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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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March 24, 2004

Comictastic: Napsterize the Comics' Prize?

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Cartoonists are up in arms about Comictastic, a new program for OS X that's essentially NetNewsWire of comics. The interesting thing about Comictastic is its AutoFind technology, which can take a URL and automatically find the comic and its archives.

Then, Comictastic will automatically check for a new comic every day (and optionally some of the old comics and present you with a list of updated comics. Each comic also has a calendar so you can easily browse through your personal archive of old strips.

Cartoonists are, predictably, upset at the development, which indeed provides a better experience to users while eliminating the ads and merchandise links. (For his part, the author says he'd be happy to ad support for ads and other plugs, but that he's not stopping development of the software.)

And so the technology vs. copyright battle plays out yet again, in another field.

Comments (27) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use


COMMENTS

1. Ernest Miller on March 24, 2004 1:10 PM writes...

Cool, I've been wishing for more comics RSS feeds.

Permalink to Comment

2. joe on March 24, 2004 1:27 PM writes...

man, copyright is not about control, right? Jeez, if your going to offer your strips up on the net, doesn't it seem reasonable that you should expect them to be used like any other image? Can't they do something fancy with a .htaccess file and deny anyone who hasn't come from a URL that they approve of?

Permalink to Comment

3. Tribeless on March 24, 2004 3:21 PM writes...

Perhaps think about the cartoonists; the actual creators. They're just rightfully trying to make a living from the products of their mind - a noble thing to do, plus surely the ability to make a living from your own efforts must be a fundamental precursor to 'freedom'.

Further, if they can't make a living then none of us ultimately will get to see their cartoons. Obviously they need the advertising revenue to produce thier art.

All arguments I've seen yet against copyright, et al are just sophisticated arguments for theft. No way to protect IP means the end of a laissez faire capitalist system and the end, therefore, of freedom.

More power to the cartoonists and shame on those who endeavour to steal their livelihoods.

Permalink to Comment

4. Ernest Miller on March 24, 2004 4:01 PM writes...

Comictastic doesn't redistribute comics, it strips the images from the existing website. As joe mentions above, there are a number of technical strategies comic authors can use to inhibit the operation of Comictastic with regard to their comics.

If they're smart though, the comic authors will enable RSS feeds (perhaps with ads or something).

Permalink to Comment

5. Tribeless on March 24, 2004 5:03 PM writes...

The Cartoonists shouldn't have to go to these degrees to protect their IP. If the concept of copyright had not been degraded to the extent it now is, and if P2P had been 'hit' legally (hard) much earlier, then they would not have to.

It looks to me like the best resolution to this is that Comictastic should be sued for breaking copyright (which is always theft).

Permalink to Comment

6. Cypherpunk on March 25, 2004 1:52 AM writes...

I agree that technical means are a better way of resolving this kind of dispute than bringing in lawyers and legislators, if it can work.

But I also agree with Tribeless that current online culture seems to be moving away from respect for the rights of creators to be paid for their work. Ernest Miller wrote Jan 21 about Lawrence Solum's observation that among his students, "It is socially unacceptable to take the position that unlawful P2P filesharing is morally wrong." Ernest managed to blame the RIAA for the phenomenon, but I can't help seeing it as simple greed among the takers.

Permalink to Comment

7. Scott Matthews on March 25, 2004 9:52 AM writes...

Cypherpunk: "Ernest managed to blame the RIAA for the phenomenon, but I can't help seeing it as simple greed among the takers."

I'd characterize the desire to get stuff free as pretty common, but acting on that desire in the P2P space is now justified (and even cast as hiply revolutionary!) with the help of {fill in the blank advocacy group, tech media outlet, IP pundit}.

Permalink to Comment

8. Aaron Swartz on March 25, 2004 12:30 PM writes...

I see this as a positive development: in yet another field, people are using thought and logic for themselves instead of unthinkingly repeating the conclusions reached by older generations.

Blind "respect for author's rights" comes from the same unthinking zone as distaste for gay people, white supremacy, and other ideas which can only be justified with circular logic and name calling. We should be happy that society is moving forward.

Permalink to Comment

9. Tribeless on March 25, 2004 3:12 PM writes...

To Aaron Swartz - your post has got to be a very sick joke.

Actually, it is offensive. How can you put standing up for an author's right to his own IP, including the right to profit from it, in the same basket as distaste for gays or white supremacy!!!

As I said in an earlier post, every clever argument I've ever seen for file sharing against the contract that you have with an author/songster choosing to use copyright to protect themselves, is simply a lame bunch of excuses for outright theft. Unfortuntely, your argument managed to miss the 'clever' element, and went straight to offensive/insane.

Goodness me, what is current culture coming to. I really do dispair.

But tell me, how does a 'thinking' person like yourself plan to protect the author? While you're coming up with this solution, do you therefore sanction the immoral plundering of an authors/songsters works P2P? Given your post I shall in the meantime unthinkingly assume you do.

Permalink to Comment

10. Aaron Swartz on March 25, 2004 8:42 PM writes...

I think they're in the same basket because I haven't heard any real reasons for either. I'm all for ensuring that new works are created, and I'm happy to see their authors get paid for them, and if it turns out that a system like copyright is the best way to achieve that, then I'll play along. And if it turns out that blacks are inherently dumber than whites, and the only way to keep America prosperous is by allowing companies keep them out of important jobs, then I'll play along. But I'm not going to simply jump to the end and insist that copyright and segregation are the natural order of things!

I don't believe I enter into any implicit contract with the copyright holder just by picking up a CD. And I don't believe using my computer to make a copy of the CD is theft, immoral, or plundering. And I don't believe an author who stops me from making that copy is protecting themself.

So I ask you, what is it you want me to protect the author from? Lost sales? I encourage everyone who enjoys a work to pass some money on to the author if the author needs it. But I don't think it's right to keep everyone from enjoying it (including those who couldn't or wouldn't afford to get it any other way) just because some people won't.

Permalink to Comment

11. Cypherpunk on March 26, 2004 1:38 AM writes...

This would be a good opportunity for the promised debate among Copyfight contributors to spring forth. Do your co-authors agree with your outrageous likening of respect for author's rights to racism? This is not a claim which should be allowed to stand unchallenged.

Permalink to Comment

12. Tribeless on March 26, 2004 3:24 AM writes...

Yes. Cypherpunk is spot on: Aaron, you've flipped right over into gaga land. You simply make me all the more convinced that the promotors of semi-intellectual arguments that degrade the notion of IP, which is what you're doing (in a manner far more insane than I would have thought possible on this forum), are ultimately always charlatans. Worse: you naively state:

"I encourage everyone who enjoys a work to pass some money on to the author if the author needs it".

That sentence is just unbelievable and completely indefensible. Actually, shocking. Artists in your evil little thieving world are nothing better than charity cases??? You then add insult to grievous injury by then stating (and I just can't believe you're an author of this blog):

"But I don't think it's right to keep everyone from enjoying it (including those who couldn't or wouldn't afford to get it any other way)"

Which just goes to prove my further thesis that the promotors of file sharing have no moral or ethical fibre, moreoever, you're just life hating, freedom despising, communists in drag. You seriously seem to believe that the artist/producer is there only to serve the needs of others ... a huge great bloody ignoble welfare state. Have you ever heard of the notion of 'freedom', Aaron, founded as it must be on a capitalist system?

I'm appalled. What you speak of is the end of production, innovation, and the scant level of freedom that the West has managed to eke out within a strangled (by regulation) semi-capitalist sytem. It appears the barbarians are circling, and the plundering and pillaging barbarians are you, Aaron.

But like Cypherpunk, I would very much like to see the other authors' opinions on your revolting posts.

I just can't get over your posts.

Permalink to Comment

13. Joseph Pietro Riolo on March 26, 2004 5:39 AM writes...


To Cyberpunk,

While your observation that some users made their
arguments as cover-up for their greed is quite
correct, let me remind you that the authors and
artists do not have the same respect for the users'
rights. Like users, these authors and artists
also made their arguments as cover-up for their
greed.

Here, we don't have good vs. evil battle. What
we have here is evil vs. evil battle. The rare
good authors and artists and many good users
suffer the most.


Joseph Pietro Riolo
<riolo@voicenet.com>

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions
in this comment in the public domain.

Permalink to Comment

14. Aaron Swartz on March 26, 2004 9:57 AM writes...

#3679, I don't think respecting author's rights is like racism. It certainly isn't evil or harmful like racism is.

Tribeless, I find it interesting that you did just what I said, and responded only with namecalling and insults but no logic or arguments for your position. So sadly I remain unenlightened.

Permalink to Comment

15. Tribeless on March 26, 2004 4:41 PM writes...

Aaron you will never be enlightened as you are an unthinking product of Communist China ... or something.

Read my posts again. Answer these questions:

... no actually, I can't argue with you as you're a fool (there, I've fulfilled your prophesy again).

I WILL note that people like you scare the pants off me. THINK, who made the creative works - the author/creator! If you want a free society then the producer MUST have total control over their IP. I think the contract of copyright should last beyond the grave, that there be nothing other than a voluntary public domain (if and when the creators wish there works to got there). There will be no innovation, no works of art, movies, books, if creators cannot control their own IP. Also, without this a capitalist, free, society cannot exist. Why don't you get it?

I've said it before: I would rather be a free man than reading Shakespeare in a gulag! Your second hander (Ayn Rand) society will put us all in that gulag.

Freedom has a price: that price is paying for goods and services. Paying that price is also the ethical, noble way to live a life.

This is inherently a philosophical and moral argument ... and you're a scary chap.

I very much want to see in this thread comments from the other authors. I'm hoping that the general level of reasoning (although in your case it's not really reasoning but some sort of 60's hippie love-all throwback where the producer is slave to the welfare state), is on a moral level a bit further up from the gutter than your own.

As before, I sign off appalled.

Permalink to Comment

16. mantispid on March 26, 2004 8:17 PM writes...

Information doesn't always fit well with capitalism. Information, if easily duplicated, is not scarce. Capitalism requires scarcity of resources. IP is a way to create artificial scarcity, much like DeBeers does with diamonds. Though, since information is intangible outside of the media it exists upon, it's supply is not easily controlled like diamonds or any other physical property... and there's the rub.

You try to create artificial scarcity.. but the nature of the situation is that you can't. The best you can do is threaten to harm those who seek to decrease that scarcity.

After spending countless hours debating this issue, I've come to the conclusion that information is impossible to control if it is released publicly, and therefore the days of royalty-based useage agreements are coming to an end (even though it will be a long, slow, lingering, fiercly fought end). Eventually, original content is what will have value... but the artist must obtain all of their profit during the selling of the original work, and guard it jealously until that sale has been made.

This isn't a failure of freedom, or market capitalism.. it's simply an evolution of it, catalyzed by the march of technology.

I have copyrighted works on my weblog (note, they are all originated by yours truly). If people happen to take those and distribute them willy nilly, that's what happens. As long as they keep my name attributed to the work (and thereby avoiding fraud against those who receive what they distribute), any loss on my part is my own fault for posting the articles/photos. Besides, plagiarism isn't helpful to anyone long term... when people want similar material from that person, they won't be able to deliver as they didn't generate the original content... however, the person who did generate it, will be able to deliver, should their work be properly recognized. The original artist will always be able to undercut a defrauding plagiarizer... and even distributors who seek to charge for access to works they did not create. Eventually the equilibrium point of 'zero price' is reached, and that is essentially what we have now with IP violations.

With all this said, the question I'm really interested in from those who seek government protection of IP is... "If the government proves to be an utter failure in protecting IP from uncontrolled distribution, what possible alternatives are there? Another way to look at it is: In the absence of government, how could one possibly protect their IP after releasing it publicly?"

Permalink to Comment

17. Tribeless on March 26, 2004 8:42 PM writes...

Mantisipid, in reference to your last paragraph (because you can't cut and paste here for some reason), I believe the first responsibility for enforcing IP is Govt. protected copyright (as a Libertarian I believe is one of Govt's very limited legitimate tasks to provide an environment that commerce can be conducted in (ie, an enforceable contract law system)).

Outside of this, the private market solution is sensible DRM procedures - which is NOT Microsoft LIT DRM protected format, but IS Palm's secure format for ebooks for instance.

Permalink to Comment

18. mantispid on March 26, 2004 8:46 PM writes...

Fair enough. I can live with DRM procedures. I think they are likely to be more practical than government, anyway.

I know DRM will be an arms race between hacker and the DRM security folks, but even nature itself is an arms race of evolving defenses and countermeasures. I figure it nature hasn't solved it, humans will be hard-pressed to.

Permalink to Comment

19. Joseph Pietro Riolo on March 28, 2004 6:21 PM writes...


To Tribeless,

While your concerns about the inability
for authors and artists to earn living
from their works if copyright law does
not exist are valid, your thought that they
should have perpetual copyright in their
works until they voluntarily dedicate
their works to the public domain goes
too far. That thought is one of the reasons
why the copyright law and the authors and
artists are increasingly despised by the
users.

If you really believe your thought, you
should practice what you preach. You
should look back to all of your years and
find out which public domain works that
you purchased, the public domain plays
that you attended to, and the public
domain songs that you sang and heard.
Then, make effort to pay at least
$10.00 to the descendents of the
authors and artists of these public
domain works. Oh, don't forget the
U.S. Government that produces all
the public domain works. Every time
you copy any of their public domain
works, be sure to contribute $10.00
to the public debt. Oh, also, there
are all the holy books. Every time
you quote any verse, be sure to donate
$10.00 for each quotation to the
appropriate religious organization.

Our world of knowledge is built on
many layers of the public domain
works. If each parcel of a layer
is owned by an author or artist,
we are forever slaves to them and
we can't even communicate without
approval from many authors and artists.

Learn to be content with the limited
time for copyright.


Joseph Pietro Riolo
<riolo@voicenet.com>

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions
in this comment in the public domain.

Permalink to Comment

20. Tribeless on March 28, 2004 10:27 PM writes...

Joseph, I give you the point :)

However, so many are being corrupted over to the ignoble dark side of this issue (pirates) by puesdo intellectuals speaking with forked tongues that some of us need to go to the absolute other extreme so that the balance in the middle might fall more on the side of right, than the very very wrong promoted by the madman Aaron who would call me a rascist because I believe in the protection of IP.

Permalink to Comment

21. Aaron Swartz on March 30, 2004 6:34 PM writes...

I wish someone could tell me why I'm a very very wrong madman for simply saying that I saw no reason for the government to enforce 'respect for author's rights'.

Permalink to Comment

22. Joseph Pietro Riolo on March 31, 2004 5:34 AM writes...


To Aaron,

I don't think that you are madman and I don't
think that Tribeless actually meant it. But,
your statements are certainly provocative.
An example is the mention of gay people and
racism in your comments. What do they have
to do with the morality in copyright? None.

You need to recognize that your moral system
is not shared by other people. Moreover,
although you don't explicitly mention it,
you drop some hints to disobey the copyright
law. That does not make you look a good guy
to the authors and artists.

If you truly want the authors and artists to
listen to you, stay within the legal boundaries
as drawn by the copyright law even though these
boundaries do not correspond to the boundaries
of your morality.


Joseph Pietro Riolo
<riolo@voicenet.com>

Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions
in this comment in the public domain.

Permalink to Comment

23. Aaron Swartz on March 31, 2004 5:14 PM writes...

I wasn't making a moral comparison: I was simply pointing out that it has been the path of history to knock down widely-held views which weren't backed up by facts or reasoning. My point was that however widely held the view that we should "respect author's rights" is, that doesn't make it correct or lasting. But I've learned my lesson, and I probably won't be making that comparison again.

Permalink to Comment

24. Tribeless on March 31, 2004 8:45 PM writes...

Sorry Aaron, but your above post does prove the 'madman' label I applied to you.

You cannot have a society, at least, a free society, that does not respect an authors/producers rights. The alternative is always a second hander/welfare society in which freedom is strangled.

My particular problem with you is that you do not seem to be working from a reasoned philosophical base: in other words, you are not thinking about the future impact of what you are saying.

Pity this thread has disappeared to the archives.

Permalink to Comment

25. Aaron Swartz on April 1, 2004 11:46 AM writes...

Tribeless says "You cannot have [...] a free society that does not respect an authors/producers rights."

I just find that hard to believe. You could say that getting rid of copyright would severely limit the number of copyrighted works made. You could say that it would force existing authors to starve. You could say that it would lead to rampant public sex. (I don't agree, but they're at least plausible.)

But simply taking away copyright would cause a functioning constitutional democracy to turn into some sort of police state? How is that going to happen? It seems to me that the opposite is far more likely.

Permalink to Comment

26. Tribeless on April 6, 2004 5:47 AM writes...

Because if you take away a person's ability to own, control, and trade his/her IP, you take away the basis of a capitalist society - capitalism is the economic system of freedom.

IP issues are always a litmus test for freedom issues, and your 'unthinking' posts, Aaron, are a horrifying glimpse of what freedom is about to come up against.

No wonder the welfare states of the West are so big, and growing ...

Permalink to Comment

27. Branko Collin on July 11, 2004 5:07 PM writes...

I just found out about the Comictastic debate. What I like about it so far is that it has been taking place between authors and authors (and some readers), without the interference or influence of middlemen who usually dominate the discussion, if not through their words, than at least through their actions and the laws they buy.

(When I talk about the debate, I talk about the debate in other places, not about the noise troll Tribeless and her flunkies make here.)

Permalink to Comment


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