Mark Helprin Stole From Techdirt Commenters (Using The Logic Of Mark Helprin)

from the where-should-he-send-the-check? dept

Last week, I wrote about Mark Helprin's error-filled Wall Street Journal op-ed that was really just an attempt to generate attention for his new book -- attacking everyone who criticized his 2007 NY Times editorial. I, of course, am one of those who challenged Helprin's reasoning at the time. Of course, as much as I write about this stuff, I'm no Larry Lessig or James Boyle, and I certainly never expected that Helprin would even bother to read what I wrote. And, as I've been reading his dreadfully written book, I didn't notice anything to indicate that Helprin was directly addressing any of the points I raised.

However, I was just reading Larry Lessig's long and thorough takedown of Helprin's book, and noticed something odd. Early on, Lessig states:
The product of this feeding, Helprin suggests, is just so much trash. The work of the Internet is an intellectual waste. No serious reader, or especially writer, should pay any attention to this waste.

But then here's the astonishing fact about Digital Barbarism: Though the Internet is a waste, though blogs are "subliterate" and wiki's are written "the way Popeye speaks," Helprin draws exclusively upon the Internet to form the knowledge he needs to launch his attack. He cites no book, or scholarly article, that might help explain the copyright puzzle that started him on his odyssey. Literally everything he points to to explain the weirdness that is copyright is either a blog, or a wiki, or an essay in an Internet publication.

Now I like the Internet as much as the next guy, and I guess I had never really had to think about the question before. But Helprin has convinced me that you can't understand the subject of copyright law by simply reading blog posts. To get it, or at least to get it well enough to write a frakking book about it, you're going to need to read something other than techdirt.com.
Emphasis mine -- obviously. Now, while this might seem like a bit of a slap at Techdirt, I actually agree -- wholeheartedly. I certainly hope that no one gets their copyright education solely from any blog, whether it's written by me or by William Patry. However, it struck me as odd that Lessig specifically called out Techdirt, seeing as I hadn't even noticed us being mentioned at all in the 1/2 (or so) of the book that I've gotten through (and I've never spoken to Lessig, nor seen him mention Techdirt in the past). So, I pulled out my copy of the book, and went to look at the endnotes for the first time... and realized that a rather large number of the quotes that Helprin spends his time deriding are pulled from Techdirt. But not from what I wrote... but from the comments (which he refers to, oddly, as "sections").

Now, I'll be the first to admit that we have all types of folks who show up in the comments -- from incredibly intelligent knowledgeable experts in the field of copyright law to interested amateurs to the totally clueless to trolls. To pick and choose a few crazy comments, and position them as if they're representative of the common views of folks questioning Helprin's logic, is incredible. I could equally pick out some of the more ridiculous pro-infinite copyright comments on Techdirt, and make the same nutty claims about those who support stronger copyright laws. Just yesterday, someone wrote in our comments:
There is never a proper debate for copyright theft. If you create it, then you own it. Many countries have unlimited copyright. Maybe that's what North America should consider. If it is created by your intellect then it is yours. You may pass it along as you wish, but it is yours forever.
Now, this is all sorts of wrong, but I assume this is one incredibly misinformed individual, rather than a representative of, say, the RIAA. However, Helprin has no such qualms. He takes random comments from up and down that Techdirt post, and assumes they represent the secret agenda of groups like Creative Commons (who he refers to as an "informal" group building software to abolish copyright -- again, all sorts of wrong).

Even more amusing? With at least a couple of the comments that Helprin quotes, he's clearly taking them totally out of context. For example, there is one point in the book where Helprin goes against people who pointed out that he had written a book called Winter's Tale, and assumed (incorrectly) that it was based on Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. In it he quotes a commenter on Techdirt ("section 20") who wrote: "So then Halpron's the guy who did the "West Side Story" job for Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale?" and uses that as evidence of us morons critiquing him. Except, he left out the rest of that comment, which made it clear that the whole thing was a joke: "Was it any good? Have they made a movie out of it yet, or was it only on Broadway?"

And, of course, even for the people who legitimately thought that Winter's Tale was based on Shakespeare, that mistake is certainly no more egregious than the many, many, many mistakes that Lessig lays out in his review of Helprin's work -- specifically taking him to task for clearly not having bothered to read a single scholarly piece on copyright, but relying entirely on hand-chosen silly comments on Techdirt.

Among the errors are things like, "It would be one thing if such a revolution produced Mozarts, Einsteins, or Raphaels, but it doesn't," to which Lessig notes: "Helprin apparently didn't notice that none of those creators enjoyed anything like the "copyright" of today. One might as well say the world of non-copyright gave us Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, while the world of copyright gave us Britney Spears. That too would be a bad argument, but just [the] sort of argument that is at home in this book." It's actually even worse than that. Some of Mozart's greatest works were derivative works that likely would be considered infringing today. Helprin also seems to not know what was in the last copyright extension act, known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension:
Helprin writes: "Previously, a copyright assigned to a publisher or a studio would remain there for all the days of its life. Now, and thanks to Sonny Bono, if it is not a work for hire (which nothing should or need be), a licensee can keep it for only thirty-five years, after which the rights return to the author, the composer, the artist, or the heir." (127). Wrong. The Sonny Bono Act didn't create the termination right. It merely extended it.
Yet, Helprin believes that a random small error (which was actually part of a joke by an Anonymous Coward on Techdirt) gives him proof that all copyright critics are clueless? Even if you consider the "errors" of equal magnitude, we're talking about an anonymous quick jokey comment vs. a "professional" book by one of the nation's top authors, from a top publishing house with (one assumes) an editor.

Still, the most amusing part of all, was Helprin's attempt to defend copyright infringement as being the same as theft -- an old argument, and one that's been dismantled many times (including, of course, by the Supreme Court, who famously stated: "interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The infringer of a copyright does not assume physical control over the copyright nor wholly deprive its owner of its use"). However, Helprin doesn't even bother to look at the intellectual arguments around this issue, preferring to use an emotional tale from his youth about "stealing" an ear of corn in the field, arguing with a farmer about it, and then realizing the incredible importance of never "stealing" anything.

Yet, as Lessig points out:
So should Helprin have been ashamed that he stole the farmer's food. Of course he should be! What kind of confused mind would think it right to take another person's property? There are a million reasons Helprin's juvenile behavior was wrong, not the least that it would deprive the farmer of a chance to profit from the food he was growing. Helprin's taking that ear of corn meant that the farmer couldn't sell it. It is inconceivable that this should even have been a question for him.

But what's less clear is what Helprin thinks follows from this moral tale. Does he think that it shows that one can't "take" another person's words? That when, for example, I quote a sentence from Helprin's book in this review, I am doing the same thing he was doing when he stole some corn?
Of course, as Lessig then notes, the quoting is fair use -- but according to Helprin's own corn-story description of the importance of never stealing even an ear of corn, any "taking" of one's words would also be stealing. So, by that reasoning, considering how he quoted (by my count) 12 separate comments from the Techdirt story, one can conclude that Helprin clearly believes he has stolen from the commenters here twelve times. If he's willing to send us our royalty check, I'll make sure the money is distributed to our commenters. Mark, we're waiting! In the meantime, I can't wait to see what comments you guys make on this post. Be sure to provide only the best quality stuff, since it may be the raw material for Mark Helprin's next book!


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ima Fish, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Call me crazy, but I wonder if the corn story is real. It seems an awful lot like St. Augustine's pear thievery in Confessions. Maybe some distant relatives of St. Augustine should file a lawsuit against Mark Helprin, just in case.

     

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    hegemon13, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Winter's Tale

    This book has been sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read, since I purchased it at Goodwill (no doubt stealing it in Heprin's mind) two years ago. It has actually moved up near the top of the list of fiction I wanted to read, simply because the beautifully written imagery of the first paragraph.

    Alas, I will never now be able to enjoy it, knowing that this guy is the author. As well-written as it appears to be, this knowledge of the ignorant prick who wrote it will completely soil any quality that may have been enjoyable. I guess this one is going back to Goodwill, or maybe just the trash. I won't read it, nor anything else Heprin has done. Good job connecting with potential fans, Heprin. Best of luck wooing the shrinking audience of Luddites. I almost wish Techdirt hadn't mention Winter's Tale until around July or so, at which point I would already have read it and gotten what enjoyment I could out of it.

     

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  3.  
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    [censored], May 21st, 2009 @ 11:27am

    I'm going to sue if I find out that he stole any of my comments.

     

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    Devonavar, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Re: Winter's Tale

    Read it. It's an excellent book, and, as far as fiction is concerned, Helpin is an excellent writer.

    Just bear in mind that his specialty is fiction ... and treat his more recent writings in kind.

     

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    The infamous Joe, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:40am

    Word pirate!

    You wouldn't run backwards naked in a corn field, so don't download illegally!

     

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  6.  
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    Jestar, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:45am

    Winter's Tale

    Winter's Tale is actually my favourite book of all time. In fact, until I read the comments, I told myself that it couldn't possibly be the same person.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:46am

    Copyright theft

    So Helpern I wonder what the people who orignally thought up written language would think. Would they call modern english a derivative work and thus copyright theft. Maybe someone should claim copyright infringment because the 1s and 0s on his hard disc match up with a random sector of theirs. I am sure some of his writing will be encoded in their.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:53am

    Re:

    That was my first thought too. Augustine was a theological genius who almost all Christian thinkers reference to this day. It's impossible to estimate the value of lost thought if Augustine were locked behind a copywall.

    Helprin's parable would probably be infringement, and one of the most famous moral stories about the universality of sin would be lost to generations.

    The greatest irony is Helprin somehow managing to infringe in his parable about the theft in infringing.

     

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  9.  
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    lessig, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:54am

    no slap intended

    Hey, I love techdirt. I didn't mean the sentence as a slap at all. It is just that a HUGE proportion of his cites are to techdirt, and I wanted a crisp way to make the obvious point -- the history of copyright is long, and not likely to be repeated in essays and comments on the Net.

     

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  10.  
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    R. Miles, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:57am

    To Mark Helprin:

    Be sure to take a cut of those book profits and pay LEGO® its dues for using their trademark name in your idiotic defense for copyright extension and protection.

    How hypocritical of you to claim "rights" while trouncing the works of others. Sure, we can argue semantics of the term "lego" all day. Let's hope you do the right thing by your own assertion.

    Copyright is an excuse to allow people to reap the benefits of a controlled platform for delivering content. You remark about how piracy is stealing, but neglect to cover the fact everything humans do is built off the works of others.

    Did you think of those workers who designed, manufactured, and distributed the computer used to type up your idiotic rhetoric? Cut them a check too, while you're at it.

    And let's not discount those who created the fundamental language we call "English". They deserve a check too.

    Imagine a world if everything ran under the same rules as copyright. I wouldn't get paid by the hour anymore! I'd be rolling in the cash as I can artificially inflate the value of my product, rather than my skills!

    Hell, even bread makers can become millionaires! After all, don't they create as well?

    Your asinine notion that works should be "protected" goes to show just how limited your knowledge is regarding works of art and having one paid for their skills of creating such works.

    I noticed Harper is your distributor. How funny to see you defend copyright while you sit back and receive checks while others do all your work, you lazy bastard.

    You couldn't pay me to "steal" this crap.

    Oh, and this post is copyright. Don't even think about using it under the guise of "fair use", hypocrite.

     

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  11.  
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    SteveD, May 21st, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Re: no slap intended

    So short of doing a law degree at Harvard, where's a good place to start?

    Are there any good layman's books on the history and development of copyright law beyond your own works?

     

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    Mechwarrior, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: no slap intended

    Maybe a law wiki, or entry level textbooks. There should be plenty history textbooks that chronicle copyright. If you have access to a university network, you can probably look stuff up on law e-journals.

     

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    WarOtter (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Winter's Tale

    And really this latest piece is fiction as well. Maybe we will be treated to a sequel: CopyRight 2 - Copy Harder!

     

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    Tgeigs, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Word pirate!

    You wouldn't eat fifty two chili dogs and then spray fart in a nunnery, so don't download illegally!

     

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    enigmafon, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Helprin's book doesn't deserve any attention, so i don't see how writing about it is going to help.

    Make your displeasure known where it HURTS:
    Log into your amazon.com account (or create one) and give his book a WONDERFUL review.

    http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Barbarism-Manifesto-Mark-Helprin/dp/0061733113

     

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    Ima Fish, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re:

    "The greatest irony is Helprin somehow managing to infringe in his parable about the theft in infringing."

    And now my brain has exploded and I'm dead. Thanks a fricken lot! ;-)

     

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    Rob R., May 21st, 2009 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Word pirate!

    Actually, I did that just yesterday. I also downloaded.

     

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    Rob R., May 21st, 2009 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Word pirate!

    I did that, too. And I downloaded.

     

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  19.  
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    :Lobo Santo, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re:

    Hold up! Just like some bands produce that one AWESOME song--and the rest of their stuff sucks; there are also authors who produce that ONE masterpiece book--and the rest of their stuff sucks.

    L. Ron Hubbard is a good example. "Battlefield Earth" great book. Everything else he's ever written ranges from utter garbage to pure shit. Of course, that's no reason to not own and enjoy "Battlefield Earth."

     

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  20.  
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    Bradley, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Mark Helprin is secretly Weird Harold in disguise. I saw a blurb talking about it during an infomercial on late night TV that was trying to sell a book that was talking about these silly internet blog things on the internet, so it has to be true.

    (please steal my stupid comment and publish it, please steal my stupid comment and publish it, please steal my stupid comment and publish it!)

     

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  21.  
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    E-Rocker, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    Though I usually get shut down with logic, which I'm trying to learn from, I'll post my thoughts.

    Even though it appears to be immensely misused, I think this speaks to the point of how commentary and discussion enabled by blogs/community forums (vs. the one-directional reporting near and dear to many "journalists") serves to create a larger understanding of the topic at hand. What Helprin did was turn that communal discussion into a one-directional book, losing the fundamental benefit of that discussion in the process.

    Plus he did it poorly.

    On a side note, wouldn't St. Augustine's Confessions be considered public domain? Even plagiarism might be seen as a stretch, and more of an ethical issue. I'd bet St. Augustine wasn't the first/last person to get caught stealing from a farmer/pear grower, etc. Though I am personally suspicious of Helprin's claims given his credentials...

     

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  22.  
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    Rob R., May 21st, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Did he pay them?

    Did he pay the makers of the Pac Man game to use their Pac Man on his cover? Did he? Of course not! I wonder if I can contact them and encourage them to sue him...

     

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  23.  
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    Stuart Robbins, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Somewhere, somehow...

    ... a villiage is missing its idiot.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Winter's Tale

    you mean CopyRight 2: Electric Boogaloo

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Word pirate!

    I have, it's quite liberating

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Fuck you Mark Helprin.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    if all you read is techdirt, and you find yourself nodding your head all the way through, then you likely have a warped view of the world.

     

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  28.  
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    YouAreWrong, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    I'm Glad Someone Else Said It

    Techdirt certainly does not give you a "rounded" balance on what copyright is or does. It does not inform you what the law is or was, or how what the policy should be.

    Copyright brought you the awesomeness that is a movie most geeks here love -- Iron Man. The comic was written many years ago, and the studio, knowing it had copyright to prevent others from exploiting its work, could invest a ton of money in presenting good special effects and A-list acting to bring the story to the big screen. It's not a coincidence that the countries with the stronger copyright regimes tend to also have the most booming entertainment economies.

    But don't get me wrong. I'm in the growing class of IP moderates, and I know that you can dismiss virtually everything the BSA says. In fact, just today, they basically admitted that they make up many of their numbers because they don't have sufficient data on most markets to come to mathematically sound conclusions.

    The problem with looking for a source on what copyright law is is that there are so many companies so reliant on it that they perpetuate outright falsities. Look at the copyright notices by the MPAA, NFL, or MLB, and they're all just flat out incorrect. I was talking with a VERY high up person in the copyright world, and he felt that Sony is distinguishable from DVRs, even if commercial skipping is disabled. His reason? DVRs don't require programming and the Betamax only recorded from OTA broadcast. These older guys actually think those kinds of facts are relevant today. Regardless, law tends to work better when the gray areas are thinner than they are wide. Otherwise, you end up with every single issue needing a 5 year federal trial to resolve everything. As Patry says, copyright law is black on one end, white on the other, and a massive blur of grey in the middle.

    If you want some decent sources of what copyright law is, look up Patry's blog or the EFF's internet law treatise. Remember that some of the things in them will be slightly more left than right, but overall, I think they're much more accurate than most (especially Patry's).

     

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  29.  
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    zellamayzao, May 21st, 2009 @ 12:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Winter's Tale

    better watch out using that title. there is a since deceased ska band that had an album titled "five iron frenzy 2: electric boogaloo." i order a cease and desist letter to you and demand you take it down on there behalf.



    sarcasm

     

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  30.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re:

    What if I read more than just TechDirt, but still nod my head most of the way through?

     

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  31.  
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    abbie hoffman, May 21st, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    take some LSD and....

    Steal This Blog!

     

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    aguywhoneedstenbucks, May 21st, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Now I need to buy the book

    That way I can find out if he infringed on any of my creative input in the comments. If so, I'm suing him for all the profits for copying my well thought out work. At the least I'll sue him for $10.

     

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  33.  
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    Anshar, May 21st, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Now I need to buy the book

    Better yet, borrow it from your local library. If they don't have it, ask for an inter-library loan. That should really make his head spin. :) Copyright 2009 Anshar :P

     

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  34.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, May 21st, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    Re: I'm Glad Someone Else Said It

    "It does not inform you what the law is or was, or how what the policy should be."

    Copyright was designed for a limited distribution monopoly to provide incentives to create (similar to patents). Originally it was a vary limited agreement lasting a max of 28 years with renewal (and opt in). That was assumed long enough to create the work and get remembered for that work before it fell into the public domain.

    These limits have been increased over time (with a large help by Disney) to the life +70 we have today. The rules have also been changed, the most notable is it's now an opt out system (but the opt out is almost impossible to use).

    Techdirt has never encouraged the complete removal of copyright only the limitation of it back to what it was initially. They have shown that it is possible to exist without it as an extreme argument for the limitation of it.

    Assuming that Iron Man was created exclusively because of the ability to copyright and it would have not have been created at all if not for copyright, why do they need copyright to last more than 28 years? How many people are going to be buying that in 28 years? Yes, stories about Iron Man can still be created, but they would have their own copyright, and the name Iron Man (and even the look of Iron Man) can be covered under trademark. Life +70 is not required.

    Note: I have gathered these "facts" from Techdirt. They may or may not be actual facts. If I were to write a book about copyright I would not use these. I would research the entire concept fully and reference actual published works along with other things like Techdirt (but probably only for it's idea of not using copyright).

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    You can't make this stuff up

    I guess it's pretty clear that his current work of fiction wasn't based on anything by Shakespeare. Glad we cleared that up.

     

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  36.  
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    JD, May 21st, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    Mark who?

    Who's this Mark guy? Who cares?

     

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    Luc Boardwalk, May 21st, 2009 @ 1:43pm

    Clears it up

    and wiki's are written "the way Popeye speaks

    Well that clears up a question I've had for a long, long time. I always wondered why the phrase "Well blow me down!" shows up so often on wikipedia.

     

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  38.  
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    Lindsay S., May 21st, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Re:

    That was my thought. I'm no professional, and barely rank as an amateur, but I read around a lot.

    Many pieces obviously make no sense, where Mike and co. tend to spin things around and still have them make sense to me.

    I dunno, obviously no one should take these things at face value and should certainly check the facts, but that doesn't mean that you should disregard any merit a piece might have just on those grounds.

     

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  39.  
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    Mike (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Re: I'm Glad Someone Else Said It

    Techdirt certainly does not give you a "rounded" balance on what copyright is or does. It does not inform you what the law is or was, or how what the policy should be.

    Nor has anyone ever said it has, so I'm not even sure why that point is needed.

    Copyright brought you the awesomeness that is a movie most geeks here love -- Iron Man.

    That's a huge stretch, for which there is no support. How can you insist that there would be no Iron Man movie without copyright? There are movies made out of public domain works all the time. Hell, they just made a very expensive version of Beowolf, which is very much in the public domain. There is no evidence that the movie was only made due to copyright.

    The comic was written many years ago, and the studio, knowing it had copyright to prevent others from exploiting its work, could invest a ton of money in presenting good special effects and A-list acting to bring the story to the big screen.

    And Beowolf? That's a public domain work.

    Even more to the point, if you just think through to the logical conclusion of your position, you can recognize how silly it is. If it costs Big Hollywood Studio $100 million to make a movie, and then the claim is that they would never spend that money if they knew they couldn't recoup that investment (or close to it). So they need copyright to make that easier.

    But... you could just as easily point out that if I were to copy that big $100 million movie and try to sell copies of it myself, that still costs me money -- so, why would I even bother to do that, knowing that someone else might copy from me as well? In fact, based on your own logic (that the movie wouldn't have been created in the first place without the incentive) then I have no incentive to copy it, since I won't profit either.

    It's not a coincidence that the countries with the stronger copyright regimes tend to also have the most booming entertainment economies.

    No, it's not a coincidence, but you have the causation backwards. The entertainment economy was built up largely in absence of copyright law. It was only after it was established and they wanted to PROTECT it against competitors that they lobbied for and got protectionist policies in place.

    It wasn't a coincidence that the largest sugar producing countries had sugar monopolies either. But it didn't make it smart or right.

     

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    Tgeigs, May 21st, 2009 @ 2:29pm

    "It wasn't a coincidence that the largest sugar producing countries had sugar monopolies either"

    What a sweet analogy...

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    CATS:, May 21st, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    All your comment are belong to us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Blatant Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 2:40pm

    Fit this in I dare ya!

    Blarglalglalrlrl Flarkekajsjaaaaaa hempskidar, flidder de loo! Nump larg kalllllargagag ker shmikt.

    "the way Popeye speaks,"

    Flid jerdeee wowpid karrrrrnopid.

    Zim? Tinigit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    aguywhoneedstenbucks, May 21st, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    Re: Re: Now I need to buy the book

    That's a fabulous idea. Will you give me a license to use it so that I don't get sued for it later?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 2:54pm

    someone wrote a book that basically calls mike out, and he isn't happy about it. news at 11.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:05pm

    *Official Announcement*

    As an official representative of the EFF, Creative Commons, Larry Lessig, Techdirt, and the estate of John Wilkes Booth, I'd like to clarify the positions of these organizations people.

    All of the above people and institutions wish to announce that they are working to not only abolish copyright, but to implement an indentured servitude system whereby any creative person is required to toil for 18-20 hours a day producing masterpieces that will be freely distributed on the internet.

    What's more, for each creative work produced, authors and their heirs will be fined for the approximate costs of distribution of that work in perpetuity. If the heirs can't pay, they will be put to work on road crews and cleaning toilets in Alexandria, Virginia, at rates one third minimum wage, until the fines are paid in full.

    Our goals are to use our deep and abiding hatred of any creative work to stamp out originality and craftsmanship in art, to penalize creators, and to disincent social contribution in the arts.

    Signed,
    The EFF
    Creative Commons
    Larry Lessig
    Techdirt
    John Wilkes Booth, estate of

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:31pm

    Re:

    On a side note, wouldn't St. Augustine's Confessions be considered public domain?

    Legally, yes. But still "theft" according to Helprin's own moral argument. That's the point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Valkor, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:35pm

    Re: I'm Glad Someone Else Said It

    "Copyright brought you the awesomeness that is a movie most geeks here love -- the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings movie"

    There, fixed that for ya. Wait,what? You mean you can have a licensed version of a copyrighted story that is still utter shite? I'm also pretty sure that movies made based on Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice and Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream have stood or fallen on their *own merit* as artistic intrepretations.

    I won't disagree with your point that the so-called "content industry" loves to perpetuate falsehoods and assert rights they do not, in fact, posess. There should be much more black and white, and much less grey. Actually there should be less black and grey and more white. Thanks for being a reasonable voice of debate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:36pm

    "Mark Helprin Stole From Techdirt Commenters"

    Copyright infringement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    icon
    Kevin (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 3:36pm

    Re: *Official Announcement*

    Someone must always play the fool. I believe that we were quite happy to leave that honor to Mark Helprin, but alas, you have arrived and we thank you for your time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Valkor, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Re: I'm Glad Someone Else Said It

    I should refresh more often before I comment.... Mike, you said exactly what I was thinking.

    Here's an idea for a case study: Bollywood. When I think of a booming entertainment industry, I don't think of California, I think of India. I think they recently passed major IP enforcement laws. What were the IP protections in place when Bollywood was getting started and enjoying explosive growth?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    Grae (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 3:42pm

    Re:

    What's funny is that the only 5 star reviews on there at the moment are written by someone who has reviewed one of his fictional works and a random sampling of religious books and music.

    The other 5 star review is by someone who's name (Peter Lake) is the same as one of the fictional characters in one of Helprin's books.

    The remainder are 2 & 1 star reviews.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 21st, 2009 @ 3:45pm

    Re:

    someone wrote a book that basically calls mike out, and he isn't happy about it. news at 11.

    If only that were the case. But this wasn't a book where Helprin called me out. In fact, he didn't bother to respond to anything I said at all. Instead, he took a bunch of random, hand-picked comments out, and snarked out how dumb they were without actually responding to a single point.

    Hell, even the pro-copyright guys are trashing the book:

    http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2009/05/20/book-review-digital-barbarism/

    Trust me, if he wanted to call me out and have an actual discussion, that would have been grand. The problem was that he wasn't even willing to do that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    cvpunk, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:52pm

    Re:

    except that it didn't call Mike out, it referenced idiotic posts such as yours.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re:

    I know, I was joking, obviously. I hope you didn't take my joke seriously.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 21st, 2009 @ 3:57pm

    Re: An Ominous Cowherd

    if all you read is techdirt, and you find yourself nodding your head all the way through, then you likely have a warped view of the world.

    So, should I be nodding my head at that, or not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 4:23pm

    Re: Re:

    Here, Here!

    I was going to call out Dr. Lessig, but then I read his comment above. Tha Interwebz is a grand thing.

    Lessig should drop in more.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2009 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Re:

    Legally, yes. But still "theft" according to Helprin's own moral argument. That's the point.

    Ah, good call.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, May 21st, 2009 @ 9:29pm

    "a rather large number of the quotes that Helprin spends his time deriding are pulled from Techdirt. But not from what I wrote... but from the comments (which he refers to, oddly, as "sections"). "

    For all I know he could have put those stupid comments on there himself so that he can put them in his book and refute a strawman.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    Azrael, May 22nd, 2009 @ 1:10am

    Re: Re:

    "Battlefield Earth" great book? Please add /Sarcasm/ to your post or we will start to think of you as feeble minded.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    icon
    MadJo (profile), May 22nd, 2009 @ 1:39am

    Re: Clears it up

    Maybe Mr. Helprin shouldn't spend so much time on the Simple English Wikipedia.
    But I guess that's all he can understand.

    Hey, Mark, yous gots to eats your spinach!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    icon
    Infringement copyright holder (profile), May 22nd, 2009 @ 1:42am

    Re:

    I own the copyrights to the word 'infringement'. Sooo, you all should pay up, or I'll sue!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Based upon Mr. Lessig's tome, it seems he would take the author of "Jack and Jill" to task for not citing sources explaining why "Jack rolled down and broke his crown", why "Jill came rolling after", why they were going "uphill to fetch a pail of water" when water is know to settle in low, versus high, spots etc.

    Mr. Helprin is a "writer". He is not a legal "scholar". It seems Mr. Lessig consciously ignores this obvious fact in his zest to parse Mr. Helprin's words as if they were the full equivalent of an article in a legal journal.

    This does not mean that I, as a lawyer, am prepared to accept Mr. Helprin's opinions at face value, any more than I am prepared to accept Mr. Lessig's opinions at face value. They each in their own way inform readers who are then free to use their opinions to better understand relevant issues. Each, however, are not the final word. They are merely a framework requiring anyone who is seriously interested in these issues to dig deeper for additional information.

    To hold Mr. Helprin up to ridicule is the unkindest cut of all. Should the same pertain to the opinions held by Samuel Clemens?

    This is not to say that I believe perpetual copyright is a worthy and noble goal. I am not, however, prepared to ridicule the notion simply because the opinions expressed by those believing it is proper help me better understand the pros and cons of these widely divergent positions, and better inform me why the "limited times" provision was incorporated into Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    rijit, May 22nd, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Battlefield Earth was a good book, The movie was shite but the book was a great read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2009 @ 10:36am

    Re:

    I think Hal finally showed up...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 22nd, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    Re:

    Based upon Mr. Lessig's tome, it seems he would take the author of "Jack and Jill" to task for not citing sources explaining why "Jack rolled down and broke his crown", why "Jill came rolling after", why they were going "uphill to fetch a pail of water" when water is know to settle in low, versus high, spots etc.

    Really? That's a fantastically odd reading of Lessig's review. Helprin was challenging some very specific aspects of copyright law, and made it quite clear that he had done little to no research into the vast quantities of research on the subject.

    Mr. Helprin is a "writer". He is not a legal "scholar". It seems Mr. Lessig consciously ignores this obvious fact in his zest to parse Mr. Helprin's words as if they were the full equivalent of an article in a legal journal.

    I have to admit that I find this comment incredibly galling, considering you -- on a *regular* basis upbraid *me* for failing to have read some obscure legal treatise on copyright before writing a blog post. Yet here Helprin is writing an entire book on the subject, and you seem to think it's fine that he didn't do the most basic research?

    We've caught you on double standards multiple times before, but this is really just a killer.

    That said, Lessig was not treating Helprin's work as a piece in a legal journal. I don't see how anyone could read his review that way. He's just pointing out that despite Helprin's claim that his book is the result of years of looking into this subject, that it appears he never bothered to read any of the relevant material on the subject.

    To hold Mr. Helprin up to ridicule is the unkindest cut of all. Should the same pertain to the opinions held by Samuel Clemens?

    As I believe you have noted in the past, "everyone is free to have their own opinions, but not their own facts." The problem is not with Helprin's opinions. And no one is making fun of that. What people are challenging is Helprin's *basis* for his opinions, and the way he lays out his argument -- which is incredibly weak and full of holes and outright falsehoods.

    I am not, however, prepared to ridicule the notion simply because the opinions expressed by those believing it is proper help me better understand the pros and cons of these widely divergent positions, and better inform me why the "limited times" provision was incorporated into Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

    Huh? You say that as if there hasn't been a wealth of information digging into why perpetual copyright would be a bad idea... But, of course, that isn't even the issue of this discussion. The point was the weaknesses in Helprin's arguments, which you conveniently ignore (or, rather, pull a "he said, she said" news reporting style, suggesting totally incorrectly that because there are two opposing sides, each somehow has equal weight.).

    You and I disagree on a lot, but I'm constantly amazed at the incredibly dishonest and disingenuous levels you stoop to in order to act like a troll. As someone who holds himself up as some sort of expert in intellectual property law (despite the fact no one ever seems to have heard of you), I would have expected better.

    There are a lot of things Lessig and I disagree about, but his takedown on Helprin's book was entirely fair and accurate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2009 @ 4:45pm

    Re: Re:

    My colleagues well know who I am. Obviously we have different sets of colleagues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2009 @ 8:57pm

    Re: Re:

    You say that as if there hasn't been a wealth of information digging into why perpetual copyright would be a bad idea

    ...and if you read the work of others in the field of copyright law you might realize that the issue is significantly more nuanced than many, including techdirt, may believe. See, e.g., Indefinitely Renewable Copyright by Landes and Posner. An upcoming article for publication in the UCLA Law Journal examines such a concept based upon the writings of Ezra Pound.

    Before launching off on a diatribe, I most certainly am not advocating "perpetual", "perpetual minus one day", "idefinitely renewable", etc. The authors of the above noted articles are likewise not "advocating". All I am saying is that issues such a this do not admit to quick soundbites, and that jumping on the bandwagon of "Helprin Hasn't a Clue" serves no useful purpose.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 22nd, 2009 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Before launching off on a diatribe, I most certainly am not advocating "perpetual", "perpetual minus one day", "idefinitely renewable", etc. The authors of the above noted articles are likewise not "advocating". All I am saying is that issues such a this do not admit to quick soundbites, and that jumping on the bandwagon of "Helprin Hasn't a Clue" serves no useful purpose.

    There are plenty of ways you could make a reasoned argument for perpetual copyright. The problem is that Helprin doesn't do this. Helprin doesn't even bother to understand the basic issues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2009 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, Mr. Helprin does not score many points by merely criticizing the critics.

    Ezra Pound, on the other hand, did try an articulate this position in a thoughtful manner, and when I first read his writings I was struck by their nuanced manner. Of course, his focus was printed works, but even so limited I found his arguments very insightful and informative. His compulsory license approach showed me he had given this much thought, and his "be a proper steward or you lose it to someone who will" was an interesting way by which he would try and accommodate the public interest.

    Not that I found them persuasive, but that I found them thoughtful and articulate, a breath of fresh air on an issue that so many seem to approach from extreme positions and for which they propose extreme solutions.

    BTW, the upcoming journal article can be found at:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1286233

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  70.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Winter's Tale

    Dear commenter, please reconsider. Forget the author, and read Winter's Tale. It is a majestic book. My high school English teacher introduced it to me and it has been my favorite book ever since.

    I too am a bit disappointed with Helprin on this subject, but that does not prevent Winter's Tale from being a masterpiece.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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