see the same movie more than once, or that actually buy DVDs for their kids... but then there are people who never go to the cinema, and have no kids. The difference in media consumption could vary by thousands upon thousands of dollars.

      Do people get a say in what's produced?

      They do already. If something is truly terrible, people won't pay for it. If someone has a reputation for continually producing terrible work, no one will risk investment to pay them to produce more. Or, if they do, that's their business.

      How do we insure the producer is producing a quality product?

      Why do we care? And, "quality" by what standard? That's the whole point. Some parts of population have a completely different sense of what "quality" is. For example, I just don't get Bollywood films. They aren't compelling to me in any way. Likewise, there are people who consider Merchant Ivory films so glacial as to be anesthetic. So, why introduce some ridiculous bureaucracy to weigh in on it? The audiences, critics, reviewers, bloggers, and word-of-mouth friends are vastly more efficient at moderating the quality and helping you decide when to spend money on entertainment.

      strict auditing of the producers

      Auditing by... the governemt? Auditing by some elitist guild? How about just stick with auditing by the audience? Why make everything more complex, add a compulsary component (essentially, if you don't pay your entertainment taxes, you go to jail?) and an entire additional layer of non-creative people who do not have a personal vested interest in seeing a particular film, for example, make it to the audiences...

      but one which does eliminate the problem sellers we are now facing

      Problem sellers? The problem is the non-buyers. If the people that claim they respect the artists actually did respect them by doing business with them in the way the artists have asked, we'd have no problem at all. Artists that go through big studios/companies have one approach, artists who use oddball indy-methods have another approach... no, the only problem here is that some people simply don't want to pay for entertainment, and know that, for now, they have a fairly good chance of not getting caught with their ripped copy of some DVD.

      Regardless, I'd rather have the dull roar of back-and-forth lawsuits over pirating than have the government collect money from me, on pain of jail time, and then decide by committee which artists should get paid out of that year's creative pie fund. No thank you. I think watching the Cultural Revolution in China handle it that way was enough of a lesson for everyone, don't you?
    • They release it to the public for free (and Free) and keep track of how many copies are in circulation. Depending on how popular it is, they are then paid $5,00,000,000, or what ever, by a central organisation. The consumers have to pay this organisation a set amount each year to cover their costs, but are then free to do whatever they want with the movie/music/software.

      And really, why not? The Kelo v. New London decision last week set up a Socialist regime for Real Property ownership. We may as well

  • by garcia (6573) * on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:30AM (#12960520) Homepage
    This makes no sense. Copyright was originally intended to encourage publication by granting publishers a temporary monopoly on works so they could earn a return on their investment. But the internet and new digital technologies have made the publication and distribution of works much easier and cheaper. Publishers should therefore need fewer, not more, property rights to protect their investment. Technology has tipped the balance in favour of the public domain.

    Exactly! In this day and age, most media that is published is *long* forgotten after only a few months. The only reason the conglomorates want this 90+ year protection is so that they can gaurantee that every single person alive when the piece of material was produced will be dead before it can be used somewhere else.

    That isn't protecting distribution to make back profit, that's protecting big business to control every facet of their holdings while fucking the public out of what should have been rightfully theirs.

    It's really sad that the lawmakers and interpreters are either ignoring this important fact (or color blind -- green).

    Eight years is too much, nevermind 28 or 90+!
    • I think the currenty copyright standards being practiced stifle innovation in two ways (please feel free to correct):

      1. In an example of 'artists' who make a living on their creative assets, the old copyright standard allowed them to make on a temporary monopoly until that artist could create another piece of work to then copyright and derive income from.

      Now, however, we have more people making a living off of infringment lawsuits than the money made from the copyrighted work in question. That's just sad
  • Ah, corperate fights. Time to kick back and watch the corperate giants for innovation fight the corperate giants for media rights. If only it were mud wrestling or death match style.
  • congress .. ha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kharchenko (303729) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:32AM (#12960544)
    With enourmous amount of industry lobbying and general public not knowing any better, I don't see any way for a legislative body to reduce copyright protection term. None.
    This could happen if the public became suddenly sensitive to this issue, but since the same media companies are also controlling majority of information channels (i.e. TV, news media sites), such awareness will not appear any time soon.
    So buckle up and get ready to be taken for a ride by the "content gods": they'll tell you what to watch and how much to pay for it.
    • There is hope. The fact is that the genie is out of the bottle. No amount of court rulings can stop it now. Sure you can stop a company like grokster or napster, but how do you stop an open source protocol with multiple OSS projects using it for multiple purposes each of which can fork anytime anywhere. It's impossible. You'd have to get rid of the internet. And that really would get the publics attention. It may take fifty years but eventually a lot of people will be "tech" savvy. These issues will be like
  • Wrong Venue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ari_j (90255) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:34AM (#12960563)
    The Supreme Court held that you cannot distribute technology with the deliberate intention that it be used to violate the copyrights of another. The decision was correctly made, in my opinion. I also agree that the falling cost of publishing may (see another top-level comment regarding the cost of creation) indicate decreased need for the protections of the copyright system. However, the Supreme Court is not where you should go to make policy, and since this is not a Constitutional ruling it is comparatively easy to change: go to Congress and get them to change the copyright laws on the books.

    Yes, Congress is a cesspool of corruption; and yes, Congress gets more time in bed with the entertainment industry in a year than any of us will have with our wives in our entire lifetime. But Congress is the place to fix this, not only because it's the appropriate place but also because Congress is more attune to what people want and more able to make policy decisions. After all, the Supreme Court refers to Congress and the Executive as "the popular branches" for a reason.

    Do some research, determine what changes need to be made, and push them through Congress. If it's a good enough idea, then enough people will subscribe to it to convince their legislators to fix the problem. But don't bitch at the Supreme Court for telling you not to break the law. And if you want to make a point about it by breaking the law as a form of civil disobedience, remember (unlike so many current-day protesters) that the hallmark of civil disobedience is being arrested and charged with a crime.
    • And if you want to make a point about it by breaking the law as a form of civil disobedience, remember (unlike so many current-day protesters) that the hallmark of civil disobedience is being arrested and charged with a crime.

      Sadly, it's not a criminal offense! These are civil court rulings and the "damages" are inflated beyond belief because the media conglomorates have the money, lawyers, and lawmakers on their side.

      Civil disobedience cannot win in the traditional sense here (i.e. being arrested and c
      • What I said applies equally well to the civil arena, except that "arrested and charged with a crime" takes the form of "served a Complaint in federal court." And not all lawyers and lawmakers are on the side of the media conglomerates, so don't lose hope. The point is simply that this should be fought and won in Congress.

        As to iTunes Music Store and fair use, I really think that it's pretty darn good. I bought a song from there at long last to try it all out, and I can use that song on 5 computers, an
        • And not all lawyers and lawmakers are on the side of the media conglomerates, so don't lose hope. The point is simply that this should be fought and won in Congress.

          You will *not* be able to stand up against the finanacial backing of the conglomorates. You *will* lose to them because they have nothing but time on their side. You *cannot* outlast the longevitiy of an "individual" that cannot die in the traditional sense.

          Their money is limitless and so is their lifespan.
  • People will eventually tire pre-processed, big production entertainment. Open source, independently produced media with alternate forms of distribution (if not made entirely illegal) and funding will arise to bring the big media conglomerates down. This isn't going to happen today, or next year, but the change is inevitable.

    Actually, what's closer to the truth is that they do realize it and they are going to do everything in their power to milk the old structure and institutions for every dollar they can
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:46AM (#12960669) Journal
    Abandonware, and deliberately restricting access.

    Sure, I quite like the idea of sharing mp3s and downloading TV shows, but I realise that the arguments against doing that do have at least some merit. What does annoy me is that it's impossible to get access to a lot of media.

    The market for classic video games is small-to non-existant. Occasionally these are relicenced, but mostly people are not making money from these games. The TV Pilot "Global Frequency" would not have been seen by anyone except people downloaded it. This caused complaints from WB. Not for any good reason. They weren't losing any money from it because there was no way to buy a copy, but The WB want to hoard their IP.

    Society does better from these when people are breaching copyright. It's better that a show is watched than a show is buried in a vault, but copyright hasn't caught up with this possibility.
    • Short copyrights protect artists from having to compete with copies of their recent work. It gives them a business model. They can give up their day job and work full time on creation. That is good for the both the artist and the public.

      Long copyrights protect artists from having to compete with old public domain works. Copyright lasts so long that only very old work is in the public domain. Old stuff gets "retired" by the copyright holders, neither for sale nor in the public domain.

      That is against the pu
  • by eno2001 (527078) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:47AM (#12960677) Homepage Journal
    ...is a lot like trying to convince your wife to go to a swinger's party. The whole time you're trying, she will put up a fight and say that she's not interested in that sort of thing. Or that the guys are all going to be fat and balding and the women harsh. Or that she's not into chicks. Etc... But once you actually get her to go to one and she sees that the people are just normal everyday people like the ones you work with or are your neighbors, she revises her thinking and agrees to go again, but not necessarily participate. After a few more times, and maybe meeting a few guys she thinks are attractive, she might actually take the next step.

    This is exactly like the music/movie industry's stance on electronic distribution. For the longest time, they've been opposed to the technology because they felt that it would be detrimental to them (ie. having to fuck the fat balding guy). Then they agreed to let it happen here and there as long as they didn't really have to participate in things that were beyond their control (ie. agreeing to go to the parties, but not really get involved. Retaining control.). The only step the MPAA and RIAA need to take now, is to find out that if they allow some of their music to be released using non DRMed MP3 and other format files on normal P2P networks (eDonkey, Gnutella, etc...) that their sales might go up when people want the rest of the album (ie. finding the one or two cute guys with big scholongs that your wife actually enjoys spending a little time with, but still eschewing the fat balding guys). It'll happen sooner or later or my name isn't secretly Trolling4Dollars! ;P
  • backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Friday July 01, 2005 @10:48AM (#12960688) Homepage
    Uhm...you seem to be suggesting that if publishing is cheap, it doesn't need protection. That's backwards. When publishing costs are high, there is less need for protection, because most of the profit from publishing comes soon after publication. When costs are high, by the time a copier gets his copies out, there isn't enough profit left for them.

    Justice Breyer, back before he was on the Supreme Court, wrote an interesting article [wikipedia.org] on this, arguing that publishing costs were high enough that we might not need copyright. This was before technology drove publishing costs way down.

    There seem to be a lot of people who think "copyright was fine when it was a pain for me to copy stuff, but now that it's easy to copy stuff, we should get rid of copyright". They seem to think that the purpose of copyright law was to tell people they couldn't do what they weren't going to do anyway.

    • Re:backwards (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Creechur (847130)

      There seem to be a lot of people who think "copyright was fine when it was a pain for me to copy stuff, but now that it's easy to copy stuff, we should get rid of copyright". They seem to think that the purpose of copyright law was to tell people they couldn't do what they weren't going to do anyway.

      This assumes that the sole purpose of copyright is to protect the author or their content; if so, it's a valid point. But falling distribution costs also mean that it's cheaper to acheive the same level of c

    • Re:backwards (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aukset (889860)
      Justice Breyer's argument is operating from the premise that the purpose of copyright laws is to protect the content itself. If you believe that creative works are property, then surely this must be correct.

      However, try to consider it from another perspective: The purpose of copyright is to provide an incentive to publish creative work. The means to provide that incentive is protecting that work from being copied for a limited time. From this perspective, the argument falls apart.

      When publishing costs are
  • by Hoplite3 (671379) on Friday July 01, 2005 @11:00AM (#12960816)
    There is a lot of crud in the air when it comes to copyrights. I think it's important to air these things:
    1) Artists create in a vacuum. The act of creation is a mystical experience above ordinary humans.
    2) Without long copyrights, there would be no incentives for creators to create, leaving us with a dull and lifeless society.

    One is at the heart of a lot of publishing group propaganda. Of course, all of us create art. Most of it isn't very good, but we all create, from doodles, to humming, to solid prose and moving music. We are often spurred to create by other art. Art influences art. This doesn't mean just immitations, but also reactions, remixes, rebuttals.

    Two is in the head of a lot of artists. At some level, I can't blame them. No one wants their hard work exploited. But I will point out that art was created before copyright legislation. The need to create and share went before the profit. Also, copyright and extensions to copyright have ever been pushed by the publishers, from the Statute of Anne onward. The idea is very mercantilist -- provide a monopoly to encourage production. It isn't terribly modern.

    There are modern ways to approach the problem of compensating artists. I think the current roadblock is the publishing industry. They say they serve to both reward good creators and silence bad ones, so as to not choke up the public mide with poor ideas. People are perfectly capable of culling what they like from what they don't, and can use social networking to filter out content they don't want. The internet has made this a solvable problem. As for compensating artists, there are ideas like the Street Busker Protocol, where instead of a publisher, an escrow keeps things honest.

    The link I used to have has died, so here's a brief run-down:

    For the purpose of this, our artists is a writer, and she has just written a novel. She encrypts the novel and sends it to an escrow. She works out that she wants $200,000 dollars to release the key to the novel so that it can be read. The escrow will take a small cut and will solicit buyers for a set period of time, say 60 days. The writer sets about promoting her new work. She can release teaser chapters, related short stories, go on late night TV, whatever. Meanwhile, the public can offer up contributions online to get the key. The escrow holds all of the money. If, at the end of 60 days, the novel hasn't attracted 200k in contributions, the contributions are returned, and the writer must start again. If the goal is met, the writer is paid as soon as she releases the key.

    • by zzz1357 (863019) on Friday July 01, 2005 @12:14PM (#12961524)
      I'm going to have to challenge your #2 Without long copyrights, there would be no incentives for creators to create, leaving us with a dull and lifeless society. (It's unclear to me from your post if you agree with #2 or not, so I'll uncharitably act as if you do endorse it).

      Artists have been creating art, sculpture and music several hundred years before copyright even existed, let alone before long (90-year) copyrights existed. There will still be art and music when copyrights cease to exist. You may have noticed that video did not in fact kill the radio star.

      This metality strikes me as a sort of temporal cultural-centrism: "without the system we have now, there would not be the things we have now."

      There are non-monopoly systems of distribution which provide material benefit to creators of art. Direct or indirect patronage systems, for example. My point is not to endorse these here, but rather to remind everyone that there are "other ways to run the railroad," i.e. - copyrights are not the only (or even best way) to provide art and music.

    • We've already seen that even somewhat good writers, namely Stephen King, have tried this and failed.

      The simple fact is that few will pay and many will share, and the author/artist will likely not see a return on it.

      Thus they'll stop, because they have to eat. And you can eat words, but they won't provide nourishment.
    • If you could provide a clear example on how artists (speaking broadly, including photographers, scultors, painters, authors, computer programmers, musicians, actors, etc.) have really gained anything with this current system, I would love to hear what you are suggesting.

      Certainly a few people at the top of each of their professions have made millions or billions of dollars (i.e. Bill Gates) from strong copyright, but I would argue that the rank and file artist who is trying to be creative and pay the mortg
  • The Supreme Court has somewhat reluctantly clipped the wings of copyright pirates; it is time for Congress to do the same to the copyright incumbents.

    Yeah, I'm sure Congress is going to get right on that. No doubt they'll reverse their current trend of supporting big business because of this article.
  • I'm sure I'm not the first to have thought of this idea, but it seems to me that the length of copyright is an unstable equilibrium. Here's why:

    For a given term length, a creator can anticipate how much revenue he is likely to earn before his copyright expires. This dictates the amount of investment he can afford to put into his work. If the term is long enough to allow him large profits, he gains wealth and influence to have the term extended. Longer terms lead to larger investments in future works, g
  • Copyright protection (Score:4, Interesting)

    by latroM (652152) on Friday July 01, 2005 @11:26AM (#12961052) Homepage Journal
    Media firms should be able to protect their copyrights.

    Copyrights don't need to be actively "protected". Protection means preventing destruction, so this is clearly a propaganda word.

  • It's nice to hear a reasonable, sane, viewpoint on copyrights. So much of the discussion we've heard on this subject takes place in the shrill whine of the zealot or the menacing growl of the mercenary. To me, it seems obvious that the author of a product deserves some compensation, even if only to cover his expenses and the cost of living while producing his work. Those who suggest that 'copying' takes nothing from the author assert they have a right to do what they will with the material. Doesn't the auth
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Friday July 01, 2005 @12:22PM (#12961613)
    without any copyright protection of digital content, they may be correct that new high quality content is likely to dry up

    And I expect this to happen oh, about NEVER!

    People here live and breath to do certain things. Would the phonograph have driven Mozart out of the composing business? Did the player piano end live performances?

    Do you really think Hollywood is suddenly going to decide, "Oh my, the masses have discovered broadband Internet connections. Time to turn out the lights, sell this valuable real estate, and get a new profession."

    Ain't going to happen. They'll adapt and they'll continue to prosper. All this you'll lose all the good programming if you don't give us everything we want is nothing more than scare tactics. Truth is, most of them really can't do anything else, and wouldn't want to if they could.

  • Business Model (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Friday July 01, 2005 @01:19PM (#12962202) Journal
    It all really comes down to the business model of the media publishers.

    Over the past century the media publishers have continued to increase their profit for the same goods. Extension of the copyright life has served to increase this almost indefinitely. As long as there was not a vast web of computers connected via the internet this model works fine, however this medium of communcation does exist, and makes publication orders of magnitude cheaper than previous means.

    The problem is the over-inflated profit margins of the 'legacy' publishing companies can not be supported in a free market where consumers are used to getting boundless resources for just a monthly access fee. Advances in technology allow musicians to record their own music just as well as the record labels (and actually many of the offerings from indie/free music are better than the vast majority of traditional record label offerings), allows writers to reach millions of potential readers, and software developers to distribute their own work without the overhead of packaging and promotion in traditional retail operations.

    Extending copyrights, restricting file sharing to such an extent that it impinges on fair use, and holding the developers of software that supports it liable for damages is not the solution - it is only a short sighted bandaid to help companies maintain their profits at the detriment of invention and society in general. The real solution is for the traditional publishers to rethink their business model and accept the fact that profit margins will have to fall back to realistic levels, or they will lose customers.

    Case in point: I no longer purchase traditional music CDs because of the inflated pricing and forced packaging. Instead I download indy/free music - which doesn't infringe on anyone's rights and is within the realm of what I believe is a reasonable price to pay (small or free - when compared to the major record label's prices).

    Technology is ushering in a time when it is reasonable for individuals to make their own music, movies, and publish their own books. The middle-man in the sense of the large media distribution conglomerate is not needed, and most people are finding is not wanted. The more the conglomerates try to stem the tide of change through draconian means, the more people will search for alternatives that do not run afoul of the law and does not put more money into the inflated jaws of the media publishers. Publishing companies will either change their business model to play in this space, or perish due to the ill will they provoke in their (previous) customer base through insisting on pursuing an outdated business model.

    The most interesting thing about all of this is how companies don't couch their lobbying for extensions to copyright and their efforts to 'stem the tide' as interrum measures. For all intents and purposes they are not attempting to change. This would be like radio companies lobbying congress to prevent televisions from being used to show programming in the 1930s - and all of us in 2005 sitting around a radio listening to the 'Slashdot' show. Time marches on, and breakthroughs in technology eventually become available to the public. Business has to be more flexible to deal with those inevitable changes when they come; this takes long term planning - which business is not good at (in an almost childish way; a child 'wants it now', and adult prioritizes, plans, and sets aside resources for the day when changes are needed to make the transition smooth). Instead the customer must deal with change - but the twist is the customers now have the tools to change and remove the middle man from the equation - which they will if businesses don't change their ways.

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