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A secret treaty is bad news? I'm shocked! shocked!
November 4, 2009 8:49 AM   Subscribe

The Obama administration's proposed internet sections of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) have been leaked, the analysis says it's very bad.

ACTA would force the disastrous U.S. style notice-and-takedown rules upon the other signatories, and create prohibitions on breaking DRM, even when lawful for other purposes. There are new requirements for ISPs far beyond even the U.S.'s DMCA : ISPs become liable for user contributed content, and must cut off internet access for users accused of infringement.
posted by jeffburdges (78 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
What the bloodclot?
posted by chunking express at 8:53 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think linking to this leak is illegal under the new treaty. Shit- commenting on it is too!
posted by nomad at 8:54 AM on November 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Bad, of course, is relative here. Large content providers, copyright holders and others think this is really good. They have a right to their opinion, even if the vast majority of MeFites disagree. Saying "the analysis says it's very bad" kinda puts a universal spin on the agreement's sections.

Also, I'm not sure all of the programmers and developers here would think it is bad universally. Obviously, they would be upset if their new killer app ended up being sold on discs in China and Hong Kong and they lost their cut on that market. Looking at this from a "I want to rip all the CDs I want" perspective isn't the only concern here.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:54 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Inquiring minds want to know what "a secret copyright treaty whose text Obama's administration refused to disclose due to "national security" concerns" the fuck?
I must be real stoopid because i don't see the link between copyright and, well, national security.
posted by vivelame at 8:55 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Vivelame:
Maybe copyright and national security are linked now because we don't do much besides copyright stuff? </uncomfortable_exaggeration>
posted by bastionofsanity at 9:01 AM on November 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, I'm not sure all of the programmers and developers here would think it is bad universally. Obviously, they would be upset if their new killer app ended up being sold on discs in China and Hong Kong and they lost their cut on that market. Looking at this from a "I want to rip all the CDs I want" perspective isn't the only concern here.

Unless the killer app you happen to want to develop is the next flickr or youtube, and laws like this put so much burden on making sure every single user submitted file is non-infringing that you eventually have to shut down.
posted by reformedjerk at 9:04 AM on November 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


Wow, I just clicked my first Boing link in years.

This is pretty messed up, right here.

No ISP can ever, honestly, copyright check 100% of what their users do, that is an unenforceable tenet, and no sovereign nations are going to feel obligated to follow USian copyright laws any more than they already do. But I'm positive that the ISPs will be used to punish the end-users, who may or may not have actually done anything that they weren't supposed to do.

Why do they insist on killing the internet?
posted by paisley henosis at 9:06 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Bad, of course, is relative here. Large content providers, copyright holders and others think this is really good. They have a right to their opinion, even if the vast majority of MeFites disagree. Saying "the analysis says it's very bad" kinda puts a universal spin on the agreement's sections."

I think the denial of free speech permitted by bogus claims under three strikes and the policing powers required of ISPs could at the least be held to be objectively dangerous. If they weren't useful in the repression of speech Iran probably wouldn't have invested so much in deep packet inspection tech during the post-election period, no?

Also it should be noted that it won't actually work; an encrypted darknet will pop up for copyright infringement. Freenet and GNUnet have always had too much overhead to use, but that won't be true once bandwidth speeds increase...especially if other methods are likely to have your internet cut off. It's simultaneously regressive, likely to be repressive and pointless for the stated aim. On a moral level I disagree with the policy choice, but as a matter of policy implementation this seems a poor draft.

Are you seriously suggesting that it's a good potential treaty? It seems more like an attempt to set up a hugely extreme treaty that gets cut down to what they actually want.
posted by jaduncan at 9:06 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


This isn't just a US action. From the first link to Wikipedia in the FPP:
In October 2007 the United States, the European Community, Switzerland and Japan announced that they would negotiate ACTA. Furthermore the following countries have joined the negotiations: Australia, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Mexico, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the European Union.
It's not just the US making local decisions and shoving them onto the world at large, there are other nations involved (to some degree).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:29 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


No matter what way I read this it looks like the unwritten goal here is to consolidate and concentrate intellectual property rights and entertainment market share among the highest financed companies and to find all kinds of new ways to get average citizens (and vulnerable small businesses) into trouble. And the Internet clauses sound like they're geared to shore up Comcast-AT&T market share. As someone who supported Obama, this is reprehensible... the old "chains you can believe in" yarn is starting to sound accurate.
posted by crapmatic at 9:31 AM on November 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


A lot of countries are having trouble passing this sort of regressive agenda in a democratic fashion. The guise of Important International Obligation will allow it to be rammed through legislatures everywhere. Hooray.
posted by mek at 9:43 AM on November 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I must be real stoopid because i don't see the link between copyright and, well, national security.

Where corporations and government are intertwined into one body, the safety of the corporate appendages is a security matter for the State.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 AM on November 4, 2009 [11 favorites]


Kucinich '12?

(please?)
posted by klanawa at 9:44 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


paisley henosis: No ISP can ever, honestly, copyright check 100% of what their users do

Actually the best part of this law is that a new invention, the ADE651 can check 100% of what an ISP's users do, and all ISP's will be required to hook them in to their networks to detect copyrighted work.
posted by nobeagle at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is it really fair to assume that a "Discussion Paper on a Possible Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" named acta-proposal-2007.pdf and leaked on May 22, 2008 accurately represents "the Obama administration's proposed internet sections"?
posted by designbot at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


Also, I'm not sure all of the programmers and developers here would think it is bad universally.

As a developer who is generally square enough to defend copyright protection, I'm not in favor of this at all. There's a big difference between taking reasonable steps to protect intellectual works, and what this treaty apparently does.

As I see it, there are really only two possible outcomes:
  1. The treaty is "effective" in the sense that it is enforceable and enforced. In that scenario, content publishing sites like Flickr or YouTube are basically screwed. Content will probably have to go through some kind of filtering before it can even be displayed, meaning a long delay for content publication. It'll even be bad for developers like me who don't make websites like Flickr, because in the same way that I now have to spend a couple of weeks each year going through hoops to satisfy the security requirements for payment processing, I'll now probably have to devote the same amount of time implementing mandated safeguards and policies to comply with local, regional, or organizational rules regarding intellectual theft.
  2. The language of the treaty makes it impossible to enforce in full. Pirates, as always, find workarounds, and the number one source of counterfeit, namely China, isn't a participant so as always counterfeit material goes through there. So the treaty gets largely ignored, and intellectual property still isn't preserved.
I haven't read the treaty in full, but I think that the mandatory prohibition on breaking DRM is the real problem here. A fair amount of DRM is dependent on the beneficence of the DRM solution provider, and when that shuts down, and it does, then that content is destroyed.

Obviously purely digital content generally has a pretty specific set of bytes (unlike analogue copies) so this content will have a sort of digital footprint. So it wouldn't be *that* technologically unfeasible to track files being illegally shared -- I'm sure this is even being done right now. So rather than outlawing breaking DRM, simply outlaw distribution of DRMed materials with the intention to circumvent commerce. That allows people to have access to content with malfunctioning DRM, and to break DRM for the purpose of using, say, a Braille reader to read an ebook.

This is also horrible for commercial content providers as well. Imagine some time in the future. Some company has purchased a store of content from a distributor. The content itself is in the public domain. However, they can't access the materials that they own because it is illegal to do so.

Again, I didn't read the treaty in detail so BoingBoing may be hyperventilating a bit and there may be exceptions or workarounds specifically designated by the treaty.

Of course, what I am interested in finding out is the legal authority of this treaty. Is it an actual international treaty, in which case ratification by the Senate is required? Or is it something closer to a Memorandum of Understanding, where Senate ratification is not required. If the former, then for US Citizens there is an obvious step to take: contact your Senator.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:05 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


First: Cory Doctorow is an idiot.

Second: As someone who produces bits for a living, I have yet to hear _one_ convincing argument on just how to keep someone from repurposing and selling my bits for a profit, other than "information wants to be freeeeeeeeeee!" or some such tripe like that. Anyone here have any ideas? Anything positive to contribute other than hand-wringing and paranoia about how your ISP, who is most likely a multinational conglomerate and is well able to take care of itself, will suddenly be down on its luck? Seriously, we need to save Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T? Really?

Third: Any law that deals with the Internet must, by definition, be enacted worldwide, otherwise it is useless. Every grown-up who has had e-mail for more than two weeks can and should realize this.

Yes-- copyright needs to be reformed. The fact that Doctorow has had a modicum of financial success based upon Paypal donations and book sales because oooh, he's so edgy giving his book away for free online, means nothing to the small business owner who relies upon the creation and sale of easily-copyable bits. No, DRM is not the answer, and no, extremes of takedowns etc are not the answer, but there needs to be an answer, otherwise we will wind up with, basically, shitty music from mp3.com, shitty internet video series from pseudo, shitty software like every tip calculator in iTunes, and shitty news articles like the one I'm responding to.
posted by mark242 at 10:09 AM on November 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


designbot, it appears that the document in the link is different than the actual document currently being discussed. I'd love to see that, since the other pages suggest that something else has been leaked but isn't linking to the new content (or at least, not in a way I can easily find).
posted by Deathalicious at 10:13 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


means nothing to the small business owner who relies upon the creation and sale of easily-copyable bits.

Sounds like someone needs a new business. The whole point of bits, going back to Shannon, is that they're easily copyable.
posted by Jpfed at 10:15 AM on November 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sounds like someone needs a new business.

I see, so selling digital content is basically an exercise in futility now?

Man, I weep for the future. If this is truly people's attitudes, our economy is fucked permanently.
posted by mark242 at 10:24 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm not sure all of the programmers and developers here would think it is bad universally

Let me queue up in the long line of developers who think it is bad. Piracy is pretty bad for iPhone developers, and I've got quite lot of apps in the store (self-link). I'm sure lots of mine are on jailbroken phones as well - but you know what? I don't have the illusion that this law will get me any extra income whatsoever from the people who are currently pirating. Instead, it will fuck over me and the people who do pay me for my work.

So no, stuff this shit where the sun doesn't shine, and keep jailbraking legal (or make it legal in those jurisdictions where it currently isn't). I want my customers to have the best possible experience, and I'm not going to be in favor of anything that stops my customers from getting that just to catch some asshat pirates.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:25 AM on November 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


No ISP can ever, honestly, copyright check 100% of what their users do, that is an unenforceable tenet,

The law is not intended to be enforced often, or even regularly.

Like all unenforceable laws, it is designed to be used as a bludgeon against politically or culturally unpopular people/groups, and to occasionally ruin the lives of a few "normal" folks so that the other normals will diligently police themselves.

For further reading, see: The Drug War, Obscenity laws, FCC regulations and, in some European countries, blasphemy laws. Anyone who thinks that copyright protection cannot and will not be used as a tool of authoritarianism has their head in the sand.
posted by Avenger at 10:27 AM on November 4, 2009 [29 favorites]


No, DRM is not the answer, and no, extremes of takedowns etc are not the answer, but there needs to be an answer,

Start with excellent service and an excellent product.

Here's an actual quote from an email I received from a customer earlier this week:

Great, I have to say I am shocked to have heard back from you at all.

Quite telling, right? And I'm also pretty sure that person will not pirate my stuff, but will tell his friends about his experience and get me more customers.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:28 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


mark242: "... there needs to be an answer, otherwise we will wind up with, basically, shitty music from mp3.com, shitty internet video series from pseudo, shitty software like every tip calculator in iTunes, and shitty news articles like the one I'm responding to."

"Stop doing X or terrible prediction Y will come true" hasn't worked with global warming - which would actually literally kill us. So I don't see what chance you have with copyright infringement.

Perhaps the future of shit you foresee won't be quite as bad as all that.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:28 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


there needs to be an answer, otherwise we will wind up with, basically, shitty music from mp3.com, shitty internet video series from pseudo, shitty software like every tip calculator in iTunes

Your bits, on the other hand, are awesome and worth paying for.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


@mark242

- as someone that also produces bits for a living (admittedly, in a corporate environment for most, but some application writing for fun and profit) , the only reasonable solution seems to come in one of two flavors (as far as I have found so far anyway)


- if your potential audience is large, (ie Music or iphone games) your best option is to invest some effort in copy protection/ DRM , and make the price point for your product more attractive that the effort of stealing it. For example I am sure there are some people that will take the time and effort jailbreak their iPhone and then fill it with games they could have purchased at $.99 each...but for most people, it just isn't worth the effort. the added bonus is, if you are not sure about an app, $1 - 3 is a reasonable gamble in the mind of a majority of owners. If the app, or the music, is decent (and you are lucky enough to get exposure) , you will make your $


- if your potential market is small, you have to consider online -subscription content only, where users have to prove they are who they say they are to play, listen, etc.


re: this article - the issue is a whole lot less about saving the ISP and more about the ability for someone to cry "DRM infringement" and have a site or service shut down. It is the private sector version fo the government labeling anyhting it has an issue with as terrorist activity.
posted by das_2099 at 10:44 AM on November 4, 2009


Perhaps the future of shit you foresee won't be quite as bad as all that.

Yeah, sorry, it'll be worse.
posted by mark242 at 10:45 AM on November 4, 2009


@das_2099:

if your potential audience is large (...) DRM

butbutbutCoryDoctorowObamaAdministrationSecretTreaty!!!!111!!!one!

if your potential market is small (...) where users have to prove they are (basically DRM)

Now you see the plight. You either piss off the hand-wringing all-copyright-is-wrong crowd, or you throw your digital content out there and hope that some people will take _pity_ on you and throw some cheese your way.
posted by mark242 at 10:50 AM on November 4, 2009


Bad, of course, is relative here. Large content providers, copyright holders and others think this is really good.

I don't think making copyright violation into a criminal issue rather than a civil issue is a good idea except in cases where people are running a criminal enterprise. Otherwise, we're going to spend a lot of money and energy on prosecuting petty issues, and it's really not good for ISPs to get into the business of enforcing the law.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:50 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Quite telling, right? And I'm also pretty sure that person will not pirate my stuff, but will tell his friends about his experience and get me more customers.

I work for an ISP. Why has it become my job to enforce the law around your civil issues?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:53 AM on November 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well there goes Usenet!
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:57 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I work for an ISP. Why has it become my job to enforce the law around your civil issues?

It hasn't, and I don't know where you got the idea that *I* asked you to - I think I quite clearly stated that they should - and I quote myself - stuff this shit where the sun doesn't shine. Just to be extra clear, with "this shit" I meant the new treaty.

I want my ISP to shuffle bits around that I send them. All of them, without prejudice.
posted by DreamerFi at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you seriously suggesting that it's a good potential treaty? It seems more like an attempt to set up a hugely extreme treaty that gets cut down to what they actually want.

Nope. Just commenting on the loaded language in the FPP. I prefer the "some are saying" method. That way there is no claim that "the analysis" as if there is only one, says the treaty draft is "bad."

But I have no sympathy for filesharing. Nor record companies for that matter. Both sides of the same coin. The people who want to steal things that they do not own the rights for and the people who want to gouge people to sell them the rights.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:06 AM on November 4, 2009


there needs to be an answer, otherwise we will wind up with, basically, shitty music from mp3.com

Because that vast ocean of more-great-music-than-you-can-possibly-listen-to-in-six-lifetimes that's already been recorded is just going to disappear?
posted by straight at 11:06 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I read this it looks like the unwritten goal here is to consolidate and concentrate intellectual property rights and entertainment market share among the highest financed companies and to find all kinds of new ways to get average citizens (and vulnerable small businesses) into trouble.

The answer is to stop buying Britney Spears records. Just ignore the record companies none of this will happen. They cannot force you to buy their crap.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:08 AM on November 4, 2009


mark242: I see, so selling digital content is basically an exercise in futility now?

No.

Selling digital content, expecting the same returns and using the same model as with physical stuff, without offering extra service, extra interactions, extra anything (really), and incentives for legal buyers instead of restrictions imposed by DRM (while the ones that didn't pay are getting all for free), IS an exercise in futility.
posted by omegar at 11:13 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


We, the large content providers, in order to form a more perfect union...
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Around here you don't talk @ people, newbies. This is not twitter, please do not bring your twitter conventions here.

Mark242: if your digital content isn't worth paying for, you're not going to make a living at it.

Making it worth paying for is your responsibility, not mine.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:33 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Anyone in the business of selling bits needs to take a good, hard look at the bottled water industry, and why it succeeds even when there's still perfectly good, "free" water available from the tap and fountains. You can even sell bottled tap water, openly marketed as tap water.
posted by PsychoKick at 11:33 AM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


B..b..but he's SOOOO tech savvy!!!!!
posted by HTuttle at 11:43 AM on November 4, 2009


These proposed changes are damning, as it tries to lock all future systems down with mandatory DRM. It then becomes a crime to reverse engineer for interoperability. The corporate entities that are guiding this global legislation are trying to lock us on paths of digital enslavement to systems that will monitor the user constantly.

I oppose such a future on these principles alone. We are finally getting to a point where open environments are empowering users of technology, the every person, to engage in the creation process... from digital art, music, programming and citizen science...

This could very well make fugitives of open software developers... just a claim of infringement, and all that you do can be swept away... without any means of proving otherwise. Imagine is The SCO Group had such power when the boasted of SCO code in the Linux kernel... a claim that HAS NEVER been proven.

This could mean the end of open file formats, of application and hardware interoperability.

It would be the end of the era in which the individual or a small determined group of people can come together to tinker, to build somehting better...

Just so that those who already have amassed wealth and power can retain that. Indefinitely.

That is the true threat. A digital noose, around every single throat... for the remainder of human existence.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Agreed, PsychoKick. Digital content is pretty much free now. What you need to do is make people feel like they should pay for it, either through appealing to ethics (Fiji's promise to buy carbon credits to pay off the shipment of the water), making a good story about the company/artist (Valve Software's corporate culture, or Fiji's claims about their aquifer), or other means.

It's not about forcing people to not take up the free alternative. In that case, you're the killjoy bad guy, even if you feel like you're just guarding what's rightfully yours.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:48 AM on November 4, 2009


IF... if the SCO Group.... yeesh.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:49 AM on November 4, 2009


I see, so selling digital content is basically an exercise in futility now?

Complaining about it is. I am sure there is a business model that works. Trying to enforce one that doesn't isn't helping find that model.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:59 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


PS: Also, as I'm sure everyone knows, you can pretty much never shut off the "tap" of free digital downloads, so in effect, you become the bad guy who's comically bad at his job.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:01 PM on November 4, 2009


I really wish corporate executives would get their heads out of the sand and realize how the Internet works. Rapid dissemination of media works because there are tons of people out there who are practically tripping over themselves to fling money at deserving products.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog? Free. People paid $4 anyway on iTunes for a faster, more reliable download, and then paid $10 later for the soundtrack.

99% of webcomics are free, even the highest-quality professional ones. Instead, they leverage the enormous audience by selling $20 t-shirts that have WoW wang jokes.

People are pirating your product? Great! That means people actually like it! Now figure out how to merchandise it. Obviously not everything can be profitable if piracy is truly rampant, but that's what CD keys and DRM are for. It was determined ages ago that profit could be made on programs flung into the ether via radio or TV. The Internet's just a slightly different style of ether.

That, and never underestimate the laziness of the crowd. If the first high-quality rip of the new Dexter episode that made it to BitTorrent had a Pepsi logo in the corner, it wouldn't matter, because people will watch and share that anyway. If you share your media the way you want it shared, others will be less likely to share it, and less successful in competing.
posted by explosion at 12:02 PM on November 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog? Free. People paid $4 anyway on iTunes for a faster, more reliable download, and then paid $10 later for the soundtrack.

To be fair, a majority of those people would snap up anything Joss Whedon put out, including Joss Whedon Presents Summer Glau Reading The Sandusky, Ohio Phone Book.
posted by Spatch at 12:18 PM on November 4, 2009


And I think that is exactly the point. Joss Whedon has gotten himself a whole legion of people who want to give him money.
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


This could mean the end of open file formats, of application and hardware interoperability.

Nope.

Huge segments of the internet operate on Linux machines. The ISP where I work is entirely run on Red Hat (which we pay for). Cloud computing is mostly open source. Nearly every firmware on consumer devices and a lot of enterprise devices is a modified Linux distro. This is only scratching the surface.

This is not going to shut down open source, because open source is a gigantic part of the way we do business and run our computers, so much so that trying to shut it all down is simply not going to be possible, even if you passed a hundred laws, because the development happens all around the world. That would be suicidal, and the computer industry has a lot more money than the entertainment industry.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:37 PM on November 4, 2009


Excuse me, you were talking about open file formats, not open source, but you mentioned SCO and their FUD, which incidentally didn't help them win in a courtroom. Open file formats are not determined by the recording industry. Anyone can make a file format, and I can't see laws being passed against that. Nobody can stop you from using OGG or FLAC, though the recording industry may try to make it difficult to convert copyrighted files into such formats.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:41 PM on November 4, 2009


This is so unbelievably bad that I too thought, like jaduncan, that it was an negotiating bid to make whatever they do end up giving us seem reasonable.

If it isn't, it's staggeringly bad policy. I take on board Ironmouth's comment that one side might quite like this, but I think there's a great case to be made that it's not even in their long-term interests. You simply can't throttle technology like this and also expect to prosper by it. The Soviets once tried to keep a tight rein on technology -- they had registration of every photocopier, for instance. But towards the middle of the 1980s, it became obvious that they were effectively tying one hand behind their back when it came to global competitiveness. Likewise, in Poland during the Solidarity era Jaruzelski tried turning off the phone exchanges to prevent the trade unionists from communicating, but it crippled the economy and they kept on communicating anyway.

This idea really seems like shooting yourself in the foot to me. You can't just uninvent things, and stopping the people you control from innovating simply means that the innovation is done by people you don't control. The DRM stuff is particularly creepy here: you stop developers tinkering and experimenting and all that will happen is that tinkerers in other countries will leap ahead. China's not signed up to this, so you can bet they will be busy.

To be sure, I'm worried about the effects the collapse of the system that paid for intellectual creations is going to have, especially on journalism. I suspect that in the case of journalism it is broadly finished as we know it: I suspect it is going to become a bit like opera, no longer a roasting-hot profit centre but just something we keep alive because enough people love and need it.

That's not true across the media board, though: there are innovative things that can be done, it's just that nobody's trying them because they're still fighting to keep up the old world. I wish governments wouldn't so readily collude with them. After all, these are the people that said VHS and C-90s would be their undoing, when in fact they led on to booms that both kept them alive and laid the conceptual groundwork for the DVD and CD explosions that made billions.

Writing laws that in effect try to keep us listening to 12" vinyl and going to the cinema for our movies goes beyond bad policy; it's just bewildering.
posted by bonaldi at 12:43 PM on November 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


> The whole point of bits, going back to Shannon, is that they're easily copyable.

The whole point of digitalization is that everything can be rendered into bits. Everything is to be duplicable: access widens; value falls; Yeats gets quoted.

Look, it's tempting to think that Hey, only Big Fat Companies get ripped off in a problematic way... but the logic of digitalized duplication and distribution is that, ultimately, anything that *you* think makes you unique and valuable can ultimately be taught or given to someone else. Ultimately, UniqueSnowflake becomes UniqueSnowflake(tm). Y'know that comfortable sense of privilege-- I, as a consumer, have the right not to pay $100 for software I only kinda want? -- well, eventually, that becomes I, as an employer, have the right not to pay more than $9/hr. for a college grad I only kinda want .

It's okay to get your products for free eventually comes around as You're firing me and hiring someone from Bangalore?

The sense of consumer entitlement-- that center? It cannot hold.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:50 PM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog? Free. People paid $4 anyway on iTunes for a faster, more reliable download, and then paid $10 later for the soundtrack.

As Spatch pointed out, Joss Whedon has a huge fanbase.

Think about how much effort, how many years and millions of dollars were spent cultivating that fanbase. What, three television shows, various movies... and then only a tiny, tiny, tiny group of people wind up shelling out... four bucks? Ten bucks? The sad fact about Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along was that it was only marginally profitable.

Consider other bits of web populism and Insta-Celebrity, like LonelyGirl15. Quite apart from that production's stupidity, it garnered much attention-- but not money. Essentially, the "give everything away until people love you" model leads to... getting a lousy contract with SomeBigCorporation.

Generally, "I don't do it for the money-- I do it for the music, maaaan" means that music either won't get widely known or you, as a musician, won't have the time and resources to push yourself to make the best music you possibly can.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:04 PM on November 4, 2009


What it ultimately comes down to is that the companies are right- if their business model is to remain viable, the ability to freely copy bits- which entails, ultimately, user control over the user's hardware and software- must be eliminated. If not, the content production industries as they exist will suffer and possibly fail.

And you know what? I don't care. If maintaining the profitability you- and by "you", I mean everyone who demands that they be able to be successful using the old model, large or small- feel entitled to means locking down all hardware, software, and networking, I hope you fail, and fail miserably. Your "right" to have your business model succeed is not and never will be more important to me, and I'd sooner see you starve than surrender control of the world's computing to you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:20 PM on November 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I say give 'em 110% of exactly what they want.

Then there are 2 options:
1) Create content that you have the rights to and sue them when they misuse it.
2) Walk away from their content. Stop consuming their DRMed whatever.

Frankly the #2 option is the less hassle version. If the product only works with DRMed whatever - don't buy it. Cultivate an attitude of "I don't need that". Their lifeblood is money - choke off that flow.

The money not spent on Seinfield DVDs can instead be used to, say, buy insulation. Something that's useful if you have global warming OR global cooling.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Generally, "I don't do it for the money-- I do it for the music, maaaan" means that music either won't get widely known or you, as a musician, won't have the time and resources to push yourself to make the best music you possibly can.

Um, this is not what musicians are currently doing. You know this, right? As someone married to an actual (and completely obscure) musician, let me tell you what he's doing, as one example:

1. Singing online in Second Life clubs...for money! Not a ton, but at 2 shows a day...it adds up. Also; more SLers find out about him, go to his site, pay for downloads or CDs, get on his mailing list. Recently, he had a fundraiser to pay for his newest project and raised several hundred dollars at one go.

2. Playing in a local cover band. For money! Because people like to have parties and they like to have live music at them. They often feed you and give you tips, as well. Clubs still suck, but yeah, he plays them now and again. But house parties are the best.

3. Doing side musical projects...for money! Such as helping others record in his studio, being a backup musician on other projects, running sound for local venues, etc. Whatever he can scrounge up.

Don't get me wrong; some months it's hard financially. I still have a day job. But he's only been doing this fulltime for about six months, so we have hopes it will keep growing. None of it involves a label or a contract. He has to hustle like crazy. But that's true of any self-employed person.

We can't go back to controlling data. We can make life hell for a lot of people in the meantime, but the cat is out of the bag. It's not about what information wants, or freedom from The Man, it's about reality. Given that people still love creating and listening to music, it need not be The Cultural Apocalypse.
posted by emjaybee at 1:55 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, those of us in the security industry might as well just move back underground then? Cuz apparently the fact that we're a fairly big industry (with lots of jobs and economic activity) that keeps you all safe doesn't matter in the fight to protect The Mouse. That's fine, there are plenty of other organizations that are willing to buy exploits - who won't try to throw me in jail for reverse engineering.

Maybe I'll just go start a company in China then.
posted by mock at 2:06 PM on November 4, 2009


I wonder if, in the future, this will be seen as equivalent to the protectionist tariffs of the early 20th century, where countries tried to protect domestic industries without realizing that the net effect would be crippling.
posted by klangklangston at 2:12 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Um, this is not what musicians are currently doing. You know this, right? As someone married to an actual (and completely obscure) musician, let me tell you what he's doing, as one example:

All that is fantastic-- more power to him.

But, of course, he's not all musicians-- he's one extremely dedicated musician. I just think it would be a good thing if he and other musicians had an easy way of distributing and selling work, without the understanding that the more popular and sought-after it became, the greater the odds it winds up being torrented into unprofitability. As much fun as playing in a cover band can be, it is certainly a service-- it's man-hours, it's labor. To the degree that he wants to create original works, wouldn't he like to be able to spend more time creating those works; to be able to market and sell them profitably... so that he has more free time?

We've all heard the stories of those starving Blues musicians from way back when, whose works were more or less lost to them, and who wound up in the poor house. I think it would be a good thing if people like them could profitably distribute their work, and maintain some control over it, be able to comfortably support themselves with it-- to me, that's the promise of what digital distribution could be.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:20 PM on November 4, 2009


mark242: Well, you seem to have an endless supply of hyperbole; given the state of most OP-ED pages, the market for that appears quite lucrative. Career change?
posted by defenestration at 2:52 PM on November 4, 2009


Generally, "I don't do it for the money-- I do it for the music, maaaan" means that music either won't get widely known or you, as a musician, won't have the time and resources to push yourself to make the best music you possibly can.

Almost every musician I've ever known - including myself - struggles with this issue, but only the deluded think that they deserve to make a living making art. You make art because you want to, or don't bother doing it. Otherwise, I have to listen to you bitch about money, which isn't interesting nor artistic. Maybe you'll get lucky and will make a living at it. You will be rare in the world of struggling musicians.

This is a very old story, however, and it didn't change when music distribution got turned on its ear. It's just that the gatekeepers are changing and may not be able to find work anymore. But that's just the gatekeepers, not the musicians. Good musicians can always find paying gigs, but don't expect the world to provide a living for you. This has always been good advice. I buy music and do not download copyrighted music without permission or payment, but I don't really expect this to be true for a lot of people, and I don't think we're going to get that genie back in the bottle. You can bitch and moan, but if you piss off your potential customers enough, not only will they not buy your product but they might make an example out of you. So, that's the paradigm. Now, capitalize on it. Or don't. Your choice. Apple did.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:35 PM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


We've all heard the stories of those starving Blues musicians from way back when, whose works were more or less lost to them, and who wound up in the poor house. I think it would be a good thing if people like them could profitably distribute their work, and maintain some control over it, be able to comfortably support themselves with it-- to me, that's the promise of what digital distribution could be.

Yeah, but that has nothing to do with what we're talking about. Those people had their work stolen because they were poor, African-Americans who were 1st or 2nd generation descendants of slaves or sharecroppers. Their music was stolen mostly because they were uneducated and powerless in the world of the music business. Digital distribution doesn't really solve the issue of powerful people ripping off the vulnerable.

However, it does allow someone who is unknown to become known without worrying about distribution, which was always the biggest challenge before. But if you lock down the distribution enough in an effort to defeat unauthorized copying, you end up with the same problem as before, which is that commercial music goes through a few distribution channels, and without them nobody knows you. Be careful what you wish for.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:49 PM on November 4, 2009


mark242: you have misunderstood the meaning of “information wants to be free”. It is not a manifesto or a radical political viewpoint, it is a simple description of the nature of data: namely that if you distribute information to someone it is basically impossible to stop that person distributing the information to someone else. Saying “information wants to be free” is not a judgement of whether Downloading Free Stuff is a good thing or not, but an acknowledgement of the disruptive reality of high-bandwidth data processing and interchange.

The content industries desperately want this not to be true, so they implemented DRM in an attempt to prove it untrue, and then when that failed (as it always will because of the previously-stated nature of information itself) they pushed laws so that they can at least *pretend* it's not true by a legal fiction provided by DMCA et al.

To really control the freedom of information you would need an enormous police-state-style interdiction mechanism that basically ended the general-purpose computing device as we know it. Much though the backward-looking end of the content industry would like such a thing (and ACTA may or may not be aimed in that general direction) it is unlikely to go that far as it would be economic suicide.
posted by BobInce at 4:49 PM on November 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is a very old story, however, and it didn't change when music distribution got turned on its ear.

To be accurate and honest, the music media distribution model is a very young story. Recorded music has a very short history. The old story is the same as the new story: musicians had to hustle, find sponsors, sell value-added items, and play live to make a buck.

Suck it up, princess.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:06 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It almost seems like those people complaining about free information had never heard about Radio, Television or The Public Library System.
posted by ovvl at 6:05 PM on November 4, 2009


five fresh -- on metafilter we don't talk to people like that. please don't bring your asshole conventions here.
posted by imalaowai at 6:15 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think linking to this leak is illegal under the new treaty. Shit- commenting on it is too!

Favorited! Am I a criminal for that, too?
posted by rokusan at 7:06 PM on November 4, 2009


This comment from Geist's blog has the right angle, even if things aren't quite that simple.

This closes the loop on government by the corporations.

It's definitely putting corporations ahead of nations. One could argue it's been that way since the days of the Marshall Plan, but this is a pretty tidy step toward codifying the priorities.
posted by rokusan at 7:08 PM on November 4, 2009


Sorry, I should have written "princesses." I am not targeting any user, but the general population of artists who feel they are entitled to earn a living through digital media.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:27 PM on November 4, 2009


Which I suppose I'd best clarify as not meaning that they should not be able to, just that they don't have the right. Draconian laws are not the answer to the challenge of making a living as an artist.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:29 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bad, of course, is relative here. Large content providers, copyright holders and others think this is really good. They have a right to their opinion, even if the vast majority of MeFites disagree. Saying "the analysis says it's very bad" kinda puts a universal spin on the agreement's sections.
Right, but I think it's safe to assume that most mefites are not "huge corporations" Almost everyone has implicit copyrights on something or other, but most people don't make any money off of them. I'm sure that those who make money off of copyrights would also like it was illegal to sell computers without DRM and so on (as they tried to legislate back in the 90's). That doesn't mean it would be good.
Also, I'm not sure all of the programmers and developers here would think it is bad universally.. As other people pointed out, this would basically have made sites like flickr and youtube illegal, which would have been great for the entrenched status quo, and bad for people who want to distribute their own work.
I'm sure some programmers think Obama was born in Kenya and want to over throw the U.S. government. At least the ones who developed this game do. What's you're point?

--

Anyway, what's described in the FPP doesn’t sound as bad as I would have imagined. I assumed the fact that it was secret implied they wanted to install some kind of monitoring system that would allow the government to pinpoint all communications and rapidly track back IPs in order to track down "copyright infringers"
Yes-- copyright needs to be reformed. The fact that Doctorow has had a modicum of financial success based upon Paypal donations and book sales because oooh, he's so edgy giving his book away for free online, means nothing to the small business owner who relies upon the creation and sale of easily-copyable bits.
What about small business owners who rely on the sale of horsemeat, or tobacco farmers? What about health insurance executives? What about Hemp farmers? Or buggy whips makers? Just because it's possible for some people to make money on something doesn't mean we should structure society specifically for the benefit of those individuals.

And also, what is with this insane idea that the highest goal of society is to produce nice television shows and pop culture? I like Mad Men but I wouldn't sacrifice my freedom to keep it on the air. If the media supported by copyright disappeared tomorrow I don't think I would cry, or even particularly care.

On the other hand a 1% tax increase to distribute directly to artists to create works would yield $60 billion dollars a year. The British television tax pays for the BBC. Public support for the arts would be far more efficient, but it wouldn't pay for high-flying media CEOs, their casting couches and lobbyists.

(Obviously there are downsides: The government would be deciding what to create, and it would be a political mess. I would suggest that individuals would be able to decide directly what their 'portion' would pay for)

But this isn't about the creation of art. It's about extracting economic rents from creators, to the wealthy.
five fresh -- on metafilter we don't talk to people like that. please don't bring your asshole conventions here.
User #93,054 lectures #13,258...
posted by delmoi at 10:08 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


My don't-@ snark is what he's calling me an asshole for?

That's hilarious.

Go away boy, you bother me.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 PM on November 4, 2009


On MetaFilter, we have better reasons for calling people assholes.
posted by rokusan at 2:52 AM on November 5, 2009


Oops! I mistakenly thought the document I found on wikipedia was the original source material! It seems wikileaks might not have the currently leaked document.

I saw commenters elsewhere noting that watermarks might get thee leaker into trouble, although I've seen no one say if these watermarks were handled inside the text itself.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:45 AM on November 5, 2009


I don't think "the government" controls what the BBC produces, delmoi. You want a non-profit entity that sees it's mission as supporting the arts and artists. Artists could apply for membership & support that constituted recording facilities, a baseline salary, and mentoring by other more experienced artists. Applications would be refereed by other artists and appropriate university faculty. I'm sure many famous musicians would much prefer that their label's cut of iTunes sales paid for the baseline salary awarded to other good by less successful musicians, instead of dividends, executives, and lawyers who sue their fans.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:02 AM on November 5, 2009


I don't think "the government" controls what the BBC produces, delmoi.

I realize that, and actually I meant to point out the BBC as an example of what was possible.
posted by delmoi at 1:59 PM on November 5, 2009


To be accurate and honest, the music media distribution model is a very young story. Recorded music has a very short history. The old story is the same as the new story: musicians had to hustle, find sponsors, sell value-added items, and play live to make a buck.

Yes, what I meant is that the story is about music distribution, not the Internet as such, so the story isn't about trying to make music in 2009 as much as it is making music at any time in the last 70 years or so. The modern music business of music distribution in general is very young in a relative sense, however, very true.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:06 PM on November 5, 2009


There are many examples of publicly-funded broadcast media supporting the arts. BBC, CBC, PBS, TVFrance, etcetera.

There is really no excuse for not funding a public music server.

Hell, for that matter it's bloody stupid that there is not a publicly-funded cloud storage network. WTF, Canada? Let's throw a few yottabytes into the public sphere using an open-source platform, and see what happens. Convene a panel of our best CBC personalities, and start promoting the good shit. Help artists connect and help them market their product.

Damn, I need to start figuring out how to write up some funding proposals. This is easy shit these days, and cheap to boot. Let's just do it already!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


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