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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

Copyfight

« New York Times Editorial Board == Copyfighters | Main | The Willful Blindness of Jack Valenti »

August 30, 2004

The Boston Globe Editorial Board ! = Copyfighters

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Posted by

...as demonstrated by its editorial, which bemoans the Grokster decision [PDF] while showing how beneficial the precedent has been to copyright holders.

The opening line states that "a federal appeals court in California has given the green light to massive copyright violations facilitated by Grokster and other file-sharing services." The court gave a "green light," all right, but it wasn't to "massive copyright violations." It was to companies that create technologies capable of both infringing and non-infringing uses.

A bit further on, the piece asserts that "The [Grokster] judges contend that the remaining 10 percent [of uses] constitutes substantial legal use as defined in the Betamax decision. That is a stretch. VCRs are most commonly used either to time-shift TV programs or to play movies that are legally copied and provide billions of dollars in revenues to the movie industry."

Er, well, actually, the only reason why people are now using the VCR mostly to "play movies that are legally copied and provide billions of dollars in revenues to the movie industry" is that the Supreme Court gave the green light to a company (Sony) that created a technology (the Betamax VCR) capable of both infringing and non-infringing uses.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations


COMMENTS

1. Branko Collin on August 31, 2004 1:28 PM writes...

Hiawatha Bray is not the brightest bulb in the box, and this editorial shows enough of his style to believe it is largely his (is Hiawatha a male name?).

Having said that, "the green light to massive copyright violations" is not too much of a stretch. Before the Betamax case, what the VCR did was facilitate widespread copyright infringement. Only after the SCOTUS' decision the usage stopped being infringing (IANAL, so I may have this wrong).

A layman like me would say that Grokster got off on a technicality. In this case, it is an important technicality, and worth preserving. It is part of the live-and-let-live approach to copyright enforcement, and keeps us away from the police state, while maximimizing profits for artists and middlemen alike. What could be wrong with that?

As for the second quote, you are spot on! This is a classic case of the Boston Globe being misinformed. Again, in the live-and-let-live age this would not have mattered much, the subject even would not have been worthy of writing an editorial about. However, thousands of upstanding citizens are now being threatened by corporate prosecution, and the subject has percolated almost to the front page.

Perhaps somebody living in Boston could write the Globe a letter in which they point out this factual mistake. It is important that copyfighters let themselves be heard outside their own small circles. I am not an American, or I would do it myself (now it would feel like interfering).

Permalink to Comment

2. Branko Collin on August 31, 2004 1:34 PM writes...

Oops! I see now that Hiawatha Bray _is_ aware of the development of the Betamax decision. Where's the edit button of this blog? %-\

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