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The Copyright Fuss Revisited 235

mpawlo writes "I was going to clean up my apartement, but instead I wrote a piece for Greplaw introducing a framework for the debate on how we should obtain a balance between users and authors where the author has good incentives to innovate, but where society at large is not too restricted due to the author's previous innovations. I am afraid that I personally have few practical solutions to introduce, but you might find my text useful as a quick introduction to what the copyright fuss is all about and why you should care."
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The Copyright Fuss Revisited

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  • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:09PM (#4804799) Journal
    "I was gonna clean my apartment, but then I got.. wrote a piece for Greplaw..."

    No... I don't think that was it...
  • by darkov ( 261309 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:12PM (#4804826)
    The evil corporates want you by the balls. Even if you're a girl.
  • by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:14PM (#4804845) Homepage
    "I was going to clean up my apartement, but instead I wrote a piece for Greplaw"

    wow... when I skip cleaning my apartment, I usually end up playing a game of BF1942 or perhaps watch a bit on the tube. This guy goes out and writes a rather long essay on intellectual property that actually reads fairly well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:17PM (#4804873)
    Is no retroactive copyright protection. The terms of copyright at the time you create something should be the same terms that apply to it forever. You only need and know what the incentive is before you create it. Changing it after the fact does nothing to increase your incentive.
    • Ah, but what if part of your incentive was the speculative possibility that copyright terms would be extended in the future?

      "I only get exclusive rights for 90 years?!? I don't think that's enough. OTOH, 15 years from now, the term will be increased to 110 years. So yeah, I guess doing this work is worth it, after all." ;-)

      • Copyrights already extend beyond the author's death, so no incentive can come from that side. On the other hand, one could argue that a media corporation, like Disney for instance, would have an incentive to pay more to authors if they speculated on the possibility that copyright terms would be extended in the future, but it's not so. Disney only uses works that have already gone into the public domain.
    • The original 14 year, renewable once copyright was adequate. At the very most, copyrights should expire when the author does, as a dead body can not be given incentive to keep creating. The term, intellectual property is a perversion of the spirit of copyright laws. Copyright is a lease to the artist from the public domain, and it will revert back to the public domain. The sooner, the better.
  • It's all about giving credit where credit is due. Plagiarism is the result of violating this. Credit is sorta like /.-karma in a way....

  • While the article has lots of good information, I did not come away with an understanding of the author's "framework."

    Perhaps a diagram, or an outline summary would help.

  • by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:18PM (#4804884) Homepage Journal
    Copyright does NOT protect innovation. Look at Tolkien & how just about every "innovation" he made has been swiped by the fantasy genre. Same thing for the GUI, same thing for music, etc, etc.

    PATENTS protect ideas, innovations, and inventions. Copyright should be pared back by whatever means necessary so it can stop doing the job of Patents (or trademarks!).
    • No, but copyrights do protect the creators. If not for copyright, who's to say that Tolkein's books would ever have been written?
      • There was a big problem with the US copyrights when LoTR became really popular. I don't know the details, but it took quite a legal fight for Tolkein to get control of his property and receive royalties on it.
      • by Gleef ( 86 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:02PM (#4805235) Homepage
        NineNine wrote:
        No, but copyrights do protect the creators. If not for copyright, who's to say that Tolkein's books would ever have been written?

        For what it's worth, in the 60's, Ace Books used loopholes in the US copyright law to legally publish the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, without concent of JRR Tolkien (or Allen & Unwin) and with no intent to pay royalties.

        Tolkien had no legal stand to fight the publishing, but spread the word that the Ace edition was unauthorized, and that he was receiving no royalties. Ace was eventually pressured by the publicity backlash to pay him royalties and to cease publishing.

        Ironically, a good deal of his popularity in the United States could be argued to be due to the swarms of college students buying the cheap (75 cent) unauthorized Ace Books versions.

        As for whether or not the books would be written, the Hobbit was written for Tolkien's children, the decision to publish it came later. the Silmarillion seems to be written for himself, without regard to publication (he occasionally attempted to get it published, but nobody was interested until his death). The Lord of the Rings trilogy, however, was written at least partially due to the encouragement of Allen & Unwin (the publishers of the Hobbit in England), and thus copyright could easily be considered one of the motives. Likewise with his short stories.
    • Copyright, patent, and trademark are all just forms of IP law.

      As for Tolkien, I don't know any details, but the law is not self-executing. Private parties have to litigate it. Perhaps Tolkien did not discover "trade dress" and the C&D letter in time. I have no doubt the copyrights on his books are intact. Anyway, he consciously ripped off much from older traditions in Welsh and Anglo-Saxon mythology himself. Imitators are not necessarily derivative of his version. Disney the copyright nut received many of its stories from Hans Christian Andersen, Grimm tales, and so on -- public domain.

      GUI -- microsoft stole from apple stole from xerox. We're probably better off they got away from it. The look and feel thing was novel and shaky from the start. Other models [] are probably superior to copyright.

      Music -- Patent? Trademark? Really? Enforcement of copyright and, lately, interferance with illegal duplication, are the usuall routes.
      • Copyright, patent, and trademark are all just forms of IP law.

        The use of the term "intellectual property" as a blanket term for copyrights, patents, and trademarks is misleading because copyrights, patents, and trademarks are more different than similar. They are covered in separate Titles of the United States Code. They have nothing to do with one another other than that they grant monopolies to a person or corporation to produce a specific sort of good or service and can be sold or licensed to other parties.

        Richard M. Stallman, founder of the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation, has something to say about this phrase [].

        Perhaps Tolkien did not discover "trade dress" and the C&D letter in time.

        Or perhaps, " In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work" (17 USC 102 []). This doesn't apply to trademark law (the foundation for trade dress), but trademark law kicks in only when there's a likelihood of confusion as to the origin of a good or service.

        microsoft stole from apple stole from xerox.

        Apple licensed from Xerox. Microsoft initially licensed from Apple, but then after Lotus v. Borland weakened look-and-feel copyright, Microsoft borrowed "ideas" (17 USC 102) from Apple.

        • I'm not sure where all these unusual interpretations for garden-variety legal terms are coming from. There is plenty of room for debate about reform, but semantic torture is not the way there. Intellectual property simply is an umbrella term. You cite the Cornell database -- good choice, my alma mater :) -- here [] are their entries for IP.

          RMS is arguing for a new, improved definition. That's fine, though probably unproductive. Calling IP a "fad" because it is mere 35 years or so old is odd. But I'm not too caught up in the linguistics thing and "what is a word."

          Of course copyright, trademark, and patent have different groups of laws and precedent. That's why they're called copyright, trademark, and patent.

          Being in separate titles of the USC is of no weight. The USC is not a statute, it's just a convenient compilation of different statutes.

          Tolkien, if alive and aggressively marketing today, would copyright and trademark the whole lot of his creations. Trademark would "kick in" for his original signature creations -- didn't he come up with orcs?

          As for GUI thing, no one really benefitted from those who lifted their concepts. I stil don't understand what tthe heck happened, but I haven't tried, either.

          ANYWAY, this all started with "Copyright does NOT protect innovation." I disagree. I've thought of being a writer, but sure as heck wouldn't/couldn't publish work for free for a living.
          • Intellectual property simply is an umbrella term.

            I didn't claim very strongly that an umbrella term was not convenient but just confusing at times. I gave the two qualifications for that term. However:

            Copyright, patent, and trademark are all just forms of IP law.

            I (possibly mistakenly) took this to mean "Copyright, patent, and trademark are similar in nature." Assuming that the subject matter of copyrights is in any way like the subject matter of trademarks solely because they share the "intellectual property" (a monopoly on an idea or expression that can be sold) is a fallacy.

            OK, now that that's out of the way:

            Trademark would "kick in" for his original signature creations

            It may not be possible to obtain perpetual copyright-like restrictions through trademark law. See my other comment [].

            didn't he come up with orcs?

            Such goblins have been around for a long time. Tolkien may have been the first to call them "orcs" but that's about it.

            Earlier you wrote:

            the law is not self-executing. Private parties have to litigate it.

            Actually, copyright law is more "self-executing" than trademark law or patent law because in the United States, copyright infringement is not only a civil offense but also a crime. The FBI can come after you even if the copyright owner takes no action, heck even if the copyright owner doesn't know that he owns the copyright.

            • We're on the same page.

              I wouldn't try a line of Mickey Mouse characters anytime soon, even if Disney may have some technical defect (I don't have time to research it). The paper you cite in the other post is an argument against copyright, but not necessarily compelling one, plus it was written by a mere student. The highest stack of academic journals is not very persuasive to a court. I know Disney is vicious in enforcing its copyrights -- even the local cake shop has a warning letter from Disney posted, warning not to try putting any Disney characters on its custom cakes! Mickey Mouse is so entwined with the Disney image, I have no idea how the copyright/trademark will play out. It may be a moot point if Disney keeps lobbying Congress for extensions (and assuming the Lessig case doesn't pan out). Regardless, if Mickey isn't Disney's trademark, what is? Think they'll switch to Tinkerbell? Pluto?

              Orcs -- definitely not invented by Tolkein, maybe. :) He uses it to mean a super-nasty breed of goblins; I think the movie suggested some sort of interbreeding with humans or some such. Bulfinch's [] references an orc, but one quite different from a goblin! Maybe JRR just liked the word.
          • ANYWAY, this all started with "Copyright does NOT protect innovation." I disagree. I've thought of being a writer, but sure as heck wouldn't/couldn't publish work for free for a living.

            I'm a writer with a finished novel looking for a publisher. (interested in looking it over? e-mail me.)

            I have no intention of publishing it for free except as a last-ditch effort to generate a groundswell of publicity--and even then I'm going to rely on copyright law to maximize my slice of the theoretical pie that my artistic work generates.

            I was also the one who said "copyright doesn't protect innovation," and I stand by that remark. Art is universally a sharing of innovations and ideas, and the chilling effect of protecting those innovations is vastly outweighted by the worth of the variety of different implementations of said idea.

            Like I said, copyright protects ART, not innovation.
            • What about innovative art? ;-)

              By art I think the law encompasses both copyrightable "fixed" stuff and performances, etc. So copyright plucks out part of the whole.

              As for innovation, I think of that as synonymous with creativity. Innovative, creative, similar? And the copyright -- it's a double-edged sword, limiting use of other people's work while also forcing people to come up with something new, to innovate. Just another way of looking at it.

              But I don't know anything about art, I just know what I l--- :)

              What's the book about? Why don't you just post it here? ;-)
    • Copyright protects innovation within art, patents protects innovation within science.

      Computer software lands in that fuzzy land on the border between art and science, but the business interests of software were smart enough in the early days of software to see to it that their works fall under copyright law where they enjoy 95 years of ownership instead of patent law where they would get a mere 17-20 years of ownership. Nothing creates an incentive for you to build a better mousetrap than to have your old mousetrap flooding the market against you.
  • by jki ( 624756 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:20PM (#4804904) Homepage
    I think I saw this article [] about the ransom model on /. as well: "Ransom is a software publishing model where the rights to the source code remain restricted until a set amount of money is collected or a set date passes, at which point the code is freed"

    Anyway - I believe this model makes open source the good solution for cases in which it has previously been thought not to be suitable. Such as cases where companies need to invest huge amounts of money just to get the "seed done" - I believe that the ransom model really for example enables co-operation between research companies to produce something that requires huge resources and capital - and get paid for doing it - and still eventually have the solution released under open source - developing it even further.

    • It seems like the ransom model is really just a copyright/patent model with an additional dollar limit on it. That is, the code is released when a particular amount of money is made OR when a particular time limit is reached. That limits the profit upside of any particular development, but doesn't protect from the downside.

      Plus, it's not the gross revenue I would care about, it's the net. Lets say I release a product under a ransom model and I've priced the ransom with the assumption that maintaining and enhancing it will take half my time. I budget the other half the time for lucrative consulting. Unfortunately, the product ends up sucking down nearly all my time just to get enough buyers, and the sales aren't enough to yield a good salary. At some point the buyers dry up completely because they figure it's easier to wait for the time limit than to pay.
      • At some point the buyers dry up completely because they figure it's easier to wait for the time limit than to pay.

        True - I don't believe the ransom model or any model is the magic solution for everything :) But, I think it might work very well for examples in cases in where for a group of companies in the same business have made pre-agreement to utilize this model. Assume, that one company has initially invested $42 million dollars in research required to create software. They invite new members to a coalition to speed up or to make the development possible. Each new member pays $4 million. The first 10 companies to joing the coalition get early access to the technology, then 1 month after the 11th company has joined, the technology is released under open source. Increasing market, and bringing new players. The implementors of the technology have acruired significant benefit from paying extra.

        Not magic, but works in some cases.

        ps. (That "coalition price" model was simplified, in reality it might be so that the price per joining company would go down for example per each new member or per time)

      • Ransom is closer to a marketing gimick than a copyright policy. If ransom became law, an infinite copyright would be granted to all flop ideas, as they would never reach their ransom target.
    • Sounds suspiciously like how id treated the Quakes to me...
  • by Shymon ( 624690 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:21PM (#4804907)
    Copyright laws will always be messy if only beacuse there is no cut and dry options. A law that says all works are free to anyone undermines the purpose of creating those works (open source software being somewhat of a exception to this) and one that never releases information into the public domain is also a less then perfect solution. and while this is a gross simplification it's applicable to almost every aspect of copyright laws (fair use and the like). for all the ranting about these laws on slashdot very rarely do i see a realistic purposed solution to the problem, which suggests that it probably won't be solved in the near future, or maybe ever.
  • by Corvaith ( 538529 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:24PM (#4804934) Homepage
    I don't think you can reform copyright law while treating copyright for different types of things differently. I don't, genuinely, believe that authorship of a computer program should be essentially different from authorship of a book. With all the protections that entails.

    Which is not to say that copyright law in itself isn't screwed up. But the whole MS problem isn't a copyright issue, it's a monopoly issue. And the music industry will eventually either die or adjst with the times.

    The real problems with copyright lie with things like the insanely long copyright period and the narrowness of 'fair use' rights for *everything*, not just music. There are middle schoolers out there getting lawsuit threats over fan art galleries. Disney's never going to have to come up with anything new, because they'll just keep getting extensions for Mickey Mouse. These are big problems, and things that seem to not be well addressed by the article.
    • But the whole MS problem isn't a copyright issue, it's a monopoly issue.

      Not even that. A Copyright is by its definition a limited monopoly. It's a profit issue. If you an figure out a way for the fat cats to get richer and fatter without strangling everyone else, then you have a solution. Any solution that does not involve the fat cats getting righer and fatter is not a solution (according to the fat cats).

      the insanely long copyright period and the narrowness of 'fair use' rights

      The limiting of rights, the extension of limits, all of that are just by-products of the fat cats trying to get righer. To cure the disease, go after the the scum at the center. Don't just tackle the symptoms. Take out the Corporate greedfest. The rest will clear itself up.

    • by why-is-it ( 318134 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:39PM (#4805047) Homepage Journal
      Disney's never going to have to come up with anything new, because they'll just keep getting extensions for Mickey Mouse.

      And therein lies the dilemma. Disney has made several fortunes by taking something that was already in the public domain and building on it. I don't know if the Brothers Grimm even get mentioned in the credits of the Disney films that are based on their stories. Now we see Disney purchasing politicians and legislation to extend their copyrights in perpetuity.

      I wonder if anyone at Disney recognizes the irony of it all...
      • There's no dilema here. You have just as much opportunity as Disney does to create animated works based on these classic tales. The fact that you don't doesn't mean Copyright is broken, it means you have failed to take advantage of the same opportunities afforded to all.
        • There's no dilema here. You have just as much opportunity as Disney does to create animated works based on these classic tales. The fact that you don't doesn't mean Copyright is broken, it means you have failed to take advantage of the same opportunities afforded to all.

          Aye, but you don't have the right to create animated works based on Disney's classic tales, even those that are nearing 100 years old and clearly a part of our culture. There's the problem.

          I have a problem with companies that are perfectly willing to take from the public domain but unwilling to give back to it. It's greedy and wrong.
        • There's no dilema here. You have just as much opportunity as Disney does to create animated works based on these classic tales.

          The dilemma is that in the current copyright climate, there are not likely to be any more "classic tales" in the future because the public domain is deliberately being starved. Disney has legitimately used what is in the public domain, and Disney has spent a lot of money to ensure that their own works will not end up in the public domain.

          The fact that you don't doesn't mean Copyright is broken, it means you have failed to take advantage of the same opportunities afforded to all.

          What opportunities will Disney afford me (or anyone else for that matter) to derive new works based on Mickey Mouse? Had they not bought the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, Micky would be in the public domain by now. As it stands now, it is unlikely that Mickey will ever enter the public domain. So yes, I believe that in it's present form, copyright is indeed broken.
          • Mickey Mouse will NEVER be in the public domain because his likeness is protected by Trademark law. Trademark protection is only lost when the company stops proactively enforcing it, there is no time limit on these protections.

            As for Disney not putting back in the public domain, well, duh. These stories are ALREADY in the public domain. Disney has not affected the underlying themes and morals these stories impart. You can still make an animated version of Beauty and the Beast, regardless of whether Disney's own version is ever released into the public domain or not. Same goes for the Jungle Book, Snow White, Cinderella and a slew of other classics made popular once more by Disney.

            If Disney is only rehashing classic literature as animated films, then their releasing them back into the public domain in no way enriches our lives in the way you seem to think it should.
            • Mickey Mouse will NEVER be in the public domain because his likeness is protected by Trademark law.

              There has to be a likelihood of confusion of origin of the product. For instance, one company sells inexpensive VHS video tapes of "Bugs Bunny" short cartoons whose copyright Warner never renewed under the two-28-year-terms system of 1909 law. They get away with it by conspicuously disclaiming any connection to Warner on the package: "This video cassette contains audiovisual works in the public domain. XYZ Video is in no way affiliated with the author of these works."

              But actually, Disney lost copyright on Mickey Mouse when it failed to provide a copyright notice [] on works first published when notice was required. Of course, Disney could file a frivolous lawsuit, but then the company and its retained lawyers risk a countersuit for barratry.

      • Heck, Disney has made several fortunes taking something that was not in the public domain and copying it! I don't know if any of the Japanese anime [] even get mentioned in the credis of the Disney films that are based on their stories.

        Then again, everyone rips everyone else off in this industry so I don't know how upset I should be.

      • I don't know if the Brothers Grimm even get mentioned in the credits of the Disney films that are based on their stories.

        In the older movies Disney did credit the public domain books the stories started from. I have not noticed this in recent movies, but this is probably because it is no longer 1 of 20 some odd titles in the front of the movie (and is now lost in the hundreds of credits at the end of the movie, amongst mention of the caterer's booking secretary's dog :-)
    • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:43PM (#4805080) Homepage

      Of course there need to be differences. For example, current US copyright law explicitly gives permission for a legitimate owner of a copyrighted program to create a backup copy. There is no such permission for books.

      However, you do have a point, in that we need to firmly (re-)establish the "first sale" doctrine for programs and electronic files. If I buy a book, I can't copy it without permission, but I can sell my copy without getting permission from the copyright holder. The "content industry" would dearly like to get rid of that concept.

      • Of course there need to be differences. For example, current US copyright law explicitly gives permission for a legitimate owner of a copyrighted program to create a backup copy. There is no such permission for books.

        On the contrary, I feel there should be no differences in the law. Why don't I have the right to make a backup copy of my books in case originals are destroyed/stolen/accedentally used to line the bird cage?

        I can't copy it without permission, but I can sell my copy without getting permission from the copyright holder. The "content industry" would dearly like to get rid of that concept.

        Sick, sad, and true. Just wait until the concept of "Pay Per View" becomes more than a cable televeision special concept.
      • Have you ever heard of someone being prosecuted for making a backup of a book? Or any copy protection devices on books? Not really. It's probably just not specified because the average person is not quite insane enough to spend their entire life standing in front of a photocopier. Or transcribing it by hand.

        I do agree on the "first sale" doctrine, however.
    • I don't think you can reform copyright law while treating copyright for different types of things differently. I don't, genuinely, believe that authorship of a computer program should be essentially different from authorship of a book.
      Books don't need maintenance. Software does.

      I don't care if only one person, Joseph Heller (RIP), has a monopoly on releasing "patches" to "Catch 22", because it's not something I want anyway. I care a lot if only one person is allowed to fix bugs in the software that I run.

      Software isn't just passively enjoyed, like books and movies. It has function too, like machines. That makes it so that someone who buys it, can have very good reasons for wanting additional rights that they wouldn't have with a book.

  • You know what, I am so sick of people writing boring-ass essays just re-iterating the same things that everyone always says in essays on copyright. I know I'll get slapped for trolling, but I'm not, I just can't get excited over one more wannabe grad student whose big mission in life is to fight for better copyright laws by submitting long boring essays to websites that noone will read except people who agree with them anyway.
    • Rgr that. People gotta start bitching or the mpaa/riaa thinks it's "ok" to screw us; and, at the same time, ppl shouldn't share their copy of Star Warez with every Dick, Tom, Harry, Habib and Mullah on the planet via Gnutella. The news is that a Star Trek no-money economy would never work, you gotta get only and at least what you pay for. The big prob is the laws are so crazy when it comes what media you are deal with: internet, print, recording, broadcast, movies that it takes a 20-person legal staff scratching their asses (i mean heads) to write a binding NDA/EULA/WOYBAA (We Own Your Bitch-Ass Agreement). Most people just say "fuck it" because it's one big fucking headache and buy their directv hax0r boxes, download mp3s, copy replaytv programs and divx dvd rips.
    • You know what, I am so sick of people writing boring-ass essays just re-iterating the same things that everyone always says in essays on copyright.

      Amen to that. C'mon, being a Student Who Has Been Reading Geek News Web Sites for Gosh Maybe Three Years Now is not any kind of qualification to be a legal mouthpiece.
    • I think this a big problem. We're preaching to the quire, submitting opinions to sites that are filled with people who agree with us.

      I think Slashdot should create a political action committee, with the goal of furthering the politcal viewpoints reflected by the 5-Insightful posts around here. It can collect donations simply by holding out its hand around here, and maybe with tie-in items at ThinkGeek. If we want to beat the corperations, we have to play their game first.

      When this group needs guidance, it can simply pose questions in an Ask Slashdot format. Remember, any troll can post here, but you have to read Slashdot posts for quite a while to become a moderator, and disagreed with moderators get ejected via M2. Quite simply, it takes far too many people to corrupt Slashdot's moderation system.

      It is possible that two or more completely opposing positions can get modded up to +5 in the same thread, but I would suggest that reflects that the Slashdot community is devided on the issue, so the Slashdot PAC should take no position on that issue (although, it could direct Congresspeople to the +5 comments so they can make up their own informed opinions for once...) and move onto the issues where there appear to be a near-unanimous verdict on Slashdot.

      We don't need to convince ourselves anymore, we need to start reaching the people who haven't even heard of Slashdot.
  • by Greedo ( 304385 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:30PM (#4804981) Homepage Journal
    I was going to clean up my apartement, but instead I wrote a piece for Greplaw ...

    I hope you also skipped cleaning the bathroom, and took the time to spell check your article.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:31PM (#4804988)

    Some troll, apparently looking for something to do after calling people to check if their refrigerator is running, threw a page widening post onto the greplaw article. Thanks for the maturity. I'm sure your family is so proud ("John is lawyer, Chris is a doctor, and Billy Bob wastes the time of hundreds of people a day.")

    To read the article without the comments (thus avoiding the troll and allowing you to see the article correctly formatted), try this link [].

  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:32PM (#4804989) Homepage
    In Finland, taxi drivers are now ordered to pay royalties if they play music, even if it is on the radio, if they have passengers in the car.

    two churchs were also sued on copyright infringement for singing Chistmas hymns....

    the story is here [].

    I would have posted this as a story, but seeing as how my approval rate is 1:50 its not worth the time or effort anymore
    • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:01PM (#4805222) Homepage
      Girls Scouts must pay to sing songs...

      "Starting this summer, the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers has informed camps nationwide that they must pay license fees to use any of the four million copyrighted songs written or published by Ascap's 68,000 members. Those who sing or play but don't pay, Ascap warns, may be violating the law."

      the story []
      • From the quote: Those who sing or play but don't pay, Ascap warns, may be violating the law.

        At least they have the honesty to use the word "may". Unlike the RIAA and MPAA which have issued letters and press statements which give the impression that they write the laws, the ASCAP at least uses the word "may" indicating they are aware that they are not the ultimate authority on this issue.

        I guess it depends on what constitutes a "public performance". Given that the Boy Scouts were determined to be a private organization by the courts, and hence are allowed to exclude gays, then I don't see how singing songs at their camps constitutes a public performance subject to royalty payments.

        I'm curious to see how this plays out in the courts.

      • "We wanted to sing 'Underwear,' but it's set to the tune of 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,"' says Mrs. King, the co-director. "We're not sure if that's copyrighted; so, we don't sing it."

        Anyone know if using the tune with "Underwear" (if someone doesn't own the rights to those words!) would be exempt since it's a sort of parody?? Or to ask the same question in a more accessable way, does Weird Al have to pay royalties for the tunes he uses behind his original parodies??

    • Finland's 9500 cab drivers should band together, generate some tapes or CD's of independent artists (or get the artists to submit them) and play those for their customers' listening pleasure. They could have a menu of artist names and song titles posted in their cabs. There would be no royalties to pay and free captive audience promotion for the independent artists. Sounds like a win-win to me. Oh and a middle-finger salute to the music business. Make that a win-win-win.

      The harder the entertainment industry make it, the faster they will expire.

      Yeah, that's the ticket. (© Jon Lovitz, SNL Entertainment and NBC Broadway Video).

  • by tmark ( 230091 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:35PM (#4805017)
    I was going to clean up my apartement, but instead I wrote a piece for Greplaw

    If I was this guy, I would be the most prolific contributor to Greplaw. Legal scholars would be citing my works as I am always looking for ways to put off cleaning my apartment.

    Thank heavens for slovenliness, or we would have one fewer article to throw on the copyright flame-heap here.
  • Page Widening Troll (Score:2, Informative)

    by szquirrel ( 140575 )
    If any GrepLaw admins are reading, please consider a higher default threshold for comments. At zero the "page widening troll" has made the story unreadable. I could register and set my own default, but it's easier to just forget about it. Other potential members probably feel the same.
  • One precedent for music sharing that is not mentioned was the Online Guitar Archive (OLGA) [] and its struggles with the Harry Fox Agency. The debate took place in 1997 over whether users posting tablature arrangements of copyrighted songs infringed on the publishing rights of HFA. The HFA won in court.

    There are compulsory license rules for the songwriter's copyright. Any artist can cover another artist's work, provided he or she pays the compulsory license fee. I agree with the original article that there should be compulsory licensing for the physical and digital recording. It would also clear up issues with "sampling" as done by rap and other artists.

    • Copyright owners hate compulsory license fees because they set rates via a legal process, and it's very hard to raise rates when you have to go through a system rather than just announcing the new rates and saying goodbye to the few customers who won't take it.
  • Easy Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:40PM (#4805057) Homepage
    if you're an 'artist' and are adamant about being paid for each and every copy, don't create anything that can be easily copied by your admiring public. That includes audio, video, writing, software, or ip in general. Face it, your just trying to cash in on the 85% profit margin of being able to produce once, make easy copies and distribute them. But now your customers have the ability to make easy copies and share them. Face it. Instead, go into sculpture, crafts, paintings, custom autos, landscaping, live performances, etc etc etc.

    NO, this is not a troll, just a clear headed statement of fact. If you want to press an audio cd and sell copies, fine. Just realize there's going to be 'shrinkage' from maximum profit and you can cuss and stomp, beg for govt assistance, try to get consumer devices banned, mandate DRM in every electronic device, but the genie is already out of the bottle and everybody has one now. Artists and publishers are just going to have to adapt to the new environment or go extinct.

    • So if my gift is writing I'm screwed? If my gift is making good studio music I'm screwed. If my gift is photography I'm screwed?

      Go to Hell. Ease of duplication has nothing to do with the worth of a product.
  • "I was going to clean up my apartement..."

    No you weren't.

  • by zephc ( 225327 )
    I just turned in a long, yet crappy, essay on copyright and what should be done about it. I'm so sick of this shit now, I know what needs to be done, I know all the facts (well, most the facts), but nothing is going to get done with these criminals in elected positions.
  • I know I've already posted this link in the Albert Einstein topic, but if we're tossing IP arguments around, this bit [] would make a good spice for the mix.

    These people claim to own/control any representation of Albert Einstein. This would fall under Trademark protection, right?

    The Roger Richman Agency, Inc., specializes in representing entertainment and historical personalities for a variety of licensing applications, including advertising, merchandising, premiums, promotions, film & television programming, theatrical productions and look-alike/sound-alike services. Exclusive licenses are available in most product and service categories. Licenses include full persona usage, consisting of name, voice, signature and image (photo, illustration, animation and/or look-alike).

  • Please excuse my ignorance on this because I haven't read the essay yet, but from my perspective, the problems aren't with the authors, but with the corporations that own the authors work. I don't think the author gives a rats ass who does what with something he/she created once their dead, only the cooperation that owns the rights of that authors work cares. I personally say that when someone dies, so does the copyright, END OF STORY!!!
    • So when a TV program is created by 5 writers, using the characters created by 3 men at a bar which are played out by 16 actors being recorded by 4 cameramen with lighting designed by 2 people on a set built by 4 carpenters....

      Whose death triggers the experation?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:24PM (#4805434)
    It is interesting to me that drug companies are allowed patents that run out relatively soon (15 or 20 years, I think) compared to copyrights, and they have to put in tons of money and research to create their products, but we'll give anyone who can throw together a few words and make a poem, song, or book, or who can draw or animate a mouse (Mickey), a 75 year copyright, and Congress the option to extend that indefinitely, when they certainly didn't have to spend billions to develop a lifesaving or life-extending product.

    Things are definitely screwed up around here. But make no mistake, I am not defending the big druggies either, just pointing out the oddity.
  • He missed one part (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:28PM (#4805471)
    Copyrights should not be applicable to secrets. Executable binary code and copy-protected media shouldn't have copyrights. I know slashdot analogies usually suck, but let's think of violins. Stradivarius had a method for making violins that he kept secret. As a result, his violins have been considered the best ever made, but they are slowly disappearing due to aging and accidents, and no one can make a new stradivarius. It's the same with binary executable files, without the source code they will still be usable for some time, but will eventually disappear.

    If anyone could copy freely any executable file published without source code, programmers would have the strongest incentive to leave their secrets to posterity.

    • by Steve B ( 42864 )
      This is precisely the situation with respect to physical products and processes -- there are the mutually exlusive options of patent protection (enforced by the government, but includes an openly published description that eventually matures into the public domain) or trade secret protection (lasts indefinitely, but you're SOL if someone independently invents or reverse engineers it).
  • OK, let's be clear about this: for any other starving, aspiring writers out there (like myself..)

    Staring an article off "I was going to clean my appartment, but instead I wrote this" is NOT a good way to get more writing jobs.
  • by aphor ( 99965 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:42PM (#4805599) Journal

    Property, as we know it, is a legal definition set down in our tradition by John Locke. It is confined in Locke's conception as things which can be found in the common, improved by individuals, and which also become scarce when they are used. Locke's example is apples growing on trees become a man's property when he "mixes his labour" with them in the process of collection. A collection of shiny apples is surely improved over scattered apples amongst bruised and wormeaten ones. When another person happens on the collected nice apples, it would be wrong to deny the first man the benefit of his "labour" by taking apples from his pile. (maybe I remember this totally wrong.. correct me if so)

    If I set some music down on digital media, I have surely improved the media, and it would be wrong to deprive me of the fruits of my labour by taking my improved media from me, but if you improve your own blank media, indistinguishable from mine, by setting music down from memory as you remember hearing it on mine, you have not deprived me of the fruits of my labour.

    Intellectual property is a fabrication and an illusion. It does not perform the same as the concept of material property. There is no ethical base for an Intellectual Property Right. Maybe, in a teleological sense we can justify an Intellectual Property Privilege, but we should all just stop using "IP" and Intellectual Property terms until we are sure we all agree exactly what they mean. We should understand them at least as well as the basis for "life, Liberty, and property" which became the model philosophy for American politics.

    Information does not have the property of scarcity like Locke's apples. The more you share information, the more there is! (Let's not split hairs, I can demonstrate this aside..) Good or bad, news or propaganda, sharing magnifies it. This is opposite of real property. The more you share a bowl of rice, the less there is to go around. Our laws should not gloss this fundamental difference over.

    • by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @07:23PM (#4805905) Homepage
      Why should I be denied the fruits of my labors simply because they produce words on piece of paper, sound waves on a magnetic strip or images on a computer screen? Why is it that non-material property is valued less than material ones? Is it because ideas and expessions of those ideas are meaningless, or because they are so easily copied you feel that you should have access to them for free?

      If I have no control or ownership of my writings, paintings, songs, etc.. then where the hell is my incentive to share them with you? For what possible reason would I ever release them? I wouldn't. I would hide them away and never let anyone see or hear them for fear that they would be given away to anyone without any sayso on my part and no chance of my reaping any reward for my labor.

      Is that the world you want? A wiorld where no books are published? A world where no music is made available? A bleak, artless world brought into existance by people with your narrow-miinded and self-serving mindset?

      That's not a world I want to live in.
      • Why should I be denied the fruits of my labors

        You are not being denied anything, you still have everything you worked to create. By copying your works, I'm not taking anything away from you, I'm just not giving you my money, which you won't have anyway, if you insist on charging prices which I consider absurd.

        where the hell is my incentive to share them with you? For what possible reason would I ever release them?

        Admiration. Adulation. Applause. Fame. Isn't that what artists crave? If all you wanted was money, you would be a stock broker.

        A world where no music is made available?

        That's the world where we live today. Music is not made available, it's sold, at $25 / CD.

        A bleak, artless world brought into existence by people with your narrow-minded and self-serving mindset?

        That's exactly what I fear and exactly what's being created right now, a bleak, artless world brought into existence by narrow-minded corporations whose self-serving mindset considers only their own profits as relevant.

    • Yup, and the French already proved that your ideas don't work when they eliminated Copyright after the revolution.

      I would appreciate an intelligent discussion on intellectual property rights, not an uneducated one such as yours.
      • Troll, this is not the first time I've had to teach someone *how* to argue, but unless you are retarded or careless I think it is the first time you were taught how to argue. BTW: What part of any person's education would be most relevant here? Hrm?

        All flames aside --I know: it IS fun-- though: The fact that I have to ask "What in the hell are you talking about?", whereas you did not, proves that my argument is more effective than yours. Please read carefully: I need help understanding what you mean.

        Now, I *think* you are suggesting that there is a proof that my argument is false based on French history, and then you suggest I am uneducated. I would like to know which idea of mine won't work, and a reference to the history that you allude to. I would also like to know what you mean by "uneducated" and "intelligent" so that I can satisfy the (thus poorly worded) criteria of your appreciation.

        BTW: I have a BS in Political Theory and Comparative Politics, minored in Philosophy, so while I may not be able to meet *YOUR* expectations, you are a fool for expecting MORE education in these matters from people you do not know. You are the father of your own discontent! I can help you achieve more realistic expectations though, so revenons a nos moutons! (That's a french expression which means "let's get back to the business at hand." You can get the rest from Babelfish [])

        • Oh dear. Such a wasted education. But I suppose your BS allowed you to drink regularly... ahh youth is wasted on the youth.

          Go back to 1789... The Declaration of the Rights of Man freed the presses, but in so doing they eliminated any copy protections that had been previous granted. Keep in mind that their intention was to remove the monopoly that had been previously granted to a select few by the aristocracy, and it was a noble cause. But by 1793 it had become a crisis and as such the National Assembly passed a law which would resemble what we now regard as modern copyright.

          You wish to eliminate copyright.

          The point is, that's been tried before, and it was an abominable failure. What's sad is that the French did it accidentally, as a byproduct of a more noble cause. You wish to do it purposefully and with malice.

  • my thoughts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GePS ( 543386 ) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @06:49PM (#4805662) Journal
    We agree that an invention benefits the society most when it is in the public domain -- anyone can use and benefit from it. However, we agree that in order for individuals in a capitalist society to have incentive to invent, they must be able to capitalize on their invention. Hence the "limited times" in the constitution for an inventor to profit from his mind.

    For the greatest benefit of the society at large, we want the "limited times" to grant just enough incentive to the inventors to invent at high rates (my idea would be to have the copyright term be a function of the average amount of time taken to invent something). One can assume rather assuredly that the length of a copyright should most certainly not be as long as a generation, otherwise entire generations would never know the free access to the idea.

    As is, the terms are something like life+50 years. Life plus 50 years?? look at it like this: people who were born after Mickey Mouse was copyrighted and have died since then (there's a lot of them, 1920's-) never benefitted from any of Disney's creations in the public domain. Does this benefit society as a whole, or the corporate monopolies who own the copyright?
  • Nice job on this article. The one point that really troubles me is near the bottom:

    "To ensure that the record companies still obtain revenues, it is important that the developers in the post-Napster era create commercial alternatives to the user-driven free beer networks."

    The reason this troubles me is that it's based on a misconception that there is any inherent relationship between record companies and copyrights. There is absolutely no reason for record companies and copyrights to be connected. People in the record business could have chosen to conduct their business as most people do, by performing services and moving on. They didn't have to extort copyright ownership from musicians in exchange for these services. Doctors who save your life with surgery don't demand a share of your income for the rest of your life. Truckers and railroads don't demand a share of the cargo they haul, or attempt to regulate what you do with it after they deliver it.

    Record companies are pretty much the only ones who make money from record sales. Standard recording contracts take all production and promotional expenses out of the musician's share of the profit, usually leaving nothing. What record sales do for musicians is provide exposure, which translates to performance gigs, which is how musicians actually do make money. Musicians have tolerated this arrangement for a century because they had no reasonable alternative. Now they can get that exposure by distributing their music freely. I believe musicians will gradually move away from physical CDs, and electronic distribution will become the norm.

    There will still be a need for promotional services, but they need not be connected to copyrights. The multi-billion dollar advertising industry has managed to thrive without demanding ownership of the rights to the products they sell. There is certainly no reason to artificially maintain any business advantage record companies got from technology that is becoming obsolete.
  • I agree that copyright should be limited to encourage the ongoing supply of public domain "raw materials". But here's another thought: what if the work becomes SO well known that it is a de facto trademark for the corporation that paid for its creation?

    Everyone says Disney is the heavy here, so let's use them as an example. If Mickey Mouse falls into the public domain, he is so synonymous with Disney the corporation that any derivitive use of him would affect Disney's reputation. Porno Mickey or Mickey as anti-hero would tarnish their reputation as a family-friendly company. Is this fair?

    In other words, at what point does copyright stop and trademark begin?
    • Mickey Mouse *is* trademarked. It has been pointed out many times here that despite the fact that Disney/Mickey Mouse is the usual example, it does not apply. If copyrights ended, people could rebroadcast Steamboat Willy without paying Disney anything. But they still would not be allowed to make Mickey Mouse porno or name their company Mickey Mouse, because it would violate the trademark.
  • I ahve a practical solution. It's detailed over at mediAgora []

    * Creators should be credited and rewarded for their work.
    * Works can be incorporated into new creative works.
    * When they are, all source works should be credited and rewarded.
    * Customers should pay a known price.
    * Successful promotion of work should be rewarded too.
    * Individuals can play multiple roles - Creator, Promoter, Customer
    * Prices and sales figures should be open
    * Relationships are based on trust and reputation
    * Copy protection destroys value


    * Creators have 3 main goals - getting heard, getting credited and getting paid
    * Customers want to find works and pay a fair price
    * Creators set the price, customers decide to pay it (or not)
    * Promoters have an incentive to promote Works, but not to compete with other promoters for the same work
    * Working within the system is more attractive than subverting it

  • The really powerful bit in here is about code becoming or supplanting law. This is strong stuff. The beauty of good law is that it is transparent. Everyone has the same power to use/abuse it. I'm concerned with the Bush admins imprisonment of hundreds of people with no trial in sight because it uses the tools of law (police, fbi, courts, etc) without any of the corresponding transparency. This is just one small example of how law can be made bad (even with the best of intentions) simply by cloaking it and keeping it from view.

    Now, consider that the law is tracking about twenty to thirty years behind the pace of computing and communication. I don't expect law to catch up. Technology evolution is too fast and law /government evolution is too slow. So, the technology will be the law. Closed technology presents grave danger to such simple freedoms as freedom of speech since the medium for much of that speech is controlled, through closed code, by corporations. Even something as simple as Corel's or Microsoft's proprietary formats for word processing are examples of speech being limited when thought of in this way.

    I'm working to use open software, to support open software law, and to promote the use of open software by others. Why? It's not because I hate Microsoft. It's because I see us going through something similar to 1776. There are great minds at work here, trying to carve out space for freedom. I can't do much (I don't have the brains for it) but I support those who are looking out for me.

    Code is law. Code is becoming law. Either way, this is powerful and important stuff.

    One last thing: how come the majority of computer/internet users don't give a damn?
  • The article says, "In copyright law, computer programs are regarded as literary works."

    This brings up a Serious Question: how many programmers actually get the form from the copyright office, pay the fee, and file for copyright *on their source code*, as one would normally do with a literary work such as a novel??

    I don't recall the details offhand, but you must file to be eligible for certain protections.

    • You don't have to "file" for a copyright or get forms from anywhere, at least in the USA. Every thought put into writing (or typing) since April 1, 1989 is automatically copyrighted whether it bears a copyright notice or not. If you choose to include a copyright notice it affects the type and amount of infringement damages you can sue for.
      • That's not what I'm talking about. One of my clients is a tech-rag writer, and he's always going on about how he had to register each article with the copyright office (pay the fee, file the form, submit hardcopy of the copyrighted item), and that this must be done within 5 years of publication, because otherwise he can't sue the various folk who've infringed his copyrights.

        Difference apparently being not whether the material is copyrighted (that being the default state for any publication), but rather whether said copyright is *registered* so you can protect it (by prosecuting or suing infringers).

        Occurs to me that if copyright for GPL'd source has not been *registered*, this could severely weaken its case in the event that a GPL-breaking lawsuit ever arises. I realise that not everyone can cough up $30 to file every time they release updated source. But it might behoove major projects to register final versions.

        I'm not clear on the legal details, because my client rattles on about copyright issues while I'm head and shoulders inside his computer and not really paying attention. (We have a wee difference of opinion about the DMCA.. he thinks it's wonderful and is sure I would too if only I knew it better; I think it should be hauled into the street and summarily shot.)

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete successfully in business. Cheat. -- Ambrose Bierce