Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Never being wrong!

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

It must be wonderful to be a pundit–and never be wrong!

John Dvorak wrote a truly atrocious column in the July 18 PC Magazine, “Creative Commons Humbug.” It began with the question “Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford?”

Fair enough–but Dvorak sure didn’t seem to be asking an open question. He proceeded to say, “This is one of the dumbest initiatives ever but forth by the tech community. I mean seriously dumb. Eye-rolling dumb…” “Creative Commons actually seems to be a dangerous system with almost zero benefits to the public, copyright holders, or those of us who would like a return to a shorter-length copyright law.” Later, he says that Creative Commons “is similar to a license”–much like his published rant is similar to a column. Later? “This is nonsense.”

He goes on and on…and ends, “Will this nonsense ever end?”

Well…someone called him on it, explained how difficult it is to voluntarily reduce your copyright rights (particularly without abandoning them altogether), and so on. And here I quote Donna Wentworth’s October 28 post at Copyfight:

So will Dvorak write another column admitting that he was wrong? Not so fast. Explains Dvorak:
“My column was never wrong, my column was questioning….I was saying ‘I don’t get it, will somebody explain it to me, please?’…Sometimes you’ve got to go public with your bafflement, which I do…”

Isn’t that wonderful? You can attack something outright, call it nosense, belittle it, and so on–and as long as you include at least one question somewhere–“What is this all about anyway?” should do as an all-purpose question–you never have to admit you’re wrong. You were “questioning.”

Right. Before, I was beginning to regard Dvorak as frequently nonsensical and getting tired. Now, I regard him as a hypocritical jerk, too full of himself and his bafflegab to even admit that he was flat-out wrong, damaging Creative Commons to an audience of more than a million people.

Boycotting pseudo-CDs

Thursday, October 20th, 2005

This one surprised the heck out of me, particularly because it uses one particular word, “boycott,” that I’d never expect to see in this particular venue, the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s the link, directly to a Freedom to tinker post, directly to Walter Mossberg’s column.

Lest you think Edward Felten is distorting Mossberg’s view, here’s the column itself.

What Mossberg is advocating, at least in this area, is what I’d consider a reasonably balanced view of copyright. I tend to agree with Felten (who, after all, spends much of his professional life studying this stuff) that the kind of “benevolent DRM” Mossberg wants isn’t feasible, but that’s another issue.

My own feelings on this are pretty clear, and posted recently, in C&I: There’s no music that I need so badly that I’d buy a pseudo-CD. I never lend CDs; I never sell a CD and retain ripped copies; I never rip CDs that I borrow from the library. But I reject efforts to control how I produce mix CD-Rs for my own use.

Balanced copyright and digital audiobooks

Friday, August 26th, 2005

Copyfight has this posting, “Lending? To whom?” by Alan Wexelblat. I tried to comment on the posting there, but the comment function appears to lead to neverneverland, so…

Here’s the portion of the post that I found troubling from a balanced-copyright position (and as a library supporter/person):

It’s Friday, so it must be stupid ideas time again. AP story (here on to the effect that some libraries are “lending” audiobooks via download. The period of lending is controlled via DRM, which locks you out of the file if you run over your time.

This strikes me as a pinnacle of absurdity – lending libraries impose time limits on physical volumes because my possession of the book prevents another patron from reading it. Downloads… um, DON’T. All the patrons could download the same book and no one’s having a copy on their hard disk would impede another’s listening pleasure.

If you believe that copyright is irrelevant in a digital world, then this argument makes perfectly good sense. Or, for that matter, if you believe that creators/distributors of digital resources don’t deserve compensation even remotely similar to that provided for creators/distributors of physical resources, then fine.

Otherwise, I don’t see the argument. This lending model is precisely that: A lending model. The library’s paid for the right to have one copy of the audio ebook in use at any one time. How is that different than lending a book?

I suppose libraries could only license audio ebooks on an “unlimited simultaneous circulation” basis. I’m guessing the costs would be just a trifle higher, at least if authors/publishers have anything to say about it, since that would push the inherent friction between library models and copyright/royalty models into extreme visibility.

Some authors hate the idea of library circulation because they believe–wrongly, in my opinion–that they’re being robbed of royalties for additional copies. (As opposed to gaining new readers and popularity…) In some countries, libraries are required to pay (directly or indirectly) a fee each time an item is circulated. That fee isn’t as high as a standard royalty payment, to be sure; it’s a compromise between American first-sale rights and an absolute hardline “every use must fully compensate the creator” policy.

Without such a fee, I don’t see how it’s fair to creators/distributors to argue that libraries should be able to distribute an unlimited number of copies of anything–be it audio ebook, regular ebook, or whatever–while paying for one such copy.

I’m not wild about any DRM–but Wexelblat’s post reminds me that there may be some areas where DRM is essential because people don’t believe good faith and fair dealing are issues in the “digital world.” Unfortunately, that makes it easier for Big Media to argue for extreme DRM, where everything not expressly permitted is forbidden.

Cites & Insights 5:10 available

Thursday, August 11th, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:10, September 2005 is now available for downloading–or you can reach individual essays in HTML form from the Cites & Insights home page.

A light & fluffy summer issue would be perfect right about now–but this 24-page issue, with a total of four essays, probably isn’t it. (I address that issue in “Bibs & Blather.”)

What’s here:

  • Bibs & Blather — the usual nonsense
  • Perspective: Investigating the Biblioblogosphere — looking into 238 “library people” blogs, with detailed metrics and brief comments on 60 of them. Not the top 50 (and there are 60), but maybe a top 50 in certain questionable respects…
  • Perspectives: Summertime Blahs — two perspectives in one essay. “Iconoclasm and the Great God Google” comments on–well, Web4Lib readers will know. “Creative Commons: Foe of Copyright?” recounts some remarkable attacks on the Creative Commons concept.
  • ©2 Perspective: Orphan Works — background from the Copyright Office inquiry into this important topic and some notes on the 700+ comments received.

Sometimes it is piracy

Friday, August 5th, 2005

The story here is that there’s a first charge under a new law, one that was part of the same little bundle that legalized user-selected bowdlerization of DVDs.

This portion of that bundle made camcording within a movie theater a specific copyright-related crime. And now someone’s been charged with it. A 19-year-old: Old enough to fight, old enough to vote, old enough to know better.

I’m all in favor of efforts to fight true piracy. Recording a movie within a theater for distribution over the internet falls in that category, as far as I’m concerned: I know of no conceivable fair-use or other justification, and it’s well beyond casual “sharing”-style infringement.

So, in this case, I say: Good for the justice department.

Locking it down: That which is not explicitly permitted is forbidden

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Just a quickie for now: Ed Felten’s Freedom to tinker has this must-read posting.

It’s a fortunately-narrow example of the apparent goal of Big Media with regard to complete “protection.” For years I’ve been saying that the only way to completely protect against unauthorized copying of copyright material is to preclude all copying–which in digital terms means all use–of any material that doesn’t include an explicit rights grant in a secure certificate. Which, to be sure, makes all existing digital information (whether you created it, it’s public domain, whatever) obsolete: No certificate, no copy.

I believe I was one of the first, if not the first, to make the logical progression in public. I truly don’t see any other way to provide the absolute 100% every-copy-accounted-for security that Big Media calls for. And it looks like they’re after a piece of it in HD-DVD.

Cites & Insights 5:9 available

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

Cites & Insights 5:9, July/August 2005, is now available.

This 22-page issue, PDF as usual (with all but the final section available as HTML pieces), includes:

  • ©3 Perspective: Balancing Rights: MGM v. Grokster: A Question of Balance? – Looking at comments on the oral argument, the Supreme Court’s decision and two concurring opinions, and some of the early reactions–including my own take.
  • Trends & Quick Takes – How 60 interviews becomes six million podcatchers; why you’ll see more promotional DVDs; the least you need to know for OpenURL 1.0; and more–including some notes on why Will Manley’s May 2005 column sucks.
  • Perspective: Predicting the Future of Academic Libraries – A slightly humble commentary on why I turned down a speaking invitation, and what sensible people are saying about small steps toward the future.
  • Interesting & Peculiar Products – The iPoser, voice-operated portable players, overpriced gear, and the photo burner–a baker’s dozen in all.
  • The Library Stuff – Eight articles worth reading.
  • Followups & Feedback – following up five items, a mini-Bibs & Blather, and summaries in lieu of feedback.

Infringement or not? A Sith anecdote

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

This is a true story with an unknown moral.

I was flying to Chicago for ALA (that is, this happened just under two weeks ago)–nonstop on American from San Jose, in coach, the 6;22 a.m. flight.

As the flight progressed, I noticed that the person one row ahead of me and to the left was watching a movie on their notebook computer (big, bright screen: impossible not to notice).

And that the movie was Star Wars Episode III

Which won’t be available on DVD for a while yet.

Infringement? Unclear.

What made it even more unclear is that there was a big white timing strip running over the picture about a third of the way down, obscuring part of the picture, with constantly changing information. That suggests that this was studio material.

So either it was “deep infringement”–but odd, since the overlay precludes offering it as anything but bootlegged material–or a legitimate screening copy being watched by someone connected with the studio.

The latter is certainly plausible: LucasFilms is, after all, a Bay Area operation.

My best guess is that it wasn’t bootlegged, but what do I know. (No, I didn’t watch enough of it to say anything about the movie; I wouldn’t have noticed it at all except that the notebook was at an angle that made it impossible to ignore. After musing about it for a minute or so, I went back to Asimov’s Science Fiction–I usually catch up with the three semi-major SF magazines when I’m traveling.)

No real moral; just an anecdote.

Grokster: Just a quick note

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

I haven’t ignored the MGM v. Grokster decision.

But this here weblog is, among other things, about stuff “not quite ready for Cites & Insights“–which admittedly includes several conversations that will sooner or later turn into C&I essays.

The Grokster case is, in fact, “ready.” The essay’s written, and will appear–probably with ongoing refinements–in the July/August C&I, coming later this month.

If you want a hint at my own take, I’ll note that while I’ve been covering Grokster in what I call (C)4, Locking Down Technology, this perspective is flagged as (C)3, Balancing Rights. That’s a strong clue, and it’s fair to say that I was generally pleasantly surprised by the decision.

Several thousand words more (from me and others) in C&I, coming soon to a PDF near you.

Cites & Insights 5:8 available

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

Cites & Insights 5.8 (June 2005) is now available.

This 24-page issue includes:

  • Bibs & Blather – Readership patterns, a cheaper HTML challenge, a reminder about reporting, and notes about cable flags, which leads into:
  • Perspective: The Broadcast Flag (an Endless Story?) – Notes on the court ruling striking down the broadcast flag, reactions from various sources, the issue of “standing” as it applied to ALA and other plaintiffs, some background–and, sigh, proposed legislation to restore the struck-down flag.
  • Net Media – comments on wiki wackiness, weblogs, RSS, audio blogging (and podcasting), the folks at Pew, and why I’m not covering Folksonomy
  • Trends & Quick Takes – four trends and seven mini-perspectives ranging from hi-rez audio to a look back at Y2K
  • Library Access to Scholarship – The NIH policy and various reactions, a Suber trio, and shorter pieces related to access, including extensive notes on Charles W. Bailey, Jr.’s new DigitalKoans weblog.

If you just can’t cope with PDF or only care about one of these topics, you can reach HTML versions of each essay from the C&I home page.

(Note: If anyone here’s also on the Topica CICAL Alert list–Topica is down today, so this issue will have a three-day rollout instead of the usual two-day rollout.)