A couple weeks ago, I took TechCrunch's Mike Masnick to task for being wrong
about the current purposes of copyright under US law. A Copyfight reader pointed me to Masnick's follow-up piece in which he vigorously re-asserts this wrong position
I feel compelled to repeat before I light into this that my personal belief is that the current construction of copyright law in the US is far too tilted in favor of maximalism, by which I mean putting the rights of copyright holders above other considerations such as scholarship and the general welfare. It was obvious to me that SCOTUS would see how Eldred should be decided, and how continuing to extend at whim the term of copyright violated the originalist language of "for a limited time." As the man said, I may have been (on the) the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.
What I am convinced of is that Eldred remains the current settled law of the land, and that officials such as Maria Pallante, the Register of Copyrights, have a duty to follow and uphold the law until such time as it's changed. Let's not forget this all started with Masnick hyperventilating about how her statements in favor of copyright maximalism made her incompetent to do her job.
Now let's look at Masnick's current long screed. Without delving into too much detail what he seems to be harping on is the distinction between 'purpose' and 'method.' He still asserts that the purpose of copyright is contained it its preamble language, and that the methods should serve that purpose and that's what everyone else should believe, too, or they're wrong and he's right. This is a less well-written version of the Breyer test and I really do recommend that you, and Masnick, go reread that opinion. Breyer's writing on IP matters is not always good enough or clear enough, but in this case I think he makes the argument cogently and persuasively. But as we reread, let's keep in mind Breyer was writing a minority opinion. Breyer's side didn't win that case (Golan v Holder) and thus it is not the law of the land.
Masnick seems to think he can bolster his argument with a "bunch of quotes" (his words) that support his view. Dear Mike Masnick, I can personally guarantee you that every losing side in every SCOTUS case came equipped with more than a few "quotes." They had amicus briefs, and detailed citations of precedential cases that they believed supported their side. Having a bunch of quotes doesn't make you right and the other guy wrong.
With very little due respect to Chief Justice Roberts, the job of a judge - particularly a Supreme Court justice - is a hell of a lot more than just calling balls and strikes. It's weighing meanings, and examining evidence that supports potentially contradictory interpretations and deciding which one is right. Precedents exist, but may not apply. Or someone else may read that precedent differently than you read it. If you read a dissenting opinion in a Supreme Court case you may find language that says, in effect, "those other five guys are wrong." Justice Scalia is known for taking his colleagues to task in his minority opinions for, in his view, being wrong. He does this in great detail, with extensive citations and as much weight of authority as he can bring to bear. But that doesn't make him right - the majority opinion remains the majority opinion and thus the governing interpretation of our laws.
Which is to say, you can't just pick a few quotes that support your opinion and then say, "See, this means the law says what I think it says." Well, apparently if you're Mike Masnick you can. But I'm still going to laugh at you for doing it.