Sunday, January 29, 2012

Neil Gaiman on Copyright and Piracy 



By Anonymous E Hines, at Sun Jan 29, 08:16:00 AM:

So, what's your point?

Frankly, I agree with Gaiman on the usefulness of piracy. But that usefulness is only one of the many outcomes of piracy (and I'll leave aside the red herring of the poor downtrodden in Russia being justified in their theft because of their oppressed stature). However. Gaiman's words of wisdom are useful advice for me as the property owner; they are entirely without value in determining how government will dictate to me what I must do with my property.

One of the fundamental purposes of government is to protect the property rights of individual citizens. Another fundamental purpose of government is to protect me from others, and no legitimate purpose of government includes protecting me from myself.
The decision to give away one's own property is the property owner's, not government's--whether by overt fiat by eliminating, e.g., copyright, or covertly by refusing to enforce existing copyright laws. Once government starts dictating the purposes I'm permitted to attach to my property, once government starts to dictate the price at which I must make my property available to others, once government demands that I make my property available to others even though I don't wish to, I've lost all of my property rights.

The high-mindedness of government, its lofty goals, in refusing to enforce my [copyright] decisions concerning my property is wholly irrelevant to its purpose. My decisions concerning my property, my poor business decisions, are mine to make, not government's to make for me.

A minor point: Gaiman conflates lending with theft. So: advertising by theft? Who gets to make that decision? The property owner, or the government?

The problem with enforcing copyright on the Internet is not with enforcing property rights, it's in the implementation of the present proposals.

Eric Hines  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 29, 01:39:00 PM:

Ditto. What's your point?

There is absolutely nothing in copyright law which prevents an author from making his or her work available to the public for free to use, copy, or modify as the public sees fit.

You seem to be quite agitated about copyright law and the internet, but you have little or no substantive knowledge about copyright law, its history, or its mechanics in business settings.

--Anon Attorney  

By Blogger Aegon01, at Sun Jan 29, 02:00:00 PM:

Maybe online piracy shouldn't carry as huge a penalty as new bills and current law currently give it.

Jammie Thomas, a 34-year old woman, was charged with sharing 24 Britney Spears songs via peer-to-peer software about 4 years ago. The RIAA basically wanted to make an example out of her. She originally was ordered to pay $222,000, or $9250 per song, which she appealed. It backfired, and the amount went up to $1.92 MILLION in damages, or $80,000 per song. That's simply absurd beyond belief. The number was dropped down to $54,000 total, but neither side seems happy with that number ($2,250 per song apparently isn't enough to get the point across).

I completely agree with your closing point about implementation. My main point with the video was that piracy doesn't do nearly as much damage as the corporations that own music say it does. In my experience, Neil's view is completely correct: there were lots of times where I bought a movie or some music thanks to an "unauthorized viewing." Yes, you're still consuming content without paying for it, and that's wrong. But a huge corporation suing a random Minnesota mom, who committed a very small infraction, for $1.92 *million* is much more odious.  

By Blogger Aegon01, at Sun Jan 29, 02:28:00 PM:

And Anon, the problem is that music labels and publishing companies would need a lot of convincing before they ALLOWED an artist to distribute something for free. Practically every movie is sponsored by Universal or some other company, and what are the chances they would ALLOW the director or someone else who has a stake in it to publish something for free?

Basically, I'm drifting *far* to the left of where I normally land on corporations. Generally corporations are awesome. I owe literally every *thing* in my life to them. I don't have these feelings for record labels or big movie companies.

Just think, if the Internet had been around in the 1960s, and bands could reach a huge audience with their music without having to change their sound or accept crappy deals with big companies, how much more music would there be? How much more music would there be in every decade *since* then? The business model of the companies is obsolete because it constrains the artist and limits what the consumers hear. Instead of trying to innovate and adapt to these changing times, they're trying to change the laws. They would be able to to assert, without ANY burden of proof by the way, that Soundcloud or Bandcamp (both digital distribution services) are both pirating copyrighted material, and both of those websites would be shut down.

THAT would not be justice.  

By Anonymous E Hines, at Sun Jan 29, 06:17:00 PM:

[The quarter-million dollar judgment is] simply absurd beyond belief.

Without knowing the facts of the case, I'm in no position to argue the legitimacy or absurdity of the award. What facts do you have to offer? Facts known to and used by the court making the judgment? On the other hand, theft often is answered with jail. Would you have preferred that?

...a huge corporation suing a random Minnesota mom...for $1.92 *million* is much more odious.

I thought you said the corp sued and was awarded $222k, which was bumped by an appellate court. Which was it?

...that music labels and publishing companies would need a lot of convincing before they ALLOWED an artist to distribute something for free....

In the first place, that's sort of a contract parameter which the artist can negotiate as freely as can the label or publisher. And Gaiman demonstrated how possible that is.

...bands could reach a huge audience with their music without having to change their sound or accept crappy deals....

Sort of like Justin Bieber and Whats'ername? Or to go back to the '50s, like Buddy Holly and his roller-rink start? Or a truck driver singing in pick-up bars and high school and college stages, a boy named Elvis?

It's always been possible. It's usually hard, but hard means possible.

Eric Hines  

By Blogger Aegon01, at Sun Jan 29, 10:10:00 PM:

Singing in a roller rink means your audience is people in the roller rink. Thanks to the Internet, songs I've covered such as this one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCuArPkewhI) have reached people on four continents (push the statistics button if you can see it, if it doesn't work then nvm). There's enough copyrighted material on YouTube that taking YouTube down would happen in a second if SOPA or some other bill passed, and the same goes for other digital distribution websites. This would be an enormous loss to musicians and artists, and a huge boon to entrenched corporations. (like I said, I'm a total commie on this issue). My point is that if a method of distribution this free and AWESOME existed 60 years ago, how much more music would be available today? Why would anybody (who cares about the actual art) want to constrain that?

I probably mistyped about the Jammie Thomas thing. She pled guilty to the charges. The fight has been over what amount to fine her for. The 222,000 was the original amount they wanted, she appealed it, it went up to the 1.92 million, Judge said "Sorry, that's ridiculous. Try again" and unless something has changed since I looked up the info (most of it I found on Maximumpc.com), the amount they worked out is $54,000 which is still a pretty steep figure, but given her luck with appeals I think she should take it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 30, 11:40:00 AM:

I see both sides of the debate and I am in the middle. On the one hand, creative work is work, and piracy does steal the creative work of others. On the other hand, is it reasonable to make a work publicly available- in the case of broadcasting, literally blasting it to the public in the form of electromagnetic energy- and then get into a snit when the public takes what you have thrown at them?

What would happen if ALL intellectual property was treated the way the high-roller media wanted it? If an architect told a film maker that showing the building he designed in a movie was unauthorized use of his intellectual property, would he have a case?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 30, 05:01:00 PM:

Why do we even have copyright laws in the first place? Isn't it to make sure that people are willing to create content for others?

If so, then all that is needed is a way for creators to be able to earn enough money that they are willing to create. There is no particular societal interest in guaranteeing them the right to prevent unauthorized consumption of their content other than this.

The question is not, is your stuff being pirated? It's are you still willing to write / paint, etc.? Netflix and the iTunes music store are examples of how content is being paid for. That they do not prevent piracy does not mean that the government must.  

By Anonymous E Hines, at Tue Jan 31, 10:19:00 AM:

What would happen if ALL intellectual property was treated the way the high-roller media wanted it?

That's only a threat when government presumes to go beyond enforcing existing copyright law. With the property owner controlling his own property, ALL intellectual property won't be treated the same way.

Eric Hines  

By Blogger Willuz, at Tue Jan 31, 01:09:00 PM:

That's only a threat when government presumes to go beyond enforcing existing copyright law.

This sounds like what's already happening and will only become worse with the passage of poorly written technical laws.

Look at the case of the Mom (Lori Drew) who was arrested for bullying a child on Facebook. They couldn't find anything illegal about it so they prosecuted her with hacking because she created a fake Facebook account and violated the TOS. This was not the intent of the law and she was acquitted, but not until after a protracted legal battle.

Hollywood could even use this on each other. Suppose two movies were about to come out that were very similar. The studio that would not have the movie ready first wants some way to slow down the other movie so they can be first to market. The look at the public filming permits and hunt down the architects whose buildings appeared in scenes from the competitor's movie. They then use the poorly written laws to start lawsuits which will never be successful but will delay the competitor's movie.

Since I'm not a lawyer I don't know the feasibility of the scenario above. However, my point is that we just don't know what unintended consequences will arise from poorly written legislation that is full of obvious loopholes.

In the end none of this will hurt the pirates who don't need DNS anyways. Piracy is a quality of service problem, not a criminal issue. It should be easier to buy something than it is to steal it, otherwise piracy will continue.  

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