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Comment Re:This thought crosses my mind a lot. (Score 1) 808

It is the basis of property law - the idea that raw land becomes valuable property only after some form of human labour is involved

The basis of property law is utilitarianism. A labor theory fails to explain property speculation, among other things. Property law can more or less be summed up as 'you and who's army?' and having actual armies involved.

Comment Re:This thought crosses my mind a lot. (Score 1) 808

In the Star Trek future they have an infinite supply of energy,

No they don't. They have vast amounts by our standards, but not unlimited amounts. IIRC they ultimately rely on 'ordinary' fusion reactors. (While they do use a lot of antimatter, they have to manufacture it, and it's inefficient to do so)

Comment Re:This thought crosses my mind a lot. (Score 1) 808

Twenty years ago pocket communicators weren't real.

Twenty years ago was 1993. Cell phones were real, and some models that were small not to fit in your pocket had been out for years, like the Motorola MicroTAC, and the flip phones directly inspired by communicators would come out only a few years later.

I can't help but wonder if you're old, and haven't realized that twenty years ago wasn't so long ago as it sounds (this happens to me all the time), or are young, and don't know what was going on twenty years ago, when hard disks had maybe a few hundred megabytes of capacity, floppies were commonplace, few people had so much as a modem, and the Internet still hadn't quite caught on, although people were beginning to hear about email.

Comment Re:didnt work (Score 1) 74

Courts haven't even really properly tested whether the shrinkwrap license that says they didn't sell you anything but a license to use the software on the disk.

You may want to take a look at ProCD, Inc. v. Zeidenberg, 86 F.3d 1447 (7th Cir. 1996), and coming to a different conclusion, Klocek v. Gateway, Inc., 104 F. Supp. 2d 1332 (D. Kan. 2000).

Comment Re:Great an image laundering scheme for big busine (Score 1) 230

There are plenty of rights we enjoy that are not "natural" rights.

That's true, but there may be various strings attached when it comes to those. Today, if you want to drive a car, you have a right to, provided you can get a license, the car passes inspection, etc. If you want to open a restaurant, you have a right to, but you'll have to comply with applicable health and food safety regulations, you'll need a business license, you'll have to deal with the tax issues that arise, and so on. If you want to become a doctor or a lawyer, you have a right to, but you'll need to meet certain educational prerequisites, pass exams, pay dues periodically to licensing boards, and that sort of thing. If you invent some invention, you have a right to a patent, but you'll have to fill out an application and pay a few, and you may have to engage in some correspondence with the patent office in the process.

So there's nothing at all unusual about copyright formalities, or predicting grants of copyright on whether or not, and if so, how we'll, copyright serves the public. Bad drivers and uneducated doctors and filthy restaurants are bad for the public, so we try to cut down on those things. Some amount of copyright might be good for the public, but too much would be bad, and so we'll want to tailor it carefully to serve the public interest.

Under the Berne convention, copyright IS international

No, Berne isn't self executing. It merely obligates the member states to pass copyright legislation which complies with Berne's minimum standards. If you came to the US and tried to sue someone under Berne itself, you'd get thrown out of court. Copyright is national, and varies from nation to nation even despite Berne. Don't mistake national treatment and minimum standards for actual international laws.

And the few countries that did not sign the treaty don't matter much from an economic point of view.

The US didn't join until twenty odd years ago. We don't actually comply with Berne. And we can withdraw from it any time we like. Which we ought to do immediately. I've got nothing against national treatment, but I'm adamantly against minimum standards for copyright.

Comment Re:Great an image laundering scheme for big busine (Score 2) 230

Why not? Why should something I create by nature be fair game

You've actually hit the nail on the head -- there is no natural right of copyright. In fact, copyright is in direct conflict with the natural right of free speech (which encompasses the verbatim repetition of what someone else has previously said). A copyright is nothing other than a privately-held but government-enforced right to censor other people. It shouldn't be granted lightly, and should be granted only when, and to the degree that, it produces some benefit for the public that outweighs the harm that it necessarily causes. (Ideally, only when the benefit is greatest and the harm is least)

Yes, I do. I would have to for everything I write - and that sucks big time.

Well, it would be your choice of course, but I find it unlikely you'd bother.

First of all, I'm not in the US, so it'd have to be some institution local to me. Now, copyright is international (this in great contrast to patents, btw). It would suddenly become local - I would register in Hong Kong (where I live and where my creations are made nowadays). Or should I have to register in every single country I want my work protected?

Copyrights are not, currently, international. There's just a lot of reciprocity. It's one of the things that needs to be dismantled in time. I'm really only interested in what the US does, but what we ought to do is to withdraw from the various copyright treaties and instead offer national treatment to the world, unilaterally. So if you want a US copyright, you wouldn't be discriminated against merely because of your nationality, residence, etc. (unlike the old days, when we didn't grant copyrights to foreigners) but you would have to do the same filings that our copyright applicants do. Between providing the forms in a wide variety of languages, accepting payments in foreign currencies, local support through our embassies and consulates, and the Internet, it shouldn't be too difficult.

Also if you would require someone to check "the registry" to see if a work is copyrighted or not, they'd have to check all registries in all countries, one by one.

No, only in the jurisdictions where they wanted to act. Just as most businesses don't bother getting patents in every country in the world (because they know that the amount of business they do in Burkina Faso, or Disputed Zone is too little to justify it), authors who don't bother getting a copyright in the US (or other places that adopt a similar policy) are allowing the work to enter the public domain there. So if you print books, you really only need to check your country's registry, and maybe only others if you ship abroad.

And while matching text is relatively easy, matching images is getting harder and matching video or music is even worse.

That's the notice formality. As with patents, copies should bear a visible notice somewhere indicating at least the year the term began and the rights holder's name. If an application or registration number has issued, that should be present too, if the rights holder wants to keep his rights.

Many of the stories mentioned above I published anonymously, and I like it that way. Yet anonymous doesn't mean no copyright

Why not? If you're truly anonymous, and not merely using a psudeonym, how would you have filed? Land can't be owned anonymously, nor licensed vehicles, nor patents, nor registered trademarks. That's just the nature of the beast. You'll have to decide whether your secrecy outweighs your desire for a copyright.

Photos that I post online, or stories that I post online, source code that I've published on github and sourceforge, even though I don't expect any economic benefit, I like to have copyright protection for

Oh, I'm sure. It's because there's no downside for you, so you can mooch off of the public. It's very wasteful. Just imagine if you were a farmer and we were talking about a field of grain. You grow thousands and thousands of acres of wheat, but you only use a little for your own consumption and let the rest rot in the field. And should other people want to take some, you say no, because it's yours!

If you're using your copyrights productively in an artistic business, that's great. But if not, if you just want to be a camper, why should the rest of us put up with it? How does it benefit us?

The current registration system in the US may work nicely for those that register their work

It's not bad, but could be a lot better. And remember, the US required registration of published works for which a copyright was sought for a very very long time, and this didn't begin to change until the late 70s. And it nevertheless worked out okay for the many authors, fine artists, composers, photographers, filmmakers, etc. that we had. It's not like our arts were stunted or anything.

Comment Re:Great an image laundering scheme for big busine (Score 2) 230

I'm really glad it's automatic, and don't see any harm in that part of copyright, on the contrary.

We should at most only grant copyrights when necessary to encourage an author to create and publish a particular work. If the author would've created and published anyway, the incentive is unnecessary and should not be provided. The best way to determine whether the copyright was needed or not is to let authors self-identify. An opt out system wont work, since authors who don't care about copyright won't care to disclaim it in almost all cases. An opt in system will work, since authors who so care will take at least modest action.

A system of formalities has other benefits too. Registering the work and providing notice in published copies places the public on notice and provides greater certainty: marked works and works found in the registry are claimed; others are fair game. Deposit of several high quality copies helps increase the size of the collection of our national library, and provides a few copies of last resort in case others are lost, damaged, or so rare as to be nigh impossible to use. Registration also solves the orphan works problem at issue here: by requiring copyright holders to provide updated contact information during the copyright period, it's easy to find the rights holders to seek their permission to use works; without an up to date registry, they can be very hard to track down. Likewise, it helps people know who the true rights holders are, so that deals aren't accidentally struck with the wrong people due to mistake or fraud.

And we know this works okay, because the US required registration for published works, and formalities, for a very long time, and it didn't cause any problems.

I make it, so I own it

That's not a good enough reason.

I don't care too much about re-use of my works that I post online, but at the very least I'd like to be credited for it.

Do you care enough to fill out a very simple form and pay a very modest fee? If you don't care to take such a small step, why should the rest of society care to grant you a copyright?

It'd stop me from posting as much as I do.

I do not believe that for an instant. Remember, copyright is an economic incentive, but it's not the only incentive to create works, nor even the most important one most of the time. You posted here because you had something to say, not because you thought you could make money off of a mere Slashdot post. Copyright should be limited to the things you think you can make money from, since that's all it's good at. It's a waste against the public to use it for anything else.

Comment Re:And yet... (Score 2) 230

In fact selling copies of your one of a kind original devalues your copy.

Tell you what: Give me a nice original painting -- Pollock's "No. 5, 1948," say -- and you go and sell postcards of it, and we'll see if that significantly lowers the price of the original.

For you see, in the world of fine arts, provenance is more important than copyright as a rule.

Comment Re:Great an image laundering scheme for big busine (Score 2) 230

Don't look at me; I'm fine with orphan works bills, although I'd prefer to just have registration, fee, notice, and deposit as strict formalities upon publication, public display, or public performance (possibly with a short grace period), so that most works, where the author doesn't care about a copyright, enter the public domain immediately.

Copyrights should be easy to get and extremely affordable, but not granted automatically, as that is quite harmful.

Comment Re:Think about alternative business models (Score 1) 684

surely you're not seriously suggesting that the author of a creative work isn't entitled to compensation/income from that work, unless they've chosen to release it into the public domain?

I'd say that authors are not entitled to copyrights (though they may be granted copyrights, if the government, properly acting on behalf of its people, decides to grant them, the government also defining what the copyright consists of), nor are they any more entitled to compensation or income than anyone else. Copyrights don't guarantee that an author will make money in connection with their works, and in fact most don't; rather, copyrights just funnel some of the money being spent in connection with the work to the copyright holder (who may not be the author anyway). Even if a copyright were all-encompassing, 100% of the money related to a complete flop would just be 100% of zero.

And remember, but for copyrights, works would be in the public domain immediately. Copyrights are a brief respite from having a work in the public domain, but the decision as to whether a work should receive a copyright at all, under what terms, and for how long, is basically up to the government, again, acting in behalf of its people if it is legitimate at all. Authors can reject copyrights, or cut them short, but they can't otherwise change the terms of the deal. At most they can try to convince people that the terms should be changed.

I ask their permission (and usually get it just by asking politely), but I'm also prepared to negotiate a licence and whatever fee that entails.

Permission is a license.

It's really that simple - can't afford it? Don't use it.

Well, I didn't get permission from you to quote your post, I didn't pay you to do so, and I have no regrets. Indeed, I'd say that I have every right to do what I've done here. And how would it benefit me to be obligated to ask? What if you'd said no, how would it have helped me do what I wanted to do, to respect that?

Copyrights are structured and granted so as to serve the public interest, and should be carefully tailored so as to optimally serve the public interest. How is the public interest served if the only options are to get permission or do without?

I think that's a reasonable approach.

I'm not interested in a reasonable approach. I'm interested in maximizing the public benefit derived from copyright, viz. having the greatest number of works created and published that would not have been but for copyright, and in having those works enter the public domain as fully and rapidly as possible. Frankly, I want to drive the hardest bargain possible, such that authors will likely find it completely unreasonable but grudgingly acceptable.

Comment Re:Think about alternative business models (Score 1) 684

There's nothing wrong with what I wrote. You don't have a right to do that, you just got given permission by the guy who did the work. Surely as a lawyer you understand the difference?

You didn't say 'permission,' you said 'compensation.' I thought that was fairly odd (as usually compensation is but one of many means to get permission, and not an end in and of iteself), but there was nothing wrong with what I wrote given your previous statement. Do you know the one about the hot air balloonist who asks a lawyer for help?

Yours might be. Most of the world is not subject to the United States' legal system, however often certain people in the United States seem to forget that.

Fair enough, though I've yet to see any alternatives that ultimately make sense.

In any case, you're twisting my words. The point about compensation wasn't that artists had some magical right to compensation no matter what, it was that if a work under copyright is for sale at a price then that's the price you have to pay if you want a copy.

Even then there are exceptions. It's far from impossible to convince, say, a record label to give you a copy of an album for free, for which the album will charge the author (it's a promotional expense), and for you to then fail to review the album, or even to give it a negative review that doesn't benefit them at all.

And then, of course, in practical terms, piracy is dead easy.

Right, but in a few hundreds places around the world no-one has made that stroke of the pen yet, so your entire argument is a straw man.

Well, you say that....

In a lot of the world, copyright laws are totally ignored, but lip service is paid to them on order to allow states that honestly don't give a crap to avoid unduly jeopardizing trade relations with states that do care. The recent story about a Chinese court finding against Apple for indirect infringement was amusing, for example, as their policy is so openly mercantilist; they'll enforce copyrights against the West, but will do as little as possible and drag their heels at enforcing the copyrights of the West.

Had 19th century colonial powers not imposed copyright on their colonies, and if the first world did not constantly push it on the third, you'd probably see that much of the world would not tolerate copyright laws if those laws had to stand on their own merits.

I see why some people wholeheartedly support the idea of just shooting all the lawyers, but fortunately for you, not everyone gets what the want.

Even the Nazis figured out that there are more efficient means than bullets.

Are you suggesting that we should abolish all the popular and commercially successful services that have become established in recent years, to the detriment of both their customers and the creative workers they support, even though parties on both sides seem to be quite happy with their arrangements? That also seems a very odd position for a lawyer to take.

I'm opposed to abolishing DRM because that would infringe on free speech. But I have no love for DRM and would gladly discourage its use by withholding optional benefits like copyright for works that were subject to DRM under the aegis of the copyright holder. If protecting the long term interests of the public means making it impractical to have apparently popular things like Steam in the short run, I'll be okay with that in much the same way that banning DDT was good in the long run but inconvenient in the short run.

Comment Re:Think about alternative business models (Score 3, Insightful) 684

What you don't have is a right to enjoy someone else's content on whatever terms you feel like or to enjoy it without compensating them at all for their work to create it. That's illegal whether DRM is used or not.

Setting aside the errors in what you've just said (e.g. If I didn't "have a right ... to enjoy someone else's work without compensating them at all for their work to create if" I could not enjoy works that the author willingly gave away free copies of), you seem to be forgetting or ignorant of two important things:

1) Even today, the raison d'Ãtre of copyright is the promotion of progress of science, not compensating authors. The idea that authors have a right to compensation for their creative labor is known as 'the sweat of the brow doctrine' and it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court overturned courts that had mistakenly applied it, in a case called Feist v. Rural, in which they said that it was not copyright infringement for one company to copy a phone book that was compiled by a different company, without permission or payment.

2) In countries where there is a legitimate government, i.e. one that governs with the consent of the governed, copyright not only need not exist, according to the whim of the people as carried out by the government that serves them, but can be more or less arbitrarily written and rewritten as they see fit, whether authors like it or not. If we collectively choose to copy works without the permission of the author and without the permission of the author, it takes just a simple stroke of the pen to make this totally legal. We've done it before on various scales (e.g. non-American authors were not given US copyrights until the late 19th century, architects were not given copyrights on architectural works until 1990).

Indeed, I wholeheartedly support the idea of not granting copyrights to authors for works where the author or a person acting under the author's authority, has encumbered those works with DRM. And further, since those works would be in the public domain, the government ought to encourage and support efforts to crack the DRM systems, and distribute the works to anyone in our jurisdiction who wants them, all in the name of promoting the progress of science. By all means, let authors use DRM -- but don't expect anyone else to help or to respect their choices.

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