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Doctorow on New Copyright Rules of the Road

Cory Doctorow's latest Guardian column examines ways to tweak current copyright laws so that they make more sense in the digital world.

8 Comments

  1. strunk&white says:

    elusive balance
    This is my problem with Doctorow — when he wants to sound reasonable, adult and creative-industry friendly, he can. Most other times, he is the king of the copyleft buzz-phrase. If you apply some of the reasoned arguments he makes in this article, the whole filesharing justification falls apart.

    What is the difference between scolding the Independent for clear unpaid commercial use of a copyrighted work, and scolding a filesharing service for the exact same thing? If not “displac[ing] any revenue for the rightsholder” is the measure of a valid free use of copyrighted material, then certain (many… the majority of) instances of filesharing are simply invalid and wrong.

    Why does Doctorow insist on not saying this? I suspect he doesn’t for the same reason we don’t see much reasoned criticism of certain user practices from the copyleft camp. You build your rep on standing up to the man and protecting the little guy, and you risk alienating your base by saying the little guy needs to follow the rules as well.

    And what a dance around the Google Books fiasco. Some of these rules are good (because I need them for my income), but it’s okay if one of the most powerful multi-stage rockets in the world wants to break them (because I think it’s a cool rocket).

    I read this article, and I see a teenage sensibility struggling to mature. Almost there.

  2. Captain Hook says:

    teenagers and old farts.
    What is the difference between scolding the Independent for clear unpaid commercial use of a copyrighted work, and scolding a filesharing service for the exact same thing?
    ——

    It’s just a guess, but it might be just that using a filesharing service isn’t commercial.

    As for Google, I think he made it pretty clear that he sees their use as ‘fair use’.

    You see a teenager struggling to mature. The teenager hears an old fart constantly telling him that the music he listens to is immoral, and he’ll go to hell if he keeps listening to it. Teenagers fought that one fifty years ago. The old farts died off and the teenagers won. Now those teenagers are the old farts and the new teenagers, like the old, have evolved their own ideas of morality. These battles are fought over generations, but what is consistent is that the teenagers always win.

  3. balance
    “we don’t see much reasoned criticism of certain user practices from the copyleft camp”

    I doubt that you will see criticism, since the copyleft camp are operating within a totally proper framework. A framework generally described in various open source licenses like the GPL and Creative Commons.

    If you meant something else by your use of the phrase “copyleft camp”, it would be better if you described it, or found a more appropriate description.

  4. strunk&white says:

    same old shell game
    that’s it boys — keep questioning the terms and selecting relatively safe ground on which to make your stand.

    Or, you could learn actual economics and actual copyright law. The Independent ignored an all-rights reserved notice to save money. Filesharing services do the same thing — and on a grander scale. As to the copyleft camp living in the GPL and CC framework, my question stands — why then do they not criticize the trampling of other licenses as happens when all rights reserved files are “shared” for economic savings?

    And… yeah… I referenced Google Books, not Google search. Reading an argument helps when trying to refute that argument.

  5. Captain Hook says:

    strunk&white saiz:
    “And… yeah… I referenced Google Books, not Google search.”

    So what’s your point? They are both search engines. One searches the Internet, the other searches compostable storage media. Neither gives complete access to works which are still protected by copyright. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that both are fair use.

    ———-
    strunk&white saiz:
    “why then do they not criticize the trampling of other licenses as happens when all rights reserved files are “shared” for economic savings?”

    Well, by the same token why do the all rights reserved crowd not criticize the trampling of GPL licenses when corporations improperly incorporate that code into their products for economic savings? Quite the opposite in fact. The loudest voices from the IP maximallists have been spewing off hatred of the GPL.

  6. strunk&white says:

    I know you are, but what am I?
    So, you excuse file-sharing of copyrighted material because you are mad that other people don’t respect licensing agreements? Really, your logic vortex is fascinating and almost hypnotic to observe.

    I encourage new and innovative forms of licensing. I’m not as convinced as others that they will usher in an age of great social change because I frankly don’t have that much faith in humanity (see history), but, please, have at with the licensing changes and let’s enforce them with our laws.

    I’m glad we agree that licenses should always be respected.

    Which I guess is what the all powerful Goog concluded when they agreed to settle the class action suit against their Books project. Whether you like the settlement or not — and many authors hate it because they think it doesn’t slap hard enough — it’s pretty hard to dispute that Google settled to avoid losing an obvious infringement claim.

    I also think the chilling of fair dealing should be addressed with tougher standards for litigation. Of course, I’m not a maximalist — just a citizen who likes to see laws and property respected.

  7. Captain Hook says:

    strunk&white saiz:
    “I also think the chilling of fair dealing should be addressed with tougher standards for litigation. Of course, I’m not a maximalist — just a citizen who likes to see laws and property respected.”

    Wow, something struck&white says I agree with. Though I think “tougher standards” would have to come in the form of legislation that better defines “fair dealings”. Especially in light of the CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada decision. I expect we’d differ greatly on what these “tougher standards” would look like.

    Actually I don’t make any excuses for file-sharing. It exists though. So suck it up and get use to it. You were critisizing the “copyleft camp”. Not me. I have entirely different reasons for supporting filesharing, but my opinions are not copyleft (though you are welcome to them if you like, so long as any changes you make you share with others as well)

    WRT respect for property. I totally agree with that statement, but again I think we would differ on the definition of property. DRM is by definition an infringement and lack of respect for my property (hardware). You see it as a means to protect your property (copyright). Hard to reconcile these perspectives.

    WRT respect for the law. That respect must be earned. I agree a fair law should and will enjoy the respect of the vast majority of the population. Hence requiring its enforcement against only a very small minority. When such enforcement is required there should not be an excessive cost to it. This is a key sign of a good law. If a significant portion of the population does not respect the law, and hence requires a large social commitment to enforcing it, then this to my mind is the sign of a bad law.

    Licenses should always be respected. Where we differ is on what activities should require licensing in the first place.

  8. “(many… the majority of) instances of filesharing are simply invalid and wrong.” …. “Why does Doctorow insist on not saying this?”

    In a way, I think you have answered your own question. You have him categorised (more or less correctly) in the “copyleft camp”. The framework these people operate in is quite different than the “for profit camp”. They are generally indifferent to those issues..

    If you delve into the philosophy behind the “copyleft camp”, the reasons they exist, it is because they often don’t agree fully with the behaviour of the “for profit camp” of copyright. They have come up with a licensing model that exploits the existing legal terms and accomplishes their desires. It doesn’t mean they agree, or disagree, with the models built around the “for profit camp”, it just means they have found a way to accomplish their goals.

    It sounds like you feel that just because they have found a way to accomplish their goals within the existing framework, that they must also agree and support your point of view. Which is why you make outrageous statements like:

    “I see a teenage sensibility struggling to mature”.

    Statements like the above indicate a myopia that is just as bad as the other extreme in this debate. The answer to this societal issue won’t come from increased enforcement or a total disregard of copyright, the extreme views. But a real understanding of the values and issues of both extremes might point towards a compromise that can be made to work.