Copyright Maximalism: Turning Satirical Works Into Ridiculous Reality

from the the-copyright-industries-hope-to-be-'satire-free'-by-2015 dept

Last week, we discussed Microsoft’s patent filing on a content distribution system that counted heads and charged license fees accordingly. Utilizing the Kinect or some other unnamed technology, Microsoft had the beginnings of the copyright industries’ wildest dreams: an opportunity to treat the public’s living rooms like theaters and collect “admission” from every viewer.

Rick Falkvinge has amusingly pointed out that “prior art” exists for this “Content Distribution Regulator” — in the form of a satirical piece published at BBspot (and covered here years ago, noting that it “hit too close to home”) five years before Microsoft’s filing.

Six years ago, a satire site wrote a story about how the copyright industry wanted more money if you invited friends to watch a movie in your living room. This notion has now been patented in new technology: automated headcounts coming to a living room near you, to enable new forms of restrictions. Apparently, the copyright industry takes six years to catch up with the very worst satire of it.

The satirical piece Falkvinge quotes deals with the MPAA trying to push through a bill that would allow it to take control of people’s living rooms and treat them like theaters.

The MPAA is lobbying congress to push through a new bill that would make unauthorized home theaters illegal. The group feels that all theaters should be sanctioned, whether they be commercial settings or at home.

This paragraph in particular is eerily prescient:

The bill would require that any hardware manufactured in the future contain technology that tells the MPAA directly of what is being shown and specific details on the audience. The data would be gathered using various motion sensors and biometric technology.

Sounds exactly like Microsoft’s idea, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds close enough that you could argue that it should invalidate the patent in question. Either way, there’s no way the MPAA isn’t hoping this comes to fruition. Sure, money can be made by producing new movies but it’s so much simpler to charge people over and over for the same item. Various format changes over the years have resulted in some double- and triple-dipping. Digital distribution, combined with Microsoft’s consumer-unfriendly device, takes rentals into “real money” territory and very possibly will take digital purchases in that direction as well. Here’s a quote from the satire that may as well be real:

“Just because you buy a DVD to watch at home doesn’t give you the right to invite friends over to watch it too. That’s a violation of copyright and denies us the revenue that would be generated from DVD sales to your friends,” said Glickman. “Ideally we expect each viewer to have their own copy of the DVD, but we realize that isn’t always feasible. The registration fee is a fair compromise.”

We’ve heard wording like this before, where industry heads claim some irrationally high license fee is a “fair compromise.” It’s viewed as fair by licensing agencies because if they were able, they would have charged much, much more.

Falkvinge points out that those satirizing these industries may just be unwitting futurists:

So be careful when you write satire about the madness and delusions of the copyright industry (and that certainly isn’t hard – more often than not, ordinary journalism will do fine). Either tread very carefully, or start a little stopwatch the next time you publish satire about what that parasitic, shameless industry will think of next.

This is a fact. The content industries’ love of licenses (and the ability to charge multiple times for the same content) has made it into an easy punchline. Beyond the satire Falkvinge quoted are other examples demonstrating that your average citizen already recognizes the colossal overreach of these industries and the absurdity of the licenses connected to each form of artistic expression they cover.

Earlier this year, sportswriter Mike Tanier used public performance licensing (namely, the violation of these licenses) as the lynchpin for his plan to rid the NFL of replacement referees.

If the crowd at an NFL game sings “Hey Jude,” television networks will be stuck broadcasting “Hey Jude” without the rights-holders permission. The sound editors are pretty good at obscuring the B.S. chant, but that only takes a little bit of white noise. Try editing away one of the most recognizable melodies in the world on live television. The broadcast will sound like it is coming from Venus. But if the NFL doesn’t drown out the singing, someone big and powerful is going to show up at league headquarters in a suing mood.

When you’ve got sportswriters using aggressive licensing issues as a punchline, you know the it’s reached critical mass. Not only is a sportswriter skewering performance rights organizations, the NFL’s copyright paranoia, the Beatles’ fierce grasp on its catalog and the overreaction of all these entities to “unlicensed” use, he also laying it out there confidently, expecting his audience to recognize the ridiculousness of it all without needing to resort to pages of footnotes and links to relevant legal information. It’s obvious to everybody but the licensing agencies how utterly preposterous this all is.

Need another example of this common knowledge? Just recently, a piece at famous humor site McSweeney’s recasted Gil Scott-Heron’s famous phrase, explaining exactly why “the revolution will not be televised.” Here’s a few choice quotes from a much longer piece (all of it worth reading):

The revolution will not be televised due to our blackout policy. Because the revolution is taking place in your market, you will be unable to watch the revolution. Instead of the revolution, the classic Billy Bob Thornton/John Cusack film, Pushing Tin, will be televised.

The revolution will not be televised, but it will be available for streaming on seven days after the revolution takes place.

The revolution will not be televised because of a dispute between the revolution and DIRECTV. If you’d like to see the revolution, please call DIRECTV and demand that they put the revolution back on the air.

The revolution will not be televised, but if you have a cable subscription, you can log in to and use their authenticator to watch the revolution. Just provide your username and password, and you will have access to the revolution live, plus alternate angles, commentary, and the ability to share your login with up two more IP addresses.

With digital distribution, each iteration is subject to its own limitations and restrictions, just the way the content industries prefer it. As the shift continues in this direction, I would expect the major players to continue their march into brave new licensing schemes far surpassing satirists’ most fevered dreams. They control the licenses they’ve “sold” their customers and have shown they have absolutely no qualms about abusing consumers in order to squeeze a few more dollars out of the content. Microsoft’s filing turns what was originally a series of punchlines into a very plausible glimpse of the future.

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Companies: microsoft

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Comments on “Copyright Maximalism: Turning Satirical Works Into Ridiculous Reality”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

They all laughed at me when I suggested after MS got the patent on a headcount device that could stop movies and demand more payment would lead to Biden having a meeting to “suggest” to tv makers that they should just build these in to avoid having laws made to force them to do it that might hurt them.

Sigh… someday the MPAA might learn making things more available is a much better way to make money than to just treat consumers like crap.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s no way this will pass. It’s too damn stupid!

No one in their right mind would vote to pass this and it will end up dieing most likely but this just shows just how greedy the MPAA is.

Just when I thought they couldn’t sink any lower, they couldn’t get stupider they SOMEHOW manage to 1-Up me.

To quote Hubert Farnsworth: “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s getting almost impossible to tell what is satire and what isn’t when people report on the MPAA.

At this point, if Techdirt’s next article was that the MPAA was legislating for the moon to be turned into a giant movie projector and that people would be charged a fee for looking at the moon at night, I might believe it.

(There’s an idea for a good Techdirt April Fool’s story… I won’t even sue you for “stealing” my imaginary property.)

out_of_the_blue says:

"a very plausible glimpse of the future."

I’ve seen the future, and won’t any of you like it.

I don’t follow opinions here closely enough to know whether you’re all aging out and turning into what you mis-term “Luddites”* as those who want to cling to old ways, or you’re at last becoming alarmed by the increase of computerized snooping.

Gadgets are now just a means of imposing tyranny. The Rich have to be kept limited or they will use those gadgets.

* The Luddites were a social movement against low wages and work-products being re-sold by middlemen who profited far more than the laborers; it was NOT as Mike and minions so often blunder in saying simply about resisting change and “smashing machines”; the Luddites left alone the machines of those employers who paid vaguely fair wages. — So I bet when it’s properly explained, you’re ALL “Luddites”, aincha?

MrWilson says:

Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

What you’re missing is that there’s a reverse-luddite movement that the IP maximalists are caught up in. They’re not always opposed to new technology – the caveat being that they want the technology to be used to make things more profitable for them (which often translates into making the experience more difficult, frustrating, and expensive for their customers).

So the publishers aren’t opposed to ebooks if they can charge more for them than paper books, have lower production and distribution costs that save them money, and can allow them to restrict lending and sharing in ways that they could never do with paper books.

So if the technology allows them to make the future more dystopian and profitable, they’re all for it.

If the technology makes things cheaper and easier for their customers or cuts them out of an overly-inflated profit that they previously enjoyed, then it’s the spawn of almighty satan and needs to be nuked from orbit with all the lobbying dollars and faux moral outrage our media outlets and PR shills can muster.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

Piracy is a great excuse to pad the bottom line with added costs and DRM to keep paying customers from using their purchased content in ways they want to. If it’s more trouble to rip a copy for personal backups or use in your car or format shifted to your mobile device, they believe you might buy another copy.

Piracy is like communism, terrorism, or witchcraft. It’s that boogeyman that you crusade against in order to justify your greed and power-mongering, regardless of whether the threat is real or not. If it’s not real or big enough, you make up a new threat or sensationalize and exaggerate the real one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

Never mind that you’ve just stated yet again that you don’t read anything on the site; you just proposed that the solution to avoiding this travesty of anti-piracy enforcement suggestion is to not use the technology.

Fat chance. The RIAA doesn’t mind if you don’t have a computer. They’ve sued people without the right names, without homes, without computers, without lives. Blaming the gadgets won’t matter jack shit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

Fat chance. The RIAA doesn’t mind if you don’t have a computer. They’ve sued people without the right names, without homes, without computers, without lives.

Probably be important to note that by “without lives” you aren’t talking about antisocial basement dwellers or some such, but in the literal sense: they’ve sued dead people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

Probably be important to note that by “without lives” you aren’t talking about antisocial basement dwellers or some such, but in the literal sense: they’ve sued dead people.

And the RIAA probably still argued that the judge should give said defendants the maximum sentence possible since they failed to appear in court.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

Luddite seems to be the new troll word of the month eh ootb?

“Holy Luddites, Batman!”

“Hmmmm, this cake tastes Luddite!”

“It’s obviously a Luddite case, mr sheriff.”

“Yo-ho! And a bottle of Luddite!”

“I am fairly sure that Google’s new Luddite will follow the same old ways of profiting of Luddites. It’ll be a huge Luddite!”

When did u learn the word? I think u should learn the meaning, you know, semantics, before using it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "a very plausible glimpse of the future."

Lud?dite (ldt)
1. Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
2. One who opposes technical or technological change.

Where are we miss-using it, again?

Anonymous Coward says:

“* The Luddites were a social movement against low wages and work-products being re-sold by middlemen who profited far more than the laborers; it was NOT as Mike and minions so often blunder in saying simply about resisting change and “smashing machines”;”
Definition of LUDDITE
: one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change

Merriam-Webster disagrees with you. As do all these other search results for “luddite.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, you’re both right. The historical Luddites were not anti-technology at all. They were reacting to what amounted to wage slavery. They destroyed the machines because they were being used as weapons against them in their struggle.

However, in current usage Luddite means anti-technology. It’s not historically true, but that’s what it’s come to mean nonetheless. Our language is full to the brim of these kinds of misnomers.

DannyB (profile) says:

A Letter From 2020

The following is not mine. I originally saw it on Slashdot about a decade ago. It’s a wonderful example of IP turning satire into reality.

I’m not sure if reading this letter is illegal. I thought it only fair to warn you; it might be better to just destroy it.

The actual writing has been a bit of a chore. Word.NET isn’t what it used to be. Even Microsoft.NET couldn’t afford to patent everything, so whilst I can do Find, there’s no Replace anymore. One good thing about having only one legal operating system is that it’s very stable. I’m glad they never update Windows.NET; anyone can live with three or four crashes a day and the hourly rent is less than I pay for my apartment.

I try to remember what it was like when I was a kid but it’s really difficult; the world has changed so much since then. I found a paper book the other day that described the rise and fall of something called the “Internet”. It started out with people putting up links on computers so that they could follow the link and read things on other computers for free. After it got to be popular, companies started to create machines with lots of links that you could search to find things of interest. But someone put up a link to something illegal and got sued and had their machine shut down. This happened a few times and people started to take the links off their machines. The search engine companies were the first to go and without them, you couldn’t find anything. Eventually no one put up links anymore because the legal risk was too great. The important thing is that it reduced terrorism. I’m not sure how it could have worked anyway. Anything I write on my computer or any music I create gets stored by Word.NET and Music.NET in encrypted formats to protect my privacy. No one but me, Microsoft.NET and the National Corporation can read or hear my stuff even if they could link to it.

I shouldn’t admit it, but sometimes I go to certain places and speak to the subversives. I know its wrong but their warped views on things have some kind of morbid fascination. For example, I spoke to someone who claimed to be a historian the other day. She had courage all right, admitting to an illegal activity like that. I hadn’t understood why it was illegal until she explained. History, she told me, gives you context. You can compare today with some time in the past; ask questions like, “are people better off”, “look at the different forms of doing business”, “compare corporate records or the rights of citizens” (I think she meant employees).

But what interested her was that future generations will know nothing about us; all our records and art are stored digitally, most of it will simply disappear when no one rents it anymore — remember the sadness when the last digital copy of Sgt. Pepper was accidentally erased? And the data that does survive will all be encrypted and in proprietary formats anyway — even if there were historians they’d have no right to reverse engineer the formats. I can vaguely remember that people used to have physical copies of music and films, although I’m not sure how that was possible, or what the point was when we can rent whatever we like from the air interface. I don’t think it matters that those who come after us can’t read our writings or hear our music or see our films; these things are temporal anyway, if no one rents them then they can’t be worth keeping.

The saddest subversive I met claimed to be a programmer. He said that he was writing a program using Basic.NET. He must have been insane. Even if his program worked he wouldn’t be allowed to run it. How could one person possibly check every possible patent infringement in a program they wrote? And even if he hadn’t infringed he couldn’t sell it without buying a compatibility license from Microsoft.NET and who could possibly afford that? He had said something about gippling the software, which apparently means giving it away, but mad as he was, even he knew that under WUCITA that would be illegal.

These subversives really don’t seem to understand that a few restrictions are necessary for the sake of innovation. And progress has been made. We don’t have spam since most people can’t afford an email license due to the expensive patent royalties. Our computer systems all have the same operating system, user interface and applications so everyone knows how to use them, and although they crash and don’t work very well, we all know the limitations and can live with them. We have no piracy of intellectual property since we rent it as we want it and have no means of storing it.

It was the USA that showed the world the way of course. First the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, then more and more software patents. The Japanese followed suit. The Europeans were a problem, which is only to be expected, with their anti-business un-Christian socialist tendencies. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, helped along by the good old dollar I’ve no doubt and they accepted both software patents and a redefinition of copyright to suit global corporations. Once the USA, Japan and Europe had uniform intellectual property laws to protect our corporations and our way of life, everyone else had to play ball or they couldn’t trade. The result has been that every algorithm and computer program and every piece of music and film (after all music and film can be put into digital form and are therefore a form of software) have been patented. No more variations on Beethoven (unless you’ve got the patentees approval). No more amateur participation in music or film which might risk lowering standards. No more challenge to established business and business practices.

I’m crazy to have written I know. But I am so happy in the world and I remember how unhappy I used to be. I wanted to somehow pass back to you the knowledge that its all going to be okay, that the world really is getting better.



jameshogg says:

And people don't believe me when I say there is a fight coming.

Patent trolling against Kickstarter (or, shall we say, patent trolling against the very concept of “tickets” to go see a gig, play or cinema movie) and now this.

There is a lot of work to be done. Start finding all the doublethinks and contradictions that come from copyright laws, make as many slogans as you can and march down your local streets and cities. This is reality grinding against an unjust system of incentive collection. We don’t need it: we have the concept of a ticket soon to turn virtual with Kickstarter as the stage and the internet as the theatre.

Copyright encourages closed systems: you can see it in iOS, the new Windows OS and now this ridiculous construct. I mean, how far down the gutter do you have to be if you hear of the outcry “we can swap DVDs with each other which is more or less the same thing as swapping them over the internet” and then react “well we have to do something about those DVDs now, don’t we?” This is insufferable.

Gamers should have been paying attention to this when they saw the slow depletion of PC gaming from retail (“you can’t get a refund on this game, sir, the CD-Key is scratched off… no sir I don’t think it will work even if you sell it to someone else), and surely they must be paying attention to it now with Sony and Microsoft’s pushing to make their next consoles digital only (good on some suppliers refusing to stock said consoles if it happens, but I doubt that boldness will last when the marketing pressure kicks in). It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but digital technology may INCREASE IP repression in some areas, not dent it from the piracy.

This is why I predict OUYA will blow everybody out the water. Copyright’s defeat is ultimate.

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