by Mike Masnick

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the logic! dept

Getting (by far) the most votes for "insightful" this week was an Anonymous Coward commenter, responding to the story of Amazon wiping out a customer account, locking her out of her Kindle ebooks with no explanation. The AC said what many people were thinking:
So if I try to obey the law I run the risk of actually losing my money... but if pirate this stuff I retain 100% control of my devices....

So why should I even try and choose the legal routes again?
Coming in second was a comment from Aaeru on the post about copyright not being a human right. Aaeru posted some content from this page about why copyright isn't about granting any natural right to the holder:
"Copyright grants its holder certain rights."

What rights does copyright grant to the holder?

"The right to produce copies or reproductions?"

No, the holder already can do that. He does not need the government to tell him that he can.

"The right to make adaptations and derivative works."

No, again the holder already can do that.

"The right to perform or display the work publicly?"

Again, this isn't a right being granted to the holder, he is permitted to perform the work as he sees fit. None of these rights are granted to the holder by copyright law; they exist independently. What copyright law does is take away the rights of everyone else to do these things.
As for editor's choice, we've got cpt kangarooski (I'm sure that's his real name) responding to someone, yet again, asking the infamous "but how will I continue to make $100 million movies" question by highlighting (yet again) how that's the wrong question:
I absolutely agree. In fact, I am an sculptor, and my medium of choice is the Moon. I'd love to invest my time and money into sculpting the Moon into a more pleasing (and copyrightable) shape. But to do this will require a significant amount of copyright in order to sufficiently incentivize me and justify my investment. Specifically, I need everyone on Earth to owe me a sizable fee for looking at the moon, forever.

And if you think that this is ridiculous, and that the price I want people to pay me is too big and not worthwhile, well, perhaps $100 million movies are too expensive as well, in terms of how much the level of copyright it takes to make the viable penalizes the public.
For the second editor's choice, we've got another Anonymous Coward, responding to the story of veteran parodist Michael Gerber going to Kickstarter after his publisher got spooked about the possibility of someone associated with Downton Abbey going legal over Gerber's planned parody. This AC had an interesting analogy:
I just pledged, and I've never seen an episode of Downton Abbey.

I'm currently reading a book by Terry Pratchett called "Interesting Times" and the point is made that there's something worse than a whip to a slave, it's when a population so effortlessly enslaved that they've internalized the whip.

"What if [Downton Abbey creator] Julian Fellowes gets mad?" "What if they hire another company to publish the official Downton Abbey Calendar/Tea Cozy instead of us?" "What if I make the wrong decision and get fired?"

All of the above tells me that someone in the publishing industry has internalized the whip.
And, as a special bonus editor's choice, we've got Michael Gerber's own response to the comment above...

Moving on to funny, we get started with another Anonymous Coward extrapolating from the DOJ's argument that there could be no harm in shutting down Megaupload, because Kim Dotcom has said he can't reopen the site:
The World Trade Center has not "suffered massive harm" as the US doesn't intend to rebuild it.
Coming in second was a comment from Lord Binky, responding to the UN's worries that the internet was too open and (*gasp*!) terrorists might use it:
I read terrorists use food too. I'd start by controlling food so that a terrorist never uses it, then we don't have to worry about terrorists.
For editor's choice, I'm actually doing three comments this week, but two of them are based on the same post -- the one about Random House's definition of "ownership" of ebooks being entirely different than everyone else's definition. First up, we had nospacesorspecialcharacters:
Oh come on what's the big deal? It's just like physical ownership. An ebook is like a book, and a platform is like a bookshelf.

I can't be the only one who buys all my books again when I purchase a new bookshelf?!
And then we had Jordan chime in with a more... practical solution:
I'm not paying for the book. I'm licensing you rights to use my cash for a bit.
And, finally, we have an Anonymous Coward responding to the post we had about an economist arguing for perpetual copyright, by arguing that he's ignoring the economics and the fact that they go against him. To get the full effect of this comment, we have to start it off with the quote from economist Stan Liebowitz that this AC is responding to:
I don't deny that it's efficient to sort of weaken copyright to a certain balancing point. What I'm saying is that we can do that, we have the tools to do that, and no one finds it particularly morally objectionable to weaken copyright to get to what is the proper balance. The point of my paper is that if we were doing it the way we're saying we would like to, we would be removing rents from the creators of copyrighted works, because that's how you get the balance that's most efficient. But we don't go reducing rents elsewhere in the economy, say from basketball players.

So let me get this straight:
- It is economically efficient to weaken copyright.
- No one finds it morally objectionable to weaken copyright.
- It is desirable to weaken copyright.

- We should not weaken copyright.


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  1. identicon
    cpt kangarooski, 29 Oct 2012 @ 7:25pm


    In order to sculpt the moon, for example, you need to find people who want to pay you for that. Copyright doesn't give you money - the desires of people to pay you for your work give you money. All copyright does is let you license it to willing buyers. So, as to the $100 million movie, if no one wanted to go, copyright doesn't make them. And lots of movies fail. But if people do want to see, say James Bond, failure of copyright will keep that from happening.

    Well, remember that copyright anticipates that authors will manage to obtain the funds necessary to create and publish a copyrightable work on their own, in practice by finding a publisher willing to front the money in exchange for a share (perhaps a large share) of the profits, if there are any. The audience doesn't pay until after the work is created and somehow made available to them, eg by buying copies or paying for tickets at a venue. If there were no copyright monopoly, then presumably the profits for the publisher and author from selling copies they authorized the creation of would be less due to competition. And yes, copyright doesn't guarantee success.

    So I may very well already have enough money on hand to sculpt the moon as I see fit. But at the current level of copyright protection, the profit I could expect to make is quite low. After all, I can't sell copies -- no mere block of terrestrial stone or metal or what have you is adequate; only the Moon will do. And I can't charge admission to go see it, since everyone can see it already. So I am not incentivized to actually do it, since I'd lose money.

    But if we increase the scope and duration of copyright so that everyone on the planet will have to pay me as much as I like anytime they look at it, and the copyright lasts forever, then I might very well make a tidy profit after all. The desire of the audience might matter under the current law, but I'd we revise the law to make the rent seeking more explicit, it need not pose an impediment.

    In any case, the point I was trying to make is that we should seek to have whatever the optimal level of copyright is, as measured by the benefit to the public. Specifically, we want the creation and publication of the greatest number of works which would not otherwise be created and published (a benefit), by granting copyright as an encouragement (a detriment), while granting the absolute minimum amount of copyright necessary to do so, in terms of both the duration of the right, and the scope of protection (to reduce the detriment). Using no copyright as a baseline, we want something that produces the greatest net benefit for the public which is better than no copyright at all. It is entirely likely that plenty of works will not be created and published under such an ideal copyright law, because the encouragement is too small. But this is okay, because the benefit those works would've provided would have been too little in light of the cost incurred. Much as we might like to have those works, we would literally be better off without them.

    And so, like the Moon sculpture, I have no problems with $100 million movies no longer being made because copyright reforms render them unprofitable -- provided that the copyright reforms are nevertheless more beneficial to the public than what we have now, and than having no law at all.

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