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Copyfraud Is Stealing the Public Domain

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the uncivil-actions dept.

The Almighty Buck 263

malkavian writes "This community has complained long and loudly about the very one-sided approach to copyright, and the not-so-slow erosion of the public domain. On top of the corporate lobbying to remove increasingly larger parts of the public domain, there is now an growing pattern whereby works are directly taken from the public domain and effectively stolen by a single company leveraging protections provided under copyright law. The Register's article is based on a paper by Jason Mazzone at the Brooklyn Law School, which starkly details the problems that are now becoming evident as entities grab control over public domain works. The paper proposes some possible solutions, such as amending the Copyright Act. From the abstract: 'Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free.'"

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263 comments

Combating Cyberfraud (2, Interesting)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28483863)

What we need is for someone to create a program, open source of course, where people can create text files of public domain works, submit said works and then those who have the program, can download those works they want and forever have access to them.

There are programs available on the religous side [crosswire.org] for those works which are in the public domain (i.e. early church fathers, bibles, dictionaries, lexicons, etc), but I don't see any for the non-secular side.

Perhaps if a few started a website and elicited volunteers to help with the code so that the program - lets call it "Free Works", is available for all OS's. Then students, scholars, professors, and the general public could and would have access without having to pay such outragous fees for something that should be free.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (5, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28483913)

Congratulations; you've discovered Project Gutenberg.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28483933)

Lol status: loled

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484741)

This [stephenbrooks.org] is a better place to waste time.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (5, Informative)

Sum0 (1245284) | more than 5 years ago | (#28483953)

Even better, Project Gutenberg Australia http://gutenberg.net.au/ [gutenberg.net.au] , which has much looser copyrights. I think public domain there starts in 1954.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (4, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484081)

So people should do that with these "stolen" works: scan them in and submit them to Project Gutenberg. I'd be very interested in what the copyright claimer would do about that.

(But my fear is that it's going to be determined by who can afford the most lawyers.)

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (5, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484529)

Project Gutenberg has an *excellent* clearance team to determine the copyright constraints of work. I know because I use to be a PG volunteer until I ran out of free time =(

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (1)

chuck97224 (1123537) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485337)

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

I own the copyright to that statement. You'll be getting a letter from my attorney soon...

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28483957)

What we need is for someone to create a program, open source of course, where people can create text files of public domain works, submit said works and then those who have the program, can download those works they want and forever have access to them.

Too bad no one's ever thought of that [gutenberg.org] .

.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484173)

Then why doesn't the professors, students, etc know about it?

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484581)

n00bs?

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (2, Insightful)

malkavian (9512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484147)

The big problem is that's exactly the repository the CopyFraud groups use to obtain the Public Domain material to slap their Copyright on, and "own" the material through Google etc. until someone puts up a legal suit to remove it as copyright material. There's no incentive NOT to falsely claim copyright of public domain material. That's the issue from the articles.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484609)

I say we use the copyfraud tactics against them -- set up an entity that claims copyright on public domain works, and then attached a creative commons license to it, effectively granting them protection from future copyfrauders.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (1)

toganet (176363) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484679)

I accidentally clicked the anonymous coward link on that. I am actually serious about this idea, though.

Is Slashdot for or against copyright today? (1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484567)

The article summary talks about a one-sided approach to copyright and claims things are being "stolen." But as we've learned from Slashdot's pro-piracy articles, piracy isn't theft, remember? Talk about one-sided.

I will never understand Slashdot's position as a whole. Constant pro-piracy, anti-copyright articles are posted to pat everyone on the back and reassure them that their piracy isn't immoral--it's the big media companies who are immoral. Fine. Then a GPL violation article comes along, and suddenly content owner rights matter, and going after infringers is okay again.

The GPL is a copyright license complete with usage restrictions under threat of law for copyright infringement. It's even stated on the FSF website that the GPL assures copyright over a piece of software so that it isn't freely usable by anyone as public domain code. Why is Slashdot always against content owners' rights and copyright law in a PirateBay article, a position which benefits you by getting you free stuff through Bittorrent, while being in favor of content owners' rights and copyright law in a GPL article, a position which benefits you by getting you free software? Clearly, whichever position is most self-serving is the one that's adopted at the time.

If we're suddenly in support of the public domain today and against copyrighting of non-copyrighted works, why can't I use GPL code any way I want? The viral nature of the GPL adds usage restrictions and asserts copyright over plugins, themes, extensions, derivative works, and more.

We need to pick a position on copyright law and stick with it. If we're against copyrights, then we're also against the GPL and its viral applicability. However, if we're in favor of the GPL, then we must also be in favor of the copyrights governing all the things pirated on P2P networks. You can't pick and choose which situations you want to be a public defender, because that makes you a hypocrite, holding contradictory positions because they all benefit you by getting you free stuff, be it GPL code or DVD rips you didn't pay for.

Re:Is Slashdot for or against copyright today? (1)

geekprime (969454) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484835)

Copyright infringement is not "theft" bacause the copyright holder is not being _deprived_ of real money or real property.

By pretending to hold a copyright and taking _actual_money_ for something that is actually copyright free you are actually depriving someone of real money using fraudulent claims.

What part of that don't you understand? Or are you just trolling?

Re:Is Slashdot for or against copyright today? (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484877)

But public domain works belong to you, me and everyone. Locking them up under copyright is in a way "stealing" from us in the fact that we can't use them how we wish. The point of public domain was to allow everyone to do whatever they wanted to with the work, if they wanted to improve them, fine, if they wanted to sell them, fine, etc. However you can't do that when they effectively are under copyright again.

Re:Is Slashdot for or against copyright today? (4, Insightful)

ChrisLambrou (742881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485013)

You've painted a very black-and-white, either-or scenario. I think that the anti-copyright sentiment often expressed here on Slashdot is generally targeted against the locking up of our culture by large media organisation with deep pockets used to lobby congress and trample upon individuals with punitive lawsuits.

I believe an insistence that copyright be respected for GPL licenced software sits perfectly well with a desire for a more balanced copyright regime - one with much shorter copyright durations, and where people are free to exercise their fair-use rights without being criminalised by the DMCA.

Re:Combating Cyberfraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28485213)

There are programs available on the religous side ... but I don't see any for the non-secular side.

I thought the religious side was the non-secular side..?

I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28483971)

I requested a paper via interlibrary loan, and attached was the standard boilerplate that it is copyrighted work, a licensing fee had been paid for the copy to be used only for the purposes of scholarly research, additional copies were $1.25 each to be paid to XXXXXX, ... blah, blah blah.

The paper was written in 1869.

Idiots. To use copyright maximalist terminology: they're *stealing* from the public domain.

Re:I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (3, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484275)

they're *stealing* from the public domain.

This is not new; it's why I started using the GPL about 15 years ago rather than releasing stuff as public domain, because I read of this very problem somewhere.

Re:I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484565)

And perhaps it's a great reason for people to use Creative Commons for their writings/photos/etc. nowadays (if they so desire to release their work in that manner).

Re:I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (4, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485409)

Yes, stealing is a good term for activities of that sort.

No need to resort to broken arguments, and stoop to the level of the copyright maximalists. Very righteous logic is on our side. Unlike mere copyright infringement, claiming copyright over a work in the public domain is indeed a form of theft. That's not something that the legions of filesharers do. These thieves claim to be the originators of a work (plagiarism), or owners or rights holders (squatting), or, the main point of course, try to insinuate that these works must be paid for (fraud) and shake suckers down for money.

Re:I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484381)

The paper was written in 1869.

And when was the editing and typesetting for the edition you used done? Do you know that there area lot of public domain music works but very few recorded performances that are in the public domain?

Publishers like Kessinger Publishing [kessinger.net] specialized in maintaing and providing a means for acquiring out of print public works. They served a very valuable purpose at one point but the internet, Project Gutenberg, even Google should make them obsolete soon. We're in a transition period.

The issue with the Google books is that they don't have the original 1800s printing of the first volume. That's why they had to rely on Kessinger. Kessinger publishes both volumes of Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan and the second original printing is free on Google books. Google faces the problem of not being able to re-edit or do its own typesetting of the first edition so instead of risking litigation they just put up what they can. They cannot fight these fights for every book. I think the copyfraud label applied to them is misplaced and will soon be a non-issue as others step forward with their personal collections to offer up to the internet.

Re:I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484935)

"And when was the editing and typesetting for the edition you used done?"

1869.

It was a copy of the original. The copyright had expired. There was no ambiguity unless you're suggesting the librarian that slapped the journal volume onto the photocopier was making a new work with it's own copyright.

I also contemplated the possibility that the boilerplate interlibrary loan sheet stapled to the front was the copyrighted part, and that I'd have to pay a fee if I wanted to copy that page, but that seemed silly :-)

In any case, were I to scan in this 1869 work and make it available on the web I hope that I or anyone else wouldn't be able to correctly assert copyright over it. Expiry should be final unless, as you say, you've completely re-typeset the thing.

Re:I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485247)

Editing and typesetting should not make a new copyright. It adds no useful art, unless it make massive changes to the original. If it is just to make the original clear why the heck should they get any copyright on it?

Re:I'm glad someone's pointing out this fraud (4, Informative)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485027)

I requested a paper via interlibrary loan, and attached was the standard boilerplate that it is copyrighted work, a licensing fee had been paid for the copy to be used only for the purposes of scholarly research, additional copies were $1.25 each to be paid to XXXXXX, ... blah, blah blah. The paper was written in 1869.

This is a good example of one type of sneaky wording that is probably technically true, but means something very different from what most people think it means. The claimed copyright is probably valid, but it applies to that printed edition of the work. The words themselves aren't copyrightable, but you can still get a copyright on a specific printed form of the work. But note that the publisher didn't say this; they used the common technique of just saying "copyright" or used the standard circled 'c' copyright symbol, and didn't quite say what was copyrighted. (If you misunderstood what they were claiming copyright to, well, it's not their problem that you are so ignorant of copyright law. ;-)

They probably can legally charge a price for a printed copy of their specific printed edition of the work. But if you were to type the words into your computer and put them online, they'd probably be careful when making a copyright claim, because claiming that they own the words would be fraud. This is how sites like Project Gutenberg work; they ask people to type up the text of works that are out of copyright, and they put the words online formatted differently from any printed version. That way, they aren't violating the copyright on any printed edition.

I've seen a bit of this from working with a group that's putting a lot of music online in a compact computerized data format. There are several formats competing now, with ABC in the lead, and formats like LilyPond, RoseGarden, and Music[X]ML with active development of interesting software. Most of the online music is old, 1800s or earlier, in great part due to copyright considerations. Still, I've read of a number of cases where some publisher sends a nasty C&D letter to someone with such music on their site. The site's owner talks a bit on some forums, then sends a reply of the form "That music was published by So-and-So in London in 1723. My file is not a scan of your publication or any other publication. How are you claiming ownership of the music?" The publisher understands that they've been caught in an attempt at consumer fraud, and so far they have always slunk away and aren't heard from again. Until we read in some forum that another user of the software has received a nasty C&D message.

Actually, sometimes it works differently. My web site has copies of the transcription of the three O'Neill's volumes (that every traditional Irish musician will know). The transcribing was done by a small team of musicians. I did a search for current printed editions, found that Mel Bay makes some very good ones (that open flat on a music stand). So I put links to melbay.com in my pages describing the collection, recommending these editions to anyone who would like a good printed copy. A few months later, I got a nice message from a Mel Bay employee, thanking me for referring people to them. There was no hint that they were unhappy with our online "edition". Someone there understood that my site was good advertising for them. Their editions of such old music also contain copyright notices at the beginning that says fairly clearly that it's their printed edition that is covered. The actual pages of music often don't even contain copyright notices, apparently because they often use copies of the original printing plates, which are out of copyright now (and hidden away in a library somewhere).

So some publishers are trying to do such things right. We should encourage them.

(I also like to use such things in discussions of how threatened publishers are by online editions. Printed editions of music that's available online are often selling pretty well. This is because printed editions are often much more convenient than a computer screen. But this is only true if the music will sit open on a music stand. An edition that has a "book" binding that won't lie flat won't sell well. A good wire-bound edition will sell. This is the main change that online "sheet music" is forcing on publishers, and it's a real benefit for musicians. Similar arguments probably apply to other kinds of documents, which are often most useful in some particular printed form.)

Stealing stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28483985)

that is or is about to be Public Domain, needs to be a death penalty and a total revocation of any money garnered in such a manner. I am talking about the total board and attourneys involved, being killed.

To emphazize the point, their families need to be killed also. Nip this shit in the bud!!! Kill them all, Redjack, redjack !!!!!!!!!
Die, Die, Die !!!!!!!!!

Well... (1)

Tokerat (150341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28483993)

Good Morning to you;
Good Morning to you;
Good Morning, dear children;
Good Morning to all!

Bring it on, Warner...

Re:Well... (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485185)

Good Morning to you; ...

Heh. An argument I've read is that "Happy Birthday" starts with two pickup notes (D in the usual key of G), rather than just one, and this is sufficient to make it a different musical "work".

This is sorta bogus, of course, and as far as I've been able to tell, it hasn't been tested in any courts. It's doubtful that any but musical lawyers would hear the difference. But if someone would like to spend a few million dollars being the test case, we should all encourage them to go right ahead with it.

Supposedly Warner does make several millions dollars a year from royalty rights to Happy Birthday when it's used in commercial settings such as movies or those restaurants that send a flock of employees to your table to sing it to you. OTOH, they have said that they have no intention of suing anyone for singing it in the usual non-commercial way. After all, that's just good advertising for one of their reliable sources of income.

(Have there actually been any court cases that decided anything about this bizarre copyright?)

Ice Ice Baby (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485461)

An argument I've read is that "Happy Birthday" starts with two pickup notes (D in the usual key of G), rather than just one, and this is sufficient to make it a different musical "work".

It didn't work for Vanilla Ice, who had to share his "Ice Ice Baby" royalties with Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.

OTOH, [Warner Music Group] have said that they have no intention of suing anyone for singing it in the usual non-commercial way.

Even on YouTube?

Broken Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28483995)

"Countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free" sounds like it's good for the economy.

However, the Parable of the Broken Window [wikipedia.org] would suggest otherwise.

Re:Broken Windows (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484475)

"Countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free" sounds like it's good for the economy.

However, the Parable of the Broken Window [wikipedia.org] would suggest otherwise.

That's because the parable of the broken window is wrong; that's why it's also referred to as the broken window fallacy.

Economies improve when consumers are free to spend on whatever they want, so producers are forced to compete. If the hands of consumers are tied and spending on particular products is forced, producers do not have to compete because they are guaranteed an income, they become lazy and stagnate. No new value is created.

permission (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484005)

Has the New York University Law Review granted him permission to distribute that paper? : p

Keen (5, Insightful)

firewrought (36952) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484033)

"Copyfraud" - I like it. Coining a new term is an offensive maneuver, and offense seems like a better political strategy than the defensive whining we always do on slashdot. Now we just need to start floating ridiculous proposals to counterbalance the copyright lobby's ridiculousness and re-center the discussion on what a reasonable public policy should be.

Re:Keen (1)

networkconsultant (1224452) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484263)

Develop an omboudsman office; Have said office declare that any previous work within the public domain must remain there; once there. You'd kill Disney since the brothers grimm were published god knows when; but at least a century before Walt stepped into the United States.

Re:Keen (2, Insightful)

Trahloc (842734) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484735)

Naw, it would be reasonable to give them a very limited copyright on reinterpreted public domain work. Say... 7 years. If you can't make money off an idea that isn't yours in 7 years after putting your personal spin on it then too bad. It gives an incentive to create work based on the public domain without raping the public. Copyright isn't wrong, its immortal copyright that is.

Re:Keen (4, Insightful)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485411)

Copyright doesn't protect ideas at all -- you can use ideas extracted from copyrighted works as you like. Copyright merely protects particular expressions of an idea (and even that has some limits). The trick is in identifying what's an idea and what's an expression, since the dividing line is quite fuzzy.

Anyway, though, when you create a derivative work, such as a movie based upon a fairy tale, you can only get a copyright to the copyrightable material you add, not the underlying material. So to take Disney's version of Snow White as an example, the basic story of a wicked stepmother, beautiful princess, magic mirror, etc. are all free for the taking by anyone, even if they are taking these from the Disney version, rather than an older source. But the parts that Disney added, such as the visual appearance of these characters (e.g. Snow White's blue and yellow dress, or the names of the dwarves) are copyrighted.

Since anyone else can make their own version of Snow White and compete with Disney, it's not a big problem. It would be terrible, though, and unconstitutional, to give Disney rights over the underlying Snow White story just because they happened to make a movie based on it.

As for the length of copyright, while I don't mind the idea of varying lengths depending on the type of work (e.g. a book needs a longer term than software, which needs a longer term than a daily newspaper), and I strongly support the idea of short terms with renewals if the author timely requests them, I see little reason to differentiate between original and derivative works. They're both equally desired by the public, and while some might dismiss derivatives as being less artistic, it is not the place of the government to set policy based on what some bureaucrat's taste in art is.

conquer copyfraud with you willy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484055)

imagine you willy being smacked until it bleeds

Copyright is a scam against the people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484109)

Really, do I need to have a body of text here?

The PRINCIPLE of copyright is sound - encourage the development of artistic creations by giving the artist time to make money from the work.

It's eroded by corporations who assign copyright of their artists to themselves.

It's then made a mockery of because the time period of copyright protection is so long it actively harms society and reduces the amount of artistic works made (no financial incentive to make more when they can live off the existing works).

And now the works of art that are in the public domain are being stolen back from the people.

This is it. FUCK COPYRIGHT. Until things are fair and equitable, with checks and balances, fair use, protections for creators and users, screw it.

Re:Copyright is a scam against the people (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484441)

Hey, that's what my sig says!

Hypocrites (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484181)

Yea, I'm sure the "stealing movies is okay" crowd here on slashdot really cares about copyright fraud of any kind.

Re:Hypocrites (2, Informative)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484301)

That assumes that the /. crowd is comprised of one group of people / one mindset, which is patently false.

Re:Hypocrites (1)

Trahloc (842734) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484763)

Careful, you might be infringing on someones patent there.

Re:Hypocrites (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484797)

I see your patent and raise you one case of prior art. :P

Re:Hypocrites (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484349)

the "stealing movies is okay" crowd here on slashdot

Straw man arguments are lies.

Re:Hypocrites (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484921)

I fart on your "straw man" and light it with a match.

Re:Hypocrites (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484971)

"Yea, I'm sure the "stealing movies is okay" crowd here on slashdot really cares about copyright fraud of any kind."

I know I'm just feeding trolls but I'll bite.

Do you think it's acceptable for corporations to "steal" public domain works for profit but it's a crime for teenagers to download and watch the latest Hollywood crapbuster? If you're going to be so pious please direct your attacks where their more deserved and use the correct terminology.

To make it clear. A student downloading a copyright work for their own non-commercial non-profit use is not "stealing", it's copyright infringement. There has been no theft of property. The publisher still retains the copy's of the work and the exclusive monopoly to profit from that work, it cannot be argued that the student would have paid to use the work if they had no other choice.

On the other hand a publisher claiming fraudulent copyright on a work which that student needs to further their academic carrier could be said to be stealing. Their depriving that student of funds which could be used for other things, rent, food, beer, drugs dvd's, music.

So I ask you which is the greater criminal? The student downloading a dvd to kill a couple of hours or the multinational corporation lining their own pockets at the expense of the consumer.

Of course I have a final solution to the copyright problem. Abolish copyright law! Corporations will be freed to try and profit from public domain and gpl'd works and the consumer can rip them off with impunity, which is pretty much as ridiculous and one sided as the current copyright regime. Which of course has been bought by expensive industry lobbyists.

Re:Hypocrites (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485449)

That is so cute coming from an AC. Would you like a vi/emacs debate with that?

It's *Fraud* (4, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484213)

> The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public
> domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly
> refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are
> in fact entitled to use for free.

This is because it isn't under the Act at all, nor should it be. It is ordinary fraud and should be prosecuted as such. The fact that the Act provides no penalties for it does not mean that nothing can be done.

Re:It's *Fraud* (1)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484507)

Wait, you mean all those times I sold the Brooklyn bridge i was committing *FRAUD*??? Uh-oh!

Oh well, I guess I can't sell that anymore, but I can hook you up with a guy who is interested in parting with the golden gate bridge.

Re:It's *Fraud* (1)

Yakasha (42321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485091)

I own the copyright to the "I have a bridge to sell you" joke.

Licensing starts at $1000 per use.

Pay up thief.

Re:It's *Fraud* (3, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485519)

This is because it isn't under the Act at all, nor should it be. It is ordinary fraud and should be prosecuted as such. The fact that the Act provides no penalties for it does not mean that nothing can be done.

The copyright act actually DOES provide penalties for falsely attaching a copyright notice. But they are _criminal_ penalties -- 17 USC 506 (c) provides for a $2500 fine for anyone who does so. But there's no private right of action and good luck actually getting a prosecutor involved.

Capitalism at it's finest (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484217)

Capitalism doesn't recognize anything that cannot be monetized. And capitalism is also averse to anything being public -- the argument being the tragedy of the commons, which is this: For any shared responsibility, the more people sharing that responsibility, the less responsible each person will be, until everyone is effectively irresponsible, thus the public utility becomes useless/abused/less valuable.

Capitalism is a fine concept for tangible items. But it's not very good at all for intangibles. Nonetheless, as we moved from a production-based economy to a service-based one, these intangibles had to be protected by businesses somehow, so as to ensure their continued relevance and profitability. The hasty modifications to trade secret, copyright, and patent law, was a poor attempt to bridge this gap, and there was little or no public input. Simply put, society didn't have the time or attention devoted to addressing the changing landscape, because most of us at that time either weren't educated about it, or struggling to put food on the table and change careers to adapt to the changing economy. We were so focused on the immediate result that we all but ignored future consequences.

Using bait terms won't solve the problem. "Copyfraud" sounds great, but it's meaningless. It's the same with a lot of other terms -- "Net neutrality" comes to mind -- to the uninformed, it sounds good but isn't very descriptive. "Copy fraud" could mean "copying as a means of fraud" -- which is exactly what many businesses are calling the free sharing of digitized information.

We have three options here, which are not mutually exclusive:

1. Vote with your dollars. Don't buy products that have an effective cost of zero to own. Put another way - stop buying anything in a purely digital format. Instead, only buy periphery products -- such as warranties, service level agreements, support, or mp3 players, televisions, etc. This will eventually starve out business models that depend on selling products that should be free, and allow business models that support this paradigm shift to free information to flourish.

2. Stay in the system. Buy out public product and design licensing that ensures they remain public, and then put those rights in a shell corporate. GNU comes to mind, with their GPL licensing, and the many derivatives thereof. By gaming the system in this fashion, GNU is ensuring that copyright enforcement actions will always be in their favor. Over a long enough time frame, they will win the "war", because companies that cannot provide alternatives to public-domain product will go out of business. Ironically, it's one of the best arguments for innovation out there. The only catch is--Placing something in the public domain or having it remain there still has a monentary cost, however low. So far, the community hasn't addressed this systemically.

3. Ignore it completely. Go about your business. Encourage your friends to do the same. Ignore law enforcement demands, company demands, government demands. They're idiots, you're enlightened, Watch it become a "War on Drugs" and our country become irrelevant in the world economics as it tears itself apart trying to enforce a hopelessly doomed social constraint mechanism. If we cannot succeed domestically, we'll wait until we, as a culture, simply die out from international pressure. *shrug* It's not the most patriotic solution, but it's practical.

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (0, Troll)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484325)

And what, exactly, business model supports the creation of digital content for free? Yes, duplication costs nothing. Creation costs a very large amount.

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (1)

Freetardo Jones (1574733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484415)

And what, exactly, business model supports the creation of digital content for free?

The youtube whore digital content creation model?

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (1)

Catiline (186878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484893)

No business modely directly supports the creation of free items, digital or otherwise. But because you cannot directly make money off of an activity does not make it worthless (otherwise buying advertising would be a losing proposition). There are several economic models that support "free" as an indirect means of doing business; here are three examples:
  • one can subsidize the creation of the product (such as many websites do with ad space)
  • "cross subsidize" the free item with sales of another (the King Gillette "sell blades, not razors" model)
  • use the "free" item as a loss leader to sell some other service (as many businesses do with promotional items)

In short: just because you are in the widget making business, doesn't mean you have to directly sell your widgets to the public. Any transaction that involves you getting money in return for giving people widgets (even if someone other than the final recipent pays) can be a profit making business model.

*Sound of point going over your head* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484929)

Maybe no business model does.

There are more things in the world than "business models."

I challenge you to do the following:

(1) Start a web browser
(2) Surf

I think you'll find that an incredibly vast universe of digital content has been created for free, with a very sizeable portion of that content having been created not by any particular business at all, but by individuals.

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485423)

That would be a "Gift Economy".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy [wikipedia.org]

Examples include university professors sharing research information for the benefit of everyone.

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485207)

The problem isn't capitalism, as you say; it's copyright. Copyright is a violation of physical property laws, and has no place in a free market. Some claim that copyright is a natural extension of physical property, but it's not as it lacks scarcity, the fundamental thing that capitalism addresses.

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (5, Informative)

xlotlu (1395639) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485285)

Wonderful comment. You'll get your +5 mod anyway, so I'd rather comment on your last "option":

3. Ignore it completely. Go about your business. Encourage your friends to do the same. Ignore law enforcement demands, company demands, government demands. They're idiots, you're enlightened, Watch it become a "War on Drugs" and our country become irrelevant in the world economics as it tears itself apart trying to enforce a hopelessly doomed social constraint mechanism. If we cannot succeed domestically, we'll wait until we, as a culture, simply die out from international pressure. *shrug* It's not the most patriotic solution, but it's practical.

Unfortunately that's not the way it goes. There's no you, and us, and patriotism anymore. It's them benefiting from endless copyright vs. us humankind that would benefit from knowledge in the public domain. If the status-quo changes they'll lose their 3rd yacht, and their army of lawyers will need professional reorientation. They have everything to lose and they won't give up easily.

The RIAA and MPAA might be U.S.-based, but they're everywhere; they just go by different names. Haven't you noticed Swedish online service providers being held liable for $3.5 million for copyright violations that never happened? Or the 3-strikes law that was passed by the French legislative body, and they were barely saved by their constitutional court? Or the traffic filtering efforts in the U.K.?

Expect the Author's Guild to follow suit once they figure out how to do it internationally. We have yet to find out what ACTA brings upon us.

So it's not just about your culture, but our culture. If you're waiting for international pressure, sorry to disappoint you: they got to us too. And I somehow doubt the blatant copyright violators like China and revolution-torn Iran will fill that role.

Re:Capitalism at it's finest (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485369)

Actually, I suspect that "bait terms" like copyfraud, are more likely to be in the media, and more likely to get people's attention and cooperation, than some suggestion that we all ditch iTunes, etc...
.
But I would also agree with another poster, that digital content does cost money to produce. I had no problem buying a digital copy of Freakonomics a few years back, because Levitt and Dubner should be compensated for their work. If you want to talk about the children of an author who has been dead for twenty years, that is a different story, however.

Money (5, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484239)

Our copyright laws are focused on making money for companies. They should be focused on making works as available as possible while still encouraging the creation of new works.

It's one of the clearest examples of how our government has been sold and does not exist primarily for the people.

There's a name for it (5, Insightful)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484277)

The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free.

This statement is an example of the same sort of "logic" used by the public-domain squatters: It's technically true, but very misleading. It doesn't matter if the Copyright Act doesn't provide penalties; there are plenty of other laws that apply. One thing these companies are guilty of is commonly called "consumer fraud", and large penalties can apply in such cases.

The real problem is the lack of prosecution, mostly because it typically takes a class-action lawsuit to get enough money behind it to challenge a company's legal budget. Local DAs tend to take a "not my job" attitude to such things, so it requires organized community action to fight such fraud.

Maybe what we should be doing is documenting cases of such fraud, and publicizing them when the topic comes up in forums like this one.

Anyone want to post a list of some of their favorite fraudulent claims of ownership of public-domain material?

Copyfraud clearinghouse! (1)

RomulusNR (29439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484965)

I see a Great Need. Like Chilling Effects but for copyfraud.

I've encountered small-time copyfraud in my WP efforts. Such as someone scanning an image from a book that has expired copyright and then claiming copyright over it because of their original work of putting the book on a scanner a pressing Scan (ok, actually their argument was that they applied an auto-leveling filter, therefore they help copyright over their particular composition, but that's no less spurious).

Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484293)

I am confused, I thought you could make copies of public domain work and copyright those copies that you have made. Like copyrighting the sheet music made from classical music and such.

Re:Confused (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484397)

You can create an "edition" of music that's in the public domain (which may be characterized by things such as your own tempo and dynamic markings, or a particular page layout), and you can copyright *that*, but that doesn't give you copyright over the composition of the piece, which remains in the public domain.

Re:Confused (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484589)

The expression of a work is copyrightable, even if the work itself is not copyrighted. If however you merely copy the work entire you have created nothing copyrightable.

Civil remedies (2, Interesting)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484343)

We'd probably get farther if we could sue fraudulent companies, rather than prosecute them as criminal cases. In that way we could have someone like EFF or some watchdog take these guys to court and sue them for damages as well as return of fraudulently obtained earnings due to willful abuse of copyright. That would hit them where their soft spots are and lower the burden of proof from reasonable doubt to preponderance of evidence, a much harder thing for their lawyers to weasel out of.

While it would be nice to throw people in jail for this, and that should remain on the books, the fact is that having the state prosecute for this runs into the same problems every time: the state is less interested in prosecuting people who have good lawyers and lots of special interest cash for something that Middle America doesn't really understand all that well and is divided on the implications of. There's no glory for the prosecutors, and it's expensive for the state when they could be busting somebody that will give them some juicy publicity.

Re:Civil remedies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484635)

Hey, the feds could CONFISCATE all these ill-gotten gains to help overcome their budget deficit! Now if only we could convince them that Disney is selling people copies of their own works that should be in the public domain.... :D

What's with the fairuse tag? (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484411)

The story is about fraudulent copyright claims on public domain material; if it's public domain then fair use doesn't apply.

it is your moral duty (1, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484443)

to ignore copyright law

no, more than that

it is your moral duty to do your utmost to circumvent, outmaneuver, and otherwise destroy copyright law and the tools that enforce it

i am not in any way joking. copyright law has nothing to do with artists rights and rewarding artists for their work. it is all about extracting cash from you for your own culture for the sake of some bottom line on some accounting sheet

copyright must be destroyed, we must outright waged war on it on all fronts

Disney does it with fairy tales (4, Insightful)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484505)

from children's stories and then they make their own copyrighted version of it.

Snow White
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
The Little Mermaid
The Lion King
The Jungle Book

Etc.

The copyright from such fair tales and children's stories have expired and they got released to the public domain. Then Disney takes them and rewrites them slightly to have a Disney twist. Then Disney copyrights them.

Re:Disney does it with fairy tales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484909)

Not the same thing. Disney is copyrighting their interpretation and presentation of the story. Not the original.

Anyone can make their own interpretations and presentations of the original Peter Pan (Finding Neverland, hook, etc), Cinderella (Ella Enchanted, etc), etc without paying Disney a dime or asking their permission.

If in your own re-invisioning you want to copy part of Disneys unique story elements or unique characters (like sleepy, happy, dopey, sneezy, bashful, and doc) that's when you need to call up Disney and be ready to talk dollars and permissions.

The article was really addressing when works like stories, source code, ideas, etc. Are taken verbatim from the public domain and wrongfully copyrighted by a company or embeded verbatim (or with trivial modification) into a larger "product" and the product is copyrighted containing the public domain work.

Re:Disney does it with fairy tales (1)

BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484953)

I disagree. Disney copyrights the drawings, voiceovers, animation, etc. but not the characters and plots. You won't get sued by Disney for distributing, performing, or interpreting your version of Cinderella; you will get sued if you distribute Disney's version.

Re:Disney does it with fairy tales (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485189)

Then Disney takes them and rewrites them slightly to have a Disney twist. Then Disney copyrights them.

Not so. What Disney copyrights is the animated features they create retelling those stories, and they also trademark the appearance of the characters in the features. Anybody can make their own version as long as they don't use the same script, the same images or borrow any incidents Disney created for their version. If your claim were correct, Disney couldn't have made (as an example) Alice In Wonderland, because MGM had done a live-action version that was still in copyright at the time.

Re:Disney does it with fairy tales (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485405)

I was disappointed that I had to get halfway down the comments before anyone pointed out Disney. They're the reason copyright is as evil as it is today.

I see a trend here... (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484573)

The expression of a work is copyrightable, even if the work itself is not copyrighted. You are always free to use the information and in most cases even the exact text of a public domain work. However the cover and illustrations of the book/text/paper and the arrangement of the symphony are the expression that a new author has added to the work and those expressions are what is copyrighted. Stop getting hung up on the copying bullshit. In order for a public domain work to be useful it must be used or expressed in an original fashion or else you have simply repeated the original author without adding anything of value and therefore stood upon the back of giants and trod them under your smelly feet. Information of a general nature such as that found in digests and almanacs are usually copyrighted works consisting of the arrangement and collection of public domain information. It is the arrangement that is copyrighted not the information. So you can have all the public domain information you want and as long as you express it yourself in your own way you do not have to license it. If you merely copy the original text and expression of a work that has fallen into the public domain and add nothing to it, I feel that you have betrayed the nature of public domain and are producing a useless piece of fluff simply because you are not required to pay anyone anything for the privilege.

How 'bout PD_DRM? (1)

OhMickey (1053630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484585)

.. I'm implying OpenSourced DRM attached to PD works. We the public take this to be our license to use the work.. and wold be thieves to stay way from it. If they disable/circumvent the DRM. then they're prosecuted by *IAA like anyone else. Too early?

Why not? (1)

Britz (170620) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484667)

I am planning on releasing a lot of digital images I made to the public domain. For free. And if someone takes those and enhances them in any way or uses them to make their own art (like sampling in the music industry) they are free to make their own choice about which copyright to use.

If this enhancement process only means a bot will download them and rename them to sell them on a different website then I will have to live with that.

If people WANT to pay money for books they could download for free on project Gutenberg then this is their problem. Right now an artist in the music business makes 3-5 % from any purchase. The rest of the money goes into advertising, packaging, logistics and so on.

Where is the big leap from 3-5 to 0-5 %? Copyfraud is essentially the same. If I were to nicely layout a classic from Shakespeare, print it and buy ads for it, I want to sell books, not get some idiot in my back telling my I am committing "copyfraud".

Re:Why not? (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485139)

You may want to check your local laws. Some countries do not allow you to release your copyright, at most you can write a covenant not to sue.

This is exactly what the creative commons license was made for. People can download and use your images for free, but you can (at minimum) require that person trying to sell your images to attribute you. That way anyone who wants to, can then simply Google your name and find the images for free.

Re:Why not? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485165)

I am planning on releasing a lot of digital images I made to the public domain. For free. And if someone takes those and enhances them in any way or uses them to make their own art (like sampling in the music industry) they are free to make their own choice about which copyright to use.

If this enhancement process only means a bot will download them and rename them to sell them on a different website then I will have to live with that.

Will you live with having someone copy your work, claim exclusive proprietary ownership of that work (i.e., copyright), and pursue everyone else who uses your work?

By analogy (not /.-approved car analogy, but still):

You can throw cat food out for all the feral kitties living in your neighborhood, but what can you do if one cat drives all the others away? What if that cat attacks you to take away the cat food you have?

Re:Why not? (1)

Britz (170620) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485271)

Will you live with having someone copy your work, claim exclusive proprietary ownership of that work (i.e., copyright), and pursue everyone else who uses your work?

By analogy (not /.-approved car analogy, but still):

You can throw cat food out for all the feral kitties living in your neighborhood, but what can you do if one cat drives all the others away? What if that cat attacks you to take away the cat food you have?

If they download from my server, then the image is public domain. It is even stated in the image tag. If they donwload from their server and they slapped a copyright on it I can't do anything about it. That is public domain. They have to pay for bandwidth after all. If they try to pusue someone who downloaded from me (using my copyright) then I guess they will have a weak case. But if I download images from the public domain and use them to create my art and I want to be paid for it, it is my choice.

As an aside. (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484681)

...does anyone think it's stupidly bitchy to complain that Creative Commons came up with a 'public domain' tag?

Hey, Charles Eicher, that's because the Creative Common tag is a 'standard' for marking up ownership and licensing of documents. It's not an attempt to fucking claim ownership, it's a way to mark a document as public domain using an existing nomenclature that now has been expanded to include 'public domain'.

I can only imagine what you think about the Dewey decimal system, a system that has claimed ownership of all human knowledge. Or, at least, classified it using their nomenclature, which in your book is the same thing. (Luckily, they also own your book.)

And, um, Creative Commons isn't attempting to 'expand their licensing authority', as they have no licensing authority to start with. They wrote a bunch of template licenses for people to use. And came up with some way of marking content to use their licenses so that stuff can be found automatically. That's it. And now they've included public domain works as one of their 'licensing templates' you can mark things as under, although obviously it's not actually a license in that case.

I do love the way you blame flickr for not having public domain licensing as an option, only CC licensing, but then bitch and whine when CC adds a way to mark things 'public domain' using their tags, which would have actually solved the problem with flickr from the start if 'public domain' had been one of the choices.

Been there, done that (2, Informative)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484717)

I have a number of reprints of old books, like The Western Avernus, memoirs of a construction worker on the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was published in 1887, and the copyright has long since expired. The reprint, from 2005, claims copyright, even though the original author (long since dead) had nothing to do with it, nor, as far as I can tell, did his estate or descendants.

What, exactly, are Cosimo Classics copyrighting?

...laura

Re:Been there, done that (3, Informative)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485383)

I have a number of reprints of old books, ... The reprint, from 2005, claims copyright, even though the original author (long since dead) had nothing to do with it, nor, as far as I can tell, did his estate or descendants.

What, exactly, are Cosimo Classics copyrighting?

Their claiming copyright on their specific printed edition of the work. Even if the text is public domain, that printed version can still be covered by copyright. So if you run it through a copier and sell the copy, you'll be violating their copyright. But if you type the text into your computer and put it online (perhaps at Gutenberg.org), you won't be making a copy of their printed edition, only of the words that it contains, and you'll be legal. It'll help if you make the line breaks different, so it's obviously not a copy. Or even better, use HTML so it'll look nice on everyone's screen.

I see no issue here. (4, Insightful)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484727)

I can bottle rain water and sell it to stupid people. I can take communication bandwidth which costs me nothing extra and charge people every time they send a single text message over it. I can make something people can make themselves and charge 10 times the value of the components. I can send spam to millions of people and let them send me money. If people don't take the time to evaluate their purchases, capitalism dies. We should be encouraging people not to buy junk that falls apart, so the companies go out of business. If they pay for Linux but can get it for free, should Red Hat go out of business?

I know, Red Hat is only putting a copyright on their additions, but how do we make this distinction clear from whatever else this whining is about?

Someone who takes an out of copyright text and prints it has provided a service and deserves to be paid for it. If they make any additions to the text, such as editorializing or checking or whatever, the updates are now copyright of the people who printed it. I can take an original Beethoven score and reproduce it, but if I take an editorialized edition produced 10 years ago, I can't distribute that for free because of the value added by the publisher. In most cases, origianl scores are written in old-style notation and must be updated to make sense to today's musicians, and that conversion is a new, protected work.

So the real complaint is the narrow bunch of stuff which is being reproduced, verbatim, with a copyright attached. And the real concern isn't even that businesses are making money - it's simply that copyright is being asserted. Yes?

My understanding is that even if you take something in the public domain, your arrangement of it can be copyrighted.

For example, a phone book. The data itself cannot be copyrighted. The presentation can. If you stick it in a photocopier and sell the copies, that's a problem. They give the phone book away, so giving away a copy is technically illegal but probably won't be enforced. If you re-type everything and get the company logos from the companies and effectively reproduce it so it looks nearly enough the same, you could get sued for copying the presentation - not the contents.

In this case of Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan, where the book is essentially scans of another book, there are parts of the book which are copyrighted. The cover is, any forward or editorial material is, notes included. Anything that was added is copyrighted, and copyright law has only one way of distinguishing that. You put the copyright notice on it like you do anything else. Would you rather make an author call out which parts of the book are covered and are not? On every page?

Put another way, a derivative work of something in copyright is not allowed. A derivative work of something out of copyright is essentially a new work. You can still go back to the source and copy it for free - that hasn't been changed.

So the complaint is really just about the fact that people *might not* understand how copyright law works, and *might* pay money to a company that makes it easily accessible instead of rummaging around trying to find the original. I see no problem here. People need to know how laws work in order to live other parts of their lives, so let's just consider this a place where people need to understand exactly what copyright means.

Confused about Creative Commons? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28484729)

I'll ignore the overheated rhetoric about "copyfraud". I agree that claiming copyright where you do not have a claim is pernicious behavior. But I think the author goes a little far talking about people *deserving* free access to material. Everything costs something, even public domain material needs to be printed or otherwise transmitted. That costs something no matter how small. Sure, maybe it is subsidized (e.g. public libraries) or maybe your sugar daddy (university) pays for your access, but the cost is still there.

Other than that quibble, the author also seems to be confused about Creative Commons licensing. For instance:

"Creative Commons seeks to become the arbiter of public domain licensing, yet it has no governmental authority and cannot enforce its licenses. Nor is it subject to Congressional oversight like the Copyright Office."

That makes absolutely no sense. Creative Commons provides licenses that authors and creators can apply to their work, but the Creative Commons doesn't *claim* any authorship on the works that use the licenses. That would be like claiming that because you use the GPL or MIT license that the FSF or MIT now somehow has copyright claims to your works. That is simply not the case.

Furthermore, the Creative Commons public domain license is meant to provide a means to put something into the public domain while it would normally still be under copyright. Since everything published now defaults to copyright status, this license is an attempt to place something in the public domain if you don't want to wait multiple lifetimes (or perhaps much, much longer) for it to happen under current law. (Truthfully, there appears to be some debate as to whether it is even possible to place something into the public domain under US copyright law, but that's a whole other discussion.) That license is *not* meant to somehow claim authority and license existing works already in the public domain.

Sweeping (0, Troll)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484731)

This community has complained long and loudly about the very one-sided approach to copyright, and the not-so-slow erosion of the public domain.

I haven't seen a sweeping generalisation that I didn't like. Oh, and don't use "an" before a sounded consonant.

Re:Sweeping (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485279)

I haven't seen a sweeping generalisation that I didn't like.

Except that one.

Simple, market-based solution (5, Interesting)

wtansill (576643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484863)

The RIAA, MPAA, etc. all claim insanely high valuations for copyrighted content; witness the latest verdic against now-convicted "pirate" Jamie Thomas-Rasset who is now on the hook for 1.92 million. Fine. Let them copyright to their heart's content.

But let's also update the tax code to capture the full monetary value of these copyrighted works. Oh, and since "intellectual property" does not deteriorate over time as would a piece of real property, the tax code should explicitly disallow depreciation.

I suggest we start collecting back taxes on all of those old "Steamboat Willie" cartoons that Disney started putting out in the early part of the 20th century, along with old music catalogs and so forth. Let's see how truly valuable these IP assets are, and how many are suddenly not worth keeping copyrighted.

Re:Simple, market-based solution (2, Insightful)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485201)

You don't have to outlaw depreciation. Simply require the copyright owner to register the work and it's value. The trick is, require the owner to sell the work to any party offering the registered value. That way, undervaluing his work to save on taxes risks loosing ownership of the work.

Some Nasty Pop Culture Examples (4, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484889)

Remember how the movie It's a Wonderful Life used to be played in the afternoon on every single station with air time to fill leading up to Christmas? This happened because the movie bombed in the box office, and the studio didn't bother to renew the copyright.

Then Aaron Spelling bought up various IP rights relating to the movie, such as ownership of a song used in one scene. He assumed control over distribution of the movie, based on a complicated legal theory that a lot of IP lawyers consider totally bogus. But this theory has never been challenged in court, and never will be — nobody's going to start an expensive legal battle over their right to show a movie without paying a fee.

Another one that really bothers me: the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom, about NYC elementary school kids learning ballroom dancing. Lots of music, of course, and that ended up costing them lots of money in "clearance fees" for the right to use it. How much? By the time it went to DVD, $140,000, almost half the cost of making the movie.

People who make this kind of movie don't have a lot of cash to throw around, so they did what they could to minimize it. At first, they only paid for the rights for a couple of weeks, so they could show the film on the festival circuit, and get some investors to cover the rest. They also dubbed over any music that they thought wasn't important to the movie, such as a scene where some kids are playing a video game.

One particular outrageous case: there's a scene where a woman is walking down the street, and her cell phone rings for 6 seconds before she answers it. The ring tone is the theme from Rocky, and the director decided she had to have that little bit of music to make the scene work. For that she needed clearance from Sprint (ring tone rights) and EMI (publishing rights). Sprint saw it as product placement and let her have clearance for free. But EMI wanted $10K! She finally bargained them down to $2K. Even so, she winces every time she see that scene, and has to tell herself that that six seconds was worth that much.

She told an interviewer that if had known what a big hassle music clearance was going to be, she probably wouldn't have made the movie.

Now, all you amateur lawyers are screaming FAIR USE! FAIR USE! . And for once you're right. Every lawyer I've heard talk about the subject agrees that music that happens to be overheard while making a documentary is fair use; only music performed for the film requires clearance. This is not just pro-electronic-free types. This includes pro-industry lawyers with a very narrow definition of fair use!

But despite the unanimity of legal opinion, this hasn't really been tested in court. Insurance companies that bond productions prefer to err on the side of caution, and the entertainment conglomerates that control facilities and distribution networks have an interest in keeping things narrow. Everybody agrees that if there's ever a test case, the documentary-use-is-fair-use doctrine will almost certainly prevail.

But will there ever be a test case? Again, money is an issue. When you're struggling to raise a hundred K or two to get your indie documentary made, an expensive court battle is just not an option.

Legal joke: "Sir, I've examined the evidence, and you have an extremely good case. The only question I have for you is this: How much justice can you afford?"

Copyright itself is theft of the public domain (2, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484891)

If I own some raw material and craft an object out of it, I own that object. I own it not because I created the object, but because I owned the raw material it was made from. If someone else takes some of my raw material without my permission and crafts an object, I still own the resulting object, for the same reason: the act of creation using my material doesn't change ownership.

If we accept the premise that intellectual works are property like any other, then we must recognize that virtually all works are made primarily of intellectual property owned by the public ("public domain"), and are thus still owned by the public. To claim ownership, as opposed to mere authorship, is outright fraud.

Re:Copyright itself is theft of the public domain (3, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28485135)

The founding fathers knew this, as many of them were inventors and artists, so when the crafted the Constitution the put in this clause:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

Under the "Powers of Congress" section. The key here is "limited Times"

Lawrence Lessig took a case all the way to the Supreme Court, Eldred v. Ashcroft, but the court decided that 70 + lifetime with infinite extensions was "Limited", even though the founding fathers thought 14 years was limited.

Things move faster now than in colonial times. Copyright and Patents shouldn't be longer, they should be shorter than then.

GPL and other open source licenses (2, Interesting)

javacowboy (222023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484923)

This would appear to be the primary motivation not only for the GPL, but for other open source licenses as well (ex BSD).

Were source code put directly into the public domain, not only companies use the source code without contributing their changes back to the community (which the BSD license does allow), they would be allowed to appropriate the source code and stamp their own copyright on it (copyfraud it, which even BSD-style licenses explicitly forbid). Not only could they sue anybody else that used that source code, but potentially the original author of that code as well.

I guess open source and GPL authors could see copyfraud coming a mile away.

My sig says it all (1)

IronChef (164482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484961)

It's on.

Simple solution... (1, Interesting)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484983)

Simple solution: abolish copyright. [dklevine.com]

Happy Birthday to You!!! (5, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484997)

The tune for the Happy Birthday song was composed in 1893, and the lyrics have been around since 1912. But since the copyright was registered in 1935, we've all been paying royalties, on it, and will forever...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You [wikipedia.org]

This is copyright fraud, but it's so small that noone will take the time and money to the courts to fix it.

therefore the GPL (5, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28484999)

I hear tell that this is why the GPL exists [wikipedia.org] . To stop exactly these kind of shenanigans. A person writes a derivative work, say a text editor, and wants to make it available to everyone, so does not copyright it. Another person makes a derivative work from the non copyrighted work, and then copyrights the result. Now, not even the original author has acess tot he work.

Some of this has been solved through copyright changes. Now everything is automatically copyrighted and if one can prove providence, then one can stop the theft of intellectual property. If one has the money. This still does not necessarily eliminate the threat from derivative works, which explains the GPL viral nature. Not only is this work GPL and in the public domain, but anything derived from it. This is only way to insure that the authors original intent, to have product in the public domain, is heeded. One might complain that the at some point the authors wishes should not be in play, and the work should enter the more general lawless public domain. Such issues though are not unique to the GPL. Such issues are governed by more general rules such as the leagth of copyright(essentially forever) and the applicability of the EULA. If the length of copyright were at most the lifetime of the author, and EULA were not allowed to excessively restrict free use by the user, for instant to disallow first sale doctrine and fair use, then these would not be an issue for the GPL either.

But they are issues, and the GPL does appear to provide a good protection against theft from the public domain, which is why those that make a living stealing [corante.com] from [theregister.co.uk] the public good are so against it. Of course they are. These companies seldom give anything back , at least not without a huge price tag. The one time that Bill Gates accidently gave something away, . Of course now an occasional tuppence are given to select beneficiaries to cloud the guilt, but there you are. he GPL is evil because it prevents thefts and insure the public domain. Which is, apparently, a very bad thing to do.

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