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FAA To Free Aircraft Hobbled By IP Laws

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the maintain-it-but-we-won't-tell-you-how dept.

Politics 106

smellsofbikes writes "The FAA is attempting to develop a legal process that will allow them to release data about vintage aircraft designs that have obviously been abandoned. Existing laws restrict the FAA's ability to release this data because it is deemed to be intellectual property even though the owner of record has long since ceased to exist. This is fundamentally the same problem that copyright laws impose on people looking for out-of-print books. But in the case of vintage aircraft, the owners are legally required to maintain them to manufacturer specifications that the owners cannot legally obtain: an expensive and potentially lethal dilemma. If the FAA, notoriously hidebound and conservative, is willing to find a solution to this IP Catch-22, maybe the idea will catch on in other places."

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Sad news....Anna Nicole Smith, dead at 39 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17939426)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Former Rap/Hip Hop superstar Anna Nicole Smith was found dead in her Compton CA home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss her - even if you didn't enjoy her work, there's no denying her contributions to gangsta rap culture. Truly an American icon.

Re:Sad news....Anna Nicole Smith, dead at 39 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17939722)

Offtopic, yes, but she is dead; died today.

Read the article. [foxnews.com]

Re:Sad news....Anna Nicole Smith, dead at 39 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17939754)

Yes, she has gone to silicone heaven.

Re:Sad news....Anna Nicole Smith, dead at 39 (0, Offtopic)

Spokehedz (599285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943434)

With all the calculators?

About time... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939444)

I always wanted to build a War World I biplane. Those vintage stealth designs are hard to come by.

OT... (-1, Offtopic)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939694)

Anna Nicole Smith is dead...

Not on topic, but, I'm sure more than one geek has 'thought' about her from time to time...

:-)

Re:OT... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939884)

Wrong thread, buddy. This is the World War I biplane enthusiasts thread, where we like our whores to be carrying real bazookas and not bags of sand.

Re:About time... (1)

Arcane_Rhino (769339) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939840)

Though I like the look of most warplanes, and have a real fondness for the Grumman Goose, I am not an aircraft enthusiast and so this may be a silly question: exactly how is a WWI biplane a stealth design?

Re:About time... (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939908)

YHBT.

However, wood-and-fabric don't reflect radio waves as well as metal.

Re:About time... (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943196)

how did he get trolled? he replied to the post about WW1 biplanes, not the anna nicole post.

and the semi-stealth properties of wood is why the mosquito is my favorite WW2 plane

Re:About time... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939916)

... how is a WWI biplane a stealth design?

If I told you, I would be obligated to kill you. Wait until the FAA releases the design. :P

Re:About time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17939936)

Many WWI Biplane designs had weight as one of the primary design considerations.
Many of them used wooden frames covered in canvas, as opposed to the metal birds which flew in WWII and later.

Metal is pretty easy to detect on radar. Canvas is not quite as easy to detect on radar.

Re:About time... (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940080)

Metal is pretty easy to detect on radar. Canvas is not quite as easy to detect on radar.
So the propeller is powered by a rubber band?

Re:About time... (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943212)

the engine would produce a much smaller signal on a radar, making it likely that it won't be identified as a plane.

Re:About time... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943740)

Does it matter? Having a radar signature the size of an engine block is still an improvement compared to having one the size of an entire plane!

Besides, modern stealth aircraft aren't entirely invisible to radar, either.

Re:About time... (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945338)

They're not even mostly invisible. The Aussies spent $1.5M on a system that can detect them by their wake.

Re:About time... (1)

IvanTheNotSoBad (977004) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941654)

If I recall correctly, radar didn't come until WWII. So this was not a design issue when the aircraft were built. If we're talking about stealth standards now, then you are correct.

Radar WAS around for WWII (1)

pilot-programmer (822406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941936)

Remember Pearl Harbor? Guys manning a RADAR facility observed the inbound Japanese and called it in. Some pencilneck decided to ignore the report.

In WW2 both sides were using radar to detect inbound bombers. Radar was also used to search for ships and submarines.

The real issue is that aircraft played a relatively insignificant role during World War 1. By the second war aviation technology had advanced to where aircraft could easily destroy enemy surface resources.

Of course, I still want to build my own Jenny. But I will put a modern engine on the front...

Re:Radar WAS around for WWII (1)

IvanTheNotSoBad (977004) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942204)

Isn't that what I said? All I was saying was that WWI biplanes were not designed with radar in mind. Radar was definitely around during WWII.

Re:About time... (1)

salec (791463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17946938)

However, stretches of metal "piano strings", that kept everything in shape and one piece, are nice reflectors, even resonant on right wavelengths

Re:About time... (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940010)

Let me be the first to say:
Whoosh!

Re:About time... (2, Funny)

markbt73 (1032962) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940170)

They're painted blue underneath.

Re:About time... (1)

JoGlo (1000705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943218)

I am not an aircraft enthusiast and so this may be a silly question: exactly how is a WWI biplane a stealth design?

If I remember rightly, there was a NATE exercise back in the 20th century, where one of the objects was to penetrate US air space without being bounced by some supersonic jet-jock. The Poms managed it with a WW1 biplane at the time - even when it was picked up on radar, no-one on the ground could tell what it was, or in which direction it was going.

Re:About time... (1)

trentblase (717954) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943924)

"Bogey's air speed not sufficient for intercept. Suggest we get out and walk."

Re:About time... (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17946964)

Because anyone who sees a WW1 biplane in a combat situation today would assume they must be losing their mind. Therefore, rather than engage in combat, they'll fly home and report sick.

Pacific Fighters (4, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939516)

Sadly, this will be too late for Oleg Maddox's Pacific Fighters simulation. Northrop Grumman have been bastards and refused to let 1C:Games use models of N-G aircraft and ships without paying a license fee--something that started when Lockheed claimed the F-22 as their intellectual property, never mind that it's been bought and paid for by the US government.

Results of this include there being no Yorktown-class model in the sim, nor the TBF Avenger, and I think no more American warplanes beyond the ones initially shipped; contrast this to Soviet, German, Italian, and Japanese a/c being added in patches.

About time, though.

Re:Pacific Fighters (5, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939732)

The US government is a customer of lockheed, and no more owns the rights to F-22 IP than I own the rights to the design of the transmission in my mustang. They may have deals in place to exclusively sell to the US military, but that doesnt make the military own the design.

As for the rest of your complaint, too bad, but it'll improve the game experience in the end. So it's not a TBF-avenger, it's a "TBB-evengor".

The Burnout series doesn't have any real car models, and is still a fun game. Other games with licensed models (NFS) are hampered, because the license owners dont want the game developer to depict a porsche all smashed up with its bumper hanging off.

Licensing is a big deal now that video games are on top of the entertainment industry. But, in the end, do I really care that the virtual car I'm driving around is labelled a "Fernorri Fasterelli"?

Also, I doubt the FAA gives a fuck about video game licensing, and are more worried about getting info into the hands of people needing to maintain aircraft built by now defunct companies.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939944)

I don't think you funded the design of your Mustang to the extent that the US government did the F-22.

Re:Pacific Fighters (5, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939946)

They may have deals in place to exclusively sell to the US military, but that doesnt make the military own the design.

Actually, it's the development contracts that make the designs the property of the United States. Ever since WW I, the US military has had standard clauses in procurement contracts to ensure that they could have the aircraft built by any vendor(s) they chose. In practice, that right has only been exercised in wartime, since the costs of getting a second source spun up are pretty steep.

-jcr

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940520)

The license that is granted to the U.S. doesn't mean it has the power to hand over the IP to anyone it wants for any purpose, and doesn't mean the IP is public domain.

The government can obtain licenses to IP, and can have IP given to it, in which case it has the same rights in it as anyone else would.

IP created by the government, cannot be protected, and that is something all together different.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940808)

I think the point comes down to how you define "created by."

Unfortunately, current copyright law only covers "a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's official duties." This probably made sense, when most of the government's functions were actually accomplished by government employees, but today -- when a large part, if not the majority, of government functions are done by private-sector contractors -- it means that an awful lot of what would traditionally be 'government works' are not going into the public domain.

IMO, it would make more sense to put everything that is funded wholly or in the majority by tax dollars into the public domain, unless specifically exempted for national security or other bona fide public interest reasons.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942416)

IMO, it would make more sense to put everything that is funded wholly or in the majority by tax dollars into the public domain, unless specifically exempted for national security or other bona fide public interest reasons.

What about works funded by the NEA?

NEA is included, absolutely. (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945354)

What about works funded by the NEA?

I would argue that if you take taxpayer dollars for your art project, then (in the same way that the software that I write at work belongs to my company, not to me) it's basically a government work, done on commission. If you don't like that, don't take the cash. Nobody ever said that cash handouts should come without strings attached; actually, as long as the government is giving away my tax dollars, I'd prefer that they attach enough strings to make sure that the public has the greatest possible benefit. And ensuring that everything produced ends up in the public domain would be a good way to ensure that.

I could probably be argued to compromise on something that gave the author a short-term period of exclusivity, say 5 or 10 years, but nothing like the current copyright span. (I could also see giving the same terms to recipients of scientific grants; i.e., you have 5 years to publish your results in any journal you want, but at the end of that span, it needs to be submitted to a central database and all findings become public domain material. The journals would bitch and moan, but they'd have to bend over and deal, or become irrelevant; government funding drives too much science for them to ignore or blackball it.)

A good model for what the NEA could become, would be the photographic projects commissioned by the FSA in the 1930s [wikipedia.org] , which included work by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, or the Department of the Interior's commissioning of Ansel Adams in the 1940s (the Manzanar photos). In both cases, the works [wikipedia.org] produced [wikipedia.org] ended up in the public domain and are now freely available (online [loc.gov] and in hardcopy). Had the tactics common today been used, most of the works would still be under copyright, and few Americans would ever have seen them. (And, it goes almost without saying, many of them would probably be gone forever.) Projects like these should be the rule where government funding of the arts is concerned, rather than the exception.

I would rather see the NEA fund a smaller number of works more completely, and have the output free for anyone to view, copy, reuse, distribute, and modify, than fund a large number of works halfassedly, without regard to what the public can do with the output, as currently seems to be the case. As it stands right now, the NEA is practically regressive; it uses taxpayer dollars to fund projects that only a small percentage of citizens (generally those in higher income brackets anyway) really care about. If the government is funding Art, then the resulting artworks should belong to all the people, to do whatever they want with it. If artists don't want to give the People their art, they don't have to take the People's cash.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Hyperspite (980252) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943190)

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that anything produced/owned by the government (barring state secrets maybe) is public domain material. It wouldn't make sense if the government could charge you for royalties on copies of the constitution :P

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17946478)

The IP in this situation is a work made for hire, and property of the United Sates. The only fighter developed with private funds in the last fifty years was the F-20 Tigershark. All the rest of them belong to the taxpayers.

-jcr

Re:Pacific Fighters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17943744)

(Posting AC for a reason.) I'm actually involved in a case like that. Specifically, I work for a smaller aerospace upstart that "stole" a Blackhawk helicopter modification/construction contract from Sikorsky, the original designer. And while the Army should own Sikorsky's drawings, apparently someone in the Army's contract division approved their work even though they hadn't really provided all the specifications necessary to build the design that's being modded. So we had to go back, and tell them that, and then the Army would demand Sikorsky give up the information and somehow *not* get it, so basically we're at the point of certifying certain designs for structural soundness using ... ahem, "educated guesses" as to certain dimensions on frames.

I personally was part of a team that went to where a finished helicopter was being kept so that we could extract critical dimensions by physically measuring it with traditional measurement equipment. One odd thing we found was that most parts were resistant to ultrasound measurements, even though the part specification did not include anything that would cause that.

So yes, the military is willing to exercise that "shop around" option, but they can still screw it up.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

asuffield (111848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945366)

In practice, that right has only been exercised in wartime


Wartime is the normal state for the US. In its short history, it has been at war with somebody on a pretty regular basis (although as a matter of principle the US always fights undeclared wars). Here's the embarrassing list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Wars [wikipedia.org]

It is an open question as to whether the large military-industrial complex grew up to support the wars, or the wars grew up to support the large military-industrial complex.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941186)

The US government is a customer of lockheed, and no more owns the rights to F-22 IP than I own the rights to the design of the transmission in my mustang.

Just like the American Bantam Car Company owned its Jeep design.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17944144)

See the problem is you see these things as just a game. A lot of flight simmers take their game very seriously and try to make it as real as possible. That's rather hard when your aircraft have dicky arcade names. People spend hundreds of dollars on sim addons, build home cockpits, and go to incredible lengths to make online flying realistic. It's a whole other mindset.

If you'd spent 18 months building a model to release as freeware how would you feel if a large aircraft company that built it many years before said "no that's our copyright". Talk about copyright stifling the creative process.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

twostar (675002) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939986)

Did you even RTFA? It pertains to aircraft owners getting access so they can maintain the airworthiness as required by the FAA. Nothing about getting permission to make games with older aircraft from existing aircraft companies. If NG doesn't want people to use their aircraft without licensing this isn't going to change that.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940044)

What rights? The applicable patents, if any, on an Avenger would've expired ages ago, the shape, appearance, and performance characteristics aren't copyrightable or trademarkable due to the respective utility doctrines of those bodies of law, there's no trade secrets involved, and the name is likely not trademarkable either since they don't make and sell them anymore and even if it was, it's a nominative use.

For new planes, I could see patents and trademarks covering certain aspects of it (though utility is just going to keep on killing copyrights in this sphere as to computer simulation games), but for old ones? I'd love to know just what they're hanging their hat on.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940294)

You have to realise that game companies don't have a lot of money to spend on legal defence, and they're playing it very safe. They very probably could have used the designs and names, and found that the owners had no real interest in defending their rights, since they make a lot more money selling planes than licencing to games companies, but they can't be sure of that.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941046)

They very probably could have used the designs and names, and found that the owners had no real interest in defending their rights, since they make a lot more money selling planes than licencing to games companies, but they can't be sure of that.

No, what I'm saying is that they could be pretty sure, if they talked with their lawyers, that the owners have no rights at all; whether or not they want to defend those rights is irrelevant if they haven't got them to begin with. It's like if I said that I owned everything that Shakespeare wrote. Would you give up just because I made an outrageous claim, or would you at least check into it before simply taking it at face value?

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943806)

No, what I'm saying is that they could be pretty sure, if they talked with their lawyers, that the owners have no rights at all; whether or not they want to defend those rights is irrelevant if they haven't got them to begin with.

And, as a lawyer (but not one dispensing legal advice), are you asserting that Northrop-Grumman couldn't at least make things difficult for the game company right up to the point that its lack of rights were established?

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

dougmc (70836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942608)

You have to realise that game companies don't have a lot of money to spend on legal defence, and they're playing it very safe.
*Some* game companies do. EA probably has *millions* they could spend on legal offense and defense, if they so chose. (Of course, they generally don't so chose, unless they think it'll make/save them even more money.)


But that's moot -- this FAA action/plan has *nothing* to do with using old planes in games. Perhaps you (and some previous posters) were thinking of the Military Toy Replica Act [theorator.com] instead?

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940660)

Haven't game designers been using WWII images and info for decades? Wouldn't that put this info in the public domain at this point since they didn't stop the countless other uses of it?

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

wheelgun (178700) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943690)

Oleg Maddox and his company, 1C, are Russian. They know precious little about U.S. law, and received bad legal advice from UbiSoft. They entered into an agreement with Northrup Grumman that they needn't have signed. No one told them this until it was too late. Fortunately the IL-2 franchise is almost obsolete- 1C is releasing a new flight sim this Christmas. And they won't be bound to refrain from using NG products in it.

Re:Pacific Fighters (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940332)

If they're smart they'll talk Grumman into a very low/nonexistent license fee since a game is also an advertisement for the company's designs. Very much like 90% of the car-games on PS2 are thinly disguised ads. Similarly Lockheed. Whatever fees they could extract from the game are likely insignificant compared to their core businesses regardless.

Also, they may be able to purchase the rights from the US Government, depending on how their agreements with Lockheed, Grumman are worded. I'm sure they'd be interested in whatever potential recruiting tools they can develop.

Re:Pacific Fighters (4, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941776)

If they're smart they'll talk Grumman into a very low/nonexistent license fee since a game is also an advertisement for the company's designs.
It's true! If it weren't for all the General Dynamics ads [retrojunk.com] and product placement in games I played as a kid, I probably never would have bought all those F-16s that I have sitting on blocks out in the front yard.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942170)

If you are an American however, you have bought quite a few F-16s. You also probably have an idea about what a fighter jet is "supposed to" look like. I'm sure the fact that the Lockheed JSF candidate looked like a sleek war bird, stylistically similar to other American fighters and the Boeing submission looked like a fat, ugly duck played into the decision to go with Lockheed for that purchase despite their relative equivalence.
They did differ a bit from a performance standpoint, but they each had strengths and weaknesses, one of which was likely appearance. It was the weighting of these strengths and weaknesses that lead to the decision, but it would be naive to assume emotional appeal was completely irrelevant.

Boeing's wasn't even built (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942408)

Boeing built a "prototype" without a horizontal tail piece. They were going to add one for the final version.

Well gee. That's a whole different plane. You might as well be changing the number of engines, switching from aluminum to composite, or putting canards on the front.

Re:Pacific Fighters (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945622)

Ah but you can impress the other nations of the world, like the romans did... no one was more badass than the romans and everyone was scared of them.

Until the huns didn't care, then they destroyed em...

The U.S. loves using media for marketting of this type and it gets more and more obvious the more you know about military hardware and policies.

Look at it from the inventor's perspective (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941576)

But if Northrop Grumman doesn't get paid for gamers to use their models, then what possible incentive could Northrop Grumman have, so that they would ever bother to apply for government contracts to design and build fighters in exchange for billions and billions of dolla-- oh, wait.

Safety concerns driving this (4, Interesting)

starseeker (141897) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939566)

"Data could be released provided the following circumstances are met: The certificate containing the requested data is inactive for at least three years; the TC owner of record, or the owner of record's heir, cannot not be located; and the designation of such data as public data will enhance aviation safety."

This is a good step, but it seems to pertain to safety concerns much more than "hobbiest" concerns, which was my first thought when I saw "vintage." (It would be really cool to see, say, original blueprints in svg format for the first commercial airplanes, but good luck getting either access to such information or right to do anything with it.)

I doubt the logic used in this process could be generalized to copyright in general (probably the issue of most interest to slashdot), since it's pretty hard to argue that (for example) old software manuals for a long dead image editing system could pertain to public safety. They might be very well written and a good starting point for new efforts, but the benefits of that are much more indirect.

I think the loss of old documents and knowledge is a very unfortunate thing - there is a certain logic to IP holdings of companies that have "lapsed" or vanished becoming defunct in order to allow the knowledge and resources to be used for further progress. Of course, that would require uniquely identifying IP created by that company as opposed to being licensed from somewhere else, virtually impossible without good records. A nasty situation.

Re:Safety concerns driving this (5, Informative)

chopper749 (574759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939768)

This would apply to commercial airplanes IF the manufacturer is no longer around and no one
claims rights to the type certificate, AND you have one of the airplanes and need the data to
maintain it in a safe manner. If you just think it would be cool to see, it wouldn't
'enhance aviation safety' in anyway to release the details.

These documents wouldn't be "lost" with out this change. They are part of the Federal Records.
The type certificates contain all of the drawing and details required to build the aircraft.
If the company built a plane that didn't meet the type cert, it would not be certified as airworthy.
This just allows owners of the planes to keep them legally flyable.

Re:Safety concerns driving this (2, Informative)

beeblebrox (16781) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941758)

If you just think it would be cool to see, it wouldn't 'enhance aviation safety' in anyway to release the details.

Even if the request is from an aeronautics student who, years later, might well be involved in the design of aircraft on which you or your descendants might fly?

Re:Safety concerns driving this (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942412)

[Of course, that would require uniquely identifying IP created by that company as opposed to being licensed from somewhere else, virtually impossible without good records. A nasty situation.]

It wouldn't be nearly the nasty problem if copyright still only lasted for 14 years or whatever the original length was. And if copies had to be deposited in the library of congress. And if the library was tasked with making works available on the net as they passed out of copyright and from then on.

The last two options could be requirements again.

all the best,

drew

My own experience... (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943624)

...in tracking down the plans for the DH98 DeHavilland Mosquito was that it took nearly ten years of querying every known hobbyist and vintage aircraft group known to man, virtually every museum with a DH98, British Aerospace (the last company to own a flying Mosquito and the owner of the DeHavilland intellectual property) and a group that now sells reproduction DeHavilland aircraft.

Ten years. And that's for a plane that effectively stopped existing three or four years before I even started the quest.

(In the end, I did obtain some very basic plans for the airframe and wings, from the Windsor Bomber Group, but only because they wanted me to do some data conversion for them. I still don't have nearly enough information to even build a basic flight sim model.)

For more "in demand" designs - stuff that would have enough value to hobbyists to be able to bleed 'em dry for parts to keep to FAA safety standards - there is not a hope in hell you'll ever see those plans, whatever the FCC may rule. When it's a choice beyween your life and their wallet, it doesn't take a genius to figure out which the corps are going to side with.

I don't know why it's so damned hard... (3, Insightful)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939594)

It seems awfully simple to me, really. If something, whether it be blueprints, books, records or whatnot is not available via the marketplace from any supplier, there seems to be little financial damage done to anyone when someone duplicates 'em.

So all of the fine speak about protecting people's 'Intellectual Property' rights, which really come down to allowing a form of legalized monopoly to allow an originator to profit, becomes entirely moot.

Re:I don't know why it's so damned hard... (4, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939870)

> If something, whether it be blueprints, books, records or whatnot is not available via the
> marketplace from any supplier, there seems to be little financial damage done to anyone
> when someone duplicates 'em.

But that's a bit short sighted. The same argument was (is?) used with regards to things like NES/SNES roms, but now Nintendo is reselling the games (virtual console). Sure the new versions may not be quite the same since they play one the Wii, but either way, there's still a potential for damage. So the trick is that you have to determine that something is not only unavailible, but that it will also never be availible.

And while the method the FAA says they'll be using would work for other things, there is more value for things like planes. The trouble is that even if you have a plane, there is very little knowledge obtainable (without massive effort). With a book, all the stuff of value is right there in black and white. The FAA is essentially doing the equivilant of releasing the author's notes along with the book. While the latter is convienent (to say the least), the former actually adds to public wealth.

Re:I don't know why it's so damned hard... (1)

Vengeance (46019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940074)

Once Nintendo began reselling the games, they were back in the 'profit from a protected resource' category. Then, and ONLY then, in my opinion, did it then again become a rights violation (as oppposed to a violation of the letter of the law) for others to market them. They ought to have made a legal avenue available for obtaining these things, if people wanted to use 'em... and apparently people DID want to.

Sure, it's more important from public safety viewpoint for this to apply to old airplane designs, but the principle of the thing is important, too.

If a rights holder doesn't wish to exploit a market, I say screw 'em. Life is way too short for that kinda nonsense.

Re:I don't know why it's so damned hard... (2, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940118)

The same argument was (is?) used with regards to things like NES/SNES roms, but now Nintendo is reselling the games (virtual console).

Just because you CAN find another way to squeeze a few more dollars out of the current copyright scheme, doesn't mean it's a good thing.

Even though it might cost the copyright holders a little bit of money, I believe the OP has a reasonable scheme...

I'd also be happy with copyright renewal every 5 or 10 years... So anything not worth the registration fee to the owner (who may no longer even exist), becomes public domain automatically.

Of course, just stopping the infinite retroactively applied copyright extensions, and going back to a 20 year maximum, would be even better.

Re:I don't know why it's so damned hard... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943848)

But that's a bit short sighted. The same argument was (is?) used with regards to things like NES/SNES roms, but now Nintendo is reselling the games (virtual console). Sure the new versions may not be quite the same since they play one the Wii, but either way, there's still a potential for damage. So the trick is that you have to determine that something is not only unavailible, but that it will also never be availible.

Why? I, for one, see absolutely nothing wrong with requiring that the things be continuously available in order for copyright to be retained.

Re:I don't know why it's so damned hard... (4, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939964)

It seems awfully simple to me, really. If something, whether it be blueprints, books, records or whatnot is not available via the marketplace from any supplier, there seems to be little financial damage done to anyone when someone duplicates 'em.

Aircraft are a little different, though. You need an exact, verified, updated from the manufacturer copy. You might die otherwise.

In a better world ... (3, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939614)

In a better world than this one, copyright holders would have to pay a fee and register their works. If they can't be bothered, why should we bother pretending that they care?

That would just make a patent system (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939772)

At least with copyrights there is a level playing field. A peasant sitting in a cornfield can write something and have copyright over it.

Patents require a lot of money and thus are exclusive to those that can afford them.

Re:That would just make a patent system (2, Interesting)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940108)

Neither should require a lot of money, but both should require some money. Copyrights and patents are economic incentives; they are only useful to authors who plan to make money from their work, or inventors who plan to make money from their invention. Authors or inventors who are motivated to do the same work without the incentive of copyrights or patents should not get them, as they'd be superfluous and harmful to the public without any public benefit. Requiring some small hurdle to be cleared by the rights claimant is a good way of finding out whether or not they care, and thus whether or not they were incentivized. If someone can't be bothered to fill out the paperwork and pay a token fee then the public can't be bothered with giving them unasked for rights.

Re:That would just make a patent system (1)

bhsx (458600) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940624)

Copyright can NOT involve exchange of money for protection. When you write something, anything really (that's not immune to copyright such as a recipe), it's copyrighted to you. Remove money from the situation at all, would it be OK for someone to break into my computer and start distributing my private records or love notes without my permission?

Re:That would just make a patent system (2, Informative)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941130)

Copyright can NOT involve exchange of money for protection.

Yes it can, and in fact, it traditionally has.

When you write something, anything really (that's not immune to copyright such as a recipe), it's copyrighted to you.

Why should that be true? I think that it would be a bad idea to do that, and again, that's a pretty new idea which has been having a lot of predictably bad results.

would it be OK for someone to break into my computer and start distributing my private records or love notes without my permission?

From a perspective of copyright, as opposed to an invasion of privacy? Yes, it would generally be ok. If you could show that you had only recently written them, and that they were copyrightable -- which would exclude many private records, such as birth certificates you didn't write, or ledgers of accounts, which aren't creative as a rule -- and you could show that you were working on getting them published in the near future under the copyright system, then some degree of protection would be appropriate; we don't want people pirating manuscripts, after all. OTOH, if you were not going to publish, then you should not get a copyright. Copyright is meant to encourage authors to create and publish works, and if you weren't going to do that, then why should the incentive be wasted upon you?

Copyright is not a substitute for privacy laws, and you're making a big mistake if you think otherwise.

Re:That would just make a patent system (1)

bhsx (458600) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942380)

Why should that be true? I think that it would be a bad idea to do that, and again, that's a pretty new idea which has been having a lot of predictably bad results.
Care to explain? Maybe some linkage, or perhaps an anecdotal example would help to clarify what you mean.
I tend to disagree with the rest of your argument as well, but you make some valid points. If I'm not planning on publishing them, I can understand your sentiment that I shouldn't be protected by copyright. Let me posit this though: what if I decide that all of my love notes over the years constitute a publishable, marketable product? Since I didn't write them initially to publish have I lost my right to do so?

Re:That would just make a patent system (4, Informative)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943396)

Care to explain? Maybe some linkage, or perhaps an anecdotal example would help to clarify what you mean.

Until the 1976 Copyright Act, published materials that were not formally registered with the Copyright Office (or other bodies, if you go back far enough), were automatically in the public domain. Many unpublished works were as well. And now, after the 1976 Act, unpublished, unregistered works that were created before 1978 and not published by 2003 also automatically entered the public domain. So it's not as though we have to grant copyrights to everything, or something.

But the crappy laws we have these days, which do indiscriminately grant copyrights pretty clearly are not only not benefiting the public (which wants 1) works to be created and published, and; 2) works to be in the public domain as soon as possible and to be minimally protected by copyright if at all), but they aren't even an incentive to authors to begin with. (e.g. architectural works, overly long terms, giving works the full measure of protection without any indication by the author that it is desired)

We can do pretty much anything we want with copyright. It has to provide a public benefit, as described above. It should provide the greatest possible benefit. It has to have limited terms, it has to only protect original works of authorship, and the rights have to vest in the author. So long as these requirements can be met, copyright can be pretty much anything. The current system is no good, though, so at least we know what it shouldn't be.

Let me posit this though: what if I decide that all of my love notes over the years constitute a publishable, marketable product? Since I didn't write them initially to publish have I lost my right to do so?

I think that we ought to take a page from patent law and the old common law copyright, which is pretty closely related to copyright law, in that they use similar means to achieve similar ends. If you're still in the process of creating a work, then you should have some limited rights to prevent people from pirating the manuscript, as it were, but it shouldn't be enough protection that an author would actively want to be at this level of protection if he could avoid it. Otherwise, if you abandon the work in progress, you get one year, and then you lose your rights in it and your eligibility for a registered copyright if you haven't registered it already. If you publish the work (inclusive of publicly performing or displaying it), then you get one year to register before your unregistered rights expire. The whole point of the system should be to weed out authors who are not motivated by the commercial benefits which are the only thing a copyright is good for. Hobbyists shouldn't get copyrights unless they're transitioning over to being professionals; it's not an incentive for hobbyists, who would have done the same work anyway. (It's analogous to paying someone for painting your house after they painted it for free; the charity on both sides is admirable, but it's no way to run a railroad) Once the work is registered, the full measure of protections open up, copies are deposited with the Library of Congress, and you need only renew the copyright periodically (say, every year or two) so that your continuing interest can be judged; fail to renew, and we can safely say that you don't care about the copyright anymore, so the work enters the public domain before the maximum possible term would run through. (Which also is how we used to do things, though with longer terms)

So in your case, you were not inspired by copyright in writing the notes. And while it'd be nice to get them published, which is desirable, it's also nice to not grant copyrights excessively. Often, fewer works but more freedom is more valuable than more works and less freedom. Given that you probably will not have competition for your love letters -- there's so many authors that it's a publisher's market -- you may as well publish it as a public domain work. If there is any money to be made from it at all, you will likely be the one to make it. You won't have the guarantee of all the money (if any) flowing to you alone, that copyright provides, but the realities of the market will accomplish much the same thing. Certainly there are plenty of public domain works that get published (pretty much anything from before the 20th century, and much from that century), so it's not as though there's no money at all in it. Aside from lack of interested competition, you'd also be first to market, which is another big advantage, since copyrights are usually only briefly valuable, if ever. For the small fraction of books that will ever turn a profit (most do not), the vast majority of them make 90% of all the money they'll ever make within a matter of months, a year tops. Hardly any have lasting value. CDs and movies have even shorter horizons, with the latter being measured in weeks. TV shows, newspapers, and other periodicals have the shortest horizons, with their money-making potential usually measured in days or hours.

Re:That would just make a patent system (1)

bhsx (458600) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945134)

Thank you for answering my questions. I have to agree to disagree with you on your answers though. You base your premise on the thought that my private love letters aren't really worth anything (basically because I use love letters as a bad example of what I meant; but I'll work with that). What if they are worth a fortune? What if my love letters were a rosetta's stone of how to get laid, by anyone, anytime?
I'm not saying they are, in fact, I don't think I've ever written a love letter on anything but paper, and certainly not since 10th grade or so(I'm 34). Contrary to the jokes here on /. my high school affairs were legendary :P

Re:That would just make a patent system (2, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17944794)

"Insightful"?? Sheesh! A modest fee of like $5 or $10 per year to retain copyright is something a peasant can afford .... or not, in which case he doesn't need us to pretend we care. If the copyright holder doesn't care even that much, then society shouldn't care either.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

blibbler (15793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939988)

What makes you think that the aircraft manufacturers would not have paid to register copyrights over their works when they produced them?

Requiring people to pay for copyright would not affect large companies like those in the music, movie, publishing or the aviation industry. It would affect individuals, and small groups from being able to protect their rights. For example, while newspapers, and other news organisations would register their copyrights, bloggers are less likely to do so... which means the New York Times would be able to publish a blog without permission or attribution. If a small band put an MP3 of a song of theirs on a CD, there would be nothing stopping a large music distributer from putting it on a CD, again without attribution or permission.
Additionally, Free and open source software licenses function through the copyright system. If copyrights had to be registered, individuals who write an application or a library, and want to release it under the GPL would have to pay to register it (otherwise it would be released as public domain.)

Re:In a better world ... (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940146)

I think that the point is that if the manufacturers had to periodically re-register their data and pay a fee to do so, the data would tend to become publicly available when the manufacturers no longer had an interest in it. As it is, it stays secret indefinitely.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

blibbler (15793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940370)

Well, copyrights do expire. Most places in the world adhere to the life + 70 years. Personally, I think 70 years is excessive, with life + 30, or life + 50 years being more reasonable.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940488)

Yes, but copyrights take too long to expire, at least in these aircraft cases. The virtue of requiring period re-registration with a fee is that you can allow a relatively long copyright period if the owner finds the copyright valuable enough to keep it up, but that once the owner decides it isn't worth it, it lapses. This would eliminate the gap that results in orphan works, where a publisher loses interest in the work but the copyright runs on and on for decades afterward. If you've got a plane whose manufacturer has gone out of business or dropped support for that line, you want the maintenance information now, not ten or twenty years from now.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941836)

If you've got a plane whose manufacturer has gone out of business or dropped support for that line, you want the maintenance information now, not ten or twenty years from now.

The plane company might want you to buy a new plane. They are certainly entitled to 'sit on' the information about their older models and let them rust, if it helps them sell new planes. Nobody is entitled to 'support information' just because.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 7 years ago | (#17943996)

I don't agree. It should be up to the consumer to decide whether or not to buy a new plane. He shouldn't have to buy one just because the manufacturer wants to make more money. Nobody is asking the company to provide support indefinitely - we're just talking about the detailed specs.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940740)

I'd go with life+25 or 50 years, whichever is shorter. With lifespans and the amount of material being produced increasing the logjams caused by drawn out IP timespans gets worse.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945528)

Not in the USA. Anything that was covered by copyright after about 1920 is still covered by copyright.

Re:In a better world ... (2, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17944762)

What makes you think that the aircraft manufacturers would not have paid to register copyrights over their works when they produced them?


And then when they stopped paying their yearly fee .... the design and repair documents would go into the public domain.

Re:In a better world ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17940172)

In a better world than this one, copyright holders would have to pay a fee and register their works. If they can't be bothered, why should we bother pretending that they care?
I should have to pay a fee and register every submission I make to a free software project just to make sure some commercial vendor can't resell it for profit? A "better world" indeed.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942656)

I don't understand what this comment has to do with this article? I don't know the exactl details, but it seems to me that aircraft manufactuers already register their aircraft information with the FAA. That is how the FAA has all of this aircraft data, that the want to release. But if the manufacturer goes belly up, the owners of the planes may no longer be able to access the information that they need to fix their plane. But the FAA does have this information. Unfortunately they can't release this information (because the deals FAA made with the manufacturer to get this data in the first place) We aren't pretending that "they" (the manufacturer) cares, but the FAA does care.

Re:In a better world ... (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 7 years ago | (#17947614)

In a better world than this one, copyright holders would have to pay a fee and register their works.

But that would mean we currently ARE in a better world than this one, which is a paradox. DOES NOT COMPUTE

While copyright is implicitly granted to the creator of a work immediately upon its creation, anyone who is going to have a need to actually enforce their copyright is going to register their creation with the Copyright Office.

The problem, obviously, is that the term of copyright automatically extends for far too long. And all because Disney has somehow convinced our representatives that society would crumble if "Steamboat Willie" fell into the public domain and anybody could throw it on a DVD and sell it for a dollar.

...and also... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17939660)

the FAA, notoriously hidebound and conservative

The FAA, possibly even more notorious for their dislike of aircraft crashing, even old ones?

A Summary of the FAA's View (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17939728)

"The plane is not safe to fly until the weight of the paperwork exceeds that of the aircraft." They are merely helping themselves;-)

Re:A Summary of the FAA's View (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17946988)

Might take a while with the Airbus A380, then.

GEp?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17940662)

Bringing Back Old Aircraft (2, Insightful)

CompMD (522020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17940790)

This would be a good way to bring old aircraft back to life. There are lots of people who have old aircraft that have a lot of trouble keeping them functioning. Now, homebuilders could conceivably make true-to-spec replicas of early aircraft. I'm sure the Save A Connie people over in Kansas City are going to be happy about this as well.

Re:Bringing Back Old Aircraft (5, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941190)

Homebuilders can already make damned close copies (and safe ones at that) of just about any design out there. Indeed there are a bazillion copies of things like the Piper Cub out there flying - the look and flying pretty similar, and they are built using the same types of techniques, but underneath they aren't identical to an original cub (indeed most of the newer "copies" of aircraft like the cub are vastly superior to the original). The thing is that any homebuilt aircraft has to go under the Experimental-Homebuilt certification. While this entails a lot of freedom for the operator (there's not much you can't do in a homebuilt aircraft), it does have some limitations. Namely, the airplane cannot be used for hire (so they can't be rented out for instruction for example), and the builder is legally the manufacturer, so he comes under a lot of liability concerns if he ever sells the plane.

For old planes, unless you get a field approval (unlikely) or the mod falls under an STC (Special Type Certificate), repairs and rebuilds of components must be EXACTLY the same as the original if you are to keep the plane Certified as a regular aircraft. So it's not just an issue of rebuilding the plane to a safe working condition to keep it functioning - that's easy; it's a matter of rebuilding it back to exactly the way it was before. That's not so easy to guess at.

Of course, the Piper Cub is not a great example as total blueprints are apparently available for this one. Indeed, salvaged data-plates from wrecked Cubs go for $10k or so by themselves - as long as you have that you can literally build the plane from scratch according the original plans, stick the data plate on it, and it is legally the same plane as the one that was wrecked. Even though it was constructed form scratch, that whole process was considered a "repair" operation. The FAA is a strange critter :).

Re:Bringing Back Old Aircraft (1)

Create an Account (841457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945548)

I dream of a Grumman Goose with modern materials...

good-serves 'em right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17940924)

The more of the monied bourgeoise who get bit in the ass hard from bogus IP nonsense the better. Needs to happen, in a variety of ways. Then maybe they will pay more attention to the practices of the corporations in their "investment portfolios" and the political parties and candidates they support. I want Vista to bite them in the ass, I want their iPods, or their whinny fat kids iPods not working to annoy them, I want their big screen TVs that won't play new media to make them pissed off, and etc. The "status quo" with richer farts in the top few percent of the economic food chain has gotten us to where we are now with the patent and copyright system broken well beyond any reasonableness.

    And until guys with cash (if you restore old airplanes for a fuck around hobby you aren't hurting at all, so don't even say you come close, you are in the top on the planet earth right now and in the top 5% in the US most likely, well above median payscale at mid 40s range) start to get pissed off about events this crap will just keep getting worse and worse, and THEY have to realize THEY have been part of the problem by "investing" in the problems and "buying into" the problems and enjoying just a lot of profit from the problems that have been affecting everyone. If it takes their hobby being "harder" to get them to wakeup-so be it.

Abandoned should == Public Domain (3, Insightful)

PRMan (959735) | more than 7 years ago | (#17941672)

This should be the case in every digital IP field:

music, video games, television, movies, etc., etc., etc.

If it's not worth enough to an organization to continue making an item available for sale, then how can the item have enough value to protect?

And if the item becomes popular again in the future, it is almost always a derivative work anyway.

Re:Abandoned should == Public Domain (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17942510)

This should be the case in every digital IP field:



music, video games, television, movies, etc., etc., etc.



If it's not worth enough to an organization to continue making an item available for sale, then how can the item have enough value to protect?

While I agree with you, I think the value the big boys see is in the old stuff not competing with the new.

all the best,

drew

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=zotzbr o&search=Search [youtube.com]

Copyright Kills (1)

LuYu (519260) | more than 7 years ago | (#17944214)

But in the case of vintage aircraft, the owners are legally required to maintain them to manufacturer specifications that the owners cannot legally obtain: an expensive and potentially lethal dilemma.

I guess copyright is more dangerous than we thought . . .

Abandoned IP rights (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945218)

Any IP rights that has been abandoned (owner has died, company has gone out of business) should after a reasonable time (no more than five years) be considered to go over into the public domain unless somebody can by documentation claim that they have the IP rights.

Of course - there has to be a publication that lists works that are ripe for losing the IP ownership so that anybody that may have claims can oppose the release. The opposing part has to provide reasonable documentation regarding the claim within a reasonable timeframe (not more than six months) or the opposition has to be dropped.

What about cars? (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945660)

Seems to me General motors doesn't care about any Minivan designs that won't earn a 5 Star crash test rating, so can they please just give out the designs so the third world can start producing them?

Everything points to North America (And much of the developed world) switching to hydrogen or bio-fuels in the next few years.

They could give out the plans for their car from 5 years ago and it wouldn't be competition by the time other companies got their manufacturing working.

Dream come true? (1)

cakefool (801210) | more than 7 years ago | (#17945998)

All I want to know is - will they release the plans for the fairey rotodyne?

I gotta get me one of those...

How dare they not buy new planes! (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 7 years ago | (#17946024)

But in the case of vintage aircraft, the owners are legally required to maintain them to manufacturer specifications that the owners cannot legally obtain: an expensive and potentially lethal dilemma.


This is simply criminal! The FAA must be stopped from doing this. If they carry on down this road, then the ultimate end will be the destruction of the use-once-only airplane we all know and love and it's replacement with some shoddy horrible clap-trap assembly of a resusable airplane. Not only would you not get that "fresh paint" smell when you board your pristine plane at the terminal, but your little bits of pornography stashed down the side of the seat could be found by the next person to use the plane.
I say that we should defend to the death the right to fly on a brand new plane every time that we fly, and to know that the plane will be destroyed, smashed and rendered into small particles of road-covering by third-world pollution eaters at the end of our journey.
I think this is some sort of Marxist-Leninist plot to outsource the jobs of our poor underpaid aircraft builders and potentially to replace them with massively overpaid (and probably filthy, and foreign !!!) cleaning staff. Who would probably be unionised too.
The whole idea of a "reusable" aircraft is horrible. It's the transportation equivalent of renting a condom at the cash desk of a busy brothel.
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