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Conflict of interest? What?
April 11, 2011 3:17 AM   Subscribe

Swedish "Pirate" MEP Christian Engström has announced that today or tomorrow Europe will be voting on extending copyrights for recorded music from 50 years to 95 years.

Recently, Engström and Dutch liberal party D66 MEP Marietje Schaake have submitted a formal question to the European Commission on the conflict of interest arising from their appointment of Maria Martin-Prat. Martin-Prat has spent years directing 'global legal policy' for IFPI, the global recording industry's London-based trade group, but will now be overseeing IPRED and the ongoing ACTA proposals (previously).

On the other side of the pond, Judge Beryl Howell has overturned restrictions established by lower courts on the issuing mass subpoenas to ISPs during her first week on the U.S. D.C. District Court (previously, known results). Beryl Howell was recently employed as an RIAA lobbyist and Executive Managing Director and General Counsel at the pirate chasing company Stroz Friedberg.
posted by jeffburdges (211 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Copyright Trolls: "their tactics include targeting large groups of anonymous "Doe defendants," improperly minimizing their court costs, and exploiting the massive damages in copyright law in order to pressure defendants into settling quickly."
posted by peeedro at 3:49 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Judge Beryl Howell has overturned restrictions established by lower courts on the issuing mass subpoenas to ISPs during her first week on the U.S. D.C. District Court (previously, known results). Beryl Howell was recently employed as an RIAA lobbyist and Executive Managing Director and General Counsel at the pirate chasing company Stroz Friedberg.

Geez. The US Government is so corrupt.
posted by fuq at 4:08 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yea, that pirating racket is a borderline scam. Putting Howell on the board while a sitting judge is nothing short of corruption.
posted by londonmark at 4:32 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how this debate will pan out.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:33 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


In my dream world, what happens is that anyone who seriously argues that a judge ought to be able to decide a case for their former employer is shot by Atticus Finch. You know, before they get a chance to bite Scout.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:06 AM on April 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


Is it possible to want to protect the copyrights of my work and also hate this trend? That's where I'm at. =(

Analogy time! The RIAA (and the rest of them) can already defend the hoop. They can even foul while defending the hoop and still win. Sometimes, they hard-foul and even earn technical fouls... so they don't win every time they're on the court, but generally speaking they end up with a solid defense that few want to go up against.

And now... they are buying the referees?
posted by andreaazure at 5:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Europe will be voting on extending copyrights for recorded music from 50 years to 95 years.

It is my hope that my own copyrighted sound recordings, which are of relatively little monetary value at present, will, in the future, be worth more. Perhaps some of them will be licensed for use in movies or TV commercials, or some such, in future decades. In which case, they might, just might, help to provide some sort of income stream for my daughter. She has a musician parent, you see, who has no retirement fund or anything of the like, and (as of yet, anyway) not a lot to leave her to help her on her way in life. The sound recordings I leave behind will, with any luck, help her pay a few month's rent someday. If all goes well, maybe they'd even help her to (gasp!) buy a little house. Therefore, as the copyright-holder of many of the commercial recordings of my own that have been released since 1985 or so, I am more than happy to support the extension of copyright from 50 to 70 to 95 years.

Now, said copyrights will not stop anyone from "illegally" downloading or sharing any of my music or whatever. I mean, come on, the stuff is out there: it's copyable, transmittable, nobody's gonna stop that. That's not a matter of concern. But should there be an actual opportunity for some song or composition of mine to collect revenue from some major corporation for, say, use in an outer space hologram ad in 2045, I want my child to see some dough. I don't want some hotshot ad agency dude in his flying car laughing about how he got it for free.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Conflict of interest you say. Let's look deeper. Who has the real "conflict of interest."

It is, of course, the pirates and their friends who have the conflict of interest, as they stand to benefit personally through obtaining music and movie files for free for their own personal enjoyment. Their entire "moral stance" is about one thing: taking something that does not belong to them so that they can enjoy themselves at the expense of the people that created the thing they are taking.

As for the judge, she has zero conflict of interest. The article says she once lobbied for RIAA. RIAA no longer pays her. She has lifetime tenure and can only be removed by the exact same process the President of the United States may be removed. She need not decide anything for the RIAA. Its like saying someone who worked as a public defender or prosecutor cannot be a judge because they worked for one side or the other.

And the tenor of the articles is the most biased of all. Coming from webistes who cater to tech people who are for stealing music, they are highly biased. The first story about the US Judge includes a photo of a bewigged dog in judge's robe. We would rightly eviscerate Fox News for attacking the President or other political figure with such biased presentation. Yet not a word passes the lips of anyone involved here. Fair and Balanced? You Decide.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:12 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Flapjax, would you support the extension of patents on medicines and the like, too, so that people can give their children more money? What about inheritance taxes in Britain to add wealth redistribution?

When does a property become a common cultural good, for the benefit of all, rather than a few? IF not your daughter, why not your grand-daughter, or her grand-daughter?

I'm not trying to marginalise your feelings of insecurity around future incomes, but frankly, I'd rather have a state that provides for its poor and disenfranchised and those in need of support - be it financial, health or otherwise - and has fifty year copyrights, rather than a state that doesn't support people and maintains copyrights long beyond their creators lives.

Also, the copyrights that are still worth money in fifty years wouldn't even be 0.5%. The vast majority of copyrights are locking away materials and orphaning works that have no possible hope of future income generation.
posted by smoke at 5:14 AM on April 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


Nineteen years is the term beyond which neither the representatives of a nation, nor even the whole nation itself assembled, can validly extend a debt... This principle that the earth belongs to the living, and not to the dead, is of very extensive application. -- Thomas Jefferson

Ideally, copyright terms should be based not upon mortality tables, as led Jefferson to his nineteen year computation, and might today yield thirty year terms, but instead upon the prohibition against slavery.

Any person should arrive into the world unencumbered by debts, thus granting unlimited rights with respect to works created before their birth. From this, we should derive a general copyright term of fourteen years. Anyone under fourteen should posses additional rights of course but child labor laws should be used to prevent those rights from being exploited by older people.

There should also be provisions that organizations may not hold copyrights for longer than perhaps five years, as organizations are generally more egregious in their exploitation of the law. A significantly shorter term here would force various media organizations to return the copyrights to the original producers for renegotiation.

As a final measure, all restrictions on patents are also relevant to copyrighted works implementing particular behavior, i.e. software source code. Ideally, we should implement this by saying that software is not copyrightable except as derived from the true copyright on the human written source code. Ergo, no software copyrights should be valid unless the source code has been offered along with the compiled machine code.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


Also, as Macaulay pointed out back in the 19th century, when you have a permanent copyright, more often than not it gets sold away from the original creator within a generation or two.

Then you just have a company holding as private property something that it didn't create and could be more cheaply and efficiently provided by somebody else. Everybody else loses out.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:19 AM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm not trying to marginalise your feelings of insecurity around future incomes, but frankly, I'd rather have a state that provides for its poor and disenfranchised and those in need of support - be it financial, health or otherwise - and has fifty year copyrights, rather than a state that doesn't support people and maintains copyrights long beyond their creators lives.

I don't think you can compare music with medicine. With music, you never have to balance public interest with corporate greed. What is the counterpoint to flapjax's argument for extending copyright that would justify not extending it?
posted by londonmark at 5:19 AM on April 11, 2011


At what point would it not be justifiable to extend it? Why not 4 months rent for the great-grand-daughter, or a year for the great-great-granddaughter? Lifetime gratitude for Beethoven's great-great-great-great-great-niece's illegitimate friend?
posted by efalk at 5:24 AM on April 11, 2011


Londonmark - more works in the public domain? Many would consider that good.

Does Europe have the same split composer/recording system used in the U.S.?
posted by unmake at 5:28 AM on April 11, 2011


That we are loosing art to the dust bin of history because for every Sherlock Holmes that people will remember forever, there are a scad of authors - some of them relatively popular in their day, who we be forgotten 20 years down the road. By time their copyright expires no one cares.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:28 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


At what point would it not be justifiable to extend it?

95 years apparently. This isn't a hypothetical debate, there's a proposal on the table. I think 70 would be more reasonable, but I don't feel strongly about it.

I'm suddenly aware that I might be sounding suspiciously like an RIAA mouthpice. I'm not, I just thought flapjax's desire to have a little more time to earn some money on his work was quite reasonable and a comparison with medical copyrights was rather unfair.
posted by londonmark at 5:33 AM on April 11, 2011


Also, as Macaulay pointed out back in the 19th century, when you have a permanent copyright, more often than not it gets sold away from the original creator within a generation or two.

And? The fact that the original holder no longer posseses it means nothing to the analysis of whether the original holder gains from the extension. Artists sell their copyrights to entities better able to get payment for those rights, just as farmers sell their crops to distributors. A copyright with a longer life will sell for more, and the artist will get reimbursed for that extended life at the bargaining table.

Let us be crystal clear, this is most definitely not "To Kill a Mockingbird" as referenced above. In that tale, a person was punished for the color of their skin. In this tale, those who support copyright infringment are generally rich whites from well-off families that would rather steal something than pay for it. Cloaking one's desire to take something in righteousness is the oldest trick in the book. It is you who are the character of Bob Ewell in this story.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:36 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it is and it isn't, Londonmark - though I own I was being provocative when I made it. It isn't in the sense that the people inventing those medicines no doubt wish their offspring to benefit just as much or more than Flapjax, but in their case we can see so clearly where the public interest lies (cheap/free medicine) because the benefit is something tangible. When the benefit is something more esoteric, or cultural it's more difficult to see. I would argue, however, that it's not so different at heart.
posted by smoke at 5:38 AM on April 11, 2011


At what point would it not be justifiable to extend it?

95 years apparently. This isn't a hypothetical debate, there's a proposal on the table.


A big thank you to londonmark for that one. People who start talking about great-great-great-granddaughters and such are engaging in strawman-ism. And yes, the comparison of music to medicine is stupid.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:39 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth, I think you are conflating copyright infringement from copyright extension - please don't bundle my or others arguments against public domain extensions in with arguments for/against copyright infringement; they are two different things.
posted by smoke at 5:40 AM on April 11, 2011


I'm not trying to marginalise your feelings of insecurity around future incomes, but frankly, I'd rather have a state that provides for its poor and disenfranchised and those in need of support - be it financial, health or otherwise - and has fifty year copyrights, rather than a state that doesn't support people and maintains copyrights long beyond their creators lives.

Lo and behold! Now having shorter copyrights is linked to a state where everyone is provided for!

Frankly, I take no position on extension. Nor do I think it has any bearing on illegal downloadong at all. It is another red herring attached to this debate. What matter increased copyright duration if one claims it is ok for people to illegally violate that copyright. The file-sharing lobby has tacked this little gem on to their fight to add legitimacy. Seriously, if the "Pirate" MP is against extension but for infringment it makes no sense. It is all designed to make people think it is "ok" to take something that does not belong to them.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:43 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sooner or later, someone's going to try copyrighting the individual notes on the various music scales.

They'll either make a mint off royalties, be derided severely, or both...
posted by JB71 at 5:46 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth, I think you are conflating copyright infringement from copyright extension - please don't bundle my or others arguments against public domain extensions in with arguments for/against copyright infringement; they are two different things.

It isn't me who does that. First, the "Pirate" MEP did it. Then the OP did it. Its a common tactic--you see it everywhere--the supporters of illegal downloads, such as the "Pirate" MEP above, use the extension argument above as a legitimizing leavener. How can a guy be for pirating and also have anything to say about copyright.

The infringers want their shit for free. That's the core of this battle.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:48 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth, have you read Lessig? He does a nice job of untethering the piracy argument from the public domain argument. Also: Digital copies of his books are free.
posted by rockstar at 5:48 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dude "they did it first" is not a reasonable response in rational discussion. Aren't you a lawyer? You can do better than that, surely. At least separate your criticisms.
posted by smoke at 5:50 AM on April 11, 2011


It is my hope that my own copyrighted sound recordings, which are of relatively little monetary value at present, will, in the future, be worth more. Perhaps some of them will be licensed for use in movies or TV commercials, or some such, in future decades.

Here, let me mail you a lottery ticket. I've just doubled your chances.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


This isn't about anyone's daughter. It's about the inflection point on the cost-benefit chart where the cost to society in future works caused by weak copyright laws is greater than the cost to society in lost past works inaccessible due to too strong copyright law. Dead people don't create future works and yet the years of protection keep getting longer. It's unbelievable to me that we're on the side of the curve where we should still be encouraging dead people to make more art.

Meanwhile, cops are busting down doors and pointing automatic weapons in people's faces to devastate the creativity of the hip hop and mixed tape scenes while RIAA representatives stand idly by in the shadows. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/40613/ballad-of-a-mixtape/ In fact, the original artists gave call outs to the defendants on the tapes in question. Another sign that we're on the wrong side of the curve when artists have no rights to share their own works.

My dad's an architect and many of his buildings will be housing and supporting people in 95 years time. I won't see a dime of inheritance. I'm okay with that and have always expected to make my own way.
posted by Skwirl at 5:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


You did not create works out of whole cloth, they did not leap fully formed from your forehead. Your existence and your art are the product of your society (everything that came before you) and your environment (everything around you) and "owning" your art is and always will be in opposition to the forces that created it. That said, wanting to profit from your efforts is not wrong, and in general I think that the patent lifetime is much better than the copyright lifetime for art works. If you can't profit on something you made after 20 or 30 years, well then maybe you should make something else? Keep contributing! As for your children, sheesh, shouldn't they contribute to society in a productive and meaningful way too? Quit pretending you own anything, you're just on this planet temporarily anyway.

I say this as a person who makes art for a living.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:59 AM on April 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Rockstar, thanks for that link, fascinating stuff.
posted by londonmark at 6:02 AM on April 11, 2011


Dude "they did it first" is not a reasonable response in rational discussion. Aren't you a lawyer? You can do better than that, surely. At least separate your criticisms.

You are not paying attention. I don't care about the extension battle. I am saying it is a trojan horse for the infringer crowd. I am 100% arguing for their separation in these discussions. But the infringer supporters keep putting them together, to find some sort of shred of legitimacy for their position that infringment is ok. I am saying that it is intellectually dishonest on their part to make infringing and extension any part of the same argument. So I agree with you in saying they are separate issues entirely.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:04 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


A priori, there is vastly more reason for extending the patents on medicines, which conceivably might support similar people embarking upon similar underlying research, than for awarding flapjax's kids the copyright for his artistic works, which they are almost surely incapable of expanding upon. That said, neither should exceed fourteen years.

As I said, the underlying measures should be derived from the principle that you owe no debts for works created before your lifetime. Jefferson's mortality tables already impose far shorter durations than being discussed here, but thirty years is still tantamount to enslaving the young.

We might alternatively decide that neither patents nor copyrights are transferable and must remain with the individuals creating them. Yes, they may delegate a power of attorney to enforce those rights, but they could not do so irrevocably. If some initial such delegation was part of their employment, it should not extend beyond their term of employment, i.e. every company's patent portfolio gets tied to specific employees.

As an aside, the experimental peer-to-peer network OFFSystem provides a strong argument that, if you pay four times the bandwidth and storage costs overall, then all infringing content may be reduced to 420 bit index files. There simply isn't any reasonable legal way to prosecute people for serving up blocks that're used in multiple documents. Yes, the index files themselves still represent instructions for coping, but even they wouldn't be considered infringing in many jurisdictions. In other words, an OFFSystem like peer-to-peer network should eventually set the price of copyrighted works at three times the bandwidth and storage plus any convenience price plus any donation.

posted by jeffburdges at 6:06 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Space Coyote writes: Here, let me mail you a lottery ticket. I've just doubled your chances.

Actually, my chances are better than that. I have, in fact, made some music for TV commercials in the past. I have sold some records. A TV show down in South America has been using a piece I recorded in 1983 and released on an obscure Belgian label for the past several years. (Thanks for collecting, BMI!) So, yeah, you're very kind with your lottery ticket and all, but what I'm talking about is actually more grounded in reality than that. Still, if it makes you feel good to insult me like that in this public forum, hey, knock yourself out, brother.

Skwirl writes: This isn't about anyone's daughter.

Actually, no. Reread my comment. From my personal point of view, this is exactly about my daughter.

seanmpuckett writes: Quit pretending you own anything, you're just on this planet temporarily anyway.

Actually, I do own these things, you see, and the discussion on whether or not to extend said ownership is ongoing. You alone will not decide the outcome of this debate, and your characterization of ownership as "pretending" is nothing more than your own little mental construct, one which has no bearing on the cold facts of economic and societal reality.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:10 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Skwirl is exactly what I'm talking about. He conflates the agrument for piracy with copyright extension. Reading his last comment, apparently the hip-hop community and mix-tape artists are dying to get to that Glenn Miller and Benny Youngman material that the copyright holders are holding back from them.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:11 AM on April 11, 2011


Still, if it makes you feel good to insult me like that in this public forum, hey, knock yourself out, brother.


It makes me feel good to take the piss out of pleas for a winner-take-all culture.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:18 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, right on, Space Coyote! You keep waving the flag for the people, man!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cause after all, it's fat cat musicians like myself that are taking the bread out of the mouths of the oppressed masses! greedy bastards, we are!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:24 AM on April 11, 2011


Yeah, right on, Space Coyote! You keep waving the flag for the people, man!

This whole infringing bit is all that. A way for whitey to get his music for free.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:25 AM on April 11, 2011


As I said, the underlying measures should be derived from the principle that you owe no debts for works created before your lifetime.

Intellectual property is not a debt. It's a property right. By your logic, everyone should be able to take physical property created before they were born.

There are far, far more sound arguments for reducing the copyright term. For example, the original term of 14 years with optional 14 year extension was in place at a time when the production and distribution of new works was an exceedingly slow and expensive process. No electric or even steam powered presses, no cars or railroads, no broadcasting, no internet, etc. Yet artists were considered able to make enough money in that time frame to induce the creation of new works.

Today, by contrast, we have the means for virtually free content creation and distribution, and yet we give artists many decades longer in which to make money from their works. This seems exactly backwards.
posted by jedicus at 6:26 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cause after all, it's fat cat musicians like myself that are taking the bread out of the mouths of the oppressed masses! greedy bastards, we are!

The desire to hoard is the very definition of greed. The fact that you're basically getting thrown crumbs by a corporation for this work is another topic entirely.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:26 AM on April 11, 2011


Space Coyote! You funny, man!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 AM on April 11, 2011


There aren't many people here talking about piracy except for you Ironmouth. Nice race baiting too, btw.

The Pirate Party are mostly just anti-stupid rather than pro-pirate. Engström himself is an anti-software patent guy.

Marietje Schaake's appointment is a rather clear move towards some absolutely evil legislation like ACTA.

Beryl Howell's decision doesn't effect the final resolution of copyright infringement, but instead just simplifies life for freelance legal firms to extort money from suspected infringers, like her previous employer.

Both Marietje Schaake's and Beryl Howell's appointments are textbook examples regulatory capture.

We have a few asides like my observation that peer-to-peer networks should asymptoticly set the price for reproduction of copyrighted works, and the flapjax discussion. Btw, there is an ocean of difference between peer-to-peer piracy and the sort of industrial scale infringement flapjax fears.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:28 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There simply isn't any reasonable legal way to prosecute people for serving up blocks that're used in multiple documents

Ugh. Yes, there is. If the OFFSystem doesn't have a substantial noninfringing use (as actually used, not just in theory), then the maintainers of the system are liable as contributory infringers. The individuals that ultimately create infringing copies are liable as direct infringers.

Since nobody would pay 4x bandwidth for legitimate files (why not just use a public bittorrent?), I doubt there would be substantial noninfringing use.
posted by jedicus at 6:28 AM on April 11, 2011


Also, Jeff Burges, why not let anyone take the credit for a math discovery? Say you didn't have tenure yet and a colleauge got your work off a shared drive and put it in a paper which he published and got him the economic value of a trenured position, how would you feel about that? How is that any different from copyright infringement?
posted by Ironmouth at 6:28 AM on April 11, 2011


There aren't many people here talking about piracy except for you Ironmouth. Nice race baiting too, btw.

Except you, the OP who put it in the body of your post and conflated them directly!

You can call it race-baiting, sure. Mainly I want to lance the sore that is infringers telling themselves they are latter-day MLKs. They are just people who want to pay nothing for entertainment. They cloak it in the words of rebellion and "winner-take-all society." As if this isn't about their right for free entertainment! You aren't robbing Big Pharma and distributing their medicines for free boys! You are only working for your personal enjoyment! So stop acting like you are Mandela.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:34 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, since you don't seem to get it, and since it seems you didn't click on the link I posted above, let me offer you some Lessig:

"A free culture is not a culture without property; it is not a culture in which artists don’t get paid. A culture without property, or in which creators can’t get paid, is anarchy, not freedom. Anarchy is not what I advance here.

Instead, the free culture that I defend in this book is a balance between anarchy and control. A free culture, like a free market, is filled with property. It is filled with rules of property and contract that get enforced by the state. But just as a free market is perverted if its property becomes feudal, so too can a free culture be queered by extremism in the property rights that define it. That is what I fear about our culture today. It is against that extremism that this book is written." (from Free Culture, pxvi)
posted by rockstar at 6:35 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This whole infringing bit is all that. A way for whitey to get his music for free.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:25 AM on April 11


Can you please provide citations to back this up? I read other comments of yours in a previous thread which said the same thing, and you justified it based on anecdotes. If you are going to glibly suggest white people are the majority of copyright infringers, prove it or stop saying it.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Sooner or later, someone's going to try copyrighting the individual notes on the various music scales.

May I suggest Harry Partch's just intonation? With 43 notes to the octave, that's gonna the hottest money maker since Oh Susanna! Especially once Lady Gaga covers Delusion of the Fury! Your great-great-great-great-grandaughter's cousin can buy an island with that!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading his last comment, apparently the hip-hop community and mix-tape artists are dying to get to that Glenn Miller and Benny Youngman material that the copyright holders are holding back from them.

Obviously you're not much of a crate-digger and surely not down with the boom-bap underground. Here is an analogy that only related to hip-hop and mixtapes: efforts that forbid fair use in sampling and mixes are like not allowing citations in academic papers. This is only true for a certain subset of hip-hop.

So yes, I am dying to get those Miller drum breaks to chop and loop. Flapjax, would you be opposed to me remixing, reconceptualizing, or excerpting your work in a way that would a) increase interest in your work by propagating elements in a culture where identifying the original work a sample came from is a prized ability, b) creates a new work which recalls the old work but builds on it, c)won't pay for anyone's house?

I think fair-use is one of the several major issues in this post getting mixed up with a variety of other issues. I understand you want to get paid for your "hard" work (making music is how I relax and I can't think of anything less hard than making music) but I think musicians getting their fare share can coexist with fair use.

As for the judge, she has zero conflict of interest. The article says she once lobbied for RIAA. RIAA no longer pays her. She has lifetime tenure and can only be removed by the exact same process the President of the United States may be removed. She need not decide anything for the RIAA.

Are you kidding? She's not going to screw over her former employer and all her business connections just because she changed jobs. For example, I'm preferable to certain politicians and factions because I worked for them and made friends in the offices. As a human being, I am going to show preference for the people I know, and that I am professional friends with even if I'm not going to be working for them in the future.
posted by fuq at 6:43 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Flapjax: No offence intended at all, but IMO the best thing you can do for your daughter is provide her with the ability to earn her own living (and maybe a term life policy to protect her while she's dependent on you.)
I realize we're talking about vastly different sums of money, but what you're suggesting is exactly what has been used to justify dynasties and aristocracies.
posted by rocket88 at 6:53 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Extending copyright without compensation to the general public is, in a very real sense, outright theft. You are taking a property right away from everyone and giving it to a select few.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:58 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Extending copyright without compensation to the general public is, in a very real sense, outright theft. You are taking a property right away from everyone and giving it to a select few.

Up is down. Black is white.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:02 AM on April 11, 2011


Are you kidding? She's not going to screw over her former employer and all her business connections just because she changed jobs.

These are the facts. There is zero legal conflict of interest. She has never represented the RIAA in a case or controversy before a court or in a legal dispute before another party. She is no longer paid by them. No conflict therefore exists.

If your definition went, then most lawyers could never serve as a judge. Take William Howard Taft. A former President, he was appointed Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As President, he was the executive. Now he was called on to rule on cases involving a later executive. Not a legal conflict of interest.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:02 AM on April 11, 2011


I realize we're talking about vastly different sums of money, but what you're suggesting is exactly what has been used to justify dynasties and aristocracies.

I once again feel the need to put up a not-the-RIAA banner before I say this, but the processes that secure transferrence of financial power within dynasties and aristocracies is not even under threat, while a person's right to own that which they create even in their own lifetime is not even secure. These are not the same thing.
posted by londonmark at 7:03 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, the judge did not overrule lower courts. She is a District Court Judge. She is at the lowest rung of the judicial system. She ruled differently than other judges in other districts. This factual error should be corrected.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:05 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not a legal conflict of interest.

That's right. It's not a legal conflict of interest. Laws do not determine human behavior.
posted by fuq at 7:07 AM on April 11, 2011


Can you please provide citations to back this up? I read other comments of yours in a previous thread which said the same thing, and you justified it based on anecdotes. If you are going to glibly suggest white people are the majority of copyright infringers, prove it or stop saying it

Whites are a majority in the US and Europe where high-speed internet exists. Ergo, they are the majority of infringers.

You aren't rebels. You are people helping yourself to entertainment for your own personal use. You aren't the lowest of the low looking to gain a few crumbs of bread. You aren't distributing medicine to the sick. You are people well-off enough to have jobs and computers and the internet. You want to get music for free which the owner is selling. So I just ask that you be intellectually honest here and admit you want free music. In the case of jeffburdges, you just want it for far less than it is being offered for.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:12 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I once again feel the need to put up a not-the-RIAA banner before I say this, but the processes that secure transferrence of financial power within dynasties and aristocracies is not even under threat, while a person's right to own that which they create even in their own lifetime is not even secure. These are not the same thing.

No they're not, and the system I would like to see is a copyright term that ensures creators are fairly compensated (50 years? life?), but is significantly curtailed if the rights are transferred, sold, bequeathed, or otherwise no longer held by the creator.
posted by rocket88 at 7:12 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


No they're not, and the system I would like to see is a copyright term that ensures creators are fairly compensated (50 years? life?), but is significantly curtailed if the rights are transferred, sold, bequeathed, or otherwise no longer held by the creator.

This would result in a lesser payout for artists because it costs less. What other products should vendors be forced to sell themselves? Farmers? Furniture makers?, doctors?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Extending copyright without compensation to the general public is, in a very real sense, outright theft. You are taking a property right away from everyone and giving it to a select few.

A property right is the right to exclude others. The public did not have a property right in the work; not individually and not collectively. Instead, a property right was created. What the public lost was the right to use the work, which is not a property right.

No they're not, and the system I would like to see is a copyright term that ensures creators are fairly compensated (50 years? life?), but is significantly curtailed if the rights are transferred, sold, bequeathed, or otherwise no longer held by the creator.

That unfairly penalizes artists who don't also happen to be good at business or who don't have the time to run a business as well as create art.
posted by jedicus at 7:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This would result in a lesser payout for artists because it costs less. What other products should vendors be forced to sell themselves? Farmers? Furniture makers?, doctors?

Digital stuff than can be distributed for little-to-nothing with the proper infrastructure. When I can download a perfect copy of a couch or doctor or avocado, then you can use this analogy.
posted by fuq at 7:19 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is effectively zero zero legal protection for academic works Ironmouth because the issue all boils down to credit not possession, i.e. plagiarism not copyright. In fact, we claim credit by sharing the document for free on arxiv.org, also journals already don't pay authors, editors, or referees. *

There are serious plagiarism cases that create scandals because (a) the plagiarist doesn't get fired, (b) the plagiarist gets a professorship elsewhere, or (c) the plagiarist gets hired to oversee grant awards by the NSF, but that stuff seems less frequent outside China, Literature, etc. **

There isn't much the ambulance chasers can bring to the plagiarism discussion though, well aside from tearing down English style libel laws wherever they exist. We just need the plagiarists lack of contribution to be outed more visibly, discrediting the university that hired them, embarrassing the politicians that appointed them, etc.

Internet culture has generally been pretty anti-plagearist overall, witness the recent shitting on icanhascheezburger.com's IPO, older prohibitions on linking Ebaum's world, occasional accusations that some newspaper plagiarized some blog, etc.

In fact, internet culture has generally opposed copyright infringement by large organizations, ala a studio including flapjax music without a license. We just don't take kindly to laws designed for preventing commercial scale for-profit copying being applied to kid who runs bittorrent.

In any case, there isn't any particular discussion of copyright infringement itself in my original post, the issues are simply (a) the ridiculous copyright extension to 95 years and (b) that these two appointees will undoubtably continue to work to further the unethical goals of their previous employers.

* I'd likely support some long term notion of "deliverable" applied by grant agencies, maybe eigenfactor based.

** There are also the more subtle issues of self-plagiarism and self-aggrandizing academics who socially claim more than their fair share of the credit after some multi-author paper gets published, that's ubiquitous throughout academia, but clearly beyond our current scope.

posted by jeffburdges at 7:23 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This would result in a lesser payout for artists because it costs less. What other products should vendors be forced to sell themselves? Farmers? Furniture makers?, doctors?

Digital stuff than can be distributed for little-to-nothing with the proper infrastructure. When I can download a perfect copy of a couch or doctor or avocado, then you can use this analogy.


So, the ease of theft should determine whether or not it is a crime?

This would make fraud via wire unprosecutable and not subject to civil action. Just because something can be taken with ease does not mean it is morally right that you can take it so you can put it on your iPod so you can take a nice stroll and have fun listening to music.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:24 AM on April 11, 2011


Whites are a majority in the US and Europe where high-speed internet exists. Ergo, they are the majority of infringers.

That is not a proof, and you did not cite any sources, before launching into an ad hominem attack ( "You aren't rebels." ).

Filesharing is done by people how know how to use a computer and have access to internet, not necessarily high-speed. Hence, I would argue that it is driven by demographics rather than by race. Anyone with a phone-line and a computer can share a file. Are Spanish or Italian people white? Reference to report on filesharing.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:24 AM on April 11, 2011


The public did not have a property right in the work

Yes it did, if the artist did not keep the work in secrecy. Before copyright, nothing prevented someone from copying others' work. (You're correct that the public did not have a property right in the one particular physical embodiment of the work, but that's a long way off from what we're talking about here.)

Extending copyright stops something from falling into the public domain, which would have been in the public domain ab initio if not for copyright, and which would have fallen in but for the extension. It is unarguably a loss to the public, though also unarguably a gain to the rights holder (if he still exists). Practically speaking, it's only well-organized and long-lived entities that can benefit from copyright terms of the length we're seeing.
posted by spacewrench at 7:27 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dude, my Atticus Finch comment was, at best, a joke. It has less than nothing to do with the trial of Tom Robinson in the work of fiction in which Atticus Finch is a character. It's just that "lawyer who shoots a rabid dog" is not going to put the Knight of Pentacles out of work in the hottly contested archetype market any time soon.

That you have used this quip to assert "I see blatant copyright infringers as some kind of modern day MLK figure" is so amazingly tennuous that it almost seems like you're generating these comments via some kind of Markov chain process.

Whites are a majority in the US and Europe where high-speed internet exists. Ergo, they are the majority of infringers.

Previously
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:29 AM on April 11, 2011


That unfairly penalizes artists who don't also happen to be good at business or who don't have the time to run a business as well as create art.

That's what always gets me about this debate. The extremist free-culture types always fail to see how their universal scorn for IP rights actually benefits the more powerful business interests by weakening individual ownership rights. The one thing an honest musician can bring to their trade--their own creative output--is effectively deemed public property at the moment of creation. It's like the logical negation of communism, with the only parties who effectively have no control over the means of production being the workers.

The established exploiters (which are all multimedia conglomerates with massive pools of revenue from other sources to draw on) end up being in a stronger position than ever because they can use their clout (and cash) to make side deals to effectively guarantee revenue from their properties, and they have all the attorneys and other resources they need to protect their own IP claims. The artists, meanwhile, get left with crap, and so, what was once a vital socioeconomic ladder gets transformed into a trash chute.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wombie,

My point is this--the infringers are not rebels. They own computers, they have access to the internet. They are far richer than the average human. And, your report shows clearly that they are white. Are France, Spain and Italy members of the class of white nations who have oppressed the world? Indeed they are.

I just wish they'd drop the pretense of this being about anything but free songs and movies!
posted by Ironmouth at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2011


ACTA would compel other countries into accepting draconian restrictions desired by the U.S.

If we're taking the race baiting route, that's "whitey" imposing "rents" upon the rest of the world.

Isn't that vastly more important than whether some kids spend their pocket money on CDs or terabyte drives?
posted by jeffburdges at 7:36 AM on April 11, 2011


That you have used this quip to assert "I see blatant copyright infringers as some kind of modern day MLK figure" is so amazingly tennuous that it almost seems like you're generating these comments via some kind of Markov chain process.

If you were the only one, fine. But for years the infringers have tried to paint this in terms of the little guy against the man. Someone even had the gall to make it about a "winner take all society."

That's called bootstrapping yourself on people who had to fight to live where they wanted to no matter what their race, or to fight for basic human rights. This is apparently about the inalienable right to get Lady Gaga for free. All I ask is that you drop the pretense about this being anything other than "I want things for free."
posted by Ironmouth at 7:38 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok Ironmouth, what do you propose as a fair system of music distribution in the digital era? It is clear that the distribution paradigm has changed and will be changing more in the future. I can tell you do not approve of free digital downloads but the digital infrastructure which allows this is now the primary infrastructure for distributing music. How would you stop the piracy when digital music distribution is the norm?
posted by fuq at 7:40 AM on April 11, 2011


Before we argue about the semantics of whiteness (viewed from a European perspective it's different than a US-centric perspective), have a look at this report on global piracy.

The US has the lowest software piracy rate in the world (20%).
Here are the top 10:

Georgia 95%
Zimbabwe 92%
Bangladesh91%
Moldova 91%
armenia 90%
yemen 90%
sri lanka 89%
azerbaijan 88%
libya 88%
belarus 87%
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


When I can download a perfect copy of a couch or doctor or avocado...

My doctor sat on my couch,
and he said I should eat avocado.
These are things that I couldn't download, so I rightfully paid.
But music is free, right?
It's technolo-gee, right?
Just notes strung together, some greedy musician has made!
And hey! What a nerve! To think he should own some ol' copyright!
The song that he wrote? That's for everyone man, don't you know?
And ha! He thinks he should leave some small bit for his kids, when he's passed on?
He shoulda sold couches, or pills, or an avoca-doh!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:45 AM on April 11, 2011


All I ask is that you drop the pretense about this being anything other than "I want things for free."

Should there be such a thing as the public domain? Should copyrights ever expire? Because it seems to me that anyone arguing for any limit on the length of copyright just wants things for free.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:47 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


ACTA would compel other countries into accepting draconian restrictions desired by the U.S.

If we're taking the race baiting route, that's "whitey" imposing "rents" upon the rest of the world.

Isn't that vastly more important than whether some kids spend their pocket money on CDs or terabyte drives?


This is what I'm talking about. You included all of that crap about filesharing when you put the stuff about the US judge, no? It's a trojan horse for wanting cheaper or free music, often used by the defenders of infringing.

I see a way out of this. Just admit filesharing is illegal, a moral wrong, and should be stopped and we can argue copyright extension legislation and whether what producers want. Because that would be the fastest way to prove this isn't a trojan horse issue. Look at the structure of your post. You come in the door all concerned about ACTA and extension legislation, but right behind it is a complaint about enforcement actions against infringers.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:47 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you ever seen a cheerful elephant?
A copyright must not be allowed to last more than fifty years--after which it should be flushed from the memory banks of the Copyright Office. We need selective voluntary amnesia if Discoverers of Art are to continue to work without psychic damage. Facts should be remembered--but dreams?
While this pullquote is from a short story on copyright in a sci-fi setting, a futuristic world where "fifty-four percent of our population is entered on the tax rolls as artists," it still rings true to me. Unless creative copyrights allow for re-purposing of the material in new works (combinations), extended copyrights stifle future [legal] creativity.

Otherwise, I look forward to the rise of the white label, where financial compensation for musical creations is limited due to a fear of litigation and liability, yet the resale market booms and amazing creations net the smart or lucky few who pick up a first run can re-sell the record for 200x the original price, yet the artists involved get bunk. Or the digital equivalent: the music is traded online, from artist to friends, to friends of friends, then the masses at large, and sometimes the original (re)producer is forgotten in time, yet the beats remain.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:49 AM on April 11, 2011


I pirate music for convenience and to reach deeper and wider into my interests than I may otherwise have done. I've ended up going off in odd tangents and listening to music I probably wouldn't have found otherwise. I also tend to buy albums more often than the majority of my friends, partly due to disposable income (I work a corporate job, I have no kids) and go to a lot of music festivals and concerts. I buy a lot of new albums, a lot of used albums, and a lot of music online. None of that excuses the piracy, mind you, but I live a different musical life than I would have in the pre-internet era.

Copyright extension is killing old music. Or, more accurately, the lack of financial incentive for labels and musicians to keep all old work in "print" as it were, is killing old music. Never has there been more of a market for old works and the ability to aggregate the best parts of past music. The thing is, this doesn't just apply to works before my lifetime. The Recycle project is an amazing fan-based archive where a community took the best releases of singles from New Order over their lifespan, put the releases together and did some hand-fixing and remastering, and released them on the web. I believe they've said they'd be willing to provide their work to the record label for official release, and it'd be better than some of the poorly-reworked and remastered albums that actually hit store shelves.

At this point, there are active communities who care more about artistic works than the owners of those copyrights. Does this make piracy right? Not really. But I'm hoping the future looks better than what we have now.
posted by mikeh at 7:52 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


fuq: She's not going to screw over her former employer and all her business connections just because she changed jobs.

Ironmouth: These are the facts. There is zero legal conflict of interest. She has never represented the RIAA in a case or controversy before a court or in a legal dispute before another party. She is no longer paid by them. No conflict therefore exists.

These kinds of arguments disturb me greatly because they don't wash in other similar situations. A regulator judging an environmental assessment who had previously worked as an assessment preparer for industry would be viewed askance. A dance coach who judges one of a former school students in competition would have questions about bias. A political reporter who did PR for a political party on the side would have his neutrality questioned.

The lawyers I've known have ranged from committed and conscientious to weasely crooks, the full range of humanity, in other words. I thus have little confidence that lawyers are somehow immune from being influenced by their relationships and friendships, unlike every other person I've ever known.

Influence and bias are subtle things, sometimes not even conscious things. That's why conflict of interest rules usually require avoiding not just provable conflicts but also the appearance of conflict. If that means choose one job closes door for others, then I say welcome to the way the world works. If justice is what you really care about, then we need to take extra care not to taint it.
posted by bonehead at 7:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think that what I'm going for here is that if you give the people what they want, they'll give you the cash you need, but until then, the system is going to keep being broken and no amount of accepting piracy or legal action is going to fix either side.
posted by mikeh at 7:54 AM on April 11, 2011


Ok Ironmouth, what do you propose as a fair system of music distribution in the digital era? It is clear that the distribution paradigm has changed and will be changing more in the future. I can tell you do not approve of free digital downloads but the digital infrastructure which allows this is now the primary infrastructure for distributing music. How would you stop the piracy when digital music distribution is the norm?

The market is already moving that direction. Some songs on itunes are more expensive, some aren't. Back in the day, the cost of physical product meant that some music wasn't made. No longer.

Second, listen to indie music. Buy independents who are cheaper and the prices on itunes get more striated and more reflective of the market.

The US has the lowest software piracy rate in the world (20%).
Here are the top 10:

Georgia95%
Zimbabwe92%
Bangladesh91%
Moldova91%
armenia90%
yemen90%
sri lanka89%
azerbaijan88%
libya 88%
belarus87%


But the US is bigger and has more software and more computers. So even if the rate is lower, total units stolen is higher.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: why don't you admit you're just exasperated by the way whites of lower social status than yourself are thwarting your ambition of operating a record label as a hobby business?

"I won't continue this conversation any further, you scoundrel, until you admit you're a scoundrel!" is no way to engage in a dialogue; I don't know if you're fooling yourself, but you're certainly not fooling everyone.

A more productive use of your time would be to sketch, in detail, an enforcement regime you'd be happy with. How will infringement be detected? Who will pay for such detection efforts? How will detected infringement be dealt with? Why would that regime be acceptable to you, and why should others find it acceptable?
posted by hoople at 7:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The lawyers I've known have ranged from committed and conscientious to weasely crooks, the full range of humanity, in other words. I thus have little confidence that lawyers are somehow immune from being influenced by their relationships and friendships, unlike every other person I've ever known.

The way it works is that if theree is a proven conflict that was knowingly ignored, that person loses their license to practice. Its enforcement. But pure and simple, from a legal standpoint, there is no conflict. How could there be? They are not paying her.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:59 AM on April 11, 2011


I don't like that Disney can sue someone for having a t-shirt with a picture of Winnie the Pooh on it because they cut some slimy deal with some slimy operator who bought some "property" 80 years ago. And I don't like laws that extend Disney's right to do so.
posted by Trochanter at 8:05 AM on April 11, 2011


I know about Creative Commons, but are there ways for creators to release their intellectual property into the public domain after their deaths? Either immediately or after a set amount of time (say, twenty years).
posted by overglow at 8:07 AM on April 11, 2011


"I won't continue this conversation any further, you scoundrel, until you admit you're a scoundrel!" is no way to engage in a dialogue; I don't know if you're fooling yourself, but you're certainly not fooling everyone.

A more productive use of your time would be to sketch, in detail, an enforcement regime you'd be happy with.


Read what I said. I said I'd stop discussing infringment when extension was being used as a trojan horse for it. This is about people, like you, telling me what I should say, not me refusing to continue any discussion. Both you and jeffburdges want me to stop talking about something. Well, I say start by stop linking it to something which is illegal in an attempt to make the idea of stealing music legitimate. I'm not refusing to talk, I'm not saying what you want to hear and refusing your suggestion that I talk about what you want.

But the fact remains, the OP linked copyright extension to the RIAA's efforts to enforce copyright in this country. And this would have been a different conversation if he had not. My point is that extension and foriegn applicability of copyright is often used to disguise the true agenda: getting free music and movies.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:07 AM on April 11, 2011


I know about Creative Commons, but are there ways for creators to release their intellectual property into the public domain after their deaths? Either immediately or after a set amount of time (say, twenty years).

Certainly. Copyright and freely license.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:09 AM on April 11, 2011


Having previously taken money from one of the organizations you are judging is not considered a conflict? Could one decide a case about an ex-spouse simply because one was no longer married to them? Relationships, even past ones, cause conflicts. That's why there are delays for ex-public servants who want to lobby (at least in theory).

Time weakens relationships, but there were almost no delays in these cases. The lobbyist, Martin-Prat, went directly from advocacy to a judicial on the exact subject she was a lobbying for. Howell had worked as a lobbyist as recently as 2008. I don't know what the rules are in the US, but in Canada, she would be shot down for that.

Appearance of conflict is as important as provable conflict, otherwise faith in the justice system is compromised. If the law is seen as biased, everyone loses.
posted by bonehead at 8:11 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The public did not have a property right in the work"

Yes it did, if the artist did not keep the work in secrecy.


No, it didn't. Property rights (particularly in the intellectual property context) are rights to exclude. The public (collectively or individually) did not have a right to exclude others from using the work, therefore it did not have a property right in the work.
posted by jedicus at 8:13 AM on April 11, 2011


Judge Beryl Howell's decision facilitates the legal extortion practices the content industries have employed against individuals in their efforts to fabricate a previously non-existant and patently ridiculously strict notion of ownership.

It's asinine to equate people copying files from their friends, or even random strangers, as equivalent to using a song in a big budget movie without paying. People share stuff, that's fair & honorable. Any intensional commercial distributors should pay however.

As I said upthread, her decision has no bearing upon legitimate copyright enforcement against those intentionally exploiting copyrighted works for-profit.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:16 AM on April 11, 2011


This is apparently about the inalienable right to get Lady Gaga for free. All I ask is that you drop the pretense about this being anything other than "I want things for free."

Even if you just reduce it to that, the free stuff you are talking about is pretty great. Like unprecedented in the history of mankind great. I can load up YouTube right now and not only hear every Lady Gaga song, but see all of the videos, and watch dozens of live performances. Or I can look up interviews with her online for free, or go to forums and talk about her for free, or do any other number of things because it's so easy for people to send me content. And it's like that for every possible type of content that can be digitized. All combined it makes going to a library 20 years ago and looking up microfilm or whatever seem like living in the stone-age.

In old sci-fi novels this kind of massive distributed database just kind of existed to be used, but now that we are actually living in the future it's a lot harder than you would expect to balance the fact that it's so easy to access anything with the fact that it still costs money to create something digital. I don't know how it will all shake out and what new business models will emerge, but the amount of digital content out there that is available to anyone for free (even excluding illegal piracy) is more valuable and extensive than any pre-digital collection of content. So it's worth thinking about how we can both use the Internet to make possible the wonderful things it makes possible, and still pay people for creating new content.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:16 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But pure and simple, from a legal standpoint, there is no conflict. How could there be? They are not paying her.

Study human relations, how people interact with each other and form preferences and biases. The law has curiously little to do with the day-to-day cognition that humans base their decisions on. As I have said before, one gathers a social network and preferences toward the place they worked at, it becomes "my team" by virtue of sympathies with the people with whom one has worked, relationships are not terminated by changing jobs. She has made an investment in the RIAA with her time and effort, she was compensated with money, but also with networking, experience, and friends. If you think that payment is the only thing that ties people to jobs and industries and cultures you are clueless or "doin it rong." Also, you really seem to hold the law in extremely, strangely high esteem and a determinant of human psychology; i.e. that the conflict of interest can't be proven by Law and therefor no such conflict on interest can possibly exist. I almost expect you to start capitalizing it, Law, with a sort of fundamentalism that I find frankly disturbing.
posted by fuq at 8:16 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Having previously taken money from one of the organizations you are judging is not considered a conflict? Could one decide a case about an ex-spouse simply because one was no longer married to them? Relationships, even past ones, cause conflicts. That's why there are delays for ex-public servants who want to lobby (at least in theory).

It is not a legal conflict of interest. Had the judge worked as a lawyer in actual legal cases or controversies, it would be.

You misapprehend the purpose of the public servant lobbying provisions. They are there to ensure that while a public servant, a party isn't ruling for a future employer which they know they will have a job with in the near future. What other purpose could it serve?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:18 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: you're certainly not refusing to talk, you're just not holding yourself to the kind of standard to which you're trying to hold your interlocutors.

The obvious link between the two issues is that both involve what to the general public has the semblance of a conflict-of-interest, regardless of whether or not the situation merits it.

The practical implications are transparent: at present copyright infringement is not something feasibly enforceable, which is what makes it so contentious; for the foreseeable future any effective prevention of copyright infringement will require buy-in from those who would otherwise be infringers.

The consequence here is that, like it or not, those who would like to see copyright respected will have to convince those "privileged whites" to act voluntarily in ways that differ from the ways in which they currently act. Impugnment of character -- even when justified -- is of limited persuasive effectiveness. So is appointing those who appear to have conflicts of interest: the legal system is capable of discharging legal culpability, but its verdicts have no real heft in the court of public opinion.

To draw in misplaced use, it's the same thing we've seen in history when, say, women and minorities finally got their place at the table: the newcomers asked questions not previously asked, and the old guard -- having habits of thought, but not answers -- complained amongst themselves about the newcomers' character and wisdom.

Same as it ever was.
posted by hoople at 8:23 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Judge Beryl Howell's decision facilitates the legal extortion practices the content industries have employed against individuals in their efforts to fabricate a previously non-existant and patently ridiculously strict notion of ownership.

Well, yeah, that's like, just your opinion, man.

Guess what? The legislature of a democratic nation-state says otherwise. And your interest in free and cheaper music was considered by and acted upon by that legislature. So your calling it "extortion" and "patently" ridiculous and strict" so you can get cheaper music does not mean it is any of those things.

As for it having no bearing, you could not be more mistaken. If it had no bearing on enforcement, why is the infringement lobby screaming so hard against it? You bet they are already making it matter.

It's asinine to equate people copying files from their friends, or even random strangers, as equivalent to using a song in a big budget movie without paying. People share stuff, that's fair & honorable. Any intensional commercial distributors should pay however.

Your arguement seems to hinge on who the infringer is, for some reason. What logical or moral reason makes it not ok to have it in a film but ok to obtain a copy from a stranger? There is none.

Let's be clear--this is about economic injury. The holders want to prevent it. Death by a thousand blows is what they are trying to avoid.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:29 AM on April 11, 2011


The practical implications are transparent: at present copyright infringement is not something feasibly enforceable, which is what makes it so contentious;

A law should be enforced. And I don't think it is that difficult. The RIAA is doing it every day.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:32 AM on April 11, 2011


The following in no way reflects the views of my employer.

A couple caveats before I dig in: I make games for a living, and the most recent title I worked on is - to the best of our ability to ascertain - one of the most heavily pirated & resold games in the past few years (this is what comes of making single-player-only experiences). I should also state that I possess no copies of music, movies, games, or content of any kind that I did not purchase or was not freely available with the creators' express permission that I am aware of. Those things having been said:

I disagree with the concept of intellectual property in every way and under all circumstances possible.

The human race is enriched as a whole when more people have greater access to goods both material and immaterial. In my lifetime I have witnessed the cost of information replication drop to effectively zero.

The possession of material goods is zero-sum, whereas in an environment with insignificant replication costs the possession of information need not be, and we are impoverished as a species by our failure to recognize this.

The current state of affairs is painful for those who generate immaterial goods for a living because of the current disparity between replication costs of the material goods they need to live, and the immaterial which they produce. Automation of material goods production is set to explode over the next several decades (everything from penetration of robotics into manufacturing to improved AI to 3D printers to better materials science), so our present growing pains are hopefully temporary.

The worst possible outcome for the human race would be for the content industry's current efforts to block free replication of information to be realized. We could very well come to a point where information replication is limited unnecessarily, and because small-scale rapid fabrication is dependent on it (blueprints, CAD files, etc.), extremely low-cost material goods replication is never fully realized. We stand on the brink of creating social and legal frameworks in which we deny ourselves the greatest renaissance possible because of our own shortsightedness.

I have little hope that anybody with vested interests is going to be swayed by this argument, but it's not something I am morally comfortable with staying quiet about; there's just too much potential at risk.
posted by Ryvar at 8:34 AM on April 11, 2011 [19 favorites]



To draw in misplaced use, it's the same thing we've seen in history when, say, women and minorities finally got their place at the table: the newcomers asked questions not previously asked, and the old guard -- having habits of thought, but not answers -- complained amongst themselves about the newcomers' character and wisdom.


No. It is not like that. You are stealing music for your own personal entertainment, not asserting your right to ride in the front of the bus despite the color of your skin. The infringment lobby would hold you up with MLK and Mandela, but you are doing this so you can listen to Lady GaGa for free on your iPod. A far cry from those who fought courageously not to be mistreated for their race. Please do not sully their memory by appropriating their struggle for free access to things whites had for your struggle to have the latest Rhianna release.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:37 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have little hope that anybody with vested interests is going to be swayed by this argument, but it's not something I am morally comfortable with staying quiet about; there's just too much potential at risk.

The obvious moral course is to quit working for those people.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 AM on April 11, 2011


Ryvar: I'm with you; I don't care one way or the other if protections for disposable entertainment media make it through the next century, but it would be a crime against god for the replicator future to be forestalled by anti-music-piracy countermeasures.

Ironmouth: how's this: enforcing infringement to the point that incidence of infringement is in the same ballpark as incidence of tangible theft is not feasible for the foreseeable future; reducing incidence to comparable levels will require voluntary cooperation from infringers.
posted by hoople at 8:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


[Previously working as an adviser to RIAA] is not a legal conflict of interest. Had the judge worked as a lawyer in actual legal cases or controversies, it would be.

That's an exceedingly fine line to draw. You can essentially work as a solicitor but not as a barrister? Sorry, that strikes me as exceedingly shady. It may be legal in your system, but I have a very hard time seeing that as ethical.

Again, appearance of conflict, particularly in public servants is very important. Our supreme court has said:
The Crown is quite entitled to demand different standards of its employees than those prevailing in the private sector. It is not only entitled in law to enjoin its servants from putting themselves in a position of an apparent conflict of interest; the rationale for its doing so is patently obvious. [The Fraser judgment is quoted, including the need "to ensure that the public service is perceived as impartial and effective in fulfilling its duties".] ...Manifestly, the public service will not be perceived as impartial and effective in fulfilling its duties if apparent conflicts between the private interests and the public duties of public servants are tolerated.
For public servants, it's not just before the fact decisions, access post-public employment is increasingly identified as one of the issues. Your friends have positions to do you favours because they like you in preference to others of equal merit. You know internal details that outsiders would not.

An increasing problem in our civil service is the lobbying of middle levels of management, below the explicitly political levels that should be receiving public submissions. The delay rules are also in place to keep people from being lobbied by their former friends, bosses and mentors immediately following their retirements.
posted by bonehead at 8:43 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: how's this: enforcing infringement to the point that incidence of infringement is in the same ballpark as incidence of tangible theft is not feasible for the foreseeable future; reducing incidence to comparable levels will require voluntary cooperation from infringers.

Perhaps we were raised in different environments. I was taught that the fact I could take something that belonged to another without fear of being caught did not mean it was morally right for me to do so. But maybe we are heading for a future of "if you can get away with it, do it."

May I ask that if you saw a wallet on the ground would you take the cash?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:45 AM on April 11, 2011


Let's be clear--this is about economic injury. The holders want to prevent it

Yes, but economic injury can not be prevented. The holders have built their business model entirely on the concept of storing recorded material on a physical medium and the distribution of the physical medium upon which the recorded material in imprinted. That system is now outdated and business models that rely on that system will necessarily incur severe economic injury the same way that companies that make Polaroid film have been severely economically injured. In a triage situation one does not hold out on those without the capability to survive. By pursuing a business strategy that is no longer relevant the RIAA will die and no amount of The Law will make a classic Redbook Compact Disc a viable medium for recording distribution again. Therefor, I can assume that any efforts at reducing economic injury to the RIAA will be a waste of time a resources.

A law should be enforced. And I don't think it is that difficult. The RIAA is doing it every day.

And it doesn't work and thus you are upset. Maybe you should be upset at the RIAA for poorly enforcing the Law. Even if you think it is easy, this very thread indicates that you are completely wrong about the difficulty of enforcing copyright law.

Ironmouth What are you arguing for anyway? It seems like you are passionately defending the status quo which can no longer be perpetuated because of technological advances. I'm against the RIAA but in favor of musicians getting paid, so I love pay-what-you-will albums. Instead of protecting copyright, stakeholders should focus n adapting to the new system of distribution instead of trying to use The Law to change the reality of the situation.

May I ask that if you saw a wallet on the ground would you take the cash?

I would make an exact copy of the wallet and money, return the wallet and money to it's owner who would be glad to get it back, and then use the exact copy of the money (fully functional) to buy Squarepusher's new album on glorious 180 Gram vinyl.
posted by fuq at 8:46 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: over the years I've handed several found wallets over to the police with the cash intact, but I can't vouch for what happened after that.

I don't see the relationship to the discussion of the question, however.
posted by hoople at 8:50 AM on April 11, 2011


Shit, I'm tempted to download a bunch of Lady Gaga -- whose work I don't otherwise care about -- just because it might piss Ironmouth off.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 8:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


That's an exceedingly fine line to draw. You can essentially work as a solicitor but not as a barrister? Sorry, that strikes me as exceedingly shady. It may be legal in your system, but I have a very hard time seeing that as ethical.

We do not have your distinctions. The answer is yes. This line you wish to draw, where is it? Can a Republican judge rule on a ballot-access case for a Democrat. One of Irish descent on a case involving an English company and an American one? A man on the case of a woman? A prosecutor from every criminal case?

A bright line must be drawn somewhere. So Justice Sotomayor has to recuse herself from cases in which she ruled.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:57 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: over the years I've handed several found wallets over to the police with the cash intact, but I can't vouch for what happened after that.

I don't see the relationship to the discussion of the question, however


You argue that the increased difficulty in copyright means that its okay to infringe on others copyrights. In otherwords, the chances of getting caught affect the moral calculus.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:59 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth:

I suspect you and I have different definitions of something "belonging" to someone. I do not consider intellectual property to be in the same class as physical property. I consider it a a complete legal fiction created solely as an incentive for more content. I see the taking of physical property to be something that has a direct negative effect on the person whose property is being stolen, and that is what is being codified in law.

On the other hand, I do not see piracy as morally wrong. I consider the widespread dissemination of this sort of material to be *THE ENTIRE POINT* of the law. I consider the usefulness of a piece of artwork to be increased to its fullest potential when it is seen by anyone who may have an interest in it. The protections given by intellectual property law are intended to solely be a *temporary* financial incentive, no different than a government grant from the NEA or CPB or any other such agency, only applied in a radically different manner.

I do see the point behind this incentive. I seriously do think that the artists of our society should be rewarded for their work. But, I also see the incredible amount of harm in restricting who can see art based solely on a financial barrier.
posted by leviathan3k at 9:01 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: can you quote to me where I claimed that it's ok to infringe on others' copyrights?
posted by hoople at 9:02 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: you keep asking that we disentangle the issue of infringement from the issue of copyright extension, and ask that 'we just admit that infringement is illegal.' But those are two closely related and inter-dependent issues. The one is not a 'trojan horse' for the other. If copyright is pushed back from 50 years to 95, then we will have made it illegal to share those works for 45 years more. Otherwise, it will be legal to share those works. In which case it would not be infringement, and it would not be piracy.

If we had no copyrights at all, then there would be no piracy (by definition). To be clear, I am not advocating for that, but I think it's fairly clear that the debate over copyright extension is closely related to concerns about copyright enforcement and piracy prevention.
posted by cjelli at 9:03 AM on April 11, 2011


All the previous moral panics in the content industry have been pure bullshit. Ain't any different this time around, well except for the whole "change public opinion though unethical legal harassment" thing.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:08 AM on April 11, 2011


I don't know. The copyright matters are one thing. But the conflict of interest issue here looks pretty ugly to me. There should be higher standards when it comes to actual or potential conflict of interest in law. The consequences for the integrity of the legal process when there's any room for doubt about the integrity of a court are just too high to discount.

If, as an attorney, you do work for a regulated industry, for at least some significant window of time (15 years, say), you shouldn't be able to sit on a court that rules on cases related to that industry, or if you do, you should be forced to recuse yourself.

Maybe if attorneys had to weigh in the possibility of denying themselves future career development opportunities, they'd be less willing to shill for big industries in the first place. That might help level the playing field, since those industries obviously have all the financial resources they need to tilt the legal system in their direction.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:09 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This line you wish to draw, where is it?

How about this: if you've had a financial relationship with one of the parties in a business dispute, you should recuse yourself. That's even simpler than your rule.
posted by bonehead at 9:10 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: can you quote to me where I claimed that it's ok to infringe on others' copyrights?

at present copyright infringement is not something feasibly enforceable, which is what makes it so contentious


In other words, what makes a law contentious isn't its moral content, but whether it can be enforced or not. Theft from lost wallets can hardly be enforced, so the law against it must be "contentious", no?

Whether or not the threat of punishment is attenuated or not means nothing to the analysis of whether or not it is right or wrong. Yet you set up a system where it is. Applying this across the board, we get that it is ok to take a $10 bill out of a wallet one finds on the street. Although worse applications of this principle exist, the $10 is the cost of an album.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:16 AM on April 11, 2011


Christ, what an asshole.®
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:27 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Skwirl: My dad's an architect and many of his buildings will be housing and supporting people in 95 years time. I won't see a dime of inheritance. I'm okay with that and have always expected to make my own way.

I've been thinking of good analogies between royalties for musicians and other lines of work. Patent medicine, as mentioned up thread, is a preposterous analogy, because the pharmacological industry is about making money off of people's well-being, balanced with the costs of finding/making and testing new medicines. Music is about emotion and enjoyment, not saving lives (well, not typically). Bad analogy.

Then there was the analogy between the musician's work and the farmer's land, made by some representative of the RIAA (if memory serves right, as I cannot find the source online). The idea was that the farmer can pass down the farm to the next generation, so why shouldn't the musician pass down the musical rights to their offspring? Except the farm must be worked on, crops planted, cared for, and harvested. It costs money to make money on a farm, and there's the chance a bad year could ruin everything. Compare that to the kids of a musician, who could try and promote their musical heritage, keep the memory of the great music alive, or they could sit back and hope/wait for checks to come. Work isn't necessary for some return. Bad analogy.

And now the architect, who must go to school to learn the trade, usually needs to get a license before ever drawing up plans. And the time for drawing up those plans is generally not cheap, so the architect's education can be paid off through work, and the architect can save money for the next generation. The musician can go to school to learn the theories and practices of music making, or they can just have a go at it, play on the street or send demos out to labels. The musician is paid in a number of ways, and few musicians are can get the sums of money that an architect can. Plus, a song is not a house - the compensation for the song goes on because the song is used in new ways, or in the same way with a new audience. The song is not a physical good like a house, so it makes sense to have a different method of payment for use. In short, an architect is not like a musician. Bad analogy.

Artists take chances like no one else. And for that, they get payments in ways like no one else. But an artist does not work in a void, and finds inspiration (knowingly or not) from outside sources, including prior artists. So what does this mean for the lifespan of a copyright, and the limits of the copyright? Therein lies the rub.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:31 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This line you wish to draw, where is it?

How about this: if you've had a financial relationship with one of the parties in a business dispute, you should recuse yourself. That's even simpler than your rule.


You've just precluded every single federal employee from being a judge in a criminal case.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 AM on April 11, 2011


Compare that to the kids of a musician, who could try and promote their musical heritage, keep the memory of the great music alive, or they could sit back and hope/wait for checks to come. Work isn't necessary for some return. Bad analogy.

Actually it is good. Advertising and promotion for all works is a part of the cost. What the artist does is sell the rights at a discount to someone willing to do that work for as long as is needed.

This is exactly it. And the Architect's kid who posted earlier in the thread does not realize his father's compensation for the long-term use of the building was just paid up front, that's all. He already got the benefit living under his dad's roof and getting food. The fact that the buyers are purchasing music later is just the delayed aspect of the transaction.

Infringing, still illegal and morally wrong, regardless of the extension arguments.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: you have a strange way of reading things; you paraphrase what I wrote as equivalent to "to the exclusion of any consideration of morality what makes a law contentious is always and everywhere its enforceability" and adequately argue against that interpretation. If you'd like to keep arguing against that position feel free, but please do keep me out of it.
posted by hoople at 9:42 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth,

I accept your premise that enforcing copyright law is a good thing, and that pirates should not get a free lunch, and that on the merits, it is obvious the RIAA should be allowed to proceed with its enforcement suits. But I still think the ruling still seems dangerously flawed and disturbing from a procedural standpoint.

I haven't yet read the ruling itself, but from the coverage by several articles, it seems like this judge is allowing mass-filings containing several hundred thousand to proceed with the cost of a single filing, allowing all defendant to be joined although the federal rules of civil procedure seem to indicate this is impermissible joinder. (Although to be fair, it looks like joinder is permissible if a "question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.", which depending on relevant case law may show. I admit to not having given this more than a cursory glance).

But my point still stands, that, if the ruling is egregious as the news articles claim, the basis of the suit is that an unfair procedural advantage has been given to the RIAA, not that the case, on it's merits, is incorrect.

Why should the RIAA be allowed to enforce its rights with procedural mechanisms that are unavailable to other plaintiffs?
posted by HabeasCorpus at 9:44 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Artists take chances like no one else. And for that, they get payments in ways like no one else. But an artist does not work in a void, and finds inspiration (knowingly or not) from outside sources, including prior artists. So what does this mean for the lifespan of a copyright, and the limits of the copyright? Therein lies the rub.

Well, if the inspiration infringes, he gets sued. More importantly, you're trying to make it appear that the purchaser is part of the big world out there so he should get a cut. What moral basis is there for that.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:44 AM on April 11, 2011


Ryvar - But what sort of terrible world would we be left with if human beings were allowed to freely share information without corporate oversight?

I swear, if someone invented Star Trek replicators tomorrow, all these anti-piracy moralists would be in thread cursing Picard for cutting into Twinings' profits

YOU WOULDN'T STEAL A CUP OF EARL GREY, HOT
posted by crayz at 9:45 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Exclude government entities then. That's the way it works now anyway.

We wouldn't be having this discussion if many people weren't pointing out that working for a trade lobby organization then subsequently deciding case for them didn't appear to present a problem. Judges (and semi-judicial boards, in the case of Martin-Prat) appear to have lower ethical standards than required for other public servants or even private sector individuals. There's an ethical lapse in policy that needs to be addressed.
posted by bonehead at 9:47 AM on April 11, 2011


What do The People get for providing this copyright benefit to authors and musicians?
posted by mikelieman at 9:48 AM on April 11, 2011


To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Oh, yeah.

Hmmm... I wonder how much of the content under discussion actually promotes either Science or useful Arts?
posted by mikelieman at 9:52 AM on April 11, 2011


What do The People get for providing this copyright benefit to authors and musicians?

Books and music?
posted by statolith at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


But the US is bigger and has more software and more computers. So even if the rate is lower, total units stolen is higher.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:55 AM on April 11 [+] [!]


I'm not sure why you are convinced that arguing about race and file-sharing is important. Nevertheless, I want to highlight the results from Figure 5 in this report (values in millions of dollars), which is an estimate of the commercial value of unlicensed software:

Asia-Pacific: $16,544
Central/Eastern Europe: $4,673
Latin America: $6,210
Middle East/Africa: $2,887
North America: $9,379
Western Europe: $11,750
European Union: $12,469

It's a gross oversimplification to say 'white people steal music'. Sure, if you add up all the white people (however you categorize white), it's a big number. It's certainly not 99%. And if consider that in some poor industrializing non-white countries the piracy rate is >90%. If you factor in the population growth rate, and the ever reducing cost of technology the argument seems absurd.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth,

I accept your premise that enforcing copyright law is a good thing, and that pirates should not get a free lunch, and that on the merits, it is obvious the RIAA should be allowed to proceed with its enforcement suits. But I still think the ruling still seems dangerously flawed and disturbing from a procedural standpoint.

I haven't yet read the ruling itself, but from the coverage by several articles, it seems like this judge is allowing mass-filings containing several hundred thousand to proceed with the cost of a single filing, allowing all defendant to be joined although the federal rules of civil procedure seem to indicate this is impermissible joinder. (Although to be fair, it looks like joinder is permissible if a "question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.", which depending on relevant case law may show. I admit to not having given this more than a cursory glance).

But my point still stands, that, if the ruling is egregious as the news articles claim, the basis of the suit is that an unfair procedural advantage has been given to the RIAA, not that the case, on it's merits, is incorrect.

Why should the RIAA be allowed to enforce its rights with procedural mechanisms that are unavailable to other plaintiffs?


I have no statement to make on the ruling. I haven't read it. As a lawyer I wouldn't rely on articles about it, especially ones so biased that a photo accompanying the article shows a dog judge with a wig and robe on it. If that does not make you think "gee, should I trust this article about something I never read in a complex field I do not work in" then I don't know what should.

If you think you understand joinder in the federal district courts, have at it. I don't even understand it and won't until I have to actually practice in it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2011


It's a gross oversimplification to say 'white people steal music'. Sure, if you add up all the white people (however you categorize white), it's a big number. It's certainly not 99%. And if consider that in some poor industrializing non-white countries the piracy rate is >90%. If you factor in the population growth rate, and the ever reducing cost of technology the argument seems absurd

To prove it, I'm sure you'll stop pirating immediately and delete any pirated music.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:55 AM on April 11, 2011


Interesting assumption.
I've never pirated music.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 9:56 AM on April 11, 2011


What do The People get for providing this copyright benefit to authors and musicians?

This is a matter of individual rights. Not collective ones. Some rights are guaranteed against the masses by design, including property rights.

But in short, people get books and music. Make your own instead if you want them.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I too hope to someday make some money off of the music I create. If I make a ton of money, perhaps I can give it to the kids as an inheritance.

But as far as I'm concerned, when I die, the copyright should expire fairly soon thereafter. 95 years post-creator's death? Screw that, my grandkids and great grandkids can find their own job and make their own music, thank you very much.

I'm a fairly hard line on copyright -- every creative work, if copyright is assigned to an individual (not a corporation), their copyright expires 10 years after the individual's death (unless their death is deemed a murder or under suspicious circumstances, in which case it's 25 years perhaps).

Any copyright held by a corporation should get a blanket 30 year term.

I also know this will never happen. Anyone want to give me a ton of money for my music?
posted by chimaera at 9:58 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a really long history of musicians, writers, and artists not only drawing inspiration from older works but actually, you know, straight up taking elements of older works and re-purposing them. Shakespeare, for example. Imagine if Shakespeare were living right now. What he did--the great works he created--would be illegal.

And this isn't just some ancient thing. The novel Wicked is pretty great, and it was possible because The Wizard of Oz is in the public domain. Copyright extension is getting so ridiculous that it seems to be threatening the potential of new works to enter the public domain in the future.

Telling stories, and having later generations retell them and change them is a deep, deep part of human culture. It's part of how human culture evolves and grows. We're essentially making that illegal. I think this is a very foolish and dangerous thing to do, although, honestly, whatever corrupt judges, corporate shills and pompous blowhards say and do, people are going to continue to sing along to their favorite songs, to make covers, to write fan fiction, to disguise characters in order to avoid lawsuits.

The tragedy though is, what great novels and plays are we not seeing published because of all this? What modern day creative geniuses are being muzzled?
posted by overglow at 9:59 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Any copyright held by a corporation should get a blanket 30 year term.

This massively reduces its sale value to the musician. The idea that for this one industry we should have no middlemen makes no sense.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:00 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth, in your opinion, how long should copyright last?
posted by ymgve at 10:00 AM on April 11, 2011


ironmouth

Just how much music makes any real amount of money after 30 years?
posted by leviathan3k at 10:01 AM on April 11, 2011


There's a really long history of musicians, writers, and artists not only drawing inspiration from older works but actually, you know, straight up taking elements of older works and re-purposing them. Shakespeare, for example. Imagine if Shakespeare were living right now. What he did--the great works he created--would be illegal.

Shakespeare isn't living now. There was no copyright. If he had infringed he'd pay up. But he also would have made a lot more money and could pay up. Although most of what he wrote off of was in the public domain anyway.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 AM on April 11, 2011


If it's morally wrong to use the artistic work of others without paying for it, then it should be wrong no matter what the law is - whether the copyright law is for 7 years or 700. You need to make some kind of *moral* argument for when it becomes wrong, otherwise we're stuck with a permanent inheritable copyright system.

And if the morality of using work is wholly dependent on the legality of it, well then you kind of have a philosophy of law argument on your hands. Many people would disagree with you that just because something isn't legal, it isn't moral, and they have what to stand on.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:02 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, in your opinion, how long should copyright last?

I don't know. Its a tough question, one which I have not thought about in terms of duration. But it is one that should be separate from infringement.

Second, I don't think that a corporation owning means anything, or is constitutional. Freedom of contract is guaranteed in the constitution. The idea that only musicians and artists are banned from using middle men is preposterous to me.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:04 AM on April 11, 2011


To prove it, I'm sure you'll stop pirating immediately and delete any pirated music.

That's a weaselly response to real statistics presented to challenge your justification for using lazy and insulting language. It just goes top show, there are all kinds of lawyers out there.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:04 AM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


If it's morally wrong to use the artistic work of others without paying for it, then it should be wrong no matter what the law is - whether the copyright law is for 7 years or 700. You need to make some kind of *moral* argument for when it becomes wrong, otherwise we're stuck with a permanent inheritable copyright system.

Poppycock. We patent only for a limited amount of time because it is thought that inventions will be passed by. The same with music or movies. Eventually they will be less culturally relevant.

Plus there is more than one kind of music copyright. There is composer copyright and performer copyright.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:06 AM on April 11, 2011


Well, in the interest of solving one of these dilemmas...

I want free music, and not only that, I want free music in a form that I can easily play back on any number of devices, encoded in a quality format, and delivered via a simple mechanism, preferably on-demand. This is what I want, not what I demand. I am willing to infringe copyright, if necessary, to do so.

While I admit this is illegal, I will not admit it is a moral wrong; this is your judgment, not mine. One of the reasons I believe it is not a moral wrong is that I am not depriving anyone of any of their possessions. They still own the copyright; fine, I have no problem with that. Another reason is that I am not profiting monetarily from this infringement. Another reason is that I need to do physical work in order to reproduce a recording of their music - I need to download it, play it back, and if I want a physical copy I also need to burn a CD, if I further want a nice package, I'd need to create it.

I think there's a pretty simple line to be drawn that respects content authors ability to receive remuneration when their content it used in activities that generate revenue (advertising, media, etc.) and when their content is used for personal enjoyment, distributed and reproduced at the cost of those who enjoy it. It makes sense to go after a company that is using your work to make money. This is where copyright works well. It does not make sense to go after someone who is hearing your work without having first payed you for the privilege of hearing it.

I buy music. I used to have a subscription to emusic that I used heavily until they started screwing their users and independent labels to suck up to the larger labels. They repeatedly broke promises to me, changed policies, and prevented me from re-downloading music I'd paid for after they promised to allow me that privilege. As a result, it is now easier in most cases for me to just download their work. If it is unavailable, I will wait or purchase it. Once I have purchased it, I may share that work with others by playing it, or reproducing it in a digital form and sharing it in that manner. This may be currently illegal, but I do not consider it immoral. If there was an easier way to achieve my goals and offer compensation to artists, I would do it, but the only one I ever found screwed me too many times to continue using it.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:09 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


To prove it, I'm sure you'll stop pirating immediately and delete any pirated music.

That's a weaselly response to real statistics presented to challenge your justification for using lazy and insulting language. It just goes top show, there are all kinds of lawyers out there.


My point is this--pirating in violation of law harms the interests of others. Acting as if it does not is wishful thinking. My point about white people is simple--the infringing lobby uses all sorts of language about freedom and the like to make it seem as if they are the one's fighting for real important things when they are fighting for the right to take the property of others and use it for their own entertainment.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:10 AM on April 11, 2011


This may be currently illegal, but I do not consider it immoral. If there was an easier way to achieve my goals and offer compensation to artists, I would do it</em

Yet given a chance between compensating artists in a more difficult way, or just taking what you want, you just take what you want and don't compensate the artists.

posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2011


The problem with the legal approach is that it doesn't change behavior. Morally right or wrong, lawsuits are not a good way to effect social change in this case. Continuing down that road will continue to be pointless, wasting legal resources, both public and private. RIAA alone estimates that they've lost tens of millions on their legal actions.

If copyright really is a economic pricing problem. market failure, then legal solutions alone cannot hold back the tide. There needs to be a policy and/or market response to capture the consumers lost to copy-theft. Lawsuits can fly until doomsday, but I'm certain that won't stop "piracy".

Continuing to argue that this is amenable to legal solution after ten years of expensive futility is beyond idiotic at this point.
posted by bonehead at 10:16 AM on April 11, 2011


My point about white people is simple--the infringing lobby uses all sorts of language about freedom and the like to make it seem as if they are the one's fighting for real important things when they are fighting for the right to take the property of others and use it for their own entertainment.

I see your point, but I don't think it has much to do with white people or using epithets to describe others.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:17 AM on April 11, 2011


In point of fact, iTunes has done more to stop piracy than anything RIAA has ever done.
posted by bonehead at 10:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


the infringing lobby uses all sorts of language about freedom and the like to make it seem as if they are the one's fighting for real important things when they are fighting for the right to take the property of others and use it for their own entertainment.

But you have yet to give an example or provide data justifying this point. Do you assume everyone who disagrees with you pirates music?

I would never have read the complete works of Sherlock Holmes if I could not have bought it for 5 euro. It cost this amount, as the book was in the public domain.

--
In other news, I emailed all my MEPs to voice concern over the policy maker, and the policy. Two of them have already replied, one who is involved in this law. They said that it is very unlikely a good reason to extend copyright for 95 years will be given, and that the law is unlikely to pass.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:18 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most debates on this topic, including this one, remind me of a particular quote written in 1939:

"There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statue or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."

-Robert Heinlein, Life-Line
posted by DataPacRat at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


My point is this--pirating in violation of law harms the interests of others. Acting as if it does not is wishful thinking. My point about white people is simple--the infringing lobby uses all sorts of language about freedom and the like to make it seem as if they are the one's fighting for real important things when they are fighting for the right to take the property of others and use it for their own entertainment.

You keep asserting that there is only harm in piracy. You keep asserting that these things are real property.

The fact that these assumptions are normally unchallenged is due to the fact that very few publically challenge them, not because they are certainties.
posted by leviathan3k at 10:21 AM on April 11, 2011


most of what [Shakespeare] wrote off of was in the public domain anyway.

Yes, and one of the big problems with increasingly restrictive copyright laws is that they are vastly shrinking the public domain. I mean, Sherlock Holmes is not yet in the public domain. The Chronicles of Narnia are not yet in the public domain. Does that seem reasonable to you?
posted by overglow at 10:23 AM on April 11, 2011


...and i just said a tautology.

The fact that these assumptions are normally unchallenged is due to the fact that very few publically challenge them

What I mean is that the fact that they are normally unchallenged here and on other forums is that practically no popular media challenges it, as it is in nearly every large media company's best interest to keep everyone thinking this way.
posted by leviathan3k at 10:24 AM on April 11, 2011


I mean, Sherlock Holmes is not yet in the public domain.

Which led to the most entertainingly brazen "NO I COULDN'T POSSIBLY BE USING YOUR COPYRIGHTED CHARACTER" in literary history!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The sound recordings I leave behind will, with any luck, help her pay a few month's rent someday. If all goes well, maybe they'd even help her to (gasp!) buy a little house. Therefore, as the copyright-holder of many of the commercial recordings of my own that have been released since 1985 or so, I am more than happy to support the extension of copyright from 50 to 70 to 95 years.

The thing is, your daughter will already have her inheritance in the form of whatever money or other belongings you leave behind when you die. I'm guessing that money and those things are the direct or indirect result of you having been compensated for the things you made, which puts you and your daugher in the same boat as: everyone else who is paid for their work. To lock your music away from the public domain for 95 years so that one or two people can be a little more comfortable in life seems like a bad deal when what could happen instead is that you allow countless artists the ability to acquire, manipulate, and be inspired by your work without fear of litigation or debt. I understand where you're coming from, and why you'd want to get copyright extended, but to me it seems like the short view rather than the long.

More importantly, I think, is the fact that extending copyright to a length of time longer than your own life unequivocally violates the point of copyright, which is to secure you the exclusive rights to your product for long enough to give you an incentive to keep creating more. We've gone way past the amount of time necessary to provide that incentive and we're now well into the realm of rent-seeking.
posted by invitapriore at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Under current rules, Disney would not have been free to use Brothers Grimm to produce a lot of the animation in the Fifties without license. The last one died in 1863, putting their copyright expiration at 1958. Snow White was adapted from the Bros Grimm in 1937. Cinderella was 1950, Sleeping Beauty is just outside the wire at 1959. Similarly for Alice in Wonderland and a few others. Disney has benefited greatly by reduced copyright periods.
posted by bonehead at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


In point of fact, iTunes has done more to stop piracy than anything RIAA has ever done.

Agreed. And that's what I meant by the market taking care of the issue.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth says: As a lawyer I wouldn't rely on articles about it, especially ones so biased that a photo accompanying the article shows a dog judge with a wig and robe on it.

Your comment seems disingenuous and quite frankly, insulting.

My point above wasn't that I was in any way relying on the news articles for substantive legal analysis. My point was simply that you seem to be defending a claim on its merits when in fact the issue is surrounding an alleged procedural deficiency.

As I mentioned multiple times in my short comment, I have no background in the FRCP rules of joinder, besides looking at it for the past 30 minutes. I think I stated many times that I did not feel comfortable issuing a pronouncement on it, but merely pointed out that, if the article is reporting correctly on the defendant's arguments against joinder and the plaintiff's arguments for it, which at face value seem at least plausible, then you are effectively arguing on the blue about the wrong thing. The question is not: "what is the validity of copyright", the question is "Is it permissible to afford the RIAA these (allegedly) special procedural rights."

As a lawyer you should also be willing to afford some common courtesy to people who disagree with you, rather than insulting their integrity.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 10:41 AM on April 11, 2011


I don't know. Its a tough question, one which I have not thought about in terms of duration. But it is one that should be separate from infringement.

So, would you be fine with it staying where it is, at 50 years?

And if so, why are you attacking the Pirate Party for "Conflict of interest"? Even if they were a party hellbent on getting everything for free, this is a debate about fifty year old music, not the latest teen hit.
posted by ymgve at 10:44 AM on April 11, 2011


Looking at my previous comment, maybe I poorly framed my argument, and didn't make my point clear. I can see how you construed it the way you did.

But dude, seriously, t a photo accompanying the article shows a dog judge with a wig and robe on it.


this kind of shit is not necessary.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 10:45 AM on April 11, 2011


I also find it interesting that patent terms are "only" twenty years. My pet theory is that companies find expired patents much more useful than expired copyrights, and therefore the terms haven't balooned like the copyright terms.
posted by ymgve at 10:46 AM on April 11, 2011


A law should be enforced. And I don't think it is that difficult. The RIAA is doing it every day.

I'm not an American or a lawyer, but why is the RIAA enforcing laws?

And not that it excuses infringement, but the RIAA has and will continue to break the law when it determines that it's in its self-interest to do so. Why would we expect any different from individuals?
posted by ODiV at 10:46 AM on April 11, 2011


Looking at my previous comment, maybe I poorly framed my argument, and didn't make my point clear. I can see how you construed it the way you did.

But dude, seriously, t a photo accompanying the article shows a dog judge with a wig and robe on it.


this kind of shit is not necessary.



My point is this, the picture alone says biased! last time I checked the new york times, they weren't pulling that crap. Have you looked at the linked article? It literally attacks the judge as a dog by putting a dog in judge's robes next to the article.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:48 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: your visual literacy could use an upgrade. You're right it's biased, but it's clearly a picture of a wolf, and is a visual pun on the "wolf in sheep's clothing" idiom, playing off of the visual resemblance between a judge's wig and a sheep's wool.
posted by hoople at 10:51 AM on April 11, 2011


It's not a dog, it's a wolf.
posted by ymgve at 10:51 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: your visual literacy could use an upgrade. You're right it's biased, but it's clearly a picture of a wolf, and is a visual pun on the "wolf in sheep's clothing" idiom, playing off of the visual resemblance between a judge's wig and a sheep's wool.

What the fuck does it matter if it is a dog, sheep whatever? Its a non-factual biased picture. It has nothing to do with the article.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: and, at risk of stating the obvious, the point of making an allusion to the common idom of "wolf in sheep's clothing" is to make an analogy to the question the article addresses, which is whether or not the judge in question has a conflict of interest.

To be perfectly clear: if the judge did have a conflict of interest as a result of her prior engagements, she might be thought to be acting *like* a judge but really *as* a lobbyist; in a similar fashion, in the "wolf in sheep's clothing" the wolf is acting *like* a sheep but really *as* a wolf.
posted by hoople at 10:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


ymgve: I don't think that's what you intended to link to?
posted by hoople at 10:57 AM on April 11, 2011


Yet given a chance between compensating artists in a more difficult way, or just taking what you want, you just take what you want and don't compensate the artists.

That would be a fair, but incomplete, assessment. I do sometimes (often?) take the difficult route and purchase music, usually vinyl, which can only be played on turntables until I re-record and re-encode the music. Although this doesn't get me some of what I want (immediacy and portability) it offers some other things I want (artist compensation, good sound quality, lack of DRM, and nice packaging). I make these decisions on a case-by-case basis that depends on a variety of factors such as disposable income and available distribution mediums (vinyl, cd, digital) as well as ease of access (my favorite local record store closed last year - and yes, I understand that piracy likely played a role in this, although I spent over a thousand dollars there in a few years - at the same time I was "stealing music").

In the respect that these decision affect musicians and establishments such as my record store, I don't believe I'm morally inculpable, but I will stop short of saying peer-to-peer file sharing is explicitly and inherently wrong. I also don't believe the RIAA and major labels are morally inculpable, as they've rendered the last means I had to legally acquire music digitally essentially useless, but they are also not inherently and explicitly wrong - I know they do help artists receive remuneration for their works. My point is that these are gray areas, and I can support copyright as effective in its goals in some cases and ineffective in others. This is why the debate exists - it is in defining what those limitations are and how to enforce them.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:57 AM on April 11, 2011


My point is this, the picture alone says biased!

Look, I wasn't making any comment about how biased the article is. In fact, I think the article is clearly slanted, and seems totally biased in favor of bit-torrent users.

I don't think that a biased article is necessarily incorrect about it's basic description of the case. It's about joinder. All I said is that, (a) taking the defendant's argument about joinder at face value, and (b) not being knowledgeable in the case law myself, it seems like a colorable issue to me.

Does it really seem to you like the FRCP was designed to allow the joinder of 100,000 anonymous defendants? At the very least, you're going to have to provide me with a reasonable argument that it does. And, maybe one can! Maybe one has a very compelling case for that!


My point was only that the Blue was/is arguing about the merits when it's really a procedural issue. And you took the bait,so to speak, rather than point out that its a procedural quesiton.

My second point was that I feel extremely insulted by the fact that you characterized my arguments as relying on "a dog dressed as a judge", when in fact I went out of my way to kind of explicitly disclaimed my reliance on that article. I do not feel that was a comment made in good faith.


The funniest thing about this is that I totally agree with you on the merits. Despite all the flak from what you're getting, I actually agree with the point you seem to be duking out with the rest of Metafilter.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 10:59 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


ymgve: I don't think that's what you intended to link to?

It was a bit obscure, but I thought it fit.
posted by ymgve at 11:00 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: and, at risk of stating the obvious, the point of making an allusion to the common idom of "wolf in sheep's clothing" is to make an analogy to the question the article addresses, which is whether or not the judge in question has a conflict of interest.

To be perfectly clear: if the judge did have a conflict of interest as a result of her prior engagements, she might be thought to be acting *like* a judge but really *as* a lobbyist; in a similar fashion, in the "wolf in sheep's clothing" the wolf is acting *like* a sheep but really *as* a wolf.


But that is an editorial comment on the content of the ruling and the judge, no doubt based on the years of legal training of the writer. This is not journalism. Its advocacy disguised as journalism. A, . . .a . . .wolf in sheep's clothing.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on April 11, 2011


I don't think that a biased article is necessarily incorrect about it's basic description of the case. It's about joinder. All I said is that, (a) taking the defendant's argument about joinder at face value, and (b) not being knowledgeable in the case law myself, it seems like a colorable issue to me.

why would you do (a), given (b)?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:03 AM on April 11, 2011


In 1967, Larry Niven published the story Flatlander. A small scene near the beginning of the story posits a world so overcrowded that pickpocketing is no longer a crime, becoming such an ingrained 'game' within society that wallets come pre-built to be mailed back to their owners after the cash has been extracted. He makes it sound like the law changed not because being pick-pocketed isn't a problem for the individual, but because capturing and punishing the thieves wasn't a cost-effective use of limited police resources AND that laws were changed to reflect an overall societal 'meh' at the seriousness of the crime. He's looking at how the technology of instant anonymous teleportation booths could affect society and law, but it draws an interesting parallel to me.
posted by nomisxid at 11:04 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: I was just trying to throw you a bone, but now I regret rattling your chain.
posted by hoople at 11:09 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why would I take the defendant's argument, as stated in the article, at face value, given my lack of knowledge of joinder?

Probably, as I said before, because I think that there is a substantive difference between between biased journalism and active misreporting. The latter is far more egregious than the former. I'm willing (and indeed do) think "This article is definitely biased" without thinking "this article is deliberately mis-stating facts about the case".

Again, I understand your point, but you should really think twice about launching off-the-cuff ad hominem attacks against people who try to point something out to you. Especially because you're a lawyer, and you should know how to argue better than that.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 11:10 AM on April 11, 2011


Ironmouth: I was just trying to throw you a bone, but now I regret rattling your chain.

Ditto.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 11:13 AM on April 11, 2011


Just to clarify (for those still worried), I purchased my copy of Sherlock Holmes in Europe, where it apparently is the public domain. Perhaps it was a poor example in some ways, but relevant as it is similar to the challenges of regional encoding of DVDs.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:19 AM on April 11, 2011


They can sue pirates, but I do take issue with the people they choose to sue. It seems that they usually pick some guy/gal at random and bury them with a huge claim and a (still substantial but) much smaller ooc settlement just to make an example out of them. I've noticed its rather less common to find the guy who actually posts the thing in the first place on the docket in a court.

Do they actually ever catch the people who rip, record, and share the stuff originally or is it always pick Joe Schmoe and beat the crap outta him?
posted by Slackermagee at 11:25 AM on April 11, 2011


Do they actually ever catch the people who rip, record, and share the stuff originally

Yes.
posted by ymgve at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2011


"The public did not have a property right in the work"

Yes it did, if the artist did not keep the work in secrecy.

No, it didn't. Property rights (particularly in the intellectual property context) are rights to exclude. The public (collectively or individually) did not have a right to exclude others from using the work, therefore it did not have a property right in the work.
This is shaping up to be a pretty useless "yes it is, no it isn't" argument, but I'll try to make a reasonable case anyway: Just because a right to exclude didn't exist, doesn't mean that the public was devalued. Imagine if Yellowstone Park was suddenly split into commercial lots, and those lots were given, free of charge, to private companies to restrict or develop. I would certainly call that theft from the public.

Fundamentally these arguments always come down to which you think has more value: the Commons, or Private Property. Copyright supporters argue that the Commonly held IP has no value, and any works transfered there amounts to theft. Copyright reformers argue that the Commons holds utmost value and the gift of publically-enforced, time-limited private property rights are merely a means to the end of a rich public.

There's all sorts of good arguments to chew on that are far more nuanced than "wanting free Gaga" (for instance, see how the Fashion industry is doing without copyright protection), but unfortunately they are usually drowned in the type of crap Ironmouth is spewing.
posted by Popular Ethics at 11:33 AM on April 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


I have little hope that anybody with vested interests is going to be swayed by this argument, but it's not something I am morally comfortable with staying quiet about; there's just too much potential at risk.

The obvious moral course is to quit working for those people.
posted by Ironmouth


People might be more receptive to your arguments if you didn't go out of your way to be a dick to someone who stated clearly that he is not one of those "I just want shit for free" people you rail against.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:02 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The obvious moral course is to quit working for those people.

Morals are a luxury, and there's a pretty straightforward calculus that comes into play with luxuries: how much it's worth to me vs how much it costs.

How much its worth - assuming I don't place much value in self-righteousness - is almost entirely negated by the negligible impact of my personal actions within the context of establishing socio-economic policy.

How much it costs... so far I've proven to be good at exactly one job in my life, ever (making games, and that only recently), which makes the cost of quitting pretty damn high.

Leaving my job would not only be heartbreaking, but futile. Hopefully continuing down my current path will not only put food on the table, but someday provide me an opportunity to nudge the debate in a slightly saner direction. Until then, though, I'm going to continue purchasing music and upholding my employer's wishes to the best of my ability.

Whether you deem that hypocritical or just pragmatic is your call.
posted by Ryvar at 12:41 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


HE'S MAKING SINGLE PLAYER GAMES! PLEASE, PLEASE STOP TRYING TO GET HIM TO QUIT!
posted by haveanicesummer at 1:05 PM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ironmouth:

Here's a link to an analysis of filesharing and demographic breakdown (PDF). It clearly shows (page 4) that whites are actually the SMALLEST demographic of music downloaders. In other words, your race-baiting white-privilege guilt-goading statement couldn't be more wrong.

And this is even ignoring the history of the intellectual-property debate around copyright. As others pointed out above, Lessig covers it in his books. Sampling and the other copyright-infringing tools of hip-hop were not used by rich white kids at first.
posted by formless at 1:07 PM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I dunno... The Dust Brothers and Beastie Boys are pretty pale...
posted by mikelieman at 1:11 PM on April 11, 2011


Just fyi, we know that the Founding Fathers, including James Madison, all held the English viewpoint that copyright was a limited term monopoly privilege that was granted for administrative purposes to promote the sciences and not any intrinsic property right. Anyone claiming any intrinsic property rights for intellectual works in channeling Ayn Rand.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:39 PM on April 11, 2011


It's pretty simple. Copyright terms should be cut down to something on the order of half of their original lifespans, if not shorter. As pointed out upthread, when the constitution was written it took drastically longer and required far more capital investment to produce and distribute a work. In the current century it's not unusual for a work to recoup all its production costs and reap a hefty profit on the first day it's released. Distribution borders on instantaneous and effortless.

Our current regulations are textbook examples of successful rent-seekers committing regulatory capture. The greater good of society the advancement of the useful arts have been evicted from the debate. These are things to keep in mind when discussing the morality of obeying or disobeying regulations purchased by the industry.
posted by mullingitover at 1:48 PM on April 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


It turns out the Six Million Dollar man only cost $250,000 in parts & labor. The rest was mandatory licensing for the temporary copies of protected media content that he could hear and see.
posted by nomisxid at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2011


Just fyi, we know that the Founding Fathers, including James Madison, all held the English viewpoint that copyright was a limited term monopoly privilege that was granted for administrative purposes to promote the sciences and not any intrinsic property right.

That is not a universally-held interpretation of the term 'privilege' as used in the context of the time.

Anyone claiming any intrinsic property rights for intellectual works in channeling Ayn Rand.

Actually, they're more likely to be channeling John Locke.
posted by jedicus at 3:09 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is shaping up to be a pretty useless "yes it is, no it isn't" argument

No, it's a very clear argument over the meaning of the word 'property.' I have no problem with the notion that the public has lost something of value in the hypothetical, but it did not lose a property right.

Imagine if Yellowstone Park was suddenly split into commercial lots, and those lots were given, free of charge, to private companies to restrict or develop. I would certainly call that theft from the public.

Ah but see the government has a very definite property right in Yellowstone. It can exclude people from the park if it wants (and I'm sure it does from time to time). It is not analogous to the earlier hypothetical about something moving out of the public domain.
posted by jedicus at 3:16 PM on April 11, 2011


Perhaps I should have used the Ocean or Space or something other than a Federal park, but I don't want to split symantic hairs here jedicus. In this case I think Public Domain is equivalent to property of the people. If you must frame the argument this way, think of the commons as an "anti-property" right - ie, no one (save the government as agent of the people) is allowed to restrict the use of a commonly held good. The loss of an anti-property right is every bit as injurious as the loss of a property right.
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2011


If your quoting Adam Mossoff, you might note his biography page at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

John Loche's views were already filtered into more applicable forms by Jefferson, Madison, etc. as well as English common law before them.

We then of course have the whole slew of Marxist critiques of Loche that'll come after Jefferson & Madison's modifications.

Yet, even ignoring all that, Loche's theory of property still doesn't support the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) or DMCA.

It's only Ayn Rand's philosophy that even slightly supports our modern content lobby's desires, yet even she conceptualized copyright as debt and limited terms at the creators lifetime.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:46 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if our generation's loon will be the guy in a cabin with a private server and generator, trying to consume his pre-watermark (oh gods, think of linking watermarks to DNA!?!!!) downloaded content, with the RIAA coming through his doors.

Woh, I think I just scared the crap out of myself.
posted by stratastar at 4:10 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if our generation's loon will be the guy in a cabin with a private server and generator, trying to consume his pre-watermark (oh gods, think of linking watermarks to DNA!?!!!) downloaded content, with the RIAA coming through his doors.

Woh, I think I just scared the crap out of myself.


Want to be even more scared? Imagine the ultimate outcome of a mandatory watermark filtering scheme on cloud file storage services, like that article discusses.

Only watermark tagged music songs would be able to be uploaded to a cloud service. Which means there would need to be some watermark signing authority (I bet the National Music Publishers' Association would kindly volunteer for this job). Which means that only songs signed by the NMPA could be uploaded to a cloud service. Of course, they would charge a small service fee for this service. Suddenly, we have a new naming system, similar to DNS, a new gateway through which all digital music must pass. Additional costs and hassles for small bands and artists.

That's the logical outcome if the "lax privacy protections and .. filtering components" the NMPA is demanding were required.
posted by formless at 4:29 PM on April 11, 2011


Long-term private control over creative content is not in the best interests of any society. My opinion of most who harp on piracy, without explicitly disclaiming that they also believe current copyright law to be morally wrong, is not usually a positive one.

It is sickening to think of what could be today compared to what is, when it comes to the free and vital exchange, creation, repurposing, and remixing of content. That sickening feeling gets worse the more amazing today gets. Do you really want to live in a world where the cutting edge is legally mandated to be 50 years behind where it should be?

A lot of the discussions I've read about copyright tend to not be results oriented. I'd like to see more of the opposite happening. It isn't helpful to start out with a priori ideals about property and ownership and society and then use them to argue for or against isolated aspects of the dysfunctional system we have today. We need to look at where we want to be in fifty years and start heading there, damnit.

These are the things I think a sane copyright system should accomplish:

1) Funnel money into the pockets of artists and other content creators, in spite of the best efforts of rights holders, marketers, and other such players to cut them out of the loop
2) Allow for appropriation by others (the general public, artists, corporations) of any aspect of any content at any time, whether or not the original content creator wants to see it happen
3) Allow for royalty free reproduction and use after some sort of set duration
4) Provide a legal framework crafted such that small players, all the way down to the individual hobbyist level, can afford to legally use other people's content to compete against the largest corporate players

Any change in the legal landscape that does not further one of those aspects or the other is morally wrong. The current system itself is morally wrong. I firmly believe that.

It seems like gains could be made by limiting the kinds of contracts content creators can agree to, compulsory licensing for content, subsidizing artists according to popularity and artistic merit (that's two different scales there), creating a public office whose job it is to collect and disperse royalties directly to content creators, and providing a safe, legal framework for the safe use of orphaned works whose creators cannot be determined or located.

So, yeah. Not in my lifetime, to say the least. But that's where we should be heading.
posted by jsturgill at 4:31 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Flapjax, do you think the copyright extensions may be limiting the present value of your work even while they are extending the residual value? Hypothetically, If I have $40 to spend on music this year, and I buy 40 Billie Holiday songs, I'm not going to have anything left over to buy Madeline Peyroux. So I guess the question is are you making the profitable sales now to the organizations which can exploit your work for the longer time period? Otherwise it seems like the original purpose of copyrights of encouraging new music and rewarding the artists involved is somewhat thwarted.

Ironmouth, sorry to dogwolf pile on you. I have some sympathy for your position here. I'll stipulate at least for the duration of this thread that piracy is wrong. But I think your equating infringement with theft is also wrong. Theft implies the loss of use of the object to the owner. Infringement may or may not result in any economic harm to the owner. The only equivalent for a physical object I can think of is borrowing and returning without permission. Which is not enforced as theft in the state where I live.

At the same time, there is an enforcement cost to society for copyright that is decoupled completely from the potential economic harm of the crime of infringement. I personally can't support any copyright extension without the implementation of a fee schedule for copyrights. I'd hate to see that happen, because I think it would discourage all the creative works that I really love in favor of the big blockbuster movies, and over-marketed pop.

Here's an idea, 50 year term from date of initial creation, with indefinite extension according to some exponential fee structure after that.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:15 PM on April 11, 2011


Darn lazy widers & orphans oughtta work for a living like everyone else...

With extended copyrights The Ownerships of Creative Properties eventually just get scooped up by lawyers and greedy corporations, and vaguely reworked into The Spectacle, if not left to rot.
posted by ovvl at 6:31 PM on April 11, 2011


londonmark writes "I'm suddenly aware that I might be sounding suspiciously like an RIAA mouthpice. I'm not, I just thought flapjax's desire to have a little more time to earn some money on his work was quite reasonable and a comparison with medical copyrights was rather unfair."

The little more time argument has seen the US balloon copyright terms from a max of 28 years to the current ridiculous term of life +70 years in several "a little more time" extensions. A copy right term that could easily last a 140 years. It's crazy and counter productive for everyone but big copyright business. The public domain that has been so successful for so many companies (see Disney) is being strip mined. I firmly believe that one of the contributing factors to the big suck that is hollywood is because of a fear to revisit classic themes with new interpretations. If you are paying someone to remake a 70s movie or convert a comic book or toy into a movie then who gets paid is clear. Make a new star crossed lovers movie and some jack off is going to claim you infringed their great uncle's 1937 star crossed lover's book.

Ironmouth writes "But the US is bigger and has more software and more computers. So even if the rate is lower, total units stolen is higher."

China has three times the population of the US and I'd guess it would be safe to bet their level of infringement is at least as great as the US.
posted by Mitheral at 6:40 PM on April 11, 2011


Fuck copyright. Intellectual property is my livelihood, and I still feel this way. If the original author's commercial use of the material does not pan out in the first decade, then let somebody else use it to make something better. Copyrights are so stupidly long. Long draconian copyrights don't increase creative production, they ensure the job security of lawyers for the next hundred years and threaten to ruin artists like Girl Talk. Same goes for patents, which have created a minefield for creative types and inventors. All the intellectual property protections need to be short and sweet.
posted by colinshark at 7:17 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who is really being injured in infringement cases?

Artists. When (in the good old days) BMG sold one of our cds, we got paid around $1.56. Nowadays, artists have many other channels where they can distribute music and get paid reasonable value for their work. In spite of infringement, and discounting the value many artists see in offering free product as an educational/marketing tool.

Distributors. After packaging etc. ($2?) BMG was getting a large chunk of the rest of the $11-15 retail on that same cd. I've never been sure what they did to earn this money, but they seem determined to maintain this relationship with artists, in spite of the fact that they no longer spend money on actual cds and packaging.

What I have a problem with is people ranting about how artists & "primary" copyright holders are the ones being hurt by infringement, when it's clearly big distribution companies that stand to lose their RENT that are behind organizations like RIAA. So they're spending their money on lawyers because they're determined to protect their livelihood. Great, but you can't argue that they have some inherent right to something that they didn't create simply because they own the distribution system. That ship has sailed.

And there's a new group who benefits in the current arrangement: internet providers and proxy subscription services who take money to abet the infringement, all in the name of high-speed access.
posted by sneebler at 9:25 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The little more time argument has seen the US balloon copyright terms from a max of 28 years to the current ridiculous term of life +70 years in several "a little more time" extensions. A copy right term that could easily last a 140 years. It's crazy and counter productive for everyone but big copyright business. The public domain that has been so successful for so many companies (see Disney) is being strip mined. I firmly believe that one of the contributing factors to the big suck that is hollywood is because of a fear to revisit classic themes with new interpretations. If you are paying someone to remake a 70s movie or convert a comic book or toy into a movie then who gets paid is clear. Make a new star crossed lovers movie and some jack off is going to claim you infringed their great uncle's 1937 star crossed lover's book.

For the record, I'm a life plus 21 years man (minor children of tragically killed artist scenario), so I hope we can see eye to eye on that.

I'm wondering if you can substantiate the bold phrases. Seems to me the Hollywood do little but classic themes- predictable story lines (not least of all start crossed lovers) with only the jokes changing. Other than the Art Buchwald case, are they really getting hit with multiple copyright lawsuits? In publishing there are a bunch of writers whose work predates J.K.Rowling and which are remarkably similar, but few have sued, and those who have are not doing well in court.

What Disney takes from the public domain (brothers Grim, Greek myths) is not theirs alone, and the myriad renditions of classic myths and fairy tales in the past hundred years is testament to that. If they get shirty, it tends to be rip offs of their distinctive cartoon work, for which, fair enough..

More to the point, what self respecting cartoonist would want to retread, say, the Disney dwarf septet? Far better and more satisfying to create your crew. (Indeed, the only reason I can see for filching any Disney property at all is merely to gain immediate audience recognition and market share - which is more a crass commercial consideration than an artistic one. Look for rip-off theme parks and lunch boxes should Mickey fall into public domain.)

I hear the argument that creative types are being squelched by copyright holders, but I don't quite see it. The hundreds of Tolkien ripoffs would be no better if they called their Bobbits Hobbits, or their hero Frodo rather than Frito. If there are any genuinely talented authors inspired by Tolkien, then surely those authors can build their own creations without having to troll Middle Earth.

Music? While I am willing to believe that Harrison did My Sweet Lord unconsciously, I also think he was obliged to call it a fair cop when the copyright holders of She's So Fine came calling. Manners, if nothing else. And it's not as if he didn't do covers. Just own up when you do so. (I've read that Weird Al asks permission before he re-writes lyrics, for which I respect him.) "Sampling" in general seems to me a sign of artistic weakness, but that's just an opinion. More to the point, if you think that a snatch of Madonna is crucial to your work, then you shouldn't consider it too much a sacrifice to pay for the material just like any other expense.

As I say, I am more than willing to be convinced that copyright squelches creativity, but given the vast vast vast amount of product being created everyday, I just find don't see the basis for it. And, having artist relatives and friends, I have great sympathy with their hard pressed attempts to make a buck on their labors.

Final point - because of the way the laws are set up in the US with precedent and all, corps like the Disneys virtually have to sue even the stupid smaller cases simply to avoid allowing precedent run against them in the larger ones. At least, as I understand it. (Lawyers, let me know if this is wrong.)

you can't argue that they have some inherent right to something that they didn't create simply because they own the distribution system.


You can if the artist/creator has contracted with them for distribution.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:28 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the original author's commercial use of the material does not pan out in the first decade, then let somebody else use it to make something better.

Ten year's copyright protection for a recorded work, book, movie, etc? Man, I'm glad you're not in any position of legal decision-making power! That is absurdly low! And what do you mean "pan out"? What would be the exact criterion for a work "panning out"? And we can assume, then, that if it does "pan out", then the 10-year protection would be extended?

And what exactly does "use it" mean? And who decides what's "better"?

Something tells me you haven't thought about this particularly carefully.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:42 AM on April 12, 2011


IndigoJones, you aren't the arbiter of what cartoonists and writers want to do, self-respecting or not. Your whole stance seems reductive and missing-the-pointist. Here are some things people might want to do with Disney movies that they can't legally do right now: A similar list could be created for Tolkein or anybody else.

"Sampling" in general seems to me a sign of artistic weakness, but that's just an opinion. More to the point, if you think that a snatch of Madonna is crucial to your work, then you shouldn't consider it too much a sacrifice to pay for the material just like any other expense.

You're welcome to have your opinion. I hope you realize that it is not universally shared.

Your comment about compensation isn't the point. The point is restriction and control. Weird Al can do what he does because parody is protected, and music and lyrics have a cumpulsory license. There's no legal way to stop him. I don't believe sampling has those same protections. It isn't that Madonna--or more realistically, the suits in her major label--should or shouldn't get paid. The question is whether they should be able to outlaw someone else's artistic output. I don't think they should.

Sure, Madonna should be compensated for a sample. No, she shouldn't be able to stop someone from using a sample of one of her recordings.

(Indeed, the only reason I can see for filching any Disney property at all is merely to gain immediate audience recognition and market share - which is more a crass commercial consideration than an artistic one. Look for rip-off theme parks and lunch boxes should Mickey fall into public domain.)

Your argument is that copyright causes no harm because it only restricts low-quality ripoff products that have no commercial or artistic merit. All that demonstrates is your lack of imagination.

Toy Story was good. Toy Story 2 was good. Toy Story 3 was good. There is nothing--nothing--in the laws of physics that states an artistic work that is based on or references another work of art must, by definition, suck.

Here's one example: Do you remember those kids that filmed Indiana Jones when they were growing up, shot by shot, over the course of years? So you watch the movie and see them grow as filmmakers and people? Do you remember how awesome that sounded? I do. Now try and buy that on DVD, and get back to me, and tell me how nothing of value is lost when rightsholders get to say what can and can't be done with their work.

Artists reimagine the Brothers Grimm every day, in all sorts of contexts: commercials, children's books, short films, tv shows, plays. Some of them are shit, some of them are amazing. There is no difference between their reimagination of folk tales, which have become a part of the public consciousness, and their reimagination of any other work that has been integrated into their society's zeitgeist. Just like there can be 50 versions of Hansel and Gretel that are moving and creepy and fun and funny and exciting and original, all in different ways, there can be 50 versions of The Lord of the Rings, or Toy Story, or The Matrix, or a Springsteen album, or anything else.

There can be, but there won't be as long as rightsholders get to shut everyone else out for over a hundred years.
posted by jsturgill at 8:46 AM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is a wonderful TED talk by Johanna Blakley on fashion's free culture. I find it paradoxical that fashion designs were deemed non-copyrightable, but software is copyrightable.

Ideally, there should be no copyright on software, for exactly this reason, except as derived from the communal good of publishing the human written source code, ala patents. In other words, you should receive no copyright protection unless you offer your customers the source code.

In all cases, we should be mindful of the prohibition on inherited debts and Jefferson's principle that "the earth belongs to the living, not to the dead". I'd agree however that copyrights should have a fixed duration, which permits children to inherit the work if the author dies prematurely, as well as not giving media distributors any incentive to assassinating authors.

We must therefore choose a duration that permits any young adults to make full use of all works created before their lifetime, meaning durations must fall below 18 years. I'd argue 14 years for various reasons, it's a compromise between 10 and 18, precocious youths exists, etc.

That said, there are limited forms* of copyright that might be permissible beyond this initial duration, namely any form that primarily limits large for-profit organizations, i.e. stuff usually owned by old people who actually owe the creator some natural debt for the work's creation.

* You might for example require some proof of damages test when suing for copyright infringement. In the first 14 years, you'd keep this bar low enough that file sharers were safe from lawsuits, but you'd then raise it high enough to permit some unlicensed usage, while still forcing the big boys to pay up. If your worried about the distributor's lobbyists gaming those numbers, you might instead permit authors to forbid up to three simultaneous organizations, trusts, conspiracies, etc. form using their work, i.e. you find your song being used in an advertising campaign, you ask them to pay for future usage, if they refuse, then you tell them they cannot use it anymore.

Btw, there isn't much point in trying to pay artists using taxes on blank media, hard drives, or bandwidth either sneebler, not that that's necessarily what your last comment meant. We already know that money all gets hovered up by the distributors. If we have piracy inspired taxes on blank media, etc., then the only beneficiaries should be non-profit organizations ala NPR, BBC, university arts departments, Smithsonian Folkways, etc.

posted by jeffburdges at 8:57 AM on April 12, 2011


So, if we put aside the moral argument, why should copyright exist at all, now that the incentive to disseminate seems to have become unnecessary? Do we need it just to incentivize creation?
posted by cheburashka at 10:22 AM on April 12, 2011


You're welcome to have your opinion. I hope you realize that it is not universally shared.

I pretty much made that clear when I solicited other points of view. I try to be open minded.

Your comment about compensation isn't the point. The point is restriction and control.

It damn well was my point. And the point of friends and family I know who create and want to get compensated for their art. If you can guarantee them a good living and shot at the gold ring without giving them control of their work, I'm sure they would be glad to hear it.

Do you remember those kids that filmed Indiana Jones when they were growing up, shot by shot, over the course of years?


I found it dull, though I wish them the best of luck. The boys - they were like art students copying the Mona Lisa. Good practice, but not much more than that. I note that Spielberg's home movies at the same age were original productions, not slavish imitations.

Your argument is that copyright causes no harm because it only restricts low-quality ripoff products that have no commercial or artistic merit. All that demonstrates is your lack of imagination.

Toy Story was good. Toy Story 2 was good. Toy Story 3 was good. There is nothing--nothing--in the laws of physics that states an artistic work that is based on or references another work of art must, by definition, suck.


No law, yet it seems to be the way of things. More to the point, I don't consider requiring creative types to avoid a small area of other peoples work as a harm. I mean, come on, how much of an artist can you be if you can't "create" work without direct rip off of someone else's work? I note, BTW, that all three versions of Toy Story came from the same copyright happy shop.

Just like there can be 50 versions of Hansel and Gretel that are moving and creepy and fun and funny and exciting and original, all in different ways, there can be 50 versions of The Lord of the Rings, or Toy Story, or The Matrix, or a Springsteen album, or anything else.


What I said - public domain is an huge open gold mine for those in need of a little inspirational jump start. There is no real or pressing need to go anywhere else. As to the stuff you cite in copyright, well, there are plenty of Springsteen covers. And there are plenty of Tolkien rip offs and bad carbon copies; the best do not suffer from having to find someplace other than Middle Earth, the worst could not be saved by plopping straight down Hobbiton. (And generally if something like the Matrix hits big in Hollywood, the suspiciously similar retreads tend to show up within a few months.)

My point is pretty simple and pretty reasonable. A little space of time (I said life plus 21 years) for the creator to get the first fruits of his labor. It's a pretty small price to pay, especially in a world that is frankly so over run with creative works already.

I'm not trying to be snarky, I am genuinely curious - are you in any way involved in selling your own creative work? I mean, I admire your passion and concern for the artistic landscape, but the fact is, pretty much every working creative type I know considers it very much a business. Small business, but business none the less.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:51 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Indigo Jones, you wrote:

It [compensation] damn well was my point. And the point of friends and family I know who create and want to get compensated for their art. If you can guarantee them a good living and shot at the gold ring without giving them control of their work, I'm sure they would be glad to hear it.

The current system provides many mechanisms for people other than the creator to hijack any income stream from content. This is extremely common, in fact the norm, in many industries. Supporting the status quo due to a belief that the artist should be compensated means supporting a status quo that royally fucks the artist in regards to compensation in the typical case. Period. Full stop.

Now, you may believe that the status quo, like democracy, is the best of a bad lot, and cannot be improved upon. If so, we'll have to agree to disagree as I do not share that belief. A sane copyright scheme allows for people other than the original creator to appropriate content and ensures the source creator is compensated in some way.

Weird Al is a strong example of the type of creator that should be allowed to flourish in the visual and cinematic arts. He exists because of two exemptions to your ideal of copyright: strong protections for parody, and compulsory licenses for music and lyrics. Why not a compulsory license for Disney characters? Or any other character for that matter. Why not a compulsory license for photographs and paintings?

(Parody already protect films and other art.)

I found it dull, though I wish them the best of luck. The boys - they were like art students copying the Mona Lisa. Good practice, but not much more than that. I note that Spielberg's home movies at the same age were original productions, not slavish imitations.

My personal reaction to it was very different from yours. But that's cool. That's what personal reactions are all about. The part that isn't cool is that the film is off-limits for people like me who find value in it. Surely you can sympathize with that on some level.

No law, yet it seems to be the way of things [that artistic works that are based on or reference other works of art must suck].

I think you greatly--greatly--underestimate the incestuous nature of the creative process. Your stance on the nature of the creative process seems extremely misguided to me and counter to not just my personal experience, but everything I have ever learned about literature and art history.

And there are plenty of Tolkien rip offs and bad carbon copies; the best do not suffer from having to find someplace other than Middle Earth, the worst could not be saved by plopping straight down Hobbiton. (And generally if something like the Matrix hits big in Hollywood, the suspiciously similar retreads tend to show up within a few months.)

And how many great Holmes pastiches are there? Wasn't Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a great idea well executed--the kind of idea that might create another enduring classic, in more capable hands? What might real artists do with an outdated hero like Captain America or Iron Man that the suits just can't bring themselves to support?

I'm not going to sway you with fan fiction. I don't read it, in general, and only rarely in specific. But a publishing world where there is no safe and legal way of writing No Reservations: Narnia is a publishing world that needs to undergo reform.

I note, BTW, that all three versions of Toy Story came from the same copyright happy shop.

Because they had to come from there. But I note to you, that the 'copyright happy shop' is not synonymous with the real live creative people behind the shop. That those creative people could be shitcanned on a moment's notice, and/or were contracted for the task and were out of a job and compensation the second the task was completed.

Speaking of hypotheticals, I would love to see a world where those hypothetically shit-canned people could get together, obtain funding, pay a reasonable fee and/or percentage to the rightsholder, and create a Toy Story 2 Unauthorized: The Way It Should Have Gone edition to compete with the rightsholders' vision.

I'm not trying to be snarky, I am genuinely curious - are you in any way involved in selling your own creative work? I mean, I admire your passion and concern for the artistic landscape, but the fact is, pretty much every working creative type I know considers it very much a business. Small business, but business none the less.

In a small way. I've sold some short fiction and work as a web designer on the side. The "creative types" that you know are right to view their job as a business. Because it is. The thing is, businesses don't exist in vacuums. They are shaped by laws, regulations, and societal norms. I'm not saying "obliterate compensation for artists." In fact, quite the opposite, and I hope I've conveyed that to you. What I'm saying is, "change the business landscape in which artists work."

Since you know a few creative types, ask them about where their ideas come from, and where they look in order to put their own work in context. You may be surprised by the answer, and I hope that surprise causes you to rethink some of your certainties.

And if you really want to help your small business running friends, assuming they live in America, you're fighting the wrong fight. What they really need you to agitate for is universal healthcare for them and their employees, not copyright extension.
posted by jsturgill at 4:28 PM on April 12, 2011


As to the stuff you cite in copyright, well, there are plenty of Springsteen covers.

Exactly. See, folks, when you have people who are so confused in their minds about what copyright even IS, and what sort of restrictions we're talking about, well, you realize there are a lot of knee-jerk reactions that have no basis in reality. Go ahead and cover your Springsteen song! More power to you! But you want to incorporate Springsteen's actual sound recording of, say, Born In the USA into your recorded work? You need to get a license for that. You need to pay some money for that. You disagree? You think all created works should simply be yours for the taking, to do what you want with? Fine, go change the law. Thankfully, the law still offers protections against that, so that copyright holders can expect some income for their labors.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:36 PM on April 12, 2011


Flapjax, I'm sure it's an oversight that you didn't mention it, but you have to pay to cover Springsteen. You just don't need his (record label's) permission. I think it is reasonable to desire a legal way for people to sample Springsteen's actual recordings with or without his permission. A legal, and affordable-to-the-hobbyist way.
posted by jsturgill at 5:03 PM on April 12, 2011


But you want to incorporate Springsteen's actual sound recording of, say, Born In the USA into your recorded work? You need to get a license for that. You need to pay some money for that. You disagree?

What if I take "Born in the USA" and cut the recording apart, take the drum sounds, some incidental sounds, and whatnot, are completely rearrange it, changing the order of the sounds, the tempo and rhythm, and pitch-shifting notes? Is the resulting composition "Born In the USA"? or is it a new composition? Do I owe Springsteen any money or rights to the song even if the final result is dissimilar to "Born in the USA"? I am using pieces of tape to play melodies rather than a guitar or keyboard. What about synthesizer patches? If I am extracting sounds from a song to essentially be used an synthesizer patches, who "owns" those sounds?
posted by fuq at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2011


In related news, New Zealand's parliament just passed a three-strikes type law on the backs of the tragedy in Christchurch. Conversely, Tim Berners-Lee argues that web access is a 'human right'.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:48 AM on April 13, 2011


Do we need it just to incentivize creation? -- cheburashka

No. People will always produce stuff, although banning it causes issues. You might not like how that'd changed the scene however.

First, your top flight actors and musicians might behave more like open source software developers. In other words, they'd be way more eccentric, think Bill Murray, Brian Eno, Bjork, and Lady Gaga, but they'd usually work on commercials as their day jobs, well barring some soviet style artist stipend system. I'd imagine that Banksy worked on commercial stuff for years, for example.

Second, all the regular professional musicians and performers would need to bring in considerably more money from live shows, perhaps making smaller gigs more common, socially important, well attended, and cost more.

In particular, you should not discount the possibility that Ticketmaster would be even bigger assholes. For example, there are many shitty local beers in Germany that buy up all the optimal buildings for pubs, so they can force pub into selling their shitty beer.

Third, there would conversely be a greater need for movies to secure widespread paying initial distribution, giving theater chains and television stations greater power when negotiating on price. I'd expect this might dampen the current independent film boom. You might clearly protect independent films as trade secrets until release of course, but that limits your viral advertising.

Fourth, there would be far less money spent on post production and special effects and more pressure for musicians and performers to learn these themselves, think Trent Reznor.

As I've said up thread, I'd favor copyright terms that primary restricted the commercial distribution by powerful organizations, and extracted further concessions from creators, like publishing software source code, but exempted individual file sharers.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:29 AM on April 13, 2011


What if I take "Born in the USA" and cut the recording apart, take the drum sounds, some incidental sounds, and whatnot, are completely rearrange it, changing the order of the sounds, the tempo and rhythm, and pitch-shifting notes?

Well, it sounds to me like, based on your description, you will arrive at something that is so dissimilar to "Born in the USA" that no one could possibly know what the source material for your piece was in the first place. Such a thorough and complete reworking of audio source materials into something genuinely "new", in terms of its compositional character, is something that I, personally, have absolutely no problem with. And from a legal standpoint, it's almost guaranteed that you would encounter no problems, unless, of course, you let on about the audio sources. And I reckon it'd be kinda stupid to do that. And I reckon you're not stupid. So, there it is! Get to work, man! And post your results to Metafilter Music. (No lawyers ever visit the subsite.)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:19 PM on April 13, 2011


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