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.
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.
Generally I have a lot of respect for Richard Posner. The word "brilliant" gets thrown around casually a lot, but I really do think Posner verges on brilliance. You don't get 40 books published by writing nonsense or wasting readers' time. Let's settle for saying he's a very smart, very widely influential judge.
The problems with newspapers are nothing new; what's new (and excuse my impertinence WRONG) here is one of the remedies Judge Posner suggests. After a long discussion of the costs and economics of newspaper publication, here's his final sentence:
Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news and opinion.
No. Just no. Linking is the fundamental technology of all hypertexts, of which the World Wide Web is by far the biggest and most popular. One of the reasons it is so large and so widely used is the ease with which information can be accessed, transferred, exercised, repurposed, and reused. The fact that this fundamental technology is in conflict with the page-centric advertisement+content revenue model is an indication that the ad model is flawed, not that we should erect further legal barricades to try and cripple the very thing the Web does best.
To be very clear, I have a large personal stake in this game. Copyfight, like so many other blogs, is built around the notion of taking things said elsewhere, pointing to them, and building on them. Since all writing in the US is born copyrighted, there would be a large blow to almost every blog if this kind of restriction were passed. It is a stupid idea.
The fact that it was put in as a final sentence in the blog posting makes me think Judge Posner hasn't really thought this one through. The comments in the blog are neither edited nor responded to, sadly, since several of the non-spam commenters take Posner to task over this nonsense.
The Jammie Thomas retrial was expected (at least by people on the reasonable side of the fence) to produce some kind of verdict that would indicate the general public's (as represented by the jury) disdain for asking someone to pay $222,000 for sharing 24 songs. To be fair, she probably wasn't the one who shared the songs, but they were shared from her computer. So she's held responsible. And now, facing a $1.9 million judgment, she's in an even worse position. Clearly the jury of her peers didn't share the common online opinion, which lends credence to the Cartel's claims that the general public support their position. As the Cartel's lawyers have noted, they did not ask for a specific penalty in their suit - it was the jury that came up with the damages number.
Another widely discussed theory, discussed in depth by Greg Sandoval for CNET, is that Jammie Thomas could protect herself from any payment by filing for bankruptcy. This theory rests on a recent Ninth Circuit decision that held there are different standards for civil and bankruptcy cases. In a civil case, such as this one, the standard for finding against the defendant is that the act had to be "willful" - essentially the RIAA have shown that the file-sharing was not an accident. However, in bankruptcy court they would be required to show that the act was "willful and malicious" in order to prevent the debt from being wiped away.
My opinion is that they'll settle for some token amount. I can't imagine either side wanting this fight drawn out further in the courts or in the press. They are, as several pundits have pointed out, fighting about the past. And I'm guessing both sides would much rather put that past behind them.
The French constitution contains clauses promoting a presumption of innocence and the Council determined that the legislation - which had already passed in Parliament (WAKE UP YOU GUYS YOU'RE BEING OWNED) - violated those clauses as well as infringing on French Constitutional guarantees of free speech.
The legislation already had to be revised once but passed on a second go. Now it's unclear whether the plan will be scrapped or whether Sarkozy will modify the law as the Council described and resubmit it.
Steampunk is a pop-culture phenomenon this decade. There are books, music, and cons devoted to this movement. Since it has many roots in updated Victorian-era items it seems like fertile ground for bringing out something people from that time would have recognized as a novel, but updated to modern technological sensibilities.
Steampunk Tales is also drawing from the pulp-fiction publishing form that flourished in America in the mid-20th century. Pulp magazines back then focused on specialized audiences (westerns, horror, romance, detective stories, and science fiction were all popular pulp genres) and delivered a monthly dose of short fictions from a wide variety of authors.
One of the things that steampunk celebrates is the "maker" culture (see for example Make Magazine) and in that spirit I celebrate Steampunk Tales' attempt to make a cross-century mash-up work. (Too bad I don't own an iPhone to read it myself.)
The party has been in existence for some time, largely known as a single-issue copyright deregulation group. However, the recent conviction of four operators of The Pirate Bay torrent-linking site has drawn attention to the party and its platform, though the site and the party are not linked. That platform calls for copyright deregulation, abolition of the patent system, and a reduction in Internet surveillance.
The book, currently called Interfictions 2 is a follow-on to their successful publication in 2007 of a work of collected short fictions that exist between the large spaces of current mass-market genre definitions.
As I've discussed before, I don't think the sponsorship (or more elegantly 'patron of the arts') model is widely scalable. It's not going to replace mass market publication anytime soon. However, it seems pretty well suited to this kind of thing - a specific project, with a strongly dedicated audience. So go sponsor something already!
(I think I'll sponsor sending out review copies because I believe that publicity creates a virtuous circle. Thus this blog.)