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Donna Wentworth
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Ernest Miller
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Elizabeth Rader
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Wendy Seltzer
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Alan Wexelblat
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About this weblog
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.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

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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

« A Win Too Far? | Main | World e-Book Faire »

June 29, 2009

Proof That Even Very Smart People Can Say Very Stupid Things

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Richard Posner
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.

He also blogs, with Gary Becker at the eponymous "Becker-Posner Blog". There, earlier this month, Posner put up a piece that was nominally on the future of newspapers.

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.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Big Thoughts


COMMENTS

1. Jayel Aheram on June 29, 2009 11:07 PM writes...

"Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's consent."

I do not understand some people's willingness to utilize state coercion and violence as means to their ends. It is, frankly, disturbing.

It is always about expanding the state, barring people from doing, enforcing this, punishing that! Laws, laws, laws.

Permalink to Comment

2. Cabalamat on June 30, 2009 4:32 PM writes...

You don't get 40 books published by writing nonsense

Really? Eric von Daniken is a good counterexample.

Permalink to Comment

3. DrWex on July 2, 2009 9:29 AM writes...

I agree with both of you. I'm sort of surprised that Posner proposed something that coercive.

Cabalamat, I'm certainly not going to debate the judgment of von Daniken. I could quibble that Wikipedia lists his book count at 26 *grin* but you take my point, no?

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