Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment DEC for DTP (Score 1) 617 617

Well, I wasn't the one using it, but in late 1998, I was working at a printer -- a big industrial one, with huge lithographic presses. The prepress department there was transitioning to using Macintosh G3s for DTP work, and I was there to help with that. The reason for the transition was that their old DTP needs had been served by some sort of DEC minicomputer.

It was about the size of a fridge, with dual 8" floppy drives, so I'm hoping it was a MicroVAX, but I don't recall. Each workstation wired into it had a VTerm, as well as a Barco graphics monitor and a mouse. You'd type in commands to their DTP software on the VTerm, then view the work as a line drawing on the Barco (all it was capable of -- photos had to be pasted in by hand) and adjust it with the mouse.

They'd been using the thing since the early 80s, but apparently it was breaking down and they were having trouble pulling people out of retirement to fix it, and that, plus the new digital press they were building, forced the transition to Macs.

The company got bought some years later, but is still in operation, so I guess things more or less worked out.

Comment Re:This is outrageous (Score 1) 267 267

You are, I assume, aware that the days of the Alexandria library copying all works that entered the city were well over a thousand years before the printing press was even developed, let alone copyright created.

You were the one who claimed that most would-be pirates were discouraged from doing it prior to the invention of the printing press. Guess what? The high cost of making copies (and the relative lack of literate people to share them with, assuming that the author himself was even literate) discouraged authors from writing things down too.

Also, creators who did not want their works copied could prevent Alexandria from copying them by simply not going into the city

Wrong. You're conflating authors with their works. The only sure way an author could prevent Alexandrians from copying their works was to not create works in the first place.

If they created works, even if they were not written down, nothing stopped someone else from writing it down. (For example, Socrates never wrote anything; what we know of him comes primarily from the writings of his student, Plato; Another example is from the days of Elizabethan theater, when printers would have people dictate the scripts to plays, sometimes actors who had memorized the lines, sometimes just people with good memories who had been in the audience)

If works were created, written down, and shared with anyone, there was absolutely nothing that could keep the scrolls from getting copied or moved. Consider Virgil, who wrote fanfic (The Aneid) based on the epic poems of Homer (The Illiad and The Odyssey), but wanted all the copies burned; this was ignored, and the world is better off for it.

Fundamentally, it's the same issue with secrets, or any other information. The only way to control the spread of it is to either convince other people to respect your wishes (which they may or may not do according to their own self interest, and other factors), or to never tell anyone.

I don't think we can credit copyright with the increase in the number of works in existence in recent history, as compared with ages past. The real credit is probably owed to increases in literacy, improved artificial lighting, the development of printing (as well as improved paper and ink to support it), greater leisure time available due to a variety of technological and social advances, increases in the internal stability of much of the world (hard to sell books when bandits rob every wagon, or war ravages the country), etc. Copyright can be nice, but it gets way more credit than it deserves.

Copyright (by which I mean largely the form that it exists today and not as a collusion contract created by publishers) had an intended purpose that was to maximize the enrichment to society that can be obtained by the society having access to diverse kinds of creative works, and offering the creators of those works some means of controlling their works for at least a limited time at least gave many of them an incentive to not resort to self-censorship as their main form of such control.

Authors really just don't engage in self-censorship as a means of control. Copyright, from an author's point of view, is a way to recoup their investment. If they can't do that, they have to have other jobs that take time away from creating. Potentially, those jobs take away all their time from creating, so they don't create. It's rare as hell to find someone who is interested in creating works, has the financial means to do so without having to worry about the cost (and opportunity cost), yet refuses because they're a control freak. I'm confident that the sorts of authors you've identified are so rare as to not be worth concerning ourselves with.

As for the purpose of modern, authorial copyright (as opposed to the old stationers' copyright), you're almost entirely right: I'd only say that mere access is not enough. Rather, copyright is intended to provide an overall benefit to society by increasing the number of works which are created and published, while imposing the fewest and shortest restrictions on the public. It operates by providing some temporary benefits (whose actual value is determined by the market) to authors, but this is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. If copyright were actually meant to benefit authors, it's clear that it has never done a good job of it at all. The stereotype of the starving author exists for a reason.

As a side point on the matter of controlling works for a limited duration, I am compelled to add that I do strongly believe that copyright durations are far too long today, and should be shortened drastically, by no less than a factor of 2, maybe even more, and with very minimal, if any opportunities for extension.

Personally, I would drop terms to a year, with numerous opportunities for renewal, but with overall maximum lengths that were still quite short (probably no more than 20 years or so, and less in the case of some types of works, such as computer software). The reason is that when we had renewal terms, many rights holders failed to renew, evidencing a lack of desire for longer copyright on their part, and getting works into the public domain faster through their inaction. Since everyone winds up as happy as they wanted to be in that scenario, I see no reason not to return to it.

Regarding maximum lengths, you may be interested to read the following paper on the subject:

Comment Re:This is outrageous (Score 1) 267 267

Copyright is just an extension of the exclusivity that creators had over a work that creators enjoyed in the days before the printing press. Copying was hard enough and error prone that natural checks and balances tended to discourage most (but admittedly not all) from engaging in unauthorized copying.

What the hell are you talking about?

Unauthorized copying was absolutely standard practice everywhere in the world until the 18th century, and most places until well into the 19th and 20th centuries. Hell, some places, like Alexandria during the days of the famous library, made it government policy; any books that entered the city had to be turned over for the library to make copies of, if the librarians wanted.

And it's a good thing too, since every written work we have from antiquity which wasn't carved into stone or clay survived only thanks to unauthorized copying -- often many generations of copying, by many different copyists. Even then, we've lost a tremendous amount of material.

As for the difficulty of copying books by hand, that was equally difficult for everyone, whether authorized or not, so it didn't deter piracy.

As copying became easier, the only thing that was left was to either shrug and disregard it (in which case many creators would resort to self-censorship as a means of holding onto their exclusivity), or to manufacture a legal structure by which people who disregarded that exclusivity for at least a certain period of time could face punitive action for such behavior.

Copyright originated because publishers printed books (often without authorization; the authors had no rights) but didn't like to compete amongst themselves. So the publishers set up a cartel whereby they would agree which of them had the right to print a particular book. The author had no real say. And the government cooperated so long as they could censor anything they didn't like. It wasn't until substantially later that this system fell apart -- because people didn't like the monopoly -- and a replacement based on authors getting the rights was suggested. (And then the publishers fought that when they were unable to fully control it in the way that they had before, and even now publishers are the real powers behind and beneficiaries of copyright; authors need publishers far more than publishers need authors)

Comment Re:This is outrageous (Score 1) 267 267

Yes. Ownership of anything -- a physical object, a certain exclusive right, a theoretical amount of money that lives as bits and bytes in a database somewhere -- is just a concept we have invented to help society function, like any other legal or financial instrument. We might all agree (or at least most of us would, I hope) that physical ownership is a useful concept and we should respect it and not commit theft, but ultimately that is just a social norm, enforced through other social norms such as laws and courts.

That's true. The problem you face, however, is that the social norm concerning creative works appears to be that it's perfectly okay for ordinary people to do things that constitute copyright infringement, at least if they aren't doing so for direct financial gain (i.e. if they aren't selling the copies). If the law were to reflect this social norm, copyright would not be as interesting an issue as it has become in the past 30-40 years. Instead we see copyright holders suing individuals, and trying to control the Internet so as to indirectly control individuals by limiting their options, so as to preserve the laws that enable a particular market, regardless of whether or not they conform to social norms.

But professional copyright infringement, where you're actively ripping off works for substantial profit, can be a criminal matter, punishable in criminal courts with fines and jail time. And that's what we're talking about here.

And it looks as though even for a sort of infringement that most people would agree should be illegal, the copyright maximalist faction is still going overboard. I certainly would agree that professional, profit-oriented copyright infringement ought to be prevented, but I would not go so far as to say that it would ever be appropriate to put someone in jail for as much as ten years over it; it's just not that important. Punishments should not be so draconian, especially given that it seems unlikely that it will accomplish a damn thing. A better solution would be to reform copyright so that there's less of a point in engaging in professional, profit-oriented infringement, rather than the current strategy which is to simply make it high risk, high reward. For example, just as repealing Prohibition undercut the mafia, and just as drug legalization and decriminalization undercuts criminals in the drug trade, legalizing some copyright infringement by people acting not for profit, and thus able to act openly, could undercut professional infringers.

Copyright is a reasonable economic instrument, in my opinion, at least until we find a better model for incentivising creative work that does at least as good a job.

Well, I'd point out two things here. First, there are pre-existing incentives that act independently of copyright; in many cases, copyright is not the primary incentive, and in many cases copyright is not even a necessary incentive.

Second, I agree that copyright is useful, but we ought to regulate how much copyright we have, and for how long it lasts, with an eye toward its utility. I'd bet good money that adding a ten year sentence for certain copyright infringements, and even enforcing it, will have zero meaningful effects on how well copyright serves society. Therefore, such punishments are inappropriate. Indeed, we ought to pare copyright down to the point where it has both the fewest restrictions on the public with the greatest incentivizing effects. Given the economics of the various copyright-related fields, I think you'll find that this would involve no criminal punishments, minimal civil penalties, minimal restrictions on individuals, and copyright terms of far shorter length than we see now.

Those professional infringers are sure making a lot of money doing something that supposedly doesn't cost the legitimate rightsholder anything.

I don't think that's true. Sure, I know about the lifestyle of someone like Kim Dotcom, but he's something of an outlier. Benny Glover made some money, but I don't think you'd say it was a lot.

Making counterfeit anything, and selling it to someone who knows it's counterfeit, only makes sense if you sell it for a very substantial discount below the legitimate price. The negative effect on the legitimate supplier, if there's any at all, is going to be far greater than the positive effect for the counterfeiter.

Comment Re: How is this news for nerds? (Score 1) 1083 1083

Sure. Perhaps you've heard of bigamy? Alice can't marry Carol because Bob already has a vested marital interest with Alice. For example, if Alice marries Carol and dies, Carol is entitled to 100% of her assets as spouse. But so is Bob.

That's not the policy rationale for the prohibition on bigamy, and while it is perhaps a little better of a reason than administrative convenience, it boils down to the same thing, since the question of marital property is one of the issues that legislatures will have to address when the ban is overturned as it inevitably will be.

On the contrary, tradition is absolutely relevant as to whether something is a fundamental right. Marriage is a fundamental right because it's enshrined in our traditions and collective conscience. ...
Polygamy does not have such a place in our traditions or collective conscience, and therefore is not a fundamental right.

Yep, that's the bullshit argument that people were rolling out against same sex marriage all right. That because it wasn't traditional, it wasn't fundamental.

The core mistake with that argument, whether in the context of same sex marriage or marriage among persons already married, or in larger numbers than two, is that what's fundamental is not opposite sex marriage, or same sex marriage, or polygamous marriage, but simply marriage, without qualification of any kind.

Issues like gender, race, consanguinity, marital status, and number of spouses are all restrictions on that singular fundamental right. Whether they stand hinges on whether they can be justified. Two of them, it transpires, cannot be. Ultimately I think the only restriction that will hold up will be consent, and perhaps consanguinity will have to be reframed in terms of consent if it's to be salvaged.

Comment Re: How is this news for nerds? (Score 1) 1083 1083

because, as noted earlier, 3>2. Equal protection is an issue where two groups that are equally situated are treated differently. For marriage, there is no difference between a gay couple and a heterosexual couple. There is a difference between a couple and a larger group, however.

The litigant needn't be the entire group. Marriage is a fundamental right, subject to various restrictions, such as consent and consanguinity. Yesterday, one of the restrictions, at least in some places, was that the genders of two of the spouses couldn't be the same. Today, it's fine nationwide if they're the same.

The restriction to look at now is whether the marital status of each spouse in the marriage at hand is single. Today it has to be. But there's not a good reason for it. (As already mentioned, administrative convenience is not a good reason). So why can't Alice, who is married to Bob, now also marry Carol? Bob isn't marrying Carol; the A-C marriage would be between two people only. You're treating Alice differently merely because she is already married.

It's also not a fundamental right, as polygamy is not part of the traditions and collective conscience of society, except for Mormons.

Marriage is a fundamental right and is extremely broad. Restrictions on marriage, such as requiring the spouses to be of opposite genders, or of the same race, or of the same religion, or of compatible castes, etc. are not inherently part of marriage and are certainly not part of the fundamental right of marriage.

Also, today's events make it clear that tradition is irrelevant; polygamy is practiced today among many groups, and has a long history back into antiquity. Same sex marriage was known in the past but was far more rare.

Comment Re: How is this news for nerds? (Score 1) 1083 1083

It will certainly be a massive pain in the ass. But administrative inconvenience is not an adequate justification for denying people their fundamental rights or equal protection of the law. It'll take a while, but just as this took a while, but in time polyamororous marriages will be legally recognized.

Comment Re:Meh (Score 1) 368 368

I appreciate your reply, though please note that the post you're replying to was incomplete; Slashdot's lousy UI went ahead and posted it while I was in the middle of writing it. For the whole thing (revised slightly) see here: http://entertainment.slashdot....

Anyway, I don't have any qualms with rightsholders complaining about, or refusing to assign or license rights to, businesses that they disagree with. That's their choice. But the music industry is in a bad way right now. Siding with Apple might be a bad choice, but refusing to deal with them might also be a worse one. There probably isn't a good option to choose.

Most people won't buy CDs if they can buy tracks online. Most people won't buy tracks online if they can stream; music purchase is already dying if you look at the numbers. Most people won't pay for streaming if they can stream for free. And most people won't do any of those things if the cost and inconvenience is even moderate, because piracy is free and quite easy also.

(Note also that because an individual's taste in music typically ossify, once they've got a big enough collection, barring format shifts, which don't happen anymore, you basically lose them as a customer. You'd better hope that they stream instead of collecting, and that if they collect, they pay for it instead of pirate it)

Like it or lump it, this is the reality that participants in the music industry need to face. Bitching about Apple isn't going to change it.

Comment Re:Theft of Intellectual Property (Score 2) 368 368

With all the sound and fury about people "stealing" copyrighted materials, how is Apple getting away with this?

Best as I can tell, EACH Instance should be punishable with thousands of dollars of fines and jail terms for those at Apple who authorize this.

It's not illegal. Apple either has permission from the rightsholders for the music they offer, or a statutory right to offer it, and doesn't offer the music for which they don't have permission or a right.

Comment Meh (take 2) (Score 1, Interesting) 368 368

Well, looks like /. ate and posted an incomplete post of mine. I guess I won't try writing any posts from my phone in the future, if their UI is going to be this crappy. Let's try again, with a few revisions:

I think she's calling for a bit too much out of Apple.

Apple is a hardware company; any products or services they offer other than hardware are only relevant to them because they think it'll help them sell hardware. Apple also has a justified complex regarding self-sufficiency. More on that presently.

When listening to compressed music on computers began to take off, Apple responded by buying SoundJam MP, modifying it, and releasing it as iTunes. Mostly this was to sell computers -- making sure that people knew that Macs were well-suited to storing, organizing, and playing music files, and could also rip and burn CDs. It was also part of their complex to not rely on third parties to provide important features, and this was now deemed an important feature, with the iPod beginning development shortly after the purchase of SoundJam, and with iTunes to be the syncing software for it.

Releasing a Windows version of iTunes, and selling music via the iTunes Music Store were both just strategies to sell more iPods. Apple figured that some people would buy downloaded music at the 99 cent price point, and that some of them might even be former pirates. The store's label-mandated use of DRM would also help lock customers into the iTunes ecosystem, helping to sell more iPods.

Streaming is just more of the same; because of free streaming, many people who would buy music, or who would pirate music, have flocked to listen to music legally for free (at the expense of having to use bandwidth to stream, not having offline copies, and losing some degree of choice in what you're listening to when. Also, ads). While the iPhone is now more important than the iPod, Apple likes having people locked into the iOS ecosystem. They like having people buy iOS devices, on which music listening is still a core feature (and will continue to be, e.g. with the CarPlay platform). Streaming has become important, and like all important things, it can't be left in the hands of third parties. Therefore Apple must provide music streaming.

But music streaming is a crappy business. Almost all the users stay in free tiers; a mere handful actually pay. Apple's plan is to draw users in with a free time period and then hope for a good attach rate when the time comes for users to either cancel or pay to subscribe. I doubt that Apple will get more than 10 million paying customers (and therefore will only get revenues of around $200 million their first year, and around $300 million in later years after accounting for payments to rightsholders). Frankly, they can find more money than that in their couch cushions. Apple isn't interested in streaming for how profitable it is (read: it really isn't). And I'm sure that they know that in the absence of free streaming, most people will go right on back to pirating music again (with some returning to the iTunes Store, which suits Apple fine).

The whole point of Apple's streaming service therefore is just to keep their hand in, and to prevent a potential rival from being in a position where Apple is so dependent on the rival that the rival has power over Apple.

So can Apple pay rightsholders during the free period? I'm sure they can afford it. Although it makes no economic sense for Apple, as it would cost over $20 million per million free users, and with low attach rates expected, this could easily run over a billion dollars in payouts for a business expected to generate far far less than that. It's frankly not important enough to them to do it. Putting up with Taylor Swift whining at them, and rightsholders loudly complaining that the world is no longer stuck in the 80's and early 90's, is not too big of a cross to bear.

Apple's options other than a free trial period are a free tier, or no free anything. We already know what Swift thinks about the former. The latter is the plan that Tidal is pursuing, plus a higher subscription rate. I don't think it's going to fly. Whether or not it is a legal substitute, piracy is a real substitute, and can't be ignored. If music costs too much to get, people will gladly pirate. Hell, they'll often pirate just for the joy of it. And for a lot of people, any amount of money out of their pockets is too much. Tidal will not be able to reverse the tide of piracy, and asking Apple to follow in its footsteps will neither change the reality of the music industry nor convince Apple to actually do it, given the relative unimportance of legal music for them at this point.

So by all means, she has a right to complain. But I don't see the numbers working out in a way that will put any force behind her complaints. The music industry will have to collapse further, and be rebuilt anew, before it can become viable again, if it ever can.

Regarding Apple's complex about self-sufficiency, it's due to a history of sudden but inevitable betrayal. In 1978, Apple licensed Microsoft BASIC (renamed Applesoft BASIC) because Apple never got around to finishing floating point routines for their own BASIC. The license was for 7 years. The renewal came up in 1985, at a time when Apple still relied on the profits of the Apple II line, all of which had Applesoft BASIC in ROM. Apple hadn't ever gotten around to making a perfectly compatible new BASIC, which meant that MS had them by the short hairs. Luckily, all MS wanted to renew the license was for Apple's BASIC for the Macintosh to get canceled, which it was.

Later, MS again had great power over Apple, because Apple needed MS Office to be available for the Mac, and MS has both used this as a sword and also never quite made it as good as the Windows version. Now Apple has made their own little office suite just to have some alternative available. (It's not quite a substitute, but it's something, especially for casual users)

Then as Netscape collapsed, Apple needed a good web browser, and had to make a deal with MS for IE. The ultimate response for that was for Apple to write their own browser, Safari.

The original (Google-based) Maps program for the iPhone started as just a demo for scrolling, IIRC. It rapidly became an invaluable feature, but Google became a competitor, and withheld new features seen on Android's version of Maps from the iPhone. Therefore Apple had to develop its own Maps program. (And should've seen this coming as early as 2008)

Why did Apple get into the ebooks business? Because Amazon dominates it, and Apple saw that the iPad might make a good ebook reader. Therefore Apple had to have its own alternative option, not to seriously compete, but to make sure that Amazon couldn't kill off the iOS Kindle app, thus harming iPad sales to people who wanted to read ebooks on iPads.

Ginning up a rival to Spotify & co. is just more of the same.

Comment Re:Yes. (Score 1) 172 172

An author's copyrights can be assigned or transferred to a third party. This leaves the author with only the same rights as any member of the general public. (There are a few narrow exceptions, but nothing that would prevent the possibility of an author infringing on the copyright of a work he created)

It's also possible for a person who prepares a work to not be considered the author. This is the case for works made for hire.

And of course copyright isn't mandatory, though that just leads to works being in the public domain, so at least there's no danger of infringement there.

Comment Re:Correct, but silly (Score 1) 172 172

However, bear in mind that copyright only applies to original material, not to pre-existing material. A review which includes a quote is copyrightable, but the new copyright for the review only covers the portion original to the reviewer; the material quoted is only covered by the copyright of the work the quotes are drawn from.

17 USC 103(b):

The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material. The copyright in such work is independent of, and does not affect or enlarge the scope, duration, ownership, or subsistence of, any copyright protection in the preexisting material.

Comment Re: Apple ][ was a great product (Score 1) 74 74

Though there was a good reason for the original compact Macs to discourage users from opening them up -- there were exposed high voltage monitor electronics in there which could give you a hell of a zap of not properly discharged.

The later all in one Macs of the 90s were better in that regard. Their user suitable parts (motherboard, drives) all were easy to get at, but the monitors and power supplies were fully enclosed.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss