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Looking Back At Copyright Predictions 148

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the 20-20-hindsight dept.
Techdirt has an interesting look back at some of the more interesting predictions on copyright. The article looks at two different pre-DMCA papers and compares them to what has happened in the world of copyright. "The second paper is by Pamela Samuelson, and it discusses (again, quite accurately) the coming power grab by "copyright maximalists" via the DMCA, entitled The Copyright Grab. It clearly saw the intention of the DMCA to remove user rights, and grant highly questionable additional rights and powers to copyright holders in an online world. Samuelson lays out many concerns about where this is headed -- including how these proposals appear to trample certain fair use rights -- and in retrospect, her fears seem to have been backed up by history. Samuelson, by the way, has just written a new paper that is also worth reading pointing out how ridiculous current copyright statutory rates are -- an issue of key importance in the ongoing Tenebaum lawsuit, which (thankfully) the judge in the case is going to consider."
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Looking Back At Copyright Predictions

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  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @01:55PM (#27617017)
    I'm fine with showing companies how idiotic their rules are, how they're destroying their own business, driving away their customers and fans, etc, all out of some irrational fear of the internet. I'm also opposed to the kind of public-private partnership that has become all too common from the recording/film industry, from which we get excessive fines based on little or no evidence.

    What I'd like to make clear, though, is that I fully oppose those people who would like to take it a step too far, and claim that there's no such thing as intellectual property, no property rights, that people don't have the right to the product of their own ideas, etc. It's one thing to identify and rage against politicians bought by the RIAA, and it's quite another thing to then influence politicians to pass laws that trample on everyone's rights. Take the high road and support individual rights across the board, and reject government intervention in the economy. It doesn't have to be dog-eat-dog.
  • Copyright Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:08PM (#27617289)
    This is just another example of how the citizens have completely lost control of their government. Elected officials no longer see themselves as being responsible to the electorate but to the corporations that fund their campaigns and posh trips. This crap needs to end. Is there anyone outside of CEOs that really agrees with the sort of copyright policy we currently have? The laws need to reflect the people's wishes rather than the politician's corporate sponsors.
  • by srussia (884021) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:14PM (#27617401)
    Repeal Copyright.
  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:18PM (#27617457) Homepage

    I'm not sure whether we're quite on the same page (we might be). It's not that "intellectual property" isn't a useful idea, but that it was never intended to control what happened to your ideas when they went out into the world. Owning the copyright on a book wasn't intended to control who read your book, or whether that book could be lent or shared among friends. It was intended to allow you to prevent other commercial publishers from profiting from your work without paying you.

    It's also noteworthy that in the US, the government is only granted the power to give copyrights for the sake of promoting the "useful arts", and traditionally there has been the concept that copyrights were only applicable for a limited time before the work become public property. In fact, the concept was that the intellectual property would become public by default, and that copyrights were an additional reward that the public was willing to grant for the sake of encouraging and promoting the work.

    I think we have to start from that foundation. From there we can ask, "Given this new age of ubiquitous information, what kinds of temporary rights is the public willing to part with for the sake of encouraging artistic work?" It should not start from believing that people have an inalienable human right to control the destiny of every thought that happens to pass through their heads.

  • by Geof (153857) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:31PM (#27617699) Homepage

    I fully oppose those people who would like to take it a step too far, and claim that there's no such thing as intellectual property, no property rights, that people don't have the right to the product of their own ideas

    Copyright was created as a monopoly privilege, not a property right. In recent years maximalists have waged an ideological campaign to redefine copyright. The individual property rights position is radical. In the U.S., it is also well outside what the constitution allows: copyright is a regime intended to further the public interest (advancement of arts and sciences), *not* preserve or create some kind of individual rights. That individual "moral rights" approach is from the European (particularly French) tradition, and has been rejected by the United States. Lawrence Lessig (who is quite moderate) asserts that the only justification for copyright is the creation of works that would not otherwise exist.

    You can talk about the foundation of copyright in moral rights in theory, but in practice it is almost never used for anything other than economic gain: and in fact promotes control and consolidation by media companies to the exclusion of all others - including artists.

    It wasn't until quite recently (the 19th-20th centuries) that the idea of moral rights and individual originality even made sense. Many cultures still don't recognize it. It's a product of a particular culture at a particular moment in history. In practice, it creates all sorts of inconsistencies. It's a romantic notion that has very little to do with how creativity actually operates. It's interpretation and fleshing-out by courts has led to extremely weird and contradictory outcomes. For example, a doctor can patent your genes without your consent because he is the "creator" of his discovery. I can film people being shot in a demonstration, and *I* own the images - they have no right to them. But if those people are performing theater, all of a sudden copyright steps in. Copyright demands hard boundaries between what is "mine" and what is "yours", when no such hard boundaries really exist. Governments can create laws and call them "rights", but they are legal fictions, not reflections of some preexisting reality.

  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:35PM (#27617757)

    Lobbying, as in petitioning to make politicians aware of the needs of certain industries or groups of people, is necessary and often even good. But it needs to be disconnected from the process of financing and running election campaigns. Politicians who follow the will of lobbyists in order to help their personal campaign efforts might as well be taking bribes directly.

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:37PM (#27617779)

    If songwriters, musicians, etc. get no money for their work there will be no good music.

    This opinion keeps getting repeated and repeated as if it's fact.

  • by Geof (153857) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:52PM (#27618041) Homepage

    If this rebellion against copyright comes to pass, nobody will create anything as polished as what we see and hear today.

    If this were true (I don't know that it would be), how bad would that be? In other words, how important is it that our entertainment be polished?

    I'm not going to make the full argument here, but I'll throw out some thoughts.

    The pyramids are great works of architecture. Wonders of the world. But we don't build them anymore. The cost is not worth the benefit. (As it happens, one of those costs was slave labor.)

    I love television. I prefer good TV shows to good movies. Has TV made the world a better place? Research strongly points to television as a reason for a collapse in social and political participation since the 1960s. There's no question of abolishing television, but should we step in and enforce onerous regulations in order to preserve it as it is?

    What is better: listening to highly polished music, or learning to make music and playing for your friends? We used to *do* culture instead of simply observing it. Most people could sing or play an instrument. Many more played sports. Drawing was a basic skill for educated people. But we were not professional artists. We were not usually able to both compose the song *and* sing it. We drew on the culture around us, and transformed it to enrich our lives. Now our entertainment is provided to us, and for the most part we don't contribute. Copyright as it stands entrenches that passive role because wit forbids us from most forms of participation - particularly when we use the everyday digital media and technology through which we live our lives and connect with the people we care about.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:55PM (#27618079) Journal

    If this rebellion against copyright comes to pass, nobody will create anything as polished as what we see and hear today. The music industry will look like the one in China where artist make the most of their income on stage and not in a studio.

    Which is pretty much how musicians have made a living for thousands of years. The brief period in which a musician could become a multimillionaire because of a peculiar alignment of recording and playback technologies and a rather clever distribution and marketing system are gone. It was good (for some) while it lasted, but it's toast, and sending TPB's founders to jail and taking college students to court won't make it come back.

    The movie industry, however, will be unrecognizable compared to today.

    That's the one that's going to be interesting. Technologies are going to allow movies to be made cheaper, but no matter what way you cut it, even a low-end Indie film is a multimillion dollar enterprise. The only thing that might save it, in my view, is the movie theater itself. I have to admit that, at least for some kinds of film, experiencing a movie as a group of people is significantly different than sitting in your livingroom watching it on DVD.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:57PM (#27618137)

    Uh, whatever. A) I don't pirate stuff, but I still think the Pirate Bay decision is stupid (if I provide a searchable link to something that is copyrighted, am I on the hook if some other user decides to copy the material and violate copyright? If that makes sense, then libraries are in a lot of trouble), and B) the great majority of the argument has *never* been about stiffing artists who deserve to be paid for their creative works, it has been about "how much is enough?" before artists need to pay back the support we provide them via monopoly rights enshrined in law. In other words, when do those rights expire and the work pass into the public domain? What limits are there on creator rights? What "fair use" rights does anyone have, regardless of the copyright holder's wishes. Copyright has *always* been a bargain, and has always had limits. It is supposed to be enough temporary monopoly that it is worthwhile. No more.

    Therefore, if you're downloading the latest movie, I have zero sympathy for you. You should be getting it via legitimate commercial channels. Don't like the terms? Petition the creators of the work for better terms.

    If, however, you're the great grandchild of some artist who put in hard work more than 50 years ago but who is still collecting money from their dead family member, or if you are a company that bought or still holds those rights, enough! I have no sympathy. Walt Disney was dead a long time ago. Elvis died a long time ago (as far as we know). It's time to let that cultural history go as a commercial exploit. Get off your lazy ass and make something new that is worthy of compensation yourself. I also have no sympathy for artists who think "fair use" doesn't exist, or who effectively eliminate the ability to exercise it because of technical security measures (DMCA-style). Copyright does NOT provide unlimited power to control creative works. It never has.

    If you think that the only people who are against the current implementation of copyright are "goofy hippies", you're as deluded as the "goofy hippies" themselves who think all works should immediately be free. The much more extensive frustration in the general population as a whole is an expression of the fact -- well explained in the article -- that copyright has gone too far in favor of artist/creator's control. Much too far. And yet they still want more, and they think they can get it from legislators by stealing from the public domain with ever longer copyright terms and more draconian DMCA-style measures.

    You need to get a clue. This is not a one-sided problem, and opinions are diverse. It has many facets, and the history of development of copyright is very instructive. The "everything the artists ever want, now and forever" approach is just as offensive and deluded as the other extreme. Selfish leeches aren't any better than the greedy gluttons they are latching onto who think they can stake their claim on ideas forever and in all conceivable forms.

    For some historical perspective to the contrary, I recommend this speech [wikisource.org], which you can read in full courtesy of the fact that its copyright has expired (although being the House of Commons, it might have been public domain from the start).

  • by Vancorps (746090) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:59PM (#27618167)

    Given the state of chinese films I tend to wonder where you get your ideas from? I've seen some that were every bit as polished. Take Hero for one.

    People will continue to create polished works regardless due to pride in their work and the reality that you can do a lot more with less now than you used to be able to. You can create studio quality sound at home for only a couple of thousand dollars now compared to hundreds of thousands for a professional recording studio. A lot of the extras are simply unnecessary now especially given that the vast majority of listeners aren't listening to your work on multi-thousand dollar stereo systems.

    If you cut the cost of production from a couple of million dollars to a couple of thousand then you now do not need to charge anywhere near as much for your music. In fact, the costs would be so much lower that you could make a very good living touring and selling merchandise. Of course a lot of middle-men wouldn't be happy with that.

    Why should consumers suffer high prices for content when the option exists that allows them an easy path? Combine that with the very unfriendly practices of the past, refusals to replace scratched or broken cds for instance and its no wonder people have no problems copying music from someone that did run the risk of paying for a CD which may or may not have had some form of malware on it.

  • Re:Copyright Rules (Score:3, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Friday April 17, 2009 @03:18PM (#27618491) Journal

    Whether or not one agrees with the rights that copyright holders are granted today it is imperative that one realizes the idiocy of killing the Internet to enforce those rules.

    The Internet -- a vast entity based largely on copying data without regard to its content -- is not compatible with copyright as we know it today.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 17, 2009 @03:36PM (#27618761)
    I know many artists both in the fine arts and music and none of them would make any less money of copyrights were abolished. Trademarks would still matter to them, as the fine artists don't want to see fakes, but they aren't worried about copies. The musicians, like 99% of musicians make money from performances. Many I know, have their songs available for free download. Sure there's some crazy supper stars making millions from copyrights, but they aren't the norm.
  • by aaandre (526056) on Friday April 17, 2009 @04:20PM (#27619371)

    Because we are creators. Creation gives us infinite joy. We don't do it for money, we do it because we want and need to. Monetizing thoughts, imagination, art is a fairly recent development, leading to the attempt to fence the unfencable.

    Take a look at the videos on this page. These people were not paid, and Kutiman, the guy who spent hundreds of hours editing, didn't get paid either.

    Because you are the Creator -- Kutiman remixes [thisinspiresme.com].

  • by foobsr (693224) on Friday April 17, 2009 @04:24PM (#27619431) Homepage Journal
    You can't put 90% or even 30% of the people in jail

    You can make the country a jail.

    CC.
  • by beej (82035) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @12:11AM (#27623577) Homepage Journal

    So the biggest publisher can take your book and sell it, keeping all the profit? So anyone online can steal what you write on your blog and call it their own without giving you credit? I don't find that "fair". Simple, definitely... but I won't go so far as "elegant".

    Copyright is a good idea; it's good enough to be written into the US Constitution. It just needs a lot of TLC right now. The current duration is out of control, at the very least.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp

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