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Copyfight
August 17, 2004
Copyright and Cultural DamageEmail This EntryPrint This Entry
Posted by Donna Wentworth

Just before Tim Wu resumed his excellent blogsitting at the Lessig Blog, Rep. Rick Boucher asked a simple question that sparked many a complex response: "In thinking about the future of my information availability in our society, am I right to be concerned about the emergence of pay per use as the norm?"

The question brings to mind a central difficulty with explaining why the copyfight matters the larger sense -- e.g., why society as a whole should care about whether the Internet becomes "pay-per-use." The major problem is that it's tough to quantify cultural damage. The recording industry has plenty of numbers to quantify its guestimated loss. But how do you explain what is lost from our culture when access to "information goods" is determined by whether you can pay the rental fee?

EFF is preparing comments in a government proceeding about the future design of Regulations.gov and an online federal docket management system (EPA Docket No. OEI-2004-0002). Government documents are quite specifically "for the people" -- U.S. copyright law bars the government from copyrighting its original works. Nevertheless, there are countless ways that these documents are "reserved" for people/companies/organizations with the time and money to gain timely (and therefore useful) access to them.

It's costly to track the Federal Register and individual dockets for occasional references to topics of interest. Those who can afford to hire law firms to monitor regulatory activity are able to keep on top of important events and to make their voices heard. Those who cannot, often do not. EFF is proposing a number of technical fixes, including building in automated notification, RSS feeds, and bulk data retrieval.

So even in the absence of copyright, it remains an enromous challenge to keep forms of "pay-per-use" at bay. And again, how do you quantify damage? It's hardly possible to count actions not taken, no matter how harmful the end result.


Category: Big Thoughts

COMMENTS
Alexander Wehr on August 17, 2004 09:59 PM writes...

Back in the late 90's i used to watch shows like "beyond 2000".

A major theme in that was complete interoperability, ease of use, and greater choice brought about by open formats and the internet.

Current copyright measures have not only shattered this concept, but are now on the brink of completely reversing it.

DRM is pushing consumer electronics back to the era of DECK computer co. You must now buy an ipod for itunes, an MD player for sony, a specific computer os, and you are not allowed to use ipods if you go with napster, real, or sony.

Add into this the fact that open source by its nature is incapable of "digital restriction" and now you get even worse problems.

By passing copyright legislation which makes it illegal for electronics manufacturers to independently engineer devices compatible with media which is being actively made incompatible, our government is engaging in slow strangulation of a huge sector of our economy and the destruction of a majority of social benefits, and all for the sake of a small but vocal minority.

Permalink to Comment
Timothy Phillips on August 18, 2004 12:23 PM writes...

I have dealt with the public domain, explicitly or implicitly, in the following places:

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/ttarchive2003.html#20030726

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/ttarchive2003.html#20030120

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/ttarchive2003.html#20030125

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/ttarchive.html#20021027

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/ttarchive.html#20021005

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/ttarchive.html#20020922

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/ttarchive.html#20020914

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/muffat_to_handel_c.html

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/burns.html

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/shakespeare.html

http://home.telepath.com/~hrothgar/moc.html


I try to return frequently to the concept of freedom. The public domain is our right, because creative freedom is our right. The copyright monopoly is a favor we, the public, do for the monopolists--and, indirectly, for ourselves by encouraging the enlargement of the public domain. Hence the burden of proof must always be on those who want to expand the scope or duration of copyright to show how the public domain will become larger if their desire for greater privileges is granted.

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