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November 21, 2004

The Future of Digital MediaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ernie interviews Jeff Jarvis in the first of a series on our favorite subject:


JJ: I do believe in the need for copyright. I flatter myself to think that I am a creative person; if I ever get off my butt and write that successful book or movie, then I believe my child should be able to benefit from it just as much as if I had instead bought and tilled a farm. As a media executive, that's clearly in sync with my interests. But I do believe that the industry and Congress are going overboard with such efforts as DMCA and INDUCE. Yet that's not the worst of it. They are being strategically stupid. Instead of trying so hard to find ways to keep people from consuming our products (as we used to say), wouldn't it be so much smarter -- and more lucrative -- to find ways to exploit this clear desire by the people to control and distribute our stuff? Instead of locking down a TV show so it can't be distributed, why not embed ad calls and sponsorhip pings (or subscription codes) in it so we make money every time it is copied and shipped to a friend? Then it would be in the interests of content creators to see their content distributed as widely as possible.

November 15, 2004

On the Roots of Copyright ActivismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As many of you already know, Siva Vaidhyanathan is one of the leaders of the current movement for balanced copyright, and his first book, Copyrights and Copywrongs, is among the handful of canonical texts for understanding what a number of us have been calling "the copyfight" -- not only what it is but why it matters.

The Nov. 19th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education has a great new profile of Siva, exploring (among other things) why and when it began to matter to him:


Mr. Vaidhyanathan came to his academic career in copyright not through an interest in law but as a fan of hip-hop music. In college he loved how rappers used samples of recorded music to form the backbones of their songs, which brought new meaning to both the rap lyrics and the sampled, looped tune.

Despite poor grades, he slipped into graduate school -- also at Austin -- and took a course on American music. At the time, hip-hop was getting "bum rushed," he recalls. Established songwriters were threatening rappers with copyright lawsuits, effectively stripping a whole creative element out of the music.

"I decided I had to read everything I could on copyright," says Mr. Vaidhyanathan. "I went looking for a clearly written book for laypeople to read, and I found that there wasn't one. I thought I should probably write one."


What's intriguing to me about this is what it reveals about the people in this movement -- that what inspires many of us to become copyright activists is our admiration for the creative process. This is, of course, the opposite of what we hear from the "other side," which imagines/insists that people fighting for balance are a bunch of lazy freeloaders -- adherants to a morally suspect "Everything-For-Free" philosophy.

Yesterday, my Everything-For-Free colleague Seth Schoen, who is far more brilliant than he has any right to be, wrote an email to the Dave Farber IP list that is ostensibly about whether TiVo has betrayed its customers by selling out to copyright holders. What it's really about is the struggle to maintain creative freedom in the face of companies or organizations that would dearly love to own (control) the process. My friend and former boss, Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain, says watching TiVo is like "mainlining" television -- and for the copyright cartel, that's plenty good enough. It has decided it's It's time to stick a fork in the PVR and move on. Seth begs to differ:


I would not get so worked up about any one action that TiVo takes. We know their strategy, and it involves co-operating with movie studios to impose restrictions on end users. The reasons why they do this are not mysterious. If you want to criticize TiVo -- and that's fine with me! -- the right place to start is much earlier in the company's history.

But if you actually want to opt out of the DRM game, it seems to me that the thing to do is to spread the remaining unrestricted technologies as far and wide as possible while they're still legal.

People who got excited about "convergence" last decade often didn't mention DRM (and sometimes weren't even aware of it).

[...]

In terms of end user control, there is an opportunity for [Consumer Electronics] devices to converge up (enhancing customers' control) and a risk of PC devices converging down (eroding it). I think the world the entertainment companies have built is providing exactly the wrong incentive at every point as this question is worked out.


These are not the words of a freeloader. They are the words of someone who plans to spend his Friday evenings after work patiently guiding a group of volunteers in developing new recipes for something far better than mainline TV: technologies that allow us to continue to create as well as to consume.

There's a lot more to say about this, but alas -- the day calls. Do check out the Siva profile and Seth's IP list email in full. Both are rich in food for thought.

October 22, 2004

The Difference Between Larry and SivaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Neofiles has an interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan that sheds light on how he differs with Larry Lessig on a few key issues -- including the question of whether the recording industry lawsuits help or hurt the cause of copyright balance. Larry opposes the lawsuits; Siva approves -- in part because he believes that the suits represent a social and financial cost burden that the recording industry and the public will not agree to bear for long:


Neofiles:Lawrence Lessig clearly believes that copyright law is the greatest threat to free speech and discourse in America. You seem to agree with that view to some extent. How would you differentiate your views on this from his?

Siva: Copyright is the most pervasive threat to free speech in America. By that, I mean that it's the instrument of censorship most likely to stifle the most Americans. Other instruments of censorship -- USA PATRIOT Act, secret detentions of immigrants and uncharged terrorism suspects, restrictions on public demonstrations, the thugs who arrest mothers of soldiers at Laura Bush campaign stops -- are more acute and more deeply troublesome than copyright. But they are rather narrowly targeted and thus less influential within this big, teeming democratic culture as a whole. [...]

The only important difference between Lawrence Lessig and me involves our attitudes toward the civil courts. My basic complaint about the current copyright system is that Congress and the copyright industries have driven copyright regulation out of the domain of human interactions like courts and into machines themselves. They have tried to make copyright enforcement cost-free and risk-free. Taking someone to court costs money. I think this is a dangerous, technocratic trend. And Lessig agrees with me so far. But he thinks music companies suing potential infringers over peer-to-peer usage is a bad idea. I see the lawsuits as the proper way to deal with accusations of infringement. ...I don't like the idea of my students losing $3,000 for doing something relatively harmless. But over time, the industry will see that the public cost of the lawsuits outweigh the imagined deterrent effect of them.

Bush, Kerry Want to Save Betamax, GroksterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

...or, rather, do a very good job of sounding like they do:


"Blaming the technology does not address the issue. We must vigorously enforce intellectual property protections and prosecute the violations, not the technology," Bush wrote.

Kerry responded with, "I strongly support attacking bad behavior -- putting child pornographers behind bars and prosecuting individuals engaged in mass piracy. But, regulating technology should be a last resort to solving any content problem."

September 02, 2004

Know the Enemy 2: The LA Times Talks With Dan GlickmanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Yesterday, I took a look at a Hollywood Reporter interview (Dialogue: Dan Glickman) with the new head of the MPAA, Dan Glickman (Know the Enemy: New MPAA Chief Dan Glickman). Today, the LA Times (reg. req.) interviews the new guy (New MPAA Chief Brings Bipartisan Skills to His Role).

Herewith, some thoughts on this interview.

Some have wondered why the MPAA has been so successful with members of the Republican Party, despite the fact that Hollywood, in general, provides much more support to Democrats. Well, those people can continue to wonder:

Almost everybody here [at the Republican National Convention] that I've met has been open, curious, friendly and positive. They all want to work with meÖ. I recognize that there are some who wanted a Republican in my job of president of the MPAA. But I think folks also wanted somebody good at consensus building and that would fight for the motion picture industry. Clearly the movie industry, and all the industries interested in creative and copyright protection, have a lot of friends here in the Republican Party.
What he has to say on copyright infringement:
I don't think that MPAA is anti-technology. But it's vital that we combat piracy with a three-pronged approach: improve [piracy deterring] technology, enforce the laws and educate people, largely the younger people, in high schools and universities....We are engaging Congress on piracy. There are several bills that predate my coming into this job that are aimed at addressing this issue. These bills will make it easy to go after pirates. I think what we need to do is make the standards [that allow law enforcement] to go after violators more realistic.
His take on the tech industry ought to send shivers up the spines of Silicon Valley types:
I have spent time with our technology people in Washington, trying to familiarize myself with the technology. But the bottom line is, we need to make it as difficult as possible for people to engage in piracy activities.
Read the whole thing. See also, Techdirt (Dan Glickman's Bad First Impression).

via digitalmerging.la

September 01, 2004

Know the Enemy: New MPAA Chief Dan GlickmanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Yesterday, I noted an interview with retiring MPAA chief Jack Valenti (The Willful Blindness of Jack Valenti). Today, recognizing the official change of command, incoming MPAA chief Dan Glickman is interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter (Dialogue: Dan Glickman). Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Glickman doesn't seem nearly as willfully blind as Valenti.

There a number of interesting tidbits in the interview, such as the fact that 70% of the MPAA's 250 employees are involved in anti-piracy work and that the anti-piracy office is "really where the interfaces with the studios" are. The MPAA will also continue to make itself heard in promoting draconian copyright laws through international treaty:

One of my goals is to use my background and experience in dealing with international trade issues, particularly as I was involved in the agricultural arena, to further the market-opening free-trade discussions.
It is practically Orwellian how "market-opening" in MPAA-speak means innovation-controlling, as the MPAA exports the DMCA around the world.

Of course, there is a hint of arrogance in Glickman's comments regarding Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA)'s Digital Millennium Consumer Rights Act:

Obviously there's some support for the Boucher bill -- and I think it needs to be fought vigilantly -- but my judgment is that there's no imminent threat of passage. It's going to require vigilance on (the part of) folks like the MPAA, the (Recording Industry Association of America) and others. The battles have heated up even more in the last couple of years on this. Rick is actually an old friend of mine; we served together on the Judiciary Committee. I have to go in and teach him a few things when I get a chance. (Laughs)
Let us hope he finds his arrogance mistaken.

Most importantly, Glickman's main focus will be copyright issues at all levels:

Copying is an international plague; it's pure, downright theft. The question is: How do you deal with this in the modern, changing world? It's a multifaceted strategy. Specifically as it relates to the movie industry, it has to be a combination of aggressive law enforcement by state and federal authorities, use of litigation, civil litigation (and) education. I spent two years in a university at Harvard, and I would hope to use those talents in part of the (public relations) and educational strategy to further the work that has already been done on college campuses. (Also important is) being open to new technology, exploring with the people who create new technologies how one permits those technologies to flow and develop but at the same time respects the creator's rights.
Frightening language in its anti-innovation clarity: aggressive state law enforcement, how one permits technology to develop.

Glickman will be leading the charge from the other side of the copyfight, what he says and does is important.

Teleread is not pleased by the claimed bipartisanship of the new chief lobbyist (Dan Glickman takes over at MPAA while press continues the Great Snooze).

August 31, 2004

The Willful Blindness of Jack ValentiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Engadget has launched a weekly new feature: interviews with those who shape the world of gadgets conducted by journalist JD Lasica. The first interview is with the MPAA's retiring president Jack Valenti (The Engadget Interview: Jack Valenti).

What is really scary about this interview is the profound ignorance, or is it, perhaps, "willful blindness" Valenti demonstrates.

Unclear on How Cryptography Works

I have said, technology is what causes the problem, and technology will be the salvation of the problem. I really do believe we can stuff enough algorithms in a movie that only the dedicated hackers can spend the time and effort to try to plumb through those 1,000 algorithms to try to find a way to beat it. In time, weíll be able to do this, because I have great faith in the technological genius thatís out there.
Has Never Heard of 17 USC 107
There is no fair use to take something that doesnít belong to you. Thatís not fair use. If youíre a professor in a classroom, you show ĎSinging in the Rainí to your class. You can fast forward it, and thereís no performance fee for that. Thatís fair use. Now, fair use is not in the law. People are taking fair use and changing it to unfair use and claiming that itís fair use.
Doesn't Realize that the MPAA Opposed TiVo to Go
So there are no restrictions that Hollywood wants to place on what people can do with media on their computers?

Well, I canít tell you that. We have to see what the technology can provide.

Thinks Digital Things Last Forever
When you go to your department store and you buy 10 Cognac glasses and two weeks later you break two of them, the store doesnít give you two backup copies. Where did this backup copy thing come from? A digital thing lasts forever.
Read the whole interview.

There are some interesting comments on the Engadget site and Slashdot hosts a vigorous discussion (Jack Valenti: The Exit Interview). Techdirt wishes Lasica was a little harder on Valenti (Jack Valenti... Misunderstanding The Digital World Right Up Until The End).

UPDATED 0655PT, 0745PT

Continue reading "The Willful Blindness of Jack Valenti"

August 23, 2004

Call Me DickEmail This EntryPrint This Article

So suggests the Honorable Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, now guest-blogging over at Lessig Blog.

Judge...Professor...Dick Posner suggests that those interested in learning more about him consult his home page at the University of Chicago, but there are a few other spots Copyfight readers might want to visit whilst making heads and/or tails of his (blog) opinions:


  • 20 Questions with Richard Posner, where he names the Aimster opinion [PDF] as one of his all-time favorites
  • Grokster, Intent, and Cert, in which Derek Slater grapples with C.E. Petit over the important differences between the Napster, Aimster, and Grokster opinions, and, interestingly, argues that they don't amount to much -- and that as a consequence, the Supreme Court may refuse to grant cert in a Grokster appeal:

    The narrow holding [in Aimster] is that, to meet the Sony standard, something more than mere speculation about non-infringing uses is required. That's fairly consistent with Grokster and Napster and overall not that big a deal. Looked at that way, there is no circuit split. Posner's broader interpretation of Sony was irrelevant to the Aimster case, and thus its conflict with Grokster may also be irrelevant.


Unfortunately, Posner cannot discuss Grokster. But there's a lot he can and does say about another important battle in the copyfight: the effort to undo the damage the CTEA and Eldred decision have done.

"Larry Lessig from time to time flagellates himself about losing the Eldred case in the Supreme Court. He shouldn't; it was unwinnable for a host of reasons," writes Posner. "All this said, the net effects of the Act and therefore of the Eldred decision are probably bad. But the worst of them should be remediable fairly easily."

Easily, you say? Pray tell, how?

Posner's -- Dick's -- answer comes in two parts (so far): Licensing and Fair Use and Fair Use and Licensing. In part one, he argues that the main problem with copyright-forever-less-a-day is that it raises the transaction costs for publishing old works. In part two, he suggests that a form of fair use codified could save the day:


[It] should be considered fair use to copy an old work if the copyright owner hasn't taken reasonable steps to provide notice of his continued rights, as by entering his name and address in a copyright registry...Then if an Eldred wanted to publish some old work, he would consult the registry or registries and if no owner was listed (which would usually be the case, because most old works have no commercial value and so their owners won't bother to try to keep them from falling into the public domain), he could publish it without a license.

An interesting alternative to the burden shift proposed by the Public Domain Enhancement Act, which (among other things) asks copyright holders to pay a very small fee after 50 years if they wish to retain copyright. I wonder what Larry made/makes of it?

Oops -- didn't see Ernie's previous post here @ Copyfight; do check it out, below.

August 18, 2004

Grokking GilmoreEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Greplaw has yet another terrific interview, this time with EFF co-founder John Gilmore.

There's quite a bit of discussion about the difficulty of retaining your civil liberties while traveling by air, but we're also treated to John's perspective on copyright in the digital era:


Greplaw: You are not a great fan of copy protection. But how shall intellectual property holders commercially survive in an environment where perfect copies are a part of everyday life?

John Gilmore: I thought I knew that answer in 1989, but I wasn't sure, so I started a business to see if I was right. Cygnus Support, later named Cygnus Solutions, got paid by its customers for writing free software and giving it away for unlimited free perfect distribution.

[...]

The way I found to make money from unlimited cheap/free distribution of perfect copies was to go with the flow rather than fighting it. Encourage the world to distribute your work to every person on earth; then every person on earth becomes your potential customer. Build a commercial relationship with people who depend on your work; they won't care if the rest of the world can have it, as long as they get your attention so it meets THEIR needs. Charge people for the act of creation BEFORE you create it (the same way concert tickets work); then you don't have to limit where the created work goes AFTERWARD. For a fee, alleviate the troubles that come from too much information, too poorly understood, too poorly coordinated, too poorly documented: provide rapid, correct answers to customer questions.

[...]

I'm sure the Cygnus business model isn't the only way to make money from unrestricted distribution of perfect copies. I was content to find one. It made dozens of millionaires from the ranks of the employees. It made me far more money than I made from working at Sun.

Now, tell me how *musicians* can make a living in an environment where oligopoly distributors steal their creative work as a "work for hire," pay them by the hour for creating it, regardless of how well it sells, lock them in by contract for their next six works, and even then cheat them on the accounting.

Then tell me how *programmers* can make a living under the same conditions (minus the cheating and the oligopoly). If we eliminated the cheating and the oligopoly, would musicians have about the same deal as programmers? I suspect that it's roughly so.