Explaining The Copyright Bubble… And Why Big Corporations Want To Keep ACTA Secret

from the indeed dept

Shane Chambers was the first of a few of you to send in this fantastic Slashdot comment by someone going by the name girlintraining, that encapsulates very clearly the nature of the copyright “wars” today and why the industry wants to keep ACTA quiet. The whole thing is worth a read, but to get you into it, here’s the beginning:

I used to read stuff like this and get upset. But then I realized that my entire generation knows it’s baloney. They can’t explain it intellectually. They have no real understanding of the subtleties of the law, or arguments about artists’ rights or any of that. All they really understand is there are large corporations charging private citizens tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for downloading a few songs here and there. And it’s intuitively obvious that it can’t possibly be worth that.

An entire generation has disregarded copyright law. It doesn’t matter whether copyright is useful or not anymore. They could release attack dogs and black helicopters and it wouldn’t really change people’s attitudes. It won’t matter how many websites they shut down or how many lives they ruin, they’ve already lost the culture war because they pushed too hard and alienated people wholesale. The only thing these corporations can do now is shift the costs to the government and other corporations under color of law in a desperate bid for relevance. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.

What does this mean for the average person? It means that we google and float around to an ever-changing landscape of sites. We communicate by word of mouth via e-mail, instant messaging, and social networking sites where the latest fix of free movies, music, and games are. If you don’t make enough money to participate in the artificial marketplace of entertainment goods — you don’t exclude yourself from it, you go to the grey market instead. All the technological, legal, and philosophical barriers in the world amount to nothing. There is a small core of people that understand the implications of what these interests are doing and continually search for ways to liberate their goods and services for “sale” on the grey market. It is (economically and politically) identical to the Prohibition except that instead of smuggling liquor we are smuggling digital files.

Billions have been spent combating a singularily simple idea that was spawned thirty years ago by a bunch of socially-inept disaffected teenagers working out of their garages: Information wants to be free. Except information has no wants — it’s the people who want to be free. And while we can change attitudes about smoking with aggressive media campaigns, or convince them to cast their votes for a certain candidate, selling people on goods and services they don’t really need, what we cannot change is the foundations upon which a generation has built a new society out of.

But, still, they will try, and the way they try to do it is in backrooms and convincing governments that they must be right, and increased protectionism really is better for everyone — even though it’s really only better for a select group of middlemen.

Later on, she discusses how we’ve reached a “copyright bubble”:

Copyright won’t end anytime soon, but I’m suggesting we look at the fundamentals here: it is an artificial construct within the digital environment. It’s something we built extraneous to it, and in fact, is antagonistic to it. The exchange of information is fundamental to the existence of the internet. Copyright is not. Copyright is an institution, like marriage, the church, the government, etc. Like those things, it has a maintenance cost. It is a coping mechanism. That’s not a judgment on its sustainability nor its justification for existence (or lack thereof).

Copyright is an institution and like all social institutions remain in existence only for as long as its members continue to support it. There is a substantial and growing number of digital identities (people, organizations, projects, etc.) that exist outside of that institution. Why? Because information is very, very cheap to replicate. Production of that information however can vary in cost. Everybody agrees that there must be some compensatory mechanism, however artificial, to reimburse people for the effort invested in the production of the goods and services that copyright protects. If there is no protection at all, many staples of modern life cease to exist. This is the loci of why copyright exists.

The cost to society now outweighs the benefits and we exist within a market bubble right now: A copyright bubble. Large corporations and governments alike have bought into it and driven up its cost. Like any market-driven force however, it will eventually return to equilibrium. We had the dot com bubble, and the housing bubble, but that’s nothing compared to what’s going on right now — we lost billions when that one burst. We stand to lose trillions when this one does. And, ironically, it will be burst by the very forces that businesses are embracing right now — labor capital in the third world.

Well-written and thought-provoking. While not all that different than similar pieces we’ve discussed in the past, it does present it in a very clear manner that makes it worth reading in its entirety.

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Comments on “Explaining The Copyright Bubble… And Why Big Corporations Want To Keep ACTA Secret”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Why does everyone keep talking about ACTA and copyright? The C in ACTA stands for counterfeiting. The chances of ACTA being about copyright and the internet is zero.

It’s the Anti-COUNTERFEITING Trade Agreement.

When this secret treaty finally becomes public, boy, will you guys have egg on your face when you realize that it’s all about counterfeiting and not about copyright or the internet.

Just you wait and see.

wallow-T says:

ACTA as a reframing issue

Thinking about the subject of ACTA, I came to the thought that what the copyright industries are attempting here is a “re-framing” of the problem. The issue of unauthorized Internet distribution is going to be re-framed as a counterfeiting problem, because counterfeiting has no political support.

We may be seeing a hint of that in the Oink trial, where the admin is accused of “defrauding” the music industry.

The “framing” concept comes out of lefty political blogs and the book “What’s The Matter With Kansas?” and I don’t have time to dig deeper into it tonight.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: ACTA as a reframing issue

Yes, counterfeiting involves a falsehood, a clear wrong. Copying on the other hand, is completely natural and something people have done since they had brains and eyeballs.

Producing a replica and selling it is a replica is fine (if the purchaser is informed it is a replica).

Thus selling a perfect/digital copy of one of your legitimately obtained DVDs as a perfect/digital copy is wholly ethical, violates no-one’s (natural) rights. It just infringes some corporation’s commercial monopoly as granted to them in the 18th century (suspending the public’s cultural liberty in the process).

What isn’t fine is ripping a DVD to a low res MP4 file and pretending it’s a perfect/digital copy of a DVD in order to deceive someone into paying more for it than they would otherwise.

Thus there’s nothing wrong with copying a drug if the copy is as good as the original and sold as a good copy (it just infringes a patent). The wrong is in producing a grievously inferior copy and selling it as the original, e.g. soap powder as cocaine, or salt as aspirin.

The only natural barrier to copying is privacy. A state granted monopoly is an unnatural and unethical constraint on a natural act.

Anonymous Coward says:

leaks of ACTA were terrifying

to the absolute noob above about ACTA
the provisions about the internet and the things you can and can’t do , the locks on DVDRS and HD material and the consequences are in effect about breaking locks on the item.

when you recreate without you are in effect by there trms counterfeiting and htey do not want any NON commercial copying allowed and want to remove fair use of any kind. DOES THIS SOUND LIKE some company making a pair of levi’s?


dos this sound like a kid downloading a music tune?

a tv ep
a dvdr ?

yet they want it to be made illegal
they want the software you use top be illegal not realizing that such software is essential to using the net even with no infringing acts.

AND therein lies the crunch …..hollywood has always hated technology unless they are using it.

I have until this article argued the same thing and tried to ask every one in Canada this simple question.
First copyright is a limited time benegit to an author or creator and then we in society are supposed ot get a return aka the public domain.


The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Copyright won’t end anytime soon, but I’m suggesting we look at the fundamentals here: it is an artificial construct within the digital environment.

I would have to say that this is the crux of the matter, but not in the way the author thinks.

Most constructs are artificial. From real estate to water rights, from citzenship to copyright, they are all artificial constructs. Copyright is an artificial construct without taking it digital.

For me, the digital world is going through it’s adolescence. It is slowly growing up and trying to find it’s place in the world. Right now, the internet is still pretty much like the wild west, where people are doing whatever they want until they are taken out by the sheriff. People like Tenenbaum, Thomas, and many torrent site owners are the dead bodies, the few taken out so far. In that environment, property rights and other legal rights are at best an illusion, easy taken out by a man with a gun at any time.

At some point, the internet will mature. The outlaws will become fewer, respect will return for the idea of “law and order”, and everyone will move forward, in a very prosperous way. The current situation is just a transition. Attempting to apply the transitional rules as a long term solution just won’t work out.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re:

@TAM: Then why are the legacies trying to apply transitional rules to a long-term societal principle? Yes, some are learning, but eh **AAs aren’t. At all.

Moreover, if the legacies wanted to be more secure in their business, why have they barely attempted to embrace a disruptive technology? Surely it’s not that hard to make money from the Internet?

girlintraining is my new hero. I only wish I was so articulate.

cc says:

Re: Re:

“Copyright is an artificial construct without taking it digital.”

Real estate, water rights and citizenship cannot be taken digital. Those are rules that can only govern the physical realm.

As long as copying a book meant photocopying it, information had a limited, scarce, tangible form and could be subject to rules about physical things.

Now copyright is under fire because the physical restriction is no longer there. Something has become possible that was thought totally impossible when the rules were made.

What you see on the internet is not lawlessness, because existing copyright law should NOT apply. Do you not understand that the thought police is different from the real police?

Anonymous Coward says:

There is no possible way, technologically, or otherwise, that they can even hope to enforce any prohibition on personal use copying, since if a copy is really for the personal use of the copier, nobody else would even know that it any particular such copy had been made unless the copy found its way outside the purview of the person who made the copy. A blanket prohibition that makes the activities that might make personal copying possible happen to be illegal to perform is laughable in that context… at worst, it will require some technological skill on the part of the copier. And again, trying to outlaw such skills would be wholly unenforceable.

Koder Kev (profile) says:

E=MC^2 (C)Albert Einstein 1905

I’m firmly of the belief that it’s no longer a case of, “information wants to be free,” or even, “we want information to be free.” The sciences have always operated on different rules than business. Where would we be if Albert Einstein had copyrighted his famous equation? Where would we be if Newton had copyrighted his work in physics, optics, calculus?

I believe we’ve reached the point in human evolution where it’s quickly becoming a case of, “we NEED information to be free.” I believe this is especially true in the software industry. Size of most commercial programs (like Microsoft office or the Linux kernel) are composed of thousands of lines of code. We are already to the point where most software projects require armies of coders. We need to be building on previous work, instead of continually reinventing the wheel.

The technology curve is accelerating. We (IT people and geeky hobbyists) know this. The business people don’t. I agree with the Slashdot poster’s opinion, the current generation is going to change the face of the entire world. As Bob Dylan said, “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand for the times they are a changin”

:) says:

I agree with TAM.

The internet is maturing, piracy was a symptom of a problem that we as a society live today.

Piracy was the natural outcome of a natural process(sharing) and it will evolve, people will realize that copyright takes their rights of ownership, privacy and security and eventually will start using things that give them that.

The best way to win a fight is not fighting at all(sun tzu)

Many people will start looking at the licenses and “choosing” the one that will give them most.

People don’t “need” to buy the latest movie or the latest song they can find alternatives that will be licensed accordingly to what they want like copyleft licenses or GPL or CC 3.0 sharealike.

Even if piracy is stopped people will find ways around it and in the end all copyright maximalists will have is the memories of the “good old times” LoL

I’m already sick and tired of the copyright industry and their lackey’s and this year is the “free copyright” year for me.

I just dumped all copyrighted media and if it doesn’t have the right license for me is not worth buying or supporting.

People want to do something about it?

Use only copyleft licenses do not use copyrighted ones.

Using copyleft licenses is a strong statement to those not in favor and one that can and probably will bring them to their knees.

:) says:

Do something about it.

Our rights are being violated and people still rent(is not buying when you can’t owned) things from those people.

Is time to take a stand and send a clear and in no uncertain terms message to those people.

Don’t support people who will hurt you do not rent(buy) stuff from those people.

People who care about you and your rights will not try to chain you to restrictive copyright licenses they will give you liberal licenses and that is what people should start shopping for. Assurances in righting with no uncertain terms about what you can and cannot do with what you “buy” otherwise it is of no use is it?

We don’t need no stinking government to decide for us what we need or what is right and wrong we can fight back and win this thing for those who don’t want to sacrifice anything for what they believe they don’t deserve none of the rights they have and it is not like people need to use violence or anything you just need to be conscious of what your actions consequences have on the environment that you live in.

Take responsibility have some balls and do the right thing.

Support copyleft don’t give money to the scum of the earth.

chris (profile) says:

desinged by apple in california

from the slashdot comment:
The cost to society now outweighs the benefits and we exist within a market bubble right now: A copyright bubble… Like any market-driven force however, it will eventually return to equilibrium. We had the dot com bubble… We stand to lose trillions when this one does. And, ironically, it will be burst by the very forces that businesses are embracing right now — labor capital in the third world.

the future of the global economy is supposed to be large western corporations sending manufacturing over seas to third world countries, and in exchange, those countries will respect our intellectual property and let us sell those products under our brands. our economy is supposed to thrive on licensing revenues, consulting fees, economies of scale, royalties and all the great stuff that comes from “owning” ideas and paying others to implement them. the third world is supposed to thrive on performing all the labor necessary to bring those ideas to life.

the only problem is that the third world doesn’t care about intellectual property. IP is a first world problem and it’s pretty much foreign to people in the third world.

here in the first world, a whole generation has come up with very little support for the idea of copyright thanks to the ubiquity of file sharing, and it’s supposedly destroying everything. at the same time, whole civilizations in the third world are coming online and reaping the benefits of that generation’s best practices and will begin applying them to their third world problems.

if every download is a lost sale, and if file sharing costs content industries billions each year thanks to people who attended college in the last decade, what will happen when the entire population of china comes online and starts sharing not just music, movies, software and games, but whole industries?

the first world didn’t just donate its manufacturing industry to the third world, we paid them to take it off our hands. we entered into a pact that the third world is not going to honor. we invested in globalizing the economy, but the global economy isn’t going to pay us back.

what is western industry going to do when that bubble bursts?

Ed C. says:

Re: desinged by apple in california

Thank you! It’s sad that people don’t see when information, unlike physical products, is infinitely reproducible, moving to an “information” economy is placing the commercial sector upon a foundation built on sand–and the tide is rising.

I would of course say the same about the financial sector depending more upon credit rather than capital…

copycense (profile) says:

Interesting, but

The “copyright bubble” is an interesting metaphor, particularly during the current economic problems, fueled in part by real-estate speculation. What the writer seems to presume, though, is that changes in technology and the nature of protected works is fueling this bubble. That may be true for the last 15-20 years, but it is not necessary true for the rest of U.S. copyright law & policy, which goes back to the 18th century.

We are far from copyright maximalists, but it is sort of tiring to hear a lot of strong opinions about copyright from the so-called “copyleft” that limit the scope of any argument about copyright’s relevance or viability to the technologies, works, or laws that have arisen since the mid-1990s. It’s as if all started with John Perry Barlow’s manifesto, and everything prior to that is irrelevant. (We just had this verbal joust with 4 people at once on Twitter, so we’re still a bit amped.)

The reason U.S. copyright exists is to encourage learning. Arguably, we have gone considerably past that in scope, in term, and in judicial & political interpretation. At the same time, copyright’s applicability to everyday tasks also is a very recent phenomenon. See http://bit.ly/5sX784.

But to resolve the ill fit between copyright & contemporary uses requires more than discussions about bringing about a “more enlightened copyright regime” and how fair use needs to be expanded, and wearing ignorant T-shirts that equate copyright with censorship. To even engage in any responsible discussion about copyright’s issues, we think, requires a fundamental, holistic understanding of why the copyright system exists, what its purpose is, and what led us to a point where this is a real problem for too many.

The one think we think is missing most from an informed dialogue about U.S. copyright is historical and statutory ignorance. None of this stuff just began blowing up in 1995. The game is what it is because of what went down before now, and in no small part because copyright law and policy got away from existing for the encouragement of learning. It seems only reasonable and prudent that if the game needs to be changed, we all should at least know the basic outlines of the game and its history.

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