Discussion: On Copyright

738 Responses

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  • Matthew Poole,

    Islander, just got home, haven't read your post, will reply in the morning.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    Jesus, you really have this mantra that you aren't going to let go of, don't you? Treasury bonds aren't property in that sense either, being purely societal promises to pay, and solely potential money, just like copyright is a societal promise to pay on use of an idea.

    Just like you have the mantra that copyright infringement is theft. And don't call me Jesus - you don't know me that well.

    So? There's no evidence that most shoplifters would have paid the money had they not been able to shoplift.

    Not the same thing. The goods shoplifted have an intrinsic value and a physical presence. Dollars have gone into making the item. And the dollar value is what they get charged with in court.

    You appear to be arguing against dodgy claims by the RIAA that the music industry is losing Very Large amounts of money in sales, which are pretty dodgy.

    That sentence is dodgy and it's entirely too easy to misunderstand. Let's try to parse it correctly.

    The RIAA claims that the music industry is losing Very Large amounts of money in sales
    Yes, they do claim this.

    These claims are dodgy
    Indeed, I would agree that they are dodgy.

    Apparently, I'm arguing against these claims
    I don't know where you got that from - I've not once mentioned the RIAA or their claims.

    However, while I do argue about the sums the RIAA claim they are losing, I don't argue that the music industry is not making the sort of money it used to. That has more to do with the crap they've been putting out for the last 15 years or so than filesharing. In fact, the last big spike in music sales was during the time Napster was operational.

    A little history. During the 50's, New Zealand made a fortune from wool, due to a number of factors such as the Korean and Vietnam Wars. There were up to 70 million woolly bastards wandering the hills waiting to be shorn. Then the war stopped, the bottom dropped out of the wool market, farmers had to sell their Lamborghinis and we got Muldoon for a Finance and later Prime Minister. NZ kept on spending as if the money was still coming in. This led to wage freezes, price freezes, strikes, all manner of economic nasties and ultimately Muldoon got voted out in 1984 and Labour had to make the largest adjustments ever seen in the NZ economy. You might think they went to far (I do) but that's another thread. Now there are only around 40 million sheep on our farms.

    The entertainment industry is in that denial period that NZ wallowed in for a decade or more. Their market has changed and they are too short-sighted to see what the best way forward is. What did we get from the major labels through the 90's? Formulaic girl- and boy-bands like the Spice Girls, Westlife New Kids on the Block, the Knack - manufactured bands with manufactured sounds with manufactured hype propping the edifice up. There were no new Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elton John - authentic bands with authentic sounds that had made significant money for the labels. But the industry couldn't see this. They were mesmerized by Beatlemania, Abba-mania and Elvis-devotion, but they saw the as

    The industry hyped what they had as the new _ but it never was; just cotton candy as compared to toffee apples. What the industry forgot was that confectionery has a short shelf-life, and you get sick of sugar as your only diet. They were creating fads and fads come and go like the seasons. Once the fads wore off, they had nothing in behind them. That's why their revenues are down, not because of file sharing.

    What's not dodgy about those claims is the fact that there's a Very Large number of people exploiting the labour of musicians without paying them for it. Seems a lot like theft to me, even if it isn't exactly the same.

    You're right, the musicians are being exploited, not by the filesharers, but by the labels. Iniquitous contracts where bands go into irredeemable debt in order to put out their first album, then have to give up their copyrights to get out of the debt. The industry has been squeezing their resources for every last drop, but now the artists are getting smarter, getting better lawyers and managers (not the ones the labels "suggest") or avoiding the labels altogether and going direct to the fans.

    The Internet enables artists to go direct without the need for any of the production facilities the labels can offer, and thus without the crippling debts. The net-artist can produce huge volumes of perfect copies without large investment. The labels can't understand this - they literally haven't been able to get their heads around it. (Signs that this is changing - EMI DRM-free on iTunes et al)

    That's why the industry is losing money - the market changed and didn't see it happening. It no longer wants what they had to offer.

    This is less about copyright and more about crap business models.

    And, in fact, if you steal a CD from a store what you are denying them is the potential income represented by that CD;

    No, you are stealing a physical thing they have paid for. It's not losing the potential profit that kills retailers (or they would never reduce prices in sales), it's the fact that they have to buy in their stock. But filesharing (your previous arguing position) is not the same thing as shoplifting ([sings] mantra, mantra, hare mantra...)

    the CD itself is largely worthless to the store except as something to be sold

    Keir, do you make sense to yourself? That's what stores do - they sell stuff. They don't have esoteric discussions about copyright and artists going hungry. They just move stock. It's called retail.

    (and i suspect the real value of the CD lays in the licensing, not the physical media anyway, but others could be more precise on that.)

    The value of a CD (or anything, in fact) is what someone will pay for it. People aren't buying CDs like they used to because they don't want them. They're buying through iTunes and the many other music sites. They're paying the artists directly through PayPal and tip jars. They're downloading music from their cell providers.

    There's still a music industry - it's just not your father's music industry.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    They were mesmerized by Beatlemania, Abba-mania and Elvis-devotion, but they saw the as

    Sorry wife arrived home as I was revising that sentence and i forgot to finish it ;-)

    They were mesmerized by Beatlemania, Abba-mania and Elvis-devotion, but they saw the hype as a reason for sales, not a result. The difference between causality and correlation has escaped brighter minds than theirs.

    >quote>The industry hyped what they had as the new _ but it never was;</quote>

    The industry hyped what they had as the new [insert_famous_band_name] but it never was;

    We now return you to your regular bunfight.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    @Islander

    For information on ACTA, have a look at http://acta.tracs.co.nz/ (I can haz new URL!)

    For the text of the Copyright Act and amendments (and all current legislation), please go to http://legislation.govt.nz/

    You'll have to use Search to find the New Technologies Amendment, as it hasn't been added to the index yet, but it is on the site.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Matthew:

    I'm really enjoying the theoretical back and forth, but you're really saying there was no "benefit to society" in J.M. Barrie assigning the Peter Pan copyright to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in 1927, which was confirmed in his will a decade later?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11867 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    ``Copyright infringement is theft'' is not the same as ``copyright infringement is similar to theft''.

    I have scrupulously avoided the first statement, because it is false. The second, however, is mainly true, and therefore I have said it.

    Also, I'm quite happy to agree that the RIAA are thugs & lawyers, &c. &c.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1321 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    And, finally for this evening, those who might think I argue against copyright altogether would be wrong. Copyright is a good thing as it enables content creators to get some recompense for their work.

    Abuse of copyright is what I argue against, and we may differ as to the definition of abuse.

    I'm a content creator, as a writer, producer, director, performer, photographer, composer (if Garageband tunes can be said to be compositions ;-) and occasional web developer. I've even been paid in all those capacities. I regard the copyrights I hold as important not because of revenue but because of control.

    Some of my work is marked as Creative Commons, and some (especially photographs of people, are copyright. CC requires copyright, for those who aren't familiar with the concept. See Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand's website for details.

    I don't download music, not even legally - I prefer to buy the CD or the vinyl (and yes, I am that old that I had vinyl before it was retro). I rip it to my hard drive, but I don't share it - among other things, I couldn't afford the bandwidth! (I have a lot of CDs)

    When we talk about DRM and its failure you only have to look at WalMart's withdrawal of its service to see how screwed up that system is, or EA Games' Spore mis-adventure (did you know about the root-kit?)

    I don't talk about this stuff in the abstract. It's very concrete to me. But the world has changed and I'm changing with it, rather than be left behind like much of the content industry.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Just to pop in and correct my first principles...

    On examining my opinions I find that I do believe copyright is less artifical than I said. Artists are entitled to recompense and control of how their work is used.

    While I don't think this is supportable from a natural rights point of view (I've seen more than one libertarian assume otherwise, and the makes me sad), I've remembered I don't believe in them anyway.

    And I'm aware this attitude is probably a product of the times and the kind of practical compromises copyright works on, but there you go.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Just seeing the letter DRM up there - there's no reason for copyright law to have anything to do with DRM.

    Quite apart from all the evils and problems currently, the DRM's hardly going to vanish when the copyright expires. If it doesn't, will it still be illegal to circumvent it?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    Just seeing the letter DRM up there - there's no reason for copyright law to have anything to do with DRM.

    When talking about copyright in a digital world, you can't ignore the role (largely negative) that DRM has played (and is playing) in shaping the debate.

    DRM is more restrictive than copyright (cf. WalMart's withdrawal from the game, leaving their customers with no way to use the product legitimately purchased) and, as you note, won't vanish when (if) the copyright expires. But because it's being used as a technological enforcement for copyright, it has to be discussed in any debate about copyright.

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Matthew Poole et al- tell me why anyone should have the right to use my words in other media for their own benefit without paying me for the use of those words? During the copyright period? (Or my estate once I'm dead?) And, my words sometimes make memorable characters which are my property too...

    When did I ever say that they should have that right? Again, and again, and again, I've said that I'm not against copyright in its entirety. This is at least the sixth time I've said so!
    What I'm against is the current durations, which ignore the social compact that gives rise to copyright in the first place. Copyright is a "You scratch my back, I scratch yours" arrangement. It's not necessary to have copyright in order to create. Look at ancient cave paintings, or Maori carvings. Created in the absence of copyright, so clearly copyright is not a prerequisite to creation. That's why I say that copyright isn't a natural right. It might be a matter of natural justice that you get compensated for your work, but it's not copyright that makes you create. This post is copyrighted, and will remain so for, currently, 50 years after my death, but I'd write it even if someone could use it tomorrow.

    If copyright terms were reasonable, I'd have no objection to them being willable. But I don't consider them even vaguely reasonable. If copyright were my earlier-suggested 33 years, and you died tomorrow, I'd have absolutely no problem with your estate getting such royalties as may come due from work you did yesterday, for the next 33 years. But after those 33 years are up, your work becomes available to all and sundry. That's what you give to society in return for the state granting you a monopoly, including supplying systems for enforcement of said monopoly, on control and use of your works.

    Regarding unique characters, the way to keep them under copyright is to reuse them. If they only appear in a single work, then they're probably not going to be highly-recognisable and highly-sought-after. But if they appear in a series, the above value attaches to them, under the caveat that they won't come into the public domain until copyright expires in the last work in which they appeared.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Craig, I wasn't even aware of that situation. Of course there's a benefit, but it's also a rather unusual circumstance. Plus, if Peter Pan wasn't wildly successful, it wouldn't be much of a benefit to society that Great Ormond was entitled to royalties in the sum of fuck-all-of-nothing.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Can you copyright characters?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Lyndon, you get copyright in their descriptions. For "real" characters (think the Hardy Boys, or the members of Tom Clancy's Ryan-verse) the bar is very high because the descriptions are of a non-imaginary base character. For imaginary characters, like the Lord of the Rings characters, their separation from reality lowers the bar.

    In reality, you're never quite sure where the line lies until you've been sued and a judge has ruled. Look at the lawsuit over whether or not Rowling ripped off the idea for Harry Potter.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3898 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Ta.

    Not that it illustrates anything (much), but I'm reminded Don Quixote. The history of the book, rather than the idea that the RIAA is tilting at windmills.

    Cervantes wrote a second part to Don Quixote, at least partly as a rejoinder to a conterfeit part two that had circulated. Cervantes is almost postmodern in the way he deal with this - the characters hear about these stories about them that have been circulating and are all like, WTF? That never happened to us! Then they bump into one of the characters from it and he's all apologetic and insists the guys he was in adventures with said they where Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

    In the end Cervantes has the Don die explicitly so nobody can write another sequel.


    Aside from that Matthew, I do think you're overly dismissive of the public benefit that accrues during the copyright period.


    Mark:

    Copyright's Paradox by Neil Weinstock Netanel, perchance?

    That's the bunny.


    Islander:

    why anyone should have the right to use my words in other media for their own benefit without paying me for the use of those words?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    ... islander (cont'd)

    The debate here could (partly) be described as between your question and "Why should anyone have to pay you?"

    When you get down to it the answers to both questions rapidly approach "because".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Vigorous debate (just scanning it there seems to be some actual give and take in places, starting with basics) at BoingBoing:
    Lessig: YouTube takedown shows why fair use isn't enough

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1095 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Lessig's example makes it absolutely clear how important the issue of control over one's work can become. It's not all about money.
    Using someone else's music to sell a political view-point (in this case anti-Obama) could be a violation of everything the musician believes. Let's say David Byrne feels sick at the thought of "burning down the house" being used with selected text that suggests Obama is somehow- in defiance of common-sense and reality- resposible for the current housing crisis. I strongly feel Byrne has every right to say- "over my dead lawyer's body you will use my music in this way!"
    We are all dealing with a new paradigm- the digital realm makes copying stuff easy-peasy. We're all a little non-plussed about how to move forward. Any work that is made public, in a practical sense, now does "belong to the public" (for free). Yet to me (many? most?) this seems an injustice- a far greater injustice than any restriction on new artists "re-using" mixing, mashing, other peoples' existing work (I totally agree with islander- write/paint/shoot/whatever your own. What's your problem with that?)
    Trouble is, it's pretty rare for a "principle of justice" to overcome a pervasive technology. Noone knows where it's gonna end. It's already having a big financial impact on mass-marketed commodified entertainment/art. The impact on creativity itself is something we are still to find out.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1469 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    What Rob said.

    (The idea of everybody having a lawyer's dead body lying around is kind of intriguing too.)

    I've had someone break into my house, go through my wardrobe, steal my clothes and jewellery. And I've had someone steal my writing, and by 'steal' I mean publish it verbatim over their own byline. The latter bugged me WAY more than the former. It upsets me emotionally because they're not just stealing something I own, they're stealing my skill and my reputation and using it to enhance their own.

    In both cases, I had the law on my side - because yes actually, the state protects your physical property rights as well, rights which are unenforceable without state intervention. The difference was the practicality of enforcing the law. Like other writers I know who've had their content scraped and presented as someone else's work, you complain, and then you give up, because unless you have a Rowling-sized legal budget, you're screwed.

    In other news, Language Log discusses philosophical isses around the Stephen Harper plagiarism case.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4340 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Mark H - thanks v. much for those site addresses.

    Lyndon Hood - in response to your question 'Why should anyone have to pay (me)?" Intellectual property rights.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Islander, I think you have just proved Lyndon's point - those would be "IP rights" that only exist because of copyright law. Getting a bit circular.

    We need better ways to reflect the value to society of creative work, as I said at the beginning of this thread. I really need to read more to understand the complexities, but I get that much.

    And there are plenty of jobs that involve pouring your heart and sweat into creating material which you subsequently have no control over the use of - so I can see why some people are asking what's so special about artists and authors.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16492 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    OK, I'll give up, just go away and die - because very obviously what I do is not esteemed (sure as shit even now isnt paid for!) and isnt important in any way,

    *use* ANY of my characters and I'lll try to financially kill you -Mark, we are not talking series, we are talking charcaters that are known, unique, pertinent--

    Sacha-the only ways we have now for protection of creative work involve copyright. I am so tired & disgusted by the whole set up-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Sacha- I really can't see where you're coming from.
    Many artists and writers work in jobs where they are paid to create- and yep, generally the rights to what they create belong to those who paid them. There are many variations, and it may not always be a happy compromise- but it should be a transparent transaction.
    If you are thinking of people who put their hearts and sweat into jobs they are NOT being paid for- then they are being abused, or they are volunteers, a quite different transaction (unless you think artists should all be volunteers?).
    If Mr Artist buys a pile of wood and builds a table, it's his. If he buys a pen and some paper, and sketches a remarkable figure- or slits his wrists and pours out a novel- somehow you think what is created belongs to everyone and anyone.
    That's what I don't understand.
    It may be you feel works of art are sort've lying around, waiting to be discovered. In that case, everyone who copies one is simply too lazy to look for their own!
    Books used to have a little legal tango on the first pages, about the "moral rights of the author" being asserted. If you seriously don't believe this is justified, I think you need to explain why.
    I say this as someone who couldn't write a decent story to save himself, who passionately values literature, and who knows how mind-blisteringly miniscule the financial rewards are to most NZ writers.
    It seems (and I know you probably don't think this exactly) you are saying: even this pittance- and believe me, very few people would work for so little- even this pittance you get for revealing your soul to the world, for anyone with a mouth or pen to criticise- even this, you do not truely deserve, and more- you do not truely own.
    That's harsh. Anyone who thinks the creative life is a long hot bath in a pool of cash is always welcome to dive in.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1469 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    OK, I'll give up, just go away and die - because very obviously what I do is not esteemed (sure as shit even now isnt paid for!) and isnt important in any way,

    Way to personalise it, dude. I'm in the same boat, as a creator, but the way I see it, I can sit and whinge about a world that's unfair or I can get into it and see where the opportunities are. I choose the latter. And the only person that has to esteem it to give it value is you, mmkay?

    *use* ANY of my characters and I'lll try to financially kill you -Mark, we are not talking series, we are talking charcaters that are known, unique, pertinent--

    Sorry? Did I say I was going to use your characters or your work? Has anybody here said that? What part of "hypothetical discussion" did you not get?

    If someone does do that, you have the law on your side to prosecute them. The sad fact is that won't stop them doing it, if they deem it worthwhile financially. And it doesn't matter whether it's a series (dunno where that came from) or a character, it's still covered

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Harris,

    @Lyndon [again]

    Just seeing the letter DRM up there - there's no reason for copyright law to have anything to do with DRM.

    Except, as I just remembered, that it already does. Section 226 of the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008

    Waikanae • Since Jul 2008 • 1343 posts Report Reply

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