Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. ×
The Internet

Part One: In A Virtual World, Who Owns Ideas? 208

In a world splitting increasingly into real and virtual geographies, who owns ideas? The free music wars are just the first in a series of political, cultural and legal struggles that are putting the very idea of copyright and intellectual property on the table for the first time. Read more.

Note:This is the first of a two-part analysis.

Who owns ideas?

It isn't an abstract or academic question. Some of the greatest prosperity in history has been created by an economic system -- capitalism -- which permits private parties to do business freely through a system of contract and property laws, agreements and understandings. Governments have always had a vested interest in defining rights to private property, and enforcing laws that protect it.

Private property is essential to creating a functioning system for economic relationships that -- theoretically, at least -- benefit everyone. No one has come up with a better or more efficient system.

But property rights have never been absolute, unyielding or static. There is no such thing as property rights that aren't at some point subordinated to other interests. Your car can't be driven at any speed over somebody else's lawn; your dogs may be turned over to the local Humane Society if you mistreat them; your house can be auctioned if you don't pay taxes.

Now, the Net and Web have put the idea of copyright and intellectual property on the table for the first time in centuries. At the moment, nobody can clearly define what these things mean in virtual space, let alone how they should be regulated or policed.

Cyberspace has also highlighted the differences between intellectual property and other kinds. "If you 'take' my idea," writes Lawrence Lessig in his book Code, "I still have it. If I tell you an idea, you have not deprived me of it. An unavoidable feature of intellectual property is that its consumption, as the economists like to put it, is 'non-rivalrous.' Your consumption does not lessen mine. Ideas, at their core, can be shared with no reduction in the amount the 'owner' can consume. This difference is fundamental, and it has been understood since the founding."

Contemporary "patriots" -- especially those who would who would restrict the free flow of intellectual property via the Internet, would do well to read Thomas Jefferson, who eloquently expressed one of his fondest wishes for intellectual property in his new country as follows:

"That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."

But the authors of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, under intense pressure from corporate lawyers and lobbyists to curb the spread of free music and movies, obviously didn't spend much time reading Jefferson. So the new, Net-spawned reality -- being played out most visibly at the moment in the free-music wars raging between the recording industry and millions of fans - has challenged traditional ideas about law, commerce, technology and culture.

In the Digital Age, can anyone own ideas? Apart from moral issues, is it even possible to own something that's distributed globally through a representational medium like the Internet? The question is unsettled whether institutions like Congress will ever grasp what geeks and corporatists both know is at the center of the growing collision over ownership of ideas: code.

Codes are the building blocks of cyberspace. Laws passed without comprehending of or considering of code and software can't possibly determine whether the new ways of life evolving online are moral or not, whether they should continue to exist. As Net scholars like physicist Paul Davies have written in books (such as Davies' The Mind of God, The Scientific Basis for a Rational World, the sudden existence of both a real and a virtual world -- a new kind of dual property -- is of "cosmic significance." With the advent of computers, the world is being reordered.

The structure of the Net, and of the Web in particular, is altering the way younger Americans view many traditional ethics and values -- the definitions of theft, content and property, among others. (To see one expression of this sensibility clearly, check out the Netropolis Collective, founded by the Open Chronicles Clan.) This collective describes itself as "an organized group of people who will not give up their culture to join the norm. The Collective is non-violent," declares its manifesto, "and would prefer to start revolutions in a fashion much like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

Another manifestation of this new sensibility is evident in an e-mail I received from from Elizabeth Durack, a Star Wars fan concerned because the series' official Web site (www.Starwars.com) has begun offering free Web sites on its subdomain fan.starwars.com. "This is seriously scary to me because it seems to be an attempt to lure fans into their territory in order to better control the content of fan Web sites."

In an insightful essay, Durack argues that fans paying for culture and supporting entertainment should be allowed leeway in the use of copyrighted and trademarked properties.

The notion of fan "rights" is a growing political instinct online, where people feel passionately about their culture, from ground-breaking representational experiences like Quake, Doom, Ultima and The Sims to followers of Star Trek, South Park, The Simpsons, and Star Wars. These games, movies and television programs transcend mere entertainment; they are an integral part of people's cultural experiences the same way music is. Durack's essay reflects the growing tension between "fans" and the companies that want to take their money -- but otherwise keep them at arm's length.

Durack's point of view is radical. It isn't widely held in political and media circles -- especially not in Washington.

"In your writings on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act earlier this week," e-mailed a Congressional aide, "you are obscuring the fact that the Internet is creating a generation of culture and content pirates. They steal other peoples ideas, and they don't pay for them, and they take no moral responsibility for that. People like you are celebrating and enabling and helping raise a culture of thievery that is not only institutionalized but which considers itself morally superior. We are a nation of laws and you seem to celebrate a nation of law-breakers."

A number of musicians have expressed similar feelings, accusing me and others of turning a blind eye towards an epidemic of online theft of intellectual property.

The DMCA, responsible for a growing wave of threats, legal assaults on free music and DVD code-sharing sites, codified this conventional legal, political and corporate wisdom into law. It holds institutions (like colleges) liable if they dont act to prevent the distribution of software that violates existing copyright laws.

For more than a century, copyright laws have governed the sale and distribution of many artifacts of culture. People who create music and literature have never been particularly good at selling their work, which tends to be collected and distributed by increasingly monopolistic corporate entities: publishers, record labels, Hollywood studios. Although such companies -- Disney, AOL/Time-Warner, Wal-Mart, Blockbuster Video -- sell and profit from the work of individual creators, they have organized into enormous corporatist collectives that are the antithesis of individualism and creative expression.

Corporations, from record labels, to book publishers, to the owners of TV networks, exclude idiosyncratic, individualistic or "non-commercial" voices. They directly and indirectly censor culture by pressuring artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians to produce bland, packageable entertainment suited to their synergistic marketing structures. The book (if there is one) becomes the Web site, then the movie, then the CD and video. The more inoffensive, the more lucrative.

These global conglomerates -- among the worlds most profitable and influential business entities -- earn billions of dollars by collecting various distribution and user fees.

The Net is beginning to dismantle this economic model of culture, and it isn't going quietly. Not only music, but also many other forms of information and entertainment -- from games and term papers to legal documents and movies -- are becoming instantly available to millions of people for free as broadband access spreads from institutions like universities and large corporations to small and mid-sized workplaces and to private homes via cable and high-speed phone lines.

My response to that congressional aide: It's disingenuous to use terms like "theft" and "piracy," ancient notions of law and property, in the 21st Century. They have little contemporary meaning in cyberspace.

Artists, musicians, writers and other creators of intellectual property can still be paid fairly for their work. There are all sorts of options beyond conventional royalties. They can sign contracts with music distributors that draw revenue from Web site advertising or subscription fees, or that sell music and other cultural offerings in smaller, less costly units. They can offer contracts to cadres of music lovers who agree to pay for access if they're offered more choices at cheaper prices.

The fact is anyone who writes or designs on the Web understands immediately that culture can't be copyrighted online: there are simply too many means of transmission. The linkage inherent to the Web presents too many distribution channels to patrol. Music, open source software, cultural and political opinions are memes -- they travel to anyone who cares to partake, all over the Net, instantly.

And there's no taking them back.

End Part One. Tomorrow: Criminalizing access to technology, freedom and choice.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Part One: In A Virtual World, Who Owns Ideas?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Historically, this reminds me of how the slave plantaions were most profitable in the years just before the civil war. New technologies caused by the industrial revolution, like the cotton gyn, allowed plantations to expand to vast territories. Unfortunately, this same industrial revolution technology was also challenging the concept of slavery like never before. It was only a matter of time before things "hit the fan" as the new economany would not tolerate the restrictions on migration, and freedom to switch where you work at will - that are essential in any free market society. Of course, many prople naievely assumed that slavery was a property right. It wasn't, it was a controll on human behavior as copyrights and patents are today.

    Infact the simaliarities between the conflicts of yesteryear and today are striking. Slavery started out as a short term incentive, as patnets and copyrights have. Slavery was considered a property right, as copyrights and patents often are. Slavery was associated with America's great wealth as copyrights and patents are today. It was even suggested that people needed slavery to "tame" their inherit barbarisim, and today it is often implied that without copyrights and patents plagureisim and fraud would run rampant. Of course, if things "hit the fan" today over copyrights and patents - it would not be a north vs south scenario, but rather more like anarchy and much more global as institutions that embrace "intellectual property" and institutions that oppose it are in very close proximity. And would likely unite on internet territories rather than geographical territories.

    David
    dmchr@netcom.com

  • Currently when someone buys a CD, the artist royalty after charges like 'breakage of lacquer in shipping' (yes this is still taken out of the artists' cut even in the days of CDs- it's a leftover from before there was vinyl!) for a major artist would average around 1%. This is dragged down below even the post-lacquer-breakage rate by the practice of advancing royalties for the process of recording and mastering the same CD that is to be sold. Essentially, the artist does not get to choose where the music's recorded or mastered (in some cases, such as Nirvana at the peak of its popularity, the artist is not allowed to choose how to _mix_ the CD), and the costs of major-label-sanctioned studios and mastering houses are astronomical, loaded with hidden expenses. The end result could be that the artist would technically earn $80,000 from a hit CD, but to record the CD the artist was contractually forced to record and master it at studios costing $76,000 in total, and these costs are advanced to the artist out of royalties, so the artist actually _earns_ more like four grand out of a major hit CD, once the recording advances are recouped (they get paid off _first_).

    Why _two_ orders of magnitude? Most artists incur recording expenses in that way but cannot recoup the advance from CD sales, so the majority never see anything except that they got to see the inside of a very very expensive recording studio, once. That is what they 'spent' their cut on, only they were contractually bound to spend it like that up front. It's a neat racket but certainly a very poor way to keep musicians eating and paying their rent. Your system, or just about _anything_ else, would be a marked improvement.

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:29AM (#1206346) Homepage
    Thought, discovery, identity... they're all abstract things. You can't own things like that; no one can. That fact is why copyrights, trademarks, and patents were created in the first place. The US Constitution, for example, established offices for these "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" (Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 8).

    This is the problem with the name "intellectual property." You may own a patent, copyright, or whatever, but you don't own the idea behind it. Nobody does. This is where software and media companies have gotten confused (or simply ignored?)

    It only gets worse when people misappropriate things. Software, for example, when you come down to it, is thought (on a relatively primitive level, but thought nonetheless). The patent office was not established to handle thought; that's the job of copyrights. When you write a science-fiction novel, do you try to patent science-fiction? Of course not; you copyright your work without trying to patent the idea behind it. Why, then, should software vendors (who do essentially the same thing) be allowed to patent software, when copyrights fit the type of work being done better, are cheaper, and last more than four times as long (for corporations; for an individual it's at least three times as long as a patent and can theoretically go for far longer than a corporate copyright can)?
  • Change while() to while(<>) and next time use Extrans mode ;-)
  • "Once we can all cheaply create content..." the value of most of it will be the equivalent of First Post, hot grits, petrified Portman, etc.
  • Despite his many other flaws (as I perceive them), Katz regularly reads the responses to his articles and posts replies when (apparently) he feels they are warrented. I have a lot of complaints about him, but "elitist snob" isn't one of them.
  • "How can one own such a thing?"
    Because they thought of it and you didn't!
    By and large it seems that those with no ideas worth having are a lot more enthusiastic about people having no rights over their own ideas as are those with ideas worth having.
  • The unconscionable "make Phelps the bad guy" which ruined the first Mission Impossible movie is more than sufficent reason for a boycott all by itself.
  • Because of all the people stealing, I mean, liberating, Katz's writings. :)
  • If their ideas are worthless, then those ideas probably won't be "copied and used" by anyone else, so those with worthless ideas probably won't be the ones whining about piracy.
  • You seem to be advocating an "Everybody's doing it" argument to ignoring theft. If everyone's doing it, then it must be OK. That is not a mature way of looking at the world. I got nailed for that one as a little kid.
  • But we needn't scrap our old notions entirely, in a rush to judgment we might regret later.
    He seems very eager to throw out all tradition, all notions of property, and all way of doing things with a history of a few years old. It may be very appropriate to change how some things are done, but he seems to think that we should throw everything out. He is not only talking about laws, but philosophies and whole systems of thought.

    I keep thinking about that old saying about the baby and the bathwater...

  • I think there is the ability to "own" music. You can't own the notes themselves, but you can own the presentation of them. There are many musicians who can create music, but not all have the same ability and the same interest from fans. Anybody can string a few random notes together, but to make music that people enjoy listening to is a different thing altogether.

    A similar idea is that Red Hat can "own" their distribution of Linux. They don't own the basic code, but how it is put together and presented.

    You can't own the number 1 or 0, but you can own a particular arrangement of 1's and 0's that create something that others can't, or haven't yet, or are not able to.

    Just because it is theoretically possible that I can create a popular piece of music doesn't mean that I have actually created it yet. There is work in creation. If authors don't get compensated for that work, then they may have to stop (or reduce) that type of work and seek other work that will sustain them (music, art, code, etc).

    Making something easy to copy doesn't make it easy to create.
  • spiralx writes: Yes, but it's still incredibly difficult for an unknown artist to gain serious exposure or make more than a pittence on the net.

    To be practical, I'd suggest that the artist should not depend only on the 'net for income, but use both old and new media at the same time.

    I'm an unknown artist, a minor author of a well-known nerd book. I'm gaining serious exposure via the publisher making the book available on the net, and this is increasing the revenue from the "dead-tree" edition. Conventional books, you see, still have great value, so people happily buy them even though they can refer to them online as well.

    And why did I and my publisher take this track? Because we know that the historical origin of copyright is really quite different from what some people would have you believe. A good article, and a sustained debate, lives here [theatlantic.com], at my favorite tree-based mag.

    It starts with Charles C. Mann on Emmanuel Kant: "Every artistic work, he said, consists of a physical object and a piece of its creator's spirit. People can buy the object but not the spirit, for soul cannot be purchased. Thus readers can freely copy books, but only in ways that respect the writer's integrity".

    Also check out the comments by Lawrence Lessig, of "Code" fame...

    To be blunt, there is no theft taking place so long as the use is that which the author wanted. The contrary opinions of interested third parties does not change this.

    --dave


  • ...i've ever been accused to trying too hard (not sure what what means) but you are always, of course, free to turn back to "mainstream" news.


  • I think this is a great post, and went right to the heart of it...a lot of people (including Thomas Jefferson) thought, like absurd, that such a thing can't be owned. Looks increasingly like they were right.


  • Very much appreciate this post from somebody who wants to talk about the issues raised here..My argument is that people who grow up (for years now) having access to free music really don't see it as stealing..And in a way, it isn't, as they've been permitted to do it for so long and in such great depth. If people ultimately decide that it is stealing, then that will require a massive reworking of technology and of education...Because we've institutionalized "thievery" to such a degree that it's almost impossible to get people to see it that way now. Many of you know more about the technology involved than I do, but I don't see or hear of any systems that can put the genie back in the bottle. Don't we have to accept that. In any case, I thought this was a very smart and useful post.


  • You don't sound like a thief to me. But would you be willing to pay compensation in small amounts or different ways?
  • I agree, but last weekend, the music industry posted record $15 billion profits. Also, we have to remember this is much bigger than music..It's hard for me to believe, much as I would like to that the legal, medical, music and movie professions and industries will all throw in the towel.
    Also, I question the word "pirates." I don't think the people downloading this stuff are theives, not in the context of their own lives.

  • P.S. This is a good post to look at it when you think about personalizing of issues. Ilike emotional reaction and melodrama, and if there's a problem with this column, it's probably that there's too much content (there is plenty, I am quite confident). Marklee, don't you have one thing to say on this very large issue that doesn't have to do with me personally? If not, why post at all? Either skip it or go back to your other other media.
    Lots of people obviously want to talk about this. This post is too vague too bother me, but it's a useful place to keep arguing for people to talk on the issues here, rather than try and personalize all disagreements. Just a point.
  • A couple of quotes: "If I can see farther, it's because I stand on the sholders of giants" - i.e., if I come up with a great new idea, it always contains someone else's prior art, and "Ideas are the property of the person who created it".

    Basically, if you create or broker info and want to profit either marginally or massively by it, you're all for copyright protection and enforcement. If your an info consumer trying to maximize utility at the lowest possible cost, then you want 'free' copies. There will always be this tension between producers and consumers as long as info producers and consumers exist.
  • for newcomers, check out Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright [glug.org] by Eben Moglen.
  • My response to that congressional aide: It's disingenuous to use terms like "theft" and "piracy," ancient notions of law and property, in the 21st Century. They have little contemporary meaning in cyberspace.

    I've got to disagree with that. Theft on the net is still theft. Yes, the original work is still present, you're not depriving anyone of someone they own, but if someone chooses to use the net to sell something then taking it without paying is still theft. It maybe more benign than breaking and entering, but given enough people doing it it can be more damaging.

    Note that one can only steal actual property. Stealing ideas is a non-concept. There is no such thing as "owning" an idea. The problem lies in the definition of the word idea. Is software an idea, an implementation of an idea or a description of an idea? If it is an implementation, it should logically be patentable... if it is a description, it should be copyrightable (these two are significantly different).

    Copyright nor patents preclude free distribution. However, currently there are problems applying both copyright and patents to new developments. With the extremely small division between an idea and it's implementation in software and companies patenting as broad as they possibly can we see the patent system breaking down not because of inherent flaws in it, but merely because of insufficient care exercised in determining which patents are valid and which are not.

    I think the point I'm trying to make is to let people realize that crying "the system is breaking down, therefore it must be fundamentally wrong" is pretty stupid. If my PC were to run Amazon, it would break down pretty quickly... but that does not give me any reason to think Amazon's systems are built on fundamentally different concepts than my PC is...

    I do agree that the current system is too expensive to keep on track, and that would be a good reason to redesign it. That does not mean it's design is inherently wrong...

  • Off of ideas, no matter what the rules are.
    Part of it will be figuring what the business
    rules are.
    Take MS as example- its made lots of money off of
    other people's ideas.
  • As a journalist you should know that the only sources entitled to anonymity (or for that matter, for which anonymity is appropriate -- what happened to "cite everything!"?) are those for whom anonymity was a precondition to receiving the statements in the first place.

    That said, "inquiring minds want to know": which Congressman did the aide you quoted work for, and (this is a matter of simple research) how much Big Vinyl is lining the pockets of his suit-coat? If you're serious about a political solution to IP reform, then it only makes sense to expose which politicians are firmly in the pocket of large corporate IP owners....



    This is my opinion and my opinion only. Incidentally, IANAL.
  • Jon has polished his writing to cater to the cyber-anarchist, the content-consumer
    who feels that piracy is his right, that he shares some mysterious brotherhood with
    masses of faceless teenagers, and that this is some sort of crusade to "take back the
    power". Every characterization of the content producers and publishers indicate that
    they have sold out and are only in it for the money, all but justifying the piracy of
    their product.

    Instead of fighting the "evil greedy" corporations, he should encourage people to make
    their own content and sell it any darn way they please. The Internet shouldn't be about
    taking what isn't yours and redistributing it, but about creating something new and
    special and then self-publishing it. Make your own music, animations, fiction -- and
    bypass the traditional media to make your own mark (and profit). Of course, then how
    do you protect your content from the same pirates that you were previously allied with?

    It's not just about profit. Okay, that's a big portion of it. I feed my family on the
    profits my company makes off its software. But it's also about responsibility. You can't
    blame the media conglomerates for making these huge special effects movies to cater to
    the Stars Wars generation, then blame them because they need to recoup the huge investment
    they made. That's the market you helped to build.

    I can't stand people who advocate giving away their ideas and stealing from those who
    don't, when the only product they actually have is their own opinion. Jon has spent alot
    of time culling an audience of technical readers who feel the government or big business
    has done them wrong. He taps into adolescent rage against things that they can't change
    by making them feel that they can, that there is some massive wrong to be righted. If
    government and business don't move fast enough to keep up with technology that reinvents
    itself every 5 years, they are dinosaurs that are being passed by. If government and
    business try to anticipate the needs of the industry, they are thwarting the open nature
    of the market and should be stopped.

    He tries to put a face on the "little guy" who is fighting for something (usually to make
    free copies of the Matrix or slurp down more free music into his dorm). He argues that the
    kids at Columbine are misunderstood, that the rioters in Seattle had some noble intentions,
    and that people in trenchcoats are being singled out. Maybe there is some injustice going
    on here, but maybe, they are just angry Quake heads who only know how to express themselves
    through destruction or by playing the outsiders. People give him this power the same way
    they give Rush or Howard their power, by identifying with his stories in some way (I've been
    wronged, and he understands me).

    Instead of stirring up a mob, Jon should be preaching responsibility. Civil disobedience
    is only effective when you stand up to the system and say "I'm doing this because I think
    there is something wrong with the system -- I'm going to take my lumps, and demonstrate to
    the world how wrong it is". Don't teach people to steal, don't encourage them to break the
    rules, but work within the system and defeat it. How is Microsoft going to be beaten? Not
    by pirating their software, but by building something better. That's working within the
    system, beating them at their own game. It's responsible. It's the adult thing to do.

    Finally, here are some juicy excerpts and my comments:

    they have organized into enormous corporatist collectives that are the

    antithesis of individualism and creative expression.


    Well bully for them. I don't see how this impedes you from creating your own content, or
    at least continuing on with your life unaffected. If you don't like the homogonized product,
    then don't buy it. If you don't like what's on the tube, don't watch it. There is no reason
    why the product they push needs to bother you if you can avoid it.

    Also, don't try to justify piracy because (a) you can't stand the content producers, (b)
    you can't stand the content publishers, or (c) you can't stand the product itself.

    My response to that congressional aide: It's disingenuous to use terms like

    "theft" and "piracy," ancient notions of law and property, in the 21st Century. They have
    little contemporary meaning in cyberspace.


    That's a totally non-responsive response. These concepts don't map perfectly into a digital
    world, but there is still enough overlap. Every copy of a virtual work lessens the value of
    that work for future profit. If 100% of the people who wanted a work made an illegal copy,
    then the author would have little justification for producing another. If 50% made a copy,
    then the other 50% would feel cheated for shouldering the burden. At the microscopic level,
    one person may feel he has done no harm by making an illegal copy, but encouraging a whole
    class of people do do the same... that's irresponsible and a real problem that needs to be
    addressed.

    The fact is anyone who writes or designs on the Web understands immediately that

    culture can't be copyrighted online


    Ideas want to be free, right? I seriously wonder what would happen if someone copied
    Jon's articles verbatim and posted them onto their own website. I haven't "stolen" anything
    from him because his articles are still available on slashdot, but perhaps I can generate a
    few more hits (and a little more cash) on my own website. Aren't I just borrowing some of
    the value of his ideas, or am I doing him real harm?

    Each time I read a Jon Katz article, it's like reading a textbook example of how to stir
    up angry rebellion against the faceless monopolies and government henchmen. It's diatribe
    meant to inflame instead of inform, to accuse instead of explain, and to subvert instead
    of support. If I had the time, I'd compare him to some of the other great subversives of
    the last century -- but I'm afraid of the parallels I might find. Just please, please don't
    ever vote him into office.
  • I agree with you in principle, but the amount of effort it takes to create something profound and lasting is too draining to be undertaken as a part-time job.

    And yet it's hard to judge before the fact what would happen if IP laws were eliminated or drastically scaled back. It may, in fact, turn out to be the case that with a million monkeys at the keyboard, we'll get another Shakespeare or two (hey, he didn't need any IP laws, did he?) but it isn't obvious or certain that the result would be any better than what we have now.

  • Anonymous Coward wrote:
    Like so many other arguments that favor the free distribution of "intellectual" property, there's one thing missing from this analogy. Whether it's digital or physical, BOTH mediums share one common element - in fact, it's one element that makes them BOTH very viable in a free market. VALUE. Pure and simple.

    Value is neither pure nor simple. The value you say is in your song is partly made of chords, progressions, harmonies, hooks and melodies that someone else thought, imagined and used before you. Another part of the value lies in the capacity of your audience to understand and appreciate your creation. That your song has value to them does not in itself ENTITLE you to the recoup the value, let alone benefit from a comfortable, state-run racket.

    In a way, you are like the wanderer who lays the last brick in the building and calls it his own. You depend on the past and the commonality of shared culture to make your song or story or invention valuable. If I were to calculate the value of all those contributions, you would be left with a much smaller royalty, probably not worth the trouble of collection.

    This notion is exceedingly important when one considers the implications of relaying an idea to someone else- an idea that has the potential of being of substantial value to a significant number of people. Yes, I still have the idea, but now that two people have access to its substance, its value has been effectively diminished.

    It's value can only have been diminished if you ALREADY ASSUME IT IS YOUR RIGHT TO COLLECT ROYALTIES. Since this is the question at issue, I would say you are taking for granted what is to be proved. Not to mention being smug.

    I really don't understand the mentality behind the idea that IP should be free. IP, in one form or another, has DRIVEN our advancement as a society, and the reason for this is simple. We reward those with good ideas by buying what they have created.

    First of all, when copyright and patent became part of English law in the 17th century, printers, inventors and the like were impoverished by today's standards. It made sense to have the advancement of science and the useful arts as a social policy objective because there really weren't any cultural 'industries'. That was three hundred years ago. The situation now is much different, in fact just the opposite. Science is out of control; technology dominates and enslaves us, huge conglomerates have to spew out oceans of irrelevant, nauseating 'content' just because they exist. That's the danger of having a whole social class of professional intellectual property generators. If they stopped spitting out crap, they'd die. The situation we have now is exactly the reverse of England at the time of the Statute of Anne. Far from needing the encouragement of guaranteed monopoly, the intellectual property economy is overdeveloped and in need of restraint. Ask anyone what they think about having human genes patented and you'll see that my view is not unpopular.

    Whether it's a physical item, like a new type of house paint that will last for 20 years, or a new song that leaves us with a positive sense of well-being, it's all the same. They both do something FOR us...they convey very real benefits whose value is based on what the maker is offering, and the buyer is willing to pay.

    You're giving an example of someone who is willing to pay under the current intellectual property regime, but you are just following the ridiculous practice of the Software Anti-Piracy Lobby that overstates the losses to piracy by assuming that everyone who steals the software would have paid list price for it. That's just plain false. Some would, but most wouldn't. If the person who values something enough to buy it has no other option, then yes, they might buy where they would otherwise copy, but again, in counting this as a direct loss to the creator, you are assuming that the creator already has residual property rights in his creation when that is the very point that is in question.

    If you don't pay, you don't play. Period. Otherwise, it's theft.

    Why should we pay for someone else to play? Why don't they do it on their own dime like the rest of us?

  • And those that think their ideas are worth a lot generally whine about piracy until the state sends in the army.
  • I don't subscribe to the 'information wants to be free' mindset because a lot of free information is crap, quite plainly.

    The free information is crap because the content has flowed artificially away from it. If you remove the incentive, the people who really want to contribute will still do so and the quality of free content will get much, much better. An analogy would be the quality of players in the minor leagues. Sure, everyone laughs at them now, but if the majors closed down, the quality of the minors would pick up dramatically. And we'd get that increased quality distributed to more people than it's being distributed to now for less money.

  • The uber-rant at the end of your post kind of ruined the rest of it.

    "Free Art is a gift. You should be grateful for it and pay for it or I won't give it to you".

    or something to that effect. Hey buddy, your talent is a gift too, and so is the time you spend practising. Stop acting (or sounding) like you created yourself out of nothing by your own effort.

  • Excellent points about live performance and underground music. Many careers are made on this so called "piracy" of their music. I dj and compose as well, and i dont pay royalties to anyone, and noone pays me royalties unless they license a track for a cd compilation (PSST! HEY! that's where the money's at!!!)

    The vast majority of the records i play don't have the "unauthorized public performance or lending" blurb on the label or sleeve. There is no room for legal disclaimers or legalese on my recordings if i ever release any.

    I love seeing live performances and i love performing live as well. The interaction between the audience and the music and the musician is what really matters. Its pure magic folks, and mp3's are no replacement for a big-fucking-soundsystem and a group of my closest friends dancing and sweating together!

    --freq
  • You've been trapped by Slashdot's HTML thingie again. The correct perl line is:

    perl -e 'while(<>){print pack("H32",$_)}' |

    Gerv
  • I love the quote from the policy dweeb -

    "... the Internet is creating a generation of culture and content pirates. They steal other peoples ideas, and they don't pay for them, and they take no moral responsibility for that."

    As a well-respected enforcer for a local criminal orginization says:

    "Too bloody right, mate! You steal sumtin' from me, I'm gonna break yer fookin legs, ain't I?"

    The lack of a difference between government theft and free-market theft becomes quite apparent, yes?
  • Copyright is essentially a compromise that was reached between the government and intellectual property owners. It grants them a monopoly over the information they manufacture but with conditions such as fair use and eventual expiration of that copyright. The existence of this arrangement is dependent on the fact that copyright holders cannot adequately protect their works from copying. Or would that be COULD not?

    Picture this. The DVD Conortium releases the new DVD standard that will support high definition formats. As a part of this standard, they include a very strong encryption scheme that is unbreakable (or just close enough for government work :). Then they proceed to release these new DVD's only to sealed box systems where users cannot get at the underlying system (Tradition DVD Players, set top boxes, game consoles, "internet applicances", etc). Oh, and add to this that they just flat stop making CD's and only release new music on the audio equivalent of this "enhanced" DVD technology.

    Now, not only could you not play this on your Linux box, but you couldn't even get a drive for it. The technology seems to be evolving in such a way that eventually enthusiasts and businesses will be the one's with PC's, and consumers will just use sealed internet appliances. So why risk the inability to enforce copyright by releasing it to PC's being a small percentage of the overall market. Nope, you have to get a sealed system with no upgrades or ability to hack the O/S and you throw it out when you don't like it and get a new one for free with your cable subscription. They'll subsidize the cost of these devices, and then make it all back in the end by upping the cost of the media you buy.

    No more MP3 trading. No more ripping. No more DeCSS. Oh yeah, and since the government's copyright protections are either superfluous on appliances, or unenforcable on PC's, guess what? No more copyrights. Why bother? And thus, no more fair use and no more expiration of copyright. Nope nope, the media corps dictate their terms to you, and you just cope because there's nobody else who can provide the same service.

    Now, you might think that congress can save us. Yet, this would take a fundamental reconstructing of their understanding of copyright law. Besides which, who's financing their campaigns? Yup, AOL Time Warner Turner etc, incorporated and their ilk. Furthermore, they'll play it smart and provide ways for people to get a pseudo-fair use out of the technology. They'll provide academic discounts for libraries and schools. They'll have to pay for this of course, but the prices will be very reasonable.

    They will be an information monopoly. Media for the corporations, by the corporations. Packaged and delievered to you at the maximum price they can extort from you.


    ---

  • New games lately cannot be copied even with a CD burner. We are back to the old days of defective floppies where it was impossible to make a legitimate backup copy and if your original went bad the publisher said "buy another one."

    There are several new games on the market, Age of Empires 2 is the only one I can distinctly remember, that have defective tracks in the CD itself. When you try to make a legitimate backup copy you get a track read error. The game looks for this defective track when it is running and will not run without it.

    I am serious about _legitimate backup_ copies. All of my original CDs are locked up in a safe at home. I travel alot, CDs get scratched, things get lost or stolen (or forgotten in a clients CD Drive).

    what is iritating is that I thought this fight was dead and gone 10 years ago. Now I will be back in the position that if media I own gets damaged, I will be forced to resort to a method that is technically illegal in order to access a program that I have a legitimate license to use.

    We've come full circle only recreating the mistakes of the past.

    chris
  • Thank you first of all fr such a well thought out and enlighteneed argument.

    I see what your saying; my argument is a little circular. (So, too, is part of Katz's argument, where he says that "Corporations... exclude ... 'non-commercial' voices." Well, of course, because once they bring on a new "voice" it becomes, by definition, commercial.)

    I had to respond to this because it brings closer to the surface that JonKatz is alomost arguing against himself. Jon is a commercial writer who is being paid for these articles. He is however writing within a new revenue model. although it is not truly new, it is supported soley by advertising and is a close analog of the "Free" weekly newspaper present in most of America.

    The theft/payment/profit/compensation is in my mind the most interesting arena of exploration. Theft is traditionally referenced to physical objects. Patent extended theft to the creation of physical objects by a certain means. Copyright extends theft (ownership) over physical representation of ideas, be they writings or artwork. we do not have any current representaion of theft that does not involve something physical.

    When sombody copies a CD to give to their friend theft is involved because they have created a duplicate physical object that is protected. If they RIP a CD and give the files to a friend, they have copied a physical object that is protected. The copy is not physical, but they have created a precise duplicate of a unique physical object.

    So many of our analogies break down because there is no physical representaion of a purely digital creation. OTOH it can be argued that we are merely dealing with a new physical medium, the computer, which has new properties of infinite flexibility and propagation, but is fundamentally no different than oil on canvas or words on paper because the ideas behind the creations are the same, merely the medium is different.

    payment/profit/compensation is really the sticky area. Artists create because of the joy of creating, be they sculpters, musicians, or programmers. If their creations are able to be leveraged to be able to take care of their material needs then more of their energy, spirit, and creativity can be leveraged into the common good, creating more original "things".

    a common theme among the mass media has been that the Internet will redefine business by reducing the layers between creator and consumer. This is beginning to happen more every day. Instead of paying for physical representation of ideas, I can "pay" for there digital equivilents. I can go to MP3.com and download new music, for which the artist is paid via a split of the ad revenues which my visit generates. I can come to Slashdot and read the opinions of JonKatz (and several thousand commentators) and Jon gets paid again through the ad banners that we view.

    In each of these models monetary compensation is passed very effeciently to the creator of the original work. There is overhead, but there is not the overhead of large headquarters or thousands of executives wining and dining local media personalities the purchase exposure for their product.

    I wonder if Lexus/Nexus has ever studied whether or not advertising could support their revenue model more than subscriptions?

    enjoy,
    Chris

  • Jon,

    absolutely and without question I would pay other forms of compensation.

    At the beginning of last week I went out to MP3.com to look and see what was available and If the quality had improved. I found hundreds of excellent techno and electronic songs, inspiring divas, and some hilarious country. Over the next few days I downloaded about 2 GB of MP3's from these artists.

    I am still torn about compensation. at MP3.com the only option is to buy a hard copy album from the artist for $6-10, much more affordable than the local store, but honestly I have no interest in owning more physical CD's. so I dug deeper into MP3.com and their compensation.

    MP3.com splits their ad revenue among the artists ( in February they paid out $200,000 ) based upon popularity measured in plays and downloads. Their top 20 artists averaged $5k in ad revenues. This is a good start, but far less than major record contracts and I am still only giving them pennies when I download 20 songs from them.

    so I looked at the CD's. MP3.com is far more generous than the major record labels. Every artist gets 50% of the revenues from CD sales. cool, this gets me the opportunity to better reward the artist, but then I have lots of physical CDs laying around and a lot of money is wasted in pressing, packaging, and shipping me something that I will just throw on a shelf and ignore.

    Middle ground, middle ground. I would be willing to pay half of the price of the album to download a single zip file with all of the songs in it. No, it is not very hard to sit there and select every single song and download it (as I did), but organized tar balls are a lot easier for me to deal with, it is much more likely that I am going to remember the artist if when I undo all of these tarballs they spit out into organized directories by artist and subdirs by album.

    This is providing a value added service that I would be willing to pay for. I want to see more money go to the artist, and I don't want to waste any of my money on dead trees and UPS.

    One more catch, it needs to be persistent so that if I have a crash (without good backups), or I go to work or home or change jobs, then I can go back to the site and redownload everything I have already purchased.

    Thoughts,,

    chris

    --
    all thoughts and ideas in this post are hereby released into the public domain.
  • This one is a bit easier to recall:

    dig @dmca.really.fuckingsucks.net dmca.really.fuckingsucks.net. axfr |
    grep decss | sort | cut -b5-36 |
    perl -e 'while(&lt&gt){print pack("H32",$_)}' |
    gzip -d


    Enjoy!
  • You wrote
    <I>Private property is essential to creating a functioning system for economic relationships that -- theoretically, at least -- benefit everyone. No one has come up with a better or more efficient system. </I>

    While this may be applicable to Western economic theory which evolved out of the relatively rich European heartlands and plains of Americas, I would respectfully suggest that it is only applicable in cases where the ratio of capital to labor is comparatively high. If you look at indigenous cultures where sharing among an extended family, it is a different economic system. It is a mark of media success in conditioning the Western psyche that mere mention of the word communism condems these societies to the fringes. Also when economics gets to the stage of being a near religion as practiced by the Chicago School of rational capitalism and IMF, then I think its time to start worrying.

    It is an accepted truism that the winners write the history books. Have you ever thought about how the evolution of empires influenced policy and development? When the British started colonising Africa, they hit head-on the rather aggressive natives (Zulus, etc) and the view of hostile indigenous natives was reinforced by the US native americans. The rather predictable outcomes of policies dervied from early days had disasterous impact on Australian aborigines (forced resettlement, baby adoption, socially destructive welfare) which had adapted to a much dryer, fragile landscape. It may be decades before any of that mess gets fixed up (if not degraded further by inept political handling).

    I'm starting to ramble but the relevance is that roughly 10 years ago the courts overturned the legal precept of "Terra Nullius" (look up references to Mabo case). Thus the assumption underpinning land rights that the continent was empty before white colonialisation has been overturned. This sent shockwaves (metaphorically speaking) through the society and people are still coming to grips with it (or ignoring it in the vain hopes it will go away). However, some indications from reviewing recent legislation indicates a slight but subtle shift, towards what I suppose can be called "Terra Pluribus" from the philosophical view that existance can have more than one set of principles. This can be seen in the shift in policy framework in accepting that the environment is an entity in its own right whose interest (due to extreme diminished capacity to ennunicate her needs) requires custodianship by state statutory body. This means that there are certain <B>rights that need to be preserved, independent and outside of human economic activity</B>.

    This is also the issue with non-tangible goods. Who owns a culture? If there are no fans, then there is no commercial franchise. If a Japanse firm copied a sacred symbol from a religious group (another case to look up) or borrows from medicinal verbal folklore without compensation, is it infringing or desecrating its meaning (c.f. muslim countries refusing to let words from Koran use for advertising). Would people object if Tux was subbranded by a distributor who refused to ship fully GPL source? Can you protect a philosophy (e.g. OpenSource) from contamination? These are tough questions that existing property rights do not cover.

    Perhaps one day, cultural lore will be put on equal footing with common law and commercial lures (and if you don't understand the difference then you might as well kiss your credit limit goodbye). Economics has never been a science in the sense that it really attempts to put econometrics rules on inherently sociological activities. Nevertheless, big firms/cults have tried to tilt the economic landscape their way by writing the rules/laws/scriptures and providing an encompassing environmental (can we say factory shop on a global scale). What's the difference between Disney the company and Scientology the cult in promoting a certain world view?

    All I can say is that I hope people travel, keep their eyes and minds open, and try to understand what it is they value (apart from the obligatory hot water and clean toilets :-)). Perhaps then you'd appreciate there are benefits beyond just economics and monoculturism (no matter how gung-ho its proponents think it is).

    LL
  • by Ratface ( 21117 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:44AM (#1206384) Homepage Journal
    Having been involved a lot with anti-copyright publications and ideas some years back (and having now been sucked into the corporate world!), this is something close to my heart and something I have been watching of late with great interest.

    Katz provides a useful recap of what's afoot at present in the online copyright battle, but leaves it up to us to decide where our alliegances stand.

    The question of "fan rights" sounds dubious to me. Where does one draw the line between fandom and making a quick buck? I can think of any number of fan sites that look professional enough to earn money and of official sites that look like cheap knock-offs! I desperately want to see studios/corporations give fans the right to use material for non-commercial purposes, but where are they gonna draw the line? When someone has affiliate programs on their site to finance it? When they provide character email postcards? When they start selling merchandise?

    At the same time, the studios should be prepared to "turn a blind eye" to the majority of sites. It's a little like marijuana use in certain parts of Europe - nowhere is it actually "legal" - but in some places it is "decriminalised" though the police being instructed to not arrest / prosecute users or certain sellers.

    At the same time, it is clear that the copyright laws we have are becoming exceedingly outmoded. I find it hard to sympathise with a music industry who one the one hand complain of the effects of piracy and on the other report staggering annual profits and increased sales! It seems clear that simple copying techniques are set to spread thanks to digital techniques (and more power to them) - at the same time as overall music sales grow thanks to people getting better and better exposure to the music they like.

    The music industry (film, software etc) is simply going to have to learn how to subvert these techniques to it's own use - and believe me they will! At the same time, we are going to have to put up with ever increasing amounts of noise about the dangers/evils/threat/spread of piracy, because they cannot be seen to just sit back and accept what is happening. It is in a record company's interest to be seen to advance technology on the one hand (release an MP3 version of a record for instance) and obstruct technology on the other (complain about piracy affecting sales). These two actions provide "shareholder value" at two levels - satisfying both consumer and investor needs.

    So I should probably think about a summary to this rant! I guess I'm saying that we should pretty much carry on as we have done - use the technology, copy stuff for personal use, but don't expect to publicly use other people's work and make money from it without attracting some serious big-lawyer attention!

  • Copyright [loc.gov] 2000 [calendarzone.com] Jon Katz [mailto]
  • This is the whole point of intellectual property (at least as I understand it) - encouraging people to actually release the things that they create, in order for the _whole_ of society to benefit. This is the thing that is most often forgotten/ignored in this kind of argument - IP exists for the benefit of society as a whole, not for the benefit of specific individuals. It works by ensuring certain benefits for the individuals creating that IP, but is intended to provide benefits for everyone. Trying to change the laws so that the individual benefit outweighs the general benefit is fundamentally broken thinking.

    himi

    --
  • The free speech people har mostly against
    most about all kinds of patents.

    Those who want to profit from a specific invention
    is for very strict ownership-patents.

    What about two kinds of patents for software/algorithms. With a valuation to decide
    which category a patent falls under.
    1. Very innovate and amazing:
    Full patent-ownership for a year (or 1.5 year).
    Nobody else may use it without permission for
    this period. This creates an advantage, but it is
    release much earlier than say 25 years.
    2. Innovative:
    Nobody else may profit from the innovation for
    1 year.

    Something as simple as an "idea" should never
    be patented. If I'm the first one creating
    a believable virtual reality, should I be able
    to patent the idea? What if someone takes a
    entirely different route, but nevertheless succeeds? IMHO they should also have the right
    to use it.
    At most, patents should cover implementation,
    not the general idea.
  • the words "theft" and "piracy" are used by those whose businesses have been (are being) made obsolete (BTW, these businesses involve actions revolving around saying things loudly and often). I prefer the terms "borrowing" and "sharing", since they reflect both the positive nature of the transaction and are much closer in line with the real-world effects of such actions.

    --
    ba-bu-ba-ba-baaa, da-da-dum. Re-boot the ser-ver.
    ba-bu-ba-ba-baaa, da-da-dum. Re-boot the ser-ver.
  • So I should probably think about a summary to this rant! I guess I'm saying that we should pretty much carry on as we have done - use the technology, copy stuff for personal use, but don't expect to publicly use other people's work and make money from it without attracting some serious big-lawyer attention!

    I have a friend who I think would like to hear an album I just bought. I e-mail him MP3s of a few tracks, which he likes, and eventually the whole album (or one of the 100 other ways to transfer it). Is this wrong? Why? Say I have a whole lot of friends, now is it wrong? Does my popularity make a difference?

    --
    ba-bu-ba-ba-baaa, da-da-dum. Re-boot the ser-ver.
    ba-bu-ba-ba-baaa, da-da-dum. Re-boot the ser-ver.
  • just to wander on by with a bashing stick...

    I think you answered your question yourself, but don't want to admit it.

    ...that music was a profession... and live music was pretty much the only way you could earn your keep

    to answer one question

    and...

    musicians who make music that doesn't translate well live,

    suck. Or this conversation doesn't apply (more on this). As to the suck part, for a band like say Blink 182, or the Wallflowers from a couple years ago. I've seen both these bands "play" live (via TV), and well, they suck. Bad. At least 75% (conservative) of mass produced music today would not survive the transition into a "live-music" preferred culture, basically because they suck. There is also the "mass(ively) produced" aspect that doesn't translate well to the live show.

    As to your "types of music that don't translate well live" I guess I'd have to see an expanded list and address each genre a la carte.

    Certainly it's a good idea to try and change the way it works. I can tell you without a doubt that it's NECESSARY to do so.

    Now you're just confusing me.
    --
    I think your site is a good start. Basically to make it, you'll have to do exactly what big studios do, promote the shit out of your music. Try and get it played everywhere, and make it as simple as possible to hear, ingrain it on popular culture. Guess what, it'll take years of dedication. It should take years, very few people get to "play" for a living, only the best who truly have something to say should get the opportunity.

    I noticed I couldn't buy the CD from your site, (which is probably not a problem, I'm not a big fan of that style of music), are there mass-production shops out there to help out smaller companies? I see the potential for a new industry of musical artist support (akin to our current album production companies, but outsourced as opposed to collected), where all the support an artist might need would be available on an item by item basis. Yes, you would lose some of the economy of scale, but who wants mass produced homogenized, lowest-common-denominator Art?

    The big problem is most people don't care. They're happy to eat at McDonald's their entire life and think it is both good and good for them. Same goes for music.

    And to draw a close, I'll end with a corruption of one of your lyics (which I just intellectually stole from you :) "I've been broken before, I will NOT be broken again. I know who you are, I know what I am."

    $.02 worth of b.s., enjoy!

    --
    ba-bu-ba-ba-baaa, da-da-dum. Re-boot the ser-ver.
    ba-bu-ba-ba-baaa, da-da-dum. Re-boot the ser-ver.
  • OK... lots of people here are jumping up and down and saying that copyright is outmoded, outdated and wrong, and that you shouldn't be able to put a price on ideas.

    So... let's take this to another end of the spectrum - a real, published, shipping product.

    Generations Millennium is a product I worked on. It took a considerable amount of time and resources to put together (over 8 months). It also took about (all told) 120 people to put on the store shelves (in terms of data retrieval, coding, marketing, sales, development... we've got a whole chunk of the 1800s Census Index in there, which took time for a gang of people to type in).

    Should it be legal for people to take the software and copy it so that everyone can have their own copy with no money going to Sierra?

    If so, why?

    Same applies to games. Music. Source code. Tell me why it's acceptable to copy this thing which has taken 8 months of peoples' lives to produce without their consent. I'd love to hear a rational reason as to why my thinking is wrong.

    Simon
  • These all really restate the single rule
    • You can pay for the medium, but not for the content
    which, of course, is the intent of the GPL. N'est pas?
  • Yes, but if one cannot own intellectual property, where is the incentive to create any?

    Ask Linus.

    RiotNrrd
  • I find melodies very interesting thing. When I place some tunes after each other, and publish it first in the world, none other has permission to play them and sell the music without giving me the credits. When you think what music basically is, pieces of vibrating air in specific order, and I have the "rights" for it, doesn't it sound (sorry) absurd idea? I just can't get it. How can one own such a thing?

    "We all play the same 12 notes." - Eric Clapton

    RiotNrrd
  • by bonch ( 38532 )
    http://www.empireeden.tsx.org
  • The copyright bruhaha (sp?) surrounding new media is basically this: For the first time in history, a book is worth more than the paper its printed on.

    Until now it has always been much more expensive to copy a work than to buy a mass-produced copy. Intellectual property interests rested on this crutch until the net and computers knocked it out from under them.
  • I completely agree with you licensing a series of sounds in a particular order and style (from henceforth called a "song") should not be protected in the manner that it is.

    However, if this "song" is arranged, produced, and recorded by a company (lets call this a "track"), then the company is the only entity that should be able to make money from distributing this particular "track".

    Meaning this - the "song" isnt protected, but whoever's interpretation of it is.

    THis could be considered quite a lot like alogorithms vs. implementations in software.

    The algorithm is just an idea (if i do this in this manner, I will produce something). But the implementation is actually taking the idea and doing something with it...

    For example... I have an idea of making somethng that allows you to easily edit, format and publish printed works... I'll call it a "WordProcessor". Not a big deal, right... Just an idea..

    Now if I implement this idea into lets say "SlashWord", then I can protect my implementation of it. But if someone makes another implementation, like "FreshWord", and it competes with me, they are allowed to do that, and the better implementation wins.

    But I cant protect the "idea" of a wordprocessor... Only the implementation...

  • "Would you then support [UCITA] since it creates a means of enforcing intellectual property rights?"

    Uh, no.

    "Or are you advocating all non-physical goods such as IP are inherently impossible or exceedingly difficult to enforce rights?"

    No, again.

    Actually, I meant what I said -- and not much more -- by the sentence; "When there is no longer a viable means of enforcing an intellectual property right, it is time to let it go."

    It is interesting that I made an analogy comparing the difficulty of enforcing some IP rights with the so-called "war on drugs" and got a response suggesting the IP equivalent of "So, are you advocating drug use then?". ;)
  • Exactly. When there is no longer a viable means of enforcing a intellectual property right, it is time to let it go. Continuing to pour money and working lives into lost causes give us things like prohibition and the drug war.

    Interestingly, I tend to agree with the law (and the older precedents) on copyright and patents. It is only lately that abstract ideas as vague as "look and feel" and "inventions" with both obviousness and prior art going against them have become common.

    I think the solution is to scale back both copyright law and patent law to something enforceable. That, and a little attention to obviousness and prior art, would get us back to a good starting point for reevaluating the whole thing.

    Unfortunately, if it is already a lost cause, we will surely plunge into another "drug war" shortly.
  • Currently when someone buys a CD, only 10% of what he pays goes to the artist.

    So instead of making download fees for mp3 (or better future standarts), I think a much better system would be to declare what you're listening, such as emailing logs of you're mp3 player to an organisation that would then distribute you're 20$ monthly fee to the artists. They would get as much money as if you had bought about 9 CDs (and 10% for the gestion of it).

    This seems to be a cool idea. Does posting on slashdot count to "own it" ? ;-D

    That would kill the disk companies (nice!).

    I still like the CD as an object, ready the booklet and so.
  • Depends, some artist do mix their CD as they want to, depends of the labels, tagerted audience...

    But it's artists do earn about 7 to 10 percent of the retail price.
  • I really think it would better to classify on time you really spend listening rather than apreciation. This would have to be done by the mp3 player (otherwise it would suck). The prb is portable players. Those would need "hand written" declaration and filling form sucks...

    I really think this is feasable, butin many cases copyrights are owned by the editor, mot the artist. So that's prb 2.
  • Seriously...

    Let's do it, it is feasable, doesn't exist yet, and I think it is 'good'.
  • Currently when someone buys a CD, only 10% of what he pays goes to the artist.

    So instead of making download fees for mp3 (or better future standarts), I think a much better system would be to declare what you're listening, such as emailing logs of you're mp3 player to an organisation that would then distribute you're 20$ monthly fee to the artists. They would get as much money as if you had bought about 9 CDs (and 10% for the gestion of it).

    This seems to be a cool idea. Does posting on slashdot count to "own it" ? ;-D

    That would kill the disk companies (nice!).

    I still like the CD as an object, ready the booklet and so.
  • But information cannot be totally free, they argue. There must be some obstacle to reaching information (whether you mean literature or movies or economic data when you say the word "information"). That obstacle is the one where money is made.

    I think that's where much of the conflict arises. The obstacles often seem artificial. Paying a toll on a bridge to pay the bills on the construction and maintenance of that bridge is understandable. Paying a toll because a troll has set up shop and demanded payment is annoying. While I will grant Big Business generally does more than the troll, their actions and their choice of spin provide a rather, well, trollish image.

  • by Robert Link ( 42853 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @08:53AM (#1206406) Homepage
    These discussions of copyright in the digital age used to fascinate me, but I think it has been a long time since one of them generated as much light as heat. For the most part, participants have crystallized into one of four viewpoints:
    1. Copyright owners are entitled to use license agreements to place whatever restrictions they can get away with on their IP. In particular, they can restrict how you use the product, how often you use it, and whether or not you can resell it when you are done with it.
    2. Copyright owners are entitled only to restrict distribution of copies and public performance, but they are entitled to use whatever means necessary to enforce those restrictions, regardless of what side effects (such as restricting activities traditionally regarded as "fair use") those measures may have.
    3. Copyright owners are entitled only to restrict distribution and public performance, but their attempts to enforce those restrictions must not be allowed to trump the public's right to "fair use," even if that means some people are able to get away with making illicit copies.
    4. Copyright is by its very nature evil. Anyone should be able to copy anything they want and distribute it however they see fit.

    I am beginning to believe that communication between people in different categories simply isn't possible, because each of these positions follows perfectly logically from the right set of initial postulates. In fact, let's see a show of hands; how many people have revised their positions on IP in the last four months based on a discussion on Slashdot? Is there any actual communication happening here?


    I suspect that which set of postulates you start with (and therefore which position you wind up at) depends primarily on whether you stand to gain or lose from a change in copyright laws. For instance, based on the software license agreements I have seen over the years, I'd say there are a lot of software companies (and individual developers, for that matter) in category 1. Phrases like "Free for noncommercial use...," and "You may not modify, disassemble, or reverse engineer...," and "This license is nontransferrable...," presuppose that the developer has a right to dictate the terms on which you use the product. In fact, I daresay that this is so much taken for granted in the industry that even suggesting publicly that it might not be so would draw some strange looks, if not outright hostility.


    Category 2 seems to include most publishers of "traditional" media. Of course, many slashdotters have their suspicions that the RIAA and MPAA are really closer to category 1, but those organizations at least claim to be in category 2, and I think position 2 is ultimately most in line with their interests. The reason is that demand for entertaiment is very elastic, and there are a lot of substitutes for whatever entertainment some particular company is selling. In fact, you can't go too far wrong in modelling an individual's demand for entertainment by saying he has a fixed budget for entertainment, and he will buy exactly as much as he can afford on that budget. Taken to its logical extreme, this would seem to imply that entertainment companies shouldn't worry too much about piracy because consumers with money to spend will find something to spend it on; however, this is a huge leap of faith for entertainment companies to make, and some industries (like recording, for instance) worry that their goods are more easily copied than those of other industries (like movies, for instance), and therefore that they will lose out if consumers' entertainment dollars go primarily toward the stuff they can't easily get for free. Consequently, they want to protect their copyrights, and they don't much care if consumer rights become collateral damage in the "war on piracy".


    Incidentally, it is interesting to look at why entertainment and software companies come out with slightly different positions on this issue. The demand for software is much less elastic than the demand for entertainment (once you already have an office suite, a second one is not of much value to you); consequently, companies have a lot to gain from tactics like per-use licenses and charging more for commercial use. Simultaneously they have a lot more to lose if you choose an alternative; if I go see a movie from TriMount pictures, I might still go see ParaStar's movie next week, but if I buy WordPerfect, it's unlikely that I will buying Word any time soon. Consequently, software companies have more of an interest in locking consumers into their product line than entertainment companies.


    Category 3 seems to be the mainstream view on slashdot (although the others do have some very vocal supporters). Phrases like, "I want to watch my DVDs under Linux...," and, "Time shifting is my right," are the battle cries of people in category 3. The difference between category 2 and category 3 is crucial for the survival of free software, for a variety of reasons. The obvious reason is that free software often has to rely on reverse engineering in order to interoperate with nonfree software that uses secret formats and protocols to lock in its customer base. Less obvious, but more important, is that free operating systems like Linux are an anathema to category 2 types because copy protection really isn't possible on an untrusted client. In other words, the only way category 2 types can achieve their objectives is to make sure their content is only usable in closed environments where they can shut the users out of the inner workings of the codec. I predict that if position 2 becomes entrenched in the law, free operating systems are going to be in a world of hurt.


    Finally, there isn't much left to say about category 4. They have a vocal (but I think minority) presence on slashdot, so they pretty much speak for themselves.


    My personal opinion is that position 1 would be disastrous if it ever became the dominant theory of IP. The end result of position 1 is software filled with backdoors, and the associated orwellian monitoring of everything you do on your computer. Restrictions on the use of software simply aren't enforcable any other way. Position 4 is pretty bad too. It might be made to work, if for instance we adopted something like Richard Stallman's proposal for handling the "DAT tax", but it would require setting up a whole bureaucracy to administer the plan, with associated opportunities for graft and corruption. It's also not clear that a tax on storage media can raise enough to support all of the industries that currently depend on copyrights. Certainly it would inflate the cost of storage media significantly, which would be bad for people who generate a lot of their own data (astrophysicists spring to mind, for some reason). Position 2 is less evil, but the problem is that copying digital media is so easy that rigorously enforcing copying restrictions will require fairly draconian restrictions on what people can do with their own equipment in their own homes. While I am not opposed to rigorous enforcement in principle, the price in this case seems to high. In the end, position 3 is the only one that seems to balance consumers' rights with the need to "promote science and the useful arts," and so in the long run it will be the healthiest for our society. Now, all we need to do is to convince the lawmakers.


    -r

  • Fan sites and pirated music aren't the important part of the story. Those just leech off the corporate tofu-beast.

    But when artists create their own culture, seriously good things can happen. And technology is helping.

    Lately, I've seen more and more CDs produced by local artists. More and more performances without corporate sponsors. More house-concerts, more collaborative art projects.

    That's where the action is. Not in fan sites. Not in DeCSS. In creation and self-expression.


    Our secret is gamma-irradiated cow manure
    Mitsubishi ad
  • As always, the justification of "everyone should own everything" comes across mostly as "I deserve to get everything free." When someone rails against music publishers, the underlying goal is to be able to get music without having to pay $15 for a CD. When someone rails against look and feel copyrights, it's usually because he or she wants someone to be able to write a freebie clone of the same thing. When a game author decries Hasbro's recent lawsuit, it's because he or she wants to be able to write an Asteroids rip-off and be able to stake a claim as rightful author.

    I agree, software patents are goofy. DIVX was dumb. DVD encryption annoying. But remember, the point of opposing such things is not to get free stuff. Yeah! Movies should be free! Comics should be free! Books should be free! These are the cries of college students without much money, not well thought out opinions. They *could* be well thought out opinions, but that's not what they come across as.
  • If there was no copyright, maybe the number of artistic works would go down, or maybe it would go up!

    There is a frequent assumption about the supply curve for artistic works (IE: the supply generated as a function of the price). They assume that there will be zero production if the price is zero. Why do people assume this as a given?

    While that MIGHT be true for most institutional generation of artistic works, I believe that if the price were zero, the non-institutional generation of artistic works would dwarf the loss.

    Anyone look at the 'Matrix Spoof' here a couple of weeks ago? Was that legal? Are most fan sites actually legal? How about the southpark spoof? Did that violate the copyrights of southpark and starwars? Regardless of your answer, all of these things were created without a profit motive.

    How many artistic works might be created if we could freely rearrange the images, sounds, and video of our culture, and then be able to freely distribute the result? How about taking Madonna's 'Like a Prayer', and putting video clips from Zardoz in it to make a music video? How about a Dilbert Starwars spoof?

    Remember, copyright is locking up our cultural heritage away in fiefdoms controlled and owned by corporations and descendents of the origional creators. We have no rights to view our own cultural heritage unless they are granted. There are more than a few examples where the fiefs have prevented this from happening. Look at the case of Kate Bush and Ulysses. She had a song using Molly Blum's speech; It fit the words beautifully and it was ready for release but the Joyce estate, specifically James Joyce's GRANDSON refused permission. This song was blocked not by the author, not even by the author's children, but the author's GRANDSON. She had to rewrite the song. This isn't the first time that it has happened with him either.

    I would like to COPY a quote that describes the situation so much better than I could myself.

    "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit. That is all." -- Robert A. Heinlein ("Life-Line")

    I feel that the time has come to look at copyright very closely to decide if it is warranted, or what the term should be. Personally, I would like a fixed term of 14 years, renewable by an additional 14 years. This would be 28 years maximum; the origional length of copyright. Copyright actually was 28 years until after the turn of the century [I think].

    I leave after reciting this example. Dilbert will probably not leave copyright until the year 2100 or after. There will be no fan-dilbert strips. We will probably never see a dilbert-southpark strip in our lifetimes, by anyone. With luck and no more copyright extensions, our grandchildren might have the ``freedom'' to freely use the cultural heritage we are creating now. Is this not locking up our cultural heritage?

  • "When there is no longer a viable means of enforcing a intellectual property right, it is time to let it go."

    So what about UCITA? Its designed precisely to give control of IP to its (primarily corporate) owners. Would you then support it since it creates a means of enforcing intellectual property rights? Or are you advocating all non-physical goods such as IP are inherently impossible or exceedingly difficult to enforce rights?

    The problem is the means to defend your rights rests with the law and the law is increasingly being written by and for corporate interests. Its not a simple question of enforcement or passing x number of laws and amendments.
  • No, I didn't mean to form the analogy that you supported drug use. Proper use of the analogy would say "so you are against laws against drug use" which is a lot different from saying you're advocating drug use.

    And drug use is not an intellectual property right. To carry it further. "When there is no longer a viable means of preventing murder, it is time to let it go." And I'm sure you don't mean that! :)

    But as I said, UCITA is designed nearly exclusively to protect IP rights. Whether or not there are ways to circumvent it is not the issue.

  • "If you 'take' my idea," writes Lawrence Lessig in his book Code, "I still have it. If I tell you an idea, you have not deprived me of it.


    True, but in practice there is a reward for being first to the marketplace with an idea, be it a song or an invention.

    k.
  • I don't think that the underlying issue here is who own the property. The issue at stake is who will control and at what amount will a person or corporation benefit from the publication/use/disbursement of an idea or intellectual property (hereinafter IP). The problem is that corporations, such a record labels, are looking at their royalty fees as their "cash cow". They are simply unwilling to look outside their own current system for revenue possibilities. As a counter example, let's look at television. Not the TV shows themselves but the actual broadcasting and formatting of a TV signal. Who owns a TV signal? Who controls the TV signal? Who utilizies the carrier wave space of the TV signal? Answers: EVERYONE. TV signals are an open medium (more or less). You don't see any company upset because of their lost revenue becuase everyone is broadcasting on THEIR protected TV carrier wave. Look at the explosion of TV. In 50+ years is has gone from a small novelty to one of the most imporant vehicles of entertainment and information in the average household. But your mainstream argument for IP protection would say "Well now, revenue would drop, artists would starve..." etc. However how many millions upon millions of dollars of revenue do the content providers of TV bring in due to all sorts of revenue streams? Do you see anyone in the TV arena upset becuase someone taped the last Pittsburgh Steelers game or the last eipsode of the X-files? Obviously I'm not referring to taping them for replying at a profit or anything illegal such as that. But how many people do you know of that are taking their MP3s and usings them for private use? Just about everyone! No repectable DJ wants to use illegal MP3s; his business reputation is on the line! Not to mention his legality as a DJ. So why can't traditional record label companys redefine their business revenue plans to profit off music the way that TV does? Advertising, premium content, etc.. There are plenty of revenue models. TV uses an open medium/distribution channel to turn a huge profit. The more people that see the shows means more exposure to advertising which means more revenue for them. They're not trying to profit off the medium or content. Corporations need to be aware of the successes of such mediums or they might just realize that their revenue model is going to go the way of disco.
  • Has anyone come up with equivalent to the GPL for musical compositions? Something that enabled anyone to modify and/or record the original work, as long as the new version remained freely available, a copy was sent to original artist, and the original artist was credited? Just wonderng...
  • Cyberspace has also highlighted the differences between intellectual property and other kinds. "If you 'take' my idea," writes Lawrence Lessig in his book Code, "I still have it. If I tell you an idea, you have not deprived me of it. An unavoidable feature of intellectual property is that its consumption, as the economists like to put it, is 'non-rivalrous.' Your consumption does not lessen mine. Ideas, at their core, can be shared with no reduction in the amount the 'owner' can consume. This difference is fundamental, and it has been understood since the founding."


    The whole concept of intellectual property law originates with a simple idea that Katz never expressed directly: Copyrights and patents are a legal monopoly on the use of an idea. David Friedman presents an analysis of the from an economic viewpoint in Chapter 11: Clouds and Barbed Wire: The Economics of Intellectual Property [best.com] of his book Law's Order: An Economic Account [best.com]. The purpose of this monopoly is to encourage production of intellectual property and sharing of it with a greater audience. That has been achieved by granting the creator of the intellectual property control over it's distribution and use. That is, the right to charge a fee for that distribution and use.

    Intellectual property law has never been able to prevent illicit copying, or independant rediscovery. However, with books and other printed material, the price of a copy from the publisher is generally less than the pice of making a complete copy. That alone is sufficient to discourage most copying. Publishing a copy of the work without paying the copyright holder has been discouraged by the threat of legal action.
    What the Web has done has been to reduce the cost of duplication and the credibility of the lawsuit threat considerably. We can cut and paste from web pages or save them in their entirety with little effort. Furthermore, there are effectively no barriers between various jurisdictions. While printed copies of a book must physically reach the customer, that is not the case with electronic media. The bits I use have the same values as the bits on the web site I got them from. But there is no single physical link between the two that constituted the transfer of those bits. They travelled through a virtual link across a physical channel used by many. There is no agent here in my jurisdiction who can be held accountable for a copyright violation committed on a web site that I use, located elsewhere.

    That leaves two targets for prosecution: the authors of the software that make this possible and the end consumers. Software again is just bits. It can escape unfriendly jurisdictions, and it will. Thus, we are left with the consumers. The problem with legal action against consumers is that they are hard to find, and rarely commit copyright violations in bulk. They download a song here, a movie clip there, etc. And worse still, even those of us who are scrupulous in our dealings because we respect the copyrights of the creators of the media we enjoy may commit accidental violations. They are no accident when a web site copies material, but we, as users of that material, may be entirely unaware of the violation.

    I foresee that the fight to retain the old model of what a copyright means will be a long one. The publishers have much to lose. They are built around that model. In the end, it will collapse because enforcing it will be prohibitively expensive relative to other methods of distribution. Watch for legal costs of copyright enforcement to rise among traditional publishers. The ones that will survive the shift to the wired world will be the ones that can shift to a model that eliminates or greater curtails that cost.
    The window for profit exists during the time between the first publication of the information and the time when the cost of prohibiting illicit copying exceeds the profit from selling it. Perhaps the way to kick the copyright violators in the teeth is to kill their profits. Once the material is no longer profitable to sell, release it under an open source license that allows free duplication and use, but only with full credit to the author and publisher and requires payment to them if sold. If something is no longer of value to the author and publisher as intellectual property given their cost structure, they can reduce the price to nearly zero and eliminate the profit for dishonest competition.
  • Suspend disbelief for a minute here, but supposing I was to copy one of Jon's articles (and suffer the credibility loss) and get it published (by a suitability undiscriminating publication) and then get paid for it...

    Or if I was the owner of a (necessarily low quality) magazine and just used one of his articles without payment?

    Would you mind, Jon? Someone care to try?
  • I'm sure this has been discussed on Slashdot before, but a general question related to this and many other articles:

    If the only rule of property were "if it can be digitized, it's free of charge", would things still work? In such a world, software, books, music, art -- and all other forms of information -- would be available for free over the network.

    Software writers could still charge to provide support, publishers could charge to provide bound books, other companies could charge to burn music onto CDs, artists could charge to do live performances, ads, and merchandising.

    A lot of time and research has been spent on trying to protect or track information on the web so that only people who have paid for it can use it. If the world were reshaped so that information were free, this would be a non-issue (one could still have private information, but your privacy is based on trusting the parties you share information with).

    There would still be value in physical goods -- books, houses, CDs, etc. And, of course, advertising can be "bundled" with information to generate revenue.

    People who attend performances can record and freely distribute the show -- you're paying for the experience of being there when it happens, after all. But what happens if someone records a TV channel and immediately rebroadcasts it with their own ads? Or no ads at all? TV stations then lose all motive to lisence particular shows (what if NBC could rebroadcast the Superbowl a split second after ABC airs it live?).

    And what about artists who just want to create their music and get paid, but don't want to do merchandising or performances? And game writers don't want to sit by the support phones all day -- they want to be able to live off the fruits of their labor. None of us wants to see ads for Cocoa Puffs scrolling along the bottom of our Quake screen.

    Is such a world too ideal? Or could it be made to work? And even if it were possible, would it be better, and why?
  • "In your writings on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act earlier this week," e-mailed a Congressional aide, "you are obscuring the fact that the Internet is creating a generation of culture and content pirates. They steal other peoples ideas, and they don't pay for them, and they take no moral responsibility for that. People like you are celebrating and enabling and helping raise a culture of thievery that is not only institutionalized but which considers itself morally superior. We are a nation of laws and you seem to celebrate a nation of law-breakers."

    I don't know about Mr. Katz, but in my case I'm finding it hard to feel any sympathy for organizations such as the RIAA. Yes, they have a right to get paid. However, they are on the offensive when it comes to any form of music distribution that they don't control -- legal or illegal. Do a search for "Tom Petty" here on Slashdot. My attitude might be construed to be pro-piracy, but honestly it's just that I don't care if they get hurt.

    And I think they will get hurt. However, it's not piracy that is the threat to them. (See the recent Slashdot article about their profits this year.) The threat is legally distributed MP3's. I see people saying over and over that the Internet really isn't doing anything for musicians and that they can only make a pittance over the Internet. If find this to be incredibly short-sighted.

    Yeah, musicians can get their music distributed via mp3.com. That's nice, but I don't think that mp3.com is the "killer app" for mp3 distribution. A band or musician on mp3.com is a needle in a haystack.

    I've been talking to a lot of musicians about this, and thinking a lot on it. In fact I've decided to make a project out of distributing MP3's for musicians. Maybe my thinking is a little untraditional wrt to the Internet, but several friends and I are going to give this a go:

    It works like this. I set up a web site for local musicians. They pass the word on to their fans. They grow their base of fans locally through the web site. In effect, we use the Internet for a purely local audience rather than a global audience. Of course, the web site is still accessible from anywhere in the world. If others are interested, they can do the same in their local area.

    Think of it this way... Right now fans are blowing money on artists that they may never get to see perform live--and when they do it will probably be through binoculars in a stadium. Instead they could be spending money on their local bands who they can see live and even meet in person. In effect, instead of money flowing from the fans pockets to Hollywood it's flowing into the local bars, local stores that sell music equipment, non-franchise record stores that don't mind selling music that isn't published by a major record label, etc... The RIAA (and others) can cry piracy all they want, but I know that's not what they really have to fear.

    For some reason a lot of people seem to believe that unsigned artists only remain unsigned because they suck. This is just plain untrue. If you think so then you ought to get out more and hear some real music live and up close. Even I was suprised at the incredible amount of talent I found within a 3 mile radius of my apartment. I'm not talking about musicians that just know how to play cover songs. I mean musicians that are truly talented and that have their own original music. They're also smart, energetic, and capable of getting things done. The all have day jobs, only a few have CD's, but when they play the crowds go nuts. At the end of the night though, all their fans have is a memory when they leave--for now. That's what we want to change.

    Whenever I've talked to any of them about the idea of "localizing" music they've thought it was a really cool idea. I wouldn't be as excited about the idea if it was not for all the positive feedback I've received so far.

    They're not worried about their music being pirated--they want to know people are hearing it. They'll be happy if they can be full-time musicians. Waiting for a $1M record contract to show up is like waiting to win the lottery. Sharing their IP makes sense to the vast majority of musicians because it costs them nothing to share it. If it lands them well-paying gigs and some money on sales that's great.

    If you're one of the elite few that are making millions off of your music then sharing IP may not seem like such a great idea. In fact, the very act of someone sharing theirs becomes a threat--since they're making available for free what you're making tons of money from.

    It's not about piracy. It's about money.

    numb
  • Packaged and delivered to you at the maximum price they can extort from you.

    Which would be zero. That is, I wouldn't buy it. Problem is, plenty of people cannot resist getting the latest Spice Girls CD, so I would probably be in a minority, and I'd have to live without the Joys of what those Corporations think is Right For Me. Gee, what a problem :-)

    -John
  • On the northwest coast of North America, before the european invasion, the bounties of nature were such that the basic necessities of life were available to all with a minimum of effort. The economy, the "social game" that developed under these circumstances was based on the potlatch; whoever could give away the most "goods" held the highest status in the society. Participating on the receiving end of a potlatch, however, involved the tacit acceptance of an obligation to return the gift, ie. throw a potlatch of your own, at some unspecified future time. In this way the social hierarchy was established,"surplus production" was disturbuted, and general partying all around.

    This is just a particularly well-developed form of a constellation of customs that are/were ubiquitous throughout the tribal and ancient worlds, in fact many of our own customs (eg Christmas) are derived from this basic framework of gift exchange that has always been used to tie communities together. Even the idea of a periodic redistribution is part of european (judeo-christian) heritage (see Leviticus 25:10 etc.)

    The open source movement has this in common with the "free music" revolt - it is at root a gift culture, which is entirely appropriate under a material/technical regime of abundance (and what could be more abundant than the infinitely copyable?) Ideas of private property overlay and are dependant upon larger and more ancient notions of common ownership (or more accurately non-ownership) just as our legal code is based on the more ancient Common Law.

    The point is that what we are witnessing is a re-assertion of a principle that is fundamental to human psychology and society. Much of the discussion surrounding Napster fails to state the obvious - that every file on the system is offered as a gift to all the other users: people like to share music. The collision of the very ancient custom of gift exchange with the very modern technology of the net is creating a force that is going to be very hard to stop. And as the price of copying and distributing gets ever lower, the price of policing is going to get ever higher.

    All we (as artists and creators) need is a way for people to return the gift, easily and, if necessary, anonymously: open-source wampum anyone?

    PS - right on jon - keep it comin!

  • Any suggestions for a vocabulary suited to our new postmodernized probably-crimes? I'm stumped. I never thought I'd say such a thing, but here goes: This is a job for Katz!

    (-1, Katzlicker)

    Okay, okay. Maybe not Katz. Where's Nietzsche when you need him?

    This is a good forum for spreading the new "meme" [barfs] once someone thinks up a cute name for it. I mean, look how many of us let "corporatism" drool out of us, however nebulous a concept it may be (or, really, grow up to be, someday; I still don't have a clue what it is except that it probably sucks). Anyone out there onto it yet?

  • by CdotZinger ( 86269 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:53AM (#1206424)
    I don't really disagree with you, but I think that to concede to terms like "theft" and "piracy" is to messy up the discourse to the detriment of those who want reform or even honest debate.

    Piracy is robbery committed by guys with stinky beards, wearing funny blue and red suits, sometimes with missing legs, often with parrots on their shoulders, always on a boat, and always against other stinky guys on other boats (and usually the other guys all have dirty white doo-rags on). This doesn't happen much.

    Theft is stealin' stuff. Taking it back to your place without permission.

    Copyright infringement (or, in more "artistic" cases, appropriation or parody or satire; in "fansite" cases, free advertising or freeloading, depending on intent) is what this is about. And I think it's "bad," mostly, but it's not the same "bad" as mugging or bodysnatching.

    Conservative types would call this kind of messying-of-terms a false assumption of "moral equivalence" (though I doubt many would spot it in this case), because based on flawed premises (or flawed language (=premises)(sorry; been learning LISP :-))), logic is impossible. Katz isn't free of this problem either, thanks to his buzzword-quota.

    I think a good first step for "both sides" in this non-debate would be to stop doing the PR-trained equivalent of calling each other cocksuckers.

  • i think i disagree with your ideas here, and to quote the author of the original posting:

    Artists, musicians, writers and other creators of intellectual property can still be paid fairly for their work. There are all sorts of options beyond conventional royalties. They can sign contracts with music distributors that draw revenue from Web site advertising or subscription fees, or that sell music and other cultural offerings in smaller, less costly units. They can offer contracts to cadres of music lovers who agree to pay for access if they're offered more choices at cheaper prices.
  • The same arguments hold true for software (or did, at one point), yet people create software freely and distribute it freely now.

    Well... whilst I believe that artistic creation would continue regardless of what happens to the MPAA (unless they win - then it might be strangled and stopped), I think the reasons for open-source software and open-source art are vastly different. Software can be used. Many times the reason why someone has created a piece of open source software is because they needed the software, and once they programmed it they thought "why not let others benefit from it too!"

    As for art, it might be debatable whether a musician would create music so that he can listen to it, but I think it is quite clear that a writer does not write his books to read them. He writes them for altogether different reasons which I believe are much stronger than the need to use them himself. As someone else put it, he writes them because he HAS to... It's just stuck inside your mind and you have to get it out and one way to get it out is to write it out.

    So I don't think you can compare the open-source software movement with art like this. They're very different things. Hopefully both open-art and open-source will win, but if so it will be for different reasons and different objectives.

    Daniel
  • Slightly offtopic here, but don't you ever wonder about the people who complain about your articles time after time, but adamantly refuse to stop them being shown? I wouldn't want to accuse /.ers of martyrdom, but...

    Anyway, obviously your opinion doesn't have to be "correct" or "accurate" (I use those loaded terms advisedly), it just has to provoke discussion and bring out ideas. Which judging from the numbers of posts your articles get, they succeed in doing. Although thinking about it, that's pretty much the definition of a troll as well :)

  • I don't really disagree with you, but I think that to concede to terms like "theft" and "piracy" is to messy up the discourse to the detriment of those who want reform or even honest debate.

    Damn. I just typed out a reply to this and then lost it by accidentally refreshing the page. Here goes again.

    Yes the words "theft" and "piracy" do have concrete meanings in the real world, but on the net their meanings are a lot fuzzier. When you have the situation of someone downloading an artist's work without their permission or payment, but never distributing it or changing it you have a situation is probably somewhere between "theft" and "copyright infringement". We don't have a word to describe this grey area and perhaps we need one. The other problem is that both sides in this argument are using the same words to mean different things, and as such the argument is being drowned in a sea of confusion rather than being a meaningful dialogue.

    P.S. Piracy is one of only two crimes which you can still be hung for here in the UK, so don't get caught :)

  • The trouble here is that there are two separate domains at issue here - ideas and artistry. Are the two covered by the same rules or are the concepts different enough to warrant different rules? I mean an idea is just a concept thought up by someone but an artist's work, although similarly ephermal, is perhaps an idea given form through work and skill. It's a tricky question, and I personally think the two are different, but others may be it differently.

    If they are different, then we must be sure again to make sure that when we are discussing this issue our language must define what we really mean, rather than what the reader thinks it means, otherwise debate is pointless. What this whole issue needs is some clarification.

  • by spiralx ( 97066 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:22AM (#1206432)

    My response to that congressional aide: It's disingenuous to use terms like "theft" and "piracy," ancient notions of law and property, in the 21st Century. They have little contemporary meaning in cyberspace.

    I've got to disagree with that. Theft on the net is still theft. Yes, the original work is still present, you're not depriving anyone of someone they own, but if someone chooses to use the net to sell something then taking it without paying is still theft. It maybe more benign than breaking and entering, but given enough people doing it it can be more damaging.

    Artists, musicians, writers and other creators of intellectual property can still be paid fairly for their work. There are all sorts of options beyond conventional royalties. They can sign contracts with music distributors that draw revenue from Web site advertising or subscription fees, or that sell music and other cultural offerings in smaller, less costly units. They can offer contracts to cadres of music lovers who agree to pay for access if they're offered more choices at cheaper prices.

    Yes, but it's still incredibly difficult for an unknown artist to gain serious exposure or make more than a pittence on the net. It may be easier to set up a distribution system, and there are certainly a lot of ways to generate revenue, but the last thing they need is hordes of people downloading there stuff for free, claiming the net is "uncopyrightable" and that "information should be free". Yes it's a noble sentiment but people often put a lot of work into these things and deserve a reward - which will often be used to buy more equipment or allow the time to do more work.

    Given the opportunity artists can market and sell their work far for far better gain than they could do in the corporate marketplace where immeadiate profit is the only concern. But if people aren't prepared to support these people then they will eventually have no choice but to return to the corporate market, whether they want to or not.

  • It's not about deserving at all. It is pure economic sense.

    The simple fact is that the cost of duplicating information is practically zero. Thus in economic terms it is a limitless resource and should have zero price. In order for markets to be efficient, all goods should be available at a price equal to their economic cost. This is the fundamental theoretical basis for all free-market economies.

    Many people feel intuitively that information should be free. They are right, but often don't realize that their viewpoint is backed up by a whole load of sound economic theory and research.

    There remains the problem of how to promote the creation of information resources in the first instance. Unlike the duplication of information, this *is* a costly activity. This is the real issue that needs to be addressed, but I am certain that the best solution does *not* involve an arbitrary system of property rights over ideas like we currently suffer from.
  • You have 48 hours to comply.
  • Yes, but if one cannot own intellectual property, where is the incentive to create any? In all the discussions of this topic, I've yet to see any kind of real solution that allows for the free exchange of IP while ensuring rewards for the author.

    Is the solution a matter of price? i.e. CDs are too expensive, so music lovers download MP3s rather than paying for the songs. If music was cheaper, would most of us pay for it? Why would we if it still can be obtained for free? Sure, some might, but I'd bet most people would go for the free download.

    The world is becoming more digital all the time. Soon e-books will become common, and the big publishing houses will be pulling the same crap as the MPAA and RIAA. What's needed is a way to ensure the content creator is compensated without giving the lion's share to some media conglomerate.

    What is the solution? If we, the consumers, don't come up with a viable alternative, what choice do the IP authors have but to submit to the corporate attempts to deprive us of our consumer rights? At least the corporations are making sure the authors get something.

    I don't think we'll see any companies "throwing in the towel". There's too much money at stake. Just because none of these companies have successfully prevented consumers from copying IP so far doesn't mean they won't eventually succeed. What kind of encryption will the eventual successor to DVD have? You can bet it won't be some chintzy 40 bit encryption next time.

    If we want our rights to IP to be preserved, we have to fight for them, and the first step is to get the content creators on our side.

    PaxTech

  • by retep ( 108840 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:24AM (#1206445)

    The breaking up of copyrights is not by any means inevitable. If companies start making their technological defenses against copying it doesn't matter that it's possible to copy the information, %99 of the user population won't have a clue of how to do it. There was recently an artical on Slashdot about end-to-end encryption. IOW The whole data line right into the (digital) monitor would be encrypted. Good luck making a perfect copy of *that*

    New games can't be copied without a cd burner. They are just too big. Lots of high-end software needs dongles. Music companies are pushing protection systems, they'll probably fail in the end but it will be a long, drawn out war.

    There is a all sorts of fuss about DeCSS. Enough that it may very well be the most heavilly mirrored peice of software in the world. You can even get it using DNS of all things! But %99 of the users still won't have a clue of how to copy a DVD. And the developers trying to make practical DVD players for Linux are probably going to be hit with lawsuits soon.

    And for those who want to know, here's how you can get DeCSS using DNS. Just type the following lines as a single line under Linux and have fun!

    dig @138.195.138.195 goret.org. axfr |
    grep '^c..\..*A' |
    sort |
    cut -b5-36 |
    perl -e 'while(){print pack("H32",$_)}' |
    gzip -d

  • "Self-help", in legal terms, refers to taking action to enforce a contract without getting court approval. The law is generally opposed to self-help; for example "self-help evictions" are illegal in most states. Cars can be repossessed, which is a form of self-help, but that's heavily regulated.

    The DMCA isn't about copyright. It's about providing an unreasonably strong legal basis for self-help. It allows content providers to exercise self-help to take more rights than they could enforce legally. That's wrong.

    What we need is a legal prohibition on "self-help" that takes away rights copyright law gives the purchaser.

  • Note that one can only steal actual property. Stealing ideas is a non-concept. There is no such thing as "owning" an idea.

    No. You have made three assertions which are just that - assertions based on nothing but your opinion of the issue.

    Stealing ideas is a well developed concept. I have it. Say "he stole my idea" and I have an instant understanding of the class of action you are accusing him of. Hence, a concept. If you don't agree with legal aplication of this concept, say that.

    Theft of something other than physical property and ownership of ideas are both well devoloped concepts as well, socially and legaly. They are based on the idea that mental work is valuable and barring convergent developement, an individual has the right to credit and/or first implementation of their ideas.

    If you don't like intelectual property, argue against it. Don't pull this "assert axioms that mean I'm right to begin with" crap.

    PS, do you really not have a concept of theft of an idea? Like people say it and you just blank with no idea of what they could be describing? If so, that could be sort of cool. You might even be able to make a stipend as a research subject at your local Psych department.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • If you can't prevent copying of intellectual property, and/or you have no ability to revoke ownership rights as granted to others, its hard to assert any real notion of ownership.

    This is pretty much the "might makes right" argument. Just because I'm incapable of defending a right, doesn't mean the right doesn't exist.

    The only thing that has kept the music/film industry alive is the fact that up until this point, distribution of the intellectual property has required the distribution of physical media (film, cd's) that they control.

    But they still have to sign the artists. Nobody holds a gun to these artist's head. Given the choice between playing seedy bars for the rest of their lives, and signing lucrative contracts, most of them take the contract. A better way to destroy this argument is to imagine that the corporations have no cooperation from the artists--then all they have is the power to distribute, but they have nothing to distribute, in other words, they have nothing. The artists still have their art, and they can at least still play in bars. Now, what happens if we take away intellectual property? The artists can still play their art, but the corporations have no reason to sign the artists, because then they can just take their art. The corporations win!!!

    Open Source favors corporations the same way. Only large organizations can capture revenues from the economies of scale that arise and allow them to make a profit through advertising, IPOs, deals, support contracts, etc. Many of these revenue streams are not practical for individuals and smaller companies.

    With digital technologies bridging the quality gap, pirating will soon become rampant and commonplace, most likely resulting in many companies simply throwing in the towel.

    Not just companies. Individuals and truly creative people will become discouraged too.

  • When music was just "pieces of vibrating air in specific order" then there was virtually no copyright laws to speak of. Singers got paid for singing. Essentially they were buskers. People were happy to pay for a good song to encourage the singer to sing again. After it was possible to reproduce music (initially printed sheet music ) the copyright laws became stronger because it wasn't just vibrating air, but a physical representaion that people could sell. This had to be copyrighted to prevent people selling the hard work of others having put in no effort of their own.

    Diverging from your observation a little, the internet changes this back. The singers just have a louder voice. But people aren't so willing to pay for it. Not because of meanness, but because paying online is a lot harder than throwing coins into a hat.
  • Yes, but if one cannot own intellectual property, where is the incentive to create any?

    The same arguments hold true for software (or did, at one point), yet people create software freely and distribute it freely now.

    Its all about the cost of content creation. If it is possible at some point to create music and video with commodity PC equipment, than droves of people will dive into the content creation market and ultimately we will be richer for it.

    There is an exact parallel with software - at one point decades ago, a few companies produced all of the software. They probably thought that making money off of software would be impossible once small computers and software tools became cheap enough...yet the software market ended up stronger and more diverse...and although some companies made lower margins than they did before, the growth in the entire market meant much more money was being generated as an aggregate.

    I see the same happening with music and film production. Once we can all cheaply create content, the aggregate value of the content industry should increase dramatically, although it will require new ways of thinking and new revenue models.

  • by rambone ( 135825 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:14AM (#1206466)
    If you can't prevent copying of intellectual property, and/or you have no ability to revoke ownership rights as granted to others, its hard to assert any real notion of ownership.

    The only thing that has kept the music/film industry alive is the fact that up until this point, distribution of the intellectual property has required the distribution of physical media (film, cd's) that they control. With digital technologies bridging the quality gap, pirating will soon become rampant and commonplace, most likely resulting in many companies simply throwing in the towel.

  • Jeffersonian pedigree ought not cause us to eschew careful analysis of what's being said. (Nor should it encourage blind adherence, thankfully, else we might have revolutions every two decades, as Jefferson advised elsewhere.)

    Katz, you only reproduced part of Jefferson's quote. In the sentences preceding your excerpt, he makes it far more clear that he is speaking of abstract ideas. In fact, here's [unc.edu] a larger version of the quote from an essay by John Perry Barlow. (I presume you've read this piece, which I just spent a very profitable few minutes doing.)

    Certainly intellectual property needs to be reconceived so it reflects the ease with which "copying" (against which "copyright" protects) may be executed in our digital age. But people who create new information (artistic, for instance) or who add some value to information (perhaps by compiling or reorganizing it) must be paid for their efforts lest they lose incentive. This is not an abstract point. Consider the Feist Supreme Court case wherein a company's database was stolen in its entirety, and the Court ruled that, since facts cannot be copyrighted, the stolen database is not protected by copyright - despite the thousands of hours of work that went into its compilation. Since then, database makers have waged war in Washington, hoping to get from Congress the profit-producing protection that the Court stripped away.

    Lessig notwithstanding, corporations will find technological ways to preserve (or create artificial) scarcity of information, since scarcity is what gives something its value. Information and ideas no more long to be free than a pizza longs to be eaten. Certain benevolent and generous creators, like Ben Franklin with his eponymous stove, will decide not to pursue legal protection for new ideas, so they might be freely available to all. Why should others, like musicians whose originality is critically acclaimed, be forced to freely give out the fruits of their labor? I find that absurd, not the scenario you consider absurd.

    (And you cannot validly argue that the $15 billion the music industry made last year is evidence that digital music transfers are not harming the music industry; perhaps they would have made $16 billion were it not for the transfers of MP3s that Jack Valenti goofily calls "pilfering [salon.com].")

    If you say ideas cannot be owned, then go a step further: Why can land be owned? Why can pencils be owned? There are people who would argue that neither can be. Some would argue that the only thing that can be owned is your own body (which brings to mind the passages where Hegel, that hideous fraud of a philosopher, talked about owning food only once you have eaten it). And some would go even further, saying that you cannot even own your body - but that it belongs to God or the state or some greater human good.

    Clearly we need to carefully reconsider intellectual property in light of technological changes. And we must vigorously work to educate our government about the changes. But that's no reason to discard the system altogether, or to pretend that technology has discarded it for us.

    Perhaps the second part of your post will consider these matters.

    A. Keiper

  • First off intellectual property has no "rich history". It pratically has no history past a few hundred years, and the original copyrights were granted by kings to publishers in return for not badmouthing the monarchy - hardly a lofty foundation. Infact, note that copyrights came after periods like the renissance rahter than before.

    You're partly right, partly wrong. As the Britannica article [britannica.com] on copyright law points out, copyright did develop the way you said, and only became "modern" in 1710. It is striking, of course, that the spread of a specific technology (the printing press) and its eventual ubiquity was what drove copyright law to develop as it did - just as new technologies are forcing us to evaluate it anew.

    But you're incorrect if you believe that the only intellectual property law is copyright. In fact, the Amazon dispute is about patents, not copyright. And patent laws go back at least to 1421 (again, read the appropriate Britannica article [britannica.com] for yourself). I think a tradition at least 5.8 centuries old deserves some respect, but that may be just a personal blemish on my part.

    It's sorta like arguing that slavery was a great thing because of all the wealthy plantations it created, but it was other forces driving America into the future.

    I usually hate it when people use slavery as a metaphor, but you make an interesting argument. I see what your saying; my argument is a little circular. (So, too, is part of Katz's argument, where he says that "Corporations... exclude ... 'non-commercial' voices." Well, of course, because once they bring on a new "voice" it becomes, by definition, commercial.)

    I suppose in some sense my argument about the rich history of invention and creation we have had under intellectual property protections is unknowable (at best) or circular (at worst). Yet I think I'll stick with it, having had firsthand experience with a publishing firm that worried every day about the integrity of the databases it published. If those databases were pirated (as they have been, on occasion), without strong copyright protection, the company lost money. If it happens again, the company will probably stop making the databases - and everyone, including the pirate, loses out in the end.

    Also, copying is not theft - it might be illegal, but it is just not theft in the true sense of the word. The people who created are not deprived of their original work in any way. They may be deprived of a monopoly over other prople's purchasing habits...

    That's pretty much the point Katz was trying to get across in that passage where he quoted Lessig ("If I tell you an idea, you have not deprived me of it"). But, unfortunately, it is incomplete. When you illegally copy a copyrighted work, you have deprived someone of something other than a mere monopoly. (In fact, it is the technology, not the "pirate" or "thief," which is responsible for revoking the monopoly.) The thing you have deprived the creator of is the potential to earn profit. We have to balance creators' needs against consumers', and Katz (and you) seem to tip the scale unfairly toward consumers.

    For them copying may be good as it "gets the word out" and provides free advertizing.

    There is certainly some truth in that. However, it is too narrow. Musicians are not the only people protected by intellectual property laws. If Stephen King's new book, which is to be published at midnight tonight over the Internet [washingtonpost.com], is pirated and passed around freely by e-mail and mirrored on dozens of web sites, the copying will certainly be free "advertising" for King, but he will lose money. Maybe he would stop publishing online. If that happened, everyone would lose out in the end, including the people who got to read it for free.

    I do agree with you that "theft" is too strong a word; as someone may or may not have hundreds of illicit MP3s stored on his computer (shhhh! the RIAA might be listening!) I certainly don't like considering myself a thief or pirate. (Actually, I kind of would like to be a pirate, although without the trite patch or the fruity parrot.) But we are living in an age when the pace of technological change makes us all accept a degree of uncertainty, ambiguity and fuzziness of terminology. So I don't mind all that much.

    A. Keiper

  • by ATKeiper ( 141486 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:54AM (#1206476) Homepage
    Katz is right to point out that the very notion of intellectual property is under siege. I suspect he underestimates its resilience, however.

    By quoting one Congressional aide (from among thousands and thousands), Katz supposedly gives us the point of view of the Old Guard. Concerned with things like theft and stealing and morality, such people seem not to understand (as Katz and many /.ers have argued) that the social shift going on here is vast, and that the technology itself is a driving force - not merely a "culture of thievery."

    But that is not a fair representation of the Old Guard view. During my time in Washington, I've witnessed firsthand the plans and desires of trade groups and corporations concerned with the protection of intellectual property. Their paramount objective is not to quash the Internet and destroy the free flow of information - in fact, they see in information's freedom a tremendous opportunity for profit.

    But information cannot be totally free, they argue. There must be some obstacle to reaching information (whether you mean literature or movies or economic data when you say the word "information"). That obstacle is the one where money is made.

    Artists who cannot make money (and thereby feed themselves) will cease to be artists. Companies that collect economic data and publish it will no longer have an incentive to continue working. If information was totally free and Lexis-Nexis freely available to everyone, then the company that runs Lexis-Nexis (Reed-Elsevier) would no longer have a reason to run it. And not every business model can operate like Britannica's; it is not always possible to offer all your content and information online by slathering advertisements upon it. (And we should be glad of that.)

    Theft is certainly a big fear, but the corporate and creative interests I've encountered here in Washington, D.C. are well aware that there may soon be technological solutions to technological problems. Lessig's book has been frequently misinterpreted (and perhaps here so by Katz) as arguing that nothing can be done counter to the code that defines cyberspace. But of course that code can be changed and built upon, and new methods of protecting intellectual property will be developed.

    The traditional systems of protecting intellectual property have bequeathed upon us a rich history of invention and a marvelous universe of creativity which we must not squander by assuming that "anything goes." We must not arrogantly believe that recent technological changes completely undermine the value of safeguarding intellectual property. Certainly, the old system is under threat - the DMCA/DVD/DeCSS madness, the Amazon patent tribulations, even the debate over genome patents, all these prove that we must reconsider how we think about intellectual property.

    But we needn't scrap our old notions entirely, in a rush to judgment we might regret later.

    I look forward to the second half of Katz's post.

    A. Keiper

    The Center for the Study of Technology and Socety [tecsoc.org]

  • Everything and anything nowadays is seen in the light of money. In the article it says: "They steal other peoples ideas, and they don't pay for them, and they take no moral responsibility for that" Is there a law that says that every idea should be paid for? I'm getting increasingly worried about society nowadays, it's all about money. A once good thing like the internet has fallen into the hands of commercial suits, sports is more and more something for the sponsors and investors; wherever you look, you'll see the same picture: it's all about money!
  • by mmartin ( 162351 ) on Monday March 13, 2000 @05:42AM (#1206490)
    Artists, musicians, writers and other creators of intellectual property can still be paid fairly for their work. There are all sorts of options beyond conventional royalties.

    I think it's great that they are following these new avenues of distribution. Even authors are discovering the benefits of providing material online. I checked out this free online book site, Abika.com [abika.com], and it appears that they provide stock options for writers, as well as revenue from advertising. And from the look of things, the authors are doing it!

    It's a brave new world.

Human beings were created by water to transport it uphill.

Working...