from the heroes,-villains-and-fools dept
You've heard it before — "copyright and the First Amendment have co-existed for 200 years!" — but as we explained this week, it just ain't true. Inspired by the subject, jameshogg delivered our most insightful comment of the week by hitting many of the key points in the free speech debate:
There is nobody good enough to police free expression without falling into corruption, or have future generations fall into corruption. That is why the expression of ideas and opinions must not be policed, even if they are as offensive as Holocaust denial or uncomfortable as whistle-blowing.
But yet, copyright believers seem to think that they, above all civilisations who have tried to regulate free speech and failed, do have the ability to decide when and where free speech is permissible? If I want to tell a story about Twilight, in order to portray the main characters as corporate leeches by using certain symbolism for example, and express ideas of my own that symbolically present Twilight in a new and enlightened way, why am I not allowed to do that? Why is it that "parody" is the only thing allowed to get away with this? What if the deviation is not humourous? It is not just speech that has to be free, it is expression, and every time you restrict me from telling a derived story in a way I see fit you are denying me the right to delivery a certain metaphorical message that may necessarily entail the use of characters and plot lines.
Fan fiction is illegal, because it is published creativity using someone else's work. Fan ART also falls into this category, making deviantArt the biggest copyright infringing website on the web - even bigger than storage lockers like MegaUpload. Are we really to say that everybody participating in this mass infringement is in the wrong? The MPAA never will have the balls to see this through, because the resulting backlash would absolutely DWARF that of the backlash against SOPA (then again, the rationality of the MPAA is not always up to standard, so I can't guarantee that websites like deviantArt will be left alone). Now my follow up question is this: why should fan artists and fanfiction writers be allowed to write deviations, but not those who wish to open up a commercial market on that basis? What makes fan artists more significant? If you believe in copyright, you have to in this case either question the fundamentals of copyright or demand that deviantArt be shut down.
"Sure, you can express yourself... but only in ways that we approve of. So no expressing other people's expressions" is basically what copyright believers are saying, and the only reason why fan art is permissible is that its too big a phenomenon to dare challenge, even although these fan artists get tons of publicity and therefore secondary profits from other things they may be allowed to sell. Fuck that. I'm not letting the philosophy of copyright try to say it is competent enough to "know" when certain speech should not be permissible when it cannot face up to these other challenges.
Counterbalancing the thoroughness of that comment, btrussel took second place with a short and sweet rebuke to one of the many stupid statements made by children's author Terry Deary in his anti-library screed:
"I'm not attacking libraries, I'm attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant."
And I'm not attacking copyright, I'm attacking the concept behind copyright, which is no longer relevant.
Brevity is the soul of wit, but it's also insufficient for the task of listing all the ways in which Deary was wrong. To aid in the task, our first Editor's Choice comes from Monica on the same post, providing an insider's insight:
I'm a public librarian. All I have to say about this man's ridiculous claims is something one of our patrons told me a few years ago: "I need to stop going to the library, it's costing me too much money!" She didn't say this because of fines, but instead because she had just purchased yet another book, DVD, or CD that her children couldn't live without. At Christmas or birthday times, It happens a lot -- someone falls in love with something they've borrowed from the library and needs to have it for their own collection, or perhaps the newest title in the series. A lot of people who wouldn't otherwise buy a book have done so for this very reason.
Of course, Terry Deary wasn't the only artist this week spouting what for propriety's sake I'll call horse hockey (after the fashion of Colonel Potter). We also had Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray tilting at tiny little miniaturized windmills, aka ad network revenues on pirate websites. One of our critics was extremely angry that we were focusing on how meaninglessly minuscule such payments are, rather than treating the fact that they exist at all as an unacceptable travesty. In response, and taking our second Editor's Choice, Togashi laid out some comparisons:
Yes, Greyhound makes some money off smuggling.
Yes, Smith and Wesson makes some money off murder.
Yes, trenchcoat manufacturers make some money off shoplifting.
Yes, casinos make some money off money laundering.
Yes, rope makers make some money off kidnapping.
Seeing a pattern here? You would be laughed out of town if you were to suggest that any of these manufacturers were dedicated to that purpose because of the pitiful amounts of money they make on it compared to the myriad of legitimate ones. Well, some people would argue about the guns, but the point stands.
While people were laughing at that raging troll, others were laughing with our own Dark Helmet, and voting him into the first place spot on the funny side. When Tim Cushing displayed some of DH's tweets as part of his follow-up on the OnPress situation, DH was amusingly not amused:
First, you used my tweet to Knopf in your article without contacting me!?!?!? Don't you know that ALL MY TWEETS ARE PROTECTED FROM PUBLICATION!?!?!?!?
Second, you did not, despite showing the image entirely, credit me within your article? Don't you know that this is copyrightmarkent infringement of the 34th degree and that there are no exceptions to the made up laws in my head?
Enough talk, Cushing. I'll be by to eat your face off later. Also, my made up attorney who is confused by his own first name and isn't quite sure what state he's from will be contacting you to verify your employment or something. I don't know, legal shit is confusing, you assclown! ROAR!!!
OnPress was amusing because their slapdash antics were too silly to be genuinely dangerous—in other words, they're amateurs. The pro trolls are the scary ones, and few are as scary as Monsanto. Upon hearing the news that the Supreme Court is taking on an important Monsanto patent case to do with the selling and re-planting of second generation seeds, Beech delivered our second funniest comment of the week by donning the hat of a sarcastic lawyer:
The ultimate defence here is to say (rightfully) that the farmer didn't violate the patent, the plants did. The plant's DNA was protected by patent(s) and yet, in spite of that fact the plants continued to make millions of copies of their own genes through (1) growing (cellular division) and (2) by reproducing. All the farmer did was put a bunch of seeds in some dirt, he should have been able to assume that the patented bunch of seeds would readily respect the "natural right" of a patent holder's monopoly and simply not grown. Greedy freetard/pirate plants!!!!
Before Monsanto existed, we assumed that supervillains who disastrously meddled with the natural order of things would have more style. For example, they might capture a giant ape on a remote island and bring it to Manhattan in shackles. If that story sounds familiar, it might be because it's been in the public domain for decades. At least, it is according to Universal. Er, at least, it is when they want it to be. But when Nintendo wanted to release their iconic Donkey Kong game, the studio changed its mind about King Kong's copyright status, and one anonymous commenter wins our first Editor's Choice spot for explaining why:
I never saw the movie, because I had played the game I didn't feel I needed to especially as over an hour of watching live action guy jumping over things and climbing ladders just seemed like such a dumb idea.
We've come a long way since then. Mostly in the wrong direction.
Last but not least (either in terms of the stupidity of the story or the quality of the comment) we turn to the news that some people are getting skittish about satellite photos. In response to the news that New Hampshire is considering a new law that would ban photography from structures "not supported by the ground", chosenreject takes our final Editor's Choice spot by pointing out a significant flaw in that wording:
I know they say satellites, but I think they can make an exception since satellites only stay in in orbit because of the earth's gravitational pull, therefore the satellites are supported by the ground.
Problem solved. Next please.
It's like I always say: at the end of the day, everything's physics.