Gary Shapiro: The Copyright Lobby Is Restricting Innovation And It Needs To Stop

from the indeed dept

We mentioned recently that Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association, is a good friend of those who are worried about companies taking away consumer rights in the tech field. For years, he's been a strong voice against entertainment companies trying to expand and extend copyright laws to cut off innovative new products. Now he's written up a worthwhile rant on how copyright is being used to hold back innovation. He points out that he's been fighting this battle for his entire career, as his first job was working on the famous Sony Betabmax case, where Hollywood tried (and, thankfully for everyone including Hollywood, failed) to outlaw the VCR. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's an excerpt:
The "fair use" right to manage content has allowed the Internet to grow and new companies to be created. But the content lobby disagrees. They told Congress that copyright should stop an individual from sharing an email without the creator's permission. They argued that computers copy when storing temporarily and thus that many computer functions are illegal. They kept trying to sell multi-song CDs when consumers wanted only one song. They fought rentals of movies insisting that consumers buy movies. In short, they have tried to restrict, tax or bar every type of recording technology.

Thankfully, politicians said no and courts generally stood by the Sony Betamax principles. For these reasons we have the Internet, camcorders, digital cameras, MP3 players, DVRs, removable computer storage and copy-and-edit functions on computers. And thus we have world-leading companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, TiVo and Apple.

American innovation is not just about content creation. It is also about inventions that allow society to benefit from the uses of content, for which Congress grants a limited monopoly in the form of a copyright. The right to control this content does not include the right to [limit] invention and innovation. This is what the Supreme Court held in 1984, and this is why we have these inventions today.

"Piracy" is not every unauthorized use of content. Nor does copyright grant a monopoly over all uses. Someone who legitimately acquires content (buys a CD or DVD) should have the right to use that content so long as it is not for a commercial purpose. Calling unauthorized uses "piracy" and equating such use with "theft" - as if it were stealing clothing - is sloppy. If you steal a dress from a shop owner, then the shop owner cannot sell that dress. If you use a copyrighted work without permission, then at worst the creator has lost an additional potential sale - unlikely if someone is simply excerpting from their own CDs.

But defenders of expanded copyright restrictions imply that content owners have been on a losing streak and have few tools at their disposal. Wrong.

Copyright owners have successfully intimidated entrepreneurs with ideas that involve fair use of content. Billions of dollars of "damages" for no harm? Yes. Copyright laws and damage provisions have mushroomed to create huge potential liability for good-faith innovation.

Consistently, lawmakers raise the stakes for infringement, even if there is no evidence of harm to content owners. A single infringement found later to be "willful" can cost $150,000. Multiply that by each work in a service provider's library that a personal computer, a software program, or a DVR might be claimed to "infringe" and you are into the tens of billions of dollars. This chokes innovation and begs a more reasonable law that protects small business and products and software, offered by legitimate companies, with new uses not yet evaluated by the courts.
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Filed Under: copyright, gary shapiro, innovation


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  • icon
    manoj (profile), 29 May 2009 @ 10:27am

    It is called Digital Asset Management Systems. How mundane is this issue; the days of haggling over rights is way old school. Now it is Digital Content Security.

    Move on people.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2009 @ 10:37am

    Claims that Gary Shapiro is a left wing extremist that spouts hate filled rhetoric in 5....4....3....2...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2009 @ 10:38am

    "Consistently, lawmakers raise the stakes for infringement, even if there is no evidence of harm to content owners"

    What, do we have to wait to find a movie or music CD bleeding in an alley way before we assume there is harm?

    Even if 0.0005% of all downloaders / freeloaders would have bought the product, there is harm. The reality is that there is a lack of evidence that shows that there is no harm. Heck, Mike, you own numbers on conversion from free downloaders to buys the other day indicates that some of the people would be buyers.

    This guy reads like someone working really hard not to have a job anymore.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2009 @ 10:45am

      Re:

      The problem for your side of things is that there is a lack of evidence that there IS harm.

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

    • icon
      chris (profile), 29 May 2009 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      Even if 0.0005% of all downloaders / freeloaders would have bought the product, there is harm. The reality is that there is a lack of evidence that shows that there is no harm. Heck, Mike, you own numbers on conversion from free downloaders to buys the other day indicates that some of the people would be buyers.

      the only way a buyer becomes a buyer is by buying. giving consumers a reason to buy creates more buyers.

      there is no way to prove that a download is a lost sale. there is a way to prove that a download is a gained sale, because many artists give away free downloads and then see their sales increase. you can poll buyers and see if they downloaded something prior to the sale.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 29 May 2009 @ 11:02am

      Re:

      "Even if 0.0005% of all downloaders / freeloaders would have bought the product, there is harm."

      Prove there is harm. That's all we've been asking since the first Napster cases.

      Bear in mind the huge amount of anecdotal evidence (and several studies from highly respected organisation) that show that many downloaders buy MORE product than those who do not.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2009 @ 1:11pm

        Re: Re: Devils advocate

        But, you download and keep and listen. But never buy. That is harm, loss of income is the harm cosed.

        yes, I download. But i am not so narrow minded to state I am causing harm to no one. I have caused harm, I have caused loss of income every time I repeatibly play the song but never paid for it.

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

        • identicon
          Ayesee, 29 May 2009 @ 1:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: Devils advocate

          This is complete nonsense, Coward.

          I have thousands upon thousands of MP3s, and I can guarantee beyond any shadow of a doubt that owning them for free has not prevented a single dollar of mine from flowing to artists, studios, or the industry as a hole that WOULD have been spent were it not for the net. When I was younger, I would occasionally buy CD's... used. I bought them off of friends, from flea markets, what have you. VERY rarely did I spend money purchasing CDs from music stores ($15 then, $17+ now? Please.). In that case, my money never made it to "the industry." Then, I stopped buying CDs entirely as I grew older and became more frugal with money. Now, I download... BUT, MORE of my money makes it into the hands of "the industry" because I will occasionally spend money on merchandise, routinely spend money going to concerts (usually to see bands I would have never heard of or known about without illegal downloading), and buying CDs of bands I really like just to support them-- I've been doing this with 311 since the Blue album, with Filter, and recently with Katatonia and Head Control System.

          I guarantee this is the same for a very large majority of file sharers... if you honestly believe that constitutes harm, then why not ask Trent Reznor and Radiohead how harmed they feel by their OWN efforts to give their music away for free.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2009 @ 2:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Devils advocate

            Yes, but all you need is one single case, one single person who would have purchased and didn't, and harm is caused.

            Are you willing to tell me that for the thousands upon thousands on MP3 that you have (and other people have) that not a single sale was lost anywhere? Let's say you just downloaded all the NIN stuff - are you going to go out and buy it now? Nope. You might still buy something you couldn't find online and in theory the same amount of money is spent, but the harm has been done to NIN record sales (but trent invited you to do it).

            You only need one lost sale to show harm. The harm doesn't have to be significant.

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

            • icon
              Derek Kerton (profile), 30 May 2009 @ 11:07am

              A Counter Case

              "Yes, but all you need is one single case, one single person who would have purchased and didn't, and harm is caused."

              Is that so? Don't you think the industry should evaluate the big picture, the overall effect of free music, and not just if there is a single case of revenue loss?

              Consider this made up case:

              Dave is a music fan. He is willing to pay for recorded music, downloads, some concerts, and a little merchandise from various bands over the course of a year.

              Dave is willing to pay (WTP) around $3 for a CD. WTP is a fairly standard economics term indicating the maximum price at which a consumer can be induced to purchase something, and still get what he considers a fair deal (aka Consumer Surplus in econ speak). It's the maximum he will spend.

              But the recording industry wants $10 per CD. So Dave buys none. In the 90s, Dave listens to the radio, and a few mix tapes ripped off his friends' CDs.

              Along comes allofmp3.com. Dave now is able to download a CD from this pirate website for $2 a pop. Dave buys the 200 CDs he has always wanted for less than his $3ea WTP. The Pirates make $400 off of copyright material, Dave is a satisfied customer who paid for his music, and the legal recording industry and artists got...zero.

              So, Dave is a very common scenario in the real world. He is a case where selling CDs at $10 caused measurable, real harm to the industry. Sell at $10, you have 200 lost sales to Dave. Offer at $2, Dave buys. In this case, the recording industry lost $400 of potential revenue. "Harm" is caused by charging too much.

              But Dave is just one segment of the overall market, so I'm not saying with certainty that the industry could maximize revenues by charging $2, in fact all I'm saying is that there is at least one scenario in which they lose money by charging $10 instead of $2. And by your faulty logic (quoted above), if there is one single case, then harm is done, and the overall results are irrelevant.

              You, and the RIAA, make the mistake of only counting the negatives. The "potential lost sales". You never count the positives, the new fans, the free distribution, the freedom from printing stupid plastic discs and shipping them to retail stores. There are positives for free music (as others have argued in this thread), and for music priced at $2/disc. The industry needs to ask 2 questions:
              1) are the negatives outweighed by the positives (both of which it is wise to count correctly)
              2) can you stop copying/file sharing/piracy even if you want to, and you're the "good guys"?

              Our arguments at Techdirt revolve around the fact that the RIAA is wrong about #1, and wrong about #2. Thus, their strategy is also wrong.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2009 @ 9:11am

                Re: A Counter Case

                Have you considered that, in part, the reason the price of a CD didn't drop (and didn't become cheaper in digital formats online) is because of the high rates of piracy?

                The money has to be made somewhere. In essence, it is exactly the same logic as Mike suggesting that artists can raise the prices on scarce goods, in some ways. It comes down to the sucker mentality, really - the more people that "borrow" music, the more the money has to be made somewhere else.

                Put another way, if we consider that "borrowed" music represents even 75% of what people control individually these days, you could drop the price of an online download to $2.50 and the record companies would make the same amount of money. It is unrealistic, because even if the price was 10 cents, a majority of people would still infringe - they don't have any intention of ever buying music. So the point is moot, they want the music because they can have it, not because they intend to spend money for it.

                So each of those people in theory is harm, because they obtained the music without ever having intent to buy it, and then they have likely actively shared it with other people. At some point, they hit someone who might have purchased a given album, and instead takes the free downloaded copy and doesn't spend the money on that artist on that day. That is the harm right there.

                Quite simply, the harm is a long term greater change in mentality, where the vast majority of people under 25 think that music IS free, and that it actually has little more than a transient value for them, play it and forget it.

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

                • icon
                  Derek Kerton (profile), 4 Jun 2009 @ 3:49pm

                  Re: Re: A Counter Case

                  You failed to counter my point. I replied to you, and took to task part of your argument. (thus, called a reply) You replied to me and yet I can't see how what you've written relates to what I wrote. You certainly didn't address my main point, so I'll identify it for you:

                  I said that finding a single case of harm is easy, but entirely insignificant. I can show you cases of harm for what the RIAA does, or for what the pirates do. And I did.

                  But what is more important is the net gain or loss, not whether you can point out a scenario that represents a unit of lost revenue. What's the overall impact?? I repeat.

                  The industry needs to ask 2 questions:
                  1) are the negatives [in cheap or free files] outweighed by the positives (both of which it is wise to count correctly)
                  2) can you stop copying/file sharing/piracy even if you want to, and you're the "good guys"?

                  Our arguments at Techdirt revolve around the fact that the RIAA is wrong about #1, and wrong about #2. Thus, their strategy is also wrong.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2009 @ 10:36pm

                Re: A Counter Case

                Derek,

                Seems you and this "Dave" character have a thing you need to work out.

                Have you considered talking to them directly?

                Don't get me wrong, "Dave" could be loosely equated as "King David", a major character in the NBC series "Kings" which is a loose, real day interpretation of the trials between King Solomon and King David, which I believe is subject to return in October/November, unless Zucker won't stand behind it.

                Few will talk about it, but like Seinfeld, sometimes it means going out on a limb and sticking with it for a while. Take "Incredible Universe" as an example.

                As for you, Derek, I have become increasingly interested in your commentary, but I believe it's quite misdirected.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 29 May 2009 @ 1:42pm

          Re: Re: Re: Devils advocate

          "But, you download and keep and listen. But never buy. That is harm, loss of income is the harm cosed."

          Maybe YOU do, I don't. Stop projecting your own refusal to pay for music onto those who do.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2009 @ 11:19am

      Re:

      The reality is that there is a lack of evidence that shows that there is harm.

      FTFY

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

    • identicon
      Common Sense, 29 May 2009 @ 11:50am

      Re:

      You Coward, are an idiot. You stopped short of completing your thought, just so you could bash Mike and his post. Let me finish it for you...

      "Even if 0.0005% of all downloaders / freeloaders would have bought the product only if it wasn't available for free, there's at least the same number of people who DID buy it, simply because they were able to discover it for free"

      That's better.

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

  • icon
    JohnRaven,CHT,CSH (profile), 29 May 2009 @ 10:44am

    Sanity...

    It's good to hear the voice of sanity speaking from time to time.

    Part of the problem is, we are cattle. We blindly sit by and allow our rights as consumers to be usurped. Instead of launching campaigns that aim at what the politicians value - their re-election - we sit back and complain and do nothing, and then accept the new rules.

    All that is needed for evil to win, is for good men to do nothing.

    Go to eff.org and join up and send out emails to your congressional representatives. Tell them that if they can't represent your interests, you will be voting for someone who does.

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 29 May 2009 @ 10:59am

    "Calling unauthorized uses "piracy" and equating such use with "theft" - as if it were stealing clothing - is sloppy. If you steal a dress from a shop owner, then the shop owner cannot sell that dress. If you use a copyrighted work without permission, then at worst the creator has lost an additional potential sale - unlikely if someone is simply excerpting from their own CDs."

    If the content industry could just understand this one key point, then half the battle is won, and both sides benefit.

    If they could also understand that the Internet is an international marketplace where every attempt to restrict what a person can do with the content they purchased is doomed to failure, most of the problems they face will disappear.

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

  • identicon
    Hephaestus, 29 May 2009 @ 11:13am

    Me being a smart ass ......

    AC - "The reality is that there is a lack of evidence that shows that there is no harm"

    Its impossible to prove a negative.

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

  • identicon
    Stinky Watkins, 31 May 2009 @ 1:21pm

    Shapiro is no saint

    Gary Shapiro is no saint. He's a guy who wants to sell consumer electronics, and sees copyright as a hindrance.

    I happen to agree with him, but lets not pretend the guy has any principles other than profit. He doesn't give a crap about "consumer rights." He wants to sell product!

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 31 May 2009 @ 1:37pm

      Re: Shapiro is no saint

      Gary Shapiro is no saint. He's a guy who wants to sell consumer electronics, and sees copyright as a hindrance.

      I happen to agree with him, but lets not pretend the guy has any principles other than profit. He doesn't give a crap about "consumer rights." He wants to sell product!


      Honestly, that had been my first impression too, which is why I didn't always pay attention to him. But I've spoken with him several times now and I'm convinced -- he's for real. He's not just saying this stuff. He's honestly concerned about the consumer experience.

      Furthermore, you could easily see someone at CEA siding with the entertainment industry on these things (falsely) believing that you need copyright to make more content which makes the CE devices more valuable. But Gary has realized how much copyright stifles innovation and he's speaking up about it.

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


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