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German Publishers Want Monopoly On Sentences 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the oh-the-possibilities dept.
Glyn Moody writes "You think copyright can't get any more draconian? Think again. In Germany, newspaper publishers are lobbying for 'a new exclusive right conferring the power to monopolize speech e.g. by assigning a right to re-use a particular wording in the headline of a news article anywhere else without the permission of the rights holder. According to the drafts circulating on the Internet, permission shall be obtainable exclusively by closing an agreement with a new collecting society which will be founded after the drafts have matured into law. Depending on the particulars, new levies might come up for each and every user of a PC, at least if the computer is used in a company for commercial purposes.' Think that will never work because someone will always break the news cartel? Don't worry, they've got that covered too. They want to 'amend cartel law in order to enable a global "pooling" of all exclusive rights of all newspaper publishers in Germany in order to block any attempt to defect from the paywall cartel by a single competitor.' And rest assured, if anything like this passes in Germany, publishers everywhere will be using the copyright ratchet to obtain 'parity.'"
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German Publishers Want Monopoly On Sentences

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  • So what (Score:4, Insightful)

    by binarylarry (1338699) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @09:03AM (#32624536)

    Dying creatures thrash about as they go to meet their doom.

    News at 11 (please don't sue me gemany)

    • Here's one they can 'monopolize': German Publishers Can Kiss My Shiny Metal Ass!
    • Re:So what (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 19, 2010 @10:40AM (#32625078)

      Dying creatures thrash about as they go to meet their doom.

      "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to the public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."
      -Life-Line by Robert A. Heinlein (1939)

      /Anonymously because I don't need the karma.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mikael_j (106439)

      The problem is that in general laws don't get removed once they're in place. This means that if these guys get a whole bunch of insane laws on the books before they die off the laws will almost certainly hang around for decades to come.

      • by BoberFett (127537)

        Decades? Wow, Germans are lucky. Here in the US we get saddled with bad laws for centuries.

    • Thrashing creatures can do a lot of damage, best to take action and put them down quick.

    • It matters when the dying creatures are 50 ton dinosaurs having their death-throes in your living room - and the ability to vote. The only solution is eternal vigilance and nipping these proposals in the bud.

    • Just remember that last time dying German industries took over the government with right-wing populist ideologies, millions of people died.

  • Wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by CasualFriday (1804992) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @09:05AM (#32624544) Homepage
    "German Publishers Want Monopoly On Sentences" I'm posting this now before /. can sue me for it.
  • by markov_chain (202465) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @09:07AM (#32624560) Homepage

    Knowing how German works there is clearly lots of room for creativity in word construction (or is that Wortbildungkreativität?) :D

    • Well yes. But you still lose freedom and clarity.
      Consider your comment. I now use German grammar and English words to say the same:
      Germanworkknowing, the wordconstructioncreativityroomamountsize is clear. :D
      Note that this is also not normal German, and that you can cut any of the words is those large words out, and place them separately.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @09:17AM (#32624620) Homepage

    I really, really hope they do this.

    Of course the consequences will be awful but at least the anti-software patent people will have a perfect analogy for their arguments and one that the public (and politicians) can understand.

    • Are you saying that I'll be able to pay for and 'license' a copy of a German newspaper but never 'own' it?
    • The flip side, though, is that pro-patent people could also use this to their advantage. Imagine this exchange:

      Anti-patent person: Software patents are ridiculous! It would be like trying to claim ownership over a sentence!
      Pro-patent person: Well, copyrights on sentences have been granted, so there!
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Anti-patent person: Software patents are ridiculous! It would be like trying to claim ownership over a sentence!
        Pro-patent person: Well, copyrights on sentences have been granted, so there!

        Anti-patent person: Watch how easily I ignore your copyrights! Your copyrights are about as useful and effective as Prohibition or laws against marijuana use. What will you do when more people are breaking your law than obeying it?

        • Re:Flip side (Score:5, Insightful)

          by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @10:45AM (#32625098)
          "What will you do when more people are breaking your law than obeying it?"

          The same thing we do with drug prohibition: expand the police force and increase the power that the police have, and then go ahead and incarcerate millions of people.
          • by BlueStrat (756137)

            "What will you do when more people are breaking your law than obeying it?"

            The same thing we do with drug prohibition: expand the police force and increase the power that the police have, and then go ahead and incarcerate millions of people

            Well, they DO still have a number of the old concentration camps preserved in Germany. They could just dust them off and light the pilot lights on the old ovens. Solves the overcrowded prison & incarceration costs problems, as well as eliminating recidivism among copyr

    • Yeah! If they keep at it, I can see a massive backlash on the horizon. "Enough is enough with these so called rights! From now on, we use information freely like God intended and that's that!"
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The lawyers would love it. Hell, they already do. It's a license to print money.

        Unless we do something to encourage lawyers from doing so, that is. Would be shame if something happened to them; and all that. With today's corruption and blatant disregard for citizens in politics, this seems to turn into the only way left for the people.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Of course the consequences will be awful but at least the anti-software patent people will have a perfect analogy for their arguments and one that the public (and politicians) can understand.

      I think the "public" can understand it perfectly well already, but they're too busy trying to scratch out a living in a world where corporations are siphoning off an increasing amount of wealth for the economic elite.

      Me, I'm waiting for the Intellectual Property War. Right now it's only a skirmish, but I expect increas

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Scrameustache (459504)

      the anti-software patent people will have a perfect analogy for their arguments

      But they won't be allowed to use it in print, because it will be copyrighted.

    • The German public won't care or understand; as long as the masses still get their boulevard press with big breasted women on the cover, they're happy. Many of them pay for it with government-provided benefits anyway.

  • by walmass (67905) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @09:21AM (#32624642)
    I wonder what the definition of "newspaper" will be for the purpose of this law--will it be dead-tree only? Otherwise someone should generate all possible combination of words resulting in (perhaps nonsense) sentences of lets say 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 words, and then of course protect them with this law.

    Once the list is generated, the now idle servers can be stuffed up the ass of the greedy bastards who want this law.
    • That is the best idea I've ever heard.

      The only problem is that your rainbow tables will undoubtedly infringe on the already in print newspapers. You'll have to be VERY careful not to include any already created headlines.
      • We could get to work on it now and get grandfathered in, at least, assuming that existing headlines are protected against future infringement but aren't subject to retroactive lawsuits.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 19, 2010 @09:37AM (#32624706)

      They're specifically looking to monopolize the wordings in online "newspapers", while at the same time trying hard not to extend the scope to anything but their own publications. It's aimed at Google et al. I for one hope that Google will not license the snippets and headlines but instead remove all German newspaper URLs from the index.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I for one hope that Google will not license the snippets and headlines but instead remove all German newspaper URLs from the index.

        They don't have to do that either. All they have to do is paraphrase them. Surely Google, with their language tools, can do this in an automated fashion? I see why you would want them to select the nuclear option but I think this way makes more sense.

        • The problem is that by paraphrasing they risk infringing on another newspaper that has similar language. Canning german newspapers would probably be simpler to implement, and would make the newspapers realize their folly faster.
          • by netsharc (195805)

            Surely Google has some sort of tool to see if another page/site contains some word...

            Adding adjectives would be interesting, "BP to plug oil leak" will then become "Bastards BP to plug fucking oil leak".

        • by Briareos (21163) *

          They don't have to do that either. All they have to do is paraphrase them. Surely Google, with their language tools, can do this in an automated fashion? I see why you would want them to select the nuclear option but I think this way makes more sense.

          Meh... just pipe them through Google Translate(TM) going from English to Pig Latin. Problem solved.

          np: Efdemin - There Will Be Singing (Chicago)

  • I don't speak German or read German newspapers, but from my knowledge of english-language newspapers, Headlines are raely sentences, and often don' make sense..
    Often they are written to be a clever play on words. I suspect tht there is a headline writting class in journalism schools.

    Anyway since headlines are a very short summary of an event, and a lot of events are similar to past events. (eg man drowns in flodded river) I don't think they could be copyrighted.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is indeed such a class in Dutch journalism schools. It was optional when I went there though.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      They can't be copyrighted, that's why they need a new law giving them eternal ownership of them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Indeed, headlines are purported to be facts, and they certainly look like facts (man drowns in river, oil spill to break record, etc). Under pretty much all copyright law in the world facts are not copyrightable. The very idea of it is insane. It's the composition that's copyrightable, not the content. You can't copy someone's article word for word, but you can use that article as a source and say the exact same facts.

        I can't believe newspapers of all people are dumb enough not to see what this could do

  • I'm coming to the conclusion that some people have such a sociopathic sense of entitlement that they are unfit for living among humans. Anyone who takes steps to use force of law (which ultimately comes from the barrel of a gun) to steal from society without regard is a dirty pirate and should be dealt with as such.

    • by lgw (121541)

      You do realize you're riffing on Ayn Rand, right? Not saying that's good or bad, but few people realize that was her principle point.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        You do realize you're riffing on Ayn Rand, right? Not saying that's good or bad, but few people realize that was her principle point.

        Even fewer people realize the difference between principle and principal.

      • ...ultimately comes from the barrel of a gun) to steal from society

        few people realize that was [Ayn Rand's] principle point

        This view seems at least as old as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Qu'est-ce que la propriété?, 1840 (quite a different school of thought than Objectivism for sure).

        With respect to Ayn Rand's contributions to be revisited for the present debate, one might rather point at the bureaucrats' stance in Atlas Shrugged:
        Not wanting their laws observed but broken to cash in on guilt as it

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        You do realize you're riffing on Ayn Rand, right? Not saying that's good or bad, but few people realize that was her principle point.

        Maybe because it wasn't? Have you read any of her work? Or do you just get the liberal Cliff's notes?

        She wasn't about stealing from society by force of law, she was about freedom from being coerced into giving to society. They are very different things (though to a socialist, they are identical). What about this law increases the freedom from being coerced into giving to society?

        Frankly, Ayn Rand would be appalled at the proposed German law. It represents the exact opposite of the ideals she supported.

        • by cduffy (652)

          You completely failed to grok the parent's point -- which was that this law is completely in-line with the kind of behavior Ayn Rand was against, and for essentially the same reasons.

          Sheesh.

        • Maybe because it wasn't? Have you read any of her work? Or do you just get the liberal Cliff's notes?

          That might be an idiom you're not familiar with. Replace "riffing on" with "making variations on" and I think you'll get the gist of what he meant.

        • There was one pirate in the story, but he was characterized as quite a narcissistic asshole (though irresistible to the main character), and most of the people in the reclusive society of "doers" did not approve of his methods.

          I never thought of Ragnar Danneskjöld as a narcissistic asshole. Their disapproval of his methods has more to do with his safety than the injuries he might inflict on others.

    • by Nikker (749551)
      It is funny how that line has apparently become so thin it has almost dissapeared.
  • by noidentity (188756) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @09:52AM (#32624778)

    This is to inform you that the headline

    "German Publishers Want Monopoly On Sentences"

    infringes on our trademark, Monopoly. Please refrain from using this word in your headlines, or contact us for licensing arrangements. Further use will result in legal action.

    • To whoever modded this post "informative:" it was obviously a joke. Either mod it "funny" or mod it "lame" (yes, I propose that we add "-1 Lame" to the moderation system).
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by lgw (121541)

        This is Slashdot. "-1 Lame" is implied on all posts. We just moved the zero-point to compensate.

      • To whoever modded this post "informative:" it was obviously a joke. Either mod it "funny" or mod it "lame" (yes, I propose that we add "-1 Lame" to the moderation system).

        Personally, I'd say the post was "insightful". After all, the Trademark system already **does** provide all the tools necessary to protect full sentences already, the only reason it's not being used more frequently is that the cost to do so for a newspaper is just too prohibitive.

        But when it comes down to it, all the issues would be the same. In order to be workable, newspapers would have to find unique sentences that had never previously been published by other newspapers, and that would never be normal

  • Arbeit macht frei (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110)

    The Germans can have the right to that particular "word order".....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 19, 2010 @10:04AM (#32624836)

    I suggest a "period."

  • Word Permutations (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alphahydroxy (1837246) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @10:30AM (#32625004)
    These publishers need to learn a little about combinometrics. The Associated Press said they wanted to be able to copyright phrases as short as five words. Consider a 500 words story which would have 495 five word phrases which could then match up to anything that was ever written -- or just try googling for the exact string. I just googled the string containing the 2nd-6th words of this comment, "said they wanted to be", and got 3.2 million hits. If AP had gotten their way with the copyrights bit, AP would have had to have determined who had the rights to this phrase and negotiate use with the owner. Then AP would have to search for the owner of the string containing the 3rd to 7th words, "they wanted to be able" which had 7.8 million hits. And so on. Further this would have to be repeated for six, seven, ... word strings. Someone must have pointed out to AP how they would be not just hoisted, by destroyed by their own petard. This inane copyright that the German publishers are proposing would end up preventing them from writing headlines.
    • This is intentional; everyone will have to pay a fee to some "association" in order to use the language. Negotiation with individual copyright holders isn't required in that case.

      • Ah, yes! Everyone uses language. Copyright language. NOW, everyone uses YOUR copyrighted language. SO! PROFITS RAIN DOWN FROM THE SKY! Well, that is exactly how the drug addled minds behind these schemes think. SO the next best thing is to TAX everyone for using language.

        Well, we know where all of the communists and socialists are. This is nothing more than redistribution of wealth!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Perhaps news stories will then have to appear with NO headlines. People will be forced to delve into each story to figure out what it is about. I see an underground internet movement springing up that provides access to mapping stories up with "illegal" headlines, hosted on servers located on boats with satellite connections and guarded by some guys with wooden legs. Bumper stickers will start appearing. "Free the Headlines!" Most people, however, will avoid illegal headline servers and continue to wan

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Eventually they will get tired of this and stop reading newspapers altogether.

        Hasn't that already happened? I mean, I thought newspapers being dead was why Rupert Murdoch was yelling about the internet and the end of the free ride. Maybe he's just off his meds.

    • This inane copyright that the German publishers are proposing would end up preventing them from writing headlines.

      The problem goes away as soon as you either have only a single publisher or a small cartel of publishers. That way, the members of the cartel can publish freely and nobody else can ever compete with them. "Combinometrics" works in their favor, since they already have vast archives with all these phrases.

  • > On the other hand, it is unusual that the U.S. would agree to agree to
    > another country's intellectual property regimen: It doesn't have to.

    I guess that must be why the USA never signed the Berne convention, which would have drastically expanded copyright owner's rights.

    Oh. Wait...

    • We did resist it a very long time, though. It took 102 years to formally adopt, while one could argue that some other countries are adopting the laws US copyright holders are pushing before the US bothers to adopt them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        French copyright still gives far more rights to the creators than US copyright, and it always has. It was one of the driving forces behind the Berne convention.

        • And despite the pressure from the US media conglomerates, the US still has one of the largest areas of fair use/fair dealing and copyright exceptions. I would even go as far as to suggest that our media conglomerates formed largely because of the fair use and generally more lax copyright stance in the US.
    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @12:21PM (#32625692)

      The article is right about about the "copyright ratchet", but it's extremely short-sighted and, frankly, wrong when it says that it is the US pushing its laws onto the rest of the world. It has recently been driven by the US - things like the DMCA and Sonny Bono act and such, but most of the draconian copyright laws did not exist in the US until the 60's, where we were the ones who were "ratcheted up" to the rest of the world's standards, which had already been ratcheted up by the French (who still have the most restrictive copyright laws in the world, in my opinion). The French still give far more rights to author's/artists than the US does, so to say it is US driven is a little disingenuous, or at the very least completely ignorant of history. It also goes squarely against the articles main point: that copyright harmonization is any different than any other harmonization. There are swings back and forth.

      The real difference between copyright harmonization and other types of harmonization is copyright law affects everyone every single day, where most laws only affect a few people at any given time. Yet only a very small number of people are involved in the decision making process. Our supposed representatives are too easily swayed by lobbyists, they aren't considering the people any more.

  • Fools` Day was two months ago!

  • I thought the judicial system has the monopoly on that!

  • a sentence in German has roughly the length of a book in English, so they're just bringing things up to parity with the US.

  • >In Germany, newspaper publishers are lobbying for 'a new exclusive right conferring the power to monopolize speech e.g. by assigning a right to re-use a particular wording in the headline of a news article anywhere else without the permission of the rights holder

    This is not quite true. The auxiliary copyright ("Leistungsschutzrecht", draft leaked: http://www.irights.info/index.php?q=node/880 [irights.info]) is mostly aimed against big players such as Google (News) who systematically and continuously reuse headlines, s

    • And there, in a nutshell, do you have the reason why German politicians and media are grilling Google alive over Streetview and WiFi packet data: they want to demolish Google's reputation in order to make it easy for them to push their own money-making anti-Google agenda.

  • Members of the North American music cabal claim that simple chord changes are copyrightable and so exclusively theirs. They have been ordering take down notices for showing such things as the chord changes to Knocking on Heavens Door for example, which has the same chord changes as a million other songs going back thousands of years.

    • by yyxx (1812612)

      Members of the North American music cabal claim that simple chord changes are copyrightable and so exclusively theirs.

      So do music publishers around the world. German music publishers actually have quite successfully managed even many classical works from falling into the public domain through various shenanigans.

      But bad as that may be, music is not essential to freedom, free speech is.

    • by Sparx139 (1460489)

      which has the same chord changes as a million other songs going back thousands of years.

      I figured that that this offers a concrete demonstration of what you mean [youtube.com]

  • Wow, it completely turns the concept of public domain on its head. Watch the mad rush as people snatch up exclusive rights to publish old works like the bible.... Complete insanity.

  • It violates my patent on stupid ideas.
  • This kind of nonsense is par for the course for Germany. People can sue you if they feel insulted, offended, or blasphemed. In fact, in many cases, they can simply send you a letter asking you for money without so much as a court case. Publishers already extract huge amounts of money from electronic equipment, copiers, and blank media. I think it's part of Germany's fascist heritage.

    No matter how greedy publishers in other nations may be, they are not going to be able to get these kinds of laws, copyrig

  • I'm all for copyrights on sentences. Because after that will come copyrights on individual words and then copyrights on individual letters. I've already got copyright applications pending for A, E, I, O, and U. (I'm considering a copyright on Y as well.) Soon I'll be very rich. Well, either that or everyone will switch to a language with completely different letters like Russian or Chinese.

  • 1. Generate millions of random sentences. Put them up on a webpage.
    2. Sue anyone else who uses any of those sentences.
    3. ???
    4. Profit!!
  • When it becomes impossible or cost prohibitive to track down and pay the holder of specific headlines, or when the amount of headlines patented makes it near impossible to create a current one... why bother? It will eventually become easier for german magazines to simply NOT put a title to their articles and just stick them under the correct category. Politics, national, regional, sports and so on. When everyone realizes just how crazy the whole deal was and this silly idea gets dropped, headlines will retu

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