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November 17, 2012 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Current copyright law does not merely distort some markets – rather it destroys entire markets. (PDF)

A Republican Study Committee policy brief describes what it calls three myths of copyright law: that copyright is designed to compensate content creators, that copyright is "free market capitalism at work," and that the current copyright regime leads to innovation and productivity. It proposes instead reforming statutory damages, expanding fair use, punishing false copyright claims, and significantly restricting available copyright terms.

Conservative blogger Stewart Baker asserts that it is "the most radical proposal for overhauling copyright that we have seen in recent years — and the most head-turning change of direction in decades for either party on intellectual property issues," while others wonder whether there is a trade-off between improved copyright law but with lower entertainment industry profits (thus reducing potential Democratic party funding sources).
posted by dsfan (97 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
So what's got them convinced that copyright needs reforming is not people being hurt but the possibility of denying funding to the Democrats? Class, pure class.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:23 PM on November 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


You think Republicans would ever support anything non-evil without the chance of an evil upside?

Though TBH I would in no way assume any of there proposals make anything better for anyone until they have been thoroughly gone over.
posted by Artw at 12:25 PM on November 17, 2012


Not according to the linked document, Pope Guilty, which does a credible job outlining the real problems with the current copyright terms.

See also, What do the election results mean for IP? from a week ago.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:27 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Talk about blowing up your face to spite your nose. My radar shows the blast radius would also hit the right wing media machine, general!

Go for it boys.
posted by spitbull at 12:31 PM on November 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


The GOP shooting for "party of IP-law sanity" wouldn't really outweigh "party of woman-hating homophobic theocratic racist warmongers", but who knows, may it's that crack in the door through which a little general sanity can enter.
posted by brennen at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


I liked seeing "retarded" used as a verb.
posted by Egg Shen at 12:34 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whether the proponents have an ulterior motive or not, if the reform on its face is as proposed in the PDF, I'm all 100% for it.
posted by chimaera at 12:35 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Hey guys, here's a bonus idea: Reverse your whole stance on drugs, and suddenly you've got another issue to attack Obama with where the majority of young people and the libertarian wing of your base will support you!)
posted by brennen at 12:36 PM on November 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is some brilliant politics.

It puts them on the right side of a very deep wedge issue.

I wonder if its evidence of how much that the Law and Order / Witch Burning elements of the party were weakened by the election.
posted by ethansr at 12:39 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It'd be interesting to explore how many of these arguments apply to patent law as well. I'd support this measure if only for restoration of the public domain -- which has become increasingly hypothetical in practice -- but also for the weight of anti-IP precedent it would create, which could then be turned on the far more serious problem of patent abuse.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:41 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what's got them convinced that copyright needs reforming is not people being hurt but the possibility of denying funding to the Democrats? Class, pure class.

Meh, it's not like the Democratic support for our insane copyright law is motivated by anything other than knowing where the donations come from.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:01 PM on November 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


"We're losing the youth demographic! However shall we win their hearts and/or minds? What is hip with the youngsters these days?"

"My grandson seems quite keen on the 'Bite-Torrence,' whatever that might be."

"Curious! I'll have my interns look into it!"
posted by Sys Rq at 1:13 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq, did you read the PDF? They may have sicced an intern on the thing, but if so they picked a smart intern. It's a credible document.
posted by brennen at 1:17 PM on November 17, 2012


The GOP shooting for "party of IP-law sanity"

One does have the other extreme - US Pirate Party

And in 6 months it'll have been a whole year from their last "Recent Articles".
posted by rough ashlar at 1:20 PM on November 17, 2012


Sys Rq, did you read the PDF? They may have sicced an intern on the thing, but if so they picked a smart intern. It's a credible document.

I don't doubt that.

Mostly, I'm just a bit shocked to see the Republicans for once choosing personal-freedom libertarianism (which is popular among actual humans) over corporate-freedom libertarianism (which is popular among K Street bagmen).

It's like they're evolving or progressing or something... But is that possible? I mean, really, is it possible that this is a real thing they want to actually achieve, and not just cynical lip service designed to bump up their popularity among the key demos?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2012


It's a well reasoned and presented paper. The suggestion for copyright renewal seems to involve way to much paper work with lots of ways to game the system and avoid paying fees (I'd prefer some sort of escalating flat fee after a reasonable free period) but otherwise I can't really disagree on any of their points.

If there motivations are ulterior that's unfortunate and it would be sad to see such reasonableness be shot down because it would advance a political enemies agenda rather than a disagreement with the proposal.

Sys Rq writes " I'm just a bit shocked to see the Republicans for once choosing personal-freedom libertarianism (which is popular among actual humans) over corporate-freedom libertarianism (which is popular among K Street bagmen)."

The authors aren't really. They merely think that excessive copyright is stifling more business than it is helping. Their position isn't to help people but to help businesses make more money.
posted by Mitheral at 1:41 PM on November 17, 2012


Meh, it's not like the Democratic support for our insane copyright law is motivated by anything other than knowing where the donations come from.

This is a really important point, and one which suggests that if this has the cynical aim we're all supposing here, it is very likely to backfire. The IP incumbents have a lot of money and will spend it freely to protect it. How much money, right now, not just potential but actual, is on the other side? What the Repubs may end up doing here if this goes forward is open up purse strings for the Democrats. I suspect that this initiative will not get much traction for that reason.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:58 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else having trouble reading the original PDF? The file isn't opening for me, and after downloading, it seemed to be damaged in some way.
posted by incessant at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect that this initiative will not get much traction for that reason.

You might be right, but I wouldn't bet against the sheer amount of energy on the other side of this question. I mean, the whole SOPA fight was a pretty amazing confluence of grass roots sentiment and opposition with real teeth from some very big players. The IP totalitarian lobby isn't looking as overwhelming as it once did.
posted by brennen at 2:17 PM on November 17, 2012


It won't load for me at all.

You think maybe Rupert heard about it?
posted by tommyD at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reading the other articles, I'm able to gain some understanding of what they're talking about.

How about a deal? Everyone starts paying for everything they watch and read and listen to, and in exchange, we reform copyright? Because I'd be up for that.

If only this had always been the law! It'd be "good" news for Lem Dobbs's brilliant unproduced script Edward Ford, which would fall out of copyright next year, 34 years after it was written. The producers could put a hold on making the movie for a few months, because then they wouldn't have to pay him a fucking cent! There can simply be no awful unintended consequences to this idea! Fantastico!
posted by incessant at 2:29 PM on November 17, 2012


The PDF link looks broken, but TechDirt has some more details.

The Republican Study Committee has a fairly conservative agenda, but I doubt all of their documents go through a top-down vetting process as if there's a Central Republican Control Droid or something. So I'm guessing more ideology than conspiracy.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:37 PM on November 17, 2012


(Hey guys, here's a bonus idea: Reverse your whole stance on drugs, and suddenly you've got another issue to attack Obama with where the majority of young people and the libertarian wing of your base will support you!)

Don't get their hopes up. They still think women have magical rape deterrents in their uterus.
posted by Malice at 2:37 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I live in a country that imports way more IP than it produces, so every time I see a (inflated) figure of the billions pirates are costing the economy I like to remember that if the laws were more effectively enforced it would cause an equivalent drain on my country's economy of that magnitude.
Piracy - bad for Hollywood, good for Australia!
That said, saner IP laws that were effectively enforced seems a win-win.
posted by bystander at 2:42 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about a deal? Everyone starts paying for everything they watch and read and listen to, and in exchange, we reform copyright? Because I'd be up for that.

For better or worse, no one at all is in a position to make this deal. The cat is so far out of the bag that it can't even remember the bag exists, and in fact is pretty hazy on the entire concept of what a bag is.

(Of course, no one has ever been in a position to make that deal, really, but a lot of Disney and Disney-like money has been spent in recent decades pushing the notion that someone ought to be able to buy that kind of power. Much legislation later, it still hasn't worked.)
posted by brennen at 2:42 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone who wants a copy of the PDF memail me and I'll send one to the email address list on your account.

incessant writes "If only this had always been the law! It'd be "good" news for Lem Dobbs's brilliant unproduced script Edward Ford, which would fall out of copyright next year, 34 years after it was written. The producers could put a hold on making the movie for a few months, because then they wouldn't have to pay him a fucking cent! "

A) Under the rules proposed in the PDF the copyright on that work could have been extended for 46 years at essentially no cost (renewal fee is based on how much money it's already made).

B) Even if the producers could avoid paying after 34 years that isn't an unintended consequence rather an intended consequence. The whole point is stuff has stopped entering the public domain and that is a bad deal for the public. So significant reform means stuff has to start entering the public domain and preferably within the living memory of the people enforcing the original copyright.
posted by Mitheral at 3:03 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about this for a deal? Violations of rights of the owners of items copyrighted in the last twenty years will have a large fine and then a minor fine after that.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:04 PM on November 17, 2012


Or to put it another way copyright is supposed encourage rights holders not to sit on brilliant works for 34 years. The goal is to get work out where the public can consume them rather than to leave them languishing in copyright hell.
posted by Mitheral at 3:06 PM on November 17, 2012



They probably realized poor people can have ideas.
posted by srboisvert at 3:09 PM on November 17, 2012


One thing that does worry me a bit about this particular kind of reform scheme is the administrative overhead of knowing who's renewed what and what it should cost and so forth.

I've spent some time in the bureaucracy of clearing permissions for use / reprint / etc. under the current dispensation, and it's already a nightmare.
posted by brennen at 3:18 PM on November 17, 2012


True that though with a greatly reduced term one could just wait the 46 years and a fee for extension could go to cover a clearing house that would give definitive yes/no answers about whether something is in the public domain.
posted by Mitheral at 3:31 PM on November 17, 2012


Hmm. At least according to The American Conservative, the RSC pulled the brief, which would certainly explain why people are having trouble opening it. At least for now, it can be seen here.
posted by dsfan at 4:13 PM on November 17, 2012


the RSC pulled the brief,

So Rupert DID hear about it...
posted by tommyD at 4:27 PM on November 17, 2012


brennen: (Hey guys, here's a bonus idea: Reverse your whole stance on drugs, and suddenly you've got another issue to attack Obama with where the majority of young people and the libertarian wing of your base will support you!)
Not sure the majority of young people would still want to back the misogynist, homophobic bastion of anti-black & anti-hispanic racists. Their values are (I hope) a bit more complex than that.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:37 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like they're evolving or progressing or something... But is that possible?

No, not possible. Copyright reform is on the Republican agenda because it would increase the profits of telecom/internet industry, who don't want to pay license fees to content creators. This is a corporate and venture capital agenda from start to finish, and the populist pro-copying/piracy movement has been recruited to serve it.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:37 PM on November 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


The whole idea of copyright is to restrict the physical act of making copies to the content creator; this is a holdover from when books and then later audio and then movies were difficult to copy, and needed to be sold in physical form. If a creator printed up a bunch of books, and then a pirate also printed up a bunch and sold them for less, the creator was likely to lose his shirt, while the pirate made a lot of money. Not only was this unjust, it also would have meant that fewer books would be written, so the copyright regime came into force.

Remember, the goal of copyright, as this article talks about, was never to make authors rich. It was never really about the authors at all. The entire purpose of copyright was to expand the public domain of works, available to everyone in society, at the fastest possible rate. Our ancestors decided that granting a temporary monopoly over copies was the right way to give us the richest possible public domain.

Anything written belonged to everyone, automatically, and then as a reward for writing it, the author got to borrow it back from the public for a limited term, to try to make money from it. But it was NEVER property. Never, never, not ever. Ideas always belonged to everyone. The creator just got to extract some rent for awhile, in exchange for being the first one to come up with it. Intellectual property is a PILE OF BULLSHIT that never existed in the first place. Nobody owns ideas.

Further, in the Information Age, I'm not sure 'copyright' even applies anymore. Anyone can copy anything. Everyone has a machine that will make copies of everything almost for free. Copyright comes from the age of scarcity, and trying to extend it into the age of abundance is going to result in some seriously stupid and misfeatured laws. This is especially true when the modern laws are being written to enrich Hollywood, not the public domain.

The whole idea of selling copies, when everyone can make copies themselves for free, is just wrong and broken. We don't have plastic disks in the digital age.

Copyright, as such, just doesn't work anymore. Maybe it should change to a 'commercial exploitation license' instead?
posted by Malor at 4:41 PM on November 17, 2012 [17 favorites]


A bit more on the RSC folding like a cheap card table.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:22 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It won't load for me at all.

I think you are supposed to pay for it.
posted by JackFlash at 6:16 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


How about a deal? Everyone starts paying for everything they watch and read and listen to

Even creative commons stuff?

How about consuming IP that doesn't require a payment instead?

Part of the "value" of IP is demand and the habits of demand. Shift the demand curve - stop "demanding" the "paid" IP. Shift the habits - by finding things that don't require the payment you'll start looking for more content in the same vein.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:23 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about a deal? Everyone starts paying for everything they watch and read and listen to

Even creative commons stuff?


You forgot the pedantry tag.

Of course not. If someone isn't asking for payment for something they create (like, say, none of us are asking anyone to pay to read what we're writing on metafilter or many other places on the internet), then it's not really an issue, is it?

Seriously, you guys, if any of you can figure out how I keep my job as a writer while getting rid of copyright, I'm all ears. Please.
posted by incessant at 11:38 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


While I personally would like to abolish both copyright and patents, I don't think that's what we are talking about here at all, and I think you should be willing to acknowledge a distinction. A rollback of the last 30 or so years of ever-more-absurd IP protections is just not the same as completely destroying the whole framework of copyright, and it's rhetorically useful but intellectually dishonest to act like it is.
posted by brennen at 12:31 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's that you say? Hollywood now has a a reason to donate to both parties?
posted by jaduncan at 12:47 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Does anyone have a copy of the pdf that has now been pulled?
posted by mary8nne at 5:44 AM on November 18, 2012


Various mirrors seem to be available actually: RSC Document that has been pulled
posted by mary8nne at 6:26 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mitheral upthread has a copy and says will send if you memail.
posted by blucevalo at 6:28 AM on November 18, 2012


Whoops, spoke too soon. Thanks, mary8nne.
posted by blucevalo at 6:28 AM on November 18, 2012


How about a deal? Everyone starts paying for everything they watch and read and listen to

How about a deal. People read the article/document before they make hyperbolic statements? The proposal here is 12 years basic copyright - ( with extensions on request and payment) versus the current Life + 75 years (which looks like it will in practice end up as In Perpetuity).
posted by mary8nne at 6:30 AM on November 18, 2012


How about a deal? Everyone starts paying for everything they watch and read and listen to

Billing address is in my profile, thanks!
posted by nobody at 6:58 AM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not only do I think that AlsoMike makes a good point above, but also this bit from the original paper makes me suspicious:

"Can we ever have too much copyright protection?

Yes. The Federal government has gotten way too big, and our copyright law is a symptom of the expansion of the size and scope of the federal government."

Which makes this sound (to me, anyway) all too similar to the common Republican tactic where they make a big stink about some governmental program or another that seems kinda silly on first glance, like hydrogen-producing subsidies or something, but then it turns out that the governmental program is like .0000000002% of the budget, so eliminating the program would have in practical terms no effect on the nation's finances.

IOW, we should take a long hard look at the the mouth of this particular gift horse.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:05 AM on November 18, 2012


Although it is true that even a broken clock is right twice a day, I assume the staffer who wrote this will start his search for a new job on Monday.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:52 AM on November 18, 2012


There is absolutely a strong empirical case to make that IP regulation slows economic growth, and also good evidence for the exact opposite case, depending on what you mean by IP, by regulation, by growth, etc.

Which suggests that there is a reasonable level of IP regulation the scope of which would lie somewhere between these polarities.

Discuss amongst yrslvs.
posted by spitbull at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2012


incessant writes "Seriously, you guys, if any of you can figure out how I keep my job as a writer while getting rid of copyright, I'm all ears. Please."

This paper is specifically not proposing to eliminate copyright. Going forward, IMO, most writers aren't going to be able to make a living at writing. Certainly less than there were in the middle of the last century. Even without rampant infringement too many people are willing to give away what used to be charged for. The future of writing is the present of photography. That is unfortunate for many of the people making money writing but it's also reality.
posted by Mitheral at 8:18 AM on November 18, 2012


That Was Fast: Hollywood Already Browbeat The Republicans Into Retracting Report On Copyright Reform
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:19 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which suggests that there is a reasonable level of IP regulation the scope of which would lie somewhere between these polarities.

Discuss amongst yrslvs.


Ok, so I once went to a guest presentation at the University of Nebraska where an economist (or an economic historian?) whose name I forget claimed to have worked out a rough formula or metric for where the optimal level of regulation in terms of benefit-to-the-public / growth in markets / etc. vs. costs of the regulation, losses to the public, etc., would fall. I think he was talking about the relatively simple question of "how long should it take a patent to expire", or something along those lines, and I remember various charts with curves on them.

Anybody have the faintest idea who I might be talking about? It's been the better part of a decade and my academic memory has pretty well atrophied. (I also remember thinking, at the time, "I'm not remotely qualified to know whether this guy is full of shit or not.")
posted by brennen at 9:51 AM on November 18, 2012


IOW, we should take a long hard look at the the mouth of this particular gift horse.

I don't care if the authors are floating this proposal because they are secret members of a satanic baby-eating cult and think that returning some measure of sanity to the copyright system will somehow support their infantophagy. The proposal would be a thorough improvement over the current sorry mess, regardless of their motives for proposing it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:11 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


incessant: Seriously, you guys, if any of you can figure out how I keep my job as a writer while getting rid of copyright, I'm all ears. Please.

Remember, incessant, the purpose of copyright is not to keep you employed. The purpose of copyright is to expand the breadth and depth of the public domain as quickly as possible, taken over the long term. If you happen to be able to gain some welfare out of whatever's best for expanding the sphere of ideas, then wonderful.

But if you can't, that is not a barrier. That's not the reason copyright exists, and it never was.
posted by Malor at 11:20 AM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is what Thomas Jefferson said about intellectual property:

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from any body."
posted by JackFlash at 11:32 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mirror of document, now that it's been removed from house.gov.
posted by toxic at 11:41 AM on November 18, 2012


The purpose of copyright is to expand the breadth and depth of the public domain as quickly as possible, taken over the long term. If you happen to be able to gain some welfare out of whatever's best for expanding the sphere of ideas, then wonderful.

This is a bit like your boss asking you to work for free because he is a Marxist and doesn't want to commodify your labor power by paying you.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:59 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


the purpose of copyright is not to keep you employed. The purpose of copyright is to expand the breadth and depth of the public domain as quickly as possible, taken over the long term. If you happen to be able to gain some welfare out of whatever's best for expanding the sphere of ideas, then wonderful.

But if you can't, that is not a barrier. That's not the reason copyright exists, and it never was.


As a practical matter, sure it was. It's in that "encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility" line. The concern was that without some kind of legal protection of potential profit, clever people would not waste their time coming up with clever ideas. It's not a matter of if you the clever person "happen to be able to gain", the gain part was and is built into the system. Because absent that legally enforceable carrot in front of them and a lot of creative types are going to give it over and just work a nine to five.

A balance of motives, but it sounds loftier, more suitable to a foundation document to highlight the benefit to society rather than to the individual.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:30 PM on November 18, 2012


This is a bit like your boss asking you to work for free because he is a Marxist and doesn't want to commodify your labor power by paying you.,

The opposite stance is punishing people for unauthorized enjoyment.
posted by Malor at 1:38 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's about a balance, yeah, between the interests of the public domain and the interests of the creators. It is a limited term because that best insures the benefits to all because of the understanding that culture around us helps each creator and they are not living in a bubble. Making the term last beyond the human lifespan violates the spirit of that agreement exactly as much as infringement does.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:56 PM on November 18, 2012


The opposite stance is punishing people for unauthorized enjoyment.

Or unauthorized literacy, even. If one must pay to experience culture, who is to blame for the lower classes being 'uncultured'?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


The opposite stance is punishing people for unauthorized enjoyment.

But who is responsible for punishing the people? It's the DMCA Safe Harbor provision, which immunizes internet companies from being sued over copyright infringement, and puts the liability on the users. This provision was added at the behest of the internet industry -- Hollywood wanted them to proactively find infringing content and remove it, which would require them to hire people. But creating jobs is not really part of their business model, so the internet companies said "Why don't you sue our users instead? I just happen to have their names and addresses…"

You don't hear this side of the story online because forums are dominated by people connected to Silicon Valley companies, venture capitalists and telecom -- they whitewash and distort, manufacturing popular consent for their pro-corporate agenda.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:14 PM on November 18, 2012


AlsoMike, it's not just a matter of 'hiring people'. Even Hollywood very frequently can't tell when something is infringing. Expecting someone other than them to do the job of managing their own content is pretty stupid.

And calling this 'manufactured consent for a pro-corporate agenda' sounds like something you got from a shill. That is ridiculous beyond imagination.
posted by Malor at 4:48 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't hear this side of the story online

Huh -- I could swear I just did.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:21 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hollywood wanted them to proactively find infringing content and remove it, which would require them to hire people.

Hollywood could hire their own damn people to look after their own damn content. But they know that doing so is prohibitively expensive (despite their content being so incredibly valuable) and they tried to get everyone else to do it for them.

Finally, to get them to shut up, the disparaged tech industry came up with things like Content ID, which Hollywood can't even seem to use properly. Fortunately for them, the consequences for false copyright claims are nearly nonexistent.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:25 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


AlsoMike writes "Hollywood wanted them to proactively find infringing content and remove it, which would require them to hire people."

This would have required them to shut down their businesses. Making ISPs responsible for the traffic they generate would have killed the internet as we know it. The DCMA is a horrible piece of legislation mostly because of the anti circumvention clauses but your alternative would have been totally unworkable.
posted by Mitheral at 5:30 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Making ISPs responsible for the traffic they generate would have killed the internet as we know it.

Yes, and home taping is killing music. Moving past the hyperbole and propaganda, the current DMCA safe harbor provisions and the courts favor the telecom and internet industry. Why is that? For all the fake horror about Congress being bought by Hollywood, the movie industry spent less than $4 million on lobbying in 2011. The telecom and internet sectors spent $183 million. The current legislation is tilted in their favor and they've duped thousands of Redditors who are ready to defend corporate profits.
posted by AlsoMike at 8:37 PM on November 18, 2012


Going forward, IMO, most writers aren't going to be able to make a living at writing.

How many writers now "make a living" from the strong arm of copyright?

VS how many make the living because what they write is part of some kind of documentation or is part of a value add?

Without the manual (or sales lit) does that lead to a drop in sales of X? And if there exists a on-line repository of manuals, what effect does that have on X? Take for example the Apple ][ redbook up on scribd - what good does enforcing copyright on that do for Apple?

How about the script for TV/Movie show Y? Once the TV/Movie is "out" - what is the value of that script? In theory the value is in the recorded performance and the writing's value is embedded in that performance.

The telecom and internet sectors spent $183 million.

If Time Warner a telecom, Internet or Movie sector?

And Telecom is one of the oldest regulated markets out there - they've been "advising" Con-ghee-ress for decades.

Oh and can you provide a source for your claim? Because Open Secrets says Additionally, the TV, music and movie industry stood out among the biggest spenders on lobbying in 2011, posting figures that were up at least 10 percent above spending in 2010 -- and up at least 12 percent from 2009. These groups spent at least $122 million on lobbying in 2011. And somehow your cited $4 million just doesn't make sense.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:38 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If one must pay to experience culture, who is to blame for the lower classes being 'uncultured'?
...'manufactured consent for a pro-corporate agenda'


If part of social control is a "shared experience" and one accepts there exists a 'manufactured consent' - what happens when those who are not a part of the 'consent manufacturing' business create a message that turns out to be popular and is not a part of the 'manufactured consent' vision?

Does an expensive 'experience culture' make for a lower class creating their own messages outside of the 'manufactured consent'?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:48 AM on November 19, 2012


But who is responsible for punishing the people? It's the DMCA Safe Harbor provision, which immunizes internet companies from being sued over copyright infringement, and puts the liability on the users.

And where should the liability be if not on the entity that uploaded the content?

As for But who is responsible for punishing the people?

The "owners" of the copy-written material are. Of course they'll have to show that what was uploaded wasn't covered under "fair use" as an example. Oh and its not "punishment" - it is being made whole after a harm.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:54 AM on November 19, 2012


Mirror of document, now that it's been removed from house.gov.

I wonder if one could FOIA the document instead? Imagine many 'young citizens' who will one day be a voter deciding to 'get involved' via 'civic participation' and filing their 1st FOIA request?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:57 AM on November 19, 2012


The current legislation is tilted in their favor and they've duped thousands of Redditors who are ready to defend corporate profits.

Dude, corporations own the copyrights that are always being fought over. Are you being willfully blind, or just having an attack of amnesia?
posted by Malor at 4:31 AM on November 19, 2012


I have proposed a variation of this scheme before:

The first 14 year copyright term should be free, and then subsequent 14-year extensions would become exponentially more costly: 1000 bucks for the first one, 10,000 for the second, 100,000 for the third and so on. The 14-year term lengths come from the original copyright act; the fees are arbitrary, but easily calculated and seem pretty reasonable to me.

This approach would encourage content creators to release their inventions into the public domain at the point where the cost of holding on to it exceeds the value they are able to extract from it. It recognizes that the monopoly granted by copyright should have a cost associated with it, and the longer that monopoly lasts, the higher the cost should be.

The weakness is that I don't know how big a regulatory apparatus you would need to administer this scheme; however, I think it's less complex than the one proposed in the policy brief, where fees are based on a percentage of revenues generated from the IP.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:14 AM on November 19, 2012


Yeah, percentage of revenue is too easily gamed. It needs to be based on a hard fee. Your idea of a 10x increase every 14 years would be fine; I was thinking four-year terms, with the fee doubling each time, starting at a dollar. The 'reasonable target' there being about 40 years, which would end up costing about a thousand dollars total, with $768 of that in the last eight years. For years 16-20, the fee would be $16; for years 28-31, $256.

Your system might be better, because it would take less paperwork, only having to register every 14 years instead of every four.
posted by Malor at 8:43 AM on November 19, 2012


Of course they'll have to show that what was uploaded wasn't covered under "fair use" as an example.

Nope. They're supposed to, but there's no penalty for not doing so.

Oh and its not "punishment" - it is being made whole after a harm.

Did you read the paper? Statutory penalties are one of the things that need to be fixed.

Yeah, percentage of revenue is too easily gamed. It needs to be based on a hard fee.

The problem there is that a photograph and a billion dollar movie end up paying the same fee.

OTOH, making it a percentage encourages keeping low to no profit works under copyright (even leaving aside Hollywood Accounting.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:13 AM on November 19, 2012


The problem there is that a photograph and a billion dollar movie end up paying the same fee.

That's actually fine. If it's really a billion dollar movie, then they will probably want to keep it protected as long as it's still making them money, resulting in more cash for the copyright office. It will cost the same to protect a photo and to protect Titanic for the same period of time, but they'll want to protect Titanic for much longer.

If you base it on a percentage, you will get zero dollars, because the entity that holds the rights will show no profit whatsoever. This is how Hollywood stiffs everyone.

Make it a hard fee. Trust me on this. A percentage will give endless trouble.
posted by Malor at 9:27 AM on November 19, 2012


Hrm. What if the percentage was based on cost of creation? So that the billion dollar movie gets dinged for more than the photograph.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:50 AM on November 19, 2012


So that the billion dollar movie gets dinged for more than the photograph.

Isn't a movie just a series of photographs shown one after another to make the brain THINK there is motion?

Charge 'em for each still. ;-)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2012


The problem there is that a photograph and a billion dollar movie end up paying the same fee.

I don't think anyone should be penalized for creating IP that turns out to be valuable -- the whole purpose of having copyright was to stimulate and encourage productivity and innovation.

I think there is greater harm in having low-value inventions kept out of the public domain than there is in having high-value inventions remain private, but at a cost. It's worse for productivity to have something remain in the ownership of someone who doesn't know how to maximize its value than it is to have it owned by someone who is utilizing it effectively.

Another approach to consider might be a mandatory licensing scheme after an initial 14-year period of exclusivity, where the cost of licensing decays with the age of the invention. I'm not sure how you would fairly set the base cost of the license, however.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:20 PM on November 19, 2012


rough ashlar, I also got my numbers from opensecrets.org:

Telecom Services: $57.7 million
Computers/Internet: $126.9 million
Motion picture production and distribution: $3.8 million
Recorded music and music production: $16 million

The relevant question to ask about these industries and their spending is where their interests lie with respect to copyright law and enforcement:

If you're in the business of producing and selling content, you're in favor of strong copyright laws.

If you're in the business of buying content, transmitting it and selling ads, access or bandwidth, you're in favor of weak copyright laws. For you, license fees and copyright enforcement are costs.

For cable companies, their interests are more mixed: they are more like content buyers, except in some cases where they also own subsidiaries who create and license content. But OK, let's be generous and assign all of this to the pro-copyright side, but then we should also add another $50 million from telephone utility lobbying on the anti-copyright side.

The usual talking point portrays Hollywood as a greedy, super-powerful industry that dominates Congress and buys legislation. But adding up the numbers, their opponents spend twice as much on lobbying, if not more, and legislation reflects that.

Actual lobbying by the MPAA and RIAA is tiny in comparison, and this is a reflection of the size of the industry. Global film revenue is ~$90 billion, which sounds like a lot, but is dwarfed by the $2 trillion global telecom industry. The anti-copyright lobby cleverly distorts the true picture by talking about how "Big content" is using legislation to crush the dreams of tiny startups. It's actually the opposite. Content creation is a small, weak industry that's easily pushed around by much larger content aggregators and distributors who control access to customers.
posted by AlsoMike at 2:48 PM on November 19, 2012


Pretty sure telecoms lobby primarily to keep antitrust laws as loose as possible, not to shirk responsibility re: copyright.

The telecoms shouldn't be held responsible for policing copyright. It's not their problem. You can blame them for turning a blind eye on piracy, but while you're at it, you might as well blame the air for willingly transmitting unauthorized live performances.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:41 PM on November 19, 2012


Or demand that, every time you spit in the ocean, that every molecule be tracked, and that the fish be charged for using your property.
posted by Malor at 5:06 PM on November 19, 2012


ChurchHatesTucker writes "Hrm. What if the percentage was based on cost of creation? So that the billion dollar movie gets dinged for more than the photograph."

The Hollywood accounting would be interesting on that one. On one hand you'd want to minimize cost to minimize copyright fees and on the other you'd have the case now where you want to maximize expenses so that a movie never makes any profit. I can hear the heads asploding from here.

Still I'm in favour of some kind of flat escalating fee. The idea of the fee isn't to be punitive against successful or unsuccessful works. Merely to cover the regulatory costs and to encourage works to enter the public domain in a timely manner.
posted by Mitheral at 5:09 PM on November 19, 2012


Oh, and:

Actual lobbying by the MPAA and RIAA is tiny in comparison, and this is a reflection of the size of the industry. Global film revenue is ~$90 billion, which sounds like a lot, but is dwarfed by the $2 trillion global telecom industry.

Which shows how relatively unimportant the media companies are. They are fucking up our entire society so they can steal from both us and from the real content creators, to their own benefit.

We really shouldn't be organizing our entire economy around such a tiny segment of it. We shouldn't be organizing it around any particular segment. Rather, we should just be dealing with the hard physical reality of the Digital Age, which is that copies are no longer scarce, they are abundant, and that copyright has lost a huge amount of meaning.

Hollywood is trying, desperately trying, to pretend that we're still selling plastic disks, but we are not. Or at least, fewer of them every year. There's no need for them any longer, and organizing society to support the failed business models of Hollywood, using the guns of the government to insist on the fiction that plastic disks are being stolen and that Hollywood is having something stolen, is truly mad.

Unauthorized enjoyment is not a crime. Making a copy of a book or a movie or a song for someone is now a meaningless action, one with very close to zero value, even when it's the original creator making the copy. There is almost no value in copies anymore.

These are the hard realities of the world, the actual physical truth on the ground, and just laws need to reflect physical truth. Bits are not scarce. Your bits are not special compared to all other bits, and trying to impose surveillance and punishment regimes on the world to track just YOUR specific bits, in an endless sea, is ridiculous in the extreme.
posted by Malor at 5:45 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Still I'm in favour of some kind of flat escalating fee. The idea of the fee isn't to be punitive against successful or unsuccessful works.

The idea of the fee, in keeping with original copyright principles, should be to pressure the monopoly holder to relinquish the copyright. So, yes, it should put more pressure on the more successful ventures.

OTOH, you don't want to encourage near-orphaned works to be renewed for next to nothing just in case they turn out to be lottery tickets.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:33 PM on November 19, 2012


The idea of the fee, in keeping with original copyright principles, should be to pressure the monopoly holder to relinquish the copyright. So, yes, it should put more pressure on the more successful ventures.

I'm still not clear on why more successful ventures should face more pressure to relinquish than less successful ones.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:43 AM on November 20, 2012


For all the fake horror about Congress being bought by Hollywood, the movie industry spent less than $4 million on lobbying in 2011.

Does that include the money brought in by having celebrities show up at political fundraisers?

In any case, as pointed out above, these comparisons are meaningless, since the telecom industry lobbies for many, many more things (and more troubling things) beyond copyright treatment. (As mentioned above, deregulation seems to be the big one, but don't forget the retroactive immunity from wiretapping laws from a few years back.)

But the issue here isn't weakening copyright protections, it's primarily shortening the length of a copyright holder's monopoly and disincentivizing practically perpetual renewals. Do you think either of those things would lead to fewer artworks being created? Because that's the purpose of copyright, to promote the creation of more work. Right?
posted by nobody at 8:17 AM on November 20, 2012


If Disney lost control of the Mouse, they'd come up with a new mascot, so it's pretty goddamn clear that lengthy copyright is a disincentive to new acts of creation.
posted by Malor at 7:50 AM on November 21, 2012


Disney isn't going to "lose control of the mouse" because their control of it isn't a copyright issue rather it's a trademark issue. They would lose control of who can distribute Steamboat Willy and in any sort of sane copyright scheme they would have lost control of the distribution rights to stuff like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie but loss of the distribution control doesn't mean they lose the ability to come down on anyone who uses their trademarked characters.
posted by Mitheral at 4:23 PM on November 21, 2012


If Disney lost control of the Mouse, they'd come up with a new mascot, so it's pretty goddamn clear that lengthy copyright is a disincentive to new acts of creation.

Yes because it's just that easy to come up with an icon.

Also: Woody, Buzz, Mulan, Simba, Nemo, Wall-E, The Little Mermaid, Lilo & Stitch, Speed McQueen, the Incredibles, and like thirty other characters from the last twenty years.

Not that I'm a fan of corporations gaming copyright laws and extending rights long past the lives of the original creators, but c'mon, saying that Disney hasn't been coming up with new stuff lately is ridiculous.
posted by incessant at 1:53 PM on November 24, 2012


Cars (Steve McQueen), Toy Story (Woody, Buzz), The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo were all Pixar films prior to the buy out of Pixar by Disney; the mouse provided only marketing and distribution. Wall-E while released post buyout was substantially started by Pixar years before the buy out. Formal production started several years before and the first test screenings were only a year after the buy out. Certainly Disney didn't come up with either the characters or the story.

And of course Mulan was a typical Disney taking from the public domain. As was The Little Mermaid (directly lifted from a Hans Christian Andersen story).
posted by Mitheral at 4:14 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now the guy who wrote the report has been fired.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:54 AM on December 6, 2012


Ex-Staffer Khanna showed up in the comments here, and invites people to join the conversation on Twitter.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:56 PM on December 6, 2012


Also, the republicans broke the original URL after firing Khanna, so here's an update.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:12 AM on December 7, 2012


As an aside, Kim Dotcom won the right to sue New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GSCB) for discovery in his case.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:14 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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