Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Atlantic - Benj Edwards
March 15, 2013 10:23 AM   Subscribe

The Copyright Rule We Need to Repeal If We Want to Preserve Our Cultural Heritage
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 (34 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I see no need to be so specific. Throw out the entirety of the DMCA and enact new laws not written by Disney and half of Copyright will be solved right there.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:30 AM on March 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


There's the DMCA in the USA but Europe also has its EUCD - European Union Copyright directive -, they were both spawned by the WIPO - World Intellectual Property Organization -.
posted by lite at 10:44 AM on March 15, 2013


Not to degrade the power of librarians at all, but I can't remember when "Because librarians need it" was a reason the us government changed its laws.
posted by rebent at 10:52 AM on March 15, 2013


Thanks to the DMCA, the future of our cultural history will be based on the work of people who ignored the law -- the same people that many copyright holders would call "pirates."

We got this.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am not free while Mickey Mouse is not free.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:01 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't remember when "Because librarians need it" was a reason the us government changed its laws

So vote #1 jessamyn!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:05 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


You ignore the needs of librarians at your own peril. They are educated, motivated, and highly organized.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:29 AM on March 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


They are educated, motivated, and highly organized.

Not to mention deadly proficient in the ancient library arts.

posted by mmrtnt at 11:43 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


but I can't remember when "Because librarians need it" was a reason the us government changed its laws.

They should though, that's the whole point of the article. They should, the unresponsiveness of Congress just shows their ultimate disconnectedness from issues that really matter. That's why we're still waiting for patent reform, why Obamacare was a giftwrapped present to insurance companies, and why stupid sequester debates stretch on forever. And statements such as yours subtly reinforce that status quo.
posted by JHarris at 11:49 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The copyright term is too damn long. If copyrighted works were phased into the public domain over a shorter period, we might be able to have a conversation about, say, how House of Cards could be available to libraries after an exclusive period of being on Netflix.

If a copyrighted work is released today, you can be almost certain that you'll be dead before it goes into the public domain. From the 1st day to the 119th year of copyright, you're in a totally uniform grey area where you may or may not be hauled to Federal prison for being on the wrong side of Fair Use.

Abandonment is also totally broken. There ought to be periodic renewals like for trademarks. As it stands, it's more work to abandon a copyright than to claim one.

Unfortunately the idea that we'd want to preserve anything for reasons not tied to a corporate balance sheet is seen as hippie-dippie bullshit by the people making the laws, so this is what we get.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:51 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


How many scribes were executed for transcribing the Bible out of Latin and into everyday speech? Same shit, different year. This is why people say, "information wants to be free," not because they're moochers, but because the law couldn't stop information sharing in the 16th century and it can't stop it now. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/previous_seasons/case_bible/index.html)

The only thing the law can do is hold us back in the dark ages for a little bit longer. It can make a few more lives a little more blank and miserable and it can help comfort the comfortable a little bit longer. It's a waste.
posted by Skwirl at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2013


The copyright term is too damn long.

There may be a bit of pushback in that direction.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:10 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Copyright exists so that people can profit from their original ideas. At one extreme, people want to to make that profit as long as they can. At the other extreme, people who encounter new ideas want to absorb them into their culture without artificial constraint. Both positions are reasonable and rational.

Each culture adopts a position between those two extremes based on power and number, where a small number with significant power (money and access and prestige) can influence and enforce laws, and a large number with little power (voting at the ballot box and with their wallets) can adopt and spread and modifiy ideas.

Ironically, the small number with significant power have that power in large part because of money, and they have that in large part because the large number with little power pay through the nose to consume the original ideas. So the very act of adopting good ideas into the culture -- and paying for the privilege -- gives some people the power to retain rights to those good ideas, preventing them from truly becoming part of the culture.

So we'll never get to either extreme, because there will always be people who pay to consume good original ideas, and there will always be an incentive for people to avoid charging so much to consume these ideas that the ideas are rejected outright (ie you can't charge $500 a ticket for a movie starring a new character, because nobody will see it and so the character will never catch on.)

This whole thing, then, is just an eternal game of tug-of-war, where each side wants the flag as close to their side as possible, but on average nobody wants the other team to fall in the mud.
posted by davejay at 12:11 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


[...] buying a copy of a paper book and putting it on a shelf. A publisher can't come along and take back that paper book, change its contents at any time, or go out of business and leave it unscrambled and unreadable. But publishers can (and have done) all three with DRM-protected works.

This is a really important point in TFA. I bet it won't even be 25 years from now that there are (or would be) graduate theses on "the rise and fall of the mobile app economy" or cultural studies of popular games, to pick two examples. These are the media of our times, but as long as we leave DRM keys to such media in the hands of individual software publishers, they will go unexamined in future. Shame.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:18 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


There may be a bit of pushback in that direction.

Huh, I hadn't seen that, thanks. Although having read Pallante's previous speeches I wouldn't be surprised if the proposal is a slightly lower copyright term in exchange for the ability to legally drone-strike DRM hackers -- but I'll hold out hope. According to the Twitter the speech will be online soon.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:27 PM on March 15, 2013


Although having read Pallante's previous speeches I wouldn't be surprised if the proposal is a slightly lower copyright term in exchange for the ability to legally drone-strike DRM hackers

It's called compromise. We're forging a middle ground, here.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:31 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]



Not to mention deadly proficient in the ancient library arts.


Death by a thousand paper cuts?
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:07 PM on March 15, 2013


Not to mention deadly proficient in the ancient library arts.

Sciences. Ancient library sciences.
posted by stet at 1:24 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd recommend roughly the following reforms to copyright law :

- Copyright should only apply to organizations and commercial activity, never individuals privately sharing. A Napster-like service infringes, but its users do not infringe.

- All works created before you were born should be yours to do with as you please, even professionally. Reduce baseline copyright term to 14 years.

- Copyright should benefit individuals over organizations. Copyright's owned by private individual should receive an additional 14-28 years during which time they may tell revoke any specific organization's right to copy the work. So if MGM starts playing your 14 year old song, you may tell them to stop, and then sue them if they continue, but MGM cannot do the same to you.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:40 PM on March 15, 2013


How many scribes were executed for transcribing the Bible out of Latin and into everyday speech?

Zero.
posted by straight at 1:40 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jan Hus was executed, in part, for arguing that the Bible should be translated into the languages of the listeners.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:03 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jan Hus was a reformer who was executed for preaching against the established church --basically for being a political dissident. Making vernacular translations was illegal in some places around that time, but I can't find any record of someone being executed just for transcribing the Bible into a the vernacular.
posted by straight at 2:27 PM on March 15, 2013


It's a pity that the Berne Convention prohibits a requirement for formal registration to obtain copyright status. With registration, we could require unlocked versions be deposited at the Library of Congress for archiving and research purposes.

However, the real issue, as Skwirl pointed out, is the copyright term is too long. Unfortunately, changing this is difficult because the matter is tied up in multiple international treaties. A clever fix though could turn the tables by using copyright advocate's arguments about intellectual property against themselves. If it is indeed property, then it should be subject to property taxes. Then copyright holders would abandon their copyrights when holding them becomes no longer profitable. If taxes stop being paid, the work would automatically enter the public domain.
posted by eigenman at 2:42 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed, taxing copyrights is an awesome idea. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 3:03 PM on March 15, 2013


The length of copyright terms is important, but this part of the DMCA is specifically about criminalizing the circumvention of DRM, which is an even more insidious problem. The DMCA criminalizes cracking DRM whether or not your use of the DRM-protected material would be acceptable under normal copyright law - for example, even if you're cracking the DRM on a movie in order to grab a still frame to illustrate your critical review (a classic example of fair use). Congress recognized that this was crazy, so they included an exemption process where people can laboriously argue for uses like that to be exempted from the DMCA. But like the article says, this exemption process is not good enough:

Cultural institutions have taken advantage of this the best they can, but it's been a frustrating exercise in endless legal petitioning and campaigning every three years when the exemptions come up for review. At present, the current slate of DMCA exemptions don't cover nearly enough, and law-abiding archivists are forced to sit on their hands while digital cultural works come and go, missing opportunities to legitimately archive them for future study.

In other words, it takes a lot of expensive lawyer time every three years just to preserve obvious exemptions like making ebooks compatible with screen readers for blind people. And the exemption process is only set up to allow protecting people who use DRM-circumventing tools, not people who develop or sell those tools. (See the EFF's article about the 2012 rulemaking.) So if you have a public domain work protected by DRM, you might have a hard time finding a tool to crack that DRM.

And this part of the DMCA gets applied in anti-competitive ways that don't have much to do with copyright. The recently-limited exemption for carrier unlocking cell phones that brought up all this discussion about the DMCA is a good example - nobody wants to pirate the phone's baseband firmware (they just want to modify it), but since it's a copyrighted piece of software protected by DRM, the DMCA may apply.

It's frustrating. But people are taking the momentum from the successful unlocking petition and trying to encourage some bills to get introduced that would fix the deeper problem, so it's a good time to do the "send a letter to your congressperson explaining that you think anti-circumvention laws hurt society" thing (see the bottom of the FixTheDMCA site). The DMCA could be improved even within the constraints of having to comply with the WIPO treaty - for example, many countries allow circumventing DRM for non-copyright-infringing purposes. That's not perfect, since then you might have to argue with a giant corporation about whether your use is copyright infringing, but at least it's better.

(I work on Cydia for jailbroken iOS devices, which means that my work helping maintain a lively ecosystem of creative software development depends on a very wealthy company continuing their years of quietly fixing the relevant software exploits instead of pulling out the DMCA and trying to smush the whole thing. Of course they could produce some strong chiling effects if they wanted to even if the anti-circumvention provision were magically removed, but their case would be weaker.)
posted by dreamyshade at 3:39 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


More Details On Copyright Office's Suggestions On Copyright Reform; Some Good, Some Bad
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:24 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


More Details On Copyright Register Maria Pallante's Call For Comprehensive, 'Forward-Thinking, But Flexible' Copyright Reform
posted by homunculus at 3:13 PM on March 18, 2013


Forget the Cellphone Fight — We Should Be Allowed to Unlock Everything We Own
posted by homunculus at 7:42 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Patents, Trademarks And Copyrights Have No Place In Trade Agreements
posted by jeffburdges at 4:15 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google Further Highlights Wrongful DMCA Takedowns
posted by jeffburdges at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2013


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Is Even Worse Than You Think: It keeps e-books, online video, and more inaccessible to people with disabilities.
posted by homunculus at 9:58 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Copyright Chief Urges Congress to Produce ‘Next Great Copyright Act’
posted by homunculus at 12:37 PM on March 21, 2013


GoPro Issues DMCA Takedown Over Negative Review
posted by jeffburdges at 3:22 PM on March 21, 2013


The Chilling Effects of the DMCA: The outdated copyright law doesn’t just hurt consumers—it cripples researchers.
posted by homunculus at 11:30 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older It seems that the utopian imagination is trapped, ...  |  Using potential life expectanc... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments