by Mike Masnick

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the back-to-our-regularly-scheduled-commenting dept

First week of the year, and it started off with quite a bang. Leading the way on the "most insightful" side was DH's Love Child responding to a comment from one of our usual "critics" who tried to claim that tech companies are nothing but "parasites" because they "are reliant on infringement to make money" and that they should "create their own worthwhile content." DH's LC pointed out that the "companies" in the content industry don't actually create much content themselves:
Name me one COMPANY that creates content. They have people who create content and then the company publishes or distributes it.

Content is created by people using tools that companies make. Just because the content wasn't distributed by your beloved RIAA/MPAA, etc, doesn't make it any less worthwhile.
Indeed. Take a look at the tech companies and the legacy entertainment industry companies today, and tell me which ones are actually responsible for enabling the creation of more content? That's easy: tech wins by a long shot.

Coming in second was Hephaestus responding to one of the typical claims of how, without copyright, there would be no culture:
Dear Big Content

I recently heard that you said "that there would be no culture if there was no copyright monopoly." I guess the library of Alexandria is a myth, there are no Greek tragedies, the Bible doesn't exist, the Koran is a fairy tale, that fairy tales are recent fakes, philosophy from the times of Thales and Aristotle is one of my delusions, and we do not have extant literature from Sophocles and Euripides.

Thanks for clearing that up for me.

The third place comment, by Anonymoose Custard, was so good that I'm making it my first editor's choice comment of the week. It was in response to a comment from Brian from the band "Enter the Haggis." ETH actually is a pretty innovative band that has been more than willing to test out new business models and has been quite successful doing so. However, Brian challenged my suggestion that the public domain is the necessary end result of copyright, or that copyright is a contract between the public and content creators. He also suggested that we should be much more concerned about patents than copyright (we're actually pretty damn concerned about both!). A number of people responded to Brian, but Anonymoose Custard's got the most insightful votes, and for a good reason:
The problem is that Copyright came with a promise similar to the promise that Patents have: That once the creator has profited from the work, the work enters the collective cultural domain. The reasoning is that then the Public will always have access to the works.

As it is, though, these works remain under Copyright, and it is still technically illegal to create archival copies for cultural preservation, and it's also therefore illegal for the Public to gain access to those archival copies for their enjoyment.

Right now, there is a collection of recordings of Jazz music from the '30s by some of the masters of early Jazz - from Armstrong to Basie - that no one is allowed to listen to because they're under Copyright, even though it's not clear that anyone actually holds the Copyright to these recordings. So they will remain in an archive in Harlem until the Copyrights expire, probably sometime around 2025 at the earliest, if not longer. It's a travesty that no one will be able to listen to it.

Worse, there are huge storerooms at the movie studios in Hollywood that hold collections of some of the most influential and (culturally) important movies of the Silent Era and the early "Soundies" that are simply decaying in their tins. The film is a material that is extremely fragile and doesn't survive even in controlled conditions, and so the reels are covered in a brow-gray gunk that used to be film. None of those movies will ever be seen again because the Copyright owners have no interest in recovering what's left (they don't see a market) and no one who has the funding is able to recover them all because they can't get the Copyright releases - if they can get it at all. In many cases, the studio that "owns" them can't even prove they have the Copyright.

And so our Culture is being destroyed or lost because no one is allowed to make valuable archival copies, and no one is allowed to view them because the proper royalty payments can't or won't be made.

Even if it can be proven that the works are true orphan works, no one will touch them because someone will make a Copyright claim that needs to be verified, even if the claim is invalid.

Worse yet, derivative works that build on this culture (like tributes and documentaries and the like) can't use this material, even if they can get their hands on it.

It is as if Copyright is making it illegal to record and share any of our History that occurred between 15 years ago (which is roughly when most Copyright owners seem to abandon their works) and 95 to 170 years ago (which is when the current Copyright extensions expire).
I also responded to Brian, and noted that I think he got the basic equation backwards. In his comment he suggests that copyright is the natural state of things, and the public domain "strips creators" of their rights. That's not the case at all. The natural state is no copyright, where anyone can do anything. Copyright was, quite explicitly, a deal with creators that the public would not make use of that natural right for a limited time to (in theory) give creators an exclusive right to benefit. Either way, I should note that a few commenters weren't that nice to Brian and I find that unfortunate. While we certainly have some "trolls" in the crowd who make crazy statements just to piss people off, Brian appeared to be asking a sincere question, signed his name to it -- and has a clear track record of being quite willing to experiment with directly connecting with fans and trying out exciting new business models. So just a heads up to our regulars: not everyone who you disagree with is a troll.

For the second editor's choice comment, we've got Ima Fish bringing back an old comment that he actually used a few years ago on a different site, but it sure seemed relevant again:
There was recently a post on Techdirt about how even those who fight for stricter copyright laws end up accidentally infringing copyrights themselves.

The reason it's so incredibly easy to infringe copyright law has to do with how out of control copyright laws have become.

As copyright was originally enacted, it was next to impossible to accidentally infringe. In the good old days in order to infringe on a copyright you had to physically publish a song or a book without permission by printing it onto paper via a printing press. There was no other way to copy or infringe on a song or a book and there was no such thing as a performance right protected by copyright.

Nowadays we infringe copyrights numerous times throughout the day without even thinking about it. Watching an unauthorized SNL clip on YouTube. Playing the radio in the background at work where customers can hear. Loaning a copy of your Finding Nemo DVD to play at your kids' daycare. Downloading clip art to use in a personal scrapbook. Scanning your own wedding photos. Forwarding a funny photograph to a friend. Loaning a co-worker some software. Etc., etc., etc…

Copyright laws are so utterly pervasive in our lives that we simply cannot reasonably function without at least some innocent infringement. I personally think it'd be easier to avoid jaywalking and speeding than it would be to avoid infringing.
Moving on to funny... in our Techdirt 2011: The Numbers post from this week, we noted a growing "rivalry" between Dark Helmet and Marcus Carab over who was deemed the site's funniest commenter -- and both took their best shots this week. And, amazingly... they took the top two spots in the funny category this week in a race that was incredibly close... but where DH won by a hair. It was his comment in response to the story of ICE deporting a missing teen to Colombia (she was American) because she gave them a fake name (and ICE didn't bother to do any actual investigative work -- such as making sure she was who she said she was). DH combined this with the other ICE story we've been following and noted:
The fake name she gave police was Dajaz and ICE just went nutbars trying to keep her out of the States, amirite?
Meanwhile, Marcus' second place comment was actually a direct response to DH on that "Numbers" post, where DH issued a sort of challenge to Marcus, in which he tossed out this insult: "pronounced More-Kiss Car-Rob, descriptive for the smooch-stealing auto-theif that he is," which left Marcus no choice but to respond:
DH has never forgiven me for kissing his car and hotwiring his girlfriend...
Oh, the competition is on...

For editor's choice, we've got Rich Kulawiec (check his background if you don't know who he is) responding to Rep. Lamar Smith's ridiculous claim that those opposed to SOPA are not serious and don't understand the bill. Kulawiec went sarcastic:
But...but...but of course he's right... since none of us have any idea how the Internet works, whereas Lamar Smith is internationally renowned for his technical prowess and keen understanding of the Internet's architecture.
Make sure you click the link in that comment.

Finally, we've got PopeHilarius responding to the story of how service provider Bandcamp was helping artists turn people looking for infringing materials into buyers. Responding to a sentence in the post about how Bandcamp "can effectively compete with filesharing and other free distribution platforms" by giving fans a way to "directly support the artist," PH detected the real issue:
See there's your problem right there. If fans can directly support the artist, it takes money away from hardworking gatekeepers like media conglomerates. Directly supporting an artist is the same as stealing.
Indeed. Please, who will think of the gatekeepers?

On that note, get ready for another fun week -- and remember, if you're at CES this week come and say hello.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2012 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Thanks Mike

    and just because the law considers something property is meaningless in this discussion since we aren't discussing what the law is but we're discussing what it should be.

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