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Congress Must Make Clear Copyright Laws

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the definite-change-of-pace dept.

Google 179

WSJdpatton writes "WSJ's Walt Mossberg takes a look at what's wrong with the DMCA and DRM given the recent lawsuit brought against Google's YouTube by media giant Viacom — 'Under fair use, as most nonlawyers have understood it, you could quote this sentence in another publication without permission, though you'd need the permission of the newspaper to reprint the entire column or a large part of it. A two-minute portion of a 30-minute TV show seems like the same thing to me. But why should I have to guess about that? What consumers need is real clarity on the whole issue of what is or isn't permissible use of the digital content they have legally obtained. And that can come only from Congress. Congress is the real villain here, for having failed to pass a modern copyright law that protects average consumers, not just big content companies.'"

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179 comments

A non-lawyer indeed (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448147)

As a nonlawyer, I think these clips seem like "fair use," an old copyright concept that seems to have weakened under the advent of the new laws. Under fair use, as most nonlawyers have understood it, you could quote this sentence in another publication without permission, though you'd need the permission of the newspaper to reprint the entire column or a large part of it. A two-minute portion of a 30-minute TV show seems like the same thing to me.

I'm afraid that our friend over at WSJ misunderstands the law a bit. The length or exact portion of the copyrighted material does not matter. In fact, the key issues that a judge looks at is if the use is necessary to the contested work, and if the contested work shows enough original thought to be considered a separate entity. Direct copying of even a small snippet is very much illegal if there is no larger work around it.

For example, if I had only quoted that paragraph above and smacked the "submit" button, I'd be guilty of copyright infringement. I'd also be looked upon as a tool by the Slashdot community as a whole. But by including this commentary about the quoted work, I'm creating a greater work that requires the fair use of someone else's work. And Slashdotters get to decide whether I'm a tool or not based on the opinions I state in the larger work rather than some silly action.

It's the same for videos. Taking a 2 minute clip and copying it verbatim is pretty much copyright infringement. Using that same clip for purposes of video or text commentary, on the other hand, would be perfectly acceptable "fair use". Similarly, creating a fan trailer, a movie review video, or generally commenting on the state of whatever would also allow you to make fair use of the video clip.

However, one does need to keep in mind that a judge will consider whether the entire clip is necessary or not. If you put up the entire interview of Bill Gates on the Daily Show just to comment on how funny the cat's name portion was, you're still guilty of copyright infringement. A judge would be likely to find that you were using simplistic commentary to try and cover over your infringement, and that showing only the part dealing with the cat incident would have been sufficient to make your point.

Now, with that out of the way, I'd like to point out that the DMCA is actually a positive in this situation. (I know, I know. How could I defend Slashdot's favorite whipping boy?) The Safe Harbor and common-carrier provisions of the law ensure that sites like Youtube can exist. Without those provisions, Viacom would have a much stronger case against Youtube.

Standard Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, only an individual with an interest in the law.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448253)

Yep, you're still a tool!! Mostly because you got first post.

IANALI - I am not a lawyer indeed (5, Funny)

MrSquishy (916581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448289)

<larger_work>Direct copying of even a small snippet is very much illegal if there is no larger work around it.</larger_work>

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (4, Funny)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448347)

I'm a tool

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448569)

I'm a tool
You fool! you should have posted anonymously. Now the GP poster is going to know who you are and sue you for copyright infringement!

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448653)

Copyright infringement? Pfff! That guy (OP) has patented being a tool.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449185)

Actually, he'd sue for defamation of character as the words were taken out of context.

Then again, I read that as the poster quoting only that and nothing else because he wanted to seen as a tool. (Per the original poster.)

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448765)

> I'm a tool

Shame on you. If you're going to quote the guy, at least include proper attribution like this.

"I'm a tool"
-- AKAImBatman (238306) ;-)

What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works"? (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448353)

What if I build a 15-minute commentary around a 30-second TV ad and it's clear there's nothing that can be cut?

Am I guilty of infringement?

If so, you've just found an "out" for anyone who wants to copy anything - just surround it with enough original, informative commentary that using the entire original is necessary.

If not, then you've used copyright laws effectively stifled my freedom to comment on your work in any meaningful. So much for the 1st amendment.

Suppose using the entire 30 second commercial IS a violation. Then I can work around it by writing multiple commentaries, each using 10-15 seconds but collectively covering the entire commercial.

Now the question is, just how much commentary do I need to add to "fair use" copy Bill Gates's interview with Jon Stewart? I hope nobody minds listening to 5 hours of commentary :)

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448491)

What if I build a 15-minute commentary around a 30-second TV ad and it's clear there's nothing that can be cut?

Apply common sense. Is it necessary for you to show the entire ad? If it is, then you're probably in the clear. Obviously it's a case by case situation, but genericly, you'd be in the clear.

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (3, Insightful)

bigtangringo (800328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448587)

Common sense in regard to law? That's unpossible!

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (1)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449707)

Ok, so what about mashups and musicians like MF Doom who sample music?

You might have an answer for that too, but it really doesn't matter. The problem is that there are a lot of situations that don't have a clear answer. Use common sense? That works great if everyone has the same "common sense", but since people have differing opinions on things, using common sense is not the answer. If it was that easy, no one would be listing counter examples to your explanation. The point is that common sense doesn't help most people when it comes to copyright questions, so Congress needs to clarify the issue (I'm not sure if Congress is really the one who needs to step in or not, but that was the point of the article and summary as I understood it). The responses to your original post, the post I replied to, and your original post in that it pointed out how the author of the article didn't understand the law, all help to support his point that there needs to be clarification.

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449821)

Mash-ups are probably copyright violations, although depending on the content they may be classified as parody or satire. If you release a CD of mash-ups for the sole purpose of making $$$ then that is copyright infringement. Also, with regards to sampling, there really isn't much in the way of clear laws, but MF Doom is probably ok while say Puff Diddly is not (unless he licenses the samples). Typically sampling is not covered under fair use since you are creating a work based on the copyrighted work which is (typically) not parody, satire or a commentary upon the original work.

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (3, Insightful)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448571)

If so, you've just found an "out" for anyone who wants to copy anything - just surround it with enough original, informative commentary that using the entire original is necessary.
Good job, Watson! You've just rediscovered the entire idea behind why we have a "fair use" doctrine in the first place! What you describe is precisely what fair use was intended to cover.

Now, perhaps your fundamental goal is the copying, and not the commentary. However, you still do have to produce the commentary, or you don't get to copy. So, in the end, it works out the same as if your fundamental goal were the commentary.

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (1)

arminw (717974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448635)

.....Now the question is, just how much commentary do I need to add to "fair use" copy Bill Gates's interview with Jon Stewart?......

The copyright violation should only be predicated on the premise that it is NOT a violation at all if the one that does the copying cannot ever benefit financially in any way. That is what real 'pirates' do. They use other people's IP to make money for themselves. A consumer copying a CD or file to their ipod or emailing a song to their friends should always be allowed. What difference does it make whether I listen to a new song on the radio and then go buy the record or whether I get a copy of the song in an email or download and then buy the recording? Either way I was exposed through advertising and decided to buy. Why should radio, even recording the song therefrom be legal and downloading it from the Internet be unlawful? All avenues of content distribution should be treated like. The content companies should let anyone advertise their wares and be even happy to get all that free advertising. Apparently they don't get this idea yet.

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (1)

morleron (574428) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449577)

You make some good points. However, you miss a third possibilty in your "listen to copy then..." scenario and it's the one that the RIAA and MPAA are hanging their hats on: the possibilty that you will listen to a copy and never buy a "real" copy of the material from them. This loses them money and the fact that unauthorized copies of something exist is why they lost the money, hence, in the world according to the alphabet lobbies no copies should be allowed, at all. That's why the RIAA is suing everyone, including people who've never used computers or have no Internet access, for copyright infringement if they suspect that the person may, at some time or place, have been in the presence of a copy of some music. It's why the so-called "content providers" are working so hard to make sure that Digital Restrictions Management becomes not only ubiquitous, but is also never called by its right name. They want to create a world in which they don't have to change their business models, adjust their profit margins, pay artists more than a pittance, etc.; so they buy legilators and legislation to get their way.

This situation is not liable to change unless people refuse to buy DRM-crippled media and hardware. Only by denying the MPAA and RIAA the chance to totally control the use of their products will we stand a chance of winning this fight. Every time someone buys Deliberately Restricted Media, or hardware that supports the use of DRM, they subsidize the creation of a world in freedom is reduced. The worst part of the transaction is that their purchase of DRMed material not only limits their freedom, but works to decrease the freedom of the rest of us by encouraging the manufacture of more DRMed goods and the development of yet more restrictive DRM schemes. It's for this reason that I have stopped purchasing new DVDs, I want to practice what I preach and forgoing some "entertainment" is a small price to pay for freedom to do what I wish with my own property.

Just my $.02,
Ron

Re:What about "entire works" or entire "mini-works (1)

Kilted_Ghost (559000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449945)

The problem is not the person who gets one song from a friend or from a download and then goes and buys the CD. The problem is the person who gets the song and then copies or downloads all the other songs and doesn't go buy the CD. Unfortunately there isn't really a good way to allow the first kind of person while stopping the second kind. Recording off the radio is different because the whole CD is not available in that case.

ATTN: SWITCHEURS! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448383)

If you don't know what Cmd-Shift-1 and Cmd-Shift-2 are for, GTFO.
If you think Firefox is a decent Mac application, GTFO.
If you're still looking for the "maximize" button, GTFO.
If you don't know Clarus from Carl Sagan, GTFO.

Bandwagon jumpers are not welcome among real Mac users [atspace.com] . Keep your filthy PC fingers to yourself.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (2, Interesting)

Dara Hazeghi (1076823) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448429)

Those are good points you make. Also, a judge may look at the commercial interests of the alleged infringer. A non-profit or educational institution will likely be given far more leeway in the raw amount of material copied. A student taking a 2-minute clip for an in-class commentary is different than a movie studio producing $200M blockbuster using the same clip.

Dara

Why does the larger work have to be congruent (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448463)

It's the same for videos. Taking a 2 minute clip and copying it verbatim is pretty much copyright infringement

But what if you put it up with the idea of collecting comments about it? Or for use in a wholly different webpage to reference?

The concept of "larger work" is a but fuzzy where you put something up anticipating the larger work that may come later.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448473)

What about when Bjorn Lomborg quoted each piece of the entire Scientific American article that criticized him and gave lengthy commentary on each portion, but still resulted in copying the entire article?

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448513)

But here's the problem. There aren't enough judges for every 2 minute video on YouTube, MyTube, OurTube, TheirTube and all the other tubes that are going to spring up. There's too much stuff. Walt's other point that Congress has to make the laws more clear cut is spot on, even if the 30 second commercial producers get screwed, because in the future there will be so much stuff that there is no way to keep the consumers safe from lawsuits, unless the law is so simple that even a 3rd grader can understand it.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448521)

I find it a little funny that I just had this conversation with some one taking classes in video production.

My question was simple. Take a long time show (Lets say Stargate SG1) take no more than 2 min of footage from 30 different episodes. Edit them together into a new episode. So you designed the episode, you story boarded it, it was your idea, you collected the footage, you did the work. Who owns the copyright on it?

I figure it falls under a gray area that a judge would need to decide on.

But just for fun, the serial key for windows is not copyrighted and can not be copyrighted. :)

Radio compilation case from decades ago (2, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448727)

Take a long time show (Lets say Stargate SG1) take no more than 2 min of footage from 30 different episodes. Edit them together into a new episode.
This is all according to something I heard on the radio years ago....

That's exactly what happened in the '40s when someone made a "compilation piece" out of a lot of songs.

The original artists wanted to pull the plug.
He wanted a free ride.

The courts split the baby.

They ruled that copyright law could not be used to stop him from creating or airing this original work, but he had to pay royalties on the pieces he used.

I'm not sure if the courts imposed a royalty agreement, left it up to the parties to negotiate, or told Congress to settle the matter.

I do remember this was one of the reasons we have mandatory music licensing today.

Anyone know what case I'm talking about?

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448719)

The length or exact portion of the copyrighted material does not matter.
If the amount copied is irrelevant to fair use, then one should be able to point to instances of complete verbatim copying of works that were still declared as fair use. These days they deny that even for educational purposes.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448987)

HTH NE1 wrote: If the amount copied is irrelevant to fair use, then one should be able to point to instances of complete verbatim copying of works that were still declared as fair use. These days they deny that even for educational purposes.

Actually, one can point out such instances. It is generally regarded as permissible, if one is a teacher in a non-profit institution, to copy an entire article or short story for one's own research or class preparation. See http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ21.pdf [copyright.gov]

"so what" for unpublished works (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449023)

A work that expires before its copyright never enters the public domain and thus enjoys eternal copyright protection.
When it comes to unpublished works, this is sort of a Pyrric victory. By the way, most copyrighted material in the last 20 years is exactly this. Almost every grocery list, love letter, or even utility bill will be destroyed before its 95+ years are up. But nobody cares about my grocery list from January 1993 except maybe a few anthropologists and historians.

You DO have a point when it comes to deliberately extending the useful life of a work by destroying old copies and releasing only modified copies. I expect the folks at Disney are working hard to get back any missing early prints of their 1930s and 1940s movies so they can prevent anyone from releasing high-quality copies of the soon-to-be public domain works. They'd much rather sell new "enhanced" versions that have a fresh coat of copyright paint.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448915)

Question. If I have a blog, and I'm creating an original work, and I made a joke that relies on something seen in a (say) Futurama episode... would it be infringement to link to a YouTube of that particular Futurama joke?

What if it was *only* viewable through my blog and not to the public via YouTube?

What if I modified the video clip to say "posted as an illustration of a point made a this url: www.whatever.com"?

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (4, Informative)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448947)

Well, you're wrong. Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright act lists out four non-exclusive factors to be used in determining whether a use is fair. One of them is the "amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole." It's not dispositive, but it is one of the factors courts consider.

Adding value to the original work will help on a fair use claim, but it's not essential. Heck, in the Sony Betamax decision (1984), the Supreme Court thought that time-shifting--copying an entire show--was a fair use. You're sure not adding anything there. But, a magazine's articles that included excerpts of a book by Gerald Ford about the Nixon Presidency was not a fair use.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449127)

Key wording: in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

i.e. If the larger work is a substantial enough work AND it depends upon the amount of infringing material in use, then that amount of infringement is "fair use". The exact length of that infringement does not matter as long as it's found to be substantively required by the larger use.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

cfulmer (3166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449855)

You're comparing it to the wrong work. If X is the original copyright work, Y is the potentially infringing work, and A is the portion of the original that is used, this factor is concerned with A/X, not A/Y.

That said, especially in a transformative use, a court will pay attention to whether you took more than you needed to. In parody cases, for example, you have to be able to take enough of the original to remind people of the original, but you can't easily copy the entire thing and claim a parody.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

thomkt (59664) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449015)

Yeah, you're a tool ;-)

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449259)

:golf clap:

Well said.

Alas, too few people understand the idea of context. No wonder they're clamoring (as in the WSJ article) for an impossibly concise general rule that says something like "30 seconds but not 31 seconds".

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449339)

So, suppose 45 volunteers ("The Commentators") each comment on one minute of a 45 minute TV show. Each quote includes a one-minute clip, along with discussion.

Suppose another party ("The Distributor") publishes those clips and commentary on its website (such as youtube).

Suppose someone else ("The Programmer") writes software to piece together all 45 clips, and then output a full reconstruction of the TV show.

Suppose another person ("The User") takes The Programmer's software and runs it, recreating the show, and watches the show at home on his PC.

Who violated copyright law here? How can this violation of the law be policed and prosecuted?

Easy (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449623)

So, suppose 45 volunteers ("The Commentators") each comment on one minute of a 45 minute TV show. Each quote includes a one-minute clip, along with discussion.

Fair Use. The is significant original work in relation to the fair use work, and the larger work depends on the fair use work.

Suppose another party ("The Distributor") publishes those clips and commentary on its website (such as youtube).

If the distributor owns the rights or has permission, then he's clear. Otherwise, he's violating the copyright. Simply shifting the media used to carry the content does not convey any original thought.

Suppose someone else ("The Programmer") writes software to piece together all 45 clips, and then output a full reconstruction of the TV show.

Again, naively splicing together full clips does not express an original thought. Therefore, there is no larger work. However, the programmer does have rights to the software he wrote. While its use is not original, the exact code is an original expression of an idea.

Suppose another person ("The User") takes The Programmer's software and runs it, recreating the show, and watches the show at home on his PC.

Assuming that neither component (software or video) is pirated, then the user is in the clear. He is free to use the content given to him for any* personal use he can come up with. He only gets in trouble if he redistributes either piece without permission.

* As usual, absolutes are not absolute. Use of both pieces is potentially subject to other laws. For example, if the software could be used to circumvent copy protection schemes in violation of the DMCA, then there is a technical violation of the law. In practical terms, however, that portion of the DMCA is unenforcable until the user in question attempts to redistribute the material. Then he's hit with a double-whammy of copyright infringement AND a DMCA violation.

Re:A non-lawyer indeed (1)

Tigwyk (855379) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449517)

It's the same for videos. Taking a 2 minute clip and copying it verbatim is pretty much copyright infringement.
I think what the WSJ article-writer was trying to say is exactly what you've stated here... "pretty much copyright infringement". But is it? That's the question, and he's saying congress needs to make it black/white. The problem with the case-by-case basis is that some people are going to get screwed by an over-zealous copyright holder who's playing to an over-zealous judge. Comments?

Riddle me this... (2, Interesting)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449593)

Take the NFL's copyrighted copyright statement before their games. "This broadcast blahblahblah may not be reproduced without our permission".

There's currently a fiasco [arstechnica.com] regarding whether or not a Ms Wendy Seltzer could put that video up on YouTube. A lot of people say that she it is a fair use to do so, since she is doing it for the educational purposes.

But, I wonder, what about everyone ELSE who views the video, outside the educational context?

The greater implication is that, given your statement about creating a larger work, when I create the larger work and I use YouTube as the platform for a piece of this work, what happens to everyone else who can look at YouTube...minus the larger work?

Re:Riddle me this... (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449875)

First, allow me to make clear that my original post does not address this matter. It was intended as a response to the WSJ author, and not a complete tretise on the state of copyright law. These screwy issues that people are coming up with are so far off the topic at hand as to be ludicrous.

Now, to answer your question. (To the best of my ability.) And that answer is in the form of a question, "Why did she pick the NFL Legal clip in specific?"

If you consider that question in detail, it should become obvious that the Legal clip shouldn't be copyrightable material. After all, it's a statement of fact. Why can't we share statements of fact? The answer is that we can freely share statements of fact. Copyrights are only provided for creative works. An impassioned speech given on the events of the Revolutionary War would be considered a creative work that derives from factual events. So it's copyrightable, though anyone is free to relate those facts in their own words. On the other hand, a statement of fact document in a legal case is pure fact, and is not a copyrightable work. (Not that such a limitation has stopped lawyers from trying to claim it's creative.)

So looked at as a whole, Ms. Seltzer's act was a very calculated maneuver intended to expose the problems with Viacom's position while simultaneuosly ensuring minimal legal liability. That's why she's the law professor, and I'm just a guy on Slashdot. ;-)

I think it's all fair. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448189)

I think it's fair to upload the whole thing.

But will they? (3, Insightful)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448201)

It's a mistake to ask congress for a definitive non-porous law. The citizenry are no friend, only the companies behind the lobbiests that line their pockets. If they put their foot down right now and cemented some law it seal away what final rights we are "illicitly" enjoying.

Am I naive to believe that someday, some day, the US will have a congress that's for the people?

Re:But will they? (2, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448249)

Yes, I think that's a bit naive, and overly wishful thinking...save for some mass, global revolution. But I doubt it. Governments (as far as I understand) aren't typically known for being "for the people" for any significant portion of time. Even back in the days of Rome, leaders who were too "for the people" got assassinated.

Re:But will they? (2, Insightful)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448795)

It's a mistake to ask... for a definitive non-porous law.
"There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute! Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions."

Congress is hardly qualified (2, Interesting)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448243)

I think recent (the last decade) legislation has shown that Congress is hardly qualified to make that kind of determination.

Copyright lawyers seem to be on one side or the other of the "bribed by content creators" fence.

The EFF is hardly a nonpartisan source of opinion.

So that leaves the question, who is qualified to make these sort of determinations as to what form copyright laws should take?

A good number of /. readers would probably say that there should be no copyright laws (mostly those who have no IP worth exploiting), and others would say that ultimately copyright should be left up to individual license, but honestly, how much does the government really need to intervene with this?

Honestly I think there should be a collection of strong prohibitions which indicate what IP holders are NOT allowed to prohibit, and then let individual licenses go on from there.

Re:Congress is hardly qualified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448423)

Talking about whether Congress is qualified to write the law is irrelevant. Congress is responsible for writing the law, and nobody else can do it.

Re:Congress is hardly qualified (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448457)

I think recent (the last decade) legislation has shown that Congress is hardly qualified to make that kind of determination
Congress has a long history of attempting to give itself powers outside of its jurisdiction such as "Act of 1820, commonly called the Missouri Compromise" [nytimes.com] . The DMCA is what happens when the SCOTUS doesn't impose those limitations for a century or more [articlev.com] .

copyright serves its place; mandatory licensing (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448617)

If an individual copyright promotes the useful arts and is for a truly limited time - less than a lifetime, preferably far less - then copyrights and patents are within the spirit of the Constitution.

The problem today is many copyrights deter, rather than promote, the useful arts and the lifetime is practically infinite. This is particularly true of orphan and out-of-print works and works where the creator refuses permission of others to build on the work.

I would recommend patents and copyrights both have frequent renewal-requirements as well as availability and affordability requirements. Availability means no "Disney Vault" or "orphaned works." It also means changes in the fine-art print world, in that while a given print run may still be limited, additional prints, perhaps inferior in quality, must be made available to the buying public. Call this "mandatory licensing" similar to how some music is licensed for radio airplay.

Affordability means the price is capped at some value relative to its intended purpose. A building blueprint, computer software, or "for theater" movie print or other "commercial tool" will have a much higher capped value than a home-use DVD movie whose purpose is to entertain a family. Capped values will be above market prices for similar items but not so high as to be practically infinite.

Trade secrets, including unpublished works and the unpublished computer source code of most closed-source computer programs, would not fall under the availability and affordability rules, as they were never intended to be made available to the public in the first place.

Of course, such a situation has problems of its own:
  • Who gets to set the price caps, and using what logic? The music industry has been living with this in the form of mandatory licensing fees for decades, and it's still not without controversy.
  • What about artists who intend to create a unique work and will be deterred if they know their work will not be as unique as they wanted?
  • What about the right to not have parts of works used out of context in a disparaging and even slanderous way?

Re:copyright serves its place; mandatory licensing (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449317)

Affordability means the price is capped at some value relative to its intended purpose.
Thankfully, I think this will never happen. Artificial price ceilings (and floors) almost always, if not always, cause a net harm to the economy. A price cap can also cap supply, because once the actual price hits the price cap, increased demand doesn't affect the price. The producer doesn't have as much incentive to increase production capacity, rivals don't have as much incentive to enter the market, so you get artificial scarcity. This leads to people who are willing to pay more for the product than they're allowed to, and that generally leads to a black market with higher prices.

What about the right to not have parts of works used out of context in a disparaging and even slanderous way?
That's covered by slander and libel laws.

artificial scarcity and mandatory copying (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449603)

While it's true artificial price controls can affect the supply/demand curve, we are talking about licensing costs not copying/manufacturing costs. In other words, if I buy 1 copy of an out of print book, I just have to send the publisher a check and I'm entitled to make another. If I need a million copies, I pay a million times the fee. To the publisher, it's "free money." The only cost to the publisher is that he cannot build "high prices through scarcity" into his original pricing model, as one would with an original piece of artwork or limited-edition print run.

Your comment is applicable if the "mandatory licensing" actually discourages the creation of new original works. I don't see this being an issue outside the world of collectables.

Re:Congress is hardly qualified (1, Flamebait)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448669)

The EFF is hardly a nonpartisan source of opinion.

Yeah, it's true. The EFF is on the side of freedom, which is what this country was supposed to be about. How terrible!

Re:Congress is hardly qualified (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449257)

For the most part they rabidly oppose any abridgement of any freedom whatsoever - whether the freedom they're protecting is a "right" or not.

The EFF would most likely support a system where there was no copyright over a tough but just copyright system on the grounds that it might abridge freedom of speech at some nebulous and unnamed future time.

At least that's my personal take on matters.

Re:Congress is hardly qualified (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449353)

The EFF would most likely support a system where there was no copyright over a tough but just copyright system on the grounds that it might abridge freedom of speech at some nebulous and unnamed future time.

So would I.

The constitution talks a lot about freedom, and the bill of rights talks about how an enumeration of certain rights should not be taken to exclude other rights, but in practice, any right not explicitly protected will be denied, and "the establishment" will seek to take most of what is left from you if there's a dollar in it.

Re:Congress is hardly qualified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449131)

I think a good start would be to phrase the law from the opposite direction.

Currently, the way it works is that everything's disallowed but you can argue in court that it's fair use, or a parody, or...

This suits the interest of the big guys, because even if one individual could make a reasonable case, it's rarely worth going to court.

What I'd rather have is a system that goes one sentence, 5 lines of code, 1s of music, timeshifting, whatever, is okay, but you can argue in court about longer works, or...

You're not supposed to say that. (1)

kinglink (195330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449487)

You're 100 percent right, but you're 100 percent scary!

It's become apparent over my short 25 years that asking congress to do anything is worthless, no matter who's in charge, They are like a mini version of the UN, a lot of talk a lot of work, and something might get done a couple years after the first discussion begins.

And you're right about the Copyright lawyers being biased (hell any law they write will be written in such a way that both sides will still be needed for years to come. AKA Active lawyers should not be allowed to write laws)

And you also identify the issues associated with looking to the EFF for help. Personally I find them to be extremists in a bad sense of the word, they want freedom even if it means the destruction of everything America is and was.

It's basically time to define "fair use" if I tape a football game off the tv I should be allowed to give it to a buddy or to show it the next day at a friends house where 20 of us get together to root for our team, I should be able to charge admissions (it's something that every person gets) as long as I'm not just making copies and selling the copies themselves.

I mean I'm allowed to invite everyone at the party to my house when the game is originally on (even if it's on a network they don't get) and so on.

However the NFL would probably disagree with that. Instead of relying on the courts to solve this type of issue let's get a senate committee to investigate this and maybe figure out some rules, unless they are all too busy looking at the best way to pay back Bush/burn the republicans. They are the ones supporting the FCC, why not make the FCC do something and ratify simple rules to clarify fair use for television and internet. However at the same time realize that if we do ask them to do this, we shouldn't constantly bitch if they disagree with out personal rules, we have elected these officials (or in the case of the FCC the officials who appoint them) to lead us.

Squeaky wheel gets greased (4, Insightful)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448267)

The big companies get to lobby 24/7 and 365 if they want. Consumers only get to lobby every four years, and not enough turn out to vote, and make their preferences felt.

Re:Squeaky wheel gets greased (3, Insightful)

Itninja (937614) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448335)

Welcome to a capitalist economy.

Re:Squeaky wheel gets greased (1)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449343)

Welcome to big government.

Who would the capitalists run crying to when somebody stole their precious "intellectual property" without big government? Hell, intellectual property only exists due to government. Don't be surprised when those with a vested interest spend large amounts time and money trying to bend the law in their favor.

The more laws that exist, the greater the reward for controlling the law. If you want capitalists to have less powerm, have fewer laws not more.

Re:Squeaky wheel gets greased (1)

Lord Lemur (993283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448621)

Unfortunatly with a representative democracy we get stuck with platforms. With the degree of technology in this country maybe we are moving twords a time where we could atleast replace the lower house with direct democracy. I'm not sure how implementation could be done, and oh brother are there issues with exploiting the system. Come to think of it, I bearly trust average americans to vote in their own best intrests let alone America's. I can hardly imagine a budget being passed, or tech legislation.

But what are our choices?
A 3rd party? That's a virtual certainty that you will loose.
Facism? ... well i'm going to avoid a Bush II comment. Let's just say balances are there for a reason.
Perhaps federal funding of campains? That get a lot of that lobbing nonsense out of the way, and opens things up for more people to run, but who is going to pay for the crazy cat lady down the street to run for Senate?

I don't know about you guys, but I deffinatly don't fall in line with the Cut-Tax-and-Spend Republicans or the Cut-and-run Democrats. Is the problem the system or the lobbies? What can be done?

Nope (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448731)

Consumers vote everytime the spend money, write a letter, and speak out.

Everytime someone breaks copyright law, they vote.

If the number of people who complain that congress doesn't work for them actually got involved the laws would change.

Re:Squeaky wheel gets greased (1)

msblack (191749) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449581)

The big companies get to lobby 24/7 and 365 if they want. Consumers only get to lobby every four years, and not enough turn out to vote, and make their preferences felt.
Someone needs to revisit their civics class. Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years; Senators are elected every six. Presidents don't create laws; they either confirm or veto Congressional votes.

Can you point be to an example? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448313)

Of when congress made anything clear?

Re:Can you point be to an example? (2, Insightful)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448627)

Yup. The 16th Amendment:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

They sure as hell were gonna make sure that's clear as crystal.

You can have any copyright law you want. (1, Funny)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448357)

You can have any copyright law you want. You just have to bribe^?^?^?^?^? donate more to the congressman's re-election campaign than the RIAA does.

Already been done; where was he 10yrs ago? (3, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448401)

The Great and Honorable Walt Mossberg Jumps on Bandwagon (after 100,000,000 others).

The US Constitution is pretty clear about fair use; it's the bribed congress that has allowed intellectual property to become seemingly permanent for the benefit of IP aggregating organizations.

Does it matter that a self-aggregandizing WSJ columnist has now finally also asked for clarity that this is newsworthy? St Walt is going to get all of those lobbyists out of the pockets of Congress? I hardly think so.

Mark me up as flamebait, but he does clarity no great favor by asking for it, especially so late in the game. It's like asking Bush to remove troops from Iraq. The come-lately's have no guts.

Re:Already been done; where was he 10yrs ago? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449121)

The US Constitution is pretty clear about fair use; it's the bribed congress that has allowed intellectual property to become seemingly permanent for the benefit of IP aggregating organizations.

I doubt you'll find fair use mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.

You are looking at statutory or judge-made law.

Politicians vote the interests of their constituents. The Kansan wheat and corn. The Texan oil, gas and cattle.

The information and entertainment industries are important to New York, California, Florida, Washington, etc. States both Red and Blue with a very strong say in what gets through Congress.

Re:Already been done; where was he 10yrs ago? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449563)

First, go here: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/ar ticle01/39.html [findlaw.com] to find out about how US case law finds the constitution and related fair use provisions of copyright law.

Then, if you believe that politicians vote the interests of their constituents, then I'm sorry for your blindness, and hope one day they find a cure for your malady. It really is a miracle that you're able to get slashdot content read to you, what with this handicap slowing you down.

Finally, we don't disagree that the entertainment business is important. It is, however, leaden with greed, abhorent litigation problems, hubris, and the unmanageable lack of clarity of such masterworks-of-the-devil like the DCMA, enlongated rights terms, and other twists financed by direct and undeniable bribery. Should the oil companies be punished for their misdeeds? Can excessive profits be termed a 'misdeed'? Even if they break all world records? Certainly supply and demand is a fair concept, no?

That the Right Honorable Mr Mossberg finally gets it shouldn't be 'News for Nerds'. Good grief, this man has his own sycophantic glitterati 'conference'. I've watched him at trade shows, where PR people toss rose pedals in his path, hoping--ever hoping for a passing mention so that their stock price might go through the roof. Beyond the stench of ready influence, is his 'come-lately' attitude. Fie.

right (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448493)

Have you read any of the laws Congress pases? None of them are clear. They are vague and selectively enforced.

Feel free to ignore this (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448509)

But unless you get all IP law to limit its scope to that of plagiarism, it's all a bunch of hogwash. Present law deals with distribution. It has nothing to do with the creator of a work. In effect it's a "prohibition", just like that against drugs.

google logo? (1)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448537)

what's the deal with the google logo? what do they have to do with this?

Re:google logo? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448879)

Agreed! It's copyright infringement too!

Re:google logo? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449183)

I assume it's the YouTube connection.

Google owns YouTube.

Congress is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448551)

Congress is a mindless amorphous blob of crap that only changes shape when large bags of money are used to beat it into line.

Almost all polititians have so compromised their positions to fix something else, that they have no desire to fight a fight that isn't directly related to them, hence the money bags of DOOM!!!

Get them to understand that fixing the Copy Rights laws, and fair use laws are in their interests, and they might do something useful.

Wow... (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448581)

...first the RIAA is getting slapped around like a 12 year old girl, then ISPs are under fire for trying to keep service data secret, now this. It's almost like it's Bizzaro Day on Slashdot or something.

My content, my rules (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18448601)

Why the hell should the consumers get any right to content I create? How are copyright laws currently unfair to consumers?

My content, my rules.

The Free Software community wants to ensure that their rules remain on their software, so they add the GPL that limits what the consumer can do with their content.

Viacom wants to prevent people from viewing their content on YouTube. Same thing as the GPL placing restrictions on what you can and can't do with the content.

If you want to share, more power to you. I'm posting this comment to Slashdot to share it with you. My content, my rules. I'm using Slashdot, so they're allowed to moderate it, because they're publishing it. Their content, their rules.

The only people upset about current copyright laws are the people that want to take power away from the producers (without which there will be by definition no content) and give it to the leaches, who consume but do not produce.

Yeah, there are more consumers than creators, but the creators are providing the service. If the consumers don't want the content under the rules the creators set out, they can just not consume it at all. The consumer already has all the power they need, the power of the purse.

Your content, your rules?? Within limits (5, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448845)

My content, my rules.
There are a LOT of things I can do with your content without your permission.

I can parody it.
I can use it in satire.
I can use it, with limits, for educational purposes.
In some cases I can make backups.
If I've purchased it on a media and never broken the seal, I can usually resell it under the doctrine of first sale. In some cases, such as a book, this applies even after I've read the book.
I can wait for the copyright to expire and do pretty much whatever I want with it.

I've left a few things off the list, researching copyright law is left as an exercise to the reader.

Re:Your content, your rules?? Within limits (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449187)

I'm pretty sure I can sell a CD or DVD after I break the seal.

Re:My content, my rules (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449055)

My content, my rules.

Feel free to build a vault and put your content in said vault. However if you make your content available to others, be preparred to deal with the laws of physics.

so they add the GPL that limits what the consumer can do with their content.

The GPL is a license that adds freedom that would not otherwise be available. It is copyright law that creates the restrictions, and the GPL that eases these restrictions.

The only people upset about current copyright laws are the people that want to take power away from the producers (without which there will be by definition no content) and give it to the leaches, who consume but do not produce.

You confuse "content distributor" and "content producer." Current copyright laws are actually hostile to content producers, though they carve out wonderful monopolies for content distributors. Those of us against status-quo-copyright are on the side of the producers, and, yes, we are decidely against the monopolistic content distributors (in their present form).

the creators are providing the service

Aha! Finally you said something true! Yes, they are indeed providing a service. So, indeed, we should be paying them for the one-time service of recording a song, or making a movie, or writing a book. Currently copyright law creates an artificial environment where ideas can be sold and owned as if they were physical objects... but really this doesn't match up with reality. (Though I suppose it did back when transferring large amounts of information was synonymous with transferring large amounts of material, like dead trees and vinyl disks).

So what we really need is to switch to a mode where content creators are simply paid for the service they provide, rather than given artificial and unenforcable monopolies. Basically repeal the special laws that protect them, and let competitive forces figure out an efficient way to transfer money between the customers (who are willing to pay for content, I assure you) and creators. What a novel idea! I should call it "the free market."

Re:My content, my rules (4, Insightful)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449499)


Further, once your "content" is displayed/performed/exposed, you can't take it back. Therein lies the biggest motivation for the whole of copyright legislation. Without it, we as a society would end up being a bunch of information hoarders. There would be no open exchange of ideas. There would be no derivative works. Information would be exchanged under contract and NDA between interested parties. There would become a horrible social rift between the information-haves and the information-have-nots.

Copyright is a contract between you, the content producer, and "we the people." In exchange for a short-term monopoly, complete with "force of law" coverage, you agree to contribute said production to the "we the people" at the end of the term. During the short-term monopoly, it's up to you to make a buck (or not.) There's no guarantee of profits. You aren't entitled to anything other than fair treatment under the law.

Unfortunately, the **AA and their ilk are in material breach of this contract. Many works should have entered the public domain by now, but through lobbying and outright bribery, the content distribution cartels have stolen that content from the people. And yes, "stolen" is the correct word to use here, because I am deprived of access to the content. I've also paid taxes supporting the copyright enforcement during the term of the original agreement, so I'm out financially as well.

Finally, you're not obligated to participate in the copyright program. You're welcome to hoard information in your vault. You're also welcome to produce a work that is contributed directly into the public domain without restriction. You shouldn't expect compensation in either case. The current crop of content dstributors seem to think that they're entitled to something. They're not.

Why the hell should the government... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449077)

... give you a monopoly on anything in the first place?

it has nothing to do with your intrinsic rights. it's about net worth to society. in theory, you're more likely to create since you're more likely to author something original.

in reality - if congress limited copyright protection to 5 years - producers would still profit enough to keep producing. and more importantly - those ideas could get reused faster. ie, higher networth to society.

you as an individual don't mean jack.

Re:My content, my rules (1)

baba_geek (638850) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449165)

There are reasons why people should be allowed access to your content despite your wishes and your claim of ownership:

1. No man lives on an island. You may claim that your content is your own creation but in fact it has been influenced by society and a lot of other "content" that you might be in contact with. Even something that you read or saw or heard years ago might influence the content that you create. In fact there are quite a few philosophers that believe that humans do not really create anything but only imitate what they see/acquire during their lifetime. Hence you are required give back to society in return.

2. Other people might need access to your content for derivative works. For example to criticize your content or to create a parody of it. This is especially important for intellectual works since all intellectual works build upon other pieces of work.

3. Finally, for your content to have any meaning, people need to copy it. They might simply "copy" a representation of it in their brains. Or they might need to copy an exact version of it to access it in the digital world. For example. you need to copy a web page in order to view it. Same for online music or videos. Also search engines like google need to copy your data to work effectively - and you need such services to allow people to discover and find your work.

Hence, the only real way of preventing your content from being copied is to keep it private and not to share it with everyone. Of course, if everyone thought like that it would be the end of all progress and civilization as we know it.

Re:My content, my rules (2, Insightful)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449301)

Where to start?

Your model of "content", as something some people produce and other people consume, is nonsense. Art and science build on previous art and science, and feed on the store of public domain knowledge and "content". Lock all "content" away indefinitely, and the producers suffer.

It isn't based on Constitutional law, either. The Constitution permits Congress to set up temporary monopolies for the purpose of encouraging people to do things. A copyright law explicitly on the basis of "my content, my rules" would be unconstitutional.

Your argument is also far too sweeping. You make arguments that, if valid, would support the idea that there should be some sort of copyright law. I don't think you'll find many people disagreeing with that. (You'll find people violating the existing laws, which isn't the same thing. Somebody driving 70 miles per hour in a 55 zone is not necessarily against traffic laws in general.) Where you get the idea to malign "people upset about current copyright laws" in general, I don't know. Where you get the idea that changes would "take power away from the producers", I don't know; rolling back the copyright law to before the Sonny Bono extension, for example, would affect "content" where the producers are dead. The dead, themselves, have no power, and rolling back the copyright laws can't possibly take away what isn't there.

So, would you care to explain why the current copyright laws are ideal, and why, say, clarifying fair use provisions is offensive to you?

Re:My content, my rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449485)

If you find yourself routinely violating a particular law, then one of the following is true:
1. You are a bad person.
2. The law is unjust.

When so many people routinely violate copyright law, we must question whether that law is morally justified. Copyright law is supposed to be about adding value to the people. I think "the people" are making a pretty clear statement that they see greater value in a world without copyright law.

(Yes, I'm being somewhat extreme to make a point. I'm well aware of the suggestion that "without copyright, no worthwhile content would be produced" and I'm sure you're well aware of the numerous counter-arguments.)

Re:My content, my rules (2, Insightful)

Viv (54519) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449463)

Why the hell should the consumers get any right to content I create?
Why the hell should YOU get any right to the content you create?

In the USA, copyright is a social contract which is intended to promote content creation -- by providing a profit motive -- so that the rest of us can then beneficially consume it. In short, in the USA, copyright exists at the pleasure of the people. If at any time the costs associated with copyright outweigh the benefits derived from it, it is the people's right to abolish it altogether.

In the USA, anyway, copyright is a privilege, its poor choice of name notwithstanding.

Re:My content, my rules (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449713)

No, it's a right.

When you create something (for example, you comment), you inherently gain the copyright to it, because it's a right.

If copyright were merely a privilege, it could be stripped away. It can't: it lasts for at the least the duration of the creator's life.

Copyright is, in fact, a right, no matter how much you want to pretend it isn't.

Ultimately, though, the creator always has the ultimate right to their work: if no one is willing to accept the content under the creator's terms, the creator can simply not share it at all.

Without a guaranteed copyright, creators will simply stop sharing their creations. And in that case, everyone loses. Copyright exists to allow creators to share without having their rights trampled on.

Re:My content, my rules (4, Informative)

Sax Maniac (88550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449873)

Wrong in so many ways. Copyright is not a natural right, because you can sell it to someone else, as which happens for vast majority of stuff created for hire. It's simply not yours for the duration of your life in that case.

Compare to a natural right; you cannot sell or purchase the right to free speech. Similarly, the government cannot take it away because it does not grant it.

The Constituion is pretty clear. It grants the Congress the ability to create copyright. Congress grants you that privilege, in exchange for it being public sometime later.

Re:My content, my rules (2, Insightful)

PTBarnum (233319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449475)

When you think of an idea, it is entirely yours and nobody else has any rights to it whatsoever.

If you choose to share that idea with somebody else, then you are either explicitly or implicitly assigning rights to that person. Perhaps you have an explicit contract with that person specifying what they can do with your idea. If so, then that contract is binding. Copyright law can be thought of as the default license agreement for content if you do not have an explicit contract with the consumer. You can unilaterally choose to waive some of your rights, and this is what the GPL does. You can't unilaterally take away the rights of the person receiving the content.

So by all means, make your own rules for your content. Just make sure that other people have agreed to those rules before you give them the content. If you choose to give your content out freely to the world, then you are implicitly agreeing to license it under the terms of copyright law, and that includes fair use.

The rules for what constitutes a contract have been significantly weakened in this day of clickthrough licenses, but even there in theory there was an interaction with the user; they chose to accept the contract by clicking "OK". I'm not aware of any court case validating a contract that exists merely by passively viewing a document.

Re:My content, my rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18449819)

Copyright is a special privilege society gives to people who produce content for a fixed amount of time. Copyright is not the same as other property rights. This is done to encourage people to produce content. Once the producer of content has exclusively benefitted, anyone can use it.

Over the years the amount of time given to content producers have increased to unbelivable number of years. It started out with 28 years then 56. Then in 1976 it went to 50 years after the death of the artist now its upto 95 years after the death of the artist in many situations.

When ideas like television and transistor and mp3's belong to society after 20 years, why should content created by artists alone be so special?

The real culprit here is definitely the big media companies that can lobby for their interests. Is there a strong voice for rest of society out there? I bet a politician that takes up this cause will do well with the electorate. The only problem is that they will do badly with media companies that need to get out his/her message.

the real villian is not congress (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448637)

it's the producers of content that post intentionally post missleading 'notices'.

When you watcha DVD there will be an official and clear copyright message, usually follwed by another 'notice' created by the industry.
This creats confusion.

Come on, Walt (4, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448651)

How frigging naive can you be? The Congress that passed the DMCA without opposition, that passed the "No Electronic Theft Act", the Congress which has been extending the scope and duration of copyright for decades, the Congress which is fully in the pocket of the xxAAs, THAT Congress is going to pass a new copyright law which protects the little guy?

No, Walt, that just ain't going to happen. When the other side suggests that the answer is just to follow the law and if you don't like it, get the law changed, I know that's just gloating over the power they have. When someone who opposes the status quo says it, and it's not credible that they are really that naive, I have to wonder what is going on. Are they so afraid to believe the system is broken that they cling to ineffective measures? At what point, Walt, will you say "To hell with it, the system's broke, raise the Jolly Roger and copy away"? Never? Then you may as well throw your lot in with the xxAAs.

If you don't like all of the restrictions on the use of digital content, the solution isn't to steal the stuff.

There's FOUR solutions:

1) Suffer loudly. Follow the restrictions and complain about them. Unless you're a major public figure, nobody gives a shit about your complaints, so if you do this, the xxAAs win.

2) Suffer in silence. Follow the restrictions and don't complain about them. This is the xxAAs favorite solution. Equivalent to 1 if you aren't somebody big.

3) Pirate loudly. Violate the restrictions openly and notoriously. Best case, you get what you want but otherwise nothing changes. Worst case, you lose your freedom and your life savings, and your name becomes a word to scare other would-be pirates with -- the xxAAs win with that. And no one who hears about it who matters supports your case -- civil disobedience does not work when the issue is esoteric, and even less so when your opponents are the media.

4) Pirate in silence. Violate the restrictions and try not to get caught. Same outcomes as 3) above, only the worst case is less likely.

The outcome where the copyright laws are changed for the better and those irritating digital restrictions go away? Sorry, that outcome is simply not available. No matter how many times Don Quixtote tilts at the windmill, the windmill still stands. The only way to get rid of the restrictions is self-help, and that means violating the law.

And as for "steal the stuff"? Just because they bought a law doesn't make it "stealing". I'll give them the term "piracy", because everyone knows the difference between piracy on the high seas and copyright violation. But calling it "stealing" isn't intended as metaphor; it's intended to actually blur the distinction.

You Forgot a couple (2, Insightful)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448909)

5) Circumvent them by only buying music from independent labels who distribute without DRM or with a creative commons license and watch as the bastards flail helplessly trying to sue you for not breaking any copyrights.

6) Write and perform your own music.

Re:You Forgot a couple (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449109)

6) Write and perform your own music.

That's the "let them eat cake" solution. The RIAA would love that... "Don't like the army of restrictions we bought? Then perform the music yourself." (at which point ASCAP steps in and says "Make sure it isn't any of OURS. Or share any notes with ours, for that matter.")

It's not acceptable, any more than it would be for the major carmakers to decide to put restrictions on how you could use your car, and put you in jail if you violated them. "Build your own car" isn't a solution to that, nor is "buy from one of the few minor players who isn't in on the deal".

Re:Come on, Walt (2, Insightful)

FunWithKnives (775464) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449091)

There's FOUR solutions:

Actually, there is one more, which I have been engaging in for the better part of ten years now, since I was thirteen:

Do not buy it, do not watch it, do not listen to it. I decided long ago that they could go shovel their shit to someone else. They effectively do not exist to me. I support independent, local, and DIY bands. I only go to local punk or indie shows, and will never pay more than thirty dollars for one. I support my local independent record shop, which (surprise) still sells vinyl 7" splits, and merchandise that is often actually created by the band themselves! What a thought, huh? The punk and indie scenes really have no need for major label exploitation money. They have gotten by just fine for longer than I have been alive, and will still be making real music long after I am dead and gone.

More people need to be following this path. It is one of the best ways to join the effort to kill off the prehistoric music industry, and as a bonus, you can listen to music that actually has meaning.

Anyway, I just thought I would correct your list a bit.

We already have a very good, precise law (3, Informative)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18448733)

Right here [findlaw.com] . What we need is proper interpretation and enforcement.

New slashdot tag needed? (1)

chris-chittleborough (771209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449199)

I haven't looked into Slashdot's tag system yet. Can anyone tell me how to tag an article with "In Your Dreams"?

Larger issue? (4, Interesting)

rantingkitten (938138) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449229)

Is it possible this is symptomatic of a larger issue with our legal system? Specifically, when laws get so bloated, so numerous, and so detailed that it requires a specialized degree to understand, how is the average citizen supposed to comply with the law?

The summary asks "Why should I have to guess about that?" But this is hardly the only area where statutes on the books are virtually incomprehensible, if they can even be easily accessed, by a nonlawyer.

A quick offtopic example is when my driver's license was suspended, and the judge said it would be suspended for 90 days. Fine. To me, that meant that on day 91, it was no longer suspended, and I could drive. Long story short, I got caught driving on day 92 and arrested for driving on a suspended license -- because I hadn't paid a "reinstatement fee". Now, how was I supposed to know about that? When I posed this question to the court I was told only that "it's the law".

I realize there will always be certain circumstances or specific areas where laws need to get detailed and intense, but for the majority of things the average citizen is going to do, there is a problem if that average citizen cannot comply with the law because he cannot access it or cannot understand it.

Low Quality Content (1)

davidroe (226974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449359)

> A two-minute portion of a 30-minute TV show seems like the same thing to me.

With the time for the adverts removed, a 30 minute show on network TV probably amounts to about 16 actual minutes of content, itself made up from a recipe: the introduction, maybe a highlight at the beginning, some filler, the "main attraction", some more filler, don't wait, we'll be right back, for some more filler.

A two minute portion of that show may amount to the "main attraction". There's a lot of work that goes into creating shows around very little content, but if people are just going to watch the interesting bits online, what is going to happen to their viewing figures?

'Pro' is the opposite of 'Con' (1)

gravy.jones (969410) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449419)

If pro is the opposite of con then progress is the opposite of congress

fair use is not goverened by percentage (1)

msblack (191749) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449467)

Most SlashDot users will disagree with my stance. I'm not a fan of the DMCA or RIAA. However, a two-minute excerpt exceeds fair use principles. Fair use excerpting is about critical review, not just adding some excerpt to your MySpace profile. The emphasis is on criticism, not sampling. For further discussion, do some research or look at the Wikipedia page for a primer. Just because you dislike the recording industry or believe the RIAA is too aggressive in prosecuting downloaders does not justify pirating intellectual property.

Unfortunately the YouTube Case Has Some Merit (1)

yintercept (517362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449507)

Unfortunately, this YouTube case has some merit. What a news program does make money by providing a stream of data with snippets of content sandwiched between commercials. YouTube makes it money by providing a stream of data with snippets of content sandwiched between online ads. When you have a community site with people recording the snippets from TV and displaying them on YouTube, you've created a direct mechanism that does direct harm to the content creators.

This is unfortunate because there is great value in people having the ability to comment about what is going on TV.

What I really like about YouTube is that I not only see the content, but I get to see another person's comment on the content. The second rate economist inside of me screams that the commentary on content shouldn't undermine the ability of content makers to profit from their work. Making quality content is expensive, it can costs tens of thousands of dollars to get a few snippets of a reporter out in the field.

The commentary on content is valuable. However, commenting on another's content is something that is relatively inexpensive to do. Once you are set up, you can record, snip and publish till the cows come home. (NOTE, most of the content on cable news is just cheaply produced commentary. Commenting on commentary seems like a different issue than commenting on a report from the field or real research).

I don't think it is possible to derive the perfect copyright law from the aether. The way the legal system works is that when a massive community like YouTube starts directly affecting the ability of content makers to profit from their work, you have to have a lawsuit. I can't see a way out of this one.

The ultimate solution would involve complex mechanisms that classify different types of content, and that creates mechanisms that allow for rapid mass negotiation for use of the content. I doubt that a legal system is even capable of creating a really good solution.

Re:Unfortunately the YouTube Case Has Some Merit (2, Interesting)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449919)

"Making quality content is expensive, it can costs tens of thousands of dollars to get a few snippets of a reporter out in the field."

Let us examine this more closely. The "reporter out in the field" has been paid. The program has been paid for. By the advertising placed on the original broadcast of the material.

Since there is little value on old newscasts (do you really want to watch last years news?) EXCEPT to people doing critical analysis (or, in some cases nostalgia), the money MUST have come "up front".

Which means that it DOESN'T matter what the cost WAS. If it couldn't be covered, it wouldn't (or shouldn't) have been aired. Anything else will lead to rapid bankruptcy.

Most other broadcast material is in the same boat. Of what value is last years "American Idol"?

Just saying -- the "it must be protected because it is valuable because it costs a lot" is a red herring.

Get rid of Copyright Law (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 7 years ago | (#18449877)

Copyright doesn't make sense in a digital society. It can still apply to physical copies of works, sure (at a more realistic time frame -- say two to five years), but copyright should not apply to digital copies of information. It just doesn't make sense and only serves to hamper the arts and sciences.
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