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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 eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:05PM (#27617211) Journal

    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 ...

    Ok, that's fair for you to have an opinion like that. I think right now you just need to take baby steps and get everyone on all sides to agree that the system is broken. While the majority of us are saying that, the RIAA/MPAA/BSA/Lawyers are still in a stubborn mule state. Which is fine because the longer they put off overhauling the system, the longer it hurts them and they lose ground to be seen as a rational actor we can work with to adapt to the changes that this magical internet has brought about.

    That said, I will make the prediction for the future of Copyright: It will only get longer. It will only take longer for works to enter public domain and it will only get worse for the majority of the population. This has been true historically (Mickey Mouse Act, Sonny Bono, etc) and it will continue to be true. Where is our voice (public and public domain) represented in this process? The lobbyists run congress unopposed and hilarious lawsuits spring up routinely. It ain't a platform or election issue for the politicians so they don't care.

    I'm not saying there is no such thing as intellectual property. I am saying that there are special classes of intellectual property like software and music that the law needs to adapt to. With the advent of the internet, this change must come more now than ever. We're about a full decade late in preparing the law for this wonderful technology.

    When will you be able to sing Happy Birthday and White Christmas with your family publicly?

  • by TerraFrost (611855) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:07PM (#27617277)

    Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker [wikipedia.org] held that "a ratio of no more than one-to-one between compensatory and punitive damages is generally appropriate in maritime cases". In other words, punitive damages cannot exceed compensatory damages. If this were applied to copyright infringement, it would mean that the most any record label could collect per infringing song would be $2.00. $1.00 since that's how much it could be bought off of iTunes, or something, and another $1.00 for punitive damages.

  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:10PM (#27617329)

    how do you propose 'protecting intellectual property' at the same time you 'reject government intervention in the economy'?

    You're equivocating. I'm not opposed to all government, just improper government. The proper role of government is reflected in the courts, police, and military, in the protection of those rights that are necessary for individuals to live and pursue their values and goals. So if you try to attack me, you are violating my rights, and the government - which has a monopoly on force - should intervene and go after you. If I plagiarize your book, steal your invention blueprints, take credit for it, or otherwise distribute your written thoughts without your consent or the consent of whomever you have sold your thoughts to, then I have violated your rights and the government should go after me.

    What I mean by "government intervention of the economy" is precisely force-backed rights violations. The government has a monopoly on force, so only they could get away with forcing anyone to do anything - there's no higher power to which they must answer. A company or crony who buys a political vote that benefits them and violates the rights of others, or even if it benefits others and violates their rights, is force-backed rights violation.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:12PM (#27617365)

    Any time there is a broad new (read that as "poorly worded") piece of law drafted people always use it to the poorly worded maximum.

    No knock warrants were originally to "fight terrorism" - now they're used as a judicial shortcut to bust drug dealers. Often times with horrific results. [google.com]

    Forfeiture laws were originally to return the goods from a crime to their rightful owners. Now, it's a cash grab by the government. [fear.org] They actually find property guilty. Or sometimes not even that much. [chicagotribune.com] Then they find the property (not the person carrying it, mind you) guilty and keep it. [npr.org]

    Now we have the DMCA, which is being used to stifle competition and strangle free speech. [cmu.edu]

    Why is anybody surprised?

    We had precedents of poorly worded laws and what happens when we pass them into law. But when it's the government that benefits, it's hard to convince them to stop.

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:18PM (#27617459) Homepage Journal

    Copyright was only introduced to allow authors to profit from their work for a LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME, after that their work has to go IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.

    I don't remember for how long the works are supposed to be protected, but 20 years seems like a good compromise to me.

    Lobbying used to be illegal and was called something else. Oh right, CORRUPTION.

    Let's make lobbying illegal. That's one of the major problem that's screwing up what should be a self-regulating capitalist system.

  • by bonch (38532) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:28PM (#27617655)

    Since Slashdot is coming alive today with goofy hippies and their piracy justifications [slashdot.org] because of the PirateBay verdict, I thought it would be interesting to read the opinions of artists themselves [gearslutz.com]. You know, the people whose works you pirate and justify as a favor in the fight against the record industry. The people you speak for but never asked an opinion from. The people you're ripping off.

    It's funny how different the opinions of the artists are from the selfish leeches who pirate their works. Again, these are the artists you pirates have, for years, claimed to be fighting for (don't ask me how pirating their work accomplishes that).

    Some choice quotes:

    Surely the copyright owners who had their property ripped off are the winners.
    Why is it 'bad news'?

    ---

    great imo!

    "There has been a perception that piracy is OK and that the music industry should just have to accept it. This verdict will change that."

    maybe not completely of course. but it's a start.

    ---

    i think piracy proponents are like the 21st century's hippies.

    ---

    This is Bloody FABULOUS News !

    Dude, you're posting on a forum in which many professional artists and writers depend on the sales and returns from their music - most of which have dedicated their lives to learning, gaining talents, studying, being kicked down and struggling to get their music to the masses or to a level of professional acceptance. You are also surrounded by an even bigger group of people who want to make a career in music or music production in some form or another. Piracy via P2Ps is killing the future of many many careers and may if its left un policed make it almost impossible for careers in music to exist. I don't want a world full of thieves wrecking the oportunities for others and I don't think I'm alone in this thought either.

    Grow Up !

    ---

    thats fantastic news. Have you checked out their site? total A$$-wipes

    ---

    what is really happening is that some people that have facilitated the theft of millions (billions?) of dollars of property have been found guilty.

    ---

    Good news, but these bastards are good at making themselves pass for martyrs in front of people...

    ---

    Piracy is theft - If songwriters, musicians, etc. get no money for their work there will be no good music. People have to live.

    In the same way, where unscrupulous companies rip off other peoples equipment designs and have them made cheaply in the far east - it may benefit some people in the short term, but discourages anyone putting money into developing new and better products if they feel that they will not be able to get their investment back before someone rips off the design.

    It all comes down to people wanting something for nothing and in the long run benefits no-one as everything goes down the pan.

    Everyone deserves a fair days pay for a fair days work - piracy is just the same as stealing someones pay packet.

    ---

    Pirate bay was promoting themselves specifically as a website for committing crime, and I bet the vast majority of their traffic was crime. The same cannot be said for google, nor most ISP's.

    ---
    And so on...

  • by Geof (153857) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:40PM (#27617827) Homepage

    If I plagiarize your book. . . [or] take credit for it then I have violated your rights and the government should go after me.

    Funny thing. In the U.S. at least, taking credit for someone else's work is not a copyright infringement. Fraud perhaps, dishonest yes, but copyright no. Nor, as economist David Levine argues, should there be a special law for that: private law is fully up to the task, even harsher than anything the government might do. If you are a tenured academic (his example) or a journalist and you plagiarize, you could be out of a job. If you commit fraud, there's a law for that. If you lie persistently, it reflects on your character. Sure, lies can do tremendous harm. Think of how much damage they can do in romantic relationships. But we don't have laws for that. We shouldn't. The honest truth is that copyright (all of it in the U.S., 99.9% of in jurisdictions that respect moral rights) is about money. Preventing plagiarism is a totally bogus argument for copyright.

  • Fuck the artists. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by langelgjm (860756) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:47PM (#27617947) Journal

    Wow. Self-righteous much?

    Frankly, I don't give a fuck what the artists think. The RIAA and their ilk are small potatoes, ants, compared to the worldwide effects of intellectual property.

    The real money in IP is not in copyright, but in patents. Drugs, pharmaceuticals, etc. Sadly, part of the spillover effect of all these artists clamoring for their "rights" and "property" is that IP as a whole is viewed less as a utilitarian means to an end, and more as a natural, God-given right. Then trade policy, etc., start to be affected by that attitude, and all of the sudden you get lawsuits over compulsory licensing of antiretrovirals, and seizures of legitimately produced generic drugs.

    Fuck the artists. IP is bigger than music and movies. It's about people's lives, and our tendency to put the profit motive before all else.

  • by SleepingWaterBear (1152169) on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:52PM (#27618035)

    First I'd like to say that for the most part I agree with your stance. Copyright and patents exist for a reason, and the reason isn't obsolete just yet. That said, I agree with the people who say that intellectual property doesn't exist.

    There is no intrinsic reason that people should be granted an exclusive right to the use of ideas they come up with, and claiming otherwise is basically equivalent to claiming that because a law exists, it is incorrect to try to change it. Rather, IP law exists because it provides a net benefit to society by encouraging creation and innovation. It comes with the negative effects of slowing the spread of new ideas, and of having associated legal costs for the enforcement. The question of setting copyright law for a given area comes down to deciding if the benefit in increased innovation is greater than the costs.

    The recording industry is an example of copyright gone wrong. The benefit to society is rather small; the vast majority of artists make their money primarily from live performances, and would still make that music if they couldn't sell CDs. In fact, I'm reasonably confident that most artists would continue to make cds and give them away for free for the publicity. On the flip side, the cost in terms of legal enforcement, and complications about what you can and cant do with music is rather large. Clearly the law isn't serving it's purpose in this case.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @02:52PM (#27618039) Homepage Journal

    If this were applied to copyright infringement, it would mean that the most any record label could collect per infringing song would be $2.00.

    I'm not sure that is true. Even that price makes the assumption that the amount lost when someone gets a song for free is the retail price of that song, but the assumption that the user would ever pay the full retail price is a mistaken one in many cases. In addition, there are two possible sources of damages when p2p is involved, both the receiving of the file (which in this case you appear to be arguing is equivalent to causing damages equal to the retail price of the track) and the distribution to another user, which is itself [potentially] a crime. Thus the formula would have to involve the percentage of the file transferred to other users, which could reasonably exceed 100%.

    To my mind, the logical counterargument (which might or might not be useful in court, IANAL etc.) is that someone who will download the song will not necessarily pay for the song. They might well do without instead, not least because they might in fact not have enough money to purchase it (especially if they spent all their money on a computer and internet access.) :)

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Friday April 17, 2009 @03:54PM (#27618941)
    You don't really know what lobbying is, do you?

    Getting representatives to vote for reasons other than to represent their constituents. "Legal" lobbying is informing the representative of what his constituents are (or should be) concerned about and informing them of the issues. "Regular" lobbying is bribery to get time, bribery to buy votes, and extortion to prevent voting the other way. It's tolerated, as long as it isn't too blatantly illegal.

    It's not the same thing as bribery.

    Next, you'll be telling me campaign contributions aren't bribery.

    It's quite necessary in our system too.

    *Necessary*? I'm not sure about that. Perhaps you could explain to me the necessity of having non-constituent groups being paid to exert influence over representatives without regard to the will of the constituency, and how that improved the ability of the representative to represent the will of the constituency.
  • by chkn0 (773790) on Friday April 17, 2009 @03:57PM (#27618985)

    Thomas Babington Macaulay's speech in the House of Commons, 5 February 1841 on the obscene extension of the term of copyright protections:

    "I am so sensible, sir, of the kindness with which the House has listened to me, that I will not detain you longer. I will only say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers.

    At present, the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesmen of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law, and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot.

    On which side, indeed, should the public sympathy be when the question is, whether some book as popular as 'Robinson Crusoe,' or 'The Pilgrim's Progress,' shall be in every cottage, or whether it shall be confined to the libraries of the rich for the advantage of the great-grandson of a bookseller, who, a hundred years before, drove a hard bargain for the copyright with the author when in great distress?

    Remember, too, that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create. And you will find, that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living."

  • by Geof (153857) on Friday April 17, 2009 @04:47PM (#27619725) Homepage

    They are all violations of property rights - that is what unites them. Whether it's fraud or copyright infringement is irrelevant to the question of whether it violates rights and should be prosecuted.

    Where do you get the idea from that attribution is a property right? If I say, "I wrote that AC post on Slashdot", and you say, "No you didn't", do you really think you are violating my property rights? Indeed, what makes attribution a "right" at all? What makes lying about authorship of a creative work a violation of rights right, while lying about, say, educational attainment or marital status aren't? Or are those (property) rights also?

    I know of two theories of rights. Pragmatists hold that rights are created by societies in order to achieve certain ends. So the government can create an attribution right (as it does in countries with moral rights), and that brings the right into being. But as I said, that's not the case for attribution in the U.S., so unless you're talking about another jurisdiction your claim holds no water.

    The second theory holds that there are natural rights. So the right to attribution is not something human beings invented - it is already there. We can know it exists by derivation from axiomatic truths or religious doctrine. For copyright, there is the idea of the "sweat of the brow" - that by mixing her labor with the physical world to create something, the artist gains certain rights over it. (As it happens, this is awfully close to Marx's argument that capital exploits workers.) But this explanation faces tremendous obstacles. The "something" the artist mixes her labor with is other ideas by other people. For this not to be a rights violation itself, those ideas must be in a commons (the public domain). By what right, then, can she remove something from the commons and make it exclusive to herself? If the commons is owned by everyone, than she would need the permission of the community - and we're back awfully close to government-created rights. If they are owned by no-one, then the community has no business interfering. Then government cannot interfere, and those rights must be perpetual, and... uh, looks to me like there could be no public domain in the first place.

    I'm afraid your claim that attribution is a *right* is just that - a claim that you have repeated with nothing to back it up.

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