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FTC Wants To Straighten Out IP Law

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the you-and-what-army dept.

Government 97

coondoggie writes with this excerpt from NetworkWorld: "What do you get when you mix the government, the court system, company lawyers and Joe Consumer? A serious mess that would send most people screaming into the night. But the Federal Trade Commission is no such entity. It wants to straighten Intellectual Property (IP) out and today said it will hold a series of hearings — the first in Washington, DC on Dec. 5 — it will use to examine IP law and the myriad issues surrounding it. Interested bigwigs from the tech industry, including Cisco, Yahoo and the Computer & Communications Industry Association are expected to testify along with professors, lawyers and other industry players. The patent system has experienced significant change and more changes are under consideration, the FTC said." The FTC held some different, but related hearings this week which addressed topics such as copyright law and DRM interoperability. Transcripts, podcasts, and summaries of the talks are available on the FTC-hosted "Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-ade" site.

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BOHICA? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25694639)

I sure hope the industry isn't colluding here and the government is looking out for our interests...

vc: buyers

One way to tell... (3, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695527)

Do you see any mention of asking every day citizens whether they want to be able to copy a song from their friend? If not, it'll go industry's way.

Re:One way to tell... (1)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695901)

Set to meet before the current administration leaves? Feels like a grease the wheels situation to me.

Re:One way to tell... (1)

janrinok (846318) | more than 5 years ago | (#25701167)

Why on earth should they ask if people want to copy a file from a friend? Do you believe that you have some inherent right to do such a thing? I'm not getting into the theft/piracy debate but, if you haven't paid for it, then I don't see that you have any 'right' to have a copy of it. Now, if you had paid for it but it wouldn't let you play it on your computer then I would be standing right next to you and supporting you with all my might, but that does not appear to be what you are complaining about.

Yes, you DO have an inherent right to do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25701751)

There is an *artificial* monopoly law that says you shouldn't, but the default right is you CAN do it.

Re:One way to tell... (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25701887)

well go back a bit and the given was that imaginary things were imaginary and so not subject to any of that kind of crap, of course now with more and more people being paid good money to make imaginary things it makes sense to pretend they're like solid objects.
I could equally ask where someone elses inherent right to stop me from saying something to my friend, writing something down and giving it to my friend, playing a song and giving a copy to my friend comes from since IP law makes it illegal to do those things if the thing I'm saying is a copyrighted work, the written item is a copy of a copyrighted book or the song is copyrighted.

Just don't forget that IP law is the less natural of the 2 here. it may be useful to pretend that IP is something solid and real but it isn't an obious truth of the world.

Re:One way to tell... (1)

rohan972 (880586) | more than 5 years ago | (#25702425)

Do you believe that you have some inherent right to do such a thing?

Yes. Copying is inherent to our nature, from our life springing from the copying of DNA, to learning to walk by copying, learning to talk by copying, learning everything by copying really.

Copying is a natural right. Copyright is a social contract. The contract is:
(1) Publics obligation: Temporarily give up the right to copy in order to produce an incentive to create.
(2) Creators obligation: Deliver those created works to the public domain (available to be copied).

The same for patents. See the US Constitution.

Creators of copyright works have broken the contract, therefore the contract is void. That's not intended as a legal argument (I'd hate to try it in court) but it is the current reality.

Straighten out? (4, Funny)

dada21 (163177) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694663)

When did it go gay?

Re:Straighten out? (1, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694671)

Right after they allowed software patents.

Re:Straighten out? (1)

TehZorroness (1104427) | more than 5 years ago | (#25703995)

It was in the closet for much longer then that.

Re:Straighten out? (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 5 years ago | (#25706631)

Actually, I think lengthening the term of copyright by the CTEA in the 90s was when IP law finally up and moved to San Francisco.

It came out when copyright was extended beyond 28 years with a 28-year optional extension. It may have realized its sexual proclivities when the term was lengthened to the 28/28 scheme.

Re:Straighten out? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25694677)

When Mickey Mouse was allowed to decide the duration of copyright.

Minnie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25694747)

Aahhhh! Minnie Mouse is really Mickey in drag?

Re:Minnie (5, Funny)

schon (31600) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694855)

Nonono..

Mickey and Minnie *were* married, but they got divorced a few years back. Disney did an awesome job of keeping it out of the press, but I got the following story from an insider:

While it was happening, Mickey went to his lawyer and explained why things weren't working out between them. He ranted for over an hour, and when he was finished, his lawyer said

"Well Mr. Mouse, while I can sympathize with you, I'm afraid you can't divorce your wife simply because you think she's a bit odd."

Mickey jumped up and shouted "No! I didn't say she was odd - I said she was fucking Goofy!"

Re:Minnie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695453)

Yes. Cartoons in which they both appear together are simply hallucinatory parables about the deep narcissism of the transvestite.

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Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25694685)

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Me being a cynic says... (1)

tangent3 (449222) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694689)

s/Consumers/Corporations/g

Re:Me being a cynic says... (5, Insightful)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694871)

It really depends upon who turns up from the corporations - if the IP lawyers have their say, then expect crazy software and business process patents to be favoured.

If the CFOs and CTOs are involved, then the debate may be more balanced - fighting stupid patent cases as a cost of doing business can't be attractive for the beancounters, and the technical guys are more likely to appreciate how ludicrous the idea of patenting an algorithm is.

This could turn out to be a good thing - the fact that it is being debated at all is encouraging.

Re:Me being a cynic says... (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25699151)

Don't be so sure. Far more people in [usually software] industry hate software patents than you think. It's kind of a collective action problem, in that each company has to grab as many (quantity is really all that matters) patents in the hope it can protect itself against frivolous lawsuits and trade use of its own patents for that of others.

It's often seen as a defensive measure. If you could just eliminate software patents once and for all I agree some industry people would be against it, but it wouldn't be the pile-of-lead consensus among them you have for DRM/etc.

Who wants to bet (4, Insightful)

SirLurksAlot (1169039) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694697)

that consumers and fair use get the short end of the stick at these hearings?

Those are easy odds to figure (4, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694725)

Right from the summary:

Interested bigwigs from the tech industry, including Cisco, Yahoo and the Computer & Communications Industry Association are expected to testify along with professors, lawyers and other industry players

I don't see a mention of consumers, and since consumers don't pay for lawyers (except the few who defend IP suits) or professors (who's salaries are paid for by "research grants" from corporations), it sounds like this can only end in tears.

Re:Those are easy odds to figure (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694889)

From an economic perspective it's most appropriate to view IP as various forms of delegated taxation rights (which, not entirely coincidentally, isn't far from their historic use).

And as such, their tendency to grow to consume ever more of the economic output is hardly surprising; imagine putting the beneficiaries of any other taxation scheme in charge of the rates and revenue, without having to ever justify the cost.

Re:Those are easy odds to figure (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695299)

imagine putting the beneficiaries of any other taxation scheme in charge of the rates and revenue, without having to ever justify the cost.

Don't worry. They're just having committee hearings. These put two of the most useless concepts in human behavior (committee, meeting) together in one room. It's carefully designed so nothing of substance gets done.

That's for the little get together in the bar after the meeting.

Re:Those are easy odds to figure (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25699163)

Where only the corporates are invited. Not to imply that the average professor would necessarily be any better.

Re:Those are easy odds to figure (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25699937)

You left out government, add that in the mix and now we definitely don't have progress, but can expect our taxes to go up.

Re:Those are easy odds to figure (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695973)

Actually, professors salaries are paid by research grants from the government, usually the DoD. And those same professors benefit the most from not having to use their diddly research grants on expensive proprietary technology; they risk those grants when they use cracked software. And seeing as those professors, last I checked, are the ones who are most avidly fighting the war on Imaginary Property, I might wonder why you're busy trying to piss them off. From Lawrence Lessig to Yochai Benkler to Richard Stallman, and many lesser known academics in between, we owe these professors for their work defending consumers in the realm of IP.

Re:Those are easy odds to figure (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25699165)

At my school, a good rule of thumb is that CS profs hate patents as much as a /.er but EE profs love them and most others see them as good but irritating.

But just like with climate change, it's easy for the gvmt to hire "professors" that profess just about anything, for the right price.

Re:Those are easy odds to figure (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 5 years ago | (#25706709)

Law professors typically don't have research grants--legal research is a different entity from regular university research. And their salaries are typically huge (a comfortable six figures is standard) and paid for by universities.

At least, that is true at my tier 1 school.

Re:Who wants to bet (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694827)

I'm waiting for the stick vs pitchfork thing

Re:Who wants to bet (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695211)

That depends on who talks to the people on the board.

If you want it done your way, tell them.

Otherwise, you're allowing others to define your legal system for you.

From bad to worse (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694717)

Is there any way this can turn out well for the consumer?

Re:From bad to worse (2, Insightful)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25699969)

Yes actually. I'm quite surprised so many people have been naysaying this situation. But honestly, when else have we had the decision-makers from the government, big business, and the best IP lawyers in the same location at the same time?

Any other bits of space debris scheduled to land during that time?

Re:From bad to worse (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#25767519)

But honestly, when else have we had the decision-makers from the government, big business, and the best IP lawyers in the same location at the same time?

That's what worries me.

Reminds me of one of the great lies... (4, Insightful)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694767)

One of the three big lies is "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you".

I'd remind you that every time the government gets involved in IP law at every level, it ends up worse for consumers. Every time. So you should be scared when you see this. We'll end up like crazy canadian laws where an entrenched monopoly gets a tax on anything that poses a threat to that monopoly (taxes on ipods, black CD's, and likely ISP taxes).

And that isn't the worst thing that could happen. The monopolies will be pushing for chips inside devices that can "tell" when media isn't authorized. In the name of helping the people of course.

I realize I'm giving worst case scenarios here, but ask yourself this... Is the FTC likely to say "Goodness, none of the current laws are very consumer friendly, therefore, copyright/patent will be reduced in time and scope, there can be no more DRM, and people should be able to use music and video wherever they want, whenever they want". Won't happen, because the FTC doesn't have the authority to make it better. They do have the authority to make things *worse* for consumers though in terms of mandates and taxes.

No thanks.

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25694807)

We'll end up like crazy canadian laws where an entrenched monopoly gets a tax on anything that poses a threat to that monopoly (taxes on ipods, black CD's, and likely ISP taxes).

We have a levy on blank CDs, but nothing on iPods or internet service. I imagine many of us view the levy on CDs as a loophole of sorts that allows us to share as many songs as we want without any legal repercussions.

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (4, Insightful)

Compholio (770966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694959)

We have a levy on blank CDs, but nothing on iPods or internet service. I imagine many of us view the levy on CDs as a loophole of sorts that allows us to share as many songs as we want without any legal repercussions.

What about those that purchase CDs for other legitimate means? I haven't burned music to a CD in years (on the order of a decade). Why should I have to pay a music tax on blank CDs that I'm only ever going to be using to distribute Linux?

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (3, Interesting)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696251)

Why should I have to pay a music tax on blank CDs that I'm only ever going to be using to distribute Linux?

You shouldn't. However a great number of people in countries with a levy system against recordable media, HDD's and such have already decided that if they're being treated as a criminal they may as well be a criminal; and use the system to their advantage. Myself I'm against the mass-criminalization of society by something plenty of people do, nothing is gained except point out how broken or out of touch the law or government is.

20 years ago, no one really cared if you were out passing your mix tapes around. Now hell or high water it's the end of the world if you download an mp3.

A difference of scale (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697123)

20 years ago, no one really cared if you were out passing your mix tapes around. Now hell or high water it's the end of the world if you download an mp3.

There's a difference of scale. Passing mix tapes took more labor per copy and was more limited in geographic scope than passing MP3s over the Internet is.

Re:A difference of scale (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697661)

There's a difference of scale. Passing mix tapes took more labor per copy and was more limited in geographic scope than passing MP3s over the Internet is.

A small one. I remember when I think it was Sony sold a 4 cassette dubber for people who had this hobby, for personal use of course. It was reasonably priced and all that, in the end you're spending 30mins/side maybe 60mins if got some really fancy tapes and weren't using something like chromium.

But I remember even as young as I was 'home recording is killing the music industry'.

Re:A difference of scale (1)

bob.appleyard (1030756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25698611)

The more significant difference is that the distribution of mix tapes is far harder to track than the distribution of MP3s over the Internet.

Re:A difference of scale (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25699985)

This is why it should be legal to rob banks, when significant effort has been applied. But only your local banks, of course.

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (3, Insightful)

Shelled (81123) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694943)

"So you should be scared when you see this. "

Maybe. The FCC spent the last two administrations catering to every whim of broadcast media owners. Clear Channel wouldn't exist in its present form without their helping, deregulating hand. Broadcasters hate the extra fiscal burden of IP, so this may be a case in which consumers benefit as a side effect of catering to large corporation. Irrelevant but lucky.
How a federal body with an original mandate to regulate broadcast spectrum has any authority over IP law is another question.

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (2, Insightful)

Ken_g6 (775014) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695773)

How a federal body with an original mandate to regulate broadcast spectrum has any authority over IP law is another question.

I'm not sure about the FCC either; but the FTC has some authority over interstate commerce.

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (1)

twakar (128390) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696445)

That's because you're thinking of the FCC : Federal Communications Commission, when TFA actually speaks of the FTC: Federal Trade Commission. Acronym hell will do it to you every time

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (1)

uhlume (597871) | more than 5 years ago | (#25701287)

Federal Trade Commission — FTC, not FCC. And this is well within their purview.

Re: unf pac chooie -- the IP robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695153)

We are here to protect you from the terrible secret of intellectual property.

Do you have stairs in your house?
Please go put all your money by the stairs.

Do not trust the price-gouger robot. Litigation will protect you.

Re:Reminds me of one of the great lies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695227)

Uhh -- there is no IP law without the government being involved.

Ladies and gentlemen (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694779)

Let the lobbying begin. Money, spin, and rhetoric ftw.

They're only going to make it worse (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694803)

That's what I'd bet on if I was a betting man. Give geeks and little false hope, then just totally screw them over with even more cumbersome intellectual "property" laws.

how can this be? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25694859)

how is it that the messiah, obama, hasn't fixed this already by the simple virtue of being the first black president? i think surely this mess must no longer exist as we've magically come together in harmony. it's an outrage that the concept of a problem still existing is put forth by these so-called journalists. don't they know that the world is no longer in crisis of any sort and that the streets are now all paved with gold?

no, this will not do, dear friends. any hint that there may still be a problem with a black man being voted into office surely is nothing more than racism. do not listen to these skinheads and nazis. it's racism, pure and simple. and if the math doesn't work out at the end of the day than it is your problem. otherwise you're just another racist too.

fucking racists.

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (3, Funny)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694911)

Obama won't be president until he's sworn in, in January.
THEN everything will magically and instantly be fixed.

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695033)

Awww, still a little bitter? Better luck next time.

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#25705177)

I have no idea what that was supposed to mean. Bitter about what? Better luck with what?

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (4, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695445)

For some meaning of the word "fixed".

I don't hold out much hope for Obama making things better, but he might slow the rate at which they are getting worse.

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (1)

AceofSpades19 (1107875) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696037)

He can't do any worse the Bush has done at least

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (4, Funny)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697355)

Weren't you paying attention? YES. WE. CAN!

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (0, Troll)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25700007)

I'm sorry, but in a concentrated effort for CHANGE! this slogan has been replaced in favor of DOWN. WITH. WHITEY!

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25697101)

I don't hold out much hope for Obama making things better, but he might slow the rate at which they are getting worse.

In some ways, merely slowing down the rate at which things get worse might be the worst of two routes to take. It gives people more time to be accustomed to having Personal Right # taken away to the point when Big Brother comes looking for Personal Right #+1, they won't even take it into consideration that they've just lost 2 freedoms in the last X months/years - only one.

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697279)

Fixed!?! Fires won't burn anything! Nothing will rust! Hooray for Obama, greatest @ ever!

Re:no, no, you don't understand U.S. elections! (1)

syntaxglitch (889367) | more than 5 years ago | (#25698565)

Fixed!?! Fires won't burn anything! Nothing will rust! Hooray for Obama, greatest @ ever!

I'm pretty sure that politicians, as a general rule, are displayed as &, not @.

Blame Obama! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695649)

Well, at least you're not blaming Clinton anymore. That was getting really old. It will be refreshing to hear about how Obama is responsible for every failed policy of the Bush administration. Let the blame games commence!

In lobbyist ruled Washington... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25694881)

Does anyone else think that they're trying to get these hearings through before the next administration to make sure it goes through under this extremely corporate lobbyist-friendly administration?

Re:In lobbyist ruled Washington... (2, Insightful)

DKP (1029142) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695081)

yes

Re:In lobbyist ruled Washington... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695279)

the last i checked the democrats were much more likely to side with the corporations on ip concerns. do a bit of research instead of coming off like a cheap punk.

or do you really think that everything the democrats do is in favor of the small guy? please don't tell me you're that foolish.

Re:In lobbyist ruled Washington... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695729)

or do you really think that everything the democrats do is in favor of the small guy?

Apparently the lobbyists think so. Why else are they trying to get this through so soon? You can whine about Democrats until you're blue in the face, but it's undeniable that the lobbyists are scared stiff. Perhaps they know something about Obama that you don't.

"Defensive IP" is a big part of the problem (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694891)

"Defensive IP" is designed to be used as part of a counter-suit in the event that one big company sues another over IP infringement. This eventually gave birth to "IP Holding" companies whose primary purpose is to sue people over IP infringement and they are ultimately immune to counter-suits because they don't actually use or apply IP... just collect money from claims, settlements and law suits.

The problem with IP is that is has become an industry in and of itself.

And by IP, I mean copyrights and patents.

Re:"Defensive IP" is a big part of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695261)

Trademarks aren't IP. When you're infringing on copyright/patents, you're competing with the legitimate provider, and unfairly competing because you didn't have to pay development costs. When you're infringing trademarks, you're impersonating someone, living off (and harming if you're selling an inferior product) their reputation.

Re:"Defensive IP" is a big part of the problem (0)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697731)

Surely the problem is just patents? If you violate someone's copyright it means you've taken their work and are using it to make money yourself, if you violate their patent it just means you've only taken their idea.

Re:"Defensive IP" is a big part of the problem (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697823)

CLAIMS of Copyright infringement, even when fair use rules are clearly applicable, is a very large problem.

My hopes aren't high (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694945)

But at least they are discussing it. Although in all likeliness this will just result in more gov kowtow'ing to business interests, there at least exists the possibility that some progress may be made. Better to have it happen in the open and in the presence of the opposing side than snuck 150 pages deep in a friendly named/scary inside bill rushed through congress.

Re:My hopes aren't high (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696647)

No, nothing that harms industry is going to come out of this, I only see bad things for consumers.

For example, do you honestly think the government is going to turn around to businesses and say "We're getting rid of software patents, now all those millions you have invested are useless, but thanks for the cash".

Only one way to "straighten out" IP law... (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25694973)

I doubt if the FTC intends to abolish it altogether, and that's the only egalitarian way to "straighten out" this collection of wealth-concentrating tactics. Too bad the general population is too unaware, uneducated, and distracted with their nine-to-fives and other minutia to even know or care how they're being disadvantaged by it. It's mostly the very same minority who stands to gain from it, in one fashion or another, which has any real influence to its existence. That's why IP law exists in the first place; those who are NOT egalitarian sought to cement and further increase their gains, and they succeeded because of general ignorance (again). We've been stuck with it ever since (centuries), in one fashion or another and to varying degrees.

Who's going to be heard? (1)

Gorgonzolanoid (1394311) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695145)

I wonder: did they invite people like Cory Doctorow [locusmag.com] ?
Did they invite people like Eric Flint [teleread.org] ?

Or are they only going to listen to voices from the dark side [mafiaa.org] , the side that believes culture was invented to make big companies rich and where "non-commercial" is a profanity?

Sorting IP law (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695255)

StupidIPLaws > /dev/null

I'm sure that there will be plenty of lobbying to keep the laws that screw the little people, and lock people into paying and paying to keep defunct business models in operation. I don't hold out any hope of any "sorting" happening.

This seems like... (1)

Q-Hack! (37846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695481)

A good story for a M.C. Shampoo comment.

Haven't had my first pot of coffee yet this morning... can't think of anything just yet.

Missing representation of most significant player (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695553)

Yahoo and the Computer & Communications Industry Association are expected to testify along with professors, lawyers and other industry players

That'd be you, me, and anyone else who keeps it going through consumerism (not used in a negative sense). Without us providing the driving need for the innovations that 'require' patents, there would be no need for any IP system at all. (And the "wants to hear your comments via a form" doesn't really qualify to me.)

Copyleft must be made into law (2, Interesting)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695599)

Some people want to keep copyright, and for them the copyright law is good. Some other people want to share, but for them there is no law that supports them. Public domain does not exist in all jurisdictions, and in these countries that it exists it is too vague how one can place something into the public domain, plus in some countries it is impossible to give away some rights such as moral rights or the right to get credit. The laws are made with copyright in mind, without contemplating the possibility of someone wanting to share freely.

In most jurisdictions copyright is assigned to the author by default when a work is created, even before publication. Thus, no one can copy legally without having a licence from the author. But writing and giving licences is not always easy: the author has to think about such things as disclaimers, etc. Today there are standard licences such as GPL that we can use, but it was not always so easy. Plus I see no reason why anyone should be forced to write or attach a licence in their words in order to escape from the evils of copyright. Licences such as GPL are good, but very soon we run into problems like being unable to share with people choosing a licence of the same spirit but with different words, such as CC-By-SA or even GFDL.

Recognising that there are two groups of people, one group wanting copyright and the other group wanting to share, and believing that a government must accomodate both groups, I think governments should maintain two sets of laws: copyright for the control freaks, and copyleft for the sharers.

With a copyleft legal framework, one could write some code or a book and just say Copyleft (CL) 2008. No licence required: the law will take care of that, and if the governments prepare their laws after an international meeting like the Berne Convention the laws will be compatible in all jurisdictions. This helps the sharers without doing any harm to existing or future copyright owners (except if you consider free competition a bad thing). Control freaks will still be able to say Copyright (CR) 2008 for their software or books etc to signal that their creation is to be treated with the copyright rather than the copyleft law.

If governments ever do that, there will probably be some fight between control freaks and sharers regarding what the default law will be. Currently copyright is applied automatically. If a copyleft law is added to the legal framework, will everything be considered copyrighted unless it has a Copyleft (CL) 2008 notice? Or should we consider copyleft the default law and only apply copyright to whatever has a Copyright (CR) 2008 notice? That will be a question in the case a copyleft law is introduced somewhere. Another question will be whether the copyleft law should be real copyleft as in GPL/GFDL or permissive non-copyleft as in ISCL/BSDL/X11L. We could perhaps have three legal frameworks: copyright, copyleft, and permissive.

The current laws make it very easy to keep control over one's creations. You don't have to write a licence to have copyright, but you do have to write (or choose) a licence to enjoy copyleft. And choosing a licence is not an easy task because of licence proliferation: there are many licences to choose from, with subtle but important differences, and for many of them if you make an initial choice it will be difficult to change the licence, especially for massive collaborative works with no copyright assignment.

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (3, Insightful)

chkn0 (773790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25696257)

I don't trust congress to be able to define copyleft correctly. RMS agonizes over whether the FSF has done it correctly, and his heart is in it. Boiling this task down to a yea/nay vote for 535 people who have so many other issues they're supposed to be up-to-date on that many decisions go to whichever party can purchase more of the congressperson's ear time sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#25699561)

A law also nails copy-left into a certain shape. Unless you want to be forced to choose between GPL and BSD style licenses, or risk having GPL redefined to be the same as the LGPL, this seems a bad idea (though less licenses in general might still be nice... I still don't get why more than 3 are needed)

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (1)

Logic and Reason (952833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25700505)

Boiling this task down to a yea/nay vote for 535 people who have so many other issues they're supposed to be up-to-date on that many decisions go to whichever party can purchase more of the congressperson's ear time sounds like a recipe for disaster.

You've just described the problem with representative government in a nutshell.

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 5 years ago | (#25698475)

The laws are made with copyright in mind, without contemplating the possibility of someone wanting to share freely.

Absolutely and utterly false. Anyone wanting to share freely simply chooses not to enforce their copyright. This system already exists. "Copyleft" is nothing more than a copyright license.

Plus I see no reason why anyone should be forced to write or attach a licence in their words in order to escape from the evils of copyright.

No one is forced. You're free to attach no license at all to your works and spread them into the wind.

I think governments should maintain two sets of laws: copyright for the control freaks, and copyleft for the sharers.

They already do. It's called copyright. You are not proposing a change, except for the statutory codification of some form of copyright license, which apart from being totally unnecessary also introduces the problem of which copyleft license to codify. Anything that's not the GPL will get a bunch of zealots whipped up into a furor, while choosing the GPL is not the best option for this group of "people who want to share". The conditionals and modal restrictions of the GPL make for complex legal enforcement and lack consistency in a rights-divesting sense.

Or should we consider copyleft the default law and only apply copyright to whatever has a Copyright (CR) 2008 notice?

No, because copyleft can't exist without copyright. Copyleft simply alters whether particular exclusive rights are reserved by default or licensed by default, and it can't function unless the right to exclude divests from the creator or assignee--if the rights to the work don't start with a copyright holder, no one has the authority to grant those rights. Likewise, if the creator doesn't start with those rights, there's no one with the rights to grant them.

You create a work. By the operation of all legal systems, you have full & complete control over that work--it's not published, and no one has the right to invade your property to acquire it without your permission. That is the fundamental right to privacy. When you choose to step beyond it, and offer a portion to the public, that is publication. You give up a portion of your rights, but again, that portion which you do not cede remains yours--it's not granted, it's reserved by you. That's copyright. "Copyleft" is just a term of convenience--just like IP--referring to a more permissive grant of those rights than is customary.

We could perhaps have three legal frameworks: copyright, copyleft, and permissive.

They already exist and are already recognized in our legal system. What improvement do you see as happening? What is your solution to the basic problem you end with:

there are many licences to choose from, with subtle but important differences, and for many of them if you make an initial choice it will be difficult to change the licence, especially for massive collaborative works with no copyright assignment.

Which license do you choose to be codified? An initial default makes it more difficult to change the license, because you have to specifically repudiate the statutory one. As it exists now, the statutory license can be repudiated for sharing simply with a statement: "I release this work to the public domain." If you don't like either of those options, you write your own license. Copyright allows for anything from zero control to nearly full control, subject to certain specific unwaivable limitations and a number of waivable ones. As for "massive collaborative works", who gets to enforce violations of the law? You need a rightsholder to have standing to sue.

I'm failing to see the basic need for or benefit of your solution, except that it simply replaces the copyright symbol with a copyleft symbol that stands for something. Well, there's already a symbol for that, and you can write whatever you want in your copyright notice. You can say "(c) 2008 John Smith. All rights reserved." or "(c) 2008 John Smith. (CL) John Smith, governed by GPLv2." Problem solved.

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25768551)

Anyone wanting to share freely simply chooses not to enforce their copyright

That's not the correct way to share: the law gives the author the ability to sue people who infringe on their copyright, and infringement is defined as lack of licence. Therefore, if one shares their creations with no licence attached, they can at any time change their mind and sue. Users know this, and are afraid to use copyrightable works that carry no explicit licence.

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 5 years ago | (#25770615)

That's not the correct way to share: the law gives the author the ability to sue people who infringe on their copyright

Choosing not to enforce and lack of license are two separate matters. You can decline copyright by abandonment or by intentional ceding to the public domain. You can also reserve all the rights and just not use them against users, with or without an implicit or explicit license. You can further just lose the right to sue by inaction or by failure to register the works.

None of these is "incorrect" or "correct". They are all valid possibilities that may be implemented by the creator of a work.

and infringement is defined as lack of licence.

Lack of license is not the definition of copyright infringement, and one must be careful to understand what is an is not a license. A license agreement, whether proprietary or open source, is not coterminous with license (permission to use).

Therefore, if one shares their creations with no licence attached, they can at any time change their mind and sue. Users know this, and are afraid to use copyrightable works that carry no explicit licence.

Users do not refrain from using copyrighted works, regardless of the license. This is the problem. They've been spoiled by generosity in many cases and have come to expect what is, in fact, a courtesy. Then they bitch about someone taking away "their" "rights", which sometimes are not rights and not theirs to lose regardless of that. Then they point to abusers and greedy asshats like the RIAA to justify their lack of respect for the work and rights of others.

But directly to the point, sharing one's creation with no license attached is not possible. What may not be clear is the extent of the license granted in the sharing, but the statutory defaults come into play there, so it's quite easy to play it safe.

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25777101)

Users do not refrain from using copyrighted works, regardless of the license.

Depends what you mean when you say user. I make a distinction between user and luser. Maybe you have lusers in mind. I talk about real users. It is illegal to use a copyrighted work without a licence, so users don't do that. To tell you an example, research how confused everyone was with djbdns before it was made public domain. You can learn more about the huge problems users face when confronted with licence-free software by reading this article [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Copyleft must be made into law (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 5 years ago | (#25781041)

Bernstein's work was never a source of legal confusion. The software wasn't license-free at all. It lacked a license agreement, but it did not lack a license. The fundamental error in the argument and in those "confused" is that a license is what constitutes a license. Bernstein's fundamental error is that modification is not a right possessed by copy owners under the statutory license. It is not possible to be in possession of software acquired lawfully and be without license. If the terms of a license agreement create a situation in which that person is outside the terms, then he is not in legal possession. If he has the software and no cause of action exists against him, then he has a license.

You, like the laity generally, conflate license and license agreement. They are not interchangeable, and they are not the same thing. A license is not a document, but simply a grant of rights and a scope in which to exercise them. Anything else, including any conditions for granting the license, restrictions on the use of rights granted (whether attribution, source contribution, SLA restrictions, or cross-grants) is not simply a license, but rather a license agreement.

In no case is there actually a problem. Bernstein declared his intent not to enforce the copyright; his own site to this day outlines what he considers acceptable use of his software. There was no cause of action, and his delivery of software conferred a license to use and to modify, per his conduct.

Copyrights and Patents... (1)

WCLPeter (202497) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695633)

If the FTC really wanted to fix the mess surrounding copyright it'd give copyright the same term length as patents, 20 years.

The explosion of innovation coming from that simple act would likely generate so much economic activity, it could offset the losses from the current credit crisis.

Re:Copyrights and Patents... (1)

Xaria (630117) | more than 5 years ago | (#25698207)

It's patents that are affecting innovation, not copyright! Copyright stops people from copying things exactly. Patents stop people from copying ideas. Software patents in particular last way too long - by the time they are out of patent they are practically useless.

Re:Copyrights and Patents... (1)

WCLPeter (202497) | more than 5 years ago | (#25700507)

Actually you're only part right.

Copyright *does* stop you from making exact copies of an idea. It also stops you from making derivative works or, works inspired by the original concept.

Unlike patents which expire after 20 years, copyright lasts close to 100 years. If the work in question isn't a work for hire and the copyright rests with the original author it becomes the longer life of the author plus 70 years.

With copyright protections being so skewed towards the copyright holder, an idea inspired by something we watched, read, or listened to as children simply cannot legally be created. Granted the work is supposed to enter the public domain, allowing us to draw upon it. Unfortunately the long term lengths of copyright mean that we will both be dead, or close to it, before anything created in our childhood passes into the public domain. Our potential innovation is lost and never be legally shared with the world.

I *do* agree with you in regards to software patents. The life cycle of a particular piece of software is measured in years, not decades, software patents should be 5 - 8 years at the most.

That being said, copyright and patents both deal with the dissemination of ideas and concepts. For most inventions / ideas the idea of a 20 year expiry shouldn't be considered excessive by anyone. Giving both of these concepts a similar 20 year term limit should be sufficiently long enough for the original creator to profit from their work, but still short enough that the original creator is encouraged to continue creating new ideas they can have another 20 years of potential profits with.

It is also possible, even with expiry, to make money with an idea / invention. It just means the creator isn't the only one able to profit from that particular work anymore and they now need to innovate to compete with the enhancements their work has inspired. Competition is often good as it can inspire new ideas, which can be beneficial to everyone.

Lame Duck Shell Game (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695791)

By putting such a hearing at the end of a lame duck presidency, and an extremely corporate friendly one at that, they're guaranteeing jobs for the current set of bureaucrats for at least another six months, even if the new president thinks they're all worthless and should be canned. They're looking for new work to do in the new adminstration, and expanding their existing bureaucracy to 'organize' the existing mess.

If they had a chance of discarding the existing software patent and current ludicrous copyright laws and setting out a sane standard, with clear standards for fair use and clear new patent guidelines that dump the current use of patent libraries to frighten developers away from releasing their smaller ideas, I'd say it would be great. But it's unlikely to occur in Mr. Barack's first term: he's going to have to set new standards in bureaucratic policy, as well. And that would take people at the hearings such as Richard Stallman as the author of the GPL.

Re:Lame Duck Shell Game (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25700049)

I think the only option is another branch of government headed by a CIP and supported by, at the very least, a staff of 12,000. Their roles are not yet defined, but we'll figure out something for them to do after we're done hiring.

I hope you can understand the dire times we live in, and that America needs your support as we make these changes. Thanks for the taxes.

Yea right (1)

Ender77 (551980) | more than 5 years ago | (#25695955)

If they really want to fix the law, the solutions are simple: -Bring back a realistic time expiration limitations(25 years should be plenty, with 35 at max), with software patents getting a very short time span (5-10 years). *this is the BIGGEST problem with patents* -Start increasing the costs of patents for those who get a lot, this would limit companies getting thousands of patents and from patenting everything under the sun. -set a date that the company must have a working prototype of a patented item. If they fail to have a working prototype then the patent gets voided. This will help stop people from creating a patent and waiting for someone else to create the item just to sue them for patent infringement. This would help, but I am fairly certain that nothing good will come out of this meeting, in the end the solution will be horrible and it will only benefit companies and screw the average person even more.

Right Month, Wrong Year (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25695991)

>> The FTC held some different, but related hearings this week which addressed topics such as copyright law and DRM interoperability. Transcripts, podcasts, and summaries of the talks are available on the FTC-hosted "Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-ade" site.

Uh, no, these public hearings are from November 2006.

Pointless (1)

Kasar (838340) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697735)

They can come up with whatever they want, make rules everyone can live with, and be in complete agreement with every fine point. Then Congress will scoop up their lobbyist money and ban it all with another DMCA revision. Don't people know this by now? Protecting Consumers? LOL

well, (1)

Gnaythan1 (214245) | more than 5 years ago | (#25697793)

wouldn't the easy way to fix this be to charge someone a yearly fee to keep a copyright active, with maybe the first 5 years free. and increase the fee by a significant amount each decade? That way greedy bastards get to keep Micky Mouse locked up forever, but might release older stuff that's not showing a profit and is now COSTING them money to hold onto.

Over time everything not making money goes into public domain, keeping both sides relatively happy.

I'd have the Library of Congress be the final decider of what is and is not public domain, and if you forget to pay your tax even once... it's public domain forever after.

Tax IP like RP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25701805)

And make the awards financial burden relative to the taxable income. Then for infringement, you have three options

1) Pay up the fine and stop
2) Stop and recall the infringing product
3) Obey the license terms

Bad articles == bad replies (1)

billsf (34378) | more than 5 years ago | (#25701391)

Personally, I find the articles attached to this about "as clear as mud". That is politics. Maybe there is presently a mandate to protect DRM, but its very divided by nation-state. I bet dollars to donuts (even money) that the mandate will be retracted before it becomes law. Politics as usual. There are so many loopholes in such laws. I may get sued in some nations if I were to port an effective DRM-stripper to Windows. (No I don't make ports for Windows -- That is for beginners.) If put out a Windows port that converted one DRM standard to another, all of Europe would love it. In my neck of the woods, I'm actually encouraged to crack DRM. In a twisted way, its like the legal concept of a locked door means "no entry". You are not supposed to crack WEP or WPA, for instance, even if they are known to be highly flawed.

The whole IP thing is so 20th century Capitalism. I just don't see hard working authors, musicians and inventors losing to "piracy". The suits like patents simply because their livelyhood depends on leaching money from hard working intellectual people. Every job where a patent was involved that I've had has greatly delayed me getting my product out. I lose, the fucking suits leach big-time. Yes, in the end only the lawyers win is a true statement. At least Europe got over software patents and for the most part isn't all that serious about making any exceptions in law because of technology's changes. Copyrights are automatic and that is right for the most part. I do agree that 'copyleft' should be legal world-wide. There is very great benefit in giving IP away: No lawyers, suits and other expensive and trivial people. I've made $Millions by just getting to the market first. By the time you get a patent, the copy-cats got your ass and most of your profit goes to lawyers. I get royalties but they are measly compared to 'bypassing the system'.

In the states greed rules and its a bit different but fundamentally the same. I couldn't make any real money there due to very short-sided thinking. This should be contrasted with the very long-term patents and copyrights. The US has never made any sense to me. Don't get me wrong, there is an element of bullshit everywhere, but the material provided for this really takes the cake. Looks like business as usual, but Obama has just been elected and who knows, he might follow through. Give the guy a break and let's see what he really does. 80% of the entire planet supports him. Its not the US ruling everywhere anymore. The "Bush doctrine" has long been dead, if you must call it that. Corruption has ruled from high places in the US much longer than Bush. Nobody can reset the US government in four years and look what JFK got for trying.

IP laws are simply an extension of US corruption and greed that has taken the world. Maybe 'big pharma' deserves very long-term patents then again its equally possible the FDA has it all wrong. All it took was a single drug scare for a substance that proved to be useful -- after the patent expired. That is what the world puts Bush's name to. It all the 911 game played over and over. IMO, the Germans invented modern psychological warfare, a very dangerous game. In a sense the US is playing 'world cop' with all this crap. The whole world now sees its ran out for the USA. I'm so pissed off about paying a tax on my FreeBSD that I probably pay more in the total effort to legally circumvent the laws concerning CD blanks. Hard-drives are a better deal anyways, but you must have many, set up a RAID (A real RAID, not 'raid 0 or 1'), back-up and don't forget to replace a disk on the __first__ bad block. If hard-drives are ever taxed for material that is not on them when they are sold (save that occasional copy of Windows that is on some OEM drives :) the retailer is the loser as I'll get them wholesale. Presently retail prices are very good but that could change on short notice. CDs and DVDs are strictly back-up material or fodder for the car or a party. I rarely burn audio CDs in the first place! Those things can crowd you out of your place in no time.

England is Europe's biggest victim to this crap and its technically illegal put your CDs and DVDs on your drives, for instance. Almost every reason England is dis-qualified to be part of Europe somehow has to do with the US. France may appear to have stupid laws too, but France is really what the US wants to be -- top dog at the political game. This is it -- if Obama fails (or worse) its __over__ for the US. I've never heard Obama comment about IP laws, but he probably does what the rest of us do: Try it, if you like it buy it or else destroy it. At least as far as copyrights and illegal software patents. (All software patents are illegal!) As for actual products, its alright to say: "Why didn't I think of that", but please think on occasion and consider the benefits of NO PATENT. Copyrights cover everything and are automatic. They also kill patents. Its your call what you do, but realise DRM is a technicality of technology and no-one has a right to use our technology against us. I pay for everything in cash or barter, but any DRM is the best reason NOT to pay I can think of. As implied by a stupid law(tm) DRM can __never__ work. I don't think anybody gets busted for breaking a code, just don't make money with it. Codes are to be broken or else they will not be improved. Its a sport to me and the thrill of victory is always there even when I know its a done deal every time. Anything further is offtopic.

Bill

PS: Offtopic: ARS Technica, you really surprised me by publishing a certain crack a few days ago. It actually took me a night to work out, but my 'DRM detector' went off day one. Its one of those things you can do and then must hack yourself to figure out what comes so naturally. "Consumer crypto" == snake-oil.

Wow, looks like everyone is there, except... (1)

FellowConspirator (882908) | more than 5 years ago | (#25702437)

We the People. Seriously, why should industry leaders be there at all? If it's the FTC, a federal entity, they should be convening a conference of constituents or their elected representatives.

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  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>