Image via Wikipedia
Several links on modern copyright law and intellectual property - this is well-traveled material in most of the tech circles I run in, but may be novel to some CurrentMom readers.
- A TED talk by Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity. Related, Lessig again: Against Perpetual Copyright.
The framers understood that the state-created property monopoly of copyright was justifiable only to the extent that it would "promote the progress of Science and the Useful Arts." It created therefore a fixed, and originally very short, period of time in which one might sell copies of one's works with state protection. Without this protection, in the nature of intellectual things, piracy was naturally rampant. After authors have been given a decent interval to exploit their property, the monopoly to the work is ended, and the work may be reabsorbed into the culture at large, be remixed into new works, for the public benefit for the rest of time: hence the name "Public Domain" which refers to the domain of this public good. But why are intellectual and physical property different? How are the differences between laws related to the differences between domains? Would it really be so bad for society if they were treated the same way? This article explores the answers.
- Richard Stallman's 1997 piece, "The Right to Read" is speculative fiction that explores the implications of potential stringent technical protections against reading material you haven't licensed properly.
Later on, Dan would learn there was a time when anyone could go to the library and read journal articles, and even books, without having to pay. There were independent scholars who read thousands of pages without government library grants. But in the 1990s, both commercial and nonprofit journal publishers had begun charging fees for access. By 2047, libraries offering free public access to scholarly literature were a dim memory. There were ways, of course, to get around the SPA and Central Licensing. They were themselves illegal.
- And just this week, Paul Ford posted a worthy successor to Stallman's piece, titled "Nanolaw with Daughter"
My daughter was first sued in the womb. [....]
Thought-provoking - what would happen if the patent troll mentality trickled down?
[S]ignificantly different (and emphatic) views exist on whether the notion of "fair use" is to be construed as a defense against a charge of infringement or an affirmative right that sanctions copying in specific circumstances. The difference matters, for both theoretical and pragmatic reasons. If fair use is an affirmative right, for instance, then it ought to be acceptable to take positive actions, such as circumventing content protection mechanisms (e.g., decoding an encrypted file), in order to exercise fair use. But taking such positive actions may well be illegal under the regime of fair use as a defense.
I hesitate to write very much by way of exhortation or conclusion - the topic is vast and reams and reams have been written already, but I do urge people to treat claims by Big Content distributors that they need even stricter copyright protections enshrined in the law with skepticism.
Senator Leahy has just introduced the Protect IP Act - this Forbes writer is dubious:
The real problem, quite simply, is that now digital technology is utterly transforming the media industries, quickly and chaotically. We don’t know what the emerging new markets for information exchange will look like, but we know they are coming, and we know that in the interim it is entirely unclear who will—or should—survive the revolution. The crisis of the last decade is grounded in the reality that digital technology has generated far more challenges for traditional “media” industries than their analog predecessors. The Internet, high-speed communications, new consumer electronics devices—together these and other inventions have created a perfect storm for media-based businesses. They provide an alternative, virtual supply chain, one where the costs of creation, marketing, distribution and use of information goods have plummeted to something close to zero. Consumers, more than media companies, appreciate the potential of this new market, and expect service offerings and prices instantly to reflect it. When the industry hesitates, resists, and delays, users take matters into their own hands, empowered by increasingly disruptive technologies.
Much of this may seem esoteric and a boon for lawyers everywhere, but as the just-barely-speculative fiction linked above suggests, draconian attempts to protect "intellectual property" at the expense of common sense and typical usage patterns will ultimately affect everyday users, writers, and creators. Tricky stuff, all around.