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info wants to be free...?

Just read another boingboing little rant about copyright law... And I have to wonder, am I missing their point, or are they just stringing words together into an article that sounds like maybe they're right?

I mean:

The problem is that copyright law is supposed to decentralize the process of making art, moving the power to authorize art from royalty to the marketplace. Labels have no business setting themselves up as arbiters of what art can and can't be made.
What? Baldface assertions like "Mashup albums don't hurt the sales of the albums they sample -- at worst, they have no effect on sales, at best they can promote them," with no accompanying data, just hurt their case in my eyes.

I like free music remixes too, but gosh, asking the labels to look the other way when you shove it in their faces is a bit too much, if you ask me.

I must be getting old.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
nathanw
Dec. 13th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC)
It's worth being reminded that copyright is an entirely artificial construct. There's no fundamental reason for it to exist; it's just an idea that creating some rights for authors benefits society. It is entirely reasonable to consider whether, in fact, that idea is correct - it might be completely wrong.

Or, to put it another way, labels and others who derive their existence through playing copyright middlemen do not have a right to exist. They serve at our (collective) pleasure only.

In terms of the rant itself, there is a bunch of research about the effect of mashups, filesharing, and so on on sales. I don't blame them for re-citing them every time they say something on the subject.
nathanw
Dec. 13th, 2005 04:24 pm (UTC)
Er, "I don't blame them for not re-citing them every time they say something on the subject."
tirianmal
Dec. 13th, 2005 07:38 pm (UTC)
1) Under that argument you could say that all law is an artificial construct and no reason for it to exist. It really doesn't matter if it is artificial or not, it is still the law. Anarchist might disagree but that's a completely different rationale for breaking the law.

2) Copyright middlemen have no more or less "right" to exist than do, say lawyers, or patent examiners, or even any other job, but the fact is they do exist. Lawyers/Copyright agencies/doctors do not serve at our pleasure and really, neither does anyone else working in a free market.

3) Access to music or to other authored works does benefit society -but- not in the sense that it should be immediate, free or even unbounded. There's nothing to say that my life would be unlivable if I can't get Madonna's latest for free. At the same time, there's nothing that says that authors -have- to get paid for their work. But it is a job and you ought to get some pay for it and not have the fruits of your labor simply stolen. The copyright system could be replaced by a number of different systems by which authors would get paid for their work but this is the one that we currently have.

4) Re-citing or reciting research that mashups have a beneficial affect on sales is no means a rationale for continuing the practice except and unless the author decides to allow it. Currently, the authors are not giving anyone those rights (by default) and thus if someone does do it, they should expect some displeasure _if_ the author decides to pursue them for it. Oddly, in the current legal environment, in order to protect their other rights, the authors/their agents almost certainly _have_ to go after a mix artist in order to protect all their other rights even if they wanted to allow this sort of thing as a general rule.

wow ... long ... :)

Let me also add that while I don't agree with the RIAA on a lot of things, in this case, I'd side with them rather than the mashup artist.
nathanw
Dec. 13th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC)
1. I didn't say that it shouldn't exist. I said that we shouldn't take its existence as fundamental; we have the ability to change it and it's worth considering.

2. I don't think we're communicating on this point. The labels exist because of the niche that is created by copyright law. We could eliminate the law, and hence that niche. It would hurt the labels. There's nothing wrong with that. No business model has a right to continue to be successful.

3. This is a highly contentious point. A world in which you could freely copy any music or authored work might well be a better world; we don't know, because we've had copyright for longer than we've had cheap copying. However, "It is a job and you ought to get some pay for it" is simply wrong. That a person has expended effort on something does not, by itself, entitle them to any compensation.

4. I don't believe that pursuit of copyright violators is necessary to preserve future rights; this is much more true of trademark law than copyright law.
tirianmal
Dec. 13th, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)
whoa there nelly ... but since you've answered ...

1) Saying that there's no fundamental reason for something to exist or not to exist is a philosophical argument and not really useful for ... well anything concrete. If you want to state as you did in your reply that "we have the ability to change it and it is worth considering" that's fine. But do it up front. Whether or not it is fundamental, however, it exists now and should be dealt with on that merit.

By the way, I think ownership _is_ a fundamental right, and that may well be at odds with other folks opinions but that's really what this is about. Ownership of something that they created.

2) Really? They only exist because of Copyright? Oh c'mon. Let's say that copyright didn't exist, and printing and plastic forming for CDs and LPS and books and such was something that could largely be done only by ... well, someone who owns the equipment. The Record Labels would probably still exist as the entities that controlled the distribution on a large scale of such products. But now they'd able to freely produce any music or book at any time. You'd have competition for who'd be able to create the best packaged version of whatever it is you are buying. In the modern situation all you'd have is a bunch of smaller labels (and or really anyone at all) who could produce these products because of the 100 USD CD / DVD writer on their computer.

But if you're telling me record labels or publishers wouldn't exist at all but for copyright law? That's a very ill thought out statement.

3) Might be a better world. True. Might be. Don't know, do we? That's an experiment that many folks want to try. I might even be one of them, but you can't say for certain either way.

On the point of ""It is a job and you ought to get some pay for it" is simply wrong" ... okay, fine. I think you missed my point. If I decide to do something that other people want to take part of, they don't get to do so for free or without my permission. It's kind of like saying, "oh, you make these funny things called computers*, and they're useful, ... I'll just borrow a couple and not pay you."

*insert any product you or your co-workers want to make

Sure, I don't get to guarantee I can make a living making computers, but you certainly don't get a right to just walk off with my property.

So, all copyright does is makes authored works property. Now, the distribution of this is the truly contentious part, not the fact that I created it and frankly, law or no, I should still have a right to how it gets out into the world. If you disagree, then allow me into your office, house or computer sometime to rustle around and see what I can walk off with.

4) um, you're mixing stuff up there. Trademark has to do with protecting how a product is perceived, not the product itself. Copyright has to do with protecting a property that ... really, is not physical and thus hard to prevent from "walking". In this case, the labels aren't losing their perception, they are losing the actual product. Even if it is a derivative product.

Should copyright "violators" be pursued to protect future rights? You and I might argue that should not be the case, after all, if I decide that I want to allow free non-commercial distribution of my recordings (see the Grateful Dead) but not allow commercial distributions, then there should be a means for me to do so without abbrogating any other of my rights. The current law however is what it is and that's why the record companies and artists frankly have to go after anyone who is a "violator" in order to retain their copyright.

Anyways, I'm not saying that Copyright laws and the current IP legal system doesn't bear reviewing or even change ... especially in light of new technologies for distribution, _but_ simply saying that someone should not be allowed (never mind be guaranteed) to make money with their creation is in my mind, wrong.
firstfrost
Dec. 13th, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC)
Conflating taking your stuff with replicating your ideas just muddies the waters. They're not at all the same thing. I can validly disagree with "I have a right to how my ideas get out into the world" without conceding "You can come into my house and take all my stuff."

tiranmal said "Sure, I don't get to guarantee I can make a living making computers, but you certainly don't get a right to just walk off with my property."

Look! I have replicated your idea! I might even go and repeat this sentence to someone else. (Well, I won't bother, but I could). This is not theft. I have not damaged you or removed anything from you.

I'm not a rabid "All information wants to be free"ist, but I find the insistence that replication is the same as physical theft very frustrating.
tirianmal
Dec. 14th, 2005 02:01 am (UTC)
First, quoting me from a public forum is not taking anything that I haven't already agreed, implicitly, to share with the world. So no, you didn't take anything from me that I didn't already grant you. You also can't take ideas. See you've conflated taking ideas with taking implementations of ideas. The idea of a set of melodies and lyrics can't be stolen. Heck, even specific types of songs (rock vs. concerto perhaps) can't even be stolen. But a particular progression of such, can be.

The problem is, now that I, sitting in my house have come up with this particular and unique musical arrangement, how do I profit from it (if that is my goal)? Oh, but wait, is your argument that I should never be able to? Should I only ever be able to profit from my implementations provided that I can find a unique way of distributing them?

I'm not saying that the answers are clear, but hey, let's be serious, information wants to be free (as in speech) but I do not agree that it _has_ to also be free (as in beer).

And because you bring it up, if it isn't theft because I haven't damaged you or removed anything from you, then why is privacy such a big deal to folks? Put up cameras everywhere, record everything we say (heck, if possible, think), it isn't taking anything from us ... right? right?

Or perhaps there are intangibles that _can_ be taken from you and those should be treated as ... damaging, just as physical theft can be. If it has to be physical to be taken and be damaging, ... well let's just saying we're straying into philosophical ground again, and I don't care enough to go there except that I think you've gotten my drift.

And finally, I wasn't insisting that replication is the same level of damage or threat as physical theft. In some cases it can be more damaging and in others, less. But the insistence that it isn't damaging at all, that's what boggles the mind. Ask Coca-cola what the secret formula is sometime. So how damaging that would be to them to give you? And then be replicated.
tirianmal
Dec. 14th, 2005 02:45 am (UTC)
er ... *So how damaging would that be to them to give it to you? And/or then be replicated.
firstfrost
Dec. 14th, 2005 04:32 am (UTC)
If you sitting in your house come up with a musical arrangement, there are lots of ways for you to make money. Perhaps I'll pay you to sing it for me. Perhaps you'll burn it onto a CD and I'll buy it. Maybe you'll sell it through a web site that I pay you a dollar to get an mp3 of it. Perhaps you'll sell it to a TV producer to use in an advertisement. Maybe you'll sing it outside my window until I pay you money to get you to stop. None of these methods are impossible to carry out in a world in which there is no copyright.

Also, to clarify, my argument was neither "you should not be able to make money from your song" nor "you should not be able to copyright your song" or "in no circumstances is copying your song damaging." I objected specifically to the likening of copying music to taking computers. Copying is not theft. Nor is your taking a picture of me without my permission theft. It does no one any good to try and define "everything that makes me unhappy due to some tangible loss or intangible sense of loss or loss of potential future things" as theft.
tirianmal
Dec. 14th, 2005 03:22 pm (UTC)
In the world in which copyright doesn't exist, why would anyone pay me to do most of the things you suggest in your first paragraph? Once any copy of my work gets out into the world, provided that you can find someone to share it with you, you don't have to pay me at all. In fact, that's the only barrier to entry ... finding that first person who'll copy it to the third party.

So while not impossible to implement in a world without copyright, why would anyone bother?* The only realistic fashion of making money in that set up is the one suggested several times, which is to have concerts or some other unique performance of that art, but bootlegs and fan recordings are easy ways to ruin even that.

As for the rest of it, we're just going to have disagree.

* Note, I'm talking about the modern world. In the world before fast and cheap distribution (read: teh Intarweb, or even modern paper publishing), getting copies of works out is not as easy as it is now and there would be other barriers to entry.
firstfrost
Dec. 14th, 2005 03:30 pm (UTC)
Why would anyone bother? Well, why do they bother now?

I buy CDs with music I like, rather than copying it from a friend.
I buy books reprinting the Order of the Stick, rather than printing all the strips on the color laser printer.
I buy computer games, rather than downloading them from warez sites.
I buy copies of O'Reilly books that I want to use for reference, rather than just reading them all (legally!) through MIT's copy of Safari.

I don't think I'm the only person in the world who does this. And I think that even in a mystical world without copyright, I wouldn't be the only person to continue to do so.
nathanw
Dec. 13th, 2005 11:01 pm (UTC)
"Ownership is a fundamental right" is also "a philosophical argument and not really useful for ... well anything concrete."

Perhaps I overstated my remark about labels not existing. I'm sure there would be production firms, and marketing firms. But they would be very different from the firms that exist today.

"If I decide to do something that other people want to take part of, they don't get to do so for free or without my permission." Fine. You can sell tickets to concerts. No problem here. It doesn't touch on either side of what we've been discussing.

That replication is not the same as theft has already been addressed. They simply aren't the same; my replicating something of yours does not cause you to stop having it. Economists would call this a non-exclusionary good.

I know about the difference between copyright and trademark. My claim is that current law does *not* require pursuing copyright violators in order to pursue future ones, but it *does* require that of trademark holders.

Finally, copyrights are intended to expire. Do you consider this theft?
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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