Digital Rights Activists & the TPP

Photo by Wahoo  istockphoto.com
Photo by Wahoo
istockphoto.com

If the TPP is secret, how accurate are its biggest critics?

I can’t claim expertise (or even substantial knowledge) on the subject of international trade, but can you?  When was the last time, you followed a trade negotiation like a sports fan?  Yeah, me either.  But consistent with our conspiracy-rich times fostered by overvalue of context-free leaks and well-funded fear mongering, various organizations are keeping up the controversy over ongoing negations in the multinational Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.  The first thing self-proclaimed digital rights advocates will tell you is that the TPP negotiations are entirely secret, and then they’ll proceed to tell you what’s wrong with many of the proposals being made by the USTR.  If you’re paying attention, that’s a contradiction right there, but for sure, they want you to know it’s secret, and that the officials doing the negotiation aren’t even elected!

Trade negotiations have always been conducted in some measure of secrecy, and the negotiators have always been comprised of appointed officials by the executive branch, which is empowered to enter into treaties that congress must then ratify.  Thus, if a treaty is really predicated on an agenda that our representatives will never support, it’s not going to pass; and the USTR would wasting months if it is truly skulking around in the shadows.  To hammer out a trade deal among several nations and do so as an ongoing public referendum would be chaos — yes, even with Facebook and Twitter to keep us all up to date.  Assuming enough of us even had time to pay attention to that much information, whatever proposal pissed some of us off at any given moment would as likely be obsolete by the time we voiced our outrage as any other outcome.  Nothing would get done.  So, while one cannot deny that we the public are somewhat in the dark with regard to the TPP negotiations, I remain leery of many of the more breathless proclamations being made about the deal, especially the worries over copyrights coming from vested interests in the Internet industry.

A new post by Tyler Snell, written for Latin American digital rights bulletin Digitalrightslac.net, leads off with this gotcha headline:  What do free trade agreements have to do with your ability to listen to music online?  A lot more than you think…

One might expect Snell to fulfill the promise of this headline with at least one exemplary line drawn between what he believes to be afoot with the trade negotiations and our ability to listen to music online.  Of course, he doesn’t because he technically can’t because, as he and other digital rights critics keep saying, “It’s secret!”  In fact, Snell states in his article,  “Everything we know about the agenda of the TPP negotiations comes from a 2011 Wikileaks exposure of the proposed Intellectual Property chapter and later documents from the November 2013 Salt Lake negotiations.”  That’s probably true, although neither leak reveals anything particularly egregious with regard to copyright, and both leaks were obsolete at the time of their exposure.  At the time of the first leak, I took Assange to task for his hyperbole about the contents of the documents.  It’s my own bias, but if Assange felt the need to tell people things like the following, then he’s probably exaggerating the value of his leak:   “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

So, no, Snell does not say how a ratified TPP might affect our ability to listen to music online, but he follows the playbook thus far used to imply that Hollywood alone has both an ear and a mouth in these super-secret dealings.  He cites a post by Mike Masnick at Techdirt decrying the injustice that the MPAA gets text documents of the negotiations while members of congress do not!  What Snell and Masnick left out of that story is that industry advisors can gain access to information from the USTR but face criminal penalties if they share that information with their own organizations.  Additionally, do we honestly believe the USTR is just blowing off Google & Friends or other stakeholders while giving exclusive access to the Motion Picture Association?  Why would they?

Also in an effort to push buttons in lieu of substance, these articles consistently allude to issues pertaining to pharmaceuticals and other medical needs being thwarted by the TPP, and yet, it is invariably the copyright fears that get all the attention.  Demonstrate that a trade deal will deny a kid in Kenya some medicine, and I’m all ears; but for some reason, these medical concerns are relegated to dependent clauses and parenthetical statements used to dress up the most dire predictions about the deprivations we’re sure to endure thanks to the copyright proposals in the deal.  I am far from qualified to comment on what qualms Doctors Without Borders may have with these negotiations, but I have to shake my head at some of the language used to describe the supposed dark ages that might ensue if copyright protections akin to the ones we have in the US are adopted by its trade partners.

And that brings us to a letter the Electronic Frontier Foundation is circulating on the subject of proposed copyright term extensions associated with the TPP.  As I’ve stated in the past, I don’t personally claim to know where copyright terms ought to be, but I have yet to hear any criticisms of the current terms that make much sense to me, and that don’t ultimately benefit Internet companies by allowing free exploitation of works.  Terms vary around the world, and the EFF feels that society will “suffer” if global partners in the TPP establish the current U.S. term of Life of the Author + 70 years.  In fact, the letter states, “There cannot be any serious question about the fact that the copyright term results in a net welfare loss to society, and effectively amounts to a transfer of wealth to a small number of multinational copyright-holding companies.”

No question at all?  If nothing else, I should think the fact that the U.S. remains the largest producer of new, marketable works in the world ought to raise some question, but that’s just me looking at the world. It is also galling that this presumptive white-hat organization continues to promote the fallacy that all copyrights are held by giant corporations despite the fact that most copyrights are owned by independent organizations and individual creators. Still, the EFF offers its rebuttals to three of the leading arguments often made for extending terms in this agreement.

That Authors Life Expectancy is Higher

“We fully support artists receiving just rewards for their creative output.  However because “life” is the starting point, copyright already extends beyond the lifetime of any author, and providing for his or her descendants is not a legitimate goal of copyright law.”

For one thing, it’s merely an opinion about copyright law that it should not benefit the author’s descendants, and it’s not even an opinion the EFF can claim is widely held by the general public.  In fact, terms have consistently been predicated on the idea of benefiting the author plus two generations of heirs; they’re not just random durations.  More importantly, though, statements like this are cynically focused on resentment over money (which is kinda gross considering the EFF’s oligarchic funding sources) and entirely leaves out the various ways in which stewardship over copyrights yields a wide range of benefits, some of which have nothing to do with revenue to the author’s heirs.  I recently met with a friend who runs the Jerome Robbins Foundation and learned that nearly seventy percent of the proceeds from licensing Robbins’s most popular works goes to funding many other  theatrical organizations around the country.  That’s how Robbins set up his trust to function, and it’s just one example for which I cannot imagine the social benefit of those terms ever running out.

So, I think it’s pretty hard to say whether or not TPP partner Singapore, for instance, might not reap long-term benefits from stronger copyright protections akin to the U.S. model.  Certainly, in my talk with local musician Kevin Lester, I got the distinct impression that he and his fellow Singaporean artists dearly hope to see a mature industry grow out of what is now a local scene.  And that brings us to the next topic…

That Weak Copyright Laws Deter Investors

“There is not a single published study that shows a significant positive relationship between copyright law and foreign direct investment, in any country.”

That statement might be true, but the absence of a published study is not evidence that investors are eager to enter markets with weak copyright protections.  To the contrary, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that investors absolutely weigh barriers like piracy and weak copyright enforcement with regard to foreign market investment in media production or distribution.  Nevertheless, the EFF paragraph at this point rather abruptly segues from the subject of investment to a complaint that works under long copyright terms often become unavailable, concluding with this head-scratcher:  “Conversely, creative works are often only rescued from oblivion after entering the public domain.”  What this really says is “Our Googlers want to digitize everything ever made, and the sooner they can do that, the better.”  Otherwise, it’s an odd statement.  A work entering the public domain simply means its copyright has expired, but if the work has also at some point entered oblivion, that term expiration doesn’t necessarily bring it back to life.  I recognize that there is a value in having certain databases maintain libraries of arcane works that might otherwise disappear, but these are case-by-case endeavors that have little to do with international trade and global investments.  I’d say this is particularly true for countries that have yet to produce enough creative works to worry about them wandering off into oblivion.

That Copyright Terms Should be Harmonized Among Partners

The EFF argues that extending terms among trade partners in order to harmonize the law across borders is a “sham” since domestic copyright laws are so complex that harmonization cannot be achieved anyway.  They even share a graphic to show how complex copyright law can be.

Perhaps this is true, but you know what’s even more complex?  Free speech.  The EFF and just about every other digital rights organization behaves as though copyrights and wrongful takedowns are the primary threat to free expression thriving around the world, and I have to wonder whose crack pipe over there is the hottest.  There are parts of the world where speaking freely gets a speaker beheaded or stoned to death or brutally raped or all of the above.  That’s complexity in the matter of free expression, and I’m grateful every day to live in a country where free speech is foremost among all civil rights.  But even TPP negotiating partner Brunei is governed in part by Sharia Law, so I really don’t think it’s going to be copyright terms, plus or minus 20 years, that will predict the fate of free expression in that country.

Yes, there are cases in which DMCA takedowns and other abuses of copyrights have been used to infringe free speech, but these incidences are not the norm and are relatively tame in contrast to the hyperbole employed by these organizations who would have you think Prince is on the verge of curb-stomping an innocent grandmother.  And of course all the mistaken and malicious copyright abuses combined are dwarfed by the billions of copyright infringements that occur monthly, which not only harm the individual creators of those works but can poison the atmosphere in a fundamentally beneficial business sector for which international trade ought to thrive.  We’re talking about trade in the fun stuff here; but on a more substantive level, I am not alone in believing that legally and financially empowered authors can be agents of political and social change.  That’s why many of us who believe in strong copyright protections see the law as an engine of free speech rather than a barrier to it.

Naturally, I cannot claim to defend the entirety of the TPP or even every aspect of the copyright proposals, since I don’t know what they are.  Don’t forget, it’s secret!  I would only suggest that people encountering the more frightening articles look through some of the dust being kicked up over a lot of of speculation and misinformation, and then to consider in whose interest it’s being kicked.

© 2014, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Copyright, Law & Policy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to Digital Rights Activists & the TPP

  1. Jason Block says:

    This is a little outside the scope of your article, but I don’t respond well to the criticisms based on drug IP either. If a country signs the TPP and their single payer system ends up paying more for medicine, they expect to make up for it in other ways, through direct revenue to state industries or through tax receipts. That’s why there are endless negotiations.

  2. M says:

    The opposition to copyright doesn’t come entirely from social justice David. It’s personal self-interest as well. For the first time in its history, copyright interferes with the ordinary behaviors of the general public.

    You have to understand that copyright is merely an industrial regulation designed to be apply primarily to printers and publishers. This idea that an individual’s private behavior can violate copyright is a novel-interpretation that came to be during the last decade or so.

    • David Newhoff says:

      Well, I don’t have to understand that, M, since I don’t think it’s true. Aside from which, individual infringements haven’t been a major focus of industrial rights holders for quite some time, other than trying to communicate the basic value of respect for authors apropos of the recent post about the fashion photographer.

      • M says:

        There is never really been a situation where an individual could violate copyright at any interesting scale until the rise of computers – certainly not at any scale anyone cared about.

      • M says:

        Richard Stallman makes a much eloquent argument here then I can (CreativeCommons-NoDerivs+http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/us/):

        “””
        Copyright began in the age of the printing press. Copyright in England began as a system of censorship in the 1500s. I believe it was originally meant to censor Protestants, but it was turned around and used to censor Catholics and presumably lots of others as well. According to this law, in order to publish a book you had to get permission from the Crown, and this permission was granted in the form of a perpetual monopoly to publish it. This was allowed to lapse in the 1680s, I believe [it expired in 1695 according to the Wikipedia entry]. The publishers wanted it back again, but what they got was something somewhat different. The Statute of Anne gave authors a copyright, and only for 14 years, although the author could renew it once.

        This was a totally different idea—a temporary monopoly for the author, instead of a perpetual monopoly for the publisher. The idea developed that copyright was a means of promoting writing.

        When the US constitution was written, some people wanted authors to be entitled to a copyright, but that was rejected. Instead, the US Constitution says that Congress can optionally adopt a copyright law, and if there is a copyright law, its purpose is to promote progress. In other words, the purpose is not benefits for copyright holders or anybody they do business with, but for the general public. Copyright has to last a limited time; publishers keep hoping for us to forget about this.

        Here we have an idea of copyright which is an industrial regulation on publishers, controlled by authors, and designed to provide benefits to the public at large. It functioned this way because it didn’t restrict the readers.

        Now in the early centuries of printing, and still I believe in the 1790s, lots of readers wrote copies by hand because they couldn’t afford printed copies. Nobody ever expected copyright law to be something other than an industrial regulation. It wasn’t meant to stop people from writing copies, it was meant to regulate the publishers. Because of this it was easy to enforce, uncontroversial, and arguably beneficial for society.

        It was easy to enforce, because it only had to be enforced against publishers. And it’s easy to find the unauthorized publishers of a book—you go to a bookstore and say “where do these copies come from?”. You don’t have to invade everybody’s home and everybody’s computer to do that.

        It was uncontroversial because, as the readers were not restricted, they had nothing to complain about. Theoretically they were restricted from publishing, but not being publishers and not having printing presses, they couldn’t do that anyway. In what they actually could do, they were not restricted.

        It was arguably beneficial because the general public, according to the concepts of copyright law, traded away a theoretical right they were not in a position to exercise. In exchange, they got the benefits of more writing.

        Now if you trade away something you have no possible use for, and you get something you can use in exchange, it’s a positive trade. Whether or not you could have gotten a better deal some other way, that’s a different question, but at least it’s positive.

        So if this were still in the age of the printing press, I don’t think I’d be complaining about copyright law. But the age of the printing press is gradually giving way to the age of the computer networks—another advance in copying technology that makes copying more efficient, and once again not uniformly so.

        Here’s what we had in the age of the printing press: mass production very efficient, one at a time copying still just as slow as the ancient world. Digital technology gets us here: they’ve both benefited, but one-off copying has benefited the most.

        We get to a situation much more like the ancient world, where one at a time copying is not so much worse [i.e., harder] than mass production copying. It’s a little bit less efficient, a little bit less good, but it’s perfectly cheap enough that hundreds of millions of people do it. Consider how many people write CDs once in a while, even in poor countries. You may not have a CD-writer yourself, so you go to a store where you can do it.

        This means that copyright no longer fits in with the technology as it used to. Even if the words of copyright law had not changed, they wouldn’t have the same effect. Instead of an industrial regulation on publishers controlled by authors, with the benefits set up to go to the public, it is now a restriction on the general public, controlled mainly by the publishers, in the name of the authors.

        In other words, it’s tyranny. It’s intolerable and we can’t allow it to continue this way.

        As a result of this change, [copyright] is no longer easy to enforce, no longer uncontroversial, and no longer beneficial.

        It’s no longer easy to enforce because now the publishers want to enforce it against each and every person, and to do this requires cruel measures, draconian punishments, invasions of privacy, abolition of our basic ideas of justice. There’s almost no limit to how far they will propose to go to prosecute the War on Sharing.

        It’s no longer uncontroversial. There are political parties in several countries whose basic platform is “freedom to share”.

        It’s no longer beneficial because the freedoms that we conceptually traded away (because we couldn’t exercise them), we now can exercise. They’re tremendously useful, and we want to exercise them.

        What would a democratic government do in this situation?

        It would reduce copyright power. It would say: “The trade we made on behalf of our citizens, trading away some of their freedom which now they need, is intolerable. We have to change this; we can’t trade away the freedom that is important.” We can measure the sickness of democracy by the tendency of governments to do the exact opposite around the world, extending copyright power when they should reduce it.

        One example is in the dimension of time. Around the world we see pressure to make copyright last longer and longer and longer.

        A wave of this started in the US in 1998. Copyright was extended by 20 years on both past and future works. I do not understand how they hope to convince the now dead or senile writers of the 20s and 30s to write more back then by extending copyright on their works now. If they have a time machine with which to inform them, they haven’t used it. Our history books don’t say that there was a burst of vigor in the arts in the 20s when all the artists found out that their copyrights would be extended in 1998.

        It’s theoretically conceivable that 20 years more copyright on future works would convince people to make more effort in producing those works. But not anyone rational, because the discounted present value of 20 more years of copyright starting 75 years in the future—if it’s a work made for hire—and probably even longer if it’s a work with an individual copyright holder, is so small it couldn’t persuade any rational person to do anything different. Any business that wants to claim otherwise ought to present its projected balance sheets for 75 years in the future, which of course they can’t do because none of them really looks that far ahead.

        The real reason for this law, the desire that prompted various companies to purchase this law in the US Congress, which is how laws are decided on for the most part, was they had lucrative monopolies and they wanted those monopolies to continue.

        For instance, Disney was aware that the first film in which Mickey Mouse appeared would go into the public domain in a few years, and then anybody would be free to draw that same character as part of other works. Disney didn’t want that to happen. Disney borrows a lot from the public domain, but is determined never to give the slightest thing back. So Disney paid for this law, which we refer to as the Mickey Mouse Copyright Act.

        The movie companies say they want perpetual copyright, but the US Constitution won’t let them get that officially. So they came up with a way to get the same result unofficially: “perpetual copyright on the installment plan”. Every 20 years they extend copyright for 20 more years. So that at any given time, any given work has a date when it will supposedly fall into the public domain. But that date is like tomorrow, it never comes. By the time you get there they will have postponed it, unless we stop them next time.

        That’s one dimension, the dimension of duration. But even more important is the dimension of breadth: which uses of the work does copyright cover?

        In the age of the printing press, copyright wasn’t supposed to cover all uses of a copyrighted work, because copyright regulated certain uses that were the exceptions in a broader space of unregulated uses. There were certain things you were simply allowed to do with your copy of a book.

        Now the publishers have got the idea that they can turn our computers against us, and use them to seize total power over all use of published works. They want to set up a pay-per-view universe. They’re doing it with DRM (Digital Restrictions Management)—the intentional features of software that’s designed to restrict the user. And often the computer itself is designed to restrict the user.

        The first way in which the general public saw this was in DVDs. A movie on a DVD was usually encrypted, and the format was secret. The DVD conspiracy kept this secret because they said anyone that wants to make DVD players has to join the conspiracy, promise to keep the format secret, and promise to design the DVD players to restrict the users according to the rules, which say it has to stop the user from doing this, from doing that, from doing that—a precise set of requirements, all of which are malicious towards us.

        It worked for a while, but then some people figured out the secret format, and published free software capable of reading the movie on a DVD and playing it. Then the publishers said “since we can’t actually stop them, we have to make it a crime”. And they started that in the US in 1998 with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which imposed censorship on software capable of doing such jobs.

        So that particular piece of free software was the subject of a court case. Its distribution in the US is forbidden; the US practices censorship of software.

        The movie companies are well aware that they can’t really make that program disappear—it’s easy enough to find it. So they designed another encryption system, which they hoped would be harder to break, and it’s called AACS, or the axe.

        The AACS conspiracy makes precise rules about all players. For instance, in 2011 it’s going to be forbidden to make analog video outputs. So all video outputs will have to be digital, and they will carry the signal encrypted into a monitor specially designed to keep secrets from the user. That is malicious hardware. They say that the purpose of this is to “close the analog hole”. I’ll show you a couple of analog holes (Stallman takes off his glasses): here’s one and here’s another, that they’d like to poke out permanently.[1]

        How do I know about these conspiracies? The reason is they’re not secret—they have websites. The AACS website proudly describes the contracts that manufacturers have to sign, which is how I know about this requirement. It proudly states the names of the companies that have established this conspiracy, which include Microsoft and Apple, and Intel, and Sony, and Disney, and IBM.

        A conspiracy of companies designed to restrict the public’s access to technology ought to be prosecuted as a serious crime, like a conspiracy to fix prices, except it’s worse, so the prison sentences for this should be longer. But these companies are quite confident that our governments are on their side against us. They have no fear against being prosecuted for these conspiracies, which is why they don’t bother to hide them.

        In general DRM is set up by a conspiracy of companies. Once in a while a single company can do it, but generally it requires a conspiracy between technology companies and publishers, so [it’s] almost always a conspiracy.

        They thought that nobody would ever be able to break the AACS, but about three and a half years ago someone released a free program capable of decrypting that format. However, it was totally useless, because in order to run it you need to know the key.

        And then, six months later, I saw a photo of two adorable puppies, with 32 hex digits above them, and I wondered: “Why put those two things together? I wonder if those numbers are some important key, and someone could have put the numbers together with the puppies, figuring people would copy the photo of the puppies because they were so cute. This would protect the key from being wiped out.”

        And that’s what it was—that was the key to break the axe. People posted it, and editors deleted it, because laws in many countries now conscript them to censor this information. It was posted again, they deleted it; eventually they gave up, and in two weeks this number was posted in over 700,000 web sites.

        That’s a big outpouring of public disgust with DRM. But it didn’t win the war, because the publishers changed the key. Not only that: with HD DVD, this was adequate to break the DRM, but not with Blu-ray. Blu-ray has an additional level of DRM and so far there is no free software that can break it, which means that you must regard Blu-ray disks as something incompatible with your own freedom. They are an enemy with which no accommodation is possible, at least not with our present level of knowledge.
        “””

      • David Newhoff says:

        I’m sorry, M, but is that a copy of Stallman? Because I’m looking for the eloquence, let alone any in-depth analysis or accuracy. Right off the bat, there’s this: “Copyright in England began as a system of censorship in the 1500s. I believe it was originally meant to censor Protestants, but it was turned around and used to censor Catholics and presumably lots of others as well.” This reads like a C-minus college essay.

        One may not assert a declarative about any subject as though it is fact and then follow up with “I think it was sorta this with Protestants and sorta that with Catholics and some other folks I can’t identify,” all in reference to an entire century that includes the Protestant Reformation, England’s split from Rome, and the establishment of the Church of England! (All events that led to New England I might interject.) This makes me want to go look for some details I can’t lay hands on right now, but in general Stallman is full of shit right off the bat and then proceeds to remain full of shit throughout most of this unforgivably long diatribe.

        Control over who was going to be able to read scripture was a significant aspect of power shifting in England after Henry VIII’s split from Rome and was a factor in the rise of the Puritans who eventually became our American forebears. In the early 17th century, King James had a man executed for translating the Bible from Latin into English. Then, just a few years later, the king published the first English Bible — the King James Bible — based largely on that man’s translation work. Now, that’s not only some old-school plagiarism right there, but one should note that censorship was available to the political powers of these periods in the form of burning at the stake, beheading, disembowelment, and the lopping off of various body parts with or without fatal consequence. So, this narrative that copyright was created as a means of censorship in the 16th century and then passed down like a dark-magic spell from the Tudors to Mickey Mouse is not a conversation for serious people.

      • John Warr says:

        Stallman should examine his own experience. What the FSF and FOSS community have manged to do in the last 30 years is provide us with a 40 year old operating system and a bunch of mp3/avi players. Mostly off the backs of CompSci students. Move outside of the CompSci course of compilers, text editing, toy operating system, and web browsers and there is zip, nada, nix, other than a handful of apps that copycat existing commercial ones. In fact the copycatting is such that there is very little truly new applications. Nothing to match spreadsheets, desktop publishing, graphics editing, CAD modelling, etc. Where for example are the killer linux apps? Wasn’t the best game that FOSS came up with nethack?

      • M says:

        Posted on a WordPress blog. Hopefully you were using Internet Explorer at least.

      • John Warr says:

        WordPress not fundamentally different from the commercial sites and non FOSS applications that started it off in the late 1990s. My browser is an offshoot of netscape which again was non FOSS in its origins.

      • M says:

        Right, so you are using a FOSS web browser to access comments on a FOSS website, passing open file formats bidirectionally using layers of open protocols, so that you can write a post saying about how completely irrelevant and outdated open technology is. Fine I guess.

        Anyway this is a bit of tangent don’t you think? Do you have any actual criticisms of what Stallman said in regards to copyright?

      • John Warr says:

        The protocols were written more than 25 years ago, and they happen to be protocols simply because people decided to adopt them. FOSS etc had nothing to do with it. Netscape was proprietary closed source system before it ran into hard times. Back then it was pretty innovative the last 14 years not so much. That is the problem with FOSS – innovation requires breaking away from standards. Google don’t use open standards when transporting data between their server farms. They use open standards when getting the information to the plebs. Open standards and innovation are chalk and cheese.

        If FOSS was so great there would be a plethora of great web browsers, word processors, photo editing software, spreadsheets, music editing software. Instead FOSS gives us a 1001 file formats and file conversion programs.

      • John Warr says:

        @David Stallman is talking about the Stationers Company that started out at the begining of the 14th century as a Trades Guild. During its first 150 years the members of teh Guild agreed not to publish works that other members had registered an interest in. In 1557 the Guild was co-opted as the State’s censorship arm as it was only members of the Stationers Company that were allowed to print and distribute works. As all published works were supposed to have the imprint of the Stationers Company, the authorities knew who to blame for seditious works. By 1640 the system of control had broken down, publications were being printed in Holland, and pampheteers were publishing without the imprint of the Stationers. Some attempt to re-establish the control was made after the re-establishment of the Monarchy but it was never successful. In 1710 the copyright act codified the original principles of the Trades Guilds except that the right to make copies was vested in the creators rather than the publishers.

      • David Newhoff says:

        Pity you weren’t writing for him, John. All very interesting details, none of which are surprising. Thanks for the references. They don’t of course serve as a basis for Stallman’s primary theses – that copyright is inherently censorship and also irrelevant in the digital age.

      • John Warr says:

        Of course not. Guild lasted for 300 years 70 years of which it got co-opted into the State and given a monopoly on printing as a result. But the primary system was to regulate the quality of paper and printing. And to record who had registered the right to publish particular works, amongst the Guild members. Stallman is probably confused by the medieval usage of the word Company to mean trade association.

      • M says:

        The full transcript of Mr. Stallman’s talk is here (I actually tried posting the full thing, but somehow got cut off):

        https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/copyright-versus-community.html

        Cheers.

      • John Warr says:

        [Now in the early centuries of printing, and still I believe in the 1790s, lots of readers wrote copies by hand because they couldn’t afford printed copies. Nobody ever expected copyright law to be something other than an industrial regulation. It wasn’t meant to stop people from writing copies, it was meant to regulate the publishers. Because of this it was easy to enforce, uncontroversial, and arguably beneficial for society.]

        The issue has never been individuals making personal copies, the issues is individuals make copies available on an industrial scale. Stallman’s argument is that because everyone can make copies available on an industrial scale copyright is broke. Its equivalent top saying that because speed limits once stopped a small number the rich motorists from driving down the highway at 100 mph, now that almost everyone can do it speed limits have served their purpose.

      • M says:

        John,

        The thing about industrial scale copying is requires industry. When industrial scale copying becomes copying by private individuals, it is no longer industrial scale copying – it’s just copying.

        Laws that govern personal activities tend to be well, more lax, harder to enforce, compared to laws that govern industrial activities by businesses. Why? People have this thing working directly against law enforcement called civil rights.

      • John Warr says:

        When you copy data from a CD to hard disk that is personal copying, when you make the data to a handful of friends CDs that is a copying amongst friends, you may even at a stretch call it sharing. When you make the data available to 100s, 1000s, 10000s of people whom you don’t know that is industrial.

      • M says:

        Not at all. Industrial activity implies a behavior of an industry. Technology has enabled the individual large scale copying, something which previously was an industrial activity.

        Copyright was previously an industrial regulation against industry capable of large scale copying. This isn’t even businesses as a whole.. Copyright was a regulation only on specialized businesses (printers, publishers) who had the specialized equipment capable of large scale copying. Since it only had to be enforced on a these specialized business, it was easy to enforce and largely uncontroversial.

        This is no longer true. Copyright has become a regulation on the behaviors of the general public writ large, something it was never designed to be. Because people have civil rights that protect them from the government interference in their lives, even when it simply to enforce laws.

      • M says:

        I also want to mention Mr. Stallman’s short story describing a utopia with strong copyright:

        https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

  3. James_J says:

    I’m so sick of the BS buzz words “Innovation” “Disrupt” etc.
    There hasn’t been much of anything “innovative” since the advent of the internet. It’s all webpages that host pictures, text, and/or audio. Whoop-dee-doo. The only “innovation” is more middlemen with their grubby Cheetos-stained-fingers in someone elses’ pocket… and i call that the exact opposite of true innovation. The tech industry is riding the coattails of an ignorant public and abysmal press that eats these kind of buzz words for breakfast.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Copyright has to last a limited time; publishers keep hoping for us to forget about this.”

    Stop right there. Publishers – content distributors, not content producers, as even Disney makes new stuff – *love* when stuff goes into the public domain. Every year new stuff goes into public domain, and what happens? More publishers pick the titles up and publish them.

    I said this before, but if copyright went away tomorrow it would not be a new wave of artistic expression, but more of the same old stuff reprinted cheaply into perpetuity.

  5. monkey says:

    “Copyright has to last a limited time; publishers keep hoping for us to forget about this.”

    Stop right there. *publishers* don’t care about copyright.(Disney is after all still a content producer) lack of copyright simply means that they can publish more stuff without paying anyone.

    If copyright disappeared it would not be a boon to creators; publishers would simply recycle the old stuff because it’s free.

    • Anonymous says:

      Monkey–
      “If copyright disappeared it would not be a boon to creators”

      Exactly. Authors, especially pro-copyright authors like Mark Twain, would never write books like “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” taking advantage of the public domain status of the King Arthur stories.

      So-called ‘content producers’ like Disney would likewise sooner go under than produce adaptations of public domain stories, whether they’re folktales like “Snow White,” or are originally by known authors, like Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”

      The total disdain that each and every creator on the planet feels toward the public domain is likewise why you’d never see adaptations of the various Sherlock Holmes stories (much less a popular film series and two different tv series at the same time), nor astonishingly popular musicals based on “Romeo and Juliet.”

      Why, even this year, no self respecting filmmaker would make a movie based on the Bible, based on the public domain novels “Dracula” or “Frankenstein,” or the myth of the Monkey King, or “Beauty and the Beast,” and certainly not two different ones based on the public domain legends of Hercules. That would never happen!

      Because as you know, there’s never ever been so much as a single author who had any interest at all in putting their own spin on someone else’s story, recycling someone else’s characters, writing a sequel or prequel or sidequel to an existing work, etc. Such things are simply unheard of, because authors are only ever 100% original, and whether it’s because of their muse, their whim, or commercial concerns, they never so much as think to take advantage of the tremendous resource of the public domain, which is as available to them as it is to anyone, and which they’re encouraged to use because society has an interest in having derivative works created which themselves typically qualify for their own, new copyrights.

      • monkey says:

        You rather mnissed the point:If copyright disappeared: publishers would have no need or desire to pay anybody for new works. They wouldn’t even bother using the labor of new writers and artists when they can just reprint the same old stuff.

        There are whole companies which do nothing other than just reprint stuff out of public domain. Some of them don’t even bother formatting it but just rip if straight from Gutenberg or even Wikipedia.

        Because derivative works have survived in a copyright world, but creators have a much harder time surviving (as in, like, staying alive) without some form of compensation.

        BTW, Disney paid for the rights to the works they adapted that were not in the public domain. Heck, they made a movie about it last year.

      • Anonymous says:

        Monkey–
        “You rather mnissed the point:If copyright disappeared: publishers would have no need or desire to pay anybody for new works.”

        But copyright has already disappeared for everything published before 1923, and for a large amount of other material as well. Just because there’s a lot of works in the public domain — including a lot of really excellent works — has not lessened the public’s desire for new works. Even before copyright existed people still wrote new books, new plays, new songs, painted new paintings, sculpted new sculptures, choreographed new dances, and designed new buildings.

        The public has always been interested in new works, and if there’s money to be made there, publishers and authors will create new works in order to try to get it. Even without copyrights, there are first mover advantages which will cause — and have caused — publishers to pay authors. Further, there are ways for authors to make money without being paid by publishers, and reasons for authors to create and publish works other than, and sometimes more important than, money.

      • John Warr says:

        [Even before copyright existed people still wrote new books, new plays, new songs,]

        And it was financed by monarchy, the church, and wealthy aristocracy. People like the Medici. Shakespear’s plays wouldn’t have seen the light of day other than for his patrons:
        http://politicworm.com/oxford/oxfords-life-in-a-nutshell-shakespeare/shakespeares-patrons/

        and who knows what he might have written about Henry IV or Richard III if he hadn’t been writing for the Tudor Court.

        Look at the images from Orthodox Christianity, they’ve not changed in 1500 years. Egyptian Pharaonic decorations are essentially the same over a 3000 year period. The same is true of images from the Latin Church too. Go into any major cathedral in France and look at the medieval stained glass. Locations 100s of miles apart and the representation are all the same. It doesn’t matter whether its Rouen, Chartres, or Bourge 13th century images are the same, styles change by the 14th century but they are all changing in the same way. The same happens in the 15th century. You don’t get much in the way of variation. Much of the English stained glass didn’t survive the Reformation, but that which does is once again similar to its French counter part. Funerary monuments are again the same. It doesn’t matter whether its an stone effigy or a brass. The styles are the same.

        Variations start to come about by the 16th century when the individual workshops and artists are starting to stake out their personal claims on the works they are producing.

      • M says:

        John,

        There is a lot of ways you can maintain the same kind of individual sovereignty over art without a copyright system. Kickstarter is an example. You can go even further and have the government give people money they can use to fund causes directly, a kind of direct democracy.

        I’m sure you can poke all kinds of holes in that, right? I’m sure you can. But you are comparing it to a system that isn’t working. There is the sense that it isn’t working because of widespread disrespect for the law, and much has been written about why that is (see Mr. Stallman’s transcript, of course, which you probably disagree with). Solving that, you know, in a realistic way, none of you have an answer that isn’t a tautology it seems.

        I’d like to propose another reason copyright isn’t working. Under the copyright system, somehow works like “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and “Honey Boo Boo” are finding money to be developed. Any system of art development which has any remote chance of financing such works, is perhaps by definition, not a working system for the advancement of the arts.

      • John Warr says:

        This week I received a photo of a 40 Mexican kids sat on the floor being given a talk on butterflies. A number of the images that they were looking at where mine. Last year there was a exhibition in France on a 16th century stained glass maker the information boards where my photos. Again last year an activity book was made in Ireland to show kids local wildlife a number of photos were mine. A multimedia exhibition by the Venice Natural History Museum. Charity posters in the greater Washington area. You won’t find any those photos on Google, they never will be Google. Copyright gives me that control.

      • M says:

        I know. Copyright is fucked up like that.

  6. monkey says:

    I’m game: what are those ways to make money? And how will publishers finance their cultivation of new authors.if they have no means of profting from it?

    • AudioNomics says:

      Notice s/he conveniently skirted your point about publishers and stated “the public” desires new works… Slimy lawyer tricks

      • monkey says:

        Indeed. My original point was that publishers truly don’t give a rats ass about copyright; printing more stuff without having to pay an author would be ideal for publishers.

        In fact, if copyright goes the model for publishers will be more Kim Dotcom than Warner bros.

  7. monkey says:

    Adding further: there’s somehing rather insidious about telling creators that there are “things more important than money.” There’s this assumption that if you want to make a living off your art you are somehow making it less “pure,” which is nonsense.

    Those movies you mentioned employed lots of real people, who probably love their work but do deserve to get paid, and I see no way they will if we throw out copyright. It’s too big a price to pay for somebody getting to use Mickey Mouse any way they want.

    • M says:

      Adding further: there’s somehing rather insidious about telling creators that there are “things more important than money.” There’s this assumption that if you want to make a living off your art you are somehow making it less “pure,” which is nonsense.

      Interestingly it might have been on this very blog (or a pro-copyright friend on this blog) decrying the “commercialization” of art. The Doritos Music Stage, for instance.

      But copyright by its nature supports commercial art, that is, art that people are willing to pay money for. People often call pop music crap for instance, but what is pop music? Music that sells..

      • AudioNomics says:

        Do you really not grasp the difference between having a relationship with your fans vs. working for corporate sponsors?
        …and you claim to love free speeh…

      • M says:

        Regardless, making art for money is making art for money. There is another name for a relationship with other people driven by profit.

    • M says:

      At the abstract level it’s a fundamental problem in the very concept of art itself. Is Dada or postmodern art ‘better’ or worse then realist art? I don’t know. There is no objective arbiter in what constitutes value in artistic work. Art naturally reflects the bias in the culture and systems which support it.

      On the other hand, science is also a kind of art which is perhaps rapidly declining in popularity when compared the contemporary masterpieces of artwork such TLC’s “Honey Boo-Boo”. What makes science so wonderful is not so beauty, or inspiration, or artistic merit. But that science is a reflection of the fundamental truths in Nature.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Monkey–
    “there’s somehing rather insidious about telling creators that there are “things more important than money.” There’s this assumption that if you want to make a living off your art you are somehow making it less “pure,” which is nonsense.”

    I agree; that is nonsense. If you thought that I was saying that, please know that I wasn’t, and that I apologize for not being clearer.

    What I am saying is simply that there are numerous incentives for authors to create works which predate copyright and exist independently of it. Copyright only adds a single incentive to the mix: money made from exploiting exclusive rights pertaining to the work. Many works were made before copyright came along, due to the presence and sufficiency of the other incentives. Many works made since copyright took effect have had a diverse mix of incentives to thank for it, rather than just copyright. And in some cases, the other incentives are of greater effect than the incentive of copyright.

    I don’t have a problem with people wanting to make a living from their art. Of course, that’s no guarantee that any given author will actually be able to do so. Even with copyright, an author must create a work with commercial appeal, which is sufficiently good, which becomes sufficiently popular, and which is exploited properly. If your work is a flop, if it’s just bad, if it’s obscure, if you make a bad deal, you’re not going to make a living from it, and I’m not going to get too upset about it.

    But the goal of the public isn’t to help authors, it’s to enjoy the fruits of their labors: to get more works created, published, and in the public domain as fully and quickly as possible. If an author would create and publish a work even if copyright didn’t exist, for example (because of those other incentives), then that author doesn’t deserve a copyright. It would be a waste to give it to him. Better to save copyrights for when they’re necessary to produce an overall benefit for the public.

    “I’m game: what are those ways to make money?”

    Sale of artistic services. Sale of copies where provenance is of importance to the purchaser (as in the case of the fine arts). Patronage. Donations. Sale of copies with a first mover advantage. Sale of copies after exhausting a first mover advantage. Advertising. Merchandising.

    “And how will publishers finance their cultivation of new authors.if they have no means of profting from it?”

    I haven’t considered that question before, because I don’t really care. Publishing works and curating works only happened to come together because of limited publishing resources requiring publishers to curate. This is no longer a serious problem for most media. We have ebooks, the Internet, printing on demand of many types of copies. I don’t see why publishers need to have a curating function any more. Publish everything. If an author wants editorial services, marketing, etc., let the author pay for it; it’s not as though they don’t already, one way or another. If curators are still needed, there will be a market niche for them, probably as independent entities.

    “Those movies you mentioned employed lots of real people, who probably love their work but do deserve to get paid, and I see no way they will if we throw out copyright. ”

    Well, since virtually none of them are paid points from the movie, we can expect that almost all of those real people were paid salaries, or hourly wages, or flat fees, long before the movie went to the theater. Or perhaps they made a bad deal, as some of the effects houses have been doing lately, but that’s their problem.

    What you’re concerned about is whether the investors will make money, some of which can then trickle down to the actual workers. I’m sure that it’s possible, and that it would be possible even if there were no copyright (though note that for my part I support copyright reform, not abolition). But the return on investment might be substantially less, justifying fewer workers to get the film made. Again, copyright is meant to get works created, published, and in the public domain; it’s not a jobs program. If you just want people to be employed, there are cheaper and better ways of doing that than copyright.

    “It’s too big a price to pay for somebody getting to use Mickey Mouse any way they want.”

    As I see it, modern copyright law comes at too high a price merely to prevent anyone from using Mickey Mouse. Some amount of copyright law might be okay, but I think we’ve got way too much of it at the moment.

  9. monkey says:

    “Sale of artistic services. Sale of copies where provenance is of importance to the purchaser (as in the case of the fine arts). Patronage. Donations. Sale of copies with a first mover advantage. Sale of copies after exhausting a first mover advantage. Advertising. Merchandising.”

    Of course – no new answers. Patronage controls expression much mire than copyright, as does advertising, and merchandising is meaningless except for the most mainstream material. I don’t want a Thomas Pynchon t shirt, nor do I want to give him charity.

    “And how will publishers finance their cultivation of new authors.if they have no means of profting from it?”

    “I haven’t considered that question before, because I don’t really care. Publishing works and curating works only happened to come together because of limited publishing resources requiring publishers to curate. This is no longer a serious problem for most media. We have ebooks, the Internet, printing on demand of many types of copies. I don’t see why publishers need to have a curating function any more. Publish everything. If an author wants editorial services, marketing, etc., let the author pay for it; it’s not as though they don’t already, one way or another. If curators are still needed, there will be a market niche for them, probably as independent entities.”

    That will not just affect publishers. It will effect countless industries which depend on selling copyrighted works.

    It will also result in nobody getting heard, because they will be drowned out.


    Well, since virtually none of them are paid points from the movie, we can expect that almost all of those real people were paid salaries, or hourly wages, or flat fees, long before the movie went to the theater. Or perhaps they made a bad deal, as some of the effects houses have been doing lately, but that’s their problem.”

    Again, you’re missing the bigger picture. If movies cannot make a profit through conventional means, no one will invest in them.

  10. monkey says:

    “I don’t have a problem with people wanting to make a living from their art. Of course, that’s no guarantee that any given author will actually be able to do so. Even with copyright, an author must create a work with commercial appeal, which is sufficiently good, which becomes sufficiently popular, and which is exploited properly. If your work is a flop, if it’s just bad, if it’s obscure, if you make a bad deal, you’re not going to make a living from it, and I’m not going to get too upset about it.”

    And that’s how sales of copyright work.nobody is saying that bad art be financed. However, when demand is enough that done people are making money off of pirating this material, it is shameful that the creators are not getting anything.

    “But the goal of the public isn’t to help authors, it’s to enjoy the fruits of their labors: to get more works created, published, and in the public domain as fully and quickly as possible. If an author would create and publish a work even if copyright didn’t exist, for example (because of those other incentives), then that author doesn’t deserve a copyright. It would be a waste to give it to him. Better to save copyrights for when they’re necessary to produce an overall benefit for the public.”

    Wow. Do you only work for the public good?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Monkey–
    “My original point was that publishers truly don’t give a rats ass about copyright; printing more stuff without having to pay an author would be ideal for publishers.”

    And yet if that were true, why do major publishers always seem to be in favor of having copyright, and indeed of having more copyright? Your hypothesis doesn’t seem to explain the facts on the ground. A sensible person, seeing that, would discard it, and look for a better explanation.

    It’s not hard to find a better one. The long RMS post above touched on it. A copyright is a monopoly. It’s both a very small, and yet a very broad monopoly. It’s small, because it only applies to a particular work; it’s broad, because it applies to a lot of different ways in which that work might be used.

    If you’re a publisher, you get authors to assign or exclusively license their works to you, giving the monopoly to you. You get to exploit it in exchange for some compensation to the author — and the author is pretty certainly getting the worst of the deal, or else you, the publisher, probably would not have agreed to it. After all, you’re in this to make money, and there are traditionally many more authors than there are publishers. Authors literally come knocking at your door, and commonly suffer rejection after rejection before they find a publisher willing to take them, if they ever do.

    Why would you want to lose a monopoly? To print works that you don’t get the proper right to print? If getting that means having no copyright, how do you get an edge over literally every other publisher, who would have the same right? You’d all be on an even playing field, which is anathema.

    The idea is that by assembling the best group of works, and having a monopoly to keep others out, the publisher can make money publishing. It’s like playing poker — you want the best hand. If everyone is allowed to pick their own cards, and two players can have the same card, everyone will have a royal flush.

    Same reason why publishers liked the stationer’s copyright — they certainly didn’t care about paying authors, it just provided some structure to the industry so that different publishers could stake out dibs on various works and compete on the basis of which work was popular, rather than who could simply sell copies of the same thing the fastest.

    “if copyright goes”

    Well, very few people are pursuing that. I think you’ll find more interest in reforming copyright than in abolishing it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Monkey–
    “Of course – no new answers.”

    You wanted a new answer? Copyright is over 300 years old, and is an obvious relative of the famed Venetian patent statute, which is over 500 years old. There’s nothing new under the sun.

    “Patronage controls expression much mire than copyright”

    I disagree, actually. Remember, copyrights don’t actually have inherent monetary value. The actual money comes from exploiting the copyright and selling copies to the market. If the work is unpopular, the copyright will be a monopoly on bupkis. If the work is popular, only then is the copyright valuable. So really, the market controls expression under copyright, if making money from copyright is your goal.

    The difference between a patron and the market then is simply how many people your work has to be popular with, and how much each of them is willing to pay. If you get 10 patrons, each of whom is willing to pay a 10th, each of them will exert somewhat less control. What about 100 patrons? Or 1,000? When you hit 10,000, you’re now looking at a respectable print run. Patronage is a continuum, and the normal copyright model is just more toward one end of it. It’s still the same sort of thing, and if you fail to appease your fans, you’ll lose them, and there goes your profitability. Honestly, it might even be harder than having just the one patron who can more easily make their wishes known for what they want to see you do next. (Unless you value your artistic freedom more than money, in which case, you can do whatever you want — you just won’t make money at it)

    The old name for group patronage was the subscription — the author and publisher would line up many little patrons, each with accordingly relatively little influence, and then make sure to give them a nice copy from the first run, with their name listed prominently in the front matter somewhere. You still see it all the time today — theater and art groups thank their donors all the time in playbills, and with plaques next to the entrance, and such.

    The new name for it is apparently Kickstarter. Like I said, nothing new under the sun.

    “I don’t want a Thomas Pynchon t shirt”

    I’d buy a Thomas Pynchon action figure.

    Besides, if an author wants to sell merchandise, that should be up to them. Bands seem to be interested in it, movies sell posters (and more if they’re toyetic) and I’ve seen a surprising number of fine artists who sell t-shirts too.

    “nor do I want to give him charity”

    What, you’re a tightwad or something? Again, quite a few artists are willing to take money this way. If they’re willing to, who are we to stop them? Unlike copyright, it’s entirely consensual and doesn’t harm anyone.

    “That will not just affect publishers. It will effect countless industries which depend on selling copyrighted works.”

    Oh no! How will countless industries survive if they have to react to changes in the marketplace and related legislation? After all, adapting, or being replaced by better-suited newcomers is a thing that never happens.

    “It will also result in nobody getting heard, because they will be drowned out.”

    Bullshit. We’re not like the donkey that starved because it was equidistant between two stacks of hay and couldn’t decide. There are innumerable books on Amazon, not to mention far more than any one person is likely to ever read just in an ordinary local bookstore. There are innumerable videos on YouTube, and innumerable web pages on the Internet. There are hundreds of TV channels all playing different shows constantly, of which you can only watch one at time. People find out about plenty of these things somehow.

    If you need your hand held, fine, but don’t go assuming that the rest of us do.

    “If movies cannot make a profit through conventional means, no one will invest in them.”

    No, if movies cannot make a profit, investments will change until they can do so, if they can do so at all. What this probably means is investing far less. Disney blew almost $400 million on their crappy Lone Ranger movie last year, between the actual budget and advertising. This isn’t surprising; the only thing that movie studios seem to be willing to try anymore is the big gamble on blockbusters. They’ve gotten stuck in that business model by chasing profits. If they find a better alternative — like making more, smaller movies, for far, far less — they’ll change to that.

    Movies are popular enough that someone will always invest in them. They may be lower budget, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

    “nobody is saying that bad art be financed.”

    Bad art gets financing all the time. Sometimes they get it. Most works — even most published works — are crap, after all.

    “However, when demand is enough that done people are making money off of pirating this material, it is shameful that the creators are not getting anything.”

    I don’t see the relevance of that to this discussion. I know I haven’t been defending commercial infringement. And much as you’re interested in copyright abolition, I’m not interested in that at all, so long as copyright seems like a viable idea. I like copyright, just not so much of it as we have now.

    “Wow. Do you only work for the public good?”

    I’d certainly like to think so!

    The point is that copyright is a serious restriction on the public. I don’t mind being taxed, if the taxes are being spent on things the government should be doing: defense, infrastructure, education, public works, useful government officials, etc. On the other hand, if my taxes were simply being funneled to the already-wealthy contributors to the party in the majority, I’d be pissed off, and rightly so.

    I don’t mind restrictions on my liberty, if they’re for a good enough reason, and actually accomplish something: a speed limit on a road is okay if it prevents accidents caused by driving too fast, or regulations on food to keep people from getting sick, or regulations on pollution so that we can all keep living on this planet.

    If copyright serves the public good, it is worth having. If not, it is a restriction on our liberty, meant to subsidize private people at the expense of the public, and has no excuse for existing. I think that it can serve the public good, but we need to make sure that it is well-tailored to best serve it. Certainly many interested parties just see it as a way to make money, public be damned. We’ve got to protect it from them, and frequently, those parties are publishers and authors.

    As for my part, my profession is heavily regulated for the public good, and I don’t have a problem with that.

    • monkey says:

      “What, you’re a tightwad or something? Again, quite a few artists are willing to take money this way. If they’re willing to, who are we to stop them? Unlike copyright, it’s entirely consensual and doesn’t harm anyone.”

      Fine. Let’s not pay lawyers for their work but just give them a handout.
      Begging for money is demoralizing, it takes up time and it makes you beholden to your patrons. It is not a way to encourage free speech.

      Th“That will not just affect publishers. It will effect countless industries which depend on selling copyrighted works.”

      Oh no! How will countless industries survive if they have to react to changes in the marketplace and related legislation? After all, adapting, or being replaced by better-suited newcomers is a thing that never happens.”

      The trouble is that the “better-suited newcomers” these days almost always either employ less people or pay those they do employ less.
      This is not a hypothetical for me. I have not had anything published in a long while but my job depends heavily on copyrighted works. To get rid of that (and don’t be coy, that’s what a hell of a lot of people are trying to do) would be devastating to many people.

      Movies are popular enough that someone will always invest in them. They may be lower budget, but there’s nothing wrong with that.”

      Tell that to indie producers who find that their work is often the most pirated.

      “I don’t see the relevance of that to this discussion. I know I haven’t been defending commercial infringement. And much as you’re interested in copyright abolition, I’m not interested in that at all, so long as copyright seems like a viable idea. I like copyright, just not so much of it as we have now.”

      That is of paramount relevance to the discussion, as long as people define Fair Use as “once it’s public (or even before it is) I can do whatever the hell I want with it, including make money off ot it.”

      If the people who are fighting for the right to sample want my support they have to do one simple thing: denounce piracy.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Monkey–
    “Let’s not pay lawyers for their work”

    So you missed the part where I pointed out that one way for authors to make money was to sell artistic services. I sell legal services, and it works for me. The plumber down the street sells plumbing services, and he makes a good living. Lots of people do it. Even a lot of artists — such as most of the ones who make the movies you were talking about earlier — sell their services as artistic workers, rather than exploiting copyrights.

    “Begging for money is demoralizing, it takes up time and it makes you beholden to your patrons.”

    And that’s exactly how the publishing industry works. If you want your work published by a real publisher (not a vanity press, or through self-publishing) you have to beg one of them, functioning as a patron, to publish your work. They are likely to reject it. They are likely to impose editorial control over it, if they don’t reject it, demanding changes on the pain of not publishing it, perhaps choosing the title of the work, and how it will be marketed, etc. Authors are no less beholden to their publishers than they would be to a patron. Money always talks, I’m afraid.

    “It is not a way to encourage free speech.”

    Copyright is already opposed to free speech. But this isn’t about copyright so much as it is about mere funding. We could encourage far more free speech than copyright does if we just gave out helicopter money. But that strategy has some downsides to it.

    “The trouble is that the “better-suited newcomers” these days almost always either employ less people or pay those they do employ less.”

    Copyright is not a jobs program either. If you want artistic jobs, we should vote for legislators who support WPA-style jobs programs. Copyright works in conjunction with the free market, and the market likes to cut costs by employing fewer people who can work more efficiently to accommodate that. Computers and robots are killing jobs left and right, even in the arts. It takes far fewer people to put a book together now. Movies can be made on bigger scales without hiring substantially more people, or on smaller but still viable scales with teeny tiny crews. And this trend will only continue.

    “To get rid of that (and don’t be coy, that’s what a hell of a lot of people are trying to do)”

    No, I really do think that there are few people interested in abolition. These are my circles, and I think I have a good sense of it. There is mainly an interest in having copyright not restrict private persons, who aren’t acting commercially; very few people would have a problem with copyright continuing to apply against businesses, or commercial actors, however.

    Your attitude is like the red scare or something. A Bircher might think that everyone on the left is a baby-eating godless communist, and not realize that there’s a big difference between a northern European socialist and Stalin.

    “Tell that to indie producers who find that their work is often the most pirated.”

    I literally do not even believe that. Piracy has actually been criticized frequently for generally following the popular trends. People pirate the same big action movie dreck that plays on thousands of screens nationwide, or top 40 pop that’s constantly on the radio. There is not much piracy of works which are unpopular precisely because they are unpopular. The Internet is good at building connections between people, so there certainly may be a community of pirates who share independently produced works with one another, but it’s always going to be quite small compared to the community that trades cams of the number one box office hit. Cory Doctorow had it right when he said that obscurity is a bigger problem than piracy.

    “as long as people define Fair Use as “once it’s public (or even before it is) I can do whatever the hell I want with it, including make money off ot it”

    Well, fair use does allow for making money from what would otherwise be infringing uses, under the right circumstances. But again, I think that most pirates would be happy to just be able to do what they want with it works, even if making money from them was prohibited, forcing them to operate at a loss. This is my impression from many years of informal study of pirates, anyway.

    In the specific case of sampling, however, I think that the bigger issue is transactional costs; a compulsory license in the statute would probably solve the problem nicely, as it has done for the mechanical license. Make it really easy for people who might want to act legitimately to do so. And don’t demand perfect enforcement; only bother with infringers who are worth going after.

  14. monkey says:

    “It is not a way to encourage free speech.”

    Copyright is already opposed to free speech. But this isn’t about copyright so much as it is about mere funding. We could encourage far more free speech than copyright does if we just gave out helicopter money. But that strategy has some downsides to it.”

    I’m sorry, I don’t accept that. Piracy is not protected speech.

    “The trouble is that the “better-suited newcomers” these days almost always either employ less people or pay those they do employ less.”

    Copyright is not a jobs program either. If you want artistic jobs, we should vote for legislators who support WPA-style jobs programs. Copyright works in conjunction with the free market, and the market likes to cut costs by employing fewer people who can work more efficiently to accommodate that. Computers and robots are killing jobs left and right, even in the arts. It takes far fewer people to put a book together now. Movies can be made on bigger scales without hiring substantially more people, or on smaller but still viable scales with teeny tiny crews. And this trend will only continue.”

    I’m not saying it is a jobs program. It’s a protocol for getting people fairly compensated for their work, and having some semblance of control over it.
    Nobody is asking for handouts. They just want to be paid for their work.
    The idea that technology is some kind of “trend” that we have no control over is deeply anti-human. Technology is not the weather. We can do something about it.

    “To get rid of that (and don’t be coy, that’s what a hell of a lot of people are trying to do)”

    No, I really do think that there are few people interested in abolition. These are my circles, and I think I have a good sense of it. There is mainly an interest in having copyright not restrict private persons, who aren’t acting commercially; very few people would have a problem with copyright continuing to apply against businesses, or commercial actors, however.”

    Then you clearly are not reading the comments on this blog, or Techdirt,, or anywhere else.

    “I literally do not even believe that. Piracy has actually been criticized frequently for generally following the popular trends. People pirate the same big action movie dreck that plays on thousands of screens nationwide, or top 40 pop that’s constantly on the radio. There is not much piracy of works which are unpopular precisely because they are unpopular. The Internet is good at building connections between people, so there certainly may be a community of pirates who share independently produced works with one another, but it’s always going to be quite small compared to the community that trades cams of the number one box office hit. Cory Doctorow had it right when he said that obscurity is a bigger problem than piracy.”

    There is a link on the side to an indepedent producer who has said quite plainly that her work has been pirated.

    • M says:

      I only support copyright in areas where it doesn’t conflict with civil rights. Copyright enforcement must work without monitoring people’s communications, without taking down entire websites based on the alleged behavior of its users, and without short circuiting due process (takedown requests that don’t come from a court). If you can’t enforce copyright without these things, you don’t deserve a copyright.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Monkey–
    “Piracy is not protected speech.”

    I didn’t say it was protected speech.

    It’s protected speech when I reprint a work which is in the public domain. It’s protected speech when I have a copyright or authorization from someone who does, or when the copyright is not applicable. It would be protected speech if there were no copyright law.

    Copyright is an infringement of free speech — which is the natural right that we all possess, and which the government has chipped away at in various respects, leaving us only with a subset known as protected speech. Just like laws against libel or obscenity. Or like how in the past, the Supreme Court didn’t think that motion pictures could be protected speech. While I certainly see the appeal in an absolute ban on any restriction of speech by the government, I am willing to allow some small infringements on free speech for important public purposes. But I’m not going to forget that they are infringements, and that they are automatically suspect and dangerous. And I certainly wouldn’t tolerate it if it didn’t actually serve an important purpose well, while being as lenient as possible.

    “It’s a protocol for getting people fairly compensated for their work”

    You’re assuming there will be compensation. These comments I’ve been leaving here are apparently copyrighted; where’s my check? Copyright doesn’t ensure compensation, it only funnels money toward the copyright holder if there’s any to begin with. And it’s freely assignable, so it’s also entirely possible for authors to make bad deals that don’t fairly compensate them.

    What copyright actually is, is a method to promote the progress of science by encouraging authors to create and publish more works than they otherwise would, and to have those works enter the public domain as fully and rapidly as possible, so that they can be of the most use to society. That it happens to involve benefits for authors is merely a means to an end, not substantially different than dangling a carrot in front of a donkey to get it to pull a cart to market.

    “The idea that technology is some kind of “trend” that we have no control over is deeply anti-human. Technology is not the weather. We can do something about it.”

    Well hopefully what we do about it is to encourage the use of technology to do work without as much, or ideally any, human involvement. I’m all about taking care of people who are out of work, but I see no reason to create busy work or to wallow in inefficient and often inhumane drudgery. Let machines do the work, and let all of us enjoy the benefits of it.

    “Then you clearly are not reading the comments on this blog, or Techdirt,, or anywhere else.”

    There are only a few regular posters here who seem to want less copyright, and only one of them AFAIR thinks it ought to be abolished. Not a good sample size, though. Techdirt, and some other places I can think of mostly seem okay with some amount of copyright, just a lot less than we currently have. There are a few voices calling for abolition, but a lot of that appears to just be caused from total exasperation with a system that is disconnected from informed public opinion, and which appears to be basically corrupt. Reform copyright enough, and keep it there, and you’ll find few people remaining who want it abolished out of some sort of principle. (And often then it’s still just a matter of opinion; I want copyright reform because I think it can provide an overall public benefit, but I would support abolition if I thought that it could not possibly be beneficial to society. Some of the abolitionists follow the same reasoning, they just differ as to whether it can be a benefit or not)

    “Tell that to indie producers who find that their work is often the most pirated.”

    “There is a link on the side to an indepedent producer who has said quite plainly that her work has been pirated.”

    Ah-ah-ah — You said indie producers’ work is often the most pirated. Now you say there is one indie producer who you can point to as a victim of piracy. Since that must be ‘most’ pirated from your earlier statement, do you mean to tell me that there is basically no one else suffering from piracy?

    My objection to your facially absurd claim that indie producers suffer piracy more than anyone else was that mainstream works get pirated far more often. I stand by that, and you still haven’t shown otherwise.

    • monkey says:

      You’re right, I should not have said “most pirated.”

      However, they are pirated, and it hurts them just as much if not more. I wrote in response to your claim that since big budget movies are the most pirated, we’ll just get lower budget movies. Guess what? They’ll still get pirated. artists are told to sell their stuff directly to their fans and the fans will buy it. They still get pirated.

      The thing about not being guaranteed compensation – if people want it, and others are making money off it and paying the creators nothing, that’s not good. Period,

      I’m done.

      • David Newhoff says:

        Anonymous, your obvious expertise in the law itself is tainted in your comments for your obvious disdain for certain entities. And that would be fine except that your policy positions lead out of the frying pan and into the fire. You may hate big-budget motion pictures and the people who make them (I may even agree with you on a case-by-case basis), but you imply that piracy will somehow level the market and perhaps help foster a spate of more sensibly budgeted (and perhaps better quality) films. Skipping the lecture on the economics of making a film, piracy is about popularity. And Monkey is right that whatever is most popular within the context of whatever market exists will be the most pirated, assuming piracy is still a thing. Meanwhile, the market you want to foster, a market without copyrights, is one that serves up creative workers to even fewer and even more powerful corporate interests than all the Hollywood studios or publishers you may revile.

      • John Warr says:

        [Meanwhile, the market you want to foster, a market without copyrights, is one that serves up creative workers to even fewer and even more powerful corporate interests]

        I think that is the goal.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Monkey–
    “They’ll still get pirated.”

    Yes. But by risking less, they’ll suffer the effects of piracy less. And since not everyone pirates, revenues might outweigh the author’s and publisher’s costs, allowing them to profit despite piracy. While that might not be absolutely ideal, it’s probably good enough.

    “The thing about not being guaranteed compensation – if people want it, and others are making money off it and paying the creators nothing, that’s not good. Period,”

    Well, as a general rule, I’d agree that third parties shouldn’t be profiting from a work all by themselves. But there are exceptions. Fair use can permit this under some circumstances (e.g. selling copies of unauthorized parodies), and first sale is entirely designed to allow for commercial resale and rental without so much as a penny going back to the creator. I think you’d have a hard time convincing people that their beloved neighborhood used book stores are not good, period.

    David–
    “tainted in your comments for your obvious disdain for certain entities”

    I don’t feel that I possess disdain for various entities, just for certain positions. For example, when the MPAA files an amicus in Kirtsaeng claiming that first sale doesn’t apply to copies manufactured outside of the US, I am disdainful of that argument. But when they confine themselves to issuing movie ratings, I don’t have any animus against them. (Well, at least if they issued the ratings fairly, which they apparently don’t)

    “You may hate big-budget motion pictures and the people who make them”

    I don’t. I enjoy the spectacle as much as anyone, I suppose. What I’ve been saying, when I say that people shouldn’t make them, is that if they cannot be made profitably given that people will pirate them, I would prefer to see lower budget films made, which can still make a profit, rather than go after widespread but non-commercial piracy. As I said above, and before, you don’t need a big budget to make an entertaining movie, but you may need a low budget to make a profitable movie, and that where less risk is involved, it also permits for more experimentation, which probably isn’t a bad thing.

    “And Monkey is right that whatever is most popular within the context of whatever market exists will be the most pirated, assuming piracy is still a thing. ”

    I think that that’s what I said, actually. But it’s not the fact of piracy which is harmful. It might be offensive, but it’s not inherently harmful. It’s the lost revenue that’s harmful. And that’s just as harmful, whether it comes from being an unpopular movie that no one goes to see, or whether it comes from being a popular movie that no one pays to go to see.

    I have no problem with going after commercial pirates, and I doubt that piracy would ever totally displace any and all forms of a willing, paying audience for a work. But by risking less, if there is a loss, it can be better tolerated.

    “Meanwhile, the market you want to foster, a market without copyrights”

    Once again, let me point out, I like the idea of copyrights, and I think that we ought to have some level of copyrights. I am not in favor of abolishing copyrights unless there is literally no better option. Wanting less restrictive copyright law is not the same as wanting no copyrights at all. I find it rather strange that so many people in the opposite camp regard any kind of reform as total abolition. Are you all really so incapable of seeing that there could be any kind of position in between those extremes?

    “one that serves up creative workers to even fewer and even more powerful corporate interests than all the Hollywood studios or publishers you may revile.”

    I don’t think so. But if it were a problem, know that I also support antitrust law, and I’d have no qualms with breaking up or regulating misbehaving powerful corporate interests or even those that threatened to misbehave. Which brings us full circle, I think. ASCAP, as one of the three (and back in the day, the only) performing rights organizations, was quite powerful and misbehaved against not only other businesses but against its own members. For this, it deserves to be regulated, in order to protect the market. It has been found liable for breaking the law, it has consented to such regulation, and the regulation has worked splendidly for decades to keep both sides in business. There’s no reason to get rid of it, and if the current details are not ideal from the perspective of one of the sides, they’re free to make their case as to why and how to change it. As far as I can tell, that they’re calling to get rid of it indicates that they have no case.

    John Warr–
    “I think that is the goal.”

    Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but my goal as far as copyright reform goes, is to maximize the realization of the public interest. Outside of a few broad rules, I don’t really care how it’s accomplished, and I don’t see why I would. Disempowering authors is no better or worse than empowering them, in my book. The ends are what’s important, and Eldred tells us that there are few constraints on the means.

    • AudioNomics says:

      anon says ” Yes. But by risking less, they’ll suffer the effects of piracy less. ”

      That is such bullshit. The indie stuff is usually SELF funded to a large extent. People mortgaging their homes, begging and borrowing to get the money it takes to create… their market is smaller, their margins miniscule. Piracy hurts the low budget stuff the hardest. It’s not speculators/investors money on the line, but the future of the artist. And guess what, these are the folk that may never attempt it again if there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
      Piracy hurts the little guy most. If your goal is to get rid of the major players, piracy isn’t the way to do so.

    • M says:

      I agree, it’s about the public interest in the end of day. In fact, today, we have the technology to provide something like the entire Library of Congress (except larger, more accessible and useful) in your back pocket. It’s only copyright that prevents this from happening. There is one area where it is the public interest to have access to more published works, and copyright remains the biggest obstacle to providing the sum of human knowledge and culture to all of humanity.

      There is the argument that people don’t deserve access to knowledge and culture. It’s a privilege, not a right. Perhaps. But there is just something inherently horrible about that viewpoint. But it might be “legitimate” viewpoint, it’s not something I could ever accept in full conscious.

      But there are things that are unambiguously rights in the free world. Copyright enforcement threatens that. Because how do you counter private copying without interfering with people’s private lives? Nobody seems to have an answer to copyright infringement that is both effective and doesn’t pervert basic ideas of justice.

      So they speak about how do we fund the arts? As is that is the most important question in the Universe. It’s not. But the answer is simple: anything but copyright. Copyright fails on so many levels, it perhaps the worst known solution to this problem. Surely there is a better way.

  17. Anonymous says:

    AudioNomics–
    “People mortgaging their homes, begging and borrowing to get the money it takes to create… their market is smaller, their margins miniscule. Piracy hurts the low budget stuff the hardest.”

    Well, there’s the idea of risking less in absolute terms, and then there’s risking less in relative terms. You’re talking about literally betting the farm — that’s not a small risk in relative terms. Even if all piracy stopped tomorrow, that would still be an astonishingly huge risk for someone to take, even if in absolute terms it’s only a few tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    I would say not to do it, regardless of piracy. Even without piracy, few works ever make any kind of profit. Of course, like many lawyers, I’m risk-averse. And I recognize that many authors are risk-seeking. It’s up to them if that’s what they want to do, but it’s ridiculous to rig the odds in their favor at public expense. When you go out onto the high wire without a safety net, it’s on you if you fall.

    “If your goal is to get rid of the major players, piracy isn’t the way to do so.”

    My goal is not to get rid of anyone. My goal is to see the largest number of works created and published and in the public domain as quickly and fully as possible. I think that if we reduced copyright substantially, in certain respects — reduced, not eliminated — that more works would be created, published and in the public domain sooner and more fully, than happens at present.

    I don’t pander to authors or publishers, but don’t confuse that with hostility.

    M–
    “Because how do you counter private copying without interfering with people’s private lives? Nobody seems to have an answer to copyright infringement that is both effective and doesn’t pervert basic ideas of justice.”

    Well, the solution, of course, is to not interfere with private copying, and to treat copyright as a regulation on commercial use. Of course, I think there ought to be a bright line drawn: any tip jars, any donations, any merchandise, any advertising, any sharing ratios, any paid membership, any corporate entities, any revenue of any kind — that would be commercial. I don’t see a problem with piracy that operates entirely at a loss to the participants. Copyright can still exist while allowing that, and I think it still can be useful for funding the arts.

    • M says:

      That is a bit like, going back to how copyright was. It wasn’t a regulation on private activity, but the activity of businesses, and even that, only a subset of businesses that possessed the ability to do large scale copying.

      But as long as copyright exists, in the world of networked computers, there will be this urge to apply it to the whole population. With the enforcement of course necessitating mass monitoring, auditing, heavy handed take downs or other such intrusions that was perhaps permissible against printers and publishers, but now to be applied to every individual on the planet.

      We can think of different kinds of economics to encourage content creation, ones that do not attempt to restrict dissemination as a foundational aspect. I can not support copyright because as long as the idea is alive, no matter how narrow it is, so will all the actions of copyright enforcement naturally follow. They are a consequence of copyright, which is not a useful system in a world where nearly all of mankind has the ability to copy and share information without much of a natural limit.

      • James_J says:

        “That is a bit like, going back to how copyright was. It wasn’t a regulation on private activity, but the activity of businesses, and even that, only a subset of businesses that possessed the ability to do large scale copying.”

        Umm… when we’re talking about fighting piracy, we are not talking about individuals (no matter how many times it gets said, you still don’t get it..) but the facilitators. Going after individuals was abandoned a decade ago, get with the times..

        “With the enforcement of course necessitating mass monitoring, auditing, heavy handed take downs or other such intrusions…”

        Bullshit, Bullshit, Bullshit.
        Please, get real. If just for one post.
        If i or you or the rest of the entire internet can ‘see’ the file, so can law enforcement. There’s no “monitoring” needed. No “deep packet inspection” or whatever the people that do your thinking for you say. That goes for encryption as well… if you can’t see the file to begin with, it doesn’t matter how it’s delivered…
        And how the fuck is a ‘take down’ an “intrusion”? The “intrusion” happens when my property rights are violated by organized mafioso’s.. the general public is just the pawn in the middle. Wake the fuck UP!

    • James_J says:

      Annonymous wrote: “I would say not to do it, regardless of piracy”

      and in the next breath: “My goal is to see the largest number of works created and published…”

      “And I recognize that many authors are risk-seeking. It’s up to them if that’s what they want to do, but it’s ridiculous to rig the odds in their favor at public expense.”

      Who’s in favor of “rigging odds”? We just want a fair shot, and to be compensated when our product/service/property is consumed… The “rigging of odds” actually happens in the form of piracy. You’re telling the little guy not to even try, as he will not see any return whatsoever even if his efforts are consumed… this does not foster “more works”.

      ALL artists start out “indie”. You are just cutting out the next generation of entertainers. Actors, writers, producers, performers, etc, all cut their teeth and hone their craft during the ‘indie’ phase of their careers. If they get unduly discouraged or go broke (unfairly, by way of getting robbed…) they are likely to hang it up all together.. this does not foster “more works”.

      If investors don’t get their money back, let alone profit, they will not fund future works… this does not foster “more works”.

      If the market continues the way it has been going without drastic intervention, there won’t be “more works”, at least none that anyone would want to see. Look, i like cat videos as much as the next person, but i don’t think that should be high bar of quality entertainment out there, and that’s where we are headed.

  18. Anonymous says:

    James J–
    “Umm… when we’re talking about fighting piracy, we are not talking about individuals (no matter how many times it gets said, you still don’t get it..) but the facilitators. Going after individuals was abandoned a decade ago, get with the times..”

    The statute hasn’t changed; individuals are still liable for piracy. Individuals are suffering collateral attacks (e.g. at the ISP level, in the form of DRM). And if it’s alright for individuals to pirate, why should it not be alright for individuals to facilitate piracy by other individuals, provided that it’s not done commercially?

    As it happens, going after individual infringers was not only not dropped a decade ago — the suits against Tenenbaum and Thomas-Rasset are far more recent than that, and were never dismissed by the plaintiffs — but is still going on to this day. But the reason that major plaintiffs, such as RIAA and MPAA aren’t currently pursuing it is due to tactical legal issues. It costs more than it’s worth, and it has no substantially useful effect. There is already a movement afoot to change how infringement is litigated to reduce the burden on plaintiffs, which is pretty clearly intended to see a resurgence in lawsuits against individual pirates.

    “There’s no “monitoring” needed.”

    I think that what M is talking about is similar to the stop and frisk regime from New York City, or red light cameras; the mere act of looking is a form of mass monitoring. Just imagine the outcry if the government required cars to rat out their drivers whenever the speed limit was exceeded. Perfect enforcement of the law has never happened in our society. We’ve always expected that wrongdoing would need to be obvious without being looked for, or would require some sort of reasonable suspicion to justify looking.

    “We just want a fair shot, and to be compensated when our product/service/property is consumed…”

    You’re not necessarily entitled to compensation now. I can borrow a book from the library and the author gets no additional compensation from my having read it; I can sell a used book, and lawfully refuse to send the author a single red cent.

    Nor is copyright meant to be fair. Please re-read the copyright clause: there’s no mention of fairness in there; only the promotion of progress of science.

    I have no problem with authors getting compensation, or even in having copyright laws that help authors in that respect, but copyright is appropriate only if, and only to the extent that, it serves the public interest. Whether that happens to be unfair, fair, generous, or whatever, is of no concern to me.

    “You’re telling the little guy not to even try, as he will not see any return whatsoever even if his efforts are consumed… this does not foster “more works”.”

    Even with copyright, the ‘little guy’ usually does not see any return anyway, certainly not that would justify having created a work as opposed to some other alternative. The vast majority of works have no economic value at all. Of the tiny minority that do, the vast majority of those tend to have very little. Only a handful of works, by a handful of authors, are worth enough to justify their creation. But authors tend to be overly optimistic, and we wind up with a lot more of them than the market can support. That’s okay, since it means more works. So I don’t believe that they won’t try. It’s like playing the lottery; millions of people lose every day, but they still try, irrational as it is. Authors won’t walk away if there’s still enough copyright, which I suspect is a lot less than the amount we currently have. Maybe they won’t walk away period, but unlike authors, I’m cautious.

    “If investors don’t get their money back, let alone profit, they will not fund future works… this does not foster “more works”.”

    Again, most works are financial flops. The way the system currently works is that investors spread their money around, hoping that they’ll luck into one or two hits, the profits from which will cover the losses from the rest. This model has held true since before copyright existed. Reducing copyright, without abolishing it, will certainly not jeopardize it. At most, it will cause the payoff from a successful work to be less, resulting in the investment to be less. It won’t change the number of works substantially, however, since it’s still important to spread the money around to maximize the chances of success. So instead, the budget per work will drop, is all. That’s not harmful.

    Again drawing the easy comparison to the lottery, it’s the difference between buying a hundred tickets at $10 each, or at $1 each; If you expected the payout to be about the same either way, you’d go with the cheaper tickets.

    “there won’t be “more works”, at least none that anyone would want to see.”

    Sorry, but quality is not copyright’s department. All that matters is quantity, and the restrictions suffered by the public. Quality is subjective, and not appropriate for government policy to concern itself with. But if it helps, remember that there’s usually a stable ratio of quality works to the overall number of works. Actual production values aren’t too important, though. Shakespeare did good work with an outdoors stage, no artificial lighting, no sets, minimal props and costumes, and not enough actors to play every part without doubling or tripling roles. If the new Star Wars movies require us to use our imaginations a bit more, it’s not the end of the world. People will still go to see it, or they’ll try to make something themselves. Art will not die out because we shortened terms or allowed more copying. It never has before.

    • AudioNomics says:

      “The statute hasn’t changed; individuals are still liable for piracy. Individuals are suffering collateral attacks (e.g. at the ISP level, in the form of DRM). And if it’s alright for individuals to pirate, why should it not be alright for individuals to facilitate piracy by other individuals, provided that it’s not done commercially?”

      James made no mention of it being “ok” to pirate, just that M acts like he’s being persecuted.

      “I think that what M is talking about is similar to the stop and frisk regime from New York City, or red light cameras; the mere act of looking is a form of mass monitoring.”

      ROFL, you think you’re being monitored, wait, wait.. get this, BECAUSE OF COPYRIGHT? wtf dream world are you living on? This is so preposterous, it deserves zero response, and should file under ‘troll’ heading.

      “Again drawing the easy comparison to the lottery..”

      I’m going to say this, and you should listen closely .. it is important:
      NO person would play the lotto if you did away with the prize.

      Let me say that again.. NO ONE would play the lottery if there wasn’t a prize at stake. Think about that….

      Now, with that said, im most concerned with the people in the middle.. the middle class of artists if you will. that’s where most of us live. The superstars wil be fine (unless you get your hand on them… and take away the dream for all newcomers).

  19. riozen says:

    I love this “complex” topic and actually been involved in copyright law revisions in D.C. over the years. Here is an article I submitted to the Library of Congress recently, a modest proposal for “A Digital Content Solution.” I think you might find it of interest: https://medium.com/mixed-media/a-digital-content-solution-f96af612d25b

    • M says:

      Excellent article, by the way. The hurdles to such a system is naturally that the ISPs won’t go for it. Worse yet the content industry is too married to copyright, and delusional about state of the modern world to make good business decisions. I do think the world will eventually converge to such a system though, because it’s one of the few things that can possibly work.

      • riozen says:

        Thank you for your thoughts and I agree about the hurdles. So, my next paper will be on the Political Strategy to make it happen. I have been involved in politics fro many years and there is a way. It involves the Common Carrier Law and the war among tech giants…

      • riozen says:

        Thank you!

  20. Anonymous says:

    AudioNomics–
    “James made no mention of it being “ok” to pirate”

    No, but he did say in response to the idea that infringement ought to be limited so as not to apply to individuals, that in practice, this was already the case. If it’s not being pursued, the message is certainly that it’s okay. I’d rather hear a clarification of his position from him, than from either of us, though.

    “ROFL, you think you’re being monitored, wait, wait.. get this, BECAUSE OF COPYRIGHT?”

    Well, it’s known that there is some monitoring going on now; notices from ISPs don’t come out of nowhere. And it’s known that there is a great deal of monitoring going on for other reasons, such as all the nefarious stuff the NSA does. We know that NSA shares with other entities, sometimes instructing them to disguise the actual origins of the information. I’d be surprised if there hadn’t at least been a quiet request made by some copyright group for access to some NSA data, even if it had been denied.

    Whatever the reason for suspicionless spying, it’s wrong.

    “NO person would play the lotto if you did away with the prize”

    No one should play the lotto at all; the odds are terrible. That said, if the prize still existed, but was smaller, there’d still be people playing it. The NGC could tell all the casinos in Vegas that they were only allowed to have penny slots, and there’d still be people gambling.

    Copyright isn’t the only ‘prize’ for authors. Sometimes, it’s not the biggest one, sometimes it’s of negligible value. Reducing it wouldn’t have a substantially detrimental effect. Even abolishing it, though I think that would be going too far, would not result in every author refusing to create works. If that were true, we’d see it in history; we don’t, QED.

    “Now, with that said, im most concerned with the people in the middle.. the middle class of artists if you will.”

    That’s fine for you. I’m only concerned with the public, myself.

    riozen–
    Given all the bitching around here about the ASCAP consent decree the other day, I have to say that I don’t see a universal compulsory blanket license flying, though I have seen others suggest it as well. I’d also disagree that ISPs have been freeloading; a lot of the data that crosses through them is already perfectly well licensed or in the public domain. I don’t think you know as much about the mechanics of the Internet as you think you do, either, based on your article.

    Still, it’s good to brainstorm about this stuff. Keep at it!

    • John Warr says:

      The main snoopers out there are the ones profiting from the weakening of copyright. The NSA may indeed profile people that they think may be terrorists or whatever, but mostly they contract that stuff out to private organisations that are are profiling you for insurance companies, or to sell you shit.

    • riozen says:

      Dear Anon, Do you collect royalties? Have you collected any from Time Warner? Comcast? Google, Yahoo? I await your reply as you obviously missed my point by a mile…

  21. James_J says:

    anonymous wrote: “No, but he did say in response to the idea that infringement ought to be limited so as not to apply to individuals, that in practice, this was already the case. If it’s not being pursued, the message is certainly that it’s okay. I’d rather hear a clarification of his position from him, than from either of us, though.”

    I said NO such thing. Funny how you read a hell of a lot into the simple statement i made. I said that individuals aren’t being targeted, and you go on to say i said piracy was OK? WTF
    And i didn’t say that it should be “limited so as not to apply to individuals”.. where did i say that?

    Please, please, go stroke M’s keyboard, as you are certainly not one of MY allies. In fact, with the amount of typing you do here, why don’t you start your own blog and just give us the link. OK?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Riozen–
    Well, why don’t you state more clearly what it is that you think ought to be done? Apparently I didn’t get your point from reading your article.

    James_J–
    “I said that individuals aren’t being targeted, and you go on to say i said piracy was OK?”

    You said that individuals were not being targeted for infringement suits, that such suits had been abandoned a decade ago (although neither of those things is actually true). And you said that in response to where I suggested that it would be sensible to reduce the scope of copyright so that it no longer applied as a limitation to what individuals could do. I took that to mean that you support the general idea of copyright not being used against individuals, but that de jure reform isn’t needed since it is the de facto situation.

    If you’re saying that this is an aberration, and that individual pirates are currently being let off the hook, but should be liable, only then are you saying that individual piracy is not okay, but then your earlier comment that individuals don’t face liability is meaningless in context. You can’t have it both ways.

    I take it then that the latter is the correct interpretation: you don’t think that individuals should be free from liability, which implies that you don’t agree that lawsuits against individuals should be dropped. I stand by my position that this is unacceptable; the law should be changed so that it doesn’t limit what individuals do non-commercially. That there are few cases pending against individuals is irrelevant; plaintiffs could easily flood the system with litigation at any time, copyright is so easily, and so universally infringed. Reform, rather than the good graces of diverse plaintiffs, is the only reasonable option.

    “why don’t you start your own blog”

    Never had any interest in it.

    • David Newhoff says:

      I’ve only had time to follow this discussion between James and Anonymous out of the corner of an eye, but here’s my two cents. The major industry players (e.g. the RIAA) are not going to go after specific users for piracy if for no other reason than it is a very bad PR move. This should not be misconstrued as sending a message that piracy is okay because it isn’t. And with regard to motivations and actions being taken by major industry players, there is and will continue to be an effort to educated users as to why piracy is not okay. Cases like Tennenbaum are different. He was given several opportunities to settle, but he and his high-profile attorney Charles Nesson have chosen to challenge the principle and the law itself, which is certainly their right; and some may even agree with their position. But having chosen that path, they leave the plaintiffs no choice other than to pursue their claim very vigorously or concede a precedent-setting case that would indeed say that piracy is fine and even legal. Even then, last time I saw a story about Tennenbaum, he still wasn’t facing the maximum possible fines, though they’re certainly big.

      To Riozen, I’m sorry that I haven’t had time to properly read your article.

      • M says:

        I’ve only had time to follow this discussion between James and Anonymous out of the corner of an eye, but here’s my two cents. The major industry players (e.g. the RIAA) are not going to go after specific users for piracy if for no other reason than it is a very bad PR move.

        But because it’s still possible under copyright, other entities are doing it. Notably porn companies. They usually pick content to sue people with with especially embarrassing titles. They’ll send out settlement letters to many thousands of people of people asking for $2000-3000 settlement. Even if they have no case, embarrassment of being sued for possessing gay/fetish porn is enough to get most people to pay up.

      • AudioNomics says:

        So you’ve been sued by a porn company, M? Or did you just settle?

  23. Pingback: Is Transparency Even Possible Anymore? - The Illusion of MoreThe Illusion of More

Join the discussion.