back to article SOPA poked an angry bear and set it loose on the net

I'm not defending greedy bastard corporations, says author Rob Levine, and you don't have to either. But we need something better than a broken digital economy. Published last year, Levine's book Free Ride seemed acutely well-timed. Online discussions about digital copyright are now so cliched, an artificially intelligent …


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  1. Andrew Ducker

    So, if people repeatedly say "no" to enforcement without trial then that's bad and wrong?

    The article says that we need strong enforcement. I'd like to see suggestions of exactly how we manage that without locking down the internet in such a way that it's basically broken. I don't believe it's possible, to be honest.

    1. Vic

      > The article says that we need strong enforcement.

      We do need strong enforcement.

      What we *don't* need is new legislation that removes the onus of proving guilt...

      > I'd like to see suggestions of exactly how we manage that without locking down the internet

      Copyright is a trade; it trades a time-limited monopoly for the author to exploit his work in return for that work becoming part of the public domain in due course.

      My suggestion would be this: Firstly, that time limit should be returned to what it was when the copyright laws were first implemented - something of the order of twenty years should be plenty.

      Secondly, assorted governments should actually provide that monopoly, rather than just claiming it to exist. So if a copyright holder can make at least a prima facie case, the government should provide assistance to its prosecution (in the way of, for example, legal aid) according to the laws and international treaties we already have.

      This gets both sides of the argument what they claim to want: the copyright holders get easy prosecutions of copyright infringers, and society gets easy access to works without excessive peril.

      Of course, none of this will come to pass. Disney and Cliff Richard have already deemed copyright to be infinite, and they won't budge.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      <sarcasm> Yeah, due process is an antiquated concept

      ...and who needs the first sale, or fair use doctrines either. </sarcasm>

      I don't necessarily disagree with the main thrust of the article, but it comes across as more than a little lopsided - completely neglecting the Associations' anti-consumer and anti-technology legacy. To portray them as well intentioned, bumbling idiots who unexpectedly stumbled into the mob's wrath is really quite ridiculous.

      AFAIK, here in the states the same category of offense applies to real commercial infringement (i.e. selling content you don't own for a profit), as applies to file sharing, as would apply to someone like me who rips their CDs and DVDs to <gasp!> use on devices without spinny reader thingies so I <double gasp!> don't have to buy the same <whatever> 5 times from my kids scratching it all to hell.

      A couple of other points here: 1.) there is the (unaddressed) question as to if online file sharing actually has a *REAL* measurable impact on the markets, and if the 10% (or whatever the real percentage) of people who illicitly download content would ever actually pay for it otherwise. This point always seems to be assumed to be true in favor of the Associations, but IMHE the el cheapos doing this type of stuff - a significant non-zero percentage at least - either don't have the money, or simply wouldn't pay for the content otherwise, and would simply go without.

      2.) Why is it the government's problem if businesses refuse to adapt to a changing world? Another significant, non-zero percentage of downloading is due to lack of content availability... and it ranges from the out-of-print type stuff (ex: ever tried to legitimately buy the Star Wars Christmas special?) that has always been black market, to content that the Associations/Content Owners just don't feel like making available to certain markets (in some cases, yet - in others, never). Let's say I'm in the middle of a season of Dexter when I am forced to relocate to Brazil for work... there is *NO* way for me to legitimately get that content there other than illicit downloads.

      The Associations would be better served by the following: 1.) creating new ways to get their content into the hands of the people who are downloading content today, but would be willing to pay for said content if the legitimate solution were convenient and reasonably priced. 2.) work with legislators to come up with an appropriate law for *non-commercial* infringement that still satisfies due process, and 3.) GTFO regarding clampdowns on first sale and fair use doctrines - it's pissing people off, and in the grand scheme of things it's not really going to make a difference to your bottom line.

      My $0.02... FWIW.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

    "And recipes, obviously, aren't covered by copyright."

    Umm. Why is that obvious in this day and age of perpetual copyright even on factual information?

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

      It's obvious because the recipe itself - a list of ingredients and some steps to follow - cannot be copyrighted because it is just an idea. Central to copyright is that it is the specific work itself that is copyrighted, not the idea(s) behind it. In this, copyright differs strongly with patents, where the idea is covered just as much as the specific embodiment.

      So I could be an imitative pinhead and write a story about the schooldays of a boy wizard, and as long as the story isn't too much like JKR's writing (I've never read it, but I understand from someone who has that it isn't great writing) I'll be OK from a copyright point of view.

      Getting back to the recipe, however: My description of the recipe is the equivalent of the specific novel, i.e. possibly copyrightable, and the underlying list of stuff and method is the equivalent of "schooldays of a boy wizard", i.e. just an idea, so not copyrightable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

        Go tell this to Coca-Cola Co. and then come back to us.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

          Actually Coca-Cola protects their stuff via Trade Secret, which is different than copyright. If you want to attack the "recipes aren't copyrightable" you want to take on Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, and that Blam! (Bam! ?) guy from down south.

        2. Vic

          Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

          > Go tell this to Coca-Cola Co

          Coca-Cola already knows this.

          The Coke recipe is not copyrighted, as it has never (AFAIK) been published.

          It is a Trade Secret. And that is fine - someone concocting a recipe is not obliged to share that recipe. But if they do, the recipe itself is not copyrightable.


        3. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

          If I am not mistaken, the recipe for Coca-Cola syrup is not copyrighted but is a very carefully guarded trade secret. This is entirely appropriate inasmuch as the owner doubtless does not want to share it ever.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

        @Steve: I think you've missed the last 30 years of copyright creep. And patents are specifically supposed to not cover ideas.

      3. ArmanX

        Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

        "It's obvious because the recipe itself - a list of ingredients and some steps to follow - cannot be copyrighted because it is just an idea." - only it's not just an idea. It's a blueprint for a delicious meal. It's that "isn't too much like" that gets you in trouble; copying a recipe verbatim breaks copyright. Just because the majority of recipes are in the public domain doesn't mean they can't be copyrighted. Of course, if you took the recipe, re-wrote the directions, and changed the order or the exact measurements of the ingredients, it's fine, and you haven't broken copyright.

        Just clearing that up...

        1. Vic

          Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

          > Just because the majority of recipes are in the public domain

          > doesn't mean they can't be copyrighted.

          This is factually incorrect.

          Information cannot be copyrighted. Copyright exists purely on the artistic nature of a work - so the text describing how to cook a dish can be copyrighted, but the quantities of ingredients and the method used cannot.


      4. Andrew Punch

        Re: Nothing is obvious in Copyrightland

        This is from the US Copyright office []:

        "Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook. "

        My reading is that a list of ingredients is not subject to copyright, but the instructions of a recipe are subject to copyright ("...a description, explanation...")

        Thus for the interviewee to state that it is "obvious" that recipes are not copyrighted is clearly incorrect. There is clearly a grey area regarding what elements of a recipe are subject to copyright.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Thanks for the interview

    Pearls like "People really don't want to live in the future Google offers them. Economically, Google World offers people nothing." and "For example the Kahn Academy [a free online educational resource] gave a lesson on SOPA that was quite inaccurate. That got money from Google. Maybe somebody ought to mention it somewhere?" were very nice in painting this and the author's book as another anti-google rant, this time apparently one paid by the *AAS.

    I just wonder were is the IT angle in such a propaganda piece.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop acting like ogres

    In pre-digital modes, one person would buy a book or CD or video and then lend that to their friends. It might have been copied, but the value of the copy (non-original packaging, low quality copying) meant the copy was of negligible value compared to the real thing. But there was an inherent tolerance of sharing.

    Digital came along and people still look to share. But three things happen. The copy quality is now equivalent to the original. There is no packaging issue. The range of 'friends' and ease of sharing is much larger. And so corporations want to stop any sharing and criminalise sharing as theft and in the process seem to be trying to grab as much as they can - more than before and at higher potential profits since there are no production or distribution costs.

    So we need to see more laissez-faire from corporations where sharing is among real (ie face-to-face) friends and family. If you did something simple like allow six copies to be made legally where no money is involved, it wouldn't change a thing in practical terms, but it would make people feel better. And it would make it clear that some sharing is OK. But that broadscale redistribution of material is not acceptable - or that you need to buy a license for distribution.

    Secondly, there is no reason copyright should be longer than a patent - a patent after all costs money to develop, design and register. I can't see any argument why this should be the case.

    1. rtli-

      Re: Stop acting like ogres

      "In pre-digital modes...there was an inherent tolerance of sharing."

      I think you're misremembering history there. The publishers were loudly proclaiming the imminent death of music to reel-to-reel copying. Products even came with a tax paid straight to the publishers to cover their losses due to the copying they enabled -- and I'm pretty certain that violates the common law of "innocent until proven guilty".

      1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

        Re: Stop acting like ogres

        " I think you're misremembering history there. The publishers were loudly proclaiming the imminent death of music to reel-to-reel copying."

        Exactly! Obviously some of us still remember sliding our inner vinyl sleeves out and seeing the huge skull and crossbones cassette, "HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC!". Which we gleefully ignored as we slide in a blank C90 for fourth mate of a mate who wanted the latest copy of the LP!

    2. Graham Bartlett

      Re: Stop acting like ogres

      If it had been limited to "friends", this would never have been an issue. But when it happens on an industrial scale, it becomes a problem.

      By analogy, someone going on holiday to a lower-tax-on-cigs country and bringing back a few crates of cigs for their mates is not something your government will worry too much about. But when someone's shifting a hundred lorryloads every day and selling them on every street corner, Questions Will Be Asked.

      Yes, the analogy has the cig-smugglers selling their wares at a profit. "But file-sharers do it for nothing", I hear you cry. Well-meaning individuals might, sure - but the people higher up the chain (for Napster it was the Fannings, for instance, or in these BitTorrent days it'd be the people running ad-supported link sites) are making tidy bucks out of their warez.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Friendly chat, eh

    Proposing to shorten copyright while make enforcement meaningful? Say it ain't so!

    There's another angle in this, of course, because copyright is about protecting creative works, that is enabling the creators to live off their creations, something that is a bit hard on art otherwise. But those creators are humans, or groups of humans. Now it's also true that corporations are "fake" persons to "embody the group", and like money these vehicles are easily taken as more important than the reason they exist. Big entertainment is in fact a good example of this, where both big music and big movies have an ingrained habit of pinching and squeezing the creators (just look at the various pay structures, how movies invariably make losses for tax purposes, and so on), and as such they're pretty far away from being a publisher and/or agent for the creators, but much more like, oh, patent trolls. One sign of that is overlong copyright terms, another is the complete focus on buying legislation and suing the customer as they're seen as "consumers" to be milked like cows.

    The basic problem then is that the existing infrastructure is losing relevance yet is too big and entrenched and unwilling to reform itself. itunes is far from optimal, but a huge success because apple happens to be in just the right position to pull it off. But there isn't much room for alternatives, and there should be.

    Simply because of that I'd be happy to break down the legislation and let them rot, only afterward reforming copyright legislation with a strong focus on the creator again. But since that's not going to happen I'll settle for shorter terms and reasonable enforcement, but even there I'd much prefer not to go the "you must do as we say" route; enticing the customer with a good offer for a reasonable price is much more important.

    Even now it's not true that "free" invariably supplants paid-for. But the paid-for offerings still leave a lot to be desired. Arbitrary border restrictions for one, lack of anonymous payment ("slide a couple coins over the counter" type electronic payment) for another. And, yeah, I do think that ACTA completely misses the mark. It may be a trade treaty, but the importance of creative works for and because of culture means you can't just productise and pretend you can punish punters for the equivalent of low-wage country manufacturers making cheap knockoffs sold with a big name brand badge. It makes no sense for the underlying subject matter. In this sort of thing I'm afraid you'll have to include entertainers and entertained both, especially since the agents and enforcers have painted themselves into the aggravating irrelevance corner.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People really don't want to live in the future Google offers them?

    Erm... [citation needed].

    From what I see around me, people want free stuff NAU.

    1. Benjamin 4

      Re: People really don't want to live in the future Google offers them?

      They want free stuff. Just because Google doesn't cost money doesn't mean it's free.

  7. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Going to the "Copyright In Three Dimensions"

    I think most people would be pleased not so much by no copyright at all but a copyright that had more reasonable terems. The "no copyright" hoohah is mostly extreme backlash against what's felt to be draconian terms: fight extreme with extreme and try to get the scales balanced again. Trouble is that a lot of swinging back and forth will happen in the meantime.

    One of the problems, of course, is the producers. They predicted (and this prediction was confirmed) the value of re-introducing OLD BUT VALUABLE works. That's why Disney ends up in many of these arguments because a lot of their signature works are pushing on 70 or 80 years or so yet keep drawing kids (new audiences) to watching them and paying them money. And then we go to books and start winding the clock further back to the Brothers Grimm, Hans Chrstian Andersen, and further on to legends and folk tales. I wonder if the people behind the concept of copyright could've known that there would be such a thing as something that never really goes out of style.

    THIS I think is the big sticking point in coming to an agreement concerning terms of copyright: one size can't really fit all, but not having just one size will be perceived as unfair. No matter where you draw the lines, people with stakes in the argument are going to feel cheated, so the only thing serious discussions can seem to agree on is to disagree.

    1. nineworlds

      Re: Going to the "Copyright In Three Dimensions"

      And yet, Disney and other corporations weren't the target of original copyrights. I bet the creators of the concept of copyright understood fairly well that some things never go out of style (the bible springs to mind), but thought that twenty-odd years return on a creative work was incentive enough for anyone to keep producing. If those artists wanted a pension, they'd have to save for it, not just spend all the income and hope that their work became "timeless" enough to keep them in luxury through old age. And Disney would't even have half material they use if older copyrights hadn't expired on the works.

      Copyright was an incentive to produce new work, not a cash cow to help society stagnate.

    2. PT

      Re: Going to the "Copyright In Three Dimensions"

      Disney's concerns, and that of many others, could have been met quite adequately just by requiring rights holders to re-register every few years. Would that have been so hard? It could even have been made indefinite and I don't think many people would have objected, because as long as a work is worth a little effort and a nominal fee it's still of interest to the owner and probably still available. Whereas what we ended up with is a situation where everything created in my lifetime (and much that was created before I was born) will still be copyright long after I die, and the vast majority of that work is out of print and will never be available again. And YES, as a member of the public I've been cheated, by providing the rights holders' side of the deal while they systematically gutted my side of it.

  8. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    All good points and...

    People will pay for convenience, which should be written on the wall of every entertainment company, publisher, games house, etc.

    But the economic decision remains: save a fiver (or tenner, or thirty quid on that box set) and Torrent it at no risk. And no FBI warning. There's no comeback.

    So long as that proposition is on the table you do need some enforcement that's fair and proportionate, that's cheap, and that scales. I wish it wasn't true. But here we all are.

    Enforcement alone isn't going to save anyone's media business, but the "aggravating irrelevance corner" is already chock full of people it seems :)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: All good points and...

      I must be down with something - I just agreed and upvoted one of Andrew's comments!

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: All good points and...

        Cheers jb :)

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: All good points and...

      Seriously now, I agree 100% with *this* comment. Taking out the anti-google and the anti-free rants of Rob Levine, and concentrating on the main point Andrew puts forward on this comment, "ome enforcement that's fair and proportionate, that's cheap, and that scales", adding to that the reduction of copyright to the initial terms (25 years), and it would greatly reduce the number of those disagreeing.

      However, I don't think the MAFIAAS are ready to give up their SOPA+ACTA tactics any time soon.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: All good points and...

        As I've said, when enlightened self-interest breaks out, with ISPs capturing the real value of the good stuff that goes over their pipes, then legislation becomes superfluous. Everyone wins.

        Until that happens SOPA or something like it will be back every year. And every time you write "MAFIAA" the politicians reach for their biros.

        Have a think about an enforcement code that's fair and that you can live with, and you'll never see a SOPA again.

        1. Vic

          Re: All good points and...

          > Have a think about an enforcement code that's fair and that you can

          > live with, and you'll never see a SOPA again.

          This is incorrect.

          the **AA et al. are not interested in "fair", they're interested in improving their bottom line.

          If they wanted fair, there have been plenty of opportunities to be fair. But "fair" is never on the table; it's always copyright term extension and headline-grabbing penalties.

          If "fair" was the goal, ACS:Law would never have existed.


    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: All good points and...

      "And no FBI warning."

      Yes, that one really winds me up. Why the hell should I have to sit there while some anti-piracy message plays itself, with the fast forward and skip disabled, when I have bloody well paid for the damned thing?

      Pointless. The people who that message is aimed at are, by definition, watching a ripped copy which almost certainly has it removed or at least the UOPs disabled so they don't have to watch it.

      You can't expect people dumb enough to miss that blindingly obvious piece of logic to produce a sensible approach to anything.

    4. Fuzzkat

      Re: All good points and...

      Most people are actually fairly honest. Just because you *can* get away with downloading torrents doesn't necessarily mean you will. Make prices fair and remove DRM that just punishes the honest and most people will happily pay.

      I mostly use torrents because the purchased versions of media are impossible to use on my choice of operating system or portable device due to the built in DRM.

      Provide incentive by appealing to people's better nature. Marketing campaigns that ask people to reward the artists and their supporting industry are surely going to be more effective than those that call their customers criminals! There's no carrot, and the stick seems to be an ICBM.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not that optional

      It sounds like an economic no-brainer, but netflix shows that it's not so simple. It starts with torrents being bothersome; they rely on not just your connection, but everyone else's too, to have decent transfer times. Then there's the quality of the rip; some are done pretty well, others much less so. Of course, it'll be free from industry and enforcement nagging, that's unskippable to boot.

      This actually is a deeper and much more general point. If you yourself make it really attractive to not pay you for something you have a right to get paid for, that enforcement is the right answer. Or even extending that right some more. This is in the interview and I agree. But it goes further. You shouldn't hate all your customers for the few that aren't paying. You should make it easy to pay for admission then get the full benefits, and hard to gain benefits for not paying, not the other way around. Only then enforcement becomes an acceptable way to round up stragglers and wilful and/or large-scale abusers.

      I see that re-tooling the product and/or service to be much more robust against freeloading as necessary before enforcement becomes a viable topic again. And I don't mean DRM and other negative enforcement, I mean incentives, positive enforcement.

      You wouldn't be the first one to claim that there won't be a viable entertainment business unless first all free stuff is eradicated. But it's already clear this just isn't the case. Yet it remains the implicit assumption underlying much of the discussion. It shouldn't be.

      Seeing what people will and will not pay for, I think the business of entertainment has far less to do with simple economics, and so isn't rational in the economic sense. As such the emphasis on economic damage (which various studies throw really interesting indeed light on; the no comeback assumption seems to be less than entirely true) might be the single greatest error of the combined entertainment industry. Which is ironic seeing how well they do know how to stir up a good hype and induce people to come see or listen to their latest turd. That is where the apples&oranges trouble starts, really.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Utter dross.

    Multiple appeals to authority all of which leads to us being told: "You don't understand the issues but I do". Add to that the inclusion of a number of scapegoats - the recession, Google, Europe - and the bureaucratic overtones and it isn't worth the time to read it.

    In fact, I have a confession: I only managed the first page and a half before I gave up. I don't see the point in reading the opinions of people who pose the same fallacious arguments repeatedly to back-up their pre-conceived notions of fairness, equality, and IP standards. Stinks of PR drivel.

    "It's interesting that you think that" - I'm sure it's not interesting enough to make you rethink ANY of your self-interested views though.

  10. sgtrock

    What Levine is ignoring or doesn't realise...

    Is that the traditional model has failed and the dinosaurs in the various entertainment industries (music, video, and publishing) are desperately fighting a rearguard action with all the wrong weapons. The real picture isn't just Big Company A, B, and C vs. Big Company X, Y, and Z. There's a whole lot more happening in the middle that many people think provide real value at more realistic prices.

    While Google et. al. versus Sony & Co. gets lots of splashy headlines, Apple showed the way with iTunes. Dump DRM, supply a good product for a reasonable price, and people will flock to buy.

    A couple of examples from the publishing industry: Take a look at the success that Baen Publishing has had with its ebook website at $6 or less per book. Everything is DRM free. They are now acting as a storefront for a dozen smaller publishers.

    Smashwords has gone even further in developing author friendly services and also encourage releasing books as cheaply as possible. They also release all books DRM free.

    Both companies encourage releasing a lot of material at no cost as a cheap way to advertise. As Eric Flint once observed, the biggest obstacle that an author faces is just getting his or her name known.

    In the online video business, Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, and dozens of smaller companies provide access to tons of material at little or no cost to the consumer. Their business models are based on small subscription fees, advertising, or both. This is a market that is growing exponentially, too.

    Yet Amazon and some of the other big companies in the movie business want to pretend that a $3 rental for a 30 year old movie ON TOP OF an $80/year subscription is still a valid price. Ummmm, no. Not to this potential customer.

    Similar activities can be found here and there in the music business as well. Songwriters and musicians are slowly coming to the realization that Joan Mitchell and Courtney Love are right. The traditional music business has been cheating them for years. They have figured out that they can make a lot more by publishing music on their own, then going out on tour to promote live shows.

    Here, the real pioneers are two bands that have been following a "Give it all away and we'll still make money" business model for decades; Phish and the Grateful Dead. They showed the way even before Apple made it obvious. :-)

    1. Arrrggghh-otron

      Re: What Levine is ignoring or doesn't realise...

      I get the feeling from various 'grass roots' movements on the interwebs that people are bypassing the traditional guardians of media, be that publishing books, making music and to some extent even films and TV series (though I'll be the first to admit the TV stuff has a way to go to be on par with the professional producers) and even in the physical products market with 3D printers and the whole 'Maker' movement and open source hardware and crowd funding. There is a core of creative people who just want to get on with stuff unencumbered by the constrains of the status quo or who are disillusioned by the behaviour of many companies and would rather their outlook be reflected in what they do and how they do it.

      The big media companies grew to what they are because they served a need and just aren't so relevant any more because it is much cheaper for individuals to record music (and do it well) and distribute to a mass market, or layout a book and publish it or raise funds to make a product real. The only services I can see them still winning out on is physical distribution and marketing clout. I might even add that they could win out against the crowd funding movements too but I expect the risk/return would be too great for them.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Actually, no, the world doesn't need both.

    The kind of evil copyright holders we need are those which protect the interests of the artist.

    The kind of evil copyright holders we've got are those which steal from the artist.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SOPA is dead, people need to stop crying and get over it.

  13. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    There really is a simple single answer...

    It's not complicated. You just need to do one thing.

    Make copyright a right that can ONLY be owned by the original creator.

    ALL the things that are wrong at the moment are wrong because copyright is able to be bought by a company and then applied for as many years as the company can manage to make a big fat profit. The actual original creator gets very little out of this.

    If the original artist, musician or writer was the only person who could benefit, there would be no pressure to maintain these vast profits by tying down use, and companies would have to compete on value-added services.

    Copyright was originally a 'bargain' between creative types and society. Society would give the creative types a limited monopoly on the results of their ideas, in return for being able to use the ideas freely after a set period of time. The fundamental concept here is that ideas should be widely and freely available, and that to gain this creative types should be looked after, so they don't have to hide their ideas.

    What we have now are corporations who build lots of wealth on one idea, and don't want to relinquish it. That must stop, one way or another. There should be good provision made for the people who create the ideas, so that they are better off creating than hiding, but there should be NO ability for corporations to 'own' ideas. Let them compete on production efficiency, quality, service, and all the other things a corporation is good at. But don't let them own and suppress ideas...

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: There really is a simple single answer...

      There are some VERY fair points in your post struggling to get out from a shouty anti-capitalist rant :)

      One is that people can do a lot by themselves - you can do your own production, distribution, marketing and lawyering from your own bedsit. But it's a real ballsache and time sink. So a creator needs a wide choice of professionals when they go to market. If the market is healthy nobody needs to assign rights in perpetuity.

      At the end of the day you need to show how your system will be better, providing more economic incentives for making culture, so a talented person does not have to work in Tescos or a call center. So far nobody really believes it will be - and emotive crap about "owning and suppressing ideas" is a silly red herring.

    2. Graham Bartlett

      Re: There really is a simple single answer...

      And when Pink Floyd are bankrolled to take over Abbey Road for eight months? Do you think they could have done that with their own money?

      Copyright is additionally a "bargain" between creative types and backers. The backer gives funding to the creative types, in return for a share (often the largest share) in the profits. Some creative types (notably session musicians, or reporters for that matter) are specifically required to hand over their copyright to the backer, and they're happy to do so bcos they get paid a flat fee instead. If your scenario can't handle this then it fails.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: There really is a simple single answer...

        There is no intrinsic need for copyright assignment for a performer to come to a profit sharing deal with a publisher. Copyright assignment is an issue of control and has absolutely nothing to do with money.

  14. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "If you look at countries where the economy's in bad shape they're sick of being pushed around by the French and the Germans."

    Ok, End of Story. Bailing out. Adios. Ciao.

    Getting cheap loans for ten years and finagling a economic bubble which then inevitably pops and exposes the malinvestments if not outright corruption is "being pushed around"? I don't think so.

    Just go around and politely ask EUR 1000 from each german family to refinance the endangered loans [which go towards financing their pensions, right?] I'm sure you will get a straigth answer.

  15. Gizzit101


    I'm all for Creatives getting paid for their work, and I have an inherent dislike of those who download free stuff because "they can", or because they think "they deserve it".

    That said, big media have displayed an appalling contempt for consumers, and have done themselves no favours by treating people as criminals by default.

    I find alternate funding models, like, and distribution models like to be interesting, I'd like to see more of this, so that creatives can get more, and consumers don't have to pay an inflated price to the bloated dinosaurs.

    1. James M

      Re: Personally

      But the problem is that while those models work for some they don't work for all projects all of the time.

      Getting a kickstarter campaign for every gig a band does will damage the reputation of a band over time. Wouldn't the risk be that you over saturate the market?

      But yes I'm with you on helping creatives and rewarding them more fairly. I agree with Levine's point though that Google's view of the world is not one that will be liked by anyone, the current model though could definitely use a shakeup and change.

      It does seem to be a fight between the old guard and the new competitors and currently neither wants those who are creative to be involved directly as god forbid it might mean they have to pay a fairer wage to them.

  16. Graham Wilson

    There's so much in this article it's difficult to be specific.

    As I read this article, I wanted to argue for or against over almost every one of Rob Levine's quotes but clearly the article's large expanse prevents this. Nevertheless, there are a few points/observations I'd make, some relate to what he doesn't say in the article (although perhaps he covers them in the book).

    Levine covers many copyright/IP issues and his take on them makes sense whether I'm for or against them. He's too pro commerce for my liking. I'm not against commerce benefiting from copyright by a long shot but it's what he doesn't say that pushes him over the line well into the copywriters' camp.

    First, Levine implies the anger over copyright is recent and perhaps most of it is. What he doesn't mention is that the anger, which underlies the current rage, goes back at least 126 years to the Berne Convention of 1886. This is when overly loose copyright laws did a complete flip, moved in the opposite direction and morphed into draconian rights we've known for over a century. The then copyright lobby wiped the floor with users' rights, fairness etc., then flushed them away and there's been a simmering resentment ever since.

    Second, this resentment had little opportunity to express itself until the Internet. Before the Internet, book piracy, pressing records etc. were very difficult activities, especially on a large scale. Large scale meant that only a large organisation was behind the piracy and thus it was easily dealt with at law.

    Third, Levine doesn't deal with the travesty that constitutes orphaned works under copyright law. It's conservatively estimated that somewhere between 75-95% of all copyrighted works over the entire 20th Century are orphaned. This means (a) they've no current viable owner, (b) they're out of print or otherwise unavailable and (c) copies which still exist in libraries or with private owners etc., nevertheless, still can't be copied because they CONTINUE TO REMAIN IN COPYRIGHT. The orphaned works fiasco doesn't financially benefit publishers directly but it does so by removing vast quantities of still-viable material from the marketplace, thus it's no wonder authors and publishers love this section of the Berne Convention. In essence, this is anti-competitive and it ought to be challenged under anti competition laws--or the conflict between copyright and anti-competition laws resolved.

    In the meantime, consumers of copyrighted material are ripped off even further.

    Forth, stuff that's already in the public domain is far too easily put into copyright. Information that's already in the public domain should always remain there, only genuinely new stuff should be copyrightable. Moreover, the definition of what constitutes the public domain is in desperate need of a precise 21st Century definition. A centuries-old folk song shouldn't be copyrighted just because someone has changed a couple of notes or changed its key; it should be only copyrightable after extensive modification which renders it intrinsically different to the original. The extent of that change being such that although the tune might be recognisable, it is clearly not the original tune to the extent that it may even irritate those already familiar with the tune in its original form.

    Another such example (of many and various others) is where an out-of-copyright photograph/artwork is owned say by a museum which rephotographs it and claims copyright, which essentially then takes it out of the public domain because the organisation has ownership and possession of the only original.

    Fifth, 'fair use' provisions of copyright law are vague to such an extent that most law-abiding users become so timid that they don't use the law to the extent which they could for fear of prosecution. You see this all too often in Wikipedia photographs where copyrighted images have been rendered so small and so low in resolution as to be nigh on useless.

    Sixth, attacks on Wikipedia are very understandable and not unexpected. Any public library that gives such ready/easy access to vast amounts of ever-growing, encyclopaedic knowledge is clearly a threat to copyright holders. Consider Wiki 30-50 years hence, its vast collection of public-domain knowledge with all its nuances, insights and references will be so huge as to be almost unrecognisable by today's standards, clearly poses a serious threat to potential copyright holders who don't have truly original ideas and who only want to regurgitate ideas in a slightly different form. Wiki, if not already, will eventually expose such obfuscation by any would be copyrighter who wishes to steal from the public domain, especially when cleaver AI monitoring will be able to detect even the slightest deception.

    I could go on but Rob Levine's comments only convince me more than ever that there MUST be a radical rethink of copyright/IP law to the extent where the 126-year old Berne Convention will probably have to be dismantled and then rebuilt with 21st Century values at its core. ACTA, SOPA and the IPO are all built on Berne's foundations and thus would have to follow suit.

    Sounds dramatic, but a decade or two ago no one would ever have conceived that anything like the shutdown demos over SOPA would have been possible. Once change starts it's difficult to stop. Anyone who remembers the worldwide anti-Vietnam war demos will tell you that initially there was either acceptance or acquiescence amongst the populace and then how quickly that changed into violent opposition which essentially ended the war. So too it will happen here with copyright, although expect the entrenched Copyright Industry to fight like the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge: viciously and ferociously to the bitter end with every weapon they can muster but nevertheless still in retreat.

    One thing is just about certain, in another 126 years the Berne Convention or its replacement won't vaguely resemble the form it takes today.

  17. Shane Kent

    I thought sopa was....

    watch this hand (sopa) while the other (acta) robs you.

  18. Keep Refrigerated

    Where to start...?!

    So much wrong with the interview answers it was difficult to savor the more salient points Levine was trying to make.

    The first trap he fell into was buying Chris Dodd's line that it was Google (with a little bit of help from Wikipedia) who stopped SOPA and PIPA from going through. The article mentions Google 11 times, and with the exception of one reference to Wikipedia no other tech company, expert, blogger, reporter or grassroots campaign is mentioned. Anyone who had done half their research would know with in 5 minutes binging that this was not led by Google or Wikipedia -

    Then we have this gem:

    <blockquote>"For example, if you read ACTA, it's not that big a deal."</blockquote>

    I guess if it's not that big of a deal then there would be no need for Europe to introduce it at all. Levine then goes on to refute any argument against ACTA by stating, I paraphrase, <i>"Well, it's a treaty."</i> Care to qualify that? Isn't that a bit like complaining to the hotel about the cleanliness of the room you received and they turn around and say "Well, it's a room". That's not how you explain or justify your support for something.

    <blockquote>"And recipes, obviously, aren't covered by copyright. It's a lot of overstatement."</blockquote>

    But what's to stop, for example, a famous chef from having a website instantly taken down for posting a recipe? That was the whole point of the protests which you both seem to have completely (conveniently) missed.

    <blockquote>"That's a certain kind of democracy - but it's also fear of the mob"</blockquote>

    No, it's being called understanding who your customers are - and to some extent realising that it affects your own business too. A bit like a brewery saying to it's pub customers that they are going to support a law that allows the police to shut down the pub if just one person is found to commit a crime after having a drink there.

    <blockquote>"People are being asked to give up rights they've won over hundreds of years, based on the success of ... an online encyclopaedia."</blockquote>

    Well, that makes sense if Levine thinks corporations like Disney are people. Actually I don't think they've won these rights at all; they've won the right to extend their copyrights hundreds of years - but that's not the same thing is it?

    Ever heard of the public domain? It's where artistic and scientific works were before the introduction of this notion of intellectual property. You could say, in fact, that the people have lost rights they've had to public domain works, over the course of hundreds of years, as corporations have lobbied for ever more extended copyright, retroactively copyrighting public domain works and attacking libraries.

    Though I did like his point about the three dimensions of copyright; I don't think I'll read this book, since the author clearly hasn't done enough research based on these answers. It's clearly NOT <i>"one group of people with rights versus another group of people with rights"</i> but one small group of people with rights, steadily dismantling the rights of a larger group of other people.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well I think this somes up the reality of situation, from a British perspective

    Major labels and studios and their lobby groups are just vultures eating the carrion off of people that really live to make music and stories.

  20. Adrian Midgley 1

    The Wikipedia Project depends on copyright

    as do all the open source and GNU-Licenced projects.

    WIthout copyright, one can't have copyleft, and without copyright one can't enforce copyleft.

  21. veti Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Law changes aim at the wrong target

    The article touches on this point, but doesn't follow up:

    Publishers and content creators are *natural enemies*. They're doomed to fight each other over the limited pot of money that people are willing to spend on their products.

    A good copyright law needs to regulate the relationship between those two parties. A copyright law that focuses on what the *consumer* can or should do - is missing the point. Yet that's exactly the kind of laws that our lawmakers - prompted by the publishing industry - have been industriously pressing, these past 25 years. Allowing themselves total freedom to screw content creators to their hearts' content. (Remember Peter Jackson's trouble with New Line Cinema, for example?)

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Law changes aim at the wrong target

      Trouble is, as a work ages, the consumers become natural enemies of the creators because works get locked away in a free society. Copyright is supposed to be limited. It's just that no one can ever come to a binding agreement on those limits because at least one side of the arguments finds these kinds of limits practically an existential threat. They go into "cliff's edge" mode and won't budge an inch since that inch will take them over the edge in their view, and the lawmakers have an interest in all the parties involves since they contribute one or more of votes, money, or other "goods" such as jobs in a tense economic climate. So basically, it becomes an irrational argument, and you can't have a proper compromise with an irrational argument: compromise isn't possible. Barring some miraculous change of stance (unlikely) or some edict of the state (also unlikely), copyright is only going to get worse and worse.

  22. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    I have a major interest in this:

    I will just say that I am now going to boycott ALL content produced by the majors. This really is bordering on Fascism with the merger of the state and government with corporations. (Cheers for that Il Duce)

    Economic warfare. I have NO money left. I go without to buy my software I use. It's only because I am a little bit autistic that I can achieve it - a normal, 'sane' person wouldn't be able to 'hack' my lifestyle. I talk to the developers, I beta test for them, I do free content packs that get thousands of downloads - equivalent to and better than some 'paid' content. I pirated everything at one time, when I was young and was checking things out. Now, there is no way I would have the brass balls to walk into a studio or have someone walk into mine and be seen to be using cracked software.

    That is on the one hand. On the other, I am a writer and producer. I don't get paid for what I do, but all it will take is a dip in the social fashion continuum and, like my long lost cousin in Nigeria that contacted my via email the other day (hi ;-)) - I will be VERY RICH MAAN!

    You must read this seminal essay by Adam of The Sisters Of Mercy:

    Why you've got no chance of making a living out of music -

    Short, sweet, to the point and enlightening.

    The artists very rarely see the benefits of their sales. It generally takes multi-million figures, before it really substantively trickles down to the average bass player or drummer. Then again - they probably did not write the songs - the singer or lead guitarist probably did. When there is a hit and the singer (whose ego is already out of control) moves into that mansion on the hill and the bass player is still left scraping for the next cigarette, animosity can and usually does ensue.

    That is why, most of the most successful bands like, say for example: R.E.M. and U2, have a policy of 'ALL ROYALTIES TO BE EQUALLY DIVIDED BETWEEN ALL BAND MEMBERS REGARDLESS OF WHO WROTE THE SONGS'. This also has a rather pleasing creative knock-on effect of taking the pressure off the main songwriter (thus easing potential 'writers block') and encouraging the aforementioned drum and bass players to get stuck in and 'write a good 'un'.

    Yes, I'm looking at YOU - Mr. Roger Taylor - who is in love with his car, and you Mr. Deacon who might have been 'Under Pressure', until the royalties rolled in. Actually, my point was: that I believe ALL members of Queen were payed equally, regardless of who wrote what. It pays creative dividends as well as keeping the band together.

    How many bands split after their first 'hit' album?

    That is why, when I work with an artist, I tell them, Ok, I wrote this song, I produced it. But you know what? If it is a hit, I will split my share with you equally. There are some exceptions to this, but you get the picture. I am still waiting for my chickens to come home to roost and I honestly doubt they ever will, but that is my ethos, nonetheless.

    As for the majors: they are going down and they are going away. There are far bigger issues here - like the police becoming the henchman of the money men. The police have now officially become the 'Thug Caste' of this once great country.

    Serious Organised Crime - Go Fuck yourself! You are a shame on this country and a shame on the Police 'Force' in general. (I am thinking about the recent act of terrorism via the RnB website debacle). You have frightened and terrorised people so much that they are in a state of -Pre-War, ready to do battle with all the adrenaline pumping through their veins, that an Archer might have felt at Agincourt.

    So, no, I don't need no stinking royalties, eating is nice, and living in a peaceful country not run by proto-Fascists, would be even 'nicer'.

    To quote the great Black Uhuru:

    Push push, ahaa

    Mind you push that over man.

  23. ideapete


    Quote - but I wouldn't favor a tax rate that's incomprehensible." ?

    Welcome to America we have had one of those for years

  24. ChaosFreak

    Most Consumers are Happy to Pay

    Levine commits an amateur error when he confuses activists with the vast majority of consumers. Admittedly there are many activists who believe passionately that "all information must be free" but they are a vocal fringe. The vast majority of consumers are willing to pay a reasonable price to consume copyrighted content (as is evidenced by iTunes and Netflix's sales numbers).

    The controversy occurs because content owners get greedy and try to bilk consumers. You buy a DVD of a movie but you can't use it when you travel overseas (region coding). You have to pay again to buy a new DVD when it's released on BluRay. Want to watch it on your iPad? Pay again! Want to stream it to your phone? Pay again! You're a Netflix subscriber? Don't try to watch those movies when you're traveling overseas! Until content owners offer a blanket, perpetual license to consumers, it will never be a balanced market.

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