Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt
from the piracy-returns-to-the-spotlight dept
It’s a rare thing these past few months, but this week’s most outrage-inducing piece of government behaviour came not at the hands of surveillance and the NSA but rather those of copyright and our old friend ICE. When federal agents helped the MPAA interrogate a moviegoer for wearing Google Glass (switched off) in the theatre, sophisticatedjanedoe won most insightful comment of the week by summing up how utterly ridiculous this kind of public-private synergy is:
So, a private business solves ITS problems using MY taxpayer money. Who is the thief, MPAA?
When ICE attempted to defend its efforts on Twitter, it sparked up a lengthy discussion in the comments not just about the current laws, but about the very moral underpinnings of copyright and whether its existence is justified. One commenter criticized many Techdirt readers for being “anti-copyright”, and Rikuo won second most insightful with a simple response to that observation:
Might I also ask what is wrong with being anti-copyright in the first place? It’s simply a position on a law. I live in a country where abortion is illegal for example, but my position is it should be legal. Am I not allowed say it should be, am I not allowed talk about it or campaign to change the law?
Much pro-copyright rhetoric is based around the unsupported assumption that giving creators more control is not only beneficial but morally and ethically right. But that position doesn’t bear much scrutiny, as Karl illustrates by responding to one such assertion in our first editor’s choice for insightful:
Umm, this is going to be unpopular, but piracy is in part a moral issue. Generally speaking, when you can’t afford something, the moral thing to do is to go without it, not seek out illicit means of obtaining it.
This is absolutely not true with cultural works. Generally speaking, when the public can’t afford works, the moral thing to do is to create free access to those works.
It is why public libraries are an ethical good. It is why copyright exceptions for public schools are an ethical good. It is why it is an ethical good to create public performance exceptions for churches and non-profits.
It is such an ethical good, in fact, that early copyright laws explicitly stated that publishers had to produce editions that would be affordable by the general public. If they didn’t do this, they lost their copyrights.
The question you should ask yourself is not whether it is unethical for the pubic to “take” cultural works. The question you should ask is why it is in any way ethical to stop them.
And it is not ethical. It may be a necessary evil, but it is an evil nonetheless.
And while I usually try not to give both editor’s choices to the same commenter, this week Karl has another comment that needs to be highlighted. It’s not the first time, and unfortunately probably not the last, that he found himself demonstrating in great detail that, according to the constitution, the statute and the courts, copyright is about benefitting the public:
I ?disagree ?with ?your ?interpretation ?of ?the ?case ?law.
You ?may, ?but ?judges ?and ?copyright ?lawyers ?do ?not.
Copyright’s ?function/effect ?today ?is ?to ?provide ?a ?limited ?monopoly ?of ?use ?by ?the ?copyright ?holder.
That ?is ?copyright’s ? effect. ?It ?is ?by ?no ?means ?copyrights ? purpose. ?Providing ?a ?limited ?monopoly ?to ?copyright ?holders ?has ?never ?been ?more ?than ?a ?means ?to ?achieve ?an ?end, ?and ?that ?end ?has ?always ?been ?to ?provide ?the ?general ?public ?with ?access ?to, ?and ?ultimately ?control ?over, ?works ?of ?authorship.
The ?full ?passage ?is ?necessary ?to ?provide ?context:
Except ?that ?you ?are ?emphasizing ?the ?parts ?of ?the ?passage ?that ?are ?incidental. ?Nobody ?(except ?OOTB) ?is ?arguing ?that ?copyright ?is ?not ?a ?statutory ?monopoly. ?Nobody ?is ?arguing ?that ?the ? method ?of ?copyright ?is ?to ?reward ?and ?encourage ?crreative ?work. ?Nobody ?is ?arguing ?that ?copyright ?is ?not ?”a ?balance ?of ?competing ?claims ? upon ?the ?public ?interest.”
And ?absolutely ?none ?of ?this ?supports ?your ?claim ?that ?copyright’s ?purpose ?is ?”to ?maximize ?the ?commercial ?exploitation ?of ?the ?work ?by ?the ?right ?holder.”
But, ?if ?you’re ?still ?doubtful, ?here ?are ?a ?few ?more ?quotes.
It ?will ?be ?seen, ?therefore, ?that ?the ?spirit ?of ?any ?act ?which ?Congress ?is ?authorized ?to ?pass ? must ?be ?one ?which ?will ?promote ?the ?progress ?of ?science ?and ?the ?useful ?arts, ?and ?unless ?it ?is ?designed ?to ?accomplish ?this ?result ?and ?is ?believed, ?in ?fact, ?to ?accomplish ?this ?result, ?it ?would ?be ?beyond ?the ?power ?of ?Congress.
The ?enactment ?of ?copyright ?legislation ?by ?Congress ?under ?the ?terms ?of ?the ?Constitution ? is ?not ?based ?upon ?any ?natural ?right ?that ?the ?author ?has ?in ?his ?writings, ?for ?the ?Supreme ?Court ?has ?held ?that ?such ?rights ?as ?he ?has ?are ?purely ?statutory ?rights, ?but ?upon ?the ?ground ?that ? the ?welfare ?of ?the ?public ?will ?be ?served ?and ?progress ?of ?science ?and ?useful ?arts ?will ?[be] ?promoted ?by ?securing ?to ?authors ?for ?limited ?periods ?the ?exclusive ?rights ?to ?their ?writings. ?The ?Constitution ?does ?not ?establish ?copyrights, ?but ?provides ?that ?Congress ?shall ?have ?the ?power ?to ?grant ?such ?rights ?if ?it ?thinks ?best. ? Not ?primarily ?for ?the ?benefit ?of ?the ?author, ?but ?primarily ?for ?the ?benefit ?of ?the ?public, ?such ?rights ?are ?given. ?Not ?that ?any ?particular ?class ?of ?citizens, ?however ?worthy, ?may ?benefit, ?but ?because ?the ?policy ? is ?believed ?to ?be ?for ?the ?benefit ?of ?the ?great ?body ?of ?people, ?in ?that ?it ?will ?stimulate ?writing ?and ?invention, ?to ?give ?some ?bonus ?to ?authors ?and ?inventors.
In ?enacting ?a ?copyright ?law ?Congress ?must ?consider, ?as ?has ?been ?already ?stated, ?two ?questions: ?First, ?how ?much ?will ?the ?legislation ?stimulate ?the ?producer ? and ?so ?benefit ?the ?public; ?and, ?second, ?how ?much ?will ?the ?monopoly ?granted ?be ? detrimental ?to ?the ?public. ?The ?granting ?of ?such ?exclusive ?rights, ?under ?the ?proper ?terms ?and ?conditions, ? confers ?a ?benefit ?upon ?the ?public ?that ?outweighs ?the ?evils ?of ?the ?temporary ?monopoly.
– ?House ?Report ?on ?the ?Copyright ?Act ?of ?1909
The ?economic ?philosophy ?behind ?the ?clause ?empowering ?Congress ?to ?grant ?patents ?and ?copyrights ?is ?the ?conviction ?that ?encouragement ?of ?individual ?effort ?by ?personal ?gain ? is ?the ?best ?way ?to ?advance ?public ?welfare ?through ?the ?talents ?of ?authors ?and ?inventors ?in ?”Science ?and ?useful ?Arts.”
– ?Mazer ?v. ?Stein
The ?sole ?interest ?of ?the ?United ?States ?and ?the ?primary ?object ?in ?conferring ?the ?monopoly ?lie ?in ? the ?general ?benefits ?derived ?by ?the ?public ?from ?the ?labors ?of ?authors.
– ?Fox ?Film ?Corp. ?v. ?Doyal
The ?copyright ?law, ?like ?the ?patent ?statutes, ? makes ?reward ?to ?the ?owner ?a ?secondary ?consideration.
– ?U.S. ?v. ?Paramount
The ?monopoly ?privileges ?that ?Congress ?may ?authorize ?are ?neither ?unlimited ? nor ?primarily ?designed ?to ?provide ?a ?special ?private ?benefit. ?Rather, ?the ?limited ?grant ? is ?a ?means ?by ?which ?an ?important ?public ?purpose ?may ?be ?achieved. ?It ?is ?intended ?to ?motivate ?the ?creative ?activity ?of ?authors ?and ?inventors ?by ?the ?provision ?of ?a ?special ?reward, ? and ?to ?allow ?the ?public ?access ?to ?the ?products ?of ?their ?genius ?after ?the ?limited ?period ?of ?exclusive ?control ?has ?expired. ?[…]
As ?the ?text ?of ?the ?Constitution ?makes ?plain, ?it ?is ?Congress ?that ?has ?been ?assigned ?the ?task ?of ?defining ?the ?scope ?of ?the ?limited ?monopoly ?that ?should ?be ?granted ?to ?authors ?or ?to ?inventors ?in ?order ?to ?give ?the ?public ?appropriate ?access ?to ?their ?work ?product.
– ?Sony ?Corp. ?v. ?Universal ?City ?Studios
Not ?a ?one ?of ?these ?quotes ?is ?from ?the ?1700’s, ?or ?even ?from ?the ?1800’s. ?They ?are ?all ?contemporary ?descriptions ?of ?the ?purpose ?of ?copyright ?law. ?And ?every ?single ?one ?of ?them ?disagrees ?with ?you.
Over on the funny side, we’re sticking to the story about ICE for one more comment. First place goes to Baron von Robber for a response to that weird thing that lives in the comments:
When you sit at the computer, your mind becomes more active.
When your mind is more active, your OCP becomes worse.
When your OCP becomes worse, you wear out the light switches in your house.
When you wear out the light switches in your house, your OCP makes your mind even more irrational.
When your mind becomes more irrational, you start to become obsessed with people named Mike.
When you become obessed with people named Mike, you post under the name Out_of_the_Blue.
Don’t post under the name Out_of_the_Blue.
For second place on the funny side, we return to the ongoing tales of the NSA where, among other developments, the monospace font of a redacted document allowed us to deduce the name “AT&T” where we saw only a black bar. An anonymous commenter made a suitable observation:
And they say metadata doesn’t tell you much.
For editor’s choice on the funny side, we visit this week’s Candy Crush Saga Trademark Saga, which inspired another anonymous commenter to begin designing his own game:
I am now working on a new game, it’s called “Memory of the Edge Candy Apple Scrolls Saga”.
It’s about a world where Candy, Apples, Scrolls, Edges, Memory, and Saga’s have all disappeared, thanks to the six evil trolls who dress like a patent lawyer, and sleep on big piles of money under bridges.
Oh and thanks to the evil troll of memory, no one can remember anything, because otherwise they’d have to pay the evil troll of memory royalties they can’t afford. And the only food available is Candy and Apple’s, but hardly anyone can afford to eat them, because they’d owe the evil trolls of Candy and Apple’s big royalties if they did eat.
In order to get to the evil trolls dressed like patent lawyers you need to somehow make lots of money to pay the the many tolls set up by the evil trolls.
Eventually you’ll come to one of the evil trolls. But no matter how hard you try to kill one of the evil troll’s dressed like a patent lawyer, the troll will summon the evil judge! The evil judge will rule that you have to pay the evil troll all of your money for infringing on the troll’s monopolies, and will steal all of your weapons and armor and give them to the evil troll to help pay your debts.
And, finally, we’ve got the revelation that the FISA court waited until after the Snowden leaks to investigate the legality of bulk phone record collection, which put ChurchHatesTucker in mind of a famous thought experiment that effectively describes their approach:
It’s neither legal nor illegal until it is examined. Clearly.
That’s all for this week, folks!