Copyright Infringement Charged Over Tao Te Ching... Which Is Only Two Millennia Old

from the forever-minus-a-day dept

It's not often you hear of a copyright claim concerning a text that was supposedly written more than 2,500 years ago. The Hollywood Reporter has the news that Wayne Dyer, a "self-help" guru, has been sued for copyright infringement for using text from "Tao Te Ching: A New English Version," by Stephen Mitchell, in his own book. But, of course, if the Tao Te Ching is from two plus millennia ago, what's the copyright claim? Well, it turns out that Mitchell is now claiming that his new English version is very new indeed. So new that it's not actually a translation at all, but more or less his own version of what he thought the Tao Te Ching really meant:
As a result, "rather than provide a literal translation, the book embodies language that conveys Mitchell's version of Lao-tzu's meaning and the spirit of his teaching," the complaint says. "Accordingly, Mitchell's book is a highly original work."
If true, there certainly could be a new copyright on the work, though it does seem a bit odd to rewrite it, and then still call it the Tao Te Ching. Basically, it looks like Mitchell wants the best of both worlds. To be able to pretend his version is the ancient version when it works for marketing purposes, but then to consider a brand new work when it comes to copyright.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:24pm

    if he uses the words of the new book, then it is a copyright violations. it has nothing to do with the age of Tao Te Ching. it only has to do with the age of the new book.

    oh look, its mikey trying to reach again. fail.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Various newer translations of the Bible are subject to copyright. Heck, we've discussed how translations were added to copyright at one time (I think you might have even mentioned it). Not that they should be, but that's the law I believe.

     

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  3.  
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    NAMELESS ONE, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    @2

    and this is why organized religion is evil

     

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  4.  
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    wallow-T, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:44pm

    I don't see why there is surprise that a translation - any translation - is a copyrightable work. If you read translated books, you should notice two copyright notices - one for the original work, one for the translation. The selection of words and phrases in the translation is an artistic choice, and two different translations of lengthy works should come out differently -- have a look at the multiple translations of Homer's "Iliad" in the bookstore.

    Translations will also vary with the era in which they were done; "the Iliad" translated by the Victorians comes out quite a bit different than translations for a 21st century audience.

    If Dyer and his publisher didn't get clearance, the publisher's legal department messed up and they will be reduced to seeing if they can make a fair use defense.

     

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  5.  
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    Bruce Partington, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    Translations can't be copyrighted? Glad that's settled.

     

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  6.  
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    Richard (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Re:

    It is the law - but often the new translators overreach in their claims - the "New King James Version" is the worst offender. They have changed a few punctuations and capitalisations and then claimed their own copyright even though only about one character per paragraph is different and the criteria for the changes are so mechanical that you could have written a program to to do the whole thing!

     

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  7.  
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    Steve, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    Isn't a translation a presentation of facts? It's not a new idea. It's not a new expression of an idea. It's a restatement of an old expression of an old idea in a new language.

    Facts can't be copyrighted.

     

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  8.  
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    Richard (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    Re: @2

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:52pm

    Re:

    religions are based on facts? who knew?

     

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  10.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    Just a quick question

    Could this guy face a lawsuit for false advertising?? He sold it as the "Tao Te Ching" but it isnt.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    Re:

    "It's not a new expression of an idea."

    That's exactly what it is.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Just a quick question

    I think it's reasonable to call a translation of the Tao Te Ching the "Tao Te Ching," just as it's reasonable to call a translation of the Old and New Testament "the Bible."

     

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  13.  
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    Joe, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    Rubaiyat

    I do think there is an element of creativity in translations. While some try to give the most literal, others try instead to capture the true meaning or intent behind the words. I've seen chinese translations and the direct literal translations can be pretty brutal.

    A slightly more interesting text to compare would be the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He was a 12th century Persian astronomer and the Rubaiyat was a particularly beautiful book of poetry. In fact, when my mother first immigrated to Canada from Ireland decades ago, this was the only book she took with her.

    The poetry was divided into quatrains and the different translators would rearrange the quatrains to better capture their interpretation of the philosophy of the author. Wikipedia has a pretty interesting write up on that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubaiyat_of_Omar_Khayyam

    I'm no expert on the law but it does seem that if there was a fair amount of creativity and decision making in the process of making a translation, a copyright over that particular translation does not seem out of order. But of course, what if someone else does a translation, and they choose the same words as the best fit for some sections? it does get messy pretty quick.

     

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  14.  
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    Richard (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: @2

    From the same site

    "Religious truth is captive in a small number of little manuscripts which guard the common treasures instead of expanding them. Let us break the seal which binds these holy things; let us give wings to truth that it may fly with the Word, no longer prepared at vast expense, but multitudes everlastingly by a machine which never wearies to every soul which enters life."

    Can you guess who said that?

     

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  15.  
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    Will Entrekin, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    The Tao that can be written

    Is not the true Tao.

     

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  16.  
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    wallow-T, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:06pm

    Looking at the Amazon blurb for Dyer's book "Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life," I can see where a fair use argument might be where this is headed:

    Quoting from Amazon:
    "In this book, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer has reviewed hundreds of translations of the Tao Te Ching and has written 81 distinct essays on how to apply the ancient wisdom of Lao-tzu to today’s modern world. This work contains the entire 81 verses of the Tao, compiled from Wayne’s researching of 12 of the most well-respected translations of text that have survived for more than 25 centuries. Each chapter is designed for actually living the Tao or the Great Way today."

     

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  17.  
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    Yogi, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:07pm

    Hilarious

    One thing is certain - this guy has an extremely dim, narrow-minded "understanding" of the Tao-Te-Ching.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Rubaiyat

    Of course what you're saying is correct, and the way translations are viewed by the law.

    But it's hard to make a snarky headline/article out of that.

     

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  19.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Just a quick question

    "rather than provide a literal translation, the book embodies language that conveys Mitchell's version"

    That means it is like redoing gone with the wind from another characters perspective. Or me rewriting the "Art Of War" from my perspective and make it all about bunnies and cotton candy I shouldnt call it Sun tzu's the Art Of War.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just a quick question

    "That means it is like redoing gone with the wind from another characters perspective."

    I'm sorry, how do you get from "convey's Mitchell's version" to "it's like redoing a novel from a different character's perspective?"

    If he changed the original as much as you're suggesting (bunnies and cotton candy), then I agree with you, but there's nothing to suggest that he did that, is there?.

     

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  21.  
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    Bubba Gump (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    So if I take the Gutenberg bible and translate it from the original German myself, with my own "embellishments", then I can copyright my "new" Bible and anyone using words (English words) from it is violating my copyright?

    Is that your argument, Anonymous?

     

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  22.  
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    Richard (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    It's pretty clear fair use

    It's pretty clear fair use - if one takes the kind of conditions usually applied to translations of religious text (eg the Bible)

    For example the New International version says:

    "The NIV text may be quoted in any form (written, visual, electronic or audio), up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, providing the verses do not amount to a complete book of the Bible nor do the verses quoted account for twenty-five percent (25%) or more of the total text of the work in which they are quoted."

    In the current case only 200 lines have been copied so I would say that Dyer bhas a pretty strong fair use case here.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, that's a problem I have with copy protection law itself and another reason why I think that the law tends to be abused and should be either done away with or substantially diminished. I'm not saying that current Copy protection laws don't get abused, of course they do and they shouldn't be abused, but I'm just saying that's what the law is and the law itself needs to be corrected.

     

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  24.  
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    Richard (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re:OOPs

    The comments above actually apply to the "21st Century King James Version" not the New King James Version - which is actually a much bigger revision.

    Sorry - my mistake

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm not the AC you're asking, but your statement is basically correct up to the "anyone using words from it is violating my copyright" bit.

    Using individual words isn't going to be an infringement. When the amount of "new" material you contributed is small in comparison to preexisting material, your copyright is only over such new material (and considered "thin").

    In practice, you'll need to show that they are copying a substantial portion of your new work.

     

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  26.  
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    RD, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Just a quick question

    "If he changed the original as much as you're suggesting (bunnies and cotton candy), then I agree with you, but there's nothing to suggest that he did that, is there?."

    Oh, so NOW you advocate taking someone else's work, changing it, and calling it your own? So I can take Catcher in the Rye, update it, change some characters around, give them different names, alter a few plot points, and call it "The Rye is Toast" and that will be OK with you and your corporate overlord masters? Its legal, moral, ethical and no one will cry "thief! or "pirate!" right? RIGHT? 'Cause, you know, you cant have these things both ways, and play both sides at the same time, just so you can be right in an argument...

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Re: It's pretty clear fair use

    But the NIV publisher's choice to allow such use without attribution/permission doesn't mean that all other publishers must do so as well.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Just a quick question

    I don't know who you think I am, but maybe you can tone down your rhetoric just a wee bit.

    If something is out of copyright (e.g., the Tao Te Ching), then doing your own translation or other derivative work, and claiming rights in your own contributions, is perfectly proper.

    If something is still under copyright (e.g., Catcher in the Rye), then you'll need permission from the copyright holder, unless your use is considered fair use from some reason. Also, the law is not entirely clear on this, but you might not be able to claim any rights in your new contributions if you used the preexisting copyright protected material without permission.

    Does that answer your question, or were you just looking for someone to be angry at?

     

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  29.  
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    crade (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    He shouldn't be allowed to claim the book is a translation of the original in the title if he wants to claim it isn't a translation to get copyright on it.

     

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  30.  
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    Cowardly Anon, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    So then, your answer is yes.

    What you are saying is that if someone takes a work that is public domain, and translates it into another language, using their own embellishments, and another person uses that translation for something else, you feel they are indeed violating the copyright.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It depends on what they're using it for. Many unauthorized uses might be considered fair use. But if it's not fair use, then it's copyright infringement (unless there's some other weird twist involved).

     

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  32.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Just a quick question

    "rather than provide a literal translation, the book embodies language that conveys Mitchell's version"

    Lets translate the bible using the original documents used for the King James Bible. But lets do it from my perspective which is atheistic. Do you really believe imy version will be the same book? Or do you believe it will be something totally different?

    definition : atheistic - rejecting any belief in gods.

     

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  33.  
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    DJ (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Re:

    Ttraducciones no pueden ser propiedad? Me alegro de que está arreglado.

     

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  34.  
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    DJ (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

    Re:

    Or what if I just "alter the meaning":

    "Copyrights can't be applied to a translated work? I'm overjoyed that that issue has been resolved."

    That's what this argument is about; the copyright infringment of an interpretation....

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Re:

    Wouldn't freedom of religion supersede copyright infringement?

     

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  36.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:54pm

    Re:

    Oh Noes! It looks like TAM may be right for once. This is definitely a day to revel in TAM. Too bad most of us will forget.

     

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  37.  
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    DJ (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Re:

    I'll take your bait, and run on this tangent.

    It takes VASTLY more faith to believe that the exact right series of events and situations just randomly occured in the exact right sequences. You'd think that if it happened once billions of years ago, it would have happened AT LEAST once more...but it hasn't...not even once. THAT is a fact.

     

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  38.  
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    Professoriate, May 26th, 2010 @ 1:56pm

    Stephen Mitchell

    The tone of the article is entirely misleading. Stephen Mitchell, who is also a poet, created his own 'translation' of the Tao Te Ching. He wrote it himself. Yes, it is based on his reading of the ancient text. Mitchell's work, published in the early and mid-90's, is clearly a derivative work based on a text in the public domain -- but it is clearly not equivalent to the public domain text itself. Anyone who has read it and another version will be able to see almost immediately that Mitchell's is distinct (whether they actually like it or not is a separate question -- he uses She as a neutral pronoun, for example). Dwyer should have asked for permission or paid for a license -- or simply circumvented the whole issue by using one of the many translations of this text that are 100% in the public domain. Dwyer might claim fair use if he uses only a small portion of Mitchell's work, discusses it comparatively, etc., but there are limits to how much he can legally profit from another's person's work.

     

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  39.  
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    DJ (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    No. No one is saying that either of them is prohibited from expressing their respective religions.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Stephen Mitchell

    "The tone of the article is entirely misleading."

    I'm shocked, SHOCKED that an article in Techdirt would be written with a misleading tone!

     

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  41.  
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    DJ (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Hilarious

    Thanks for the opinion about the work itself. How about contributing to the argument now?

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re:

    So, I'm relatively new to Techdirt comments. Who is TAM? I see lots of comments responding to an Anonymous Coward referring to the AC as "TAM."

    Is that an acronym?

     

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  43.  
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    DJ (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Stephen Mitchell

    "Stephen Mitchell, who is also a poet, created his own 'translation' of the Tao Te Ching. He wrote it himself. Yes, it is based on his reading of the ancient text. Mitchell's work, published in the early and mid-90's, is clearly a derivative work based on a text in the public domain -- but it is clearly not equivalent to the public domain text itself"

    If that is the case, then two things are instantly evident:
    1)Mr. Dyer is in violation of current copyright laws
    2)Mr. Mitchell should somehow have made it clear ON THE COVER, that his book was not an attempt at a direct translation

     

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  44.  
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    Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 2:23pm

    Wrong Point

    I don't think this article is one of Mike's best works. Harping on the Title seems like a poor choice of points to pick on.

    What I would have rather seen is more highlighting of the hypocrisy going on here.

    The Author uses someone else's work as the base for his own work, and then turns around and sues someone else who used his work as a base for their work. The hypocrisy here is astonishing.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 2:25pm

    I think there is a misperception that there is such a thing as "direct translation" from ancient Chinese to modern English.

    He calls it "A New English Version." I don't know what else the guy is supposed to call it.

     

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  46.  
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    Nastybutler77 (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes it is an acronym. There is someone who used to post as "The Anti Mike" who now posts as an AC, but has such a distinctly combatitive tone and such a poor grasp of basic reasoning that no matter the nom de plume he is instantly recognizable.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Wrong Point

    Where's the hypocrisy? Using something in the public domain without permission is ok. Using something that is not in the public domain without permission is not. That's totally consistent.

     

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  48.  
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    Jon B., May 26th, 2010 @ 2:50pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes. Many translations of the Christian Bible carry copyright restrictions. Remember, it's the expression that's copyrightable, not the idea. I've seen the NKJV with a copyright notice, which is a direct translation. There's also The Message, which is less of a translation and more of a paraphrase of the Bible. (The Message is good to read. It's not for doing a literal word study, but it's good to read and capture meanings of passages.)

    I'm confused why Mike thinks this is an absurd copyright claim (or why Mike is choosing to use the 'Two Millennia Old' attention getter in his headline). Mike makes it a point to emphasize that it's the expression, not the idea, that's copyrightable. And it's the expression that's been copied here, not the idea. In fact, if there was no attribution given (i.e. plagiarism), I'm not sure why Mike would consider the situation absurd in the least.

    Frankly, I don't know how I feel about things like the NKJV Bible (supposedly a literal translation) being copyrightable. Is a new literal translation really a new expression?

    Every far once in a while I think Mike reaches for absurdity when it's not there, and I think this is one of those cases. But it gets a catchy headline.

     

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  49.  
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    Jon B., May 26th, 2010 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re: Wrong Point

    Frankly I couldn't care less about either, except that there should be attribution. It sounds like Mitchell's book has attribution (right in its title) and Dyer's doesn't.

     

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  50.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Stephen Mitchell

    The tone of the article is entirely misleading.

    What's misleading about it?

    Stephen Mitchell, who is also a poet, created his own 'translation' of the Tao Te Ching.

    But, as is noted, it wasn't really a translation. More his own version of it.

    Yes, it is based on his reading of the ancient text. Mitchell's work, published in the early and mid-90's, is clearly a derivative work based on a text in the public domain -- but it is clearly not equivalent to the public domain text itself.

    Nor did I claim it was. In fact, I said quite clearly in the post that it sounds like his copyright is legit. What's misleading there?

    Dwyer should have asked for permission or paid for a license -- or simply circumvented the whole issue by using one of the many translations of this text that are 100% in the public domain.

    As others noted, it looks like Dwyer has a strong fair use claim, as his book is commentaries on different translations...

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: @2

    Ummm, Carrot Top?

     

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  52.  
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    J.V. (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    What is it that hasn't happened once, let alone twice? Abiogenesis? What does that have to do with copyright?

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's our TAMMY!

     

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  54.  
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    Richard (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: @2

    No - it was Gutenberg...

     

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  55.  
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    zellamayzao, May 26th, 2010 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    TAM refers to The Anti Mike. They are a commenter here that no matter what the story or issue is Mike is posting about they take the other side whether it is right wrong or whatever just to be the devils advocate.

     

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  56.  
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    Richard (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 3:36pm

    Re: Re: It's pretty clear fair use

    The same text refers to this as "fair use rights" implying that the above is the NIV interpretation of fair use rather than simply a voluntary concession.

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: It's pretty clear fair use

    That's fine, but unless that publisher has been elected to the federal bench and is overseeing any particular copyright infringement case, it's not binding.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It's pretty clear fair use

    I mean appointed.

     

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  59.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    Dude, this is what you wrote: "Copyright Infringement Charged Over Tao Te Ching... Which Is Only Two Millennia Old"

    In fact, copyright infringement is charged over a relatiely new translation (or "version") of the Tao Te Ching.

    Are you honestly claiming that's not misleading at all?

     

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  60.  
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    DJ (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 5:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    absolutely nothing, which is why I acknowledged, albeit vaguely, the change in subject.

     

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  61.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 5:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    In fact, copyright infringement is charged over a relatiely new translation (or "version") of the Tao Te Ching.


    Indeed, as clearly explained in the post.

    Are you honestly claiming that's not misleading at all?


    I don't believe it's misleading at all, no. Why do you think is misleading?

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Jesse, May 26th, 2010 @ 5:58pm

    Why can you take a work in the public domain, "interpret" it and claim copyright to it, but you can't make a remix without the permission of the original musician?

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 6:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Except for the fact that Mike actually acknowledged what TAM said. He has such poor reading comprehension, that he doesn't realize Mike explained that he thought the copyright claim might have some legitimacy. I can't believe you folks get sucked in to TAMs deceptive spin.

     

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  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 6:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    generally the answer is yes. you could translate the bible from it's original scrolls or whatever it was on and put it into modern english, and it would indeed be a new work. the source material isnt new, but your rendering of it is.

    it is the same with music. you can record a 200 year old song. you dont own copyright on the song, but you do have the copyright on your recording of it.

    mike knows this stuff, but he is in such a rush to confuse people here (must be a bunch of morons in a hurry) that he posts up absolutely stupid stories like this.

     

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  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 6:47pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    monkeys *might* fly out of his butt too. a statement like that is standard coverage. if he really through so, he wouldnt have use the story at all, and certainly not with the sort of national enquirer headline that he used.

     

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  66.  
    identicon
    abc gum, May 26th, 2010 @ 6:58pm

    So, some freetard steals from the public domain, claims it as his and goes about accusing others of theft.

    Does that about sum it up then ?

     

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  67.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A devil's advocate takes an opposing position to test the original position and discover weaknesses in it. TAM does it because he's an idiot, or a troll, or got dropped on his head or something, not for any useful purpose. I'm just saying calling him a devil's advocate gives him far too much credit.

     

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  68.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 7:01pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You'd think that if it happened once billions of years ago, it would have happened AT LEAST once more...but it hasn't...not even once. THAT is a fact.

    Wait, you're saying it's a fact that life has arisen only once? Where do you get that?

     

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  69.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 7:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    BUT YOU'RE A PERSON HERE YOU FUCKING MORON!!!

     

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

  70.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 7:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

     

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

  71.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 8:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    the title is very misleading, because the copyright claim has little if anything to do with a 2000 year old work, and everything to do with a modern book which translates and comments on the subject. the title is pure sensationalism, makes the story sound like one thing, when it is something else.

    "Indeed, as clearly explained in the post." - you think? your words say otherwise: "there certainly could be a new copyright on the work, though it does seem a bit odd to rewrite it, and then still call it the Tao Te Ching. Basically, it looks like Mitchell wants the best of both worlds. " - dont you think this is sort of like 100% fudge factor? it reads like you didnt understand the story, didnt take the time to dig into it at all, and were more interested in hitting a hot button issue title.

    go ahead mike, its good to admit that you punted this one into the weeds.

     

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  72.  
    identicon
    non anonymous coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 9:02pm

    translating others works that have a lot of poetic language or proverbs is easily a new work, as they need to be interpreted or changed into proverbs relevent to the readers. do you have any real understanding of the following chinese proverbs?

    A single day of sub-zero temperature is not enough to create three feet of ice

    Three monks have no water to drink

    Hit a dog with a meat-bun

     

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  73.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 9:27pm

    Anonymous Coward:

    get a user name you guys ,, can't figure out it it , 1, 2, 3, or 4 ,, or maybe just some multiple personality.

    Mike , the

    AC 1
    AC 2
    AC 3 ... etc ,, is a good idea if ,, it is do-able

     

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  74.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 9:33pm

    The Anti Mike" who now posts as an AC,

    thanks ,, was wondering ,,,i Googled "tam" so many ways ,, and then i realized it must be techdirt culture slang.

    I at first thought "TAM" -- was "that axx-hole Mike",, but now you explained, it ,

    I think ,

    , say it again ?

     

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  75.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 9:35pm

    right wrong or whatever just to be the devils advocate.

    quite frankly , is there anything wrong with that.

    that is how we learn.

    Remember debates in school ?

    Gota be able to debate well from either side ,, or you don't understand either side.

     

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

  76.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 26th, 2010 @ 10:03pm

    Well, that's a problem I have with copy protection law itself and another reason why I think that the law tends to be abused and should be either done away with or substantially diminished.

    Copyright is here to stay,, and it will get stronger ,, not weaker.

    No one in congress or any federal judges , will ever endorse doing away with copyright. It would take an amendment to the constitution -- almost impossible.

    No amendments have ever diminished right.

    Except for "Prohibition". It failed, and was repealled .

    All others expanded rights,, free slave , women and 18 right to vote & etc ,,,,,,, ( OR the amendments were procedural ,, like if the Pres. gets ill or something.).

    It failed

     

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

  77.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 10:21pm

    Re: Anonymous Coward:

    In case you misseed it:

    ". . . but he is in such a rush to confuse people here (must be a bunch of morons in a hurry)"

    "BUT YOU'RE A PERSON HERE YOU FUCKING MORON!!!"

    See, the AC that doesn't use capital letters is calling themselves a moron and another AC is pointing that out. How is it confusing?

     

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  78.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 10:23pm

    Re: Well, that's a problem I have with copy protection law itself and another reason why I think that the law tends to be abused and should be either done away with or substantially diminished.

    Copyright will be rendered obsolete in the near future.

     

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

  79.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 10:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    yes but i am not confused. you appear to be confused by the simple function of a capslock key. in a hurry much?

     

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

  80.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2010 @ 10:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: @2

    Wow! Well, that dude from Cocoon sure is one deep thinking mo-fo.

     

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

  81.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 12:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    TAM is a contrarian troll who used to log in under the login name "The Anti-Mike" but still posts as an AC. He usually takes up moronic positions such as "WEP encrypted wireless can't be hacked", "copyright infringement is the same as bank robbery" and the like, just to take an opposing position to Mike - no matter how moronic said position is - and usually refers to him as "Mikey" or "the Masnick".

    It's pathetic, but we sometimes get a little entertainment out of calling him out in between serious discussion.

     

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

  82.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 1:17am

    Copywrong will die!

     

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

  83.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 2:37am

    "copyright infringement is the same as bank robbery"

    "copyright infringement is WORSE than bank robbery"

     

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  84.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 2:40am

    "Copyright will be rendered obsolete in the near future."

    scenario please ?

    explain fully how and why
    Copyright will be rendered obsolete in the near future

     

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

  85.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 2:42am

    I'm shocked, SHOCKED that an article in Techdirt would be written with a misleading tone!

    cute

     

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

  86.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 2:44am

    I don't believe it's misleading at all, no. Why do you think is misleading?

    I agree with Mike . I liked the post , and this thread

     

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

  87.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 2:47am

    "To be able to pretend his version is the ancient version when it works for marketing purposes, but then to consider a brand new work when it comes to copyright"

    "To be able to pretend his version is the ancient version when it works for marketing purposes, but then to consider a brand new work when it comes to copyright"

    well put Mike .

     

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

  88.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 2:50am

    do you have any real understanding of the following chinese proverbs?

    best post of the week !

    Short . Focused . Profound.

     

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

  89.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 4:20am

    Proverbs can be translated mechanically no?

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Chinese_proverbs

    There is nothing profound about it.

     

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

  90.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 4:23am

    * Literally: A single day of sub-zero temperature is not enough to create three feet of ice.
    * Moral: Great things cannot be accomplished in a short period of time.
    * Compare: Rome was not built in a day (Roma non fu fatta in un giorno, Italian proverb).


    enDOTwikiquoteDOTorg/wiki/Chinese_proverbs

     

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  91.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 4:24am

    en.wikiquote.org

     

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

  92.  
    icon
    Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 5:58am

    Re: Re: Wrong Point

    You may be confusing hypocrisy for legality? Let me see if I can explain myself better.

    His work is based off of previous work.
    Someone else's work is based off of his work.
    He's not happy that someone else is building off of his work, even though he did the same thing.
    I think that's hypocritical.

    Yes, what he did was legal. Yes, what the self-help guru did was illegal. So he does have the legal right to file suit. I just think he's being hypocritical for doing so.

     

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  93.  
    identicon
    abc gum, May 27th, 2010 @ 6:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    "because the copyright claim has little if anything to do with a 2000 year old work"

    Oh please. Grasping straws.

    I think the nit pick department is down the hall and to your left.

     

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  94.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    Re: "copyright infringement is the same as bank robbery"

    Of course it isn't. There exists the threat of actual violence in a bank robbery.

    When hundreds of millions of people infringe on copyright, everyday, the only threat that exists is to lazy artists who don't like working, everyday!

     

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

  95.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re: Well, that's a problem I have with copy protection law itself and another reason why I think that the law tends to be abused and should be either done away with or substantially diminished.

    Not likely.

     

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

  96.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    The claim is not based on copying the 2000-year-old Tao Te Ching. The claim is based on copying the new elements of the new version/translation.

    You're obviously not a moron. I do not believe you are stupid enough to think there is nothing misleading about this article title.

    Unfortunately, that means you're being disingenuous, which is a lot worse IMO than just being stupid.

     

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

  97.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    The previous AC's point is totally valid. The guy can't claimt copyright on the old stuff, only his new stuff.

    That's what the case is about, but Mr. Masnick's title (at the very least) makes it seem like the guy is claiming rights in 2000 year old material. He is not.

     

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  98.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    The claim is not based on copying the 2000-year-old Tao Te Ching. The claim is based on copying the new elements of the new version/translation.

    But highlighting the fact that the claims are based on a book called the Tao Te Ching, it points out the ridiculousness of the situation -- which is that the whole thing is based on a derivative work... and yet the new author freaks out when someone else creates a derivative work. The point is made quite clearly. There is nothing misleading about the headline.

    You're obviously not a moron. I do not believe you are stupid enough to think there is nothing misleading about this article title.

    When you don't have facts to back up your statement, you resort to insults. I'm sorry that you don't believe me, but I swear that I do not see how the title is misleading, and all of the details are clearly in the post.

    Either way, there is plenty of discussion on this in the comments -- which as we've discussed plenty of times, is part of the point of the site. It's a discussion site. If you think we're wrong, we expect you to back up your position in the comments.

    Calling me "stupid" or "disingenuous" without any basis doesn't further the discussion.

     

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  99.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Wrong Point

    Aside from legality, if someone's position is consistent, then it is not hypocritical.

    It is entirely consistent to claim that it's ok (and, separately, legal) to incorporate/copy really old public domain works, but not ok (nor legal) to incorporate/copy relatively new works whose authors still are around and claim rights to them.

    We have no way to know whether his position is "no works should be based on any prior work." If that *is* his position, then he is being hypocritical. But I highly doubt he believes that or would argue for that.

     

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  100.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    Y'know, I wrote a long response, but deleted it.

    Please, if you will, just answer me this question:

    Do you believe it is likely or unlikely that the following title "Copyright Infringement Charged Over Tao Te Ching... Which Is Only Two Millennia Old" would lead readers to believe that copyright infringement has been charged based on copying of the 2000-year-old Tao Te Ching?

     

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

  101.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:44am

    Re:

    You can, if the musical work/recording is in the public domain (at least you can in the U.S.).

     

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  102.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 10:46am

    Re:

    Wait, what makes you think any of those were done "mechanically?"

     

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

  103.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    Do you believe it is likely or unlikely that the following title "Copyright Infringement Charged Over Tao Te Ching... Which Is Only Two Millennia Old" would lead readers to believe that copyright infringement has been charged based on copying of the 2000-year-old Tao Te Ching?

    I would assume that most people can read the details in the article. Are you honestly suggesting that because I can't fit 500 words worth of nuance into a headline, I'm being misleading?

    Everything in the headline is accurate. The lawsuit is over Tao Te Ching. And Tao Te Ching is over 2,000 years old. From there, I do explain the nuances of the situation -- highlighting the ridiculousness of the guy being able to both call his work the Tao Te Ching *and* then getting upset about others doing a criticism on his work.

     

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  104.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    Wow. You won't even answer one simple question.

    That's ok, "I would assume that most people can read the details in the article" says it all.

    You certainly need not fit "500 words of nuance into a headline," to avoid being misleading. For example, "Copyright Infringement Charged Over English Tao Te Ching Version" would not be misleading, while not incorporating 500 words of nuance.

    "Everything in the headline is accurate." Mmm...not quite.

    "The lawsuit is over Tao Te Ching. And Tao Te Ching is over 2,000 years old." The lawsuit is over "Tao Te Ching: A New English Translation," which is significantly less old, no?

    I don't see any ridiculousness in accurately describing your work as a new version of an old public domain work work (e.g., "Tao Te Ching: A New English Version") and claiming copyright protection for it.

     

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  105.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), May 27th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    Wow. You won't even answer one simple question.


    I'll answer any question asked accurately. If you ask a "when did you stop beating your wife question" forgive me for answering the more relevant question.

    You certainly need not fit "500 words of nuance into a headline," to avoid being misleading. For example, "Copyright Infringement Charged Over English Tao Te Ching Version" would not be misleading, while not incorporating 500 words of nuance.

    But would totally ignore the important point that the article is trying to highlight.

    I'm glad you're not my editor.

    I don't see any ridiculousness in accurately describing your work as a new version of an old public domain work work (e.g., "Tao Te Ching: A New English Version") and claiming copyright protection for it.

    That's because you're probably an IP lawyer who thinks all sorts of things like this make sense.

    But for most other people, they implicitly recognize the insanity of it.

     

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  106.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2010 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stephen Mitchell

    I fail to see what's unfair about asking whether you think people reading the headline would be likely to believe something.

    If you think a misleading headline is ok as long as you correct misperceptions in the article, just say so.

    You're right that my headline is not "grabby," nor does it highlight the point you are trying to make. However, I think the point you are trying to make depends on a misleading characterization of the facts.

    I think this is shown by your comments saying the lawsuit is about the Tao Te Ching, which is 2000 years old. It's not! It's about a new translation/version!

    I realize putting that in the title/article makes for a boring title/article, but THOSE ARE THE FACTS!

    That's the problem, the article/title is juicier than the facts.

     

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  107.  
    identicon
    Reed, May 27th, 2010 @ 8:18pm

    Copyright is always copywrong

    I think the real problem is that copyright has always been at odds with the natural order of rights.

    Once something has been released to the public whether be it commercial or free it no longer has the exclusive rights it once had. We all have a natural right at that point to comment on it, interpret it, and do pretty much anything we damn well please with it.

    No one is arguing we can "steal" from anyone but the argument has always been what can we borrow? Since there is no real tool out there to determine this that isn't arbitrary we should always error on the side of caution.

    What I would propose is that unless the author can prove it is a literal copy beyond a shadow of doubt word for word including formatting that they have no rights to control it whatsoever.

    It is important to set the bar high for this test because even allowing something silly like copyright to exist means it will be abused and it has been more than just abused in the last century.

    This would protect someone from making an exact copy of you book but would still allow our culture to continue building on itself without some meaningless time restriction that is solely designed for monetary benefit.

    The gall of the intellectual property maximalists that they can somehow rewrite how our culture works is profound. That they can control the discourse of culture for their monetary benefit? Sick and wrong IMHO

     

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  108.  
    icon
    Technopolitical (profile), May 30th, 2010 @ 10:32pm

    Re: Copyright is always copywrong

    "Once something has been released to the public whether be it commercial or free it no longer has the exclusive rights it once had. We all have a natural right at that point to comment on it, interpret it, and do pretty much anything we damn well please with it."
    -----------
    Reply : That is mostly in reality true,, and the risk the Artist takes by putting his Art /soul out there.

    This is also why J.D. Salinger refused to any movie deals or other derivative works to "catcher in the rye. It is also why JDS , locked all his writings and letters away. He knew he would not be able to fully control them , if he made his writings public.
    --------------------
    "We all have a natural right at that point to comment on it, interpret it, and do pretty much anything we damn well please with it."

    Reply :
    *As long as your pay proper royalties. OK
    * Parody is OK & protected.
    *Danger Mouse ,,I got mixed feelings,, I lean towards calling a new work , but he should pay royalties to Jay-Z , and the Beatles, but "danger mouse" too , is a NEW protected copyrighted work in my humble opinion. ( but it ain't a cut and dry thing here.)

    ====================

    In the realm of Artist to Artist , the culture is MUCH different , than it is Artist to Pirate.

    Artist unite ( for the most ) against Pirates.

    Artists acting in good-faith ,, are rarely sued for infringement by other Artists.

    ( In cases where the Copyright holders are not the original Artists ,, and then in it only for the $$,, these types of biz folks sue on Artist infringement issues at a higher rate.)

     

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  109.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:48am

    The writer of this article clearly missed the point entirely. It is rare - but entertaining - to find a purported news article about a subject in which the reporter (or opiner) knows so little about his subject that his being so far afield causes puzzlement rather than raises hackles.

     

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

  110.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 8:18am

    Re:

    Unfortunately it's quite common to find a "rebuttal" with absolutely no facts or counterarguments, and in some cases almost completely devoid of content of any kind.

     

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

  111.  
    identicon
    NotNecessary, Oct 15th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    I find it funny how "un-Tao Te Ching" it is to sue someone in the first place. Lao Tzu would have been very disappointed in Stephen Mitchell.

     

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

  112.  
    identicon
    Joan, Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 4:57pm

    Re:

    If it is truly an accurate translation of the Tao, then it is not Steven Mitchell's original work. The Tao is the work and writings of Lao Tsu, not Mitchell. I purchased Mitchell's translation solely based on the recommendation of Wayne Dyer (before I heard about the lawsuit. I am sure I would never have come upon Mitchell's work, let alone purchased the book, had it not been for Dr. Dyer. Steven Mitchell got a lot of free exposure and publicity from Dyer's endorsement and then Steven Mitchell sued him. It seems like an honest mistake, to quote from a translation of ancient writings, I guess no good deed . . .

     

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


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