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Million-Dollar Donation To Fight Abusive Copyrights 368

WeekendKruzr writes: "There is a story on C|Net detailing how Duke University's law school received an anonymous gift of $1 million for the express purpose of funding '...advocacy and research aimed at curtailing the recent expansion of copyright law.' It's good to know that we have some well-funded idealists on our side, even if they are 'Anonymous Cowards.' ;^) This, combined with the recent rash of even large corporations running afoul of intellectual property law, could precipitate some tangible results in the next couple of years."
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Million-Dollar Donation To Fight Abusive Copyrights

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  • The question is how will this be applied?

    To fund think-tanks to write papers? To to pay-off^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hlobby politicians for better laws? Or to fight court cases?

    Why not just give this to the EFF?

    There is too many unanswered questions to say if this will really help.

    • Dude, I bet you could purchase at least four Senators with $1,000,000. If not, then I'm sure there's a rent-to-own plan out there...
    • Value of research (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:35PM (#4202388) Homepage
      I think the purpose is being missed.
      This isn't being used to fight of lobby bad laws.

      It is to try and find out what is good and bad about the existing laws.
      We don't know the cost benefit curve for copyright length, they are going to try and define it.
      (yes, that is a simplification)

      Many "content creators" want infinite copyrights, to milk out as much as possible.
      Many "content consumers" want short copyrights to copy and create derivative works for little or no cost. (that isn't the only reason)

      At some point the time is long enough to have benefit for "creators" and short enough for "consumers" that both sides can be "happy". They are trying to find out what that point is.
      • There are also people like me (who may be "content creators" and/or "content consumers" or neither) who believe that the more content that is available to the general public (e.g. current and future "content creators"), the more inspiration they will get, and the richer the whole of society will be.

        The aim of copyright law should not be to find some middle ground between the greed of the providers and consumers, but to create an environment that makes as much stuff available to as many people as cheaply as possible, at the same time making sure that content creators are well rewarded for getting into the creation business in the first place.
  • What a meager million bucks can do against multimillion dollar lobby? :)
    I think it's very naive to expect any major changes and/or law corrections. A good commercial, asking people vote for candidates that support removal of opressive/excessive copyright restriction night be of more help.
    • A million smackers can do a lot, when it's used to help marshall a community of volunteers.

      A few men firing an artillery gun that has bad aim can be cut to peices very quickly by a devoted team with swords and knives - this is what should happen here.

    • If you want to influence politicians.

      1. Support thier campaign - $$$
      2. Give them a good arguments/rhetoric to support your cause.
      3. Give them voters

      This money is going towards reason #2 (education/rhetoric). You may or may not know, but the Telcoms and tech industry is on *our* side (file sharing is the killer app of telcom and consumer electronics industries), and they have already started lobbying against the MPAA's and RIAA's Hollings and P2P Hacking bills.

    • Its gonna do more than 0 dollar.

      I think its very unhealthy to focus on anything the but the simplest concept. (not to bitch at you or anything, but there are so many similar comments up there...)

      I just hope the bucks don't stop there...maybe a few lawers could donate an hour here and there...
  • by Smallest ( 26153 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:02PM (#4202131)
    While starry-eyed /. folk get uptight for a few minutes when they read about new technologies, the people who make the laws don't care about our complaints - we're not a big enough lobby or voting block.

    Even more important, stricter copyright laws help the media corps sell more product, and GWB is in favor of anything that helps US corps sell more stuff.

  • I've hated intellectual property for as long as anyone. When I started out my career as a young geeklet, I'd frequently pirate games for my Apple ][, and I would always tape music from my friends. I still enjoy copying mp3s and warezing games (though mostly I just don't want to shell out for something that may or may not run under Wine).

    But like it or hate it, Linux's success pretty much hinges upon intellectual property laws. Without copyright and patent laws that make the GPL enforceable, Linux would be no better off than *BSD, and certainly wouldn't have made the inroads it has at IBM and HP.

    Microsoft will always do fine, with or without intellectual property laws. They sell certification, training, and support in addition to IP. And Linux's only advantages--better stability and security--are only as safe as its code base. If intellectual property laws are repealed, then Linux as we know it is doomed.
    • Troll? Probably, but I'll bite...

      Can you prove that Linux is successful because of the GPL? Is there any way to show that, if Linux was under the BSD license, it would have failed? I would argue that Linux succeeded because it just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I mean, really, can you honestly say, with a straight face, that IBM and HP put money into Linux *because* it was GPLd?

      The fact is, the BSDs are successful in their own right. And while they're not as successful as Linux in the commercial marketplace, I highly doubt that has anything to do with licensing. I know I'd still be using Linux if it was using a BSD license. Wouldn't you?

      As for Linux's advantages you listed, "stability and security", you seem to forget that OpenBSD, a landmark of security and stability, is a BSD-derived operating system. So, clearly, these advantages have little or nothing to do with the GPL. Heck, I can't even understand why the GPL would promote these things. The popular "Linux" name exists because there is a group of developers who perform quality control on the kernel source. This is totally unrelated to licensing, since the same thing could be done if Linux wasn't GPLd. The only difference is that, theoretically, a company could create a distribute their own Linux-based kernel, and close it up. But where's the harm in that? If people wanted "stability and security", they'd just go for the official Linux kernel distribution.

      So, please, try to explain to me why the GPL has *anything* to do with Linux's success. I'd love to hear it, because I sure don't believe it.
      • I don't think you could prove it, but you can certainly make good arguments.

        I doubt IBM would put a huge amount of effort into something which was under a BSD type license. Why should they invest large amounts of effort just to have their work stolen by their compeditors. The GPL at least allows IBM to benefit from the work of the others who use their software.

      • >So, please, try to explain to me why the GPL has *anything* to do with Linux's success. I'd love to hear it, because I sure don't believe it.

        The GPL attracts more programmers than BSD. Many of us don't appreciate the idea that we might spend our time writing a quality piece of software and turn it over to the community, only to have a company turn around and make a tiny change and start selling it.

        The forced openness of the GPL is a big part of what makes Linux successful.
    • Linux didn't succeed commercially because of the GPL, but in spite of.

      BSD could and would have done better, were it not for the License problems they were having with AT&T in the early 90's. This held them up a lot, and in the meantime Linux got the attention and popularity.
      • As other people have noted: no one wants to contribute to shared infastructure just to have someone else use that effort against you. The GPL is actually PREFERABLE to the likes of IBM and Sun.

        The BSDL offers NO ADDED BENEFIT WHATSOEVER to those that might want to build commercial software on top of BSD or Linux.

        Your arguments are dependent on a very selective view of the available facts. The vast majority of copylefted "shared infastructure" infact accomodates commercial/proprietary software development.
    • > Without copyright and patent laws that make the GPL enforceable...

      As they state in the article, they're not against copyright and patent laws and are not seeking to obliterate them. They are mearly trying to find a cure for the ones that hinder innovation (to paraphrase).
  • by G0SP0DAR ( 552303 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:07PM (#4202171)
    Put yourself in the shoes of this "Anonymous Coward" who donated a million bucks to fight the expansion of copyright law. If you were to identify yourself of having the power to change the law (measured in millions of U.S. dollars) in favor of consumers, you can bet the rest of your assets that the MPAA, RIAA, SSSCA drafters, DMCA enforcers, and Jack Valenti's distant cousins will all be up in arms trying to silence you. They'd put a bounty on your head so as to involve otherwise apathetic people in stopping/robbing/killing you. The people who bribe congressmen to kill their competition are in that right very agressive people and will not rest until any significant threat to their continued exponential profit growth is eliminated. I'm not trying to discouraging people to help out, there's not a lot you can do to help out if you're dead. I just don't think that it would be wise to identify yourself as a threat to these dangerous people and organizations until after the dust settles and they no longer have their "power"
  • by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:08PM (#4202175) Homepage
    Anyone know how the anonymous transfer of a million dollars happens?

    Especially these days, when big secretive money moves are watched more carefully.

    A bunch of 50s in some briefcases?

    Some kind of anonymous bank check?

    Or does the University probably know, but part of the deal is that they don't tell anyone?
  • This is my theory on the donor... You know how serial killers eventually get caught, not because people outsmart them, but because they feel guilty and really want to be caught and punished so they leave clues... I think it's the guy that copyrighted the phone numbers as music pieces, or maybe the jpg company...
  • by Anixamander ( 448308 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:21PM (#4202280) Journal
    It's good to know that we have some well-funded idealists on our side, even if they are 'Anonymous Cowards.' ;^)

    Interesting article submission, yet it violates my patent on "a method for using ASCII test to simulate a pointy nosed person winking and smiling ." You will be hearing from my lawyers.
  • I know it's an unpleasant, thankless, unpopular job, but I'll volunteer to give up my personal time and make the necessary commitments it takes to be the anonymous recepient of the million dollar grant. Just PayPal the funds to my hotmail account, You're quite welcome, and rest assured, this generous donation will go a long way to restoring sanity to the patent, copyright and IP situation in these turbulent times.

  • by MattW ( 97290 ) <> on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:26PM (#4202321) Homepage
    While abuse of copyright and dwindling fair use law is bad, fundamentally those things which are copyrighted are created by the authors, and they should have the ability to control them. If they control them in an anti-consumer way, consumers can always boycott them. This isn't going to change the world tomorrow or the day after, but what's at stake? Movies, music, TV, books -- mostly entertainment.

    The patent problem is horrid. Unlike copyright, where at least people might claim some rights based on creation, patent law is clearly corrupted. People patent things that are not inventions -- they patent "business methods" of dubious originality, they patent software methods which have been in use long before the patent filing ("oh, no documentation that you used it? no prior art, then"), and moreover, patents screw the little guys, because patents cost a metric fuckton of money to get, especially en masse. If I write a book, copyright protects me automatically, and filing a copyright is cheap. If I didn't want to file a copyright, nowadays technology gives me other irrefutable options -- like publishing MD5 checksums in the paper -- that are even cheaper. If patents are truly for novel inventions, then why are developers in the software industry constantly afraid of stepping on patents? If all that many people are coming up with something independantly, doesn't that imply that the patent holder was just the first to file on something obvious that followed from existing technology, instead of the inventor of something novel?

    Moreover, with patents, we affect all of technology, from CS to biotech, and we stop innovation. Having to pay $10 more than you should for a Britney Spears CD isn't going to hurt the economy -- but having to pay too much for inferior technology for 25 years that no one can legally improve upon, well, that's going to hurt the economy. Patents on obvious inventions slow innovation, hurt growth, damage industries, restrict R&D -- and this effect cuts across industries.

    I'm sorry, but this is a lot more damaging that whether or not you can legally rip and/or trade mp3s.
    • Given that Duke's IP department is heavily interested in patent law as well as copyright, I'd guess that a lot of this money will be spent on research that is relevant to both copyright and patent. See, for example, some of the papers from their conference on the public domain, including the ones on biopharmaceutical patents. [] They are not dumb people, in other words- they're just as well aware of the dangers of patents as you are. :)
    • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @05:08PM (#4202620) Homepage
      [F]undamentally those things which are copyrighted are created by the authors, and they should have the ability to control them.

      Oh? How are you getting this? Merely coming up with a creative work doesn't seem to impart control, nor inherently need it to be artifically given. You're not arguing from a standpoint of utility, or you wouldn't've made such an absolute statement. You appear to be arguing from a stance of natural rights.

      So... what natural rights? Are you, the author, HARMED because I can copy your work. I'm not excluding you from your ability to do things with it. I can't stop you for the same reason you couldn't stop me. And you ignore the notion that multiple authors may create a work. Did Disney create the Little Mermaid movie themselves, or by using previous works. Who then would be owed control if it flowed from the author?

      Copyrights do not work like this. You cannot claim rights for as trifling a thing as a creative work MERELY because you created it. (which as we've seen may not mean complete creation anyway)

      The way this _actually_ works 'round these parts is that people are granted copyright protection when society, and the government acting on its behalf, find it in _their_ best interests to do so. Whether it is in authors' best interests is irrelevant, save where that is a factor in the public's.

      And frankly, I'm disturbed that you take such a dim view of copyright anyway. Copyright is culture. Our folk heroes now are Bugs Bunny and Luke Skywalker. Our common cultural experiences are in books, music, tv shows and movies. It's how we tell one another about ourselves and the world around us.

      It is vitally important.

      Do we study ancient Greece because of their inventions (precious few of them) or their art, architecture and philosophy? Do tourists worldwide flock to Rome to marvel at the way that the Sistine Chapel was constructed, or what's painted on the ceiling? Art is damned important. The damage that can occur to our culture is far more signifcant than you understand.

      • [F]undamentally those things which are copyrighted are created by the authors, and they should have the ability to control them.
        Oh? How are you getting this? Merely coming up with a creative work doesn't seem to impart control, nor inherently need it to be artifically given.

        Well, no control mechanism magically appears when I write a poem or record a song. So you're right that control isn't automatically or fundamentally given upon creating an original work. However, I disagree with the end of your sentence -- the suggestion that it inherently doesn't need to be given is, frankly, wrongheaded. People who create content have repeatedly stated and shown that when their creations have no protection, they go create them elsewhere. Employees who are told that the ideas they come up with over the weekend during NON-work hours somehow belong to the company, well, those employees leave fast. There is a reason why Silicon Valley is in California -- there are laws on the books that protect me from a predatory employer who wants to steal my weekend hobby. So the idea-guys flourish here. Startups abound. And back to content, I create poetry, essays, technical articles, and sometimes graphics. I fully expect to be given -- artifically or otherwise -- the right to capitalize on that creation. I want to present my work in the best light, and in some cases I want to charge for it. If a magazine wants to republish it on the Web, I want my penny-per-page-view. If there is no copyright system in place, it does not create some Kumbaya communal ownership structure. Instead, it gives big companies the ability to appropriate my work and sell it with a million-dollar marketing push that I cannot match, and then all the money for my work goes to them. Fuck that.

        Are you, the author, HARMED because I can copy your work. I'm not excluding you from your ability to do things with it.

        Yes you are. Part of copyright is -- or dammit, I want laws passed that make it this way -- similar to the limited monopoly concept: I want you deprived of the content if you won't pay for it. I need copyright laws to force you to miss out so that market forces create demand. See, I believe a lot of the "I never would have paid anyway, so what's the harm" questions are bullshit. You will buy it if it's the only way to get it. And if you really won't, then when my product doesn't sell, I'll know I need to lower the price or make a better product. That's not only the system that I believe is currently in place, it's the system I want enforced, and if it's not exactly as I described, then I want it to be that way, and I'm willing to go vote to get people in office who will support that.

        Now, after disagreeing with you so much, I want to make one concession: copyright laws go too far right now. Even with my own creations, I don't want my kids to live off of them. I don't want their grandkids to live off of them. I want enough time to sell my book or CD, make some money, and maybe have enough time to sell a greatest hits or compilation or a few reprints. So while I defend the copyright system, I want it completely rolled back to the original copyright system put in place 200 years ago: 14 or 28 years with 1 renewal. That's it. That's all.

      • Sorry -- it should be clear that it's an opinion. I think that, in a way, control over work created is a payment of sorts. Do I believe that people have an inherent right to intellectual property? Not necessarily. I do believe that people have the right to enforce contracts, and if you created intellectual property which people regarded as valuable, you might restrict it by contract so that only those who agreed to not redistribute it would have access. If it were redistributed, you could then trace that and take action against those who violated a contract with you. Copyright law just simplifies this by automatically forcing people into a contract of non-distribution.

        So, in terms of the inherent right to intellectual property, I believe it does exist, because you shouldn't have the right to force me to think and create for you. Copyright law is merely a mechanism for shifting the onus of proof onto the distributor that they have the right to distribute, rather than the creator to show that they never publically released a work, thus meaning that someone violated a contract.

        I don't believe that the 'popular culture' which is sold by big media firms is important to us, no. Art is important, but I'm talking about the dangers of losing Britney Spears, and you're countering that the Cistine Chapel is important? I'm sorry, but Britney != Cistine Chapel.
      • Copyright is culture.

        True. But I am sure you will agree that culture is not something static, it is something that changes and evolves and constantly reinvents itself.

        If that is the case, then the kind of copyrights we see today (author's life+75 years is it ?) are not helping culture but in fact are holding it back. Or, how about the kind of copyright law that says: 'you can buy a CD, but you can't make a backup of it even for yourself; you can buy a DVD, but make sure you play it in the approved countries, on a licensed player, oh and too bad if you don't run Windows'.

        So, I am not saying that copyright is bad, but the way it is being abused these days.

        However, I am not too sure what your point is, you seem to be arguing both that copyrights are bad, and that simultaneously they are not bad.

    • Copyright for $.37 (Score:2, Informative)

      by MmmmJoel ( 26625 )
      Blah, print out a copy and mail it to yourself. The Post Office's stamp is all the proof you need (assuming you don't open it and seal it well). I heard it referred to as the "starving musician's copyright."
    • In addition to entertainment, 'font software', source code, educational textbooks, design concepts, and 'architectual work' are copyrighted. An indefinite extension to copyright of such items will harm education efforts, the ability of musicians, artists, designers, and architects to create 'derivative' works, or incorporate design elements of varied themes, and the ability of archivists and librarians to capture such work in a meaningful way that lets us preserve history and culture.

      In my opinion, a lot of the failures of the world wide web to capture all information (especially educational or 'high quality' content) in a searchable manner are related to our attitudes towards copyright and IP.
      • Most or all of these things can be re-written. All software can be re-coded, and thus not violate copyright. Textbooks can be re-written.

        I'm certainly not saying that we should indefinitely extend copyright -- Bono and the supports of the Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act were clearly pandering to entertainment industry interests, starting with Disney.

        That said, patents cause a larger problem -- if I wrote font rendering software, someone can circumvent my copyright by writing their own version. But if I patent the only valid method to render such fonts, then no one can circumvent it. This is why the focus on much of copyright is on creative works like music -- because no matter how much you listen to Dave Matthews Band, you can't just duplicate their creative abilities -- it just isn't the same. That can't be said of something more rote, like the copyrighted code produced during the creation of a program. That can be duplicated, and is, all the time.
    • Having to pay $10 more than you should for a Britney Spears CD isn't going to hurt the economy

      Wot? Call me an economically challenged dumb-arse, but isn't that 10$ per CD is going into big ol faceless record corporations pockets? For doing sweet bugger all?

      I think Id rather use my 10$ PER CD to support a local restaurant, buy something physical that is actually WORTH the money it costs, or maybe even buy more music!? Surely the money is better for the economy spread out all over the place, purchase things that its actually worth. How is paying $30 for goods worth $5 (and I'm being generous) good for the economy?

      My view: 5 year IP Copyright.. for everything. You write a book, great. You have 5 years after publishing to make money of it, after that, if some publishing house can publish your book in hard cover, on quality paper for HALF THE PRICE OF WHAT I PAID FOR MY FALL TO BITS PAPER BACK that more power to them. Made a killer app, milk it for all its worth, but after 5 years anyone can burn it and do what they like.
  • by JohnDenver ( 246743 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:28PM (#4202338) Homepage
    The latest buzz seems to be that the Telcoms and tech manufacturers are getting peeved with the MPAA and RIAA push to legislate thier industry (Hollings Bill, DMCA liability). The 20 billion dollar entertainment industry is trying to push around a 600 billion dollar tech industry.

    Simply put: Piracy is the killer app for Telcoms and consumer electronics industries, unless it's in the Telcoms and consumer electronics.

    My theory: I think the Telcoms and friends want to devalue the entertainment industry. They want the same exclusive content that AOL/Time Warner enjoys, but rather aquiring the content via an expensive merger, our friends would much rather buy all that content at commidity prices, or sign exclusive deals to act as the conduit to deliver music and entertainment at competitive prices.

    If you really want to figure out who's conspiring what. (1) You have to be realistic (2) You have to determine how it pays off
    • "Piracy is the killer app for Telcoms and consumer electronics industries, unless it's in the Telcoms and consumer electronics."

      If that were true, then how come the video game industry is thriving?

      The Game Industry is not very far from the Entertainment Industry. They'd co-exist on a venn diagram with the *AA on one side and the Telcom/IT Industry on the other. If piracy was as destructive as they say, then the PC video game market wouldn't exist.

      My personal theory is that the *AA has a monopolistic business model that earns them ridiculous amounts of money. With the internet, now they have to be fair like everybody else. Suddenly, it's not acceptable to say "You cannot return an opened CD" anymore. They'll have to *gasp* understand what customers want and give them the opportunity to decide "I really don't want that afterall."

      • The movie industry and record industry are thriving too, but then again only a small minority of people download movies, computer games, and songs.

        If more people downloaded this stuff (your mom and uncle), the entertainment industry would see less money. (Most people I know who download songs don't buy CD's anymore, why should we?)

        The Gaming industry has starting moving in on the subscription model, which has worked out VERY well for them. You can't cheat the subscription model, you can only compete with it.

        Secondly, It still isn't easy to download a game. Many of them span many CD's (take forever to download), and many more will buy it just because it's more convienent.

        Once piracy becomes more mainstream, it will hurt the industries who it's easy to pirate. Here's the order from most susceptible to least.

        1. Music - Small downloads, many devices geared for it
        2. Movie - Compression makes download acceptible via highspeed internet, some won't comprimise with quality and will buy DVD.
        3. Computer Gaming - Can turn to subscription services, or make games REALLY big (600 - 3000 Megs) thus making the VERY inconvienent to download.

    • The RIAA and MPAA were based on the idea that they are cartels that had near-total control over the distribution media. This means that if you or I, as artists, wanted to get seen/heard by people, we had to use their distribution. They could enforce "standard" contracts on us that gave them all the profits and the rights to our art. You had a choice: Hand it over to them to distribute, or don't see it distributed.

      They are now in a panic because the Internet provides a new distribution channel that (partially) obsoletes their cartel. This is the whole source of the IP and IRM fuss. They are struggling to find a way to prevent us from getting our art to audiences via this new medium that they (so far) can't control.

      Verizon has realized that they have a real opportunity here: They are part of a cartel that in most of the world has a monopoly over telecomm, including the Internet. If they can get into a position of controlling both the communications and the content, then they will have total control over all the world's information except the relics on hard copy in libraries. The RIAA and MPAA will be dead, but to distribute your art, you'll have to get a license from whoever controls your Internet connection. Verizon is volunteering for this position, and hoping that by publicly attacking the RIAA and MPAA, the world's artists will support them.

      If you don't believe this, read their TOS. You aren't allowed to run your own web server. That is, if you have an Internet connection through them, you can't use it to distribute your own work. You are required to use their web servers. They are, of course, in a position to strictly control what is on their own machines

      It's really hard to be too paranoid here ...

    • JohnDenver wrote:
      My theory: I think the Telcoms and friends want to devalue the entertainment industry. They want the same exclusive content that AOL/Time Warner enjoys, but rather aquiring the content via an expensive merger, our friends would much rather buy all that content at commidity prices, or sign exclusive deals to act as the conduit to deliver music and entertainment at competitive prices.

      That's a good theory, but if that were the case, why are they (the telecoms) fighting like mad to hand over the whole broadband industry to AOLTW by fucking up DSL competition, and letting cable (dominated by RoadRunner) undercut DSL price-wise? You would think that if they wanted this killer app to keep going, they'd sell DSL at $10/mo like they do in Japan, Canada, and every other more civilized country in the world.
  • by AAAWalrus ( 586930 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:31PM (#4202352)
    Basically, you have a donor who "anonymously" threw $1 million at Duke to fund "advocacy and research" of battling copyright law expansion. Why this is good is hopefully apparent. It's basic economics of the new millenium.

    Basically, corporations believe that public knowledge of technology and processes is bad, because it's hard to make money off of something everyone can reproduce. This country is founded on democracy (good) but also has strong roots in free-market capitalism (mostly good). Making money is why we as a country are so well off, and people seek to maximize their money making. Public domain knowledge of technology and processes reduces the chance to make money because people will pay you more for something that only *you* can make, hence putting a premium on innovative AND proprietary information.

    Lawmakers in a capitalist society are easily swayed by the corporations with their lobbying and donations, making it possible to influence law in their favor. In this case, copyright law, when expanded, better protects the information of corporations, making it harder for technology and processes to come into the public domain. In a society where money is so valued, any chance to make money by the corporations is often countered by ways to save money by the consumers.

    We as consumers would love to see copyright law weakened rather than expanded because it increases the potential to save money. Also, there is a certain ideology in promoting the free sharing of thought, ideas, and technology for the betterment of society. So when someone donates money to the cause of actively opposing copyright law expansion, it serves to benefit us (the consumers).

    But the real question is this: Why would someone do this? Certainly someone with a cool million lying around did something to make that money. What is to be gained by an individual donating that much money to a cause that has its roots in opposing the big corporation and "the man"? Likely, it isn't because it was just philosophically the "right thing to do".

    • But the real question is this: Why would someone do this? Certainly someone with a cool million lying around did something to make that money. What is to be gained by an individual donating that much money to a cause that has its roots in opposing the big corporation and "the man"? Likely, it isn't because it was just philosophically the "right thing to do".

      I think the key is that to some people, a million dollars is not as much money as it is to you or me. And you have to wonder if this can be written off. I mean, it says the donation was anonymous, but that could very well mean that the university agreed to keep it anonymous. They could have written a receipt for it as an educational donation, and the donor could write it off as charity. The university may know who donated it, but agreed to keep it secret. Obviously there were specific things that this money was intended for, so there could have been stipulations with the donation.

      I like the fact that someone is trying to do some good with the money, but you really have to wonder how far $1 million will go against all of the mega-millions that companies have invested in building copyright law.

      A million dollars is a lot to you, me, and the university, but it probably isn't much to a Senator. ;)

    • But the real question is this: Why would someone do this? Certainly someone with a cool million lying around did something to make that money. What is to be gained by an individual donating that much money to a cause that has its roots in opposing the big corporation and "the man"? Likely, it isn't because it was just philosophically the "right thing to do".

      This happens all the time, when Joe Rich Guy donates 1M to Greenpeace, he can use it as a tax deduction. Same thing here.

      So no, it's not pure's using money that would have gone to the government to further a personal cause.
  • How very odd. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nukeade ( 583009 )
    Hmm, a well known law school gets a large anonymous donation to fight our awful IP laws so shortly after eBay gets into trouble with a very vague and questionable patent.

    What strange timing. I wonder if one of those fresh out of school lawyers will be taking up eBay's case at a significant discount. I wonder how much cheaper one of these lawyers is than a more expens... I mean experienced lawyer.

  • What's wrong with choice. If you are you company wants to donate its work then that is your choice. But is someone or some company wants to retain ownership of their work that is their right. Monetary gain has been the mother of invention, always has and always will. Look at socialist countries even they reward their creative people with a higher standard of living than others. Sure there are some people who aren't out for financial gain who just want to help, but few. Just think about all the things in life you enjoy and most exist because at some time someone or company made money creating it. Even if they only made enough money to pay their bills to allow them to continue creating.

    Don't try to legislate altruism, leave it to choice.
  • It's good to know that we have some well-funded idealists on our side

    I'm glad too but for a much different reason. This is a perfect exemple that shows the issue of economic rights is not a "Good" and "Bad" issue with "po'folks" on one side and "rich folks" on the other.

    Such moral absolutism is counterproductive in the worst way... especially for us in the IT world where the living is pretty good. So often I've heard people imply that "making money" and "doing what's right" are polar opposites. Like the Anarchists who would destroy every SUV they saw in the name of skater-justice. Constructive solutions are the way to go. And thinking reasonably about your world is the first step to finding them.
  • It's interesting that this gift went to a particular university's law school rather than to a grassroots organization such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I wonder if it could be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the EFF after their attorneys' recent losses in cases like Universal Studios versus 2600 Magazine?

    It's true that the EFF hasn't been batting 1.000 lately, but I've never even heard of the "Center for the Study of the Public Domain." Their web site talks only about "...hiring new faculty, creating new courses, setting up Internet Journals and creating new Fellowship Programs." Anyone know what cases they've actually participated in, if any? And for which side?
  • Sounds great =) (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Matt - Duke '05 ( 321176 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @04:40PM (#4202438)
    For anyone who's interested, the law school's website has a press release [] with a little bit more information than was mentioned in the C|Net article. It is great to see that some people (esp. the lawyers!) can see the harm that is being done by our outdated system of intellectual property laws.

    Even at the undergrad level, it seems that Duke has taken an interest in the subject. This year, for the first time ever, the CS department is offering a course [] that I'm currently enrolled in whose primary focus is intellectual property issues. It's panning out to be a pretty cool course, and is actually the only CS course I've taken thus far that doesn't involve any coding.

    I think more CS departments should offer curriculum like this, since we (the techies) have a unique perspective on the issues, because we are the ones opening the public's eyes to the fact that our system of intellectual property law needs to be completely revamped.

    If anyone out there has an interest in the topic, I'd highly reccommend reading John Barlow's The Economy of Ideas [] as a starting point.
    • You're taking that course from Astrachan? You're a lucky kid- value every damn moment of it. He's as good a prof as you're ever going to have, anywhere.
    • Re:Sounds great =) (Score:3, Informative)

      by Turmio ( 29215 )
      Telecommunications software and multimedia laboratory [] of my school, Helsinki University of Technology [] organized this this kind of course back in year 1999. It was the first and the last time it was organized. The reason why they removed it, that I don't know. Maybe subject wasn't sexy enough back then. But it's a real shame I have no possibility to attend a course like that. Actually, maybe I hold a petition among friends and mail the professor who lead the '99 course and request the course to be added to selection :) Actually, the homepage of the course [] is still online (in Finnish) as is the course material [] which is partly in English. Material covers corresponding EU directives and Finnish national legislation.
  • Wherever you are, thank you. You have my profound gratitude, and the debt of a nation.

    Now if only someone would put a million dollars into reforming our wheezing, corrupt implementation of the democratic process, so that million dollar donations like this one wouldn't be necessary.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Please remember that after the "fun" music&dance Intellectual Property fight of the 0's, we are likely to get the "less fun" IP fights over new and improved DNA sequences that may make you die (or not) of hunger, or whatever else.
    *This* is what has to be said to wake the general public up.
  • $1 million (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @05:00PM (#4202553) Journal
    Wasn't that the price of a 30-second commercial during the last couple years of Seinfeld?

    As nice as this is, a million dollars just isn't going to cut it against Big [] Media. [] Until we make this a national policy issue, one where actual numbers of voters are involved, we're pretty much screwed. Until then though, I suppose a million bucks can fund some studies and research to strengthen our position from a logical standpoint once the public realizes that they're being screwed.

  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug AT geekazon DOT com> on Thursday September 05, 2002 @05:11PM (#4202640) Homepage
    Now with some big money in play, maybe the anti-copyright forces have a chance after all. I just love American government -- of the people, by the people, for the people.
    • How many people can throw $1 million at something? No one I know can do that. Throwing a big lump of money at something is not democracy.

      BTW, I'm all for restraining out-of-control copyright law, and grateful that we now have a significant chunk of change. But it is not democratic for one person to affect something. If we were really in a democracy, we would have been able to more directly have a say in this before things like the DMCA and SSSCA crept in to existence. And technically, we did -- our senators and representatives are supposed to represent us, but often times, they represent the corporations (and a few individuals) who give them -- or more likely, their party -- campaign contributions.

      For the RIAA to buy off a senator (i.e. Hollings) makes the government into of a plutocracy -- rule by the rich. And so much of it is what I call a petrolcracy - he who controls the oil controls much more. But I digress...

      Oh, last: that $1M didn't go to the American government. Duke Univ. law school != the American government. Neither of which are democratic.
    1. Revamp the TPO
    2. Kill the DMCA
    3. Break up the MPAA, RIAA, etc.
  • by sunilhari ( 606555 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @05:59PM (#4202964)
    Of course, Duke Law is THE best place to give such a donation, given that their most famous alumnus is ... Richard Nixon.
  • I think it's absolutely pitiful that they have to use Shakespeare as the example of copyright terms expiring.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It was me.
  • Wouldn't it be funny if it was a gift from Bill Gates? Though if it were him the money would have been given to Harvard.

    What entrepreneurs went to Duke University and might have a million dollars to throw around? Anybody have a clue?

    - subsolar

  • To the Donator:
  • At lawyers rates, that'll last .. ummm .. 4 hours.
  • by rollingcalf ( 605357 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @10:10PM (#4204150)
    The US Constitution gives Congress the power to grant creators exclusive rights for "a limited time." Since when did life plus 75 years become "a limited time"?

    If someone is sent to prison for life, is that "a limited time"? If you purchase a product which is advertised with a warranty that lasts ten years longer than you shall live, would you think the warranty is limited in time?

    If I am awarded something or restricted from something for the rest of my life no matter how long I shall live, that is an unlimited time as far as I am concerned. If my ISP offered me $5/month Internet access for the rest of my life regardless of how long I live, I would consider that to be cheap internet service for an unlimited time. If my driver's license was suspended for life, that would be a complete revocation, not a suspension for a limited time. So I wonder what in the world the lawmakers were smoking when they thought that "a limited time" for anything granted to a person could be defined as a time period that is guaranteed to extend beyond their lifetime. Apparently "a limited time" to them is anything less than infinity.
  • by rollingcalf ( 605357 ) on Thursday September 05, 2002 @10:22PM (#4204188)
    The ironic thing about all this is that by perpetually extending copyrights, corporations are hurting their own profits. If copyrights were capped with a time period of 50 years or less, like they used to be over a century ago, the content creators would have now become able to make money from derivative works based on other people's stories and music from the mid and early 1900s, just as Disney made a fortune by creating derivatives of works from the 1800s.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"