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United States

Copyrights and Copywrongs 177

Skywise writes: "MSNBC has a very good article looking at the history of copyrights, their implementation into law by the founding forefathers to protect democracy, and the extreme danger the DMCA will be to our country."
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Copyrights and Copywrongs

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  • I agree. What Europeans forget is that almost every aspect of modern Western culture was invented in America, by Americans. If it wasn't for inventors from Franklin to Edison, we wouldn't have electricity. If not for Edison, no lightbulbs. It wasn't for that great New Englander Alexander Graham Bell, the world would not have the telephone - the greatest marketing tool we have seen to date.

    The list goes on. The television? That was us. Radio? That was us. The car? That was us. The computer? That was us. The microwave? That was us. The cooker? That was us. The vacuum cleaner? That was us. Modern furnature, from futons to coffee tables? That was us. Was the printing press not invented by the American Thomas Paine in the 1700s? Pre-revolutionary it might have been, but no invention has made a more significant contribution to the fields of learning and democratic participation than Paine's famous "Caxton Printing Press", used to print his famous pamphlets such as "The Rights of Man" and "A modest proposal". And it was invented on this side of the Atlantic by a good, honest, native of these lands. If it wasn't for Americans, people would not be reading books.

    If it wasn't for Americans, British "Archers" would still be using crossbows and darts to make war, without the American invented guns, bullets, and gun powder that serves to protect democracy in the modern world.

    Coal, oil, and other fossil fuels would lie underground as people continue to use wood to heat their homes and cook their food. The oven & fridge would be absent from the domestic kitchen.

    It's thanks to America that democracy has spread throughout the civilised world. Invented by the founding fathers, America proved that democracy could world, and in doing so, resulted in the democratisation of Europe. If it wasn't for America, the French would never have seen the light and revolted against their cake-eating aristocratic rulers, and Britain would today be a monarchy.

    Europeans need to grow up and learn that they're not number one. In the entire 1,000 year history of the EU, starting from William's conquering of Normandy in England, the EU has contributed less to the world than any one of the 50 states of the USA has in the last three centuries.

    I salute Kalbajoui and dmenstuate: Put the ignoramis Eurotrolls in their place. It's both off topic to whine that the original article didn't contain enough historical context: that they then try to rewrite history to portray something as Yorpean when it was clearly an American invention, just takes the biscuit.

  • It's smart... no, more than that, wise... to be wary of stirring up blind mindless nationalism. Taking that us-versus-themness and running with it is _dangerous_. Some people have learned that and some haven't...

    I'm an American, but I think that at this point, Germany in general is _wiser_ than we are on the subject. They have reason to be. The question is, do 'we' have sense enough to learn from history, or are 'we' going to be the ones repeating it this time around?

    If we do, I am certainly not going to sit back and let it happen without an argument. So: no, it is NOT invariably 'OK to be proud of your country'. Not without taking responsibility for the actions of your country- and doing so may temper that pride with some wisdom and levelheadedness that are terribly valuable.

    National pride can so EASILY be a problem that acknowledging this is extremely important. Ignoring it is dangerous- because the emotion, like mob mentality, _does_ come naturally to people, and horrible things can happen as a result.

  • Absolutely. Jefferson had no way of _envisioning_ a technological situation where ideas were "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". In his day, you still had to print up books and schlep them around and it cost money to do ALL those things, and yet he still had the vision of ideas and expressions expanding limitlessly, even though the technology of his day really didn't support it.

    There is nobody who would be _more_ in favor of all forms of costless digital copying than Thomas Jefferson. It's the final, beautiful realisation of an ideal he had hundreds of years ago, and didn't have the capacity to truly bring to fruition.

    Jefferson wouldn't have encouraged shoplifting, stealing of physical goods. But if you told him that it would be possible for anyone to grab a copy of every word, verbatim, of any book, without depriving the original person of their copy, and without costing significant money for labor or new materials involved with the copying? He would think that was _heaven_. And if you see things his way, it is... we owe it to Jefferson to see to it that this heaven of freely copyable data continues to be a reality, and I don't mean just napster, I mean stuff like Project Gutenberg AND napster AND search engines that can turn up all that information...

  • So the appropriate criteria for a patentable work is one which can be created only with the expendature of time and money?

    One might as well make my .emacs patentable -- it's valuable, after all, speeds up my development time, and I'm sure I could convince some patent examiner that some elements are innovative. Or how about the nifty new route I found from Chico to Placerville? I spent a great deal of time off work finding it, and so lost money in the process, and it's probably not intuitive to anyone looking at a map, so it should be patentable too.

    Your criteria (even counting in innovation) would leave those rediculous business plan patents within the realm of legality. It might support musicians patenting a particularly striking progression which they discovered, or artists patenting the techniques they've worked to protect.

    If patentability is decided around the expendatures and potential financial gains of the patent-seeker, society as a whole will not profit. Patents must be issued only inasmuch as they benefit the public by encouraging growth in the "sciences and the useful arts" -- and no more. If a discovery would become available to the public without the use of a patent, it must not be patentable -- in this case the monopoly benefits only the patentholder and nobody else. Of course, handling this on a case-by-case basis would grant far too much discretionary power to those charged with such responsibility, as well as requiring specialized knowledge in more fields than is practical to find; thus, general guidelines must be set. However, they should be set with the goals of the public good, not the wealth of the few who make use of the patent office most directly.

  • U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

    Somebody *please* mod this troll down.
  • Labelling something 'Opinion' doesn't relieve the author or responsibility to do research. It's not nit-picking to say that the author jumped to a very pro-American conclusion. He made it sound as though the US took wicked British censorship laws and fashioned them into powerful tools for democracy.

    Look, the US deserves plenty of credit for establishing a country based on powerful ideals. But it didn't invent every idea or tool of democracy - the Rest of the World has thought some of this stuff through too.
  • by Jon Peterson ( 1443 ) <jon@snowdr i f t . o rg> on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @04:14AM (#109133) Homepage
    Hey, what's with the anti British side swipe in the first paragraph? Is this 4th July national fervour or something?

    From: http://arl.cni.org/info/frn/copy/timeline.html

    "Copyright law as we know it began in England in 1710 when the British Parliament enacted the Statute of Anne. The Statute of Anne contained, for the first time in copyright law, legal protection for consumers of copyrighted works by curtailing the term of a copyright thus, preventing a monopoly on the part of the booksellers. It also created a "public domain" for literature by requiring the creation of a new work in order to obtain a copyright, by limiting the length of term of a copyright, and by limiting the rights granted to the copyright owner (print, publish, and sell) so that once purchased the copyright owner does not control the use of the work. The statute also provided for an author's copyright - although the benefit to authors was minimal because in order to be paid for a work an author had to assign the work to a bookseller or publisher. "

    Hardly the monarchist instrument of repression the MSNBC starts with...

    Jon 'Whingeing Pom' Peterson
  • Honestly, MSNBC is less biased than say, slashdot ;) (Not that there haven't been cases where they have made MS look better than deserved)
  • This is one of the most short sited replies I've ever seen. The history of European Copyright summerarly rejected in the US because it was viewed universally as an abuse used by European Monarch and the Church to give out special favors or impose censorship. The sheet music copyright issues which occured in Europe AFTER the American Revolution demostrated everything wrong with European copyright. The copyright neither encorauged publication or guaraneteed libert. It was strictly treated as an abused priveledge to be extended to the advantages of despot rulers. The result was gas house gang riots, beating and abuses. It wasn't until the break with European tradition that American Copyright Law realized the political implications, where are ENORMOUS. In a word, American Copyright has NO BASIS in European Common Law and was an intentional break from the abuses inherent in it. Just for the record, Eupean Copyright STILL SUCKS Ruben http://www.nyfairuse.org
  • In terms of Copyright, American DID turn a tool of censorship and privledge into a tool for Democracy.

  • That's COMPLETELY not right.

    Go back and read the Federalist Papers idiot!!

    You miss represent the American Position on Copyright and screw over American protections of Liberty at the same time.

    American explicitly and purposefully REJECTED The Queens Anne legal basis for Copyright...in PLAIN ENGLISH in the Constitution....

    The English can STILL read English....is that right.

    They CAN READ the part about ... TO ENCOURGAUGE publications....as OPPOSED to protect the PROPERTY of the AUTHER.

    Ruben
    http://www.nyfairuse.org
  • Poetic, but wrong.

    If I spend a year writing a book, that book cost me a year. If you copy the book without just compensation, you're stealing some portion of my time, and my work, directly.

    Face up, folks. Copyrights, properly applied, are necessary.

    The notion that any of this copying is "cost-free" is utter nonsense. The cost was borne by the creator, who has every right to control and charge for access to the material.

    So you can 'wheel that one' right back into its barn.
  • Can't resist this-

    If the Europeans don't see themselves as superior, then why don't they try to improve themselves? Why would anyone want to live in a second rate state? Seems to me like the Europeans want to drag the US down with them. Superiority by tripping. I remeber that from middle school.

    Surfing the net and other cliches...
  • The important statement there is 'Copyright law as we know it'... Before then, copyright existed in a very different form. The points listed in your post were all things that changed with the Statute of Anne.



    Surfing the net and other cliches...
  • The English sorted this out when we were still colonies.



    Surfing the net and other cliches...
  • by seeken ( 10107 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @06:53AM (#109142) Journal
    Good article here:
    http://www.culturaleconomics.atfreeweb.com/cpu_b.h tm
    Toward the bottom:

    The plot of the booksellers was, however, ultimately defeated in 1774 by the decision of the House of Lords in Donaldson v. Beckett. It was this decision that established the basic concept of Anglo-American copyright. When an author fixed his creation on a tangible medium, he obtained a common law right that is eternal in nature. However, he lost this common law right with publication, or, ?dedication to the public?. In effect, the House of Lords accepted the dissenting opinion and reasoning of Justice Yates in Millar v. Taylor:

    ? Mr. Justice Yates had very clear and definite notions as to the limits of property, but a reference which he makes to the civil law throws a stronger light on his view of the whole subject than any of his direct reasoning. What the Institutes have to say relating to "wild animals," he observes, "is very applicable to this case." And he then proceeds to draw a comparison between these two singularly related subjects. Animals ferae naturae are yours "while they continue in your possession, but no longer. " So those wild and volatile objects which we call ideas are yours as long as they are properly kenneled in the mind. Once unchain or publish them, and they "become incapable of being any longer a subject of property; all mankind are equally entitled to read them; and every reader becomes as fully possessed of all the ideas as the author himself ever was." (Sedgwick 1879)

    Surfing the net and other cliches...

  • by seeken ( 10107 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @04:55AM (#109143) Journal
    That's how it started, where the idea came from. Past that, the evolution has been different in each country.

    In England, there was a famous case in the 18th century through which some publishers tried to assert a common law 'property right' to copyrights. They failed. The States inherited the English Common Law, sans copyright. That's about all you need to know.



    Surfing the net and other cliches...
  • Or how about the nifty new route I found from Chico to Placerville?
    Naaah, you can't. It's already copyrighted by Mapblast [mapblast.com].

    Sorry.

    --
    Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness.


  • ...what effect does the DMCA realistically have on you? Does the US government have the right to tear apart foreign web sites?
    Two words: Jon Johansen
    Also don't forget anon.penet.fi [xs4all.nl] ...

    --
    Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness.

  • As American law is directly derived from English law (excluding Louisiana), the copyright practices in the rest of Europe are irrelevant to a discussion of American copyright law. If that offends you, too bad.
  • This discussion of Disney etc cartoons always gets me a little confused. In my understanding, the copyright on what you call "Mickey Mouse" is actually the copyright on the first cartoon that Mickey appeared in. If and when that goes into the public domain, it means nothing other than TV stations can rebroadcast that cartoon for free.

    Meanwhile, Mickey Mouse(tm) is a trademark for the Disney Corporation, no? If so, it effectively prevents Pepsi from digitally altering "Steamboat Willie" so that Mickey is drinking a Pepsi and telling us how delicious it is.

    Note that we don't have to wait until 2025 to figure out -- several old Popeye and Superman cartoons have gone into PD apparently and are legally for sale on VHS down at the dollar store for $1 a tape. I assume that does not mean that the character of Superman is public domain or that you can start your own chain of Popeye's Fried Fondue resturants.

    This is all pretty much out of my ass -- please straighten me out if I got it wrong.

    --
  • Hardly the monarchist instrument of repression the MSNBC starts with...

    Jon 'Whingeing Pom' Peterson


    The problem with 1600x1200 resolution is that text can sometimes be hard to read when you've only a 19" monitor. Are you a whingeing pom or do you like whingeing porn?
  • Copyright was originally invented by early christian Irish monks in the dark ages -

    (from www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/columba-l.html [fordham.edu]
    Columba went north and founded the church of Derry. Tradition has it that after founding several other monasteries, Columba copied St. Finnian's psalter without the permission of Finnian, and thus devalued the book. When Finnian took the matter to High King Dermott for judgement, Dermott judged in favor of Finnian, stating "to every cow its calf; to every book its copy" (I am borrowing this quote from Cathach Books in Dublin). Columba refused to hand over the copy, and Dermott forced the issue militarily. Columba's family and clan defeated Dermott at the battle of Cooldrevny in 561. Tradition further holds that St. Molaisi of Devenish, Columba's spiritual father, ordered Columba to bring the same number of souls to Christ that he had caused to die as pennance. In 563, Columba landed on Iona with 12 disciples, and founded a new monastery. After founding several more monasteries, confounding the local druids, and participating in another battle (this time against St. Comgall over who owned the church of Colethem), Columba died on June 9, 597.
  • To be honest, if you look at the (dwindling) list of British colonies here [www.fotw.ca], and then look at a map of the world, you will see that Britain still has colonies spread far enough apart such that at any time of day one of them is under sunlight. This, of course, is the meaning of the phrase, "The sun never sets on the British Empire". It is often misunderstood - many people seem to think it means that the British Empire will never end.

    The phrase refers to how far spread the empire is/was, not how long it was expected to stay or how powerful it is/was.
  • What happened in Louisiana?

    Not trolling or taking the piss, I am interested. How did things turn out differently there?
  • Please do not tell everybody else what everybody else means based on your own narrow interpretations

    Narrow interpretations, otherwise known as what I was taught at school in Britain when discussing such things. Then again, I suppose us Brits know nothing about the British Empire and everyone else knows everything.

    I have had this discussion with friends (it was brought up by a friend who went to live in the US and was amused be people's misinterpretation of it). It seems obvious (to my peer group) what the phrase means, as if it meant "The British Empire will never end" the sentence would most probably have been structured differently. Something like "The sun will never set on the British Empire".
  • pretty much all the companies that were split from Standard Oil are once again a single company.

    The difference is that now there are a lot of OTHER oil companies too. Back then there was SO and then.....
  • by Zoinks ( 20480 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @04:51AM (#109154)
    Noam Chomsky observed that the right to own property was unique among all others: If I have the right to a piece of property, *you don't*. Contrast this with the right to freedom of speech - my having the right does not diminish someone else's right. Funny how copyright and intellectual property rights land smack in the middle of this.

    Personally I don't have a problem with people owning copyrights. The image of a strugging artist expecting to get paid for their efforts seems just to me. The problem for me comes with the current system which so strongly favors the "distribution channel" over the artist.

  • Yep, let's just cruise past those unpatriotic facts about how English law established copyright and (relatively) free speech first.

    Fortunately, the good guys in the DMCA case have more sense - check the DMCA Amicus Curiae brief [eff.org] - search down for "Statute of Anne" (1694) and note how the "our content forever" lobbyists were beaten off in 1774.

    Anyway, Happy July 4!

    alex

  • Speaking as a non-American, I don't think it's touchiness, just a concern for precision as befits /. (no, really) - if this was CNN I/we might not bother.

    Far from simply failing to flatter 'us', the writer is storming into his piece on the back of the allegation that this important American freedom was a reaction against the situation prevailing in Britain. This is, as a number of not-exclusively-Euroweenies have pointed out, completely wrong.

    cheers alex

  • ...it looks like TJ saw a distinction between the idea and the *expression* of an idea, which is copyrightable in his mind. I think the original poster may have not used the quote 100% correctly... TJ would not have sanctioned ripping off your book...

    I'm not so sure about that. Here's a little more context; you decide:

    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. 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
    --Thomas Jefferson
  • The Felten case is very interesting.

    In the MPAA vs 2600 and DVDCCA vs the entire world, the media companies chose the fighting ground. The issues in both cases are not perfect if you want to challenge the constitutionality of the DMCA.

    However, the Felten case goes directly at the DMCA stifling academic research. See the complaint [eff.org], where they do a good job of pruning away all issues not related to the publishing of the research material. This could be the case that blows the DMCA out of the water. It could just carve out a more sensible exemption for encryption research, though. Or Felten could loose, and we have a bad case of precedence to fight the next time.
  • Owning "intellectual property" may be similar to owning people, a little ownership is good but a lot of ownership is bad.

    You argument breaks down at this line and switches tracks randomly. You're comparing two completely separate objects.

    Just thought you should know.
  • I seem to remember the TV and telephone being invented over here

    No, buddy, telephone was Alexander Graham Bell. Canada, the United States, and Britain all have a claim on him... I believe he was born in Britain, lived in Canada, and did his research in the US. You guys used to be scientific powerhouses, but that distinction, along with the dubious title "Leaders of the Free World", has transfered to the US.
  • But it didn't discuss English law either. They jumped over 200 years of history, without any acknowledgement that the concepts fundemental to the US copyright system were derived from English law. Where was the discussion of the 1662 printer licensing Act? The 1709 Statute of Anne?
  • http://media-in-transition.mit.edu/forums/copyrigh t/index_transcript.html

    enough.
  • > Ah, the requiste whining about how America ain't that great, we did it first in england, you really didn't save the french from germany two times in the first half of the century, blah, blah, blah....

    Oh? SO we should still bend over and let us be fscked, because some ancient American Warmonger decided it was cool to kick the butt of Japan?

    You DO remember Pearl Harbor do you? There is an excellent "lets twist history a bit HOLLYWOOD flic" about that now, you should view that. You did not get in the war for Europes sake, do not claim so.
    Yes, US presence in the Allies helped ending the 2nd WW but there is really no telling what would have happened if Nippon did not bomb PH now is there? Should we thank Japan?

    >Incidentally, it's the Fourth of July. If you don't recall, it's 225 years ago today that we told you (the British anyway) to bugger off.

    Hey, more power to you, now YOU bugger off.

    > Oh yeah, why do you folks bitch every time a quasi-historical movie comes out that doesn't kiss European ass? If you don't like American studios making movies that portray the Good ole USA in a very positive light, then why don't you create your own movies that are worth distributing world wide? Can't compete with Hollywood on their terms? Thats really sad.

    Have you ever realized that perhaps, oh I dunno, the fact that Europe has 20 odd LANGUAGES, and thus 20 odd MARKETS for MOVIES has some effect on that?

    > Sure, there are a few foreign movies wich win well deserved acclaim here in the states (Trainspotting, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)But for the most part, your film industry can't hold a candle to Hollywood, in terms of raw popularity.

    AH! Ever heared of *Bollywood*? They release more and for a bigger "raw sale" they Hollywood. Too bad you apparently do not speak Hindi. The world is quite some bigger then Europe and the US you know.

    > Great Britain had their time at the top of the world food chain, and pissed and stomped their way accross the world, claiming every spit of land you beat the Spainards to for the Crown. Remember "The sun never sets on the British Empire?"

    Yes, we remember, actually Im Dutch, we fought the British quite harsh on that claim. Both Britain, and Holland got sorta modernized you know, we actually understand now that Slavery and Colonies are bad. Talking about "slavery", and "minorites" in the states. Wasnt there some internal fuss about in the US? Civil War ring a bell? Looking at all the racial conflics in the states, I have to conclude that about half of your country is still confused over this.

    > Well, now it's our turn to be leader of the pack, and if you don't like the privileges that come with that -like painting things in a pro US light, and not giving a rats ass what you Europeans think about it- well, too bad.

    Well, you may WANT to be the leader of Pack. You may actually think you Deserve to be the leader of the Pack. You actually may think you already are, so is THIS why the US got voted out of many a UN comittee lately? Is THIS why the merger between Honeywell and GE was stopped BY THE EC. That does not fit.

    This kind of phrasing actually used to be coined by our 2nd WW Neighbours. But guess what? Europe does not agree. We will lead our own pack thankyouverymuch.

    > I know the US ain't perfect, and we like to color history to benefit ourselves

    And you think thats a "good thing"?

    (seriously, do you honestly believe the scholars in your country don't?)

    Seriously, I do. We do not ban Evolution Theory from schools for example.

    Greetings /Dread (prides to Love/Hate the US)
  • Hey are you saying brittany spears is not culture?
  • Speaking of MapBlast, I was redirected today from www.mapblast.com to home.vicinity.com.

    Has the MapBlast web site gone away entirely? I had 25 map pages I used, and none of the URLs seem to work any more, it just hangs there with a grey screen indefinitely.

    What a shame, I found MapBlast much easier to use than MapQuest.

    DZ
  • World Wide Web, a now popular bastardization of a once U.S. DoD network.

    What do you mean? The WWW is made possible by an application protocol, a certain document specification, and a media descriptor database. ARPANET consisted of physical connections between computers and a transport protocol to shift bytes around. The only way that you can argue that the two are connected is by saying that the application protocol of the WWW is usually implemented over a transport protocol like the one used by ARPANET.

    Is this what you meant to say?

    For the record, I'm an American citizen and think that this whole thread has become pretty silly.
    ____________________
  • I mean really... It's not like software can be innovative or original! I mean, hell, next they'll be handing out patents for drugs and teaching mechanisma! I mean how dumb is that, It's not like it actually took some one considerable time and money to develop a product!
    ------------------------------------
  • The EU decided that their antitrust laws apply to US companies, since GE and Honeywell do business in Europe, even though th companies are US based, and the US approved the merger (not to mention other companies the EU is after such as Intel and Microsoft). So if the off-shore web-sites do business in the US (i.e. if they have customers in the US who viw the pages) they will definitely be subject to US law. What probably would happen is the web site would not allow US customers.
  • A troll is a post designed for the purpose of getting answers.

    This was such a post. That ridiculous stupidity about the U.S. being all great, totally ignoring that you ARE Europeans. Yes. You are. The culture is, anyways. (Yes, tes, there are the other etnicities.)

    The U.S. is a whole bunch of cultures mish-masehed together. The patriotism crap is added on later. Think a bit before you post. What language do you speak? How is your government made? How are your cultural customs? It seems so different for you.... but if you look upon it with objective eyes (I'm Brasilian) there is SUCH a difference!

  • To add on to that, the airplane was invented by Alberto Santos Dumont.

    Make a google search. He made the first seelf-propelled airplane, which first flew in Paris with witnesses and all. He was originally Brazilian. I know who they teach here (U.S.) and in Brazil. What do they teach everywhere else?

  • A short paper [www.tao.ca] by Pam Samuelson of Berkeley (1999) does an excellent job of underlining the significance of the Statute of Anne, as affirmed by the Founding Fathers, and contrasting it with the various worrying current developments in copyright law.

    It's along the same lines as the MSNBC piece, but the history and the analysis are much sharper.

    This is what she has to say specifically about the 1710 Statute

    The development that ushered in the modern era of copyright was the English Parliaments passage of the Statute of Anne in 1710 [18]. On its face, this statute was not only a repudiation of several principal tenets of the stationers copyright system; it was also a redirection of copyright's purpose away from censorship and toward freedom of expression principles and an effort to promote real competition among printers and booksellersthat is, to break the stranglehold that major players in the Stationers' Company had over the book trade. Insofar as that monopoly continued in revised form, the statute provided recourse for those injured by excessive prices of books.

    The key aspects of the Statute of Anne for achieving these goals were these: First, the act granted rights to authors, not to publishers. Second, it did so for the utilitarian purpose of inducing learned men to write and publish books. Third, the act established a larger societal purpose for copyright, namely, to promote learning. Fourth, it granted rights only in newly authored books. Thereafter, ancient books were in the public domain and could be printed by anyone. Fifth, it limited the duration of copyright to fourteen year terms (renewable for another fourteen years if the author was living at the end of that term), thus abolishing perpetual copyrights [19]. Sixth, the statute conferred rights of a limited character (not to control all uses, but to control the printing and reprinting of protected works). Seventh, it imposed a responsibility on publishers to deposit copies of their works with designated libraries. Eighth, it provided a system for redressing grievances about overpriced books.

    While it took about fifty additional years for pre-modern system to die out [20], the modern law of copyright emerged from the Statute of Anne's precepts. Censorship held no place of honor in this new copyright system which, in the main, embraced Enlightenment values that also influenced the framers of the U.S. Constitution. The clause of this constitution that empowers Congress to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing to authors and inventors an exclusive right in their respective writings and discoveries for limited times should be viewed in historical context as an American endorsement of England's repudiation of the speech-suppressing, anti-competitive and otherwise repressive pre-modern copyright system that the English Parliament meant to reshape by the Statute of Anne. Core elements of the Statute of Anne are reflected in Article I, sec. 8, cl. 8's purpose ("to promote Science"), in the persons to whom rights were to be granted ("authors"), and in the duration of rights ("for limited times").

    ... The constitutional copyright clause, properly construed, embodies first amendment and anti-monopoly principles. ... There is a "dormant copyright clause" waiting to be reawakened in the case law -- and hopefully in Congress -- after a long sleep in which the clause has become a meaningless cliche [22].

    The rest of the paper [www.tao.ca], which analyses the contrast between this history and current recent developments, is strongly recommended.

  • by JPMH ( 100614 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @07:42AM (#109172)
    The first 'modern' copyright law was the Statute of Queen Anne (1710).

    This created the legal status quo in the Colonies which continued largely unchanged by the US Founding Fathers.

    From Britannica:

    The Statute of Anne, passed in England in 1710, was a milestone in the history of copyright law. It recognized that authors should be the primary beneficiaries of copyright law; it also established the idea that such laws should have only limited duration, after which works could pass into public domain. The designated period came to be set at 28 years. Similar laws were enacted in Denmark (1741), the United States (1790), and France (1793).
    For further information see this discussion [betweenborders.com] by Brian Forte.

    The full text of the Statute is online here [edge.net]

  • MSNBC did a very good job with this one. It is pretty darn accurate. They could have included a time-line history of how the copyright term has been extended from twenty some odd year maximum (24?) to the current period of 95 years!

    However, I have one bone to pick. Where was this article when the Sonny-Bono act (the one that extended the copyright term retroactively) and the DMCA were being debated in congress? Now... that might have made a difference.

  • We don't even have a day off :) Nation-states are lame, we're all inhabitating the same earth. Touting one state above others will only lead to stupid disputes and wars.

    Americans are much like Nazis actually.

  • Nah .. but the Nazis believed they and their states was superiour, just like Americans do. Don't you see the rest of the world laughing at you??

    We do ..

  • "Seems to me like the Europeans want to drag the US down with them"

    Thanks for proving my point about the cluelessness of Americans :)

  • The Big Guys are not scared. After all, they're very successful in extending the copyright and thus their control over the content they provide. And it's still a long way to the point, where the masses are so upset with the situation that they'll speak up and the legislation acts appropriatelly. One can just hope [1] that we'll reach this point sooner than later.

    [1] Well, one can also take action, like supporting the EFF or even do some lobbying oneself. Unfortunatelly, if you live in another country it's very difficult to have any influence on the American government.

  • You have an opportunity to sound off by writing a letter to the editor. I'm posting here what I wrote to the editor.


    I feel that this editorial hits the nail on the head. I'm wondering if the Founding Fathers would like the idea behind Open Source licensing (aka "copyleft"). With Microsoft attacking the GNU General Public License, I believe that Open Source operating systems (like Linux) and other freely distributed software packages are forcing Microsoft to rely on it's name alone. The public is wanting more reliability in software than who can better promote the bells and whistles packaged within the software.
  • Being paranoic, they could use it to show how BSD-stile licence is more 'American' than GPL, and push to the "healty environment" dreamed by BG, where ideas are worked out (at zero cost) in the public domain, and then MS embrace and extends them and sells them for big cash.

    Actually, according to the article Jefferson would probably have considered GPL too restrictive.

  • What we fail to understand is your unability to understand that Europe do not exists (yet). There is still Italy, France, Germany, Spain and so on. With a hell of a lot of more diversification than, say, between Utah and California.

    Just to reply to a stereotype with a stereotype : germans are proud and responsible people. They are still ashamed of what they did in the first half of last century, so they prefer not to declaim that they are proud of their country (but they are, and with some reason).

    And, adding yet another stereotype, we spaghetti people instead already forgot that most of us where on the wrong side during WWW2. So we are less shy with our patriotism (though one could argue that there are at least three ofr four different Italies around here).

    And French people still calls computers 'Ordinateurs' and software 'Logiciel'. Does that tell you enough about their patriotism?

    I could go on, but I want to avoid alienating the whole Europe, less I will have to emigrate in Cina.

  • haha!
    of course!
    There was never any art before copyright. No music, no writing, no painting, no NOTHING.
    And if we let Napster and such go free and share copyrighted ideas, then we'll be back into the dark ages with absolutely no creativity, original thought, or art.
    Yey Yey for the DMCA!
  • So, he's still maintaining his site, right?


    --Fesh

  • I just find it truly ironic that an article that ends with the dangers of the DMCA and bemoans the current state of copyright law was publichsed by MSNBC... Don't tell me that MS couldn't do some really "nifty" (for their bottom line) things with DMCA powers...


    --Fesh

  • Man, if your family subsists on coca plants, you've got a dietary problem. That being said, not bothering to check whether or not the crops are actually coca or not is inexcusable, but if you mix the coca cash crop in with your family veggies to try to keep from getting unfriendly attention, you pretty much get what you asked for.

    (Disclaimer: I'd rather see a regulated market for narcotics than a police state where senior citizens can get themselves killed in a bungled bust attempt. But such is life.)


    --Fesh

  • Of course the farmers aren't the problem. My point was that growing narcotics is not a "subsistence" activity. If you're dependant on subsistence farming for your survival, keep the plot that's feeding your family well away from the narcotics plot. That way at least you might still be able to eat when the crop-duster flies by.

    What are we supposed to do, anyway? Pull a Clear and Present Danger on the drug barons' asses? I'd argue yes, since that would make it a real war on drugs instead of a war on the personal freedoms (Norte Americano and otherwise). But unfortunately, if we were to try, we'd see an international backlash like you wouldn't believe. What to do? Do keep in mind that to get legalization, its advocates would have to stoop to similarly distasteful tactics. Politicians and law enforcement have a cash cow on the line here, and they won't give it up without bloodshed.... Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


    --Fesh

  • You just supported my point. Thank you for playing. Once again, I ask, what is one to do when favoring legalization tends to get one marginalized and left out of the whole decision making process? What does one do when government makes more money off trying to stop the drug trade than the drug lords do trying to keep it going (never mind police departments that are actively involved in distribution)? If I'm going to be paying for a "War on Drugs" with my taxes, I want a real war, not an excuse to follow me around with cameras everywhere I go. Isn't going to happen, though. Too many people on this side of the border have a vested interest keeping things just the way they are.


    --Fesh

  • Hmm. Actually, Jefferson probably would have sanctioned exactly that. In several letters to Madison during the time when Madison was drafting the Constitution, Jefferson opposed the provision of any kind of protection for intellectual property.

    I'm always amazed by the adulation the Jefferson gets among educated people. TJ wasn't a very nice man -- he supported and encouraged the atrocities of the French Revolution, supported laws requiring that freed slaves be required to move out of Virginia within a year of their manumission, etc. Hell, he didn't even write the Declaration of Independence -- he was merely the lead draftsman among the committee of five.

  • ...about the article. First, it's on MSNBC and they are championing causes that run contrary to their own interest. MS is so large that its right hand doesn't know what its left hand is doing. Either that, or they have journalistic integrity.

    Second, the first part of the article did a good job of explaining the concept of a balance between consumer and producer. It's this lack of understanding about the balance that makes me wary of the anti-IP movement.

    The article had a poor finish, stooping to the same old boosterism for Napster that I see all too often. I wonder how such authors would feel about their works being circulated on such a filesharing system.

    Happy Independance Day everybody.

  • Excuse me? Why the [XD] should the EU be able to say what two non-European companies should and should not be able to do? Just because the companies do business in the EU?

    No-one said they couldn't merge. The commission simply said that if they did merge, then the merged company couldn't trade in various sectors (particularly avionics) within the EU.

    Thing is, it's been said a million or so times here in respect of M'oft that "having a monopoly isn't illegal, it's abusing it that's not allowed", but that's the US legal position.

    In the EU, having a monopoly is illegal, so once the Commission established that the merged company's market share would be above the defined threshold for a monopoly, they were hardly in a position to act any differently.

    What you have here is a governmental body implementing a law put in place by a set of elected representatives. 'Democracy', I believe it's known as. Often posited as a credible alternative to imperialism.

    TomV

  • It's shocking how touchy some non-Americans are being about this story. They glossed over the history of copyright? It's MSNBC, what'd you expect-- a history lesson? It's not about Europe. It's about copyright in the U.S., hence the discussion of the DMCA. Yeah, maybe the writer gets a little nationalistic to make his point. It's still a decent article, despite the occasional manipulative phrase.

    Every time a story comes up that says the least bit wrong about Europeans (or, worse-- forgets to mention them), they get in a tizzy. Do we need a warning? "WARNING: this article may contain no flattering commentary about Europe. If you're not American, read at your own risk. Oh, and if you're neither European nor American, you don't count-- even the Europeans don't think you exist."

    On a side note-- and this is totally irrelevant, really-- where in the article does the author "rewrite history"? I just ask because you mention it twice.
  • All this, of course, is no help to those companies being screwed by Amazon.com's "One Click Shopping" patent.

    What I'd like to know is how in the heck do you get a patent for ANY software? That's like getting a patent for a song due to the sequential process and timing involved with strumming strings on a guitar.
  • Dude, we just don't like monarchs here. That and you're letting the truth get in the way of a perfectly good story.

    Now I'm outta here to celebrate the fact that the Indians couldn't enforce there immigration laws.
  • In l870, begging bankers for more loans, he formed Standard Oil of Ohio.

    Standard Oil was the basis for the same Sherman Anti-Trust Act that Microsoft was getting sued under. Due to this act, Standard Oil was split up into multiple companies.

    The only reason I mention this is that while the world has been watching what all will happen with Microsoft, pretty much all the companies that were split from Standard Oil are once again a single company. This may not be all that relevant considering the state of the oil industry today as compared to Rockefeller's time, but it is kind of interesting just the same.
  • by Metrol ( 147060 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @05:02AM (#109202) Homepage
    If the DMCA unconsitutional, why doesn't someone challenge it in court?

    I was wondering the very same thing when President Clinton signed in a budget that kicked in a retroactive tax. Sad truth of the matter is that the US Constitution has become more of a guideline then the law of the land.

    Part of the problem has to do with two schools of thought concerning the Constitution. On one hand you have folks who believe that it should be interpereted along side the arguments and writings of those men who wrote it. On the other hand you've got those who see no value in the historical context and look at it from a purely here and now stand point.

    In addition, it's important to consider that this shift in attitude towards the Constitution seems to rest far more with the Supreme Courts of late then the legislature. Seeing as how any challenge would go there if accepted, those looking to challenge would have to have a firm belief they'd win such a case. Losing at that level is actually far worse then a new restrictive law, because now you've got precedent working against you on any future case.
  • by caduguid ( 152224 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @03:58AM (#109205)
    Hmmmn. Do USA legislators and judiciary have both the clout and the audacity to effectively pursue extraterritorial legislation and censorship?

    (Hint... ask Jon Johanassen of decss fame.)
  • When an employee is hired by an employer, the employee is, essentially, renting themself to the employer. That is, in a very limited sense, the employee is owned by their employer. With this in mind, the main difference between a temp agency and a slave trading organization is that in the case of the temp agency the ownership is very limited (by law) but in the case of the slave trading organization the ownership is absolute.

    So, when it comes to people, a little ownership is good (most people want jobs) but a lot of ownership is bad (most people don't want to be slaves). Owning "intellectual property" may be similar to owning people, a little ownership is good but a lot of ownership is bad. In particular, as with the need to balance tax levels between communism and anarchy there may be a need to balance private and public ownership of "intellectual property".

    Prosecuting Microsoft for anti-trust violations is like prosecuting a slave trading organization for anti-trust violations. The real problem is that over the years "intellectual property law" has evolved to allow absolute private ownership of "intellectual property". Microsoft can say that what they do is legal and profitable and provides a useful service but 150 years ago a slave trading organization could have said the same thing.

  • by AntiNorm ( 155641 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @07:06AM (#109209)
    ...what effect does the DMCA realistically have on you? Does the US government have the right to tear apart foreign web sites?

    Two words: Jon Johansen

    ---
    DOOR!!
  • Patriotism and owning a national flag is something that only the skinheads do.

    Increasingly it's like that at home too though, at least out on the west coast where I live. I know a lot of otherwise-normal people who are extremely suspicious of anyone who displays any hint of national pride. I had no idea that this was a problem not unique to the States.

    It's OK to be proud of your country, even if it happens to be Germany!

  • An appropriate case needs to be made, and it needs to work its way through the lower courts. Hey, it may be happening already; the great DCMA challenge may be underway though unreported yet. The court system is huge.

    Too bad there aren't packs of pro-bono constitutional law lawyers looking for this kind of case to take on. At least we have the EFF/ACLU/etc.

  • I agree that BLIND nationalism can be really dangerous. But too many people seem to be of the mind that saying, "yeah, we're OK!" and putting out the flag once a year is some kind of dangerous obsession. There's a big difference between your basic national pride and a Hitler rally.

    And here's the really ironic thing: the people who want to take responsibility for the country's actions -- the people who are politically motivated, and write their legislators and all that -- those are the people that are most likely to be tarred with the "crazy patriot" brush.

    Mindless patriots can do a lot of damage, but conscientious patriots are the only thing stopping the whackos from taking over, in every nation. Please don't confuse the two groups.
  • by IronChef ( 164482 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @06:10AM (#109214)

    The TJ quote was talking about ideas. From the article it looks like TJ saw a distinction between the idea and the *expression* of an idea, which is copyrightable in his mind. I think the original poster may have not used the quote 100% correctly... TJ would not have sanctioned ripping off your book, but I don't think he would have had a problem with someone else using the original ideas in your book to create their own work.

    As a "content creator" myself this sits fine with me.
  • Computer technology has made it possible for citizens to publish freely on the net and debate the ideas that are central to the U.S. poltiical democracy. The ideas of the U.S. Founding Fathers were never so important as today.

    At the same time, monopoly capitalists have seized contrrol of this technology and are buying legislators to prevent such free publication. Witness the DMCA, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, granting software patents and for business practices, UCITA, and the impending database protection bill the author notes.

    If we who understand technology and who treasure our freedoms do not speak out and convince our neighbors of these problems, then the revolution will be reversed.

    You can help by joining the discussions at http://eon.law.harvard.edu/openlaw where online briefs are openly prepared in an effort to fight these new laws.

    By the way, Siva Vaidhyanathan is the author of the forthcoming book, "Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and how It Threatens Creativity ," ISBN: 0814788068, Publisher: New York University Press, Pub. Date: August 2001

  • Then print the article, make some 500 copies and hand them out in the street, or put then under windshield wipers at parking lots. An urge to join the EFF [eff.org] wouldn't hurt either.
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @04:45AM (#109221) Journal
    Apparently the original idea of a Copyright was that is was a state sanctioned/enforced monopoly on a particular product (Beaver skins in North America for the British market, for example). The idea that someone could have a monopoly on an entire industry in the way we now see it would have probably horrified them.

    Jefferson proposed specific language for an amendment that would have allowed copyrights and patents, despite his doubts, but forbidden any other type of commercial monopoly. "For instance," Jefferson wrote, "the following alterations and additions would have pleased me: Article 9. Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding _____ years, but for no longer term, and no other purpose."

    There are advantadges to having broad market controls, but there is a price as well. Take a look at a history of the Oil industry before Rockerfeller [pbs.org] took it over. The PBS film (transcript here [pbs.org]) on the Rockerfellers is enlightening.

    As the oil gushed skyward, fantastic stories appeared of instant fortunes. Among the Cleveland businessmen lured to the region was John D. Rockefeller. He was no wildcatter. He saw that drilling for oil was a very risky business. Refining, not drilling, he decided, was where the steady money was to be made. Soon, a new rail line linked Cleveland with the oil region. Rockefeller built his refinery right beside it.

    Rockefeller's future, however, was harnessed to an industry in trouble. "So many wells were flowing," he lamented, "that the price of oil kept falling, yet they went right on drilling." He saw an industry plagued by over-production, and his own success threatened by what he described as "ruinous, cutthroat competition."

    John D. was shrewd enough and he was analytical enough that he realized that in order to figure out a way to save his own firm and his own newly-won fortune, that he had to figure out a solution for the entire industry. It was at that point that John D. began to conceive of the oil industry as one big interrelated mechanism. And you couldn't just change one component, you had to control the entire machine.

    In a move that would transform the American economy, Rockefeller set out to replace a world of independent oilmen with a giant company controlled by him. In l870, begging bankers for more loans, he formed Standard Oil of Ohio. The next year, he quietly put what he called "our plan" -- his campaign to dominate the volatile oil industry - into devastating effect.

    Jefferson would have been alarmed by this is the extreme. and it is something that far surpasses what they had experienced with industries in there day.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • by Tim_the_minstrel ( 185071 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @07:49AM (#109224)
    Vaidhyanathan writes: At its birth in England, copyright was an instrument of censorship...In contrast, the American copyright system since 1791 has reflected American republican values.

    The statements are correct, but the use of the phrase "in contrast" is misleading. In England, the Star Chamber (which had assisted the enforcement of the Stationers' monopoly) was abolished in the mid-17th century. The licensing acts, which were the legal basis for the Stationers' monopoly, expired in 1694 and were never renewed. The "Act for the Encouragement of Learning", passed in the 8th year of Queen Anne (1709-1710), reformed English copyright on the basis of the same enlightenment values that are incorporated in the U.S. Constitution's monpolies clause. So the beginnings of U.S. copyright may indeed be contrasted with the beginnings of English copyright, but by the time the U.S. constitution was adopted, English copyright had come far from its beginnings. The U.S. Constitution's monopolies clause owed a great debt to the English experience.

    Vaidhyanathan writes: Copyright was created as a policy that balanced the interests of authors, publishers, and readers. It was not intended to be a restrictive property right.

    This is slightly misleading, since it doesn't make clear the difference between means and ends. The means of copyright are limited monopoly privileges, and these privileges are sometimes reasonably thought of as balancing various interests. The end, or goal, of copyright, is to enlarge the public domain. There is no need for "balance"; the public interest in having an expanding public domain is paramount. The means of copyright might balance interests, but they must always be consistent with the ultimate goal of enlarging the public domain.

    Vaidhyanathan writes: James Madison, who introduced the copyright and patent clause to the Constitution, argued in The Federalist papers that copyright was one of those few acts of government in which the "public good fully coincides with the claims of individuals."

    Madison's remarks in The Federalist Number 43 are actually misleading, and don't accurately refelect his thinking on matters of copyright and patent. His essay (never published in his lifetime) entitled "Monopolies. Perpetuities. Corporations. Ecclesiastical Endowments" is a better source for his ideas on these matters.

    Vaidhyanathan writes: Madison did not engage in "property talk" about copyright.

    Actually, he did. In the above-mentioned essay on monopolies, he likened books and inventions to public property. Madison wrote:

    "Monopolies, though in certain cases useful, ought to be granted with caution, and guarded with strictness against abuse. The Constitution of the United States has limited them to two cases--the authors of books, and of useful inventions, in both which they are considered as a compensation for a benefit actually gained to the community as a purchase of property which the owner might otherwise withhold from public use. There can be no just objection to a temporary monopoly in these cases; but it ought to be temporary because under that limitation a sufficient recompense and encouragement may be given."

    Madison is likening a book or invention to a piece of land that the public buys from its holder. The copyright is likened to the payment made in exchange for the land. Hence on this analogy, after the copyright or patent is granted, the inventor or author "owns" the monopoly (for as long as it lasts) but the public "owns" the book or invention.

    It's true, though, that Madison didn't confine himself to the limits of this public land analogy. His starting point, as Vaidhyanatham shows by citing Madison's correspondence with Jefferson, was that copyrights and patents are monopolies which might be useful, but must be carefully regulated.

    Vaidhyanathan writes: Jefferson proposed specific language for an amendment that would have allowed copyrights and patents, despite his doubts, but forbidden any other type of commercial monopoly.

    Jefferson's chief fear hear seems to have been abuses of the commerce clause, not the copyright and patent power. But as Vaidhyanathan points out, and as the wording of Jefferson's proposal clearly shows, Jefferson was also well aware (more so than Madison was in 1789) of the dangers of abuses of copyright and patent.

    Jefferson's own proposal for the term of copyright and patent was sent to Jefferson a few days later after the above-cited letter. He proposed 19 years, the half-life of an adult generation in his time. (It took him two tries to work this out, and as a result there are two different versions of this letter in his published works, one without the 19 year proposal, and one with it.) Possibly he would have allowed a renewal for an additional 19 years if the author had been living after the original 19 years, but the phrase "their own productions in literature" suggests that he would not have approved of posthumous renewal.

    Vaidhyanathan writes: Significantly, the founders did not argue for copyrights or patents as "property."

    This is an important point. The phrase "intellectual property" was not yet in existence, but the phrase "literary property" was known. Some readings of the famous case of Donaldson v. Becket, decided by the English House of Lords in 1774, view it as a rejection of the entire notion of "literary property". To what extent copyright law should incorporate property principles was not agreed on all hands. Adam Smith classified copyrights and patents as "exclusive privileges" (not property rights). Mr. Justice Yates, the dissenting judge in the famous case of Millar v. Taylor (King's Bench 1769), classified copyright as a tort right, not a property right. The framers' choice of the words "the exclusive right" in the Constitution's monopolies clause shows that they were aware that the status of copyright and patent rights as "property" was not a matter of fundamental right, but of policy. By specifying "the exclusive right" they gave Congress freedom to incorporate, or not incorporate, property principles in U.S. copyright law as it saw fit. By specifying "limited times", the framers made it clear that property principles could be imported into copyright and patent law only to a limited extent.

    Vaidhyanathan writes: Jefferson wrote of copyright, "Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

    Jefferson was writing about patent law, not copyright law, in his 1813 letter to Isaac McPherson.

    Vaidhyanathan writes: Fearing, justifiably, that copyright might eventually expand to encompass idea protection, not just expression protection, Jefferson wrote in 1813, "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispose himself of it."

    Jefferson's use of "idea" in this 1813 letter is not a reference to what is now called the "idea/expression dichotomy" of copyright law. This distinction was known at the time (though 18th century authors used other words for it). But Jefferson here was writing in a patent-law context. If he means "ideas" as distinguished form "exression" (as we now style it), still he was referring to what lawyers call "the subject matter of patent". And patents, unlike copyrights, protect "ideas". If we map his patent-law comments into a copyright context, then we must substitute "expression" where Jefferson uses "idea".

    But Jefferson, though writing in a patent-law context, was writing at a high level of generality. By "idea" Jefferson was referring to any work of the human mind, not to "ideas" as distinguished from "expressions". The same applies to Mr. Justice Brandeis's statement that "the general rule of law is, that noblest of human productions--knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions and ideas -- become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use." By "knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions and ideas" Brandeis meant "all works of the human mind", not simply "ideas" as distinguished from "expression".

    Nevertheless, ideas and expression are not completely separable. Copyright that is too broad in scope or too long in duration eventually inhibits freedom of "ideas", even "ideas" as distinguised from "expression."

    Vaidhyanathan writes: Jefferson might not have been happy with the recent trajectory of the law. But he would have gotten a kick out of Napster.

    In Jefferson's time, copyright only applied to printed books as published. Public performance and display, and creation of derivations, were public rights.

    On the other hand even under a Jeffersonian copyright term of 19 years, or a neo-Jeffersonian term of 30 years (arrived at by applying Jefferson's formula to modern conditions), many of the works swapped over Napster would be under copyright. So even if we scaled back the scope and duration of copyright to reasonable levels, there might still be a compliance-problem involving Napster. If we are going to view copyright as a bargain between the public and the monopolist, the public must hold up its end of the bargain in good faith. And that might mean refraining from file-swapping in some circumstances. I agree with Mr. Vaidhyanathan, though, that the chief problem in copyright today is not infringement by private citizens, but the overreaching greed of the rightsholders.


  • IIRC, most of the concepts of copyrights, even in the rest of Europe, were based on the concept of Natural Law. That is, what your create is naturally yours because you wrote it, period. It might have been good to mention that in the article to show how novel the Constitution is on this subject.

    The Framers broke with this tradition in actually preferring no copyright at all, but realized that some concessions need to be made to creators of works in order to give them incentive to keep creating.

  • by Xoro ( 201854 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @03:44AM (#109231)

    I loved this quote from Thomas Jefferson (from the article) on the notion of "Intellectual Property". I think it really captures the essence of the "free information" side of the debate - why many people find the comparisons of Naptster and ab* to "theft" and "piracy" puzzling:

    "Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

    Wheel that one out the next time someone tries to tell you that IP laws have to be toughened because nobody could have conceived of cost-free information sharing before the digital age.

  • I don't give a shit about other countries revolutions, because I don't live there. Yes, I do think highly of our revolution, because it's the focus of todays national holiday, and because I do live here. And it's interesting how you call me a FAIP- when such a statement adds nothing to any logical discussion. It's called an ad hominin attack (sp). Like if I pointed out that you're a Eurotroll, that really doesn't have anything to do with this really off topic thread.

    And what kind of statement is "you can continue tracing origins of work back to Africa?" So what? Of course everyone's work is based on someone elses. Do we really need to reinvent the wheel everytime we want to make a breakthough? I never claimed everything was invented in America, only Slashdot. Some others seem to have think I implied that discussion and debate was invented here too; but I think that predates even Athens.

    Anywich way, I love my country, Toad. Today, we're blowing up lots of stuff to celebrate it, flying American flags, having Barbeques, and getting together with friends. Independance day, Toad. I'm sure whatever country you're from has a concept of actually celebrating a holiday, rather than just thinking of it as a day off. Anyway, I'm off to a barbeque.

  • by glebite ( 206150 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @03:50AM (#109240)

    Actually, it might - although you may live in a country which does not have the DMCA, the multinationals which are based in the USA can extend their philosophies outside of the US laws to pressure ISPs (which may be partially owned by the Forces Of Evil (FOE)) to drop your page.

    They do have lovely legal forces in their Branch Offices (BO) which can make use of local laws to make your life difficult.

    It is scary though, that the BO of the FOE can render you out of commission...

  • Of course, the most heinous destructive power of the DMCA is allowing ridiculous (in my opinion, unAmerican) outfits like the Southern Building Code Congress International to write laws that are copyright-protected [slashdot.org] and thus cannot be republished by citizens freely on the web.

    When I recently wrote the SBCCI [sbcci.org] one of my lovely nastygrams, I got back a reply that basically said "we are proud and the DMCA backs up our every shitty attack on the American way of life".

    In the Veeck vs. SBCCI circuit court decision [uscourts.gov], District Judge Little provides a powerful dissent. Judge Little states: "The minute burden that might befall the standards-writing organizations because of the actions of Veeck and others like him is outweighed by the benefit of Veeck's act of enhancing unfettered access to the law."

    It's *our* law. All law must be public domain. Period. If there's anything that steams me so much, it's private entities working to effectively hide the law from the citizenry.

    Steve Magruder

  • Finally, a brilliantly written article that exposes cleanly and briefly the fundamental failures of the DMCA.

    The DMCA slipped in and undermined the Constitution of the United States almost without public awareness. Other criticisms of the DMCA are too hard to understand by non-technical (non-Slashdot-like) readers!

    We here on Slashdot and other sites who know about and agree about this should use this article to pubicise our point of view.

    Put a link to it on your website!

    ------------------
  • If you don't recall, it's 225 years ago today that we told you (the British anyway) to bugger off.
    As an American living in Germany, Europeans don't understand this at all. By "this" I mean refering to America as "we" and "us". Patriotism and owning a national flag is something that only the skinheads do. A political leader here in German said "I am proud to be German" and got lambasted for it. He got called everything in the book.

    There is a debate about what you can say, "I am happy to be German," "I am happy to live in Germany", blah, blah. But you will never here a German talk about things "he" did 50-100 years ago. Granted, their history contains some things that they are not proud of, but so does ours. Just my few words into why Europeans "don't understand us"...

  • by Kalabajoui ( 232671 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @06:50AM (#109254)
    Have you heard of the WTO? The USA has many trade agreements and treaties with other countries that allow American laws to affect people in other countries and visa versa. Though I think the effect tends to favor American interests and corportations. Remember Johansen and Dcss? Those paranoid conspiracy theorists may be on to something when it comes to our world evolving towards one world government. The only good thing about this is that nation states will probably not see as much erosion of sovereignty that individual states within the USA have gone through since the formation of our country.
  • Are you trying to tell us that you are not a lawyer,
    but by some Freudian slip, in fact telling us
    "I AM ANAL"?

    Or both?

  • the copyright practices in the rest of Europe are irrelevant to a discussion of American copyright law

    Reading the article, one would think that copyright, as we know it, was an American invention, which is is not. Therefore I think it is relevant.

  • Ah, the requiste whining about how America ain't that great

    No, that was not my point at all. Sorry if you thought it was.

    My point was the author felt free to misrepresent the facts of history in an attempt to drum up pro-American stance for an 4th of July article. Though at the expense of producing an anti-British setiment, as displayed by your post.

  • There were hundreds of copyright cases in the 18th century, which one in particular? Lot of rip-off publishers were taken to court for not paying royalities to the original author/ creator.

    see this comment [slashdot.org] for more insight than I can give.

    The US founding fathers didn't take a law used for censorship and make it into something good. They took contempory law of their day (200 years after Tudor), British stance of copyright and embedded it into their federal government.

    The US founding fathers had a lot of deep thought and did a lot of good with their stance on copyright, balancing public good, and promote the progress of science and useful arts. It seems silly to imply that they did so without some previous basis.

  • As far as I know because of their historic french ties, I suspect they have a strong helping of French civil law rather than English Common law at the state level.

    Difference between civil and common law [cascadian.com]

  • by plcurechax ( 247883 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @03:52AM (#109268) Homepage
    I love how they gloss over pre-USA history of copyright, implying that it was solely used for the purpose of censorship in England. No mention of the rest of Europe, or the rest of the world for that matter. A lot of early copyright notations came from the Old World in the battle of copyright over sheet music if I remember correctly.

    Good fluff article for Americian, rewriting history to suit thier egos.

    • Why copyright law can't be more like patent law I don't understand. Is the work of an author or an illustrator really that much different from that of a designer?

    I think so. A patent describes a process that other people can use to produce a final product. Even when the patent expires, there's still effort involved to create your own particular interpretation of the final product.

    Copyright directly protects a single final product. When the copyright expires, anyone can copy the fruits of your labour verbatim with minimal cost and effort.

    That said, I do agree that copyright terms are way too long, and that eternal copyright is abhorent. And I'm an author.

  • Fair point, some of the patents handed out recently seem extremely frivolous to you, me and a million others. "One Click" shopping anyone?

    But the point I was trying to make was that patents lapse after a certain amount of time (20? 30? years), after which the technology enters the public domain.

    Example: Sony had a patent on the technology it uses to make its Trinitron screens. While it held that patent, it had reasonable opportunity to recover its R&D spend and profit from its invention. During that time it could license the technology as it saw fit or legally persue those that infringed on its patent. Once the patent had expired though it was open season, and companies such as Mitsubishi (with their Diamondtron displays) could use Sony's invention at no cost.

    All this, of course, is no help to those companies being screwed by Amazon.com's "One Click Shopping" patent.

    Basically, the patent system works pretty well past the point where a patent is awarded. If we could weed out those ridiculous claims, such as those where invention of a commonly used technology was being claimed (and by that I mean one that was already accepted as being in the public domain), then the system would work as it was intended.

  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @04:00AM (#109279) Journal

    Because the DMCA allows content providers to regulate access and use they can set all the terms of use. And much like the database protection proposal, the de facto duration of protection under the DMCA is potentially infinite. While copyright law in 2001 protects any work created today for life of the author plus 70 years or 95 years in the case of corporate "works for hire," electronic gates do not expire.

    The recent 20 year extension to copyright pushed through by legislators under the Clinton administration was heavily backed by big business. Disney was about to lose copyright on Mickey Mouse and they could't allow that to happen at any cost. Many other large corporations had similar concerns.

    DMCA is being pushed by the same players, for the same reasons. This time though, they want their "extensions" up front. Or, in other words, they don't want ever to have to let go.

    Why copyright law can't be more like patent law I don't understand. Is the work of an author or an illustrator really that much different from that of a designer?

  • Ah, the requiste whining about how America ain't that great, we did it first in england, you really didn't save the french from germany two times in the first half of the century, blah, blah, blah....
    Not one of these comments appeared in the article to which you respond, with the exception of the "we did it first in England". The article was clearly a correction: MSNBC phrased their story to imply that copyright law in America came out of some censorship laws in Britain. This is historically inaccurate: At the time copyright laws were adopted in the US, there already was a copyright - as we'd recognise it today - law in Britain, and possibly in other parts of Europe.

    As such, the founding fathers didn't invent some untried concept, but adopted (if for slightly different reasons to those of the UK government, which was aiming to protect authors rights) existing codes which were adapted for US needs. The story of how this happened and the logic involved would make a good story all by itself.

    Incidentally, it's the Fourth of July. If you don't recall, it's 225 years ago today that we told you (the British anyway) to bugger off.
    Elsewhere in this thread, you express anger at the suggestion that your post is either a troll or flamebait. Indeed, one moderator sides with you and tags it "Insightful". Insightful, perhaps, as in "Incites a riot"? ;-)

    Seriously, what exactly is the point of the above comment. What does it have to do with the origins of copyright law?

    Oh yeah, why do you folks bitch every time a quasi-historical movie comes out that doesn't kiss European ass? If you don't like American studios making movies that portray the Good ole USA in a very positive light, then why don't you create your own movies that are worth distributing world wide? Can't compete with Hollywood on their terms? Thats really sad. Sure, there are a few foreign movies wich win well deserved acclaim here in the states (Trainspotting, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)But for the most part, your film industry can't hold a candle to Hollywood, in terms of raw popularity. Great Britain had their time at the top of the world food chain, and pissed and stomped their way accross the world, claiming every spit of land you beat the Spainards to for the Crown. Remember "The sun never sets on the British Empire?"
    Again - what does this have to do with the article to which your respond? What, indeed, does it have to do with the origins of copyright law? And are you sure the allegation makes any sense anyway?

    Do Europeans ridicule Hollywood for not "kissing ass", or do they ridicule it for constantly and monotonously casting actors with British accents as the bad guys, in a way that betrays a lack of originality (as do black hats/boots, and moustaches) coupled with a kind of nationalism that's off-putting to the audiences the moviemakers are usually trying to target? And, for what it's worth, do UK movies exclusively portray Americans as "bad characters" - movies that do certainly exist, but are they even the majority of those movies that have American characters?

    Added to this somewhat juvenile rant about the movie industry is a comment about the British Empire. Again, what exactly does this have to do with copyright law? Or even the movie industry? British Imperialism is dead. It was regarded with increasing moral repugnance throughout the 20th Century, with national leaders like Mahatma Ghandi holding up imperialism for what it is: A nasty system that enslaves whole nations and whole peoples, cold and abusive, and an affront to modern liberal values. Britain had the courage to ditch it, which is something to be welcomed.

    Well, now it's our turn to be leader of the pack, and if you don't like the privileges that come with that -like painting things in a pro US light, and not giving a rats ass what you Europeans think about it- well, too bad. I know the US ain't perfect, and we like to color history to benefit ourselves (seriously, do you honestly believe the scholars in your country don't?)
    And here we start to doubt the sanity of the poster. A comment adding more flesh to an article which left out interesting and relevent history is ruled "invalid" because, well, because Americans should be able to write what they want and if they leave out history, no matter how stupid, they shouldn't be told what that left out history is.

    Small wonder, I guess, that the US is the only Western Democracy that refuses to teach many of its children basic science.

    But worse, there's an overtone in both the last paragraph and the paragraph before it - that America is now the imperialist force, and therefore its version of history is the valid one. It's as if the last 300-400 years of European history, one of bloodshed and enslavement, has taught us nothing about imperialism - or even that that bloodshed and enslavement is somehow right, because a country has to exist to do those things, and by-gosh if dfenstrate doesn't believe that the US should be that country.

    To sum up: If your posting is to be believed, you take it as an outrage that anyone should provide more information in response to a version of history presented by an American, and you believe that because you believe that America is some kind of new imperial power, and you believe that is right.

    I find that point of view utterly, completely, abhorent and evil. If you seriously believe what you've written, you need to get a reality check. If you were writing it for the purposes of winding up other people, well, congratulations, you've succeeded, but at the cost of putting yourself in the same fellow-travellor category as most brutal of 16th Century Spanish conquistadors, or of 19th Century South African Mining Engineers. As a course onward to popularity, you might just want to start walking about with a swastika tattooed to your head. You'll get the same results.
    --

  • ... to bring up on a 4th of July. Dontcha think? ;)

    -- B.
  • In the original legislation, copyrights lasted just 14 years, with the copyright holder can opt for one 14 year extension, bringing the maximum to 28 years.
  • by Blue Aardvark House ( 452974 ) on Wednesday July 04, 2001 @06:06AM (#109293)
    The 20-year copyright extension you refer to is the Sonny Bono Act [techlawjournal.com]. That piece of legislation also effectively extend copyrights infinitely, since now it takes a simple "act of Congress" to amend copyright law. If lawmakers can be bought by big business once, they can certainly be bought again.

    Doesn't this fly in the face of the Constitution, where copyrights are set for "Limited Times"? Even though they are technically limited, a work created when I was born in 1969 probably will not be public domain in my granchildren's lives.

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