Hello fellow Techdirtheads. I’m Ima Fish and am an attorney with a concentration in IP law. But unlike most lawyers who study IP law, I want to drastically curtail how it presently operates. So when I talk about my “favorite” posts, I’m being satirical, of course.
As anyone who reads this site knows, ownership culture has gone way past mere copyright, patents, and trademarks. The pervasiveness of ownership culture can be seen in my favorite post of the week, Timothy’s post concerning Shawn Cheek, who believes he has a monopoly on writing letters on the keys of a keyboard to better teach students. Unfortunately, despite having no such copyright or patent, Mr. Cheek has had videos removed from YouTube. That’s very troubling.
Another troubling post is Mike’s from Tuesday and involves the patenting of vegetables in Europe. The mere idea of giving out monopolies over nature should send a shiver down everyone’s spine. Especially when, as the movie Jurassic Park taught us, nature finds a way. This can be seen in a related story, wherein experimental GMO wheat from Monsanto, never cleared for release, was found growing “naturally” by a farmer in Oregon. Will Monsanto go after the farmer who found it for violating their patents? If he had tried to harvest it rather than destroy it, Monsanto might have had a chance based upon the US Supreme Court decision in Bowman v Monsanto. Will farmers in Europe eventually face the same legal threat, merely because nature followed its course?
Simply put, patenting acts of nature actually make acts of nature illegal. Do you feel that shiver now?
One of my other favorite themes at Techdirt is the fact that the copyright industry does not operate in a free market. This can be seen in three posts this week. First, the news that police in the UK are allowing employees of the entertainment industry to arrest and interrogate alleged infringers. While it makes no sense to us, it does from the perspective of the copyright industry when you realize the industry does not actually have customers. It has government granted tolls people are obligated to pay under force of law. So it makes sense for the music and movie industries to hire a bunch of former police and prosecutors to ensure every dime is collected. But the fact politicians are allowing it is very troubling.
The next such posts are the RIAA’s outrageous claim that it has never stifled innovation and the depressing news concerning the aftermath of allowing the copyright industry to control innovation.
While stopping the progress of technology may seem outrageous to us, it makes sense for the copyright industry. Because the copyright industry has no actual customers, it has no clue how to compete. So whenever a new technology is released, rather than rolling up their collective sleeves and coming up with better product, the copyright industry sues, e.g., the player piano, the radio, cable TV, DVRs, etc. And as long as the copyright industry’s business is collecting tolls rather selling a product or service to customers, these attacks against technology will continue.
Another favorite theme of mine here is the copyright industry’s desire to eliminate the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA. The DMCA was enacted when I was in law school, and it was hotly debated among students and professors. The only commonality of thought we all had was that if the law was passed, it absolutely needed safe harbors. Even the copyright maximalists in the debate conceded that. It was clear to everyone that without safe harbors, the internet would be destroyed. But as Mike posted Wednesday, the RIAA is back at it again.
People tend to ask, “Why should internet providers act as the copyright industry’s police force?” But in my opinion, that’s not what this is really about. The RIAA and the MPAA do not really care about stopping piracy. Seriously. All they actually want is a new revenue stream. Forcing Google, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook and others to pay is what the copyright industry considers a new business model.
This would basically be licensing. Let’s look back to when copyright first started covering performances. Back then, the music industry could have sued individual bands or audience members. Instead they sold licenses to bar, club, and theater owners. And by “sold” I mean owners were forced to pay for licenses.
The same will happen once Google and the rest start paying. For example, the music industry won’t have to concern itself much with selling CDs or advertising. It’ll just sit back and collect its tolls from large internet service providers, increasing those tolls every few years, of course.
My last favorite post involves the destruction of the right of first sale in relation to the console gaming industry. As posted by Timothy on Wednesday, it is hoped that Sony learns from the backlash and supports used games in the upcoming PS4.
In my opinion, don’t hold your breath. Sony is the same company that took away the “other” OS option in the PS3, installed root kids on PCs via music CDs, and came up with the most convoluted anti-consumer way to sell digital music ever conceived. If Sony is our only hope to save first sale rights, we’re screwed.