European Parliament Committee Willing To Push Back On Copyright When It Comes To The Blind

from the small-victories dept

If you go through a timeline of the history of copyright law over the last two centuries, one thing is clear: it has only moved in one direction, and one direction only. That is that it has repeatedly been changed to take away more and more consumer rights and to ratchet up copyright law to greater and greater levels. The only exception I can think of was the US government’s decision to make all federal government documents public domain, rather than granting them copyright. While important, this was still a minor move. Update: Thanks to one of the copyright scholars in the audience for pointing out a few other cases of pushback against copyright, including the 2002 TEACH Act which included some small exceptions for distance learning, as well as a variety of countries rolling back perpetual copyright.

For the past few years, there has been one other push, happening via WIPO, that would push back just slightly on copyright law when it came to books for the blind (in Braille). Basically, this treaty makes it easier to get books in Braille for the blind. Who could possibly be against such a thing? Well, of course the RIAA and the MPAA, who fought against it claiming that a treaty like this would “begin to dismantle the existing global treaty structure of copyright law, through the adoption of an international instrument at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms.”

This was especially hilarious, considering that it came from two organizations that remain massively strong supporters of ACTA — which has done a tremendous amount of damage to the “existing global treaty structure of copyright law,” by going around it entirely, and created an agreement that was very much “at odds with existing, longstanding and well-settled norms.”

However, it appears that the WIPO treaty is actually getting some traction (even if just a little bit), and MEP Christian Engstrom is noting that the legal affairs committee JURI in the European Parliament has unanimously adopted an amendment that supports the treaty. It still appears to have a long way to go, but as Rick Falkvinge notes, this is “the first time in several decades” that “politicians voted unanimously that the public?s access to knowledge and culture is more important than the copyright monopoly.” It is a very small thing, but considering how rarely our elected officials are even willing to consider such a move, it’s noteworthy.

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Comments on “European Parliament Committee Willing To Push Back On Copyright When It Comes To The Blind”

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Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Attention AC trolls/shills...

I just want to step in here before we’re knee deep in argumentative trolls and issue somewhat of a preemptive strike. Listen up:

You seem to want the government, in conjunction with your pet industries, to craft a new set of laws to deal with what is continually referred to incorrectly as “piracy.”

First off, what gives you the idea that any of this will be handled rationally, rather than just another legislative gangbang that prides itself on overreach rather than prudent oversight? What previous government action are you basing this on?

The closest comparison I can find is the so-called Drug War which, despite billions of dollars and decades of action has failed to make any sort of tangible dent in the drug trade. What it HAS managed to do is erode civil rights and privacy. It’s also given various drug enforcement teams to rewrite rules on the fly.

Is this your ideal? Some sort of internet SWAT team that will finally lay the smackdown on “freetards” or, failing that, at least shoot them right in the family pet? Is that what you want? Freeloaders doing jail time for victimless “crimes”?

The Drug War is the perfect comparison for your windmill tilting. It’s an autonomous but disorganized force taking on an enemy with no real head to kill off. There’s no CEO to topple. No President of Illicit Drugs, Inc. to take down. There’s just a bunch of cannon fodder and replaceable pawns disguised as “triumphs” and “photo ops.”

And when they do have a discernible target, they still can’t bring it down. 90% of all heroin comes from Turkey and yet, there’s still plenty of smack to go around. Is this the force of justice you want backing up your vindictive legislation? They can’t find a field full of poppies in a field full of poppies.

Consequently, like the sore losers they are, they take out their failure on their citizens, throwing the book at weekend pot dealers and street runners with a half-gram of crack in their pockets.

But still you push on, as though you were just one badly written and randomly enforced law away from finally building your wormhole to 1991. Do you really want to give THIS government the authority to paw through all your online activity just to punish the unwashed masses who are apparently virtually shoplifting from you 24/7? Do you really want to give self-interested industries the right to root around in your hard drive in hopes of finding a lawsuit hidden under all the socks and porn at the back of the partition?

Let’s try a little theoretical exercise. Your laws are in place and is tracking my downloading. Three strikes is in play. They can’t actually see all the data I’m downloading but they’re just looking for patterns.

Here we go.

True story from last time I hung the “Gone Downloadin'” sign up: I head over to Beko Records and download 8 or 9 comps and eps (witch house, electronica, space rock). Then I’m off to The Hood Internet to download their last 3 mix albums. Then off to the Kleptones for a couple of albums. (I heartily recommend “A Night at the Hip Hopera” and “Uptime/Downtime.” Everything listed above is being given away absolutely FREE by these labels and artists. No harm, no foul. Right?

Not so fast. The tracking software doesn’t like my spike in usage. So it kicks my info to a g-man or whoever’s the admin. Hmmm. Let’s look deeper.

“Beko Records? Never heard of them. However, I took this job as the tool of the industry so chances are I haven’t heard of much. Better wake up the boss.”

The boss doesn’t know them either but sends out a DMCA “just in case.” Their hosting freaks out and shuts them down because they don’t want to end up in court. Stupidity 1, Indie Artists 0.

More sniffing. Holy hell, those other two are mashup artists! Infringement galore! Bonuses for everyone! DMCAs all around! Bang. Bang. Two more down.

And my connection dies, followed by a tersely worded email that I have to read at the library. No one involved has done anything illegal and yet everyone gets punished. Even if all the parties are reinstated, it will still be several months and several thousand dollars of fines or legal fees.

If you think that’s outlandish, you haven’t been paying attention. And if you think this will be handled better than this by a combination of short-sighted industry heads and their back-pocketed representatives, then you’re obviously having trouble typing without your lips moving.

The government is woefully unequipped to deal with millions of people on a case-by-case basis, so they end up casting the net wide and hoping they at least drag in some actual criminals along with the innocent bystanders. And in their unsettling exuberance to please their benefactors, they’ll be willing to throw liberty and privacy under the bus. After all, this is the same government that panics if you try to carry more than 3 oz. of any fluid onto a plane. This is the same mindset that actually believes laws need to be written to prevent people from texting while walking.

The other aspect that gets lost in your endless shilling is that there are millions of people who wouldn’t touch your shoddy, masjor label product with a 10-foot torrent. But they’ll get swept up all the same because of their tendency to use the same tools as those “pirating” major label product. We already know that the RIAA and the MPAA don’t have the faintest idea how new technology works. This they’ve proved over the last decade. We also know our elected officials are equally clueless. Combining ignorance with tremendous power will ALWAYS end badly.

And what if I was downloading major label music? If I spent a week doing nothing but filling a 500 GB hard drive with copy after copy of Nickelback’s latest, does Chad Kroeger wake up one morning to find his wallet empty? He’s out nothing. His “support group” of managers, label execs, A&R reps and other members of this bloated faux entourage may start whining about “lost sales,” but the fact of the matter is, I’d never buy their lousy product in the first place. Their music is still for sale at hundreds of venues. I haven’t done a goddamn thing to the amount of available product and yet, people like you view this as “theft.”

If you want to entertain the last wishes of dying industries, knock yourself out. But don’t drag the rest of us into your desperate cash grabs on behalf of your benefactors, who have slipped into a severe dementia. Don’t make the world a worse place to live by sacrificing the liberty and privacy of millions just so the major label/major studio life support machine can run for a few more years.

You may now resume your ignorant trolling, most likely already in progress.

[Plus, the RIAA and the MPAA hate the blind. That rules.]

[Plus +: My apologies, Mike. You may have your blog back now.]

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Attention AC trolls/shills...

It was kind of off-topic but:

1. It’s been brewing for awhile.
2. It was only a matter of time before the trolls rolled in. Mike’s opening paragraph alone has enough “false statements” in it to feed a hungry pack of trolls. And I just once wanted to have the small and mostly imaginary satisfaction of visualizing a shilling AC rushing in to correct Mike and his kool-aid drinkers, only to have whatever thought bubbled up from the shallows of his mind die on his fingertips as he ran face-first into this, like someone who’s mistaken a PULL door for a PUSH door. Just once.

(I realize the thrill is small and imaginary. And I’m cool with that. That’s why I did this on TEH INTERNET.)

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Attention AC trolls/shills...

Post of the year!!

Very clear and well versed, I’m asking permission to repost this on my FB page with proper credit given to the author, of course!

Combined with your later post I’d say you deserve best post of the week easily and probably funniest as well!

“That doesn’t matter – if we wanted our books read by blind people, we would publish a braille edition.”

Jesus. That’s so self-centeredly ignorant he might as well have said, “The blind can’t read, idiot. They don’t have eyes!

I had to wipe the coffee off my monitor and keyboard but it was worth it!

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

Re: Attention AC trolls/shills...

I just watched an episode of Fringe and suddenly reminded when he was asked why he cant get Walter under control and went off on the DHS director.

I’ll spare you the conversation and go to the gem.
..[eyes wide and stare from the DHS director]
..Walter’s son… “yeah I guess I’ve been thinking about that one for a while.”

Well done man, well done!

Anonymous Coward says:

A few years ago, I was at a copyright consultation meeting. Seated next to me was a book publisher. We got into a discussion of what they want from “copyright reform” and why they believe that “technical methods” should trump fair use.

It became evident to me that book publishers are simply insane. Near the end of our conversation, I asked him this simple question:

“If someone were to invent a device that allowed blind people to read paper books – eg. they would purchase any book from a bookstore, place it into this device, and the device would produce realtime braile imprints so they could read it, should that be a violation of copyright, even though no copy is being made?”

The answer was basically “Of course – someone would make money selling that, and nobody should be allowed to make money off our books but us!”

I responded with “but it would *increase* the market for your books, at no cost to you – you would be making more money.”

The response? “That doesn’t matter – if we wanted our books read by blind people, we would publish a braille edition.”

Publishers are just batshit-fscking-insane.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah. After reading about it several times here on Techdirt, I’m increasingly coming to the view that in many of these copyright cases, it’s not about money (either “lost sales” through piracy or lost sales through DRM or regional restrictions) and it’s not about what’s best for consumers, the public at large or even the company itself. It’s about control.

I’m not sure it’s actually “batshit-fucking-insane”: they want to remain as the gatekeepers, as the people with power, the people who can’t be commoditised. It’s not going to work as people will just innovate round them, but it’s understandable.

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A few years back I dated a blind girl (get the jokes out of your systems now…) Before that I used to think that blind people had a bit of a persecution complex. After seeing what it was like in her world I’m not so sure. Much of the internet is invisible to them simply because of shoddy programming and reliance on Flash. And you have asshats like the AC quoted that simply have no intention of helping the blind.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

When I was in grade two or so, my elementary school had an assembly where a blind woman from the community brought in her seeing eye dog and told us all about being blind and the challenges and all that. I don’t remember the details of what she said too well.

But the weird thing was, she had a cold. Her voice was all raspy and she kept losing it. She told us she had a cold at the beginning of her talk, probably not thinking much of it – but for most of us kids, this was the first time we had ever spoken to a blind person. I’m not sure if I’m alone, but I know it left a really weird impression on me – like, no matter how much I knew that she just happened to have a cold, I couldn’t help but associating the two and feeling like blind people were somehow “sick” in a broader way. For a long time I knew this was completely false but could not shake the feeling of it.

Anyway I don’t really have a point, but your story just reminded me of that and I’ve always thought it was interesting. Somehow it was actually easier for me to think of blind people as sick, rather than realize they were completely normal people who have to get by without the ability to freaking see.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re:

Good thing this book publisher hasn’t heard of reading glasses. If he did, he might say something just as stupid like, “if we wanted our books read by farsighted people, we would publish a Big Print edition.”

I bet this same book publisher hasn’t yet figured out all the money that cochlear implant companies are making, by allowing people who would otherwise not be able to hear (not even if the volume was set all the way to “11”) copyrighted audiobooks, not to mention copyrighted music and copyrighted audio in movies. Sure, the device has many non-infringing uses, listening to family and friends, sounds of nature, talking to yourself, etc… but as soon as you hear one iota of “copyrighted” audio without paying the appropriate licensing fee… you are a pirate!

I wonder how the batshit-fscking-insane publishers are going to handle it when the formerly blind start reading with machines that are so small, they can be implanted directly into the eye, enabling the blind to directly see the printed word:

Retinal Implant Brightens Future For Blind. A new advance in the technology captures natural light from the eye to help the patient see.

I can guess at how the book publisher you referred to would react, by suing the newly sighted person for: Direct Copyright Infringement (viewed printed book through electronic means), Hospital that implanted device: Contributory Copyright Infringement (without their surgery, you wouldn’t be infringing), Manufacture of cochlear implant: Digital Rights Management Infringement (Known as the, “If we wanted our books read by blind people, we would publish a electro-optical licensed edition.”, EULA printed on the first page of every book from now on).

The “electronic eye” tech will certainly improve with time and be used for not only non-infringing uses, but eventually allow everyday reading of books, watching movies, viewing pictures, etc… by translating light “using a microprocessor” into inputs the optic nerve can receive… and OMG, I bet someone is making money off such a device! Well known by future copyright infringement lawyers as a Automated Electronic Infringement, Optical Unit (AEIOU), and will be found in filings under, “By Unwritten Legal Law – Case Of Copyright Infringement”! (BULL-COCI)

I can clearly see the future now. The manufacturer and end user of such a device must buy a license to view any copyrighted material. After three unauthorized viewings of said material, your electronic eye implant will be sent a wireless “DMCA” notice, and your sight will be “taken down”.

A way to minimize the problems this will create is to keep one eye closed at all times. So if you end up viewing any infringing material, only the viewing eye will be remotely “re-blinded”. The best way of doing it is to wear a black eye patch over one eye (sure, you’ll look like a pirate, but you wouldn’t have lost your electronically enhanced vision unless you were one to begin with, right?) Use other still working eye to fill out and send in copyright license update/renewal fee right away, and try not to infringe until other eye is reactivated again.

Most of the above may seem strange, ridiculous and even absurd, but if anything is to be learned, it’s that time has proven over and over again the “strange, ridiculous and absurd”, are always just around the corner. Sometimes even made into laws (albeit very bad ones), and “We The People” always end up paying the cost in the long run.

CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow says:



Piracy is completely misued in relation to copying/downloading/distributing a copyrighted work.

To put it in TRUE piracy terms…

Imagine that you are a merchant with a ship full of merchandise that you are sending to another port to sell.

In TRUE piracy, your ship is attacked and either seized or burned – occassionally released – while your goods are loaded aboard a pirate vessel and later sold on the black market.

In PRETEND piracy, your ship is pulled up next… and an exact copy of your ship is made… complete with the goods inside. Your ship continues on its way, with all people and goods intact.

The pirates consume the goods and share them with other pirates, while you go to port and sell your goods.

Quite a difference between REAL piracy and PRETEND piracy. You want real piracy? Go to Somalai in an expensive yacht.

You’ll find out what real pirates are and what type of REAL damage they do. Ask the family of Jean and Scott Adam if they think MIAA “piracy” is the same as REAL piracy.

Call it what it is… COPYING.

Don’t call it piracy.


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