Sunday, July 01, 2007

Copywrong

Can we have a show of hands, please: Has anyone bought a CD (or a song from the iTunes store) that you would not otherwise have bought as a result of hearing one of my Friday Favourites? Equally, has anyone not bought a song that you otherwise would have bought, because I distributed it here? Answer (please!) by comment or e-mail.

The question arises through reading Lawrence Lessig's Free culture, an attack on the misuse of copyright on the Internets by vested old-media commercial interests. Here's a sample (fair use!) of both tone and tendency:
Think about your favorite amazing sites on the Net. Web sites that offer plot summaries from forgotten television shows; sites that catalog cartoons from the 1960s; sites that mix images and sound to criticize politicians or businesses; sites that gather newspaper articles on remote topics of science or culture. There is a vast amount of creative work spread across the Internet. But as the law is currently crafted, this work is presumptively illegal.

That presumption will increasingly chill creativity, as the examples of extreme penalties for vague infringements continue to proliferate. It is impossible to get a clear sense of what’s allowed and what’s not, and at the same time, the penalties for crossing the line are astonishingly harsh. [F]our students ... were threatened by the RIAA ... with a $98 billion lawsuit for building search engines that permitted songs to be copied. Yet World-Com—which defrauded investors of $11 billion, resulting in a loss to investors in market capitalization of over $200 billion—received a fine of a mere $750 million. And under legislation being pushed in Congress right now, a doctor who negligently removes the wrong leg in an operation would be liable for no more than $250,000 in damages for pain and suffering. Can common sense recognize the absurdity in a world where the maximum fine for downloading two songs off the Internet is more than the fine for a doctor’s negligently butchering a patient?
Absurd indeed, but contempt for commonsense and logic seems to have become a compulsory course in law schools. The practice of law in America is even more thoroughly fucked up than the health-care system, but it's unfashionable to talk about that. Readers are referrred to Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare's "Henry VI part II".

Lessig distinguishes between four kinds of file sharing: 1) as an alternative to purchasing content; 2) to sample content before purchasing it; 3) to obtain out-of-print content that is no longer commercially available; and 4) to obtain content that is not copyrighted or which the copyright owner wishes to give away. I would hope that my Friday Favourites fit into the second category, and that my distributing them may have encouraged at least one of you to buy at least one CD.

In other news I walked down to the river in bright sunshine this morning, and am glad that I did because it's now raining heavily. I had hoped as I set out that I'd be posting this afternoon from the summer office, but the sky started to cloud over before I'd reached the train station (less than halfway), and the first raindrops fell as I returned home. To judge by my headache, this will continue for the next few days. Blah.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Rigmor said...

I do buy less CDs now than what I used to. But partly this is because of all the protection on them - why buy a CD if it is protected against being copied into MP3 so I can play it on my MP3 player??

When I buy CDs now, I really need to want the entire album first. I would buy more CDs if it was easier to listen to the music.

July 2, 2007 at 12:20:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Pacian said...

Reading Lovecraft, I always find it interesting to learn that he has borrowed names, creatures and places from other authors he was friends with, or admired. Of course, he wasn't being daring to do this: you can't copyright things like that.

But while much is made of how everyone is supposedly breaching copyright these days, I think a lot of people don't seem to know what rights they do have with other people's work. When modern fantasy authors borrow concepts from other authors, fans are outraged at the 'theft' and lawsuits threaten.

Just take a look at the woman who thinks she owns the word 'muggle' and that using it in a different completely different context is theft of her intellectual property.

July 2, 2007 at 2:17:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Philip said...

I've heard of joints foretelling the weather, but never a "weather forecasting headache." You're supposed to use your brain to think about the weather, not divine it due to pain.

What's your 'summer office' like?

July 2, 2007 at 11:57:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Rigmor: agreed, the presumption that we are all criminals is highly offensive. We (in Stuttgart) are lucky that we have several shops where you may listen to any CD before buying it.

Pacian: Lessig's main point is the way that software is superceding the legal definition of "copyright" and the decline of the public realm. It's an interesting book, and easy to read despite being written by a lawyer.

Philip: I do get headaches from changes in the weather, and the intensity of the headache does correspond to the degree of change. There's a photo of my summer office on Flickr.

July 3, 2007 at 12:16:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous peggy said...

My appreciation for your Friday faves is always based on my being able to answer them--so it's not really about looking for new music or buying new music...are you getting harrassed about your Friday Faves by some big guns, may I ask?

...and this is all very interesting re copyright, intellectual property, ideas and how to put a leash on them, etc. etc...

July 4, 2007 at 12:01:00 AM GMT+2  

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