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Lessig Spins Copyright Law 279

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the stuff-to-read dept.
ceebABC writes "In the always riveting CIO Insight magazine, tech-pundit (and professor) Lawrence Lessig examines the copyright laws and how they can be applied to e-books and other electronic forms of rights management... i.e., in today's world, the author doesn't receive a royalty everytime someone reads a book from the library. Will they in the future?"
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Lessig Spins Copyright Law

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  • I want to know! Mickey needs to be free.
  • What is more likely, (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    a micropayment each time you open the ebook file. Judging what a 'read' consists of otherwise would be too difficult, until you computer starts reading (pun) your retina for ID.
    • but then there is the trend (especially in PDA style devices) to keep files open between user sessions on the device. As memory expands the systems will be capable of doing more and more at once and background process management may become intelligent enough to keep an entire library in an 'open but dormant' state.
      We may end up requiring a micropayment every time the application gets focus...
    • The problem is, what exactly constitues an open? A file open? A read from memory? A sleep cycle? A power off/power on cycle? A pause of reading over X minutes of time?

      This sticks of something else: the ruling that called a read from a hard drive to memory a 'copy'.

      I feel that this is one point where the analogy between physical and digital breaks down...

  • by Maul (83993) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:03PM (#4876807) Journal
    in today's world, the author doesn't receive a royalty everytime someone reads a book from the library. Will they in the future?

    The ultimate goal of most publishers is likely to be pay-per-read. In other words, royalties for the PUBLISHER. The author might recieve 0.00000001% of this, or something like that, if they are lucky.
    • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot.castlesteelstone@us> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:16PM (#4876893) Homepage Journal
      The ultimate goal of most publishers is likely to be pay-per-read. In other words, royalties for the PUBLISHER. The author might recieve 0.00000001% of this, or something like that, if they are lucky.

      The publishers are out of luck if they want to kill an author's percentage.

      For most, it's contractually set at a certain rate (whole percantage points of the gross sale), and the publisher making MORE money only means more money for the author.

      Last numbers I heard had an author's royalties at somewhere between 1% and 5%. And the big names--those that bring in the massive ammounts of sales that keep publishers in busienss--certainly won't sell their already-done-and-anyone-can-print-it books for less than this.
    • The author owns the copyright initially. If he chooses a contract where he gets 0.00000001% royalty per read, he does so freely. Why are you complaining about the publisher making all the money. The contract was entereed into by both entities freely. If the publisher wasn't necessary, it wouldn't be in the equation. Obviously, the publisher plays some key role in selling books.
    • If the author doens't like the publishers terms, he can always put the work on a web site and sell adverts.

      I'd think that already popular authors could make a killing doing this. And up and coming authors shouldn't find it too difficult to make at least some money out of the deal.

      Imagine a smart guy opening storydot.org where an author can post a chapter of his story at a time. Instead of sections about apple, linux, and M$, you could have a section for each book.

      I really cannot see what, exactly, publishers do these days besides exploiting 99.9% of the authors out there just to pay Oprah to reccomend 0.1% on her show.
  • Library Royalties (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:04PM (#4876813)
    I certainly hope that authors in the future don't recieve royalties for public library readers.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be anti-copyright here, Authors should definitely recieve royalties - just not from a public library that my tax dollars went to fund.

    Just my 2 cents.
    • Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be anti-copyright here, Authors should definitely recieve royalties - just not from a public library that my tax dollars went to fund.

      They do, chuckwhite. Unless the author donated the book, they get a cut of the sale to the library.

      That is, after all, why your tax dollars are paying something to the library. So it can get new books.

      Actually, in the future I think it'd be grand if authors got a little bit of money (a few pennies) everytime someone outside their family checks out one of their books that was still copywritten. Cut out the middleman, streamline the publishing biz, and keep the economic incentive for authors to keep writing things people want to read.

      Hmm... if a book costs $5 to get on the library shelves and the author gets $0.25 from each read, once it's been read twenty times they make pure profit... and that could even be paid for out of the pockets of the readers without too much trouble.
    • by Dialithis (33532) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:24PM (#4876946)
      Clearly, an exact duplicate of the existing system with pay-per-read royalties wouldn't work. But what if this hypothetical library can "buy" books for 1/10 of the current price in electronic form, but pay a small amount for each reading?

      Small libraries would suddenly be able to have millions of available volumes, and users of the library will have far more choice than before. The tradeoff would be that money previously spent in acquiring actual paper and storing it would be spent in paying for an equivalent amount of "electronic publishing" or use fees.

      I don't think this sounds so terrible.
      • Re:Library Royalties (Score:2, Informative)

        by Pepebuho (167300)
        Sorry but I do not agree to this.
        By doing this, you are creating a new right, a new business model whereby Libraries, which do not currently pay anything beyond the initial purchase price for the book, now have to pay the equivalent to a licensing fee for the books it owns. This is a rotten deal, because even if at the beginning it is 1/10, it will eventually go up to 1/1.
        If we combine this with the forever extended copyright, then we have the equivalent of Stallman's short story. I'd rather have libraries pay full price on initial purchase so that everyone can read for free forever.
    • by Schlemphfer (556732) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:37PM (#4877034) Homepage

      Authors should definitely recieve royalties - just not from a public library that my tax dollars went to fund.


      I'm an author, and I don't object at all to my books ending up on library shelves. When it happens, it means I'm probably "relieved" of 97% of my royalty for each time the book is read -- given that I suppose the average library book is checked out 30 times. But I don't care that this is such a bad deal for me, since I think it's great that people are reading my book.


      But I bristle at your notion that libraries ought to be entitled to distribute recently created copyrighted works, with no compensation whatsoever to the author. On what basis do you feel that government should essentially engage in intellectual theft?


      I'm trying to understand your point of view, but I can't make any sense of it. It seems totally selfish and poorly thought out.

      • What if the library could insure that only one active copy could be in use at a time, with active copies set to expire within a period of time. (To avoid the problem of "overdue" ebooks.)

        The library would retain a dormant copy that couldn't be used to generate another active copy until the active copy was "checked in" or expired?

        This might also work for an ebookstore, except the ebooks wouldn't expire, and the store would have to order more "stock".

        This is just off the top of my head. The technology would be a problem.

        • What if the library could insure that only one active copy could be in use at a time, with active copies set to expire within a period of time.

          This sounds like trying to make "ebooks" emulate the limitations of physical books.
          Something like being always able to issue time limited copies of a book at all times would make more sense. No need to handle returns or reservations, since the book is always available. Together with the "master copy" being protected against being misshelved, mutilated or stolen.
      • I forget exactly how the economics work in their complicated ways, but usually the people who use the library wouldn't buy the book anyway. Upon reading/falling in love with your book, however, this can change.

        You're now guaranteed 1/30 of the sales on these people who wouldn't have bought your book if the library didn't exist, through the purchase by the library, and there's sales for x% of these readers after they read your book, and want to have a copy forever.

        Economics is really convoluted, but if we all knew how it works, all our material wants would be close to satisfied. It's also a shame how contemporary society seems to treat artists/writers/whatevers. It seems like all my friends who have their art/social degrees have little hope at financial success.

        Good luck with the authoring business. No sarcasm intended.
      • First off, everybody is an author, so think that gives you some high ground. It is implied in your post that you are published, well good job, that is very difficult, anf\d might give you some validity if the discussion was about getting published, but it is not.

        Do you have even the slightest clue what libraries are for?

        Libraries are necessary to promote reading as a whole, and often provide an outlet for people who could not, or would not, otherwise purchase a book.

        Our tax dollars go to getting and maintain those books. If not our tax dollars, then someones money goes to buying those books. The courts have ruled many times that copyright does not mean you can exclude people from lending/giving a book the have purchased.

        I got shocking news for you, My friends and I often exchange books we have read because we don't/can't buy everything we want.

      • by SETIGuy (33768) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @11:11PM (#4877810) Homepage
        But I bristle at your notion that libraries ought to be entitled to distribute recently created copyrighted works, with no compensation whatsoever to the author. On what basis do you feel that government should essentially engage in intellectual theft?

        Sorry to point this out, but... At least in the US, copyright is an artifice created by govenment. The government gives you a monopoly on distribution of you books under the assumption that it is in the public interest for you to have that monopoly. Should the government wish to modify the terms of that monopoly, or eliminate it entirely, it is certainly within the powers granted to the Congress to do so, so long as the public interest is served. This would not be theft, because "intellectual property" is not really property. It only exists in this country by act of Congress.

        The only purpose for copyright law is to serve the public interest by promoting the "useful arts and sciences." That you can also use it to make money is a side effect. The assumption that the side effect is the purpose seems to me to be "selfish and poorly thought out."

        The question with the Eldred case is whether the Congress has passed copyright laws that are no longer in the public interest, and are therefore unconstitutional.

        • beautifully written - thanks for expressing the facts so cogently

          p.s. i'd skip the opening sorry next time :)
        • At least in the US, copyright is an artifice created by govenment. The government gives you a monopoly on distribution of you books under the assumption that it is in the public interest for you to have that monopoly.

          The original idea was to encourage writing and publication. Rather than to provide lifelong income, pension and even life insurance.

          Should the government wish to modify the terms of that monopoly, or eliminate it entirely, it is certainly within the powers granted to the Congress to do so, so long as the public interest is served.

          The US Constitution empowers the US Congress to pass legislation for copyrights, patents and similar. But it does not oblige such legislation. Whilst the US may have treaty obligations with the rest of the world concerning copyright the US government breaks treaties for reasons considerably more trivial than conflicting with the US Consitution.

          The only purpose for copyright law is to serve the public interest by promoting the "useful arts and sciences." That you can also use it to make money is a side effect.

          The possibility of making money is held out as an incentive to encourage people to write and publish. Regardless of the kind of work or the media involved.

          The assumption that the side effect is the purpose seems to me to be "selfish and poorly thought out."

          It's also a "radical interpretation of the text".
    • I certainly hope that authors in the future don't recieve royalties for public library readers.

      They already do. There is a world outside of the US, you know.

      Simon
  • No, they won't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:09PM (#4876850) Homepage Journal
    in today's world, the author doesn't receive a royalty everytime someone reads a book from the library. Will they in the future?

    Nope. This was tried with new-fangled technology - the pay-per-view DVDs. It failed because folks aren't (quite) that dumb.

    If you think that folks will 'buy that' for the written word - a technology that has been around for a long time, you're a fool. Hell, folks won't even buy e-books that they can re-read.
    • Re:No, they won't. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SN74S181 (581549)
      The 'pay per view DVDs' that you say 'failed' was, I presume, that DIVX scheme by Circuit City?

      You are talking about one commercial attempt, a number of years before most people had DVD players, by a single commercial outlet.

      It's shortsighted to say 'it failed.' That particular scheme failed. Who's to say a scheme that isn't single-vendor and 'leading edge' would fail?

      It's tiresome seeing people use Circuit City's DIVX disaster as a definitive textbook case showing people won't pay per view.
      • It's shortsighted to say 'it failed.'

        OK, I just had to laugh at that statement. I think it's historically obvious that it failed. What's more, I think it was foolish for anyone to think it would not fail.

        That particular scheme failed. Who's to say a scheme that isn't single-vendor and 'leading edge' would fail?

        Me. Kurt Werle. I say it will fail. Go ahead, quote me. I haven't even heard of it yet, and I still say it will fail. By rights, that makes me a fool, but I'll wager money that I'm a fool who is right.

        I can't think of any consumer product where you purchase the right/ability to do something once and then pay for it again - not one that you take home. That's why we rent movies. We'll eventually do pay-per-view (and some do now), but we won't have to buy the material to do it - we'll download or just play on demand. There is a difference.

        Finally, I don't believe this will ever work for books. They are too variable from a vender standpoint - no telling how long it will take one person to read it, nor whether they'll want to start over half way through, etc. Reading is the only medium I can think of whose speed is still dictated entirely by the consumer.
  • by SoCalChris (573049) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:10PM (#4876857) Journal
    He's got good points about if you have a book now, you can loan it to friends or borrow it from the library without any troubles.

    The problem is, that before eBooks, you couldn't "loan" your copy of the book to 10,000 of your friends on Kazaa.

    There are some interesting ideas in there, but I don't think his ideas are the answer. They are a good start though.
    • by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:35PM (#4877028) Homepage
      The problem is, that before eBooks, you couldn't "loan" your copy of the book to 10,000 of your friends on Kazaa.

      And things were better before eBooks and Kazaa how?

      Also, are things better now that we have made a dramatic leap in information transfer technology, but are restricted from using the new tech because it makes the old tech (and everybody who profited from the old tech) obsolete?

      See, I might even accept the restrictions on use of new tech--If it were part of a well-reasoned, long-term plan to phase in the new tech without destabilizing the economy, spiking the unemployment rate, or creating a whole new area of ethical/legal conundrums that we haven't really had any time to think about or address.

      Since that's obviously not the reason the old tech is being preserved (nor will it ever be, probably), I say fuck it: release the hounds and go for broke.

      • If I write something, and the law says you don't have the write to copy it without my permission, I don't care if you copy it electronically or by hand, it's still illegal. No one did it by hand before because it was too troublesome. Now that technology makes it easy, people assume they have a right to do it, and actually go so far as to say DRM is wrong because it infringes on their rights. The arguements are flawed because they assume consumer rights that don't exist and reject laws on the books regarding copyright. In short, just because technology makes something easy, it doesn't make it right to use this technology, or blackmail copyright holders into lowering their prices with the threat or stealing it if they don't
        • by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @11:21PM (#4877855)

          If I write something, and the law says you don't have the write to copy it without my permission,

          Assuming that no written contract is in play and also that I have a legally obtained copy, I can copy it with impunity. I just can't redistribute the copies, nor can I retain them if I sell my original copy. Copyright governs distribution only. Further, copies made as a part of normal use are explicitly permitted.

          As far as DRM goes, my objection is that it does infringe on my rights. Specifically, I am explicitly allowed to quote from a work and do various other things under copyright law. DRM and the DMCA straightjacket that comes with it prevent me from doing these things at the whim of whoever controls the DRM and makes it a felony to circumvent the restriction. It makes what are effectively legal judgements without the necessary insight to apply the law correctly. It also ventures into the realm of perfect enforcement, something which runs counter to our system of law.

    • Scalability (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MacAndrew (463832)
      Everyone realizes that not everything is scalable; what works on a certain scale may not on another.

      Libraries are a wonderful institution that doubtlessly cut into the income of those who produce the books. More importantly (to me) they are repositories of books that are out of print and can't easily be located. Older books doubtless stimulate interest in buying newer ones. In the very earliest days, of course, few could afford books at all.

      The thing is, electonic distribution blows up the apple cart. It's just too easy. And I worry it will somehow fundamentally change a system that we have grown used to over many decades. Just because the library system is familiar and effective doesn't mean that scaling it to the Web will work. It will be wonderful for the user, but the producer? In fact, in could be a disaster, save the current reality that reading books on a computer just isn't like a real book.
    • He did not re-evaluate the purpose of copyright law and the deal made to acheive that purpose. People keep mentioning the fact that you can make coppies of information cheaply and easily as if that were bad. Far from it. Copyright and patent laws exist to further the useful arts and the public domain. They do so by prohibiting others from exploiting work for a period of years, then 14 for copyright. At that time publishing was much more expensive, yet 14 years of exclusivity was seen as adequate incentive for publishers. So now that anyone can share information and publish, why do we need exclusivity? So that Disney can keep Mickey Mouse movies to themselves? Much more important works will rot in obscurity while Mickey generates cash for amusement park owners. Copyright needs to be evaluated from the perspective of it's purpose. New technology, which should and is obsoleting many large publishers, is also being perverted to artificailly make infomation imobile, as if it were confined to dead trees or vinyl that had to be trucked from central warehouses. To parphrase Bill Clinton, who signed the DMCA into law, Just because it's easy and profitable to hoard information, does not make it right.
      • People keep mentioning the fact that you can make coppies of information cheaply and easily as if that were bad.

        Thing is that the existing publishing and distribution companies want to in effect have their cake and eat it". They want to be able to use advances in technology to increase their profit margins, whilst producing something which emulates the difficulty of copying of older media.

        Copyright and patent laws exist to further the useful arts and the public domain. They do so by prohibiting others from exploiting work for a period of years, then 14 for copyright. At that time publishing was much more expensive, yet 14 years of exclusivity was seen as adequate incentive for publishers. So now that anyone can share information and publish, why do we need exclusivity?

        Possibly the real question is "do we still need third party publishers?" even if we do do we need the same ones we have now?

        So that Disney can keep Mickey Mouse movies to themselves? Much more important works will rot in obscurity while Mickey generates cash for amusement park owners.

        For books we have "copyright libraries" who's original purpose was to hold every book published, so that when copyrights expired you could be sure that there was at least one place you could find a copy. These libraries now have a problem that they simply cannot store books currently being published for up to a century and a half. Even though with such long copyright terms it's more important, for future generations, that they do. Such archiving only applies to books (possibly some other printed documents) not to music recordings, film, television, computer programs, etc. (even though some of these may be more important to future historians than books).
  • There isn't... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kaxman (466911)
    ...a whole lot to say, since I basically agree with him. In fact, the very idea that anyone with a T1 can create and publish content makes me very very happy. I never like the way the original creators of material seem to get less than what they deserve. Authors less so than musicians, but hopefully (ever so hopefully) that is changing. I envision massive user-run blogs of cool content released by independent people, filtered from among the other inevitable cruft and lifted from obscurity simply by the scouring power of billions of people. It could be cool.
  • by LinuxParanoid (64467) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:11PM (#4876862) Homepage Journal
    What happens when I get my artificially enhanced memory modules in 2025? Will the DMCA dictate what kind of memories I can have? Will media distributors discriminate against me as a buyer since I can play back my memories whenever I want?

    --LinuxParanoid, only somewhat tongue in cheek
  • Next up... (Score:4, Funny)

    by wray (59341) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:11PM (#4876863)
    copyrighting popups, and extracting a royalty for everytime someone "reads" one...

  • Why Should they? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arakon (97351) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:11PM (#4876866) Homepage
    Do I collect money every time someone walks across my yard? I'm a big supporter of the "Pay for it once" philosophy. If I buy a book, its mine, I can loan it to whoever I want. The idea can remain the writer's or whoever came up with it and copyrigted it, but the book is mine. I'm pretty sure that a "book" , as in a collection of paper with words on it, cannot be copyrighted, so as long as I don't make money off of it, how is it violating copyright if I let someone else "see" (I'm not talking about copying the book, just one copy). As I see it anything printed on paper can be seen by anyone, and read by anyone because it exsists on prior art.

    We never had to pay an author before for trading in a book, why should the model change now? Content should be paid for once. Continual payment to use it is just crap.
    • I'm pretty sure that a "book" , as in a collection of paper with words on it, cannot be copyrighted, so as long as I don't make money off of it, how is it violating copyright if I let someone else "see" (I'm not talking about copying the book, just one copy)

      The book is protected by copyright law, which is interpreted by judges. There ARE thigns you can do with a book (cut out the prints and sell them seperately) that don't involve making copies but are still copyright violations.

      We never had to pay an author before for trading in a book, why should the model change now? Content should be paid for once. Continual payment to use it is just crap.

      The model used to be "one payment for one physical copy."

      Computers threaten to destory this model, so we have two options:

      * The "Pay per use" option
      * the "one payment for one person's use" option, which I'd prefer.

      If a book I write is read by a million people, and I get $.50 from each of those people, I've got $500,000 and can quit my job and go back to school, suddenly having more money from doing what I want to do and making a million people happy, and getting myself such funds that it could pay me my current salary for thirty years.

      I don't care if those million people buy a physical book, or just go into a database of "people who can read Planesdragon's book."

  • by fritz_269 (623858) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:16PM (#4876895)
    Why not have a short copyright term as the standard (say life + 10 years). But if a corporate entity wants to keep that copyright past that point, it would have to pay a substantial fixed fee plus some small royalties to the government (i.e. a tax on profits).

    This way, the list of long-term copyrights would be small, maintained in a single place, and thus easily searchable. There would be a financial disincentive in place to keep companies from locking up works unless they were actively making money. Companies are happy, museums are happy, the gov'ment is happy, and the internet is happy.

    • by MikeFM (12491) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:34PM (#4877017) Homepage Journal
      Forcing companies to have to renew copyrights every 5-10 years would help but you'd need some major incentives to keep them from just putting everything they roughly own on a list they automaticlly keep renewing. Possibly after the first 10 years the rate starts climbing exponetially. I still think there should be a reasonable limit. Possibly limit it to 15 years unless they release it under an opensource style license. ie a license that makes it available for free but forces those who modify it to release their works under the same license.

      I also think obfustication should make it impossible to get a copyright. If the work is made such that it blocks copying of that work such that it'll be hard for people to use/copy/modify when the copyright has expired then they should not be granted a copyright.
      • Forcing companies to have to renew copyrights every 5-10 years would help but you'd need some major incentives to keep them from just putting everything they roughly own on a list they automaticlly keep renewing. Possibly after the first 10 years the rate starts climbing exponetially.
        Makes a lot of sense. And I also figure that the first payment should be substantially high hurdle in order to force most stuff out quickly. But then perhaps it could double every 5 years or so?

      • by ottffssent (18387) on Friday December 13, 2002 @12:12AM (#4878046)
        You're almost right. Copyright exists to benefit the public by making incentives for producers to produce. Money is the incentive. When a producer is not making money on something, it should be released into the public domain. An easy way to effect this is as follows:

        The term of copyrights is 1 (one) year.
        The price of securing a 1 (one) year copyright is $1 (one dollar).
        One-year extensions to existing copyrights may be purchased.
        Each extension costs twice as much as the previous year's copyright.

        Suppose I create a story about widgets. I pay my $1 and nobody can sell my story but me. I sell my story 10 times for $100, so I figure it's worth $2 next year. Next year only 5 people want the story, and I get $50. I'm still ahead, so I renew for two more years, costing $12, and sell $20 worth of widget stories. Now, I can either pay $16 for another year, or I can let go of my copyright and see how many copies I can sell without copyright protection. Since my widget story has little value, it is released into the public domain quickly.

        Suppose Disney creates Mickey mouse. They also pay their $1. However, because they're Disney and can afford to do so, they buy 20 years of protection right off the bat. It costs them about $2million, which they make in a year. 19 years of profit - how sweet is that? Disney's still making millions a year off of Mickey, so they figure another year at $2m isn't bad. The 22nd year costs $4m, which is getting up near the break-even point. Soon Disney will release Mickey, continue using and making money from it, and will have benefitted the public good by letting the rest of us finally draw cute mice without getting sued by attack lawyers.

        The system is simple and effective. Producers are compensated for high-value inventions and are persuaded but not forced to release these inventions to the public. Individuals can also protect their works cheaply - 5 years costs under $50. Read Cringley's column today about treating IP as a fading asset, and it will become even more clear why this is a good way to solve the problem of copyright terms.
        • I like that except I'd make the first year free. Everyone deserves to copyright their work for at least that long, even if they can't spare the dollar to pay for it. Then the second year would be $2 and double every year after that.

          I would make some sort of copyleft exception. Anywork copylefted would be protected by the copyleft license forever. As a copyleft license benefits the public and not the originating author anyway there is no reason for it to expire or to charge a monopoly tax.
    • This is an interesting idea. As the copyright gets extended longer, the fees go up substantially. This would encourage companies to let go of copyrights that are no longer making money. For example, a film that was created 50 years ago but was still making boatloads of money could be kept copyrighted - for a price. A film made 10 years ago that never was all that popular or profitable could quickly get into the public domain.
    • What if independent authors can't afford the copyright tax? Large publishers and media companies (like Disney) always would. All that's going to do is tip the scales even further toward big media, and I've had quite enough of that already.
      • Independent authors can afford it if they sell well.
        Disney can afford it for stuff if it sells well.

        This is really not a matter of whether the corporation is large or small, but whether the material gives a good return on investment for the copyright fees.
      • What if independent authors can't afford the copyright tax?

        People who aren't willing to risk fifty bucks on a bad read just may find they like the author when they can read his work for free in the public domain increasing his chances for success on his subsequent works.

    • Why not have a short copyright term as the standard (say life + 10 years). But if a corporate entity wants to keep that copyright past that point, it would have to pay a substantial fixed fee plus some small royalties to the government (i.e. a tax on profits).

      Yeah, and for computer programs (however you define that), a condition for copyright beyond 2 years should be that the source code was kept in a public archive for release when copyright expires. "Life + 10 years" is too long though. 10 years of copyright should be plenty to ensure a steady production, so why go with more?

      Companies are happy, museums are happy...

      No, companies are not happy with these ideas. A corporation sees only the interest of its shareholders, and that is to keep as long and as finegrained control of their creations as possible. Economics 101. The question really is whether we as society should let them get away with that...
    • How about, they pay royalties to the people, in the form of price reductions and eventually public domain?
    • I like this idea a lot. The government supposedly represents the people so a royalty paid to the government for a continual monopoly on materials that would otherwise be property of the Public seems quite fair. It goes a long way toward solving the basic problem which Lessig pointed out that Congress continually extends the copyright term to protect the revenue of a tiny fraction of created materials which harms the public because we are then denied the other 98% which has no commercial value. Congress would certainly go on extending copyrights ad infinitum at the behest of those few wealthy contributors who benefit monetarily, yet We the People would at least receive much of what the Founding Fathers intended.

      Copyright is currently being used not just 'to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries'. The founders original term of 14 years plus an opportunity to renew for a 14 year extension would be ample for this purpose especially in today's world of "internet time" and "just-in-time" business practices. Instead long term copyright extensions are currently being used to promote the aggregation of wealth by copyright holders, not inventors, nor authors. Maybe this is not altogether such a bad thing but it is certainly not what the Contitution intended (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8) [cornell.edu] nor what the Copyright Act of 1790 [earlyamerica.com] enacted.

      Your suggestion seems to be a pragmatic compromise though I personally think the term should return to 14+14 rather than life+10 before royalties to the Public begin, and a Disney lawyer would certainly argue for much longer than even the life+70 or 95 we have now under the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act. However I fear the point at which royalties would begin would keep getting extended and the amount of the royalties would keep being reduced and the application for extensions would be made a trivial process until at some point decades in the future, we would have a situation where almost nothing enters the public domain. Of course that is already happening now so any change in the Public's favor is an improvement. Am I a realist or a cynic?

      • The founders original term of 14 years plus an opportunity to renew for a 14 year extension would be ample for this purpose especially in today's world of "internet time" and "just-in-time" business practices.

        There's a decent argument that modern business practices mean that 14 years is excessive. What publisher would continue to attempt to publish something which gave little or no return for 13 years 11 months?
    • An interesting idea. As a libertarian I don't really like taxes. But in some situations they make a heck of a lot of sense. This is one of those cases.

      Originally copyrights did have a payment (of sorts) to the public. In exchange for the copyright the author would publish the work, instead of keeping it secret under non-disclosure agreements. But that's laughable nowadays with century long terms and implicit contracts. A tax on copyrights restores the balance.

      There is a problem with the scheme however. It's the Berne Convention. What's to prevent an author from publishing his or her work in a nation that doesn't have a copyright tax? Would the Bahamas become a copyright haven as well?
      • There is a problem with the scheme however. It's the Berne Convention.

        Of course governments, especially the US government, never break treaties...

        What's to prevent an author from publishing his or her work in a nation that doesn't have a copyright tax?

        If they wanted their works imported into a country which had such a scheme they would have to pay import duties. Or maybe such a country would simply consider all their works public domain.
    • That's still damn long. How about 20 years, tops regardless of life. And maybe less for works that age more rapidly, e.g. software.
    • Why not have a short copyright term as the standard (say life + 10 years).

      Why have copyright linked to the author's lifespan in the first place? Does anyone know how copyright came to be author's life plus X years in the first place?
  • Sounds a lot like (Score:2, Informative)

    by Vladequacy (633590)
    that Lessig movie [randomfoo.net] everybody is always playing, which is far more easy to digest. It's in Flash so it works great in Windows. Lessig is the same author as the article by the way.
  • Franklin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Helpadingoatemybaby (629248) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:25PM (#4876954)
    If Franklin were alive today he'd never be allowed to start a "library." Just like then, it would be portrayed as a way to rip off authors -- but unlike then legislation can now be purchased to prevent these creations.

    Lessig brings up an excellent point that only 147 out of about 10000 books from the 20's are still in print. What happened to the rest of this knowledge? The rest of this creativity? It has been lost and forgotten.

    We were supposed to build our society on the shoulders of giants. Instead we've institutionally forgotten everything that came before us. It seems appropriate that our attention spans are now short enough not to notice what we've lost.

    Societally, we're only a step away from being the old lady in a flannel nighty that keeps wandering away from the old folks home.

    • Sorry, what are we talking about again?
    • Re:Franklin (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpe (36238)
      Lessig brings up an excellent point that only 147 out of about 10000 books from the 20's are still in print. What happened to the rest of this knowledge? The rest of this creativity? It has been lost and forgotten.

      Hopefully the rest of these books still exist in the various copyright libraries around the world. Which is less likely to be the case with the hundreds of thousands of out of print books published more recently.
      More disturbingly more modern media such as records, film, magnetic tape, etc do not have any kind of public archive. Thus are at even greater risk of rotting away before copyright expires on the content.
  • The Road to Tycho (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hanji (626246) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:26PM (#4876959)
    This story, which you all really should have read by now, depicts a world of copyright/DRM/Etc. laws to the extreme:
    The Right to Read [gnu.org]
    The scariest line definitely comes after:
    most of the specific laws and practices described above have already been proposed
    • So does "Melancholy Elephants" [baen.com] by Spider Robinson, which predicts the unavoidable consequence of perpetual copyright: eventually, every pleasing combination of n notes is owned by somebody. Copyrights become like land in that it's possible to own them but not create new ones.

      This is why Americans do not need copyright term extensions such as the Bono Act.

  • by Wraithlyn (133796) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:35PM (#4877024)
    I've always thought pay-per-use was a perfectly reasonable idea, as long as the usage fees were low enough.

    Imagine, you could build a vast library for free.. in fact, you wouldn't even NEED a personal library, because EVERYTHING would be available freely on the net.

    Then, you pay based on what you use. So, if you listen to the latest Britney song 1000 times, you owe her some cash. And why shouldn't you?? If you listen to the song that much, obviously you're enjoying it.

    If you grab a movie and only watch it once, you pay next to nothing. But if it becomes your all time favourite, and you watch it over and over again, you pay more money. It's totally fair.

    I know a lot of people would be opposed to this, because they want to pay a flat OWNERSHIP fee, and get infinite usage. But in the Internet connected world, where anything digitizable can be copied infinitely for near zero cost, I posit that the concept of ownership is obsolete. We have the capacity for everyone to own everything, in other words, and just pay for what they actually use.

    Speaking for myself, I have a library of hundreds of DVDs, which has cost thousands of dollars to build. If instead of purchasing copies, I could watch ANY movie I wanted for say, 50 cents, I imagine I would have seen a lot more movies, for a lot cheaper, than I would've by purchasing a personal library. And the number of times I've seen Aliens could probably fund Cameron's retirement. ;)

    Now of course, I'm not saying converting to such a system would be easy, or even possible right now. It would require universal, mandatory ID3 tags or equivalent, a ubiquitous micropayment infrastructure, and global co-operation of everyone who designs media playback mechanisms.
    • by chromatic (9471) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:44PM (#4877091) Homepage
      So, if you listen to the latest Britney song 1000 times, you owe her some cash. And why shouldn't you?? If you listen to the song that much, obviously you're enjoying it.

      Not necessarily -- you could just have a roommate or an officemate tuned to a ClearChannel station.

      • Good point, I'll rephrase: if you PLAY the latest Britney song 1000 times.
        • But let me ask you this:
          What are you paying for each time? Service? Can you call something service that involves nothing from the service provider? Surely not Ms. Spears service, she did her work in the studio. The publisher? Ditto. For the enjoyment of the music? Here we are going on very slippery slope. I sincerely hope that it never comes to that I will be charged every time when I listen to my favorite song. The very thought is giving me shivers. It is too close "The right to read" story.
          J.
    • Excellent Idea - and hopefully we'll get there sooner or later (preferably after we manage to get the rest of humanity to a point where they can benefit from this) but I can see it getting labeled as just another form of communism, though considering the way ms is going with their software as a service plan it may just slip under the radar of the ownership is everything radicals...
    • If I pick up a book in the library or bookstore, thumb through it, read a few random pages here and there, decide it's crap and put it back, I am not forced to buy the book.

      If I want to thumb thru an ebook (not just read the first page or first chapter) I'd be forced to license use of it first, unless you can think up some way to let me sample RANDOM pages in said ebook.

      And research could suddenly become VERY expensive, if you have to pay every time you access a work. Imagine having to pay each and every time you look up a word in a dictionary, and magnify that by whatever research one might do.

      I think I suddenly do not like this pay-per-use idea at all!!

    • The problem comes when you have a small enough pool of content providers (ie publishers) that they can act as a cartel, charging what they want for what they provide. The other problem is that unless the copyright term is reduced the big publishers will have a guaranteed, continuous revenue stream, allowing them to buy up the copyright titles to more and more of the available pool of content. I would like to suggest a couple of possible solutions.

      a) non-transferable copyright. Copyright belongs to the author(s) or their estates, unless the author is a true employee of a company (and an advance doesn't count)

      b) regulation of publishing. In the UK we have a number of industries that have been privatised over the past decade or so. They are largely involved in power, water, telecoms, transport etc. In order to control the former monopoly holders an industry regulator is apointed to ensure fair competition, who has the power to impose price caps (and limits) and ultimately to revoke licences to operate. For example, for years the former monopoly British Gas was forced to sell at a higher price than their competitors to try and attract customers towards the smaller companies. This shows that a powerful independant regulator with legal powers can benefit the public good. I know this may go against many /.rs libertarian/capitalist ideals, but I find that holding too strictly to principles and ideals in the face of contrary evidence just tends to add to the length of rope with which you will subsequently hang yourself.
  • How long... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quaoar (614366) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:35PM (#4877027)
    ...till I have to play "catch the monkey" in order to read the climax?
  • by NetDanzr (619387) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:38PM (#4877047)
    Did you know that even when you own a paper version of a book, it is illegal to download an electronic version of the book? The current copyright applies not only to the content (as it should; especially since copyright is supposed to promote advancement in arts), but also the format (which should be protected by patents, not copyright). As a consequence, under the copyright law you have to pay twice for the same book - the paper and the electronic version.
  • best line: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeffy124 (453342) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:45PM (#4877097) Homepage Journal
    Top of the third page:
    The purpose of copyright law is to create incentives that "promote...Progress." But extensions of copyright for works that already exist do not promote progress.

    Easily the best comment I've heard against Pro Bono for copyright terms.
    • HA !
      Pro Bono.
      Thats funny.

      'Cause its for free in Latin and we're talking about stuff thats not for free....
      and its a double meaning...
      and... he said against pro bono.. and.. its funny 'cause....

      ok... I stop before the hole Im digging gets any deaper : )

  • Copy rights (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:46PM (#4877102) Journal
    I read the actual copy right law as applied to print and recordings. It seems fairly straight forward.

    You buy a book. You own the book. You can sell the book. You can make copies of the book for personal use. If you sell the original, all the copies have to be destroyed, or go with the original. You can't sell copies with out the copy right holders permission. You can even loan the book, as long as the person you loan it to returns it and doesn't keep a copy.

    I can't understand why software is being treated in a different manner.

    Just my two cents.

    • Re:Copy rights (Score:3, Insightful)

      The reason is purely related to the ease of distribution software (and the net in general) grants even the most clueless of individuals.

      Before the current information age the act of duplicating a movie was a rather lengthy and technical one. I would either have to invest in a high speed copy system or a number of conventional recording machines and manually copy the tapes. I would have to purchase a physical item for each copy I made and the total copies I had available would never exceed the number I could afford to buy. This kind of operation is rather easy to detect once it reaches a certain scale (at least in the UK as recent news shows...) and requires a host of logistics and management to run smoothly.

      In todays world a 12 year old with a vid card and a broadband connection can distribute that file on a scale that physical transport cannot match. It only ever has to be copied once outside DRM controls (studios should be able to attest to how difficult it is to maintain 100% security all the time without fail ever) and everyone who wants it can have it - at almost zero cost to the copier (the main difference with digital copies - total costs scale logarithmically - the difference between 1k and 1m units tiny compared to the cost of an extra 999k tapes)

      Copyright law fails because they are trying to apply laws developed to control the production and distribution of physical objects to purely virtual ones that have none of the drawbacks that made the laws possible in the first place...

      Sorta reminds me of a Larry Niven story (Flash Crowd I think) about dealing with the crowd dynamics of a society where anywhere was a instant teleport away. A small disturbance can become a riot in as much time as it takes all the worst rioters to get there, a celebrity appearance becomes a crush as millions try to port into spaces designed for thousands - traditional laws and practices designed to control crowds are just hopelessly outmatched by the technology, they have to adapt to the tech landscape rather than trying to cripple the systems in favour of the laws...
      • Copyright law fails because they are trying to apply laws developed to control the production and distribution of physical objects to purely virtual ones that have none of the drawbacks that made the laws possible in the first place...

        Copyright laws were originally developed in response to the invention of the printing press. Previously the only way to duplicate books was one copy at a time, by hand. Whereas a printing press enables many copies to be produced at a cheap price per copy, but making a single copy is expensive. This new technology created a new business model, that of the publisher. The earliest copyright laws were in effect state licences to publishing companies. Similar business models were applied with the invention of records and film.
        What has now happened is that the media has become more or less irrelevent. But it was only the media, not copyright law, which stood in the way of "piracy" in the first place. Things started to come unstuck around 20 years ago. But instead of reconsidering their business model the publishing industry lobbied for stronger and longer copyright laws.
    • Because you left out two steps.

      First, that after a set period of time, the copyright expires, as is mandated by the Constitution, whereupon there are no limits on the uses to which it may be put, inclusive of modifying and copying.

      Second, that the copyright must benefit the public more than not having granted a copyright at all would have.

      If your software is released as binaries only, perhaps with a DRM system that requires your authorization per time it is run, when the term expires I _still_ cannot reasonably modify it, or use it, or make copies that will function, without your permission.

      If you're releasing software of that type, you do not deserve a copyright, because I will not ultimately be better off when the term expires, since I can't really do anything with it.

      Software isn't like a book, but copyright was founded on the assumption that creative works would be like books, or paintings, or other types of works known in 1789. If it isn't sufficiently similar, it shouldn't be eligible for copyrights unless it is 'fixed' to be more similar, e.g. by publishing the source (which couldn't be legally used until the work hit the public domain), or by shortening the term (since the usefulness of Win95 will be pretty minimal in 2090, but books will still be useful), or by prohibiting the commingling of copyrights and DRM (since they in effect prevent the entry of the work into the public domain)
  • I am drunk on irony (Score:5, Informative)

    by teamhasnoi (554944) <teamhasnoi@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:47PM (#4877110) Homepage Journal
    Disney happens to be one of the biggest miners of Public Domain works there is. Here is a very short list:

    Treasure Planet - Treasure Island (duh)
    Snow White - Grim
    Pinocchio - Grim
    Cinderella - Grim
    Peter Pan
    Sleeping Beauty - Grimm
    The Jungle Book - Kipling
    The Little Mermaid - Andersen
    Beauty and the Beast
    Alice in Wonderland - Carrol

    I may be wrong on the authors (from memory) but those are all books in the Public Domain that have been hijacked by Disney, and are aggressively defended by them.

    Funny.

    • by yerricde (125198) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @09:24PM (#4877290) Homepage Journal

      Pinocchio - Grim

      The Adventures of Pinocchio is not by the Grimm Bros. but rather by Carlo "Collodi" Lorenzini. You can read about Collodi [wikipedia.com], or read an English translation of Pinocchio [everything2.com].

      books in the Public Domain that have been hijacked by Disney, and are aggressively defended by them.

      The Walt Disney Company does not own the rights to the novel Pinocchio or to the name "Pinocchio". DisneyCo owns only the copyright on its film adaptation[1], including the likenesses of the characters as drawn by Disney animators, and has no grounds to prevent other publishers' film adaptations of the original novel [dvdplanet.com]. DisneyCo most definitely does not own the rights to "Noddy", a character created by Enid Blyton that may have been inspired by Pinocchio.

      The Jungle Book - Kipling

      Which exemplifies . No less than one year after The Jungle Book went PD in a major market, DisneyCo published a film adaptation. The company was obviously waiting for the copyright to run out. Now DisneyCo has closed the door behind itself by pushing copyright term extensions [pineight.com] through Congress.

      Peter Pan

      NOT IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN WORLDWIDE! The European Union recognizes a monopoly on literary works for the life of the last surviving author, plus the remainder of the calendar year, plus 70 years. Because J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, died in 1937, copyright in Peter Pan does not expire in the European Union until 2007, and DisneyCo has to pay GOSH a royalty for every Peter Pan and Return to Never Land disc sold in the EU. In fact, the United Kingdom has granted a statutory perpetual copyright [hmso.gov.uk] on the work, with royalties going to a children's hospital [gosh.org].

      [1] DisneyCo may lose even that if the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft happens to strike down the 1976 extension along with the Bono Act.

  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:53PM (#4877142)
    As someone who creates a lot of material that falls under the protection of copyright law I think it's time that other writers and publishers lighten up a little.

    I'm certainly not in favor of people being able to copy and republish or redistribute my work for free without my permission -- but I can't think of a single occasion when I've refused a request from someone who wished to do so.

    The only condition usually associated with the granting of such rights is a clear attribution.

    Of course if the NY Times comes knocking on my door asking to republish something I've written then I'll probably ask a fair fee for the privilege -- but when it's another not-for-profit website or there's a measure of public good then I simply grant a non-exclusive right to republish without charge.

    This usually works well for all concerned:

    * The republisher gets some good free content.
    * My work becomes more widely known
    * The general public has more access to my writing.

    In marketing terms, these free republication licenses are a loss-leader. What I lose (which is probably very little in cash terms) by giving away the content, I gain by being able to charge more for material that I write specifically for other publishers.

    What those who produce material protected by copyright have to appreciate is that just because you can enforce your rights to be paid for copying doesn't mean it's always a good idea to do so.

    I cringe every time I hear Microsoft, the RIAA or MPAA preach about how much money they've lost through unauthorized copying. How on earth do they know that those who copied their IP would have actually purchased it otherwise?
  • by infolib (618234) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @09:35PM (#4877327)
    I really think copyright has been turned up side down. All the arguments are about "content owners" "intellectual property" etc.

    Look at it this way for a moment (or the rest of your life):
    I have a CD with nice music. I have a CD burner. I have a blank CD. All of it is my property. Why should the law limit my freedom to copy the CD and give or sell it to a friend?

    All laws put restrictions on my freedom, but we need to justify these restrictions. The law says I can't hit you over the head and gives me back the security that you probably won't hit me over the head. It gives us as society the benefit that we don't need to wear helmets all the time.

    The answer to my opening question "Why can't I copy?" lies in the premise that my friend will purchase the music in a way that economically will encourage the musician to productivity. But only as far as this gives something back to society can we justify the restrictions copyright places on our freedom.

    [END OF RANT] (Well, preaching to the choir anyway)
  • These perpetual extensions of existing terms harm Internet growth...


    Sheesh! At the rate the Internet has grown over the past 5 years, Lord help us all if we didn't have term extensions acting as a brake to keep that growth manageable! ;-)

    Seriously, I agree with Lessig that there is useful content that needs to be public domain. I just thought the line above was funny.
  • The "artist" who is such a supreme being should be paid over and over, whereas the looser carpenter doesn't get a dime when people use the house he build over and over and over....
  • by putaro (235078) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @10:10PM (#4877520) Journal

    Lessig a good point in his article of how just about every digital use of information involves copying. Perhaps all of the craziness that we're going through is just a result of poor semantics. We've focused on "copying" because our term is "copyright". In reality, I think that what most reasonable people (MPAA & RIAA need not apply) could agree on is that we really want to protect and control the right to distribute. Is loaning a copy to a friend distribution? I think we can all agree no. Is "sharing" the file over Kazaa with 10,000 others distribution - well, I think the answer has to be yes. Copying from CD to MP3 is not distribution nor is making a backup copy or putting it on all the computers in your house.


    Lessig's main point is no less valid if we begin to talk about "distributionright", however - there needs to be a time limit and it can't be continually extended.

  • Before we start talking about "fair use" and the other assorted issues of paying for use, etc, lets look at the REASON copyright laws exist in the first place.

    Copyright laws are made to prevent others from publishing copyrighted material and making $$ off that copyrighted material, i.e., it's to prevent the sale of a creative work in which none of that $$ goes to the creator of that work. This isn't about money they would have made but aren't making. This isn't about "fair use" or "unlimited use" or "restricted use" at all. This is about preventing other people from stealing your work and making money off it. As far as I know, KaZaA isn't charging me to download e-books or mp3s. As far as I know, I'm not paying someone to read a book they transcribed into text and posted on their website in HTML format. A third party is not profitting from the sale of another person's intellectual property without that individual getting royalties.

    I think online publishing of material is great; it allows amateur authors, musicians, etc to get much more exposure than they would in traditional media. Additionally, it allows for many more alternative opinions and ideas to be expressed because publishing is not based on the demand for a book but rather the author's desire to publish it. In the paper book world where most publishers are looking for New York Times Bestseller books, you get very little good literature. I'm sorry, but I'd prefer to read less popular authors who I find interesting rather than the newest hackjob of a book by Stephen King, Michael Crichton, etc. Online publishing allows for a diversity of ideas you don't get when the stakes are as big as they are in paper publishing.

    In other words, Adobe and the DCMA and the MPAA can take their opinions, sit on them, and rotate.
  • 1001000 1101001

    Is covered by an entire set of special restrictive laws compared to this:

    **** **

    and this:

    Hi

    When the only difference between them is *the font*?

    KFG
  • by kfg (145172) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @11:25PM (#4877880)
    libraries will only be distributing pulic domain works in digital form. They aren't in the business of collecting royalties for authors, nor do they wish to be. That's kind of part of the point.

    And for the most part customers of libraries *don't want ebooks.*

    This is not to say they do not *pay* royalties to authors though.

    What do you suppose would happen if *libraries stopped buying books*?

    I guess most people aren't aware of the fact that for a comparitively huge percentage of books published library sales make up a huge percentage of *total* sales.

    If libraries boycotted publishers an awful lot of publishers would simply go out of business overnight. Particularly the "specialty" houses.

    What the hell kind of world are we building anyways when *public libraries* are regarded as "theives"?

    KFG
    • What the hell kind of world are we building anyways when *public libraries* are regarded as "theives"?
      Ouch, that hit something.

      It's a world where you have one book. Maybe.
      You can only read one book at a time, right?

      It would give new meaning to the term "Dark Ages". The terrorists, or more likely something worse, would win.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@geekaz ... minus herbivore> on Friday December 13, 2002 @12:45AM (#4878220) Homepage
    The type of protection a creative work receives should not hinge on the notion that transmitting an e-book involves making a copy or that reading a library book does not. These are legal nitpicks. The Supreme Court could decide that reading a book constitutes copying the contents of the book into your brain. Then the very act of reading would technically be regulated by copyright law. To me it doesn't matter whether this type of regulation is achieved by ridiculously redefining the notion of "copying" or by introducing book licensing. Either tactic is government by hair-splitting.

    The question of copyright shouldn't revolve around the technical interpretation of existing law. The question should be how, in real terms in today's world, copyright law can best implement the intent that is stated in the Constitution, which is simply to provide incentive to produce new works.

    If e-books are to be considered a threat to creativity and invention, it should be because e-books might make it difficult for an author to recoup the cost of creating the work, thus discouraging new works. It should not be because somebody decided that transmitting an e-book is technically making a copy. The latter argument assumes that the point of copyright is to protect authors indirectly by protecting the copy-making business directly. It isn't, and it never was.

    As much as I respect Lessig, I wish he and other high-profile people who are thrashing out this issue would depart from dissecting the fine points of laws that weren't written with enough resolution to cover current conditions. What they are doing amounts to adding extra zeroes after the decimal point and arguing over the accuracy of the numbers. I wish they would consider that in a very few years, when almost anybody on earth will have the capability to publish their own work to the entire world at practically zero cost. Copyright law of the future should provide an incentive for the people and institutions who PRODUCE new works, not for those who merely make and sell copies.
  • by krouic (460022) on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:38AM (#4878410)
    The major issue with copyright is that instead of defining a principle (an author has the exclusive artistical and revenue rights from the produced works) it just edicts one possible *technical* (hence the word "copy" in "copyright") way to enforce the intents.

    And that technical solution is flawed in several ways :
    - It is legal to prevent an auhor form getting revenue as long as no copies are made (by lending or reselling a book)
    - It is illegal to make copies even if it does not hurt the author revenues (out of print works).

    The notions of copies and public performance have greatly evolved during the last decade and the copyright laws are innapropriate.

    These flaws were less apparent when copy and distribution were restricted to publishing companies, but now that Internet gives these possibilities to individuals, these flaws are becoming more and more evident.
  • in today's world, the author doesn't receive a royalty everytime someone reads a book from the library. Will they in the future?

    Different media means different rules, especially when you are being pirated all the time.

    You can't compare to paper books because the media itself is it's own form of copy protection. A paper book is more costly and more of a hassle to copy than its worth. It's cheaper in most cases to just buy another copy of the book. Also sharing the book is not a problem. Again its a bigger hassle than its worth for two people to read the book at one time. So basically only one person at a time can use/read the book. Paper books are their own form of copy and piracy protection.

    I worked for Borland many years ago on BC++. Borlands license was as they called it a Paperback book" style license. They didn't worry about the software being copied, they know that would be impossible. So they said treat it like a book and as long as only one copy of the software is in use at one time you are within license.
  • in today's world, the author doesn't receive a royalty everytime someone reads a book from the library

    Well, actually, in the UK they do. See The Public Lending Right Website [uk.com]:

    Under the United Kingdom's PLR Scheme authors receive payments from government funds for the free borrowing of their books from public libraries in the United Kingdom.

    It would appear that the system works so well that most people haven't even heard of it ;-).

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