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O'Reilly On How Copyright Got To Its Current State 177

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the sad-state-of-affairs dept.
Schneed Tweedly writes "William Patry is one of the leading scholars in the world on copyright law. For a long time he maintained a blog, "Patry on Copyright," that discussed new cases as they came out. A few days ago, though, he shut down his blog because 'the Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing.' O'Reilly has a long post up on their news site discussing Patry's retirement from blogging and giving a history of copyright that explains how we got where we are."
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O'Reilly On How Copyright Got To Its Current State

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:06PM (#24531867) Journal
    An entire article on the development/abuse of copyright and not one mention of Walt Disney & Sonny Bono's Copyright Term Extension Act [wikipedia.org]. I think the graph on that illustrate what this article talks about, the gradual extension of copyright through the years by political legislation.

    Yeah the current state is bad. Even worse that the people making the calls are the people who have the most money. I don't think we should do away with it completely but I think it's well past the point of stifling innovation. Well past that point.

    You want an indication of problems witch those in power continually extending it? Point me to a single proposed reduction bill [copyright.gov]. It's all about extension, reinforcement and expansion to other works like vessel hull design.
    • by Rycross (836649) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:32PM (#24532081)

      I'd argue that the growth of piracy is not only due to the increased ease, thanks to computers and the internet, but also due to the perceived fairness. After all, copyright is supposed to be a social contract where we allow the creator to profit from their creations so that we can enrich our own culture. But its been so lopsided towards the creators these days. Pretty much all of our modern culture is locked out from you unless you are willing to pay the price.

      A large problem is that most people just don't feel copyright infringement is immoral anymore. How much of that is because the creator's aren't keeping their end of the bargain? If you had free access to 10-year old games, books, and music, wouldn't that lower the incentive to commit infringement on the current-day stuff?

      • by Rycross (836649) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:37PM (#24532131)

        To expand upon this, I feel like the large corporations who fucked up copyright have ruined it for the rest of the creators who just want to make a living. People no longer view the copyright issue as a moral one, and a pure legal one. Its not the large corps that are going to suffer. Its the hobby game developers, independent photographers, small bands, and other people that copyright was made to promote.

        • To expand upon this, I feel like the large corporations who fucked up copyright have ruined it for the rest of the creators who just want to make a living. People no longer view the copyright issue as a moral one, and a pure legal one. Its not the large corps that are going to suffer. Its the hobby game developers, independent photographers, small bands, and other people that copyright was made to promote.

          Au contraire, I think. As most of us around here know, the reasoning enshrined in the US Constitution for copyright is to "promote the progress of science and useful arts." That's not a moral issue. There's no discussion of the moral rights of an author, or intellectual property, or the ownership of one's ideas or the creations of one's mind.

          No, from what I can see, copyright was established for a very practical purpose. It wasn't a moral issue. If anything, people are making it into one nowadays - it's all

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The American founders didn't even want that much, it was grudgingly conceded to smooth trade with Britain. Copyright is the leverage permitting private interests to shift democracy from its foundation. If that sounds alarmist, you're not clearly thinking the process through to its natural end.

        • Copyright was never viewed as a moral issue in the first place outside of a handful of Western countries. Try telling the average person in much of Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America that you aren't allowed to copy your music for your friends, and they'll look at you like you're a madman. People would do better to remember that copyright was envisioned not a natural right, but an artificially granted government monopoly, and one that now seems a mistake.
        • by Moryath (553296) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:56PM (#24532327)

          A few megacorporations (like Disney) realized their ace-in-the-hole (like Mickey) was about to hit public domain.

          So they sent bags of money, hookers, and bags of money with hookers hidden inside, and made sure the "right" collection of congresscritters got them along with the message "extend copyright, and there's more."

          Repeat every time Mickey Mouse was about to be public domain... meanwhile Disney RAPED the public domain (little mermaid, snow white, jack and the beanstalk, etc...) of everything they could and started flinging lawsuits when other people produced competing works based on the same PUBLIC DOMAIN works.

          Copyright should be for the same length as a patent, period. The purpose of each is the same: to promote progress by letting people have a limited time monopoly on the product of their unique expression/inventiveness.

          If I write a semi-popular novel at age 25 and live to the average age of 86, that means that my novel won't hit the public domain until the 22nd century (if ever). I personally find that repulsive, and anyone who gets the purpose of copyright ought to be disgusted by the notion as well.

          If I want to keep making money, I should have to (at some point) start working again. The best authors - Stackpole, Niven, Asimov, McCaffrey, Doyle - always have, even if their properties could have let them retire in opulence and never have to lift pen again. Intermediates like Rowling (and sorry, but no she's not as good as people gushing over her like to think) do the opposite: they just cut off and sit back on the eternal "it's copyrighted forever" bandwagon.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by CRCulver (715279)

            The best authors - Stackpole, Niven, Asimov, McCaffrey, Doyle - always have, even if their properties could have let them retire in opulence and never have to lift pen again. Intermediates like Rowling

            Funny that you think of Asimov as among "the best authors". He's a blip in world literature. Perhaps you mean just in science fiction? Even there, critical reaction has turned against him in recent decades, basically accusing him of writing too many books, too few of which were any good. And McCaffrey took th

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by ibbie (647332)

              That science-fiction authors nowadays can never seem to write a concise little work and leave it at that is increasingly remarked on as a blight on the genre.

              I've ran into a couple of authors, science fiction and otherwise, who should have wrapped it up before they did. I can grant you that. However, there have been many series that I've read that were absolutely fucking awesome, and would have lost a great deal of value had they cut it short. Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen [wikipedia.org] series is one example of such, just off the top of my head. Hell, he's still not done with it, and I'm definitely glad for it. Despite the number of books written in it, I've fo

          • Intermediates like Rowling (and sorry, but no she's not as good as people gushing over her like to think) do the opposite: they just cut off and sit back on the eternal "it's copyrighted forever" bandwagon.

            a) She's just fine, you just don't like her work.

            b) Pretty sure she's made enough money off the Harry Potter books at this point that, even if another copy never got sold, she wouldn't have to work any more.

            • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot.pitabred@dyndns@org> on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:49PM (#24532943) Homepage

              And that there's the problem. There's no incentive to keep creating, which is the entire purpose of copyright. Thanks for making such a great argument against it!

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Microlith (54737)

                Indeed no worries, if there was no copyright she'd never have gotten rich!

                Of course, she'd probably also never have bothered to keep being creative for so long. You might have gotten a book out of her, maybe a short story. But not as many books.

                • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot.pitabred@dyndns@org> on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:19PM (#24533217) Homepage

                  I didn't mean to intimate that ALL copyright was bad. Just the current length and breadth that it affords a well-financed creator is stifling to society in general. Rowling and others have construed copyright to control whether or not other people can mention or even significantly reference their works, which is WELL outside the bounds of what was intended by copyright. She sued the Harry Potter Lexicon because she INTENDED to make another encyclopedia of Harry Potter stuff. And the law, as it is, has to take her seriously. How fucked up is that?

                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by Microlith (54737)

                    I'd take you seriously if this were JK Rowling's children or her some decades later. As it is, the Harry Potter series is slightly over 10 years old. This would be within the bounds of copyright in the US as established originally in the constitution.

                    So yes, it's completely sane for them to take her seriously. What would (and probably will) be fucked up is when decades down the line her children or some rights holder sues someone over something Harry Potter related.

                    The obvious solution is to drastically sho

                    • by Microlith (54737) on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:36PM (#24533385)

                      Also, the argument regarding the length and breadth at this point, especially when referring to JK Rowling, is moot as she has made her entire fortune almost purely off the books and within an extremely short timespan.

                      If you want to rip someone for that sort of thing, go tear up JRR Tolkein's family. He's been dead decades and they're still raking in cash from his works. Or wait a couple decades and -then- use her.

              • We're not talking about someone exploiting one thing for their entire lives, though. We're talking about one work which was wildly successful, such that if even if it were in the public domain today, JK Rowling wouldn't have to worry about money again (if she's smart with her money). That isn't an argument against copyright at all, it's merely recognizing her success.
          • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:48PM (#24532931)

            Worse yet, the perpetual and endless copyright hinders any kind of development, since we'll one day run into a lack of "free" material to draw from. Everything you could write, no matter how much it was your own creation because you didn't even know anything like it existed, will have been done before and someone will sue you for plagiarism.

            There are only so many ideas you can explore that are interesting to read. When are we going to run out of material you may use without causing someone to sue you for plagiarism?

          • Intermediates like Rowling (and sorry, but no she's not as good as people gushing over her like to think) do the opposite: they just cut off and sit back on the eternal "it's copyrighted forever" bandwagon.

            In general I agree, but not with this. Even after Rowlings made it big she kept writing. She wrote at least 7 books. On Amazon's first page of results searching for Rowlings [amazon.com] there are 6 individual books she wrote. And though she can live comfortably the rest of her life, she's one of the UK's wealthi

        • by Original Replica (908688) on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:08PM (#24533101) Journal
          Its not the large corps that are going to suffer. Its the hobby game developers, independent photographers, small bands, and other people that copyright was made to promote.

          While it is the large corps that have destroyed copyright through overexpansion, I don't think this has ruined the scene for independent creators, but what it means to be successful as an artist is starting to change. Of the last ten CDs I've bought, seven have been purchased directly from the artist (usually while they were playing on a subway platform, usually for $10). I think the modern move away from paying for creative content owned by big corporations frees up those dollars for buying creative content from local artists. Local artists then give places regional flavor and culture (severely missing from the world these days) The changes taking place seems to slowly be smoothing out the income progression for artists, it's not just a bipolar jump between the poverty of the unknown and the riches of the famous. Along with losing that sudden jump comes the loss of the ability for an artist to make one or two great pieces, charge a fortune for them and then be set for life. Artists will have to work every day just like everyone else, always producing new content to sell just like a farmer must always produce new food to sell. I don't think the mainstream stardom is going to vanish quickly, but I think that is going to slowly fad in favor of more regional and local talent.
          • Artists will have to work every day just like everyone else, always producing new content to sell just like a farmer must always produce new food to sell.

            However whereas farmers used to save seeds [idahostatesman.com] to plant next year companies like Monsanto [i-sis.org.uk] are trying to make sure farmers have to buy seeds from them every year.

            Falcon

      • by DataPath (1111) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:52PM (#24532271)

        A large problem is that most people just don't feel copyright infringement is immoral anymore.

        It's not immoral, and never was. Copyright infringement isn't wrong, it's merely illegal. It's an economic incentive for writers and inventors written into the constitution.

        That's it.

        • by Rycross (836649)

          You're right. What I meant was this: when we the public feel that copyright is no longer a fair trade, then we correct the situation.

          I frequently ponder whether or not piracy would be so common if we had 5-10 year copyright limits.

        • That is perfectly debateable. I always have maintained that copying someone's work that is their livelihood is every bit as immoral as stealing a physical widget that is someone's livelihood. Just because you say copying isn't immoral, doesn't make it morally acceptable to a wider audience than just yourself.
          • I shall make my livelihood masturbating into a cup.

            What, no one pays me for that? Perhaps I chose the wrong business model.

            To make it clearer: No one has a RIGHT to make a livelihood in anything they do. They have a right to pursue it, and that's it. If they can't make money making copies of things (because it costs nothing to do it, and is therefore infinitely available), they should make money getting people to pay them to make it in the first place (their time and skill is the scarce resource, and therefore what's valuable).

            • They don't have a right to make a livelihood in what they do. They do have a right to attempt to do it without your interference. You have no right to that artist's work except under the terms they choose to make it available, and if you don't like their terms, but take their work anyway... that's tantamount to forced labor.
      • by Geno Z Heinlein (659438) on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:28PM (#24532695)

        But [it's] been so lopsided towards the creators these days.

        Not the creators, the copyright holders. Those are not always the same people. Courtney Love does the math [salon.com] is still a good place to start.

        This is important to me personally because I feel that our genuine intellectual lifeblood, the creators, are frequently screwed over by lawyers and businessmen who legally own the copyrights. As a Nietzschean, of course I feel that businessmen are supposed to be at the bottom of the social pyramid, and the creators, our genuine artists, at the top. The legal types are supposed to be a support mechanism for our creators. Instead, the artists are treated as a commodity to generate cash-flow for the suits.

        Somehow these briefcase-wielding cocksuckers have flipped the whole damn world upside down.

      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:07PM (#24533093) Homepage

        'd argue that the growth of piracy is not only due to the increased ease, thanks to computers and the internet, but also due to the perceived fairness. After all, copyright is supposed to be a social contract where we allow the creator to profit from their creations so that we can enrich our own culture.

        Yup. I feel like it's time for me to jump in with my standard copyright spiel: The problem with copyright right now is that the common modern conception is out of line with why it was created. It was created as a ploy to encourage writers to write books. The idea was to say, "If you write a book, you get a few years to profit from it before other publishers can poach your work." So the purpose was to provide a limited benefit to the creator of a work in order to encourage creation, the intended end being to promote the common good.

        Some time later, the whole thing got re-conceptualized into guaranteeing the creator a *right* to have control over his/her own creation. Many people now imagine that this was the original intent of copyright-- that authors have some kind of God-given inalienable right to control their own work absolutely and for the rest of time, and "copyright" is intended to guarantee authors that right. Later, people even forgot about the authors and passed that right only to the corporations who "own" the stories and characters. The famous case is Disney, which ironically has fed off of older public domain characters and stories while insisting that they retain perpetual rights to their own characters. Still, copyright wasn't intended to be this "right" to control all possible incarnations and derivative works for all time, because art has always reused common stories and characters.

        But still, copyright was treated as protection against *other publishers* printing and selling copies. After all, it was unimaginable that some individual would make millions of copies of the work and distribute them for free. Of course, the Internet comes along and that exact unimaginable thing happens. So then, when the business model of the big media companies gets threatened, suddenly "copyright" again becomes something more than it was intended to be. Suddenly now it's not just the perpetual right to decide when the creation is published and sold, but it's also the right to control any time that the work is evoked in any situation at any time by any person. A "copy" is now a nebulous concept, so instead you need a license to read the book, to listen to the music, to watch the movie, etc. But copyrights were never really intended to be used against individuals for *reading* a book, but only against people/companies who would republish the book.

        So even though the intent of copyright was to place the common good above the greed of publishers who wished to poach works that they hadn't invested in, it's now seen as an inalienable right that exists, by nature, above the common good. Further, it's being used by greedy publishers to harm the arts by stifling use of old characters and stories, in order to put off the need to invest in new ventures by milking the old ones.

        Rant over. And no, I didn't RTFA.

      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        I'd argue that the growth of piracy is not only due to the increased ease, thanks to computers and the internet, but also due to the perceived fairness.

        Unfortunately, lawmakers see allowing a work to enter the public domain as legalizing piracy of that work, and that's being soft on crime, something they can't risk being accused of when coming up for re-election. And when that work is the beloved Mickey Mouse, they fear the smear campaign for not thinking of the children (who really don't give a damn about Mickey Mouse).

        The most recent thing I've seen Mickey Mouse in was him being blown to pieces by terrorists on South Park in the Imaginationland story. A

    • by number6x (626555) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:35PM (#24532109)

      J.K. Rowling and her publisher are known to aggressively fight perceived copyright infringements of her Harry Potter Series of books, as well as the movie and merchandise empire it has inspired.

      Works involving Harry Potter generate a lot of income for parties with licenses to produce goods linked with the storyline.

      I always thought that it was quite humorous that 10 years before J.K. Rowling first published her copyrighted works there was already a Harry Potter movie that starred Sonny Bono [imdb.com]!

      Its a great example of how just having a movie about a character named Harry Potter does not immediately imply that Ms. Rowling engaged in any infringement. The 1986 Movie and her 1996 books deal with completely different subject matters.

      J.K. Rowling's book deals with a young boy named Harry Potter who must fight against evil magical forces to save his friends and even a family that despises him.

      While, on the other hand, B-Movie creator Charles Band's Movie deals with a young boy named Harry Potter Jr. who must fight against evil magical forces to save his friends and even a family that loves him.

      All kidding aside, they are completely different stories. Otherwise Sonny Bono might come back and Haunt J.K. Rowling for copyright infringement! That would be way scarier than Voldemort [youtube.com]!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Potter#Nancy_Stouffer [wikipedia.org]

        Even better, before Rowling ever started writing Harry Potter, there was a series of books years earlier called Larry Potter that featured a boy just like Harry with dark hair and glasses.

        He went to a wizard school in a magical castle, and non-magic humans were called Muggles.

        Yet Rowling tries to accuse everyone of stealing from her. And to date, she has never really come up with an idea outside of Harry Potter. Her new book coming out is a series of

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pxuongl (758399)
      i think the problem here is that they're extending copyrights for all works uniformally. Wasn't the extension of copyright to an absurd life+75 years just to ensure that the copyright owners can keep making money on property that was profitable?

      why not change the law such that you have to apply for an extension of copyright? If nothing is filed within, say, 10 years of expiration, then the work goes into the public domain. I'd say 10 years is a long enough time to realize profits on even the most unwan
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by naoursla (99850)

      I wrote to my representatives in Congress about the ever lengthening copyright term. The response was that there are copyrighted materials that are still bringing in lots of money to the US economy from overseas. If we allow those copyrights to expire, we will signficantly increase our trade deficit.

  • Is it really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Poromenos1 (830658)

    Sure, copyright legislation is getting stricter, but that's only because it's trying to combat the increasing cases of infringement. It's a fight that's about to end, and there can only be one winner. When the rivals are the governments vs the entire world, my money isn't on the governments...

    • Re:Is it really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:20PM (#24531979)
      How is increasing the copyright term for something written by a dead guy going to affect the people downloading the matrix off bittorrent?
      • Re:Is it really? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Kjella (173770) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:52PM (#24532279) Homepage

        How is increasing the copyright term for something written by a dead guy going to affect the people downloading the matrix off bittorrent?

        You rip us off by pirating so we'll rip you off by keeping stuff locked up indefinately and vice versa? Face it, anything like a social contract is royally screwed, people don't respect the copyright holders and the copyright holders don't respect us. They're just playing to grab all the money that they "lose" according to themselves and to hell with the rest.

      • by gilgongo (57446)

        How is increasing the copyright term for something written by a dead guy going to affect the people downloading the matrix off bittorrent?

        Bingo. Nail, head, direct hit.

        There will come a time when everything is under copyright forever. But nobody will give a shit.

        The really worrying thing is whether by that time we will have become so accustomed to trivially breaking copyright law that it will have become a gateway to breaking other laws. Tax evasion? Pah! Parking? Fake numberplates. Exams? Cheat, because ev

    • Re:Is it really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by liquidpele (663430) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:25PM (#24532023) Journal
      Oh please....
      You're in fantasy land if you think the people are not going to riot over copyrights. Food, Depression, Water, Crime, etc... sure. Copyrights... not so much.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Frankly, were I in charge when the masses came to my palace chanting "FREE ENTERTAINMENT" at the tops of their lungs, I would order my forces to shoot into the crowd indiscriminately on principle.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by eln (21727)

          I would order my forces to shoot into the crowd indiscriminately on principle.

          Oh come on, that's your solution to everything.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770)

        Oh please....
        You're in fantasy land if you think the people are not going to riot over copyrights. Food, Depression, Water, Crime, etc... sure. Copyrights... not so much.

        People wouldn't accept it if shop owners called for the death penalty for shoplifting, nor if copyright holders do the same. Countries not so utterly under the spell of lobbyists as the US won't make large parts of their population into "dangerous criminals". Unlike the US where a riot is the only thing that'd change something in many countries you can actually vote parties out of the parliament for doing stupid shit - two are at risk of doing so next election here. Maybe the US will kill itself under its c

    • Re:Is it really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:29PM (#24532061)

      but that's only because it's trying to combat the increasing cases of infringement

      Infringement cases are increasing because of the continual copyright term extensions.

      Bah.

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:14PM (#24533163)

        Infringement cases are increasing because of the continual copyright term extensions.

        Sure they are. That's why if you look at the torrents, they're full of people trading Mickey Mouse cartoons that were only yanked away from the public domain by Disney's latest lobbying efforts. P2P is dominated by pop songs from the 1950s, and all those cracked game sites are full of Tetris and Pacman.

        Does it even occur to you before you spout the kind of knee-jerk crap quoted above that that overwhelming majority of copyright infringement going on on-line today is ripping off material released so recently that even the original copyright terms would easily have covered it (assuming it has even been released to the public yet at all)? Or that copyright infringement might be increasing because we now have a high-speed communications medium connecting most of the first world that can copy and redistribute copyright material near instantaneously and with negligible cost?

        It's tragic that posts like the parent get modded (+5, Insightful). It's obviously not even true, at least on any remotely significant scale. (+5, I Want Everything For Free Groupthink) is more like it.

        • by langelgjm (860756) on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:49PM (#24533517) Journal

          Does it even occur to you before you spout the kind of knee-jerk crap quoted above that that overwhelming majority of copyright infringement going on on-line today is ripping off material released so recently that even the original copyright terms would easily have covered it (assuming it has even been released to the public yet at all)?

          Here's a question - as technology has improved, why on earth are we witnessing increased terms? If anything, the term ought to have been reduced. It's orders of magnitude easier in this day and age to distribute and profit from copyrighted material than it was when they copyright term was originally established as 14 years. Creators need much less time to bring in profits, in great part thanks to the Internet that also enables this infringement. All that popular media you're thinking of only has a shelf-life of a few years at best, anyway. 14 years is way too long for today's movies and music, if you ask me.

          • I don't necessarily disagree with any of that. But even if you considered only 5 years to be a reasonable period for exploitation of a work by its creator, you would still find the majority of the material that is swapped illegally on-line today was under copyright.

            The "everything I want should be free" crowd like to complain about copyright extensions, but the fact is that for the most part they don't even respect copyrights for material released yesterday, or that won't be released until tomorrow for that

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by novakyu (636495)

          Sure they are. That's why if you look at the torrents, they're full of people trading Mickey Mouse cartoons that were only yanked away from the public domain by Disney's latest lobbying efforts. P2P is dominated by pop songs from the 1950s, and all those cracked game sites are full of Tetris and Pacman.

          If you look at just the terms, you are absolutely right. Some people (like myself) may look specifically for those abandonwares, but that's not where the most active warez/p2p scene is.

          However, if you look at the scope of the copyright as well, the parent poster is far more in the right than you are. Originally, copyright simply covered "maps, charts, and books", i.e. not music scores (which did exist with the technology of the time), newspaper articles, etc.

          But over the last century or so, the scope of the

    • by grolaw (670747)

      Increasing cases of infringement? Where did you get that BS?

      Of course, with vastly more material in copyright there will be more infringement.

      There are no such things as "innocent infringers" any longer and that is total BS. Do you really think that George Harrison intended to lift the melody from He's So Fine for My Sweet Lord?

    • You obviously haven't been around when Iran revolted against the Shah or when the east bloc collapsed.

      What should a government do when all, or almost all, of its citizens object against its rule? You can't shoot everyone, you can't jail everyone, you can just give up. Remember that any government is just propped up by those it rules. It doesn't produce anything, it doesn't generate wealth. We can exist without them, they're easy to replace. They can't exist without us.

  • Mickey Mouse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Necreia (954727) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:20PM (#24531981)
    Copyright will continue to extend for as long as that damn mouse makes money.
    • Copyright will continue to extend for as long as that damn mouse makes money.

      Which will be forever unless,

      1) Everyone gets over it

      or

      2) People start boycotting Disney

      • Which will be forever unless,

        1) Everyone gets over it

        or

        2) People start boycotting Disney

        From about 2003 to 2005, I tried to organize a Disney boycott. But that means giving up Pixar, ESPN, ABC, A&E, History, and all the rest of these [cjr.org]. Do you have any idea how I could convince a significant number of people to agree to that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by grolaw (670747)

      I guess that Anaheim and Orlando have to go. Let Euro and Japan Disney fare for themselves.

      I think a few thousand hungry alligators dropped into each park every morning would take the luster off of the mouse - especially if the alligators were fitted with Mouse Ears (PARODY).

  • I know this is rather tangential, but the article did start out with contrasting Expression vs. Function under "Copyright in Context" heading. I think the best proof that software is ruled by copyright vs. patent is available at http://99-bottles-of-beer.net/ [99-bottles-of-beer.net] 99 bottles of beer, programmed in 1214 different languages and/or variations. Clearly the function is the same, but the expression differs wildly.

  • Let's change "copyright" to "copywrong" to reflect the current situation.

  • available, reports Jon Newton [p2pnet.net] at p2pnet.net
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by langelgjm (860756)

      Mr. Beckerman, I don't know if you'll have a chance to respond to this, but I'm kind of itching to ask after reading something.

      It seems to me that the whole copyright debate has shifted from what was originally an issue of economic incentive to an issue of natural and moral rights. The starving artist is invoked not only to inspire our sympathy, but because we're told to think that it's only fair for someone to be able to control their ideas.

      Now, according to the analysis of the copyright clause of the Cons

      • There is nothing in the Constitution to suggest that 'copyright' is a 'natural right'. All that is in the Constitution is an authorization to Congress to grant limited copyrights if it so chooses. Congress is given permission, if it so chooses, to give authors and inventors, only for a limited time, certain rights, for the purpose of encouraging them to continue with their creative work. Congress was not given permission to grant the rights for more than a limited time, nor was there any grant of authority to encourage corporations, with perpetual lives, to accumulate copyrights for the sake of profit. Today's duration of copyrights, which exceeds the life expectancy of the authors, and goes well beyond anything necessary to encourage them to continue their work, is flagrantly unconstitutional.
  • by neokushan (932374) on Friday August 08, 2008 @05:46PM (#24532213)

    That's easy: Greed.

  • O'Reilly: Patry on Copyright
    Patry: Party on O'Reilly

  • by fishbowl (7759) on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:02PM (#24532387)

    These laws like copyright extension would be good, on balance, if it weren't for the fact that large corporations are in improved positions compared to a typical private citizen, when seeking damages, especially in court but also in any negotiation.

    If the playing field were level, laws like those protecting copyright would protect you exactly the same as they protect the big players.

    Even so, I still think people should already take this status quo as a sign that it is time to stop being a mere consumer of entertainment. Be creative. This stuff should be a powerful whip, provoking and compelling you to make your OWN music or whatever artistic/creative endeavor you choose.

    But don't listen to me, I'm crazy. I don't even have a TV in my house. (I need the space for my piano.)

    • by dwandy (907337) on Friday August 08, 2008 @07:35PM (#24533383) Homepage Journal

      These laws like copyright extension would be good, on balance...

      Retroactive Copyright extension is theft. Real theft. The authors and publishers made a deal with the public: They would do/publish something creative, and we'd grant them a limited duration during which they'd be the only ones that had rights to distribute this work. The reason we're willing to make this deal is that once the monopoly period is over, the work gets added to the public domain ... that same public domain that Disney needed to pillage to make piles of their work. If the terms were good enough for the artist when they made and distributed the art then they were good enough: there's no reason to grant a longer monopoly.

      For future-only extensions, there's still nothing to suggest that longer terms (then current) would do anything to encourage more works then we get today. It seems most income happens in the first few years (too lazy to find references, but IIRC it was less than 5yrs for 90% of revenue) so there's little reason to increase the terms...and in fact this would be reason to decrease terms.

      So, I must disagree, laws like copyright extension are on balance bad, regardless of who holds the gold.

    • Even so, I still think people should already take this status quo as a sign that it is time to stop being a mere consumer of entertainment. Be creative. This stuff should be a powerful whip, provoking and compelling you to make your OWN music

      I could write, record, and distribute my music, and then possibly get sued for having accidentally copied part of Big Media's work into my own. What should I do to prevent this from happening?

    • How so? A creator can't create more after he or she is dead.

      Falcon

  • by jez9999 (618189)

    Well, at least it seems like a fair and balanced commentary.

  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew.gmail@com> on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:22PM (#24532631) Homepage Journal

    Where exactly can we find a reasonable solution? One might contend the US produces no finer export that its IP, from music, movies, to books, software and video games.

    I believe we should be able to protect IP, but that doesn't mean it should become this draconian institution. Where exactly is the compromise?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I've never understood why we can't have a simple system that basically says once you've got a legitimate copy of something yourself, you can use it however you like, but you can't distribute copies to others during the copyright period, and that copyright period should be set long enough to allow for reasonable exploitation by the people who created and distributed the original content but no longer; a few years rather than a few decades strikes me as fair in most cases. Don't let copyright holders use arti

      • What is a good length for a book? 25 years? 50 years? What about music? What about software?

        Sometimes I wonder if the simplest solution is to treat it almost like a trademark, which means you must continue to use and enforce it. Disney still very much actively uses Mickey Mouse. So despite Steamboat Willie being an ancient cartoon, it would be protected. However, abandoned software products would become legal abandonware after a certain number of years.

        Some of the early Beatles music is coming up to

        • The problem with that argument is that it means each generation will probably never benefit at all from the copyright bargain on works released during their lifetimes: they give monopoly rights to others, but never get anything back themselves in return. That doesn't sound like much of a fair deal to me.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PPH (736903)

          Problem with this idea: Copyright is (supposed to be) for the purpose of encouraging the production of creative works. The Beatles haven't created anything new in years, so allowing a publisher to derive ongoing income from their works diverts sales from potential new works. If the Beatles portfolio had a horizon on its income producing potential, record companies would be motivated to invest in new artists.

          From the point of view of the originating artist, at the moment the work is complete, it should be v

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Where exactly is the compromise?

      I'm tempted to say it is a moot point. So long as it is legal for corporations to give large donations to congresscritters' campaign funds, laws will be passed to favor them over the people as a whole.

      Still, you asked. My compromise is automatic copyright of two years for any work. That is extended to four years, free of charge, if a reference copy is filed with the Library of Congress. Reference copies must be DRM-free and include everything needed to view/use a work (if it is a XBox game, Congress needs

    • Where exactly can we find a reasonable solution? One might contend the US produces no finer export that its IP

      Internet Protocol was invented in the United States, and yes, it was a fine export. But if you're talking about "music, movies, to books, software and video games", you're talking about plain copyright, not "intellectual property" which also includes patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. So just say "copyright".

      I believe we should be able to protect IP, but that doesn't mean it should become this draconian institution. Where exactly is the compromise?

      Roll back the copyright term to the Berne bare minimum, for a start. That means 50 years for works made for hire (I'll settle for 56 for conformity to the Copyright Act of 1909) and life + 50 for o

      • But if you're talking about "music, movies, to books, software and video games", you're talking about plain copyright, not "intellectual property" which also includes patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. So just say "copyright".

        A belongs to B. B belongs to C. Calling A part of C is wrong?

        What next? I'm sorry, you can't call a Toyota Matrix a car, because it is a crossover vehicle, and cars denote a larger field of several types of cars. For that matter, cars include Toyotas, Hondas, etc. You must j

        • A belongs to B. B belongs to C. Calling A part of C is wrong?

          The problem with "intellectual property" [fsf.org] is that people who use the term tend to reinforce the misconceptions that 1. copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets have more in common than they actually have, and that 2. they should be treated more like real or personal property, with stronger exclusive rights.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Enderandrew (866215)

            Intellectual property isn't real property?

            Nevermind. I'm done with you. Twitter will be your friend however.

            • by tepples (727027)

              Intellectual property isn't real property?

              "Real property" or "real estate" means land and the buildings on it.

              • Don't try to be pedantic with me.

                Real can be modifier for the word property. Within proper grammatical context, one could even say that "real-property" meaning realty should have the hyphen to denote the two words are actually one term to clear up confusion about one word possibly modifying the other.

                However, "real property" as meaning property that exists is perfectly acceptable English.

  • Vanishing Art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday August 08, 2008 @06:46PM (#24532903)

    I think a lot of people discussing the issue of copyright law in the U.S. are missing out on a big part of the picture. This is not just about greed sucking money from our wallets needlessly. Sure that sicks, but it is just money. The real problem is the irreparable damage. It's the works that are gone completely, or exist only in tiny quantities and may as well not exist as far as the average person is concerned. The U.S. no longer requires reference copies of works to be submitted, so when the last copy of a movie corrodes, the last copy of a book is burned in a fire, the last recording of a song is shattered... that's it. Society will never get those back and we're no longer able to build on those works and progress like we used to.

    Have you ever read about how the great works of art, film, and literature were received by the public? Often it is the case that they were not well received and were recognized only by later generations. The film "It's a Wonderful Life" is a good example. It bombed at the box office and sat on a shelf for decades until copyright expired and PBS ran it (because it was free). That story is not one that will be repeated. Our current laws assure that similar works today will sit on those shelves forever. Heck, they've even re-copyrighted "It's a Wonderful Life" through a technicality. The laws have not kept up with technology either, allowing DRM to further make sure it will be very, very difficult for works to be viewed by future generations.

    Fourteen years was enough time back when books had to be printed with slow, old fashioned presses and shipped by horse or ship. Now, works can move instantly across the net and fourteen years after a console video game is released (locked by DRM to specific machine) will there be any machines left that can even play it? Huge portions of our artistic heritage are simply being flushed down the toilet... and for what? So companies can continue to make a profit from that tenth of a percent of copyrighted works that are still being sold after ten years? Greed may be the cause of the problem, but it's a lot more than just money that is being taken from us.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stubear (130454)

      Two points. First, even if we went back to a 14/14 system today, the greater majority of works being distributed on P2P networks would still be illegal distributions. Going to a 14/14 system is NOT going to fix the problems with copyright (assuming you agree that there is a problem with copyright in the first place).

      Second, 14 years might be too long if you assume that ALL works are going to lose value but when you consider that some properties can have sequels and derivatives made well after 14 years. I

  • by Chris Johnson (580) on Friday August 08, 2008 @10:14PM (#24534343) Homepage Journal
    Permit me to start off by saying- hi! I'm slashdot user #580, been around since CowboyNeal wasn't a meme, and I have copyrighted material which I am trying to wedge into the grand old global attention market!

    I'm a writer, you see, and since literature isn't the most fun thing to enjoy on the Web, I pursued a long-held dream of teaching myself to also draw, and I began a webcomic. Not only that, it's sci-fi, and some thought has gone into it. Since I grew up on Asimov and Clarke and Heinlein (ok, and E.E. Doc Smith) there needed to be thought if I was gonna be satisfied with the story.

    So, I will start right off by asserting that I have a STAKE in this argument, by pointing to tallyroad.com [tallyroad.com] which is the webcomic (and story) in question. This establishes that I have to answer for my theorizing- it's not abstract to me.

    Having said that, notice something about that site? It announces the update schedule of monday and friday (there's a subpage, Daily Kitten, that updates every day- I have to draw every day if I'm going to improve) and it announces a web rating, Web MA which means the strip may have graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, basically all the stuff I was enjoying in 1996 on usenet :D

    But it doesn't have my NAME on it, or a copyright notice. What the hell?

    I'll tell you, then you can tell me if I'm out of my mind or if I've hit on something new here.

    I see my webcomic and artist compatriots flipping out about copyright these days. There's legislation in the US underway called the Orphan Works act, in which a company could take your IP, not succeed in finding you, use the IP for profit, and then if you turn up they are required to pay some sort of set fee. The whole point is to open up the commons and make materials more available by default. As someone who's written code under the GPL, I'm more sympathetic to this than a typical artist, but there's a serious catch to that proposal.

    The catch is, if you do an end run around copyright that way, you open up 'dead' commons and material created by people who honestly cannot be found, BUT the most likely users are large corporations, and it destroys the ability of a creator to be offended and seek statutory damages for infringement. It's the 'calvin pissing on a logo' problem institutionalized. It becomes really easy to use IP against the creator's wishes- again look at Bill Watterson's refusal to build a licensing empire. Look at Disney's determination to never have their IP associated with anything seamy- Disney fired some animators in a rage for having made a stag reel just as a private joke. I'm inclined to think that when a creator or copyright holder is really passionate about what's legitimate use, they should have a say- maybe not forever, but they start off with a say.

    We're looking at that breaking down- we're also looking at hypertrophy of copyright privileges but it's all centered in corporate hands. I agree it's depressing, but where some of my friends are losing their minds over this, I have a different attitude that might carry the day.

    You see, I figure art is an ACTIVITY. If you're an artist or an IP creator of any note, you have a particular flavor all to yourself, and it's your business to develop that. If you're no good, maybe it doesn't get anywhere. If you're fantastic, maybe it's a huge hit, and people want to imitate you- and some imitations will get traction- but if people want NEW IP of that flavor, they have to come to you.

    This is why I'm not hammering on the copyright or plastering my name all over Tally Road- I've got the domain, and thanks to Slashdot I've got it registered at a French registrar to roadblock any funny business in case US law gets flakier around domain name ownership. More importantly, I have the story for Tally Road worked out on paper and no possible imitator could know exactly where I propose to take it- or pull it off the exact way I'll be do
  • It's a weak article, because it doesn't mention the TRIPS agreement. [wikipedia.org] The "no formalities" rule that results in copyright by default is in the TRIPS agreement, which is enforced by the World Trade Organization. Anything in the TRIPS agreement is very hard to change, and it has a pro-copyright bias. For example, there's a minimum duration of 50 years for most copyrights, but no maximum duration.

  • by Fallen Andy (795676) on Saturday August 09, 2008 @03:53AM (#24535711)
    Recently when I was browsing some articles on wikipedia for Wallace and Gromit, I came across a comment that in the US versions "Happy Birthday" was replaced by another song. So here [wikipedia.org] is perhaps the most insane example of US copyright...

    Andy

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