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Monolith....muddying the waters of the digital copyright debate...
March 27, 2006 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Does copyright extend to the bit encoding sequences used in P2P applications? A case is made for the myriad paths bit encoding can take in the formation of MP3 files, the argument being therefore that said bit encoding sequences used in the formation of MP3 files are exempt from copyright law. Furthermore an application is offered to demonstrate the point. But isn't bit encoding just another 'language' like French, German, Spanish and therefore a copyrightable adjunct to the authors/copyright owners work? (Even if there are myriad dialects.)
posted by Muirwylde (57 comments total)

 
That's about the most idiotic thing I've ever heard w.r.t copyright, and I've heard a lot of stupid things.
posted by delmoi at 7:10 PM on March 27, 2006


It's a reproduction. Absolutely, positively, 100%. The patterns on a magnetic tape look nothing like the grooves on a record, and neither resemble the pattern of bits on a CD in any way. They are, nevertheless, all covered by copyright, because they are reproductions.

The original performance is copyrighted, not the bits used to represent it. ANY reproduction of that performance comes under copyright laws.

Any argument to the contrary _will_ fail if tested in court.
posted by Malor at 7:15 PM on March 27, 2006


tell it to the judge
posted by caddis at 7:16 PM on March 27, 2006


Okay, reading the page the guy is even stupider then I thought. Rearanging the bits of a copyrighted work doesn't change the copyrighted status of the work if the bits can be re-arranged back into the source material.

In this case, his 'toxic' example still contains the original sound recording. The fact that it's XORd with something else doesn't change the fact that the sound recording still exists in the file, and is easy to recover.

It's no different then claming it's legal to download whatever you want if you do it over an https connection.
posted by delmoi at 7:16 PM on March 27, 2006


(I meant that in respect of the original post)
posted by caddis at 7:16 PM on March 27, 2006


If we take the system to be a weak form of encryption, he's saying that encryption nullifies copyright? I'm with delmoi - I think not.
posted by GuyZero at 7:22 PM on March 27, 2006


I caught this on Digg last night. The author of the Monolith website is wrong, this doesn't muddy the debates for copyright. The element file and basis file can still be extracted to their constituent parts.

However, if this system does get adopted, tracking people who are trading files over p2p might be a little harder. But only a little. Header encryption are probably harder to track than this.
posted by phyrewerx at 7:31 PM on March 27, 2006


So, then, if I take the aforementioned Toxic, or even just the lyrics, and rearrange them as I wish, one word at a time, that's still a copyrighted work belonging to Ms. Spears' lawyers?

Or could Marvel and DC sue me if I refer to Hero Supers in a story I'm writing (if their application goes through, mind you...)?
posted by Samizdata at 7:37 PM on March 27, 2006


June 4th, 2000 (apparently)

Sunday's Dilbert cartoon , copyright by United Feature Syndicate, (minus the graphics):

Catbert the evil human resources director: Wally, our auditors found 40 gigabits of bikini picures on your pc.....that is grounds for dismissal; how do you plead?

Wally: INNOCENT........technically they didnt find any pictures..........what they found were zeroes and ones resting harmlessly on magnetic media.......it was the auditors themselves who activated those harmless bit to form pictures on the screen..........I demand that those godless auditors be fired! And if its not too much trouble, I'd like my zeroes and ones back.

Dilbert to Wally: Was justice served?

Wally: it's a grey area
posted by null terminated at 7:41 PM on March 27, 2006


Are you still not convinced?
posted by longsleeves at 7:46 PM on March 27, 2006


I really don't understand why the author of the software bothered with this when the whole idea is flawed. Nor do I understand why I bothered with this comment.
posted by Loto at 8:03 PM on March 27, 2006


Dude could have saved himself a lot of work if he spent five minutes looking at the legal definition of copyright and another week or two looking at a mathematical definition of information.

Still, it's impressive that he put together 1.6MB of code that... xors... two files... together.
posted by Galvatron at 8:07 PM on March 27, 2006


It must be so cuz it's in BOLD!
posted by mischief at 8:22 PM on March 27, 2006


What a lot of work for such an obviously flawed premise.
posted by pompomtom at 8:26 PM on March 27, 2006


Firstly, just from a geek's perspective, could he have provided a less clever implementation if he had tried? I think I was assigned a primitive XOR-based encryption algorithm in a programming class in junior high school.

Secondly, his thought experiment is every bit as profound as ROT13ing a copyrighted work, posting it online somewhere, and then acting all innocent when called on it because what you posted wasn't readable or recognizable as the copyrighted work.

(And this project appears to just now be celebrating its two year anniversary. Why's it making the rounds now?)
posted by mragreeable at 8:30 PM on March 27, 2006


This is a bit silly, but on the same track, I've often wondered about the following, with regards to sampling.

If I sample a recording and use it in my own song without permission, I'm violating copyright.

What if I add some reverb to the sample?
What if I downgrade the bitrate?
What if I then reverse it?
What if I the slow it down 800% so it's just an unrecognizable drawl?
What if I then granulize it and rearrange it, microsecond by microsecond?
What if I then bury it way, way, way at the back of the mix underneath layers of my own instruments?

At what point is someone able to call me out and claim I've stolen their song?
posted by Jimbob at 8:39 PM on March 27, 2006


Samizdata: So, then, if I take the aforementioned Toxic, or even just the lyrics, and rearrange them as I wish, one word at a time, that's still a copyrighted work belonging to Ms. Spears' lawyers?

The new version you make of the lyrics is a "copy" as long as it is substantially similar to the original. When it's no longer substantially similar, it's not a "copy" and it's not infringement to make it. 100% identical is definitely a copy; 0% identical is definitely not one. Somewhere in between, there's a line; the U.S. legal system draws that line at substantial similarity. The meaning of "substantial similarity" is fleshed out in several thousand court decisions.

Or could Marvel and DC sue me if I refer to Hero Supers in a story I'm writing (if their application goes through, mind you...)?

That's a trademark, not a copyright. You'd have to use the mark "in commerce" before they would have a case. Just writing a story wouldn't be an infringement.
posted by grimmelm at 8:40 PM on March 27, 2006


Why's it making the rounds now?

Someone posted it on reddit - probably the programmer himself, it got picked up like three times on digg, then 15 people posted it on reddit while del.icio.us picked it up while it got dugg a dozen times on digg and then it was on linkswarm and linkfilter while furl and tailrank picked up the slack. Soon it'll hit every catagory on popurls then boingboing will post it, then memepool, then it'll be doubleposted on metafilter. Eventually fark will post it, and then, and only then will it make it to memepool.
posted by loquacious at 8:41 PM on March 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


That sounds about right. I saw this on Reddit earlier today. I linked to it to give it a longer look later. I was hoping for something more.
posted by chunking express at 8:54 PM on March 27, 2006


Metafilter: What a lot of work for such an obviously flawed premise.



somebody hadda do it...
posted by stenseng at 9:17 PM on March 27, 2006


Jimbob, I think you'd be in the clear right after the bitrate reduction.
posted by hellphish at 9:19 PM on March 27, 2006


What a lot of work for such an obviously flawed premise utterly crap music.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:40 PM on March 27, 2006


Someone posted it on reddit - probably the programmer himself, it got picked up like three times on digg, then 15 people posted it on reddit while del.icio.us picked it up while it got dugg a dozen times on digg and then it was on linkswarm and linkfilter while furl and tailrank picked up the slack. Soon it'll hit every catagory on popurls then boingboing will post it, then memepool, then it'll be doubleposted on metafilter. Eventually fark will post it, and then, and only then will it make it to memepool.

Perfect (except you mentioned memepool twice). This should go into the FAQs.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:42 PM on March 27, 2006


So, then, if I take the aforementioned Toxic, or even just the lyrics, and rearrange them as I wish, one word at a time, that's still a copyrighted work belonging to Ms. Spears' lawyers?

No, they belong to Ms. Spears, not her lawyers.

It is if you give people instructions for converting it back, then it is the same as giving it to them.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 PM on March 27, 2006


Still, it's impressive that he put together 1.6MB of code that... xors... two files... together.

Lol.

This java code does the same thing:
public class xor{
  public static void main(String[] args)throws Exception{
    byte[] b1 = new byte[(int)new java.io.File(args[0]).length()];
    byte[] b2 = new byte[(int)new java.io.File(args[1]).length()];
    (new java.io.FileInputStream(args[0])).read(b1);
    (new java.io.FileInputStream(args[1])).read(b2);
    int len = b1.length;
    if(b2.length > len){
      len = b2.length;
    }
    byte[] b3 = new byte[len];
    for(int i = 0; i < len; i++){
      b3[i] = (byte)(b1[i%b1.length] ^ b2[i%b2.length]);
    }
    (new java.io.FileOutputStream(args[2])).write(b3);
  }
}

The output .class file is 676 bytes
posted by delmoi at 10:17 PM on March 27, 2006


But does this work in Bizarro World?
posted by fenriq at 10:32 PM on March 27, 2006


What a lot of work for such an obviously flawed premise utterly crap music.

Your favourite band sucks.
posted by cillit bang at 10:39 PM on March 27, 2006


As a superset of his argument, and along the lines of Wally's argument as quoted by Null Terminated: any information whatsoever, if represented digitally, is a number. Hundreds to millions of digits long, and thus nigh-impossible to interact with in any meaningful way as a number, but a number nonetheless.

Now, if it were possible to find a means to express such a number by a formula significantly shorter than the number itself, eg (56789212^32 * 231525^17 * 123456^8 * 14567^4 - 1235), then that would be the Holy Grail of compression found, and the ideas of copyright, bandwidth and storage media limitations of any kind made moot at a stroke. Assume we compress the Encyclopaedia Brittanica into such a formula. Now assume we also compress the rest of, say, a large public library. At 1K per formula, that should fit on a disk. But there's nothing stopping us compressing that disk's ISO in a similar manner, and storing formulae for multiple ISOs on a single disk, etc at infinitum.

Assuming, of course, that this is mathematically valid. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:48 PM on March 27, 2006


Your favourite band sucks.

I realize that's just internet shorthand for an entire argument, but is the implication here that Brittney Spears is your favorite, er, band?

Well, alrighty then. My favorite music sucks too, of course. Taste is subjective. Some people actually like Spork™.

(It was just a joke. Sheesh)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:54 PM on March 27, 2006


Let's see... um, 1995 is the earliest prior art I can find for someone having such an incredibly poor grasp of how legal systems deal with content. Anyone have anything earlier?
posted by tkolar at 11:25 PM on March 27, 2006



It is if you give people instructions for converting it back, then it is the same as giving it to them.


Well then what if you don't give them instructions for converting it back?

What if you provide the sequence of numbers?
What if someone else gives them the the instructions?

Are the instructions in and of themselves infringing?

I would have imagined not if the same instructions could be applied to decrypt any generic data in the same way.

zip, rar, etc aren't culpable if you use them to compress your bootleg mp3s, right?
posted by juv3nal at 11:43 PM on March 27, 2006


Perfect (except you mentioned memepool twice). This should go into the FAQs.

Sorry, I got dizzy. I just took a heroic hit of Web 2.0 and it went straight to my head.
posted by loquacious at 12:31 AM on March 28, 2006


"None of Pynchon's words are present here in a recognizable form, so this certainly does not qualify as a derivative work."

This is precisely why a small part of me cringes every time I hear the word "certainly."

Has this guy ever even read copyright law?

I don't care if you XOR it with gibberish, PGP it, zip it up, arj it, or write it on a cake. If it derives from a work, it is a derivative work. Pretty simple, really.

Laws aren't like computer code; you can't bend the rules slightly and expect them to crash.
posted by blenderfish at 12:38 AM on March 28, 2006


juv3nal: I think the point is the courts are smart enough to see through all this nonsense. If the net affect of what you're doing is indistinguishable from infringing, then what you're doing is infringing. All the existential "what ifs" don't need answering.

Stavros: I realise you were trying to make a joke, but joking about how "utterly crap" Cathy Dennis masterpieces are is not socially acceptable, at least while I'm around.

(And this lot are my favourite band. Or more accurately, this lot)
posted by cillit bang at 12:43 AM on March 28, 2006


The new version you make of the lyrics is a "copy" as long as it is substantially similar to the original. When it's no longer substantially similar, it's not a "copy" and it's not infringement to make it. 100% identical is definitely a copy; 0% identical is definitely not one. Somewhere in between, there's a line; the U.S. legal system draws that line at substantial similarity.

(First of all, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)

Again, not how derivative works work. If you start with, say "Hit me baby one more time," and change each word and each note, one by one, until it is an death metal song about clubbing baby seals, it is still a derivative work. If Britney can prove you arrived at a work by incrementally changing an existing work, she can expect a win in court. In this way, 0% might be a derivative work, or 'copy' if you will.

(I might have my story wrong about this, but I think this is what happened to "Bittersweet Symphony..." they laid out a whole song over a single copyrighted track, and even though the track was removed from the final recording, it was still considered a derivative work, and they got their lunch eaten.)

"Substantial similarity" only applies when a work is independently derived, but is nonetheless too similar to an existing work which the author has been exposed to, so the similarity implies derivation (see the "He's so fine" vs "My sweet lord" Paul McCartney lawsuit for a good example of this.)

However, to give the classic example, if you grew up on a deserted island with no access to any literature, and wrote your own book, which just happened to be called 'Snow Crash' and happened to be substantially similar to the Stephenson novel, you'd be in the clear from his lawyers as long as you could show that you had never heard of or read the original. (Note this does NOT apply to patents or trademarks.) In this way, 100% might _not_ be a copy.

It's all about lineage.
posted by blenderfish at 1:02 AM on March 28, 2006


...and good bones, baby.

Just imagine all those memes out there, fucking and breeding with apalling gusto, kinky little tails thrashing as they wallow and writhe in the soupy ether, giving copious birth to even more hideously unspeakable things in the wet, warm blood-dark of the steamy primordial noosphere.

The fleshy, primordial noosphere of our very minds, once so hallowed and sacrosanct, so innocent, so clean and pure, now host to so many horrific, dirty, un-natural things.

Goatse.cx. Tubgirl. AYBABTU. Creed.

Eventually a critical mass is reached. The overcrowded memes want out. They burst forth, splitting open the very haven of our souls, spilling out all over everything like so much sloppy soup-noodly cosmic afterbirth. It is a flood, a deluge, an irresistable force. They reason, harangue, argue, abstract, represent, exploit, learn, distinguish, catagorize, divide and grow. Divide and conquer. They make demands. And so much thick, curdling carnage follows.

But eventually, eventually a new day dawns after the lessons are taught with such force that they are not forgotten.

Everything derives from everything else. Holographic, extra-dimensional, extra-temporal ripples and waves of pure, abstracted thought radiating away through the ether at right angles to sanity and reality itself, sifting and shifting through time, space, reason and purpose of their own will.

A few twits of a sparrow's song instigates a frantic, life-long obsessed composure seeking to capture the fleeting essence.

A painting - not a particularly good painting, and not even the entire painting, just the texture of one unremarkable corner or another - inspires an entire series of experiments with similar textures magnified for study.

The crackle and hum of a dial spun across the narrow electromagnetic spectrum of a crude reciever-decoder audibly juxtaposes the previously unthinkable, and whole musicological languages are extracted. Yet not invented wholly anew.

Art makes vast, impossible, improbable claims and demands and science rushes in to catch up and make it so. Science wrestles with the Earth and Sky, liberating the raw materials and refining them to make tools to beget tools to beget even more tools. Art rushes back to snatch up the most interesting of the tools to weild anarchicly in a frenetic, unstoppable life-or-death tango. Each attempts to break apart and break free of the other, even while each wish to enslave the other for their own sordid goals.

Ouroboros.

The ultimate seduction, the most delicious tension and conflict that we will ever know.

But for now, for now mere mortals - damn fools - think that they can limit this dance and control it, channel it, sequester it, break it, and harness it for their own stagnant profiteering. Fools, idiots, and worse.

It is they who are exploited and enslaved, by their very staticness, by the death the inflict upon themselves with their own bloodied hands, locked in an unwinnable struggle with their own disembodied, remorseful ghosts of futures past.

Let them cry in anguish, these enemies of thought. Let them starve and suffer while sitting before the most incredible banquet ever laid upon any larder. Let their mouths water and their eyes burn black as cinders in their very heads. Let them thirst for water at the turbulant river's edge.

Let them wail and gnash and beat their breast, they who would strike themselves deaf and dumb to the beauty of the world around them and within themselves.

For I have no pity for them, and they deserve none.
posted by loquacious at 2:51 AM on March 28, 2006


I agree that this system creates derivative works. However, the works created can not easily (if at all) be proven to be derivative (without a confession or somesuch).

So while technically illegal (like home taping), wouldn't such a system be very difficult to stop with legal means?
posted by bashos_frog at 3:42 AM on March 28, 2006


loquacious, whatever you're smoking, I want some. That must be gooood shit. :)
posted by Malor at 4:06 AM on March 28, 2006


aeschenkarnos: I'm no expert, but I think you're talking about prime power coding using Gödel numbers.

Hmm. But you already knew that.
posted by Leon at 4:16 AM on March 28, 2006


However, the works created can not easily (if at all) be proven to be derivative (without a confession or somesuch).
But that misses the point. Who cares if you can encode Britney's latest song in super secret double-ROT13 or whatever. It's useless until it's rendered back into a form that is usable, and it is that same exact moment that it becomes obvious that the infringement has occured.

Or in other words, the intermediate form might be indistinguishable as such but it is also equally useless. You can achieve the same effect much easier by just applying any standard cryptographic block cypher with a chosen password. The data will be statistically unrelated to the input, but it will also be worthless for any purpose except eventually decrypting it, at which point you might have just made a direct copy without bothering with the intermediate.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:25 AM on March 28, 2006


blenderfish: I am a lawyer; this is not legal advice.

Again, not how derivative works work. If you start with, say "Hit me baby one more time," and change each word and each note, one by one, until it is an death metal song about clubbing baby seals, it is still a derivative work. If Britney can prove you arrived at a work by incrementally changing an existing work, she can expect a win in court. In this way, 0% might be a derivative work, or 'copy' if you will.

It's generally thought that only something that qualifies as a "copy" can qualify as a "derivative work" for purposes of infringing the derivative works right. Thus, no substantial similarity means no infringement under either the copy or derivative works right. Let me see if I can find a citation on that that I can link to . . . ah yes, here (search for "Nimmer," which is the name of one of the leading copyright treatises).

(I might have my story wrong about this, but I think this is what happened to "Bittersweet Symphony..." they laid out a whole song over a single copyrighted track, and even though the track was removed from the final recording, it was still considered a derivative work, and they got their lunch eaten.)

The rules for sound recordings are in some ways different than for other kinds of works. Some courts have set a much more stringent test in which sampling even the smallest amount violates the copyright holder's rights. I could also have my story wrong about this, but I thought that the "Bittersweet Symphony" string part that plays as a continuo is recognizably lifted (whether it was sampled or re-recorded I don't know).

"Substantial similarity" only applies when a work is independently derived, but is nonetheless too similar to an existing work which the author has been exposed to, so the similarity implies derivation (see the "He's so fine" vs "My sweet lord" Paul McCartney lawsuit for a good example of this.)

Substantial similarity + copying is the bedrock test. You're referring to the assumption that an author (a) whose work is substantially similar to the original work, and (b) who had access to the original, may be assumed to have copied the original rather than to have created independently. You're right that when the access is easy to prove, the big question for trial boils down to whether the two are in fact substantially similar.

However, to give the classic example, if you grew up on a deserted island with no access to any literature, and wrote your own book, which just happened to be called 'Snow Crash' and happened to be substantially similar to the Stephenson novel, you'd be in the clear from his lawyers as long as you could show that you had never heard of or read the original. (Note this does NOT apply to patents or trademarks.) In this way, 100% might _not_ be a copy.

It's all about lineage.


Yes. This lineage seems to be one of the things that some people have a hard time wrapping their heads around. It's the same bits? Why can it matter how they were created? To which the answer, both utterly logical and utterly unintuitive, is that It's not about the bits; it's about what people do.
posted by grimmelm at 5:41 AM on March 28, 2006


"I might have my story wrong about this, but I think this is what happened to "Bittersweet Symphony..." they laid out a whole song over a single copyrighted track, and even though the track was removed from the final recording, it was still considered a derivative work, and they got their lunch eaten."

You do have your story wrong about this. It's the strings which make it bluntly obvious that Bittersweet is a rip-off.

However, that the Rolling Stones or the Beatles or Led Zep ever win infringment cases shows how fucked the system is.
posted by klangklangston at 6:31 AM on March 28, 2006


The string sample in Bittersweet Symphony was from an orchestral arrangement of a Rolling Stones song

The Verve's 1997 hit “Bittersweet Symphony” uses a small five-note sample from an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.” After “Bittersweet Symphony” became a hit single, The Verve was sued by Allen Klein, who owns the copyrights to the Rolling Stones' pre-1970 songs. Klein claimed The Verve broke their licence agreement when they used a larger portion than was covered in the license.

The band handed over 100 percent of their songwriting royalties. They were then sued by Andrew Loog Oldham, who claimed to possess the copyright on the sampled sound recording

posted by ZippityBuddha at 6:34 AM on March 28, 2006


Going over it in my head, that sample's two bars long and contains twelve played notes, not five. And the thing about that song is that it was the sample that was the hit - take away the sample, play the verse and the chorus without repeats and you have maybe thirty seconds of a song that wouldn't be a worldwide hit - a lot of the money came from the record being used in adverts or as background - didn't Match of the Day or similar use it for something? - in which case what was being played was about 100% Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra and about 0% Verve.

I'd suggest that this chap has spent too much time locked in a room with SCIENCE, which depends on modelling the universe and coming to conclusions based on that model. The model is not the universe, however.
posted by Grangousier at 7:00 AM on March 28, 2006


"So while technically illegal (like home taping), wouldn't such a system be very difficult to stop with legal means?"

Not really. In order for a XORed file to be useful in a P2P environment, the key would have to be readily available, in proportion to the file's popularity, since no one in their right mind would be downloading garbage just for the heck of it (setting aside for a moment those who already get Britney Spears off P2P). With that key in hand, proving XORed file such-and-such contains copyrighted material is dead simple. In the end, you'd just be wasting bandwidth, forcing people to download both the file and a one-time pad of the same length to decrypt it, and RIAA & Co. would still crack down on file sharers just like they do now.

Additionally, different encryptions of the same file fail to take advantage of a P2P network's efficiency through redundancy, since they wouldn't count towards the pool of sources you're downloading from. Fewer useable sources mean slower downloads, and you'd still have to hunt for a possibly obscure key in order to decrypt those files. Who would bother, really?

I can think of a few cases in which Monolith could be put to good use, but mass distribution of illegal content over P2P is definitely not one of them. The process is way too cumbersome for the user, not to mention inefficient and (very likely) ineffective. OTOH, using Monolith to encrypt files shared over a restricted network is simply unnecessary, since chances are no one will ever find out about it in the first place.

As for the legal implications of XORing files, it doesn't matter one bit (pun not intended) if they are unrecognizable from the source material. This does not mean that any random string of digits is automatically copyrighted because it can potentially represent a given work, but if copyright holders can prove you obtained that string based on their intellectual property, then they can successfully sue you. Which, in this case, and for the reasons mentioned above, isn't necessarily difficult.
posted by Goblindegook at 8:47 AM on March 28, 2006


Goblindegook writes "Not really. In order for a XORed file to be useful in a P2P environment, the key would have to be readily available, in proportion to the file's popularity, since no one in their right mind would be downloading garbage just for the heck of it (setting aside for a moment those who already get Britney Spears off P2P). With that key in hand, proving XORed file such-and-such contains copyrighted material is dead simple."

What if the key was something everyone already had? Example you download a file that has been XORed with some random windows .dll.

It's a tricky thing, we're letting people copyright numbers. Numbers that are for all intents line noise if you don't know the secret. And copyrights that won't expire until my grandkids (if I ever have any) are dead.
posted by Mitheral at 10:13 AM on March 28, 2006


The whole point of cryptography is to prevent unauthorised parties from seeing what you encrypted. If everyone had the key, then "They" would probably have it too. They'd only need to figure out which key matched a file, information which would have to be more or less publicly available somewhere if downloads are to be useable by the P2P community.

And we're not just letting people copyright numbers, at least not any more than we're letting them copyright a bunch of words or notes stringed together. Please read what people have already said in the comments.
posted by Goblindegook at 10:35 AM on March 28, 2006


Oh I agree that it's the thing those numbers represent that are being copyrighted. It is just when you get into the details that the assumptions and anologies start breaking down like QM meeting GR.
posted by Mitheral at 11:17 AM on March 28, 2006


Thank you, grimmelm, for the insightful commentary.

(It appears I was indeed wrong about the "Bittersweet Symphony" thing.)

I wish I could find a relevant citation regarding the piecewise replacement thing. I think it boils down to right to create derivative works. Music may have been a bad example; I believe the case I saw involved a piecewise reimplementation of software.

And, as an aside, I think the effective destruction of the public domain by Congress at the behest of media corporations is one of the great unsung tragedies of our era.
posted by blenderfish at 12:20 PM on March 28, 2006


I seem to recall a case quite awhile back where a photographer took a series of b&w pictures (I want to say they were of southern sharecroppers, but my memory is hazy) and then like 15 years later another photographer came along and photographed the originals in such a way that they were indistinguishable from the original. (or just about)

Then he got sued, but the judge ruled that the second photographer was engaging in legitimate artistic expression.

Also, I like contributing comments that sort of relate to what we're talking about but not offering enough details to actually make them useful. I think this means I should go home now.
posted by gambit at 7:30 PM on March 28, 2006


You're thinking of Sherry Levine and Walker Evans. It's late, otherwise I'd tell you more.
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 PM on March 28, 2006


err...what loquacious said...
posted by Muirwylde at 10:23 PM on March 28, 2006


The term is " Wrap your MIND around this..." (Not...wrap your HEAD around this.) Dick Cheney mis-quoted me.
posted by Muirwylde at 10:34 PM on March 28, 2006


A similar idea: http://russnelson.com/dmca-hacking.html
posted by slackbp at 1:37 PM on March 29, 2006


That is certainly a more interesting thought experiment.
posted by chunking express at 1:46 PM on March 29, 2006


Sadly, the DMCA says this:

to `circumvent a technological measure' means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner

So being the copyright owner, the record labels could give themselves permission to decrypt it.
posted by cillit bang at 10:22 PM on March 29, 2006


Bruce Schneier says:
Clever, but it won't hold up in court. In general, technical hair splitting is not an effective way to get around the law. My guess is that anyone who distributes that third file -- they call it a "Mono" file -- along with instructions on how to recover the copyrighted file is going to be found guilty of copyright violation.

The correct way to solve this problem is through law, not technology.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:57 AM on March 31, 2006


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