More on Copyright

Just saw Larry Lessig’s blog about how bad it is to copy copyright material (the first link is to the category, the second to the article itself).

Worth reading.

Here are two of the arguments, edited (bold from me).

  • Fallacy one: “When you make a copy of a copyrighted work, you are in essence stealing it, and even when I download music and movies, I never kid myself that what I am doing is legal.”
  • [ ] even if making “a copy of a copyrighted work” is illegal, it is not “in essence stealing it.” See the Supreme Court’s rejection of this false analogy in footnote 33 of Sony v. Universal.

    [ ] and most important, not every “copy” violates copyright law. In particular, if a copy is “fair use,” then copyright law has not been violated. The question in this case is thus, as always, is the copying for purposes of making snippet access available “fair use.” As much as you know that it is wrong to download music without the permission of the copyright owner, I hope you also know that it is right to make copies — even without the permission of the copyright owner — when such copies are fair use.

  • Fallacy two: “While there are many authors who care more about getting their books out there than making money, the vast majority is trying to earn a living. Those authors whose books are out of print, but still in copyright, would love an opportunity to make some money off their older books, but Google’s plan involves copying them without permission.”
  • True, most authors would prefer to make more money from their works than they did before. True, Google plans on copying them (for purposes of making snippet access available) without permission. But the implication — that Google’s copying will reduce author’s opportunity to make money — is false. Out of print books are — by definition — books the authors are not making money on. Google’s Book Search will refer people who discover the out of print book to book sellers. If demand for a currently out of print book grows, then it is more likely than before that the book will go back into print, meaning again, the author can make money. So contrary to the “if Google copies, authors lose” fallacy, if Google enables access, at least some authors will get something they don’t have right now — their out of print book back in print.

  • Fallacy three: “Even if all the authors want their books in Google, I’ve always felt that to respect me, you have to show respect, and that means asking me if what you are doing is okay. Don?€™t tell these authors what’s best for them, that shows no respect at all.”
  • First, both sides in this debate are effectively “tell[ing] these authors what’s best for them.” Microsoft and the Publishers are telling the authors that it is best for them that the law ban companies like Google from securing access to snippets of their works. They want a rule that says “ask first” not for permission to distribute copies of their books, but for permission to enable access through a 21st century card catalog. When in the history of man did the law require permission from an author (or publisher) for a work to be included in a card catalog?

    Second, the point ignores the central point in this debate: Given the insanely inefficient system of copyright that the government has created, there’s no way to identify the current owners of these copyrights (for works out of print). So how, again, are these people to be “asked”?

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    2 Responses to More on Copyright

    1. Joly says:

      Yes, I think you are right Veni. It has to be an ‘opt-out’ situation, maybe like the ‘Do Not Call’ list to stop phone spammers.

      I don’t know how you are on US Constitutional history, but Jefferson was very much into the freedom of ideas. See his famous letter to Isaac McPherson:

      By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

      It is much because of his influence that in the USA, inventors, authors, etc, do not ‘own’ their ideas at all, but are merely granted, by the public – “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” – exclusive rights for a limited term.

      It can certainly be argued that the current digital indexing of the world’s knowledge promotes such progress more so than preventing so because of any such rights.

      Joly

    2. Janne Tess Gamana says:

      Veni,
      i wnt to know the email add of Dr.trenchev.Could you give it for me?
      he knows me well.i want to communicate with him pls.

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