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Mark Helprin vs The Mouth Breathing Morons
June 19, 2009 2:56 PM   Subscribe


 
First bootleggers were called pirates and now the anti-copyright contingency are being called barbarians.

Does that mean we should call the people who post shitty covers on YouTube murderers?
posted by defenestration at 3:06 PM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


I love how Duthat quotes the entire text of an XKCD strip without either bothering to credit it or link to it.
posted by octothorpe at 3:09 PM on June 19, 2009 [22 favorites]


Helprin's kind of a blowhard as an editorialist, but he's also a unique imaginative writer, and if he'd stopped at "A Winter's Tale" you could say nothing bad about him. But I do like the kind of people who use "$20 words" more than the kind of people who use the phrase "$20 words" to describe anything with more than two syllables. I also like a hopeless crusade, and for those reasons, I'm on Helprin's side. So get the f**k off the lawn!
posted by Faze at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, is the first book-length response to trolling?
posted by defenestration at 3:18 PM on June 19, 2009


I love how Duthat quotes the entire text of an XKCD strip without either bothering to credit it or link to it.

It's a new era! Copy what you like, pillage what you want! Attribution is boring!

Oh, Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Generic says "you must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work), and you may not use this work for commercial purposes."

Dammit Lawrence, I thought you were a cool guy. Now you're just The Man, but wearing casual shoes.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:23 PM on June 19, 2009


Oddly enough, those same words actually cost $30 in town.
posted by GuyZero at 3:23 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Me, I'm disturbed by the incredible inflation of fancy verbiage. Time was, you could impress someone with five dollar words. Then you had to have ten dollar words. Now you can't impress anybody without using twenty dollar words. Some people even use hundred dollar words.

With the economy the way it is, the government really should do something to bring down the cost of sesquipedalianism.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:24 PM on June 19, 2009 [18 favorites]


Some people even use hundred dollar words.

You haven't been watching the steady inflation of gorillas in comparative analysis. They started at 800 lbs and according to Google have worked up to 8,000,000 lbs.
posted by GuyZero at 3:27 PM on June 19, 2009


Helprin variously describes his foes as “wacked-out muppets,” “crapulous professors,” “regular users of hallucinogenic drugs,” “a My Little Pony version of the Khmer Rouge,” “a million geeks in airless basements,” “mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down”

I'm just putting this into the thread as fodder for the "Metafilter:" gags.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:29 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: variously described.
posted by bonecrusher at 3:32 PM on June 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm all for what Helprin is saying as long as he is willing to grant the same sorts of protection to technology that he wants for stringing words together.

Whatever medication he happens to be taking, his computer, the internal combustion engine, paper, electricity - it was all invented by someone and is what makes it possible for him to sit there and bang out his screed. I mean the guy was pushing 60 when he wrote that editorial. Were it not for those great ideas he and his ilk are stealing from their inventors, he'd likely be dead twice over.

Typing a rant is easy. Making a pulse laser is hard.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:48 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Douthat's always good for seeing a situation and going the the stupidest direction possible with it.
posted by fleacircus at 3:49 PM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Since a more latitudinarian copyright regime is a cause célèbre for a certain class of Internetista, his argument ignited a storm of criticism, and the comments appended to the online version of the article ran into the hundreds of thousands. And since this was, after all, the Internet, most of them were stupid.

Latitudinarian? Really? Is there a particular reason why douthat would would reference 17th century theologians other then to show off? In fact, the refrece dosn't even make much sense, because the latitudinarians believed in conforming to church practices but that church organization wasn't that important (according to wikipedia). So wouldn't a latitudinarian view of copyright state that we should not copy things, but that copyright rules are themselves not very important. In that case, why would a copyright latitudinarian care about extension?

There is also a philosophical meaning, but that is even less applicable, it would seem.
posted by delmoi at 3:51 PM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I used to play bass for The Crapulous Professors.
posted by signalnine at 4:00 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some people even use hundred dollar words.

You haven't been watching the steady inflation of gorillas in comparative analysis. They started at 800 lbs and according to Google have worked up to 8,000,000 lbs.
posted by GuyZero at 3:27 PM on June 19 [+] [!]


I blame it on those people who always give %110, that's gotta add up after a while.
posted by 445supermag at 4:26 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Douthat

Doun't.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:30 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


ad hominem: I've only read one book 90% of the way through and put it down, and it was Mark Helprin's. (A Winter's Tale) I realized I didn't care about any of the characters. Later, when I heard he wrote speeches for Reagan and Dole, I felt better about my abandonment of his decently crafted novel.

And as an old guy (Helprin's age, actually) who wears belts and prefers novels to the internet, I resent his characterization of those of us who think loosening of intellectual copyright in the Twenty-first Century could hardly make more sense.
posted by kozad at 4:46 PM on June 19, 2009


Ross Douthat? More like Douchehat AMIRITE?
posted by bardic at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


And since this was, after all, the Internet, most of [the comments] were stupid.

Yep.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 4:54 PM on June 19, 2009


More like Douchehat AMIRITE?

Douchefat, doy?
posted by everichon at 4:56 PM on June 19, 2009


Young punks, get off my lawn culture!
posted by chasing at 4:59 PM on June 19, 2009


I really want to know what “a My Little Pony version of the Khmer Rouge” is. It's pink and glittery and...
posted by betweenthebars at 5:08 PM on June 19, 2009


I wonder what the overlap is between those vehemently anti-copyright, and vehemently pro-attribution?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:10 PM on June 19, 2009


Helprin's kind of a blowhard as an editorialist, but he's also a unique imaginative writer, and if he'd stopped at "A Winter's Tale" you could say nothing bad about him.

I don't know if Winter's Tale was influenced by John Crowley's Little, Big--it was published only two years or so later--but the two books have a lot in common, and Crowley's is quite a bit better, lacking the goopy sentimentality that mars the (nevertheless worthwhile) Winter's Tale.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 5:19 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yon scurrilous miscreants, would you be so courteous as to curtail and desist your perambulation on my verdant turf?
posted by kldickson at 5:27 PM on June 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


if he'd stopped at "A Winter's Tale" you could say nothing bad about him.

And if Helprin had his way, my great-grandchildren would have almost no chance of ever reading it, since it will probably be out of print by then and not worth the effort for a publisher to track down his heirs and get permission to republish it.

I also love Lessig's challenge: "You willing to pay property tax on that IP?"
posted by straight at 5:33 PM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm all for what Helprin is saying as long as he is willing to grant the same sorts of protection to technology that he wants for stringing words together.

Whatever medication he happens to be taking, his computer, the internal combustion engine, paper, electricity - it was all invented by someone and is what makes it possible for him to sit there and bang out his screed. I mean the guy was pushing 60 when he wrote that editorial. Were it not for those great ideas he and his ilk are stealing from their inventors, he'd likely be dead twice over.

Typing a rant is easy. Making a pulse laser is hard.


So...you think he lives somewhere where there's no such thing as patent law?
posted by yoink at 5:34 PM on June 19, 2009


I'm guessing that the impetus for the book was in large part the sheer volume and emotion of the critics. A calm, reasoned counter argument in the form of an inky letter to the editor or even a challenging op ed piece might have seen the end of it.

But if it's true that he was getting hundred of thousands of responses, most of them as stupid as Lessig suggests, well, that's a mob and a mob is an alarming thing, even on the internet. A mob grabs your attention and forces you to think about what the hell is going out on the front lawn and beyond. Why are freeloaders so damn adamant about it? Why are they so rude, crude, wild eyed, bare knuckled and bare teethed (toothed?)? Why do they so not love the people who create the works they love?

Faced with that kind of over-killing response, and he being the kind of man he is, well, hardly surprising that he's going to take a Stand For Civilization.

At a guess.

(Now let the cynic in me note that if the op ed got that kind of response, any publisher worth his salt has believe a book with more of the same is going to get more of the same. "Mark, sweetie, great article, great article! Can we talk?")
posted by IndigoJones at 5:37 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Term of patents in the United States:
For applications that were pending on and for patents that were still in force on June 8, 1995, the patent term is either 17 years from the issue date or 20 years from the filing date of the earliest U.S. application to which priority is claimed (excluding provisional applications), the longer term applying.
Term of copyrights in the United States:
Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright would last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship. The Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier.
posted by designbot at 5:42 PM on June 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sorry, that second link should go to the Wikipedia article for the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.
posted by designbot at 5:43 PM on June 19, 2009


Started to type, but yeah, what designbot posted. What's more, to write a book you need a $500 computer. How many monochrometers or CNC mills do you think that will that buy you.

Technoligists get screwed in a big way by our IP system.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:16 PM on June 19, 2009


Sonny Bono was a tree-hugger! (Oh man, did I say that? Has it been 23 years? Is it funny yet? Surely it must be!)
posted by jamstigator at 6:23 PM on June 19, 2009


Technoligists get screwed in a big way by our IP system.

They would be far more screwed by a patent system as strict and well enforced as our copyright system. If patents lasted life + 70 years every single piece of computer technology would still be under patent, from microchips to monitors to keyboards and mice. Steve Jobs and Wozniak never would have been able to build the Apple II, for example. Atari wouldn't have been able to build Pong, and so on.

Far from being screwed, the relatively lax patent system is a godsend for innovation.

Oh and did you know Henry Ford was sued for patent infringement by companies who's cars were fare more expensive? Imagine if those companies still held a monopoly on all automotive technology.
posted by delmoi at 6:31 PM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: The Man, but wearing casual shoes.
posted by unSane at 6:35 PM on June 19, 2009


Wow, a douchebattle extraordinaire! If there's one person I hate more than Mark Helprin, it's Ross Douthat. Both of them need to shut ye olde fuck uppe.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:20 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, delmoi, but Ford also tried to sue people who had legit patents that he wanted and took credit for work his employees did. According to (I think) Bill Bryson's Made in America, the reason cinema ended up in Hollywood was because Ford tried to sue/drive moviemakers out of business back East because they competed with his nickelodeons and such.

In other words, dirty patent fighting goes back a long way.
posted by emjaybee at 7:36 PM on June 19, 2009


Apropos of nothing at all, Helprin's story "Jesse Honey, Mountain Guide", which was a chapter of "A Winter's Tale", was campfire reading for a whole summer of river-guiding my dad and I did in 1983. I still laugh my head off when I read that story.

O. Henry's stories are readily available on the Interwebs. Helprin's, not so much. I wonder which ones will last through to the next generation?
posted by dylanjames at 8:05 PM on June 19, 2009


Kinda ironic that Helprin's most famous work, Winter's Tale, stole its title from a famous Shakespearean work.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:54 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mark Helprin: One of my favorite novelists. But listening to him rant about copyright is like listening to Orson Scott Card (also one of my favorite novelists) rant about same-sex marriage. At some point you realize just because someone can build a beautiful fictional world, doesn't mean he makes any sense in the real one.
posted by jscalzi at 8:57 PM on June 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


At some point you realize just because someone can build a beautiful fictional world, doesn't mean he makes any sense in the real one.
posted by jscalzi at 10:57 PM on June 19


Exactly. Helprin's "Memoir From Antproof Case" is funny, and it's beautiful, it's moving, it's a great read. So I read it and then, foolishly, I began to try to see behind the curtains, to find out who the Helprin guy is. So I did.

Suffice to say that I can't stand him. I find him loathsome, truth be told. And that op-ed piece just confirmed it for me, yet again, when I read it a couple years ago -- the guy is a douche bag. But somehow I still love that book, I'm able to separate the art from the artist in this case, something I'm not always able to do.

There's a musician, put out some really great records, the guy writes beautifully, plays beautifully, gets great sidemen cuz everyone wants to play with him. So when I met him, and found out that behind the curtain there was/is a dickbrain... I bought another record that he played on with other musicians that I love, and it's good, but his songs leaves a bad taste, and his old records I just can't listen to anymore, such a huge disparity between the art and the artist.

I guess mostly it's best not to put anyone on any pedestal. Hard to do when someones art is so moving, but it's the best way to approach it, in my experience.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:20 PM on June 19, 2009


Douthat: "Leave the Lucas family the right to 'Stars Wars,' but not the right to prevent me from writing my own competing version of Anakin Skywalker’s life story."

This is one rare instance where I feel like shouting about the genius of George Lucas from the rooftops.
posted by blucevalo at 9:41 PM on June 19, 2009


emjaybee - the Hollywood litigationist in question was Edison, that time.

120-year patents would mean that mechanical typewriters would have been a state-backed monopoly until the 1980's. The transistor would even now be a monopoly, and would continue to be a monopoly until, what, the 2040's? But at least the monopolists would have a solid cash cow in that much, much smaller world economy.

That could be a pretty interesting premise for an alt-history short story.
posted by Michael Roberts at 9:43 PM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I remember hearing Mark Helprin being interviewed on the radio about Winter's Tale. When the interviewer referred to it as fantasy, Helprin became upset and said that he didn't think of his work in those terms, in spite of the flying horse and all the other fantastic elements. The implication was that if a work is fantasy or SF, it can't be any good." -- Octavia Butler, 1988
posted by blucevalo at 9:46 PM on June 19, 2009


The "mob action" angle makes a lot of sense. It's hard enough to find yourself the target of a flame war -- imagine if you're famous! Who *wouldn't* go out and write a terrible book about it? (and make a huge fool of themselves in the process)

I was pretty much with Douthat until the end of the article. ""Let's extend AND limit copyright" is a meaningless way to launch an (ostensibly serious) discussion of copyright infringement. Since when are "family interests" wholly distinct from lawyers and corporate investment?

The whole POINT, for someone like Helprin (or, say, Walt Disney) is the sticky overlap between genealogical and corporate claims. Nobody's going to be making stuffed animals or action figures out of Helprin's stories --- but is it inconceivable that someone might want to buy the film rights?

It's "just an op-ed" piece -- but since that's Douthat's recommendation -- that Helprin WRITE AN OP-ED -- it's kind of asanine to gloss over the issue that he accuses Helprin of not discussing.
posted by puckish at 10:01 PM on June 19, 2009


delmoi: Is there a particular reason why douthat would would reference 17th century theologians other then to show off?"

Douthat was a notable conservative Catholic voice at The Atlantic. Students of Catholic theology can be quite nerdy at times.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:28 PM on June 19, 2009


Helprin could have stopped with A Winters Tale and I'd still have plenty bad to say about him. That book was not just bad, which is common. It was bad in the particularly fascinating way that some books are bad where you can really see how utterly cool and awesome the author thought it all was. I actually finished the thing, because it was hard to look away from such a train wreck. Nevertheless, if we could just compromise and carve out a special copyright extension just for Helprin's work, so it stays copyrighted and out of print forever, that would be ok.
posted by rusty at 10:32 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


We went to a Helprin reading 11-12 years ago. "I don't do readings. What I do is talk."

He talked about his tremendous kitchen remodel for 20 minutes until we bailed.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:43 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, obviously you all are seeing my point without too much insane ranting on my part.

So now, let me be problematic in a different way. What if I invented the internal combustion engine, only rather than patent it, I say it is a kinetic sculpture. If "My Sweet Lord" infringes on "He's so Fine" than surely your Diesel or Stirling or Ringbom engine is going to infringe on my engine. When does it stop being technology and start being art?

I mean I have often described organic synthesis as sculpture - teeny tiny sculpture.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:27 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whenever I hear of a new "get off my lawn" book, I can't help but think of Bloom's ever-famous The Closing of the American Mind. It's like every generation needs someone to put into words how frightening it is to watch the next generation take over on [insert topic here]. I can't wait to see what this generation's version will look like.

Kid Charlemagne: You've sort of got patent and copyright law mixed up. For each angle:

On the copyright side, your particular question has been addressed by Brandir International, Inc. v. Cascade Pacific Lumber Co., in which the guy that invented the ribbon bike rack tried to claim it was art and thus protected under copyright. The court killed the argument because the arty aspect was inseparable from the functional aspect. (That's why those bike racks are all over the place: there are no copyright fees attached.) In your case, the engine's use is inseparable from whatever arty aspect you've got on it, so no go on copyright.

On the patent side, since you have to do some pretty serious filing and such to get a patent, you'd basically be allowing someone to copy your work and make their own engine. If they tried to patent it, you could block the patent by proving prior art (heh), but you wouldn't have any claims to patent protection unless you went through the legal hoops to get it. So no dice there, either, although it's really nice of you to let everyone else make combustion engines for free!

Usual legal disclaimers apply.
posted by Maxson at 12:53 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Latitudinarian? Really? Is there a particular reason why douthat would would reference 17th century theologians other then to show off?

Well, you look that word up in a few dictionaries, you'll find definitions such as "unwilling to accept authority or dogma" and "not restrained; not confined by precise limits" which seem to fit pretty well, given the context.
posted by effbot at 1:28 AM on June 20, 2009


It does make me faintly uneasy when I enjoy an author's fiction, but later find some of his opinions faintly repellant, as with Orson Scott Card.

So I'm glad now that I gave up on the tedious "Winter's Tale" about a quarter of the way through. Hey, can you put books on Freecycle?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:09 AM on June 20, 2009


I have the same great love for Helprin's novels that many in this thread have, and the same disappointment that he's such an unpleasantly clueless fellow out in the world. Nice to know I'm not alone in that.

But it's not a long stretch for me. A worryingly large number of authors whose work I've loved have been complete and utter bastards in their daily lives.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:19 AM on June 20, 2009


I really want to know what “a My Little Pony version of the Khmer Rouge” is. It's pink and glittery and...

What it is is swiped from someone else's work: So I guess I got kicked off another My Little Pony forum (scroll down to 10th post).
posted by grounded at 8:04 AM on June 20, 2009


You know, this thread reminds me of the Sandra Sing Lo pile on, the gist of which was "I'm smarter than Sandra Sing Lo, who is an idiot (and ugly), and she gets to write dumb articles for The Atlantic. I don't. That's just NOT FAIR." Substitute Douthat for Lo and you have a good portion of the comments in this thread.

Grow up.

Full disclosure: I used to work with Douthat at the Atlantic (and I can tell you that he's probably smarter than you are, or me for that matter.)
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:12 AM on June 20, 2009


The court killed the argument because the arty aspect was inseparable from the functional aspect.

So all I need now is a judge who will state that the art of A Winters Tale is part and parcel of its somniferous effect. (Yes, that is just a Trollish swipe. It only seems fair.)

Seriously, I've not got them mixed up, I'm wondering why there is a difference and why it's
good over here....................................................................................but bad over here.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:33 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously, I've not got them mixed up, I'm wondering why there is a difference and why it's
good over here....................................................................................but bad over here.


I think there are very, very few people who think that perpetual copyright is a good idea. I think most people think it's a question of balancing the social good of making new ideas/inventions/art works widely available vs. the social good of encouraging people to create such works by ensuring that they can profit from their creativity.

That the appropriate period of copyright/patent protection might be different in the case of art works and technological advances doesn't seem to be, a priori, an absurd idea.
posted by yoink at 9:08 AM on June 20, 2009


I think the issue of "good over here" and "bad over here" is mainly one of degree. There's a tendency to go to extremes in online debates, and IP law is no exception: one side begins seriously arguing for the complete destruction of all protection, while the other side becomes an all-out apologist for eternal protection. Madness.

Patent law is still mostly as it used to be mainly because it has suffered the fewest attempts to expand it. This is probably because even the densest judge/senator can understand that "if transistors could be patented forever, we wouldn't have personal computers". Problems still exist in patent law, of course, but things like patenting business methods (Amazon 1-Click) are being seriously addressed.

Copyright is harder for your average judge/senator to understand as being dangerous to overextend, mainly because it just seems to be about getting paid for a bunch of movies and poems and whatever. It's difficult to explain the restraints on cultural growth copyrights can create. So the guys in charge just let the Disney money do the talking, and now we're in the crazy world of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Expect to see some Melancholy Elephants soon, if your local mashup artist hasn't shown up already.

So patents have generally gotten a balanced look while copyrights are completely nuts, and it's all because people can think about solid inventions better than they can think about the difference between an idea and the expression of an idea. Then the Internet gets in on it, and it's no wonder Mark Helprin loses his top.
posted by Maxson at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


one side begins seriously arguing for the complete destruction of all protection, while the other side becomes an all-out apologist for eternal protection.

In Metafilter debates (at least when they pertain to music), 99% of people insist that artists should have no copyright protection whatsoever, while 1% (if that) maintain that there should be some reasonable, finite period of protection. If there's an online community where a large percentage of contributors argue for "eternal protection" it's not one I've ever come across. Maybe one where Disney execs chat with each other?
posted by yoink at 9:52 AM on June 20, 2009


In Metafilter debates (at least when they pertain to music), 99% of people insist that artists should have no copyright protection whatsoever, while 1% (if that) maintain that there should be some reasonable, finite period of protection.

don'tfeedthetroll...don'tfeedthetroll...don'tfeedthetroll...
posted by Sys Rq at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


...while the other side becomes an all-out apologist for eternal protection.

Right, but why is it I've seen the eternal protection for art type things camp, but never run into the eternal protection for technology type things camp? I've brought this up with the copyright camp and very quickly caught on that I was, apparently, typing to softly for them to read, or something like that.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:08 PM on June 20, 2009


(and I can tell you that he's probably smarter than you are, or me for that matter.)

Reminds me of the "Hacker News Disease" which applies to pretty much any internet forum: "It never seems to occur to anyone that perhaps the people they think are stupid really aren’t, and perhaps (in reality, almost for certain) the people being commented about are just as smart as and know far more about the situation than the ones doing the commenting."

My old boss used to tell me that when someone in a position that should require some level of competence or experience says or does something that doesn't make sense to you, the right thing is to ask yourself what he knows that you don't, instead of immediately writing him off as an idiot that deserves to be buried in a big pile of snark.

That was before the net, but I still think it applies.
posted by effbot at 5:02 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


yoink: Some people do argue for very strong- even eternal- copyright protection. I had the good fortune to meet someone who used to work for the Writer's Guild, and he was very adamant about very long copyright protection terms; he'd known artists who became popular only decades after their work had been written and were worried it would become public domain. So the argument does cover a wide spectrum.

Kid Charlemagne: I personally think no one advocates eternal technology protection because we (as a nation) have grappled with the question for a long time. America was, and still is, a technological powerhouse- we invented a lot of great new things, so we tuned our laws to benefit invention. Curiously, this didn't mean slapping eternal patent protection on someone's new gewgaw; instead, we have very hands-on rules regarding things like invention theft, trade secrets, and reverse engineering that reveal an entire history of practical approaches to technological innovation. It's not perfect, of course, and other nations have pretty good ideas on things like first-to-file and such, but we support giving patent rights to the original inventor and generally try to make sure the inventor gets his due.

Copyright covers a far more insubstantial subject, so no one on TV sings "Happy Birthday" and companies charge mechanics for blaring their stereos (it's an unauthorized public performance). On the bright side, the Internet is forcing people to seriously reconsider copyright laws, so maybe we'll get some practical results in time.

On preview: Guilty as charged. I think the Internet is the exact opposite of humble pie (arrogant taco?).
posted by Maxson at 5:14 PM on June 20, 2009


effbot: there's also the phenomenon wherein an intelligent person can look at a situation and immediately see a solution or a problem that a person who is involved directly cannot. This may be because the people who are involved are “too close” to the problem. It may be because the people who are involved have hidden motivations to ignore the solution or problem.

It's certainly not as common as people on the Internet seem to think, but it does happen.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:45 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some people do argue for very strong- even eternal- copyright protection

Of course they do--the person this thread is about, for example--but they are a tiny, tiny minority in any general online discussion. What I said was that here, on Metafilter, in discussions about copyright as it applies to music, the overwhelming majority believe that there should be no copyright protection of any kind (there have been several recent threads that I could point to as proof). The vast majority of people (including Sys Rq above who jumps in with the gratuitous and fatuous insult) think it should be entirely up to the consumer to decide which, if any, recorded music they choose to pay for. That, clearly, is not "copyright" by anybody's understanding of the term.
posted by yoink at 7:00 PM on June 20, 2009


The vast majority of people (including Sys Rq above who jumps in with the gratuitous and fatuous insult) think it should be entirely up to the consumer to decide which, if any, recorded music they choose to pay for.

I do not believe that. However, I do believe that regardless of legality or morality or whathaveyou, the reality of the current situation is that consumers do decide which, if any, recorded music they choose to pay for.

The above comment re: feeding trolls was was a response to your apparent habit of ignoring the subtleties and nuances of all the widely varied positions differing from your own, instead painting them all as one single argument, i.e. your direct opposition.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:29 PM on June 20, 2009


My old boss used to tell me that when someone in a position that should require some level of competence or experience says or does something that doesn't make sense to you, the right thing is to ask yourself what he knows that you don't, instead of immediately writing him off as an idiot that deserves to be buried in a big pile of snark.

Definitely. Then again, sometimes you go through that process and still end up coming to the conclusion that the person in question is, in fact, an idiot that deserves to be buried in a big pile of snark.

And to bring it back to Douthat, it's not at all clear that his position at either the Atlantic or the Times does in fact require some level of competence or experience.
posted by asterix at 9:58 PM on June 20, 2009


effbot: Well, the question is, who does understand copyright these days? I've heard anecdotes about composers (yes people do compose music these days) having absolutely no clue as to whether a church can perform works published as sheet music if the service is recorded and archived. Determining fair use for the classroom has become something of a gamble against the aggressiveness of the publishers. And with intellectual property lawyers making cases over who owns "zombie" and goth girls in Mary Jane shoes, the whole thing is a mess in which the people with the most lawyers win.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:27 PM on June 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, we can at least distinguish copyright from other forms of intellectual property, if only by recognising the common tendency to conflate these forms. (btw there was nothing factual underlying the Rob Zombie thread about lawyers making cases over ownership of "zombie")
posted by deeplyambivalent at 6:24 AM on June 21, 2009


When copyright claims have been broadened so far as to include character design, the boundaries between trademark and copyrights have been blurred beyond recognition.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:21 PM on June 21, 2009


EconTalk published a fairly kid-glove interview with the guy, but given the amount of ire Helprin earned, I don't think dodging tough questions buys him anything.
posted by pwnguin at 6:25 PM on June 29, 2009


America was, and still is, a technological powerhouse- we invented a lot of great new things, so we tuned our laws to benefit invention.

Copyright- not so much. Just ask Dickens.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:18 PM on July 13, 2009


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