I'm not saying the situation isn't complicated; developing laws/technologies that help content creators retain rights and get compensated while consumers also retain rights and content doesn't end up locked up is obviously a difficult and currently unsolved problem.
But the current trend is for copyright owners (who often aren't even the content creators) to pressure lawmakers and software/hardware companies to sway things further in their favor -- in a way that entails harming the consumer. And consumers are getting used to this -- "why should I have a choice among software manufacturers? I don't have a right to that!". (In the example of this post -- using the BPL's audiobook service REQUIRES that you run Microsoft Windows.) Making DRM come standard means consumers are effectively restricted to one or two options for operating systems/music players/etc., which isn't an economically healthy situation.
I certainly think content creators should be compensated, and they need some legal/possibly technological protection against theft. But for starters -- how about not making it illegal to circumvent DRM when it wouldn't violate copyright to do so? (E.g. -- there's no need for DRM on an ebook of a public domain work.)
Also, this post is talking about DRM on library acquisitions -- no one (well, except maybe RMS) is saying we should be protesting Best Buy for selling DRMed DVDs. A public library is supposed to be keeping a long-term archive of material to be freely accessible to the public. If your ebook can only be accessed with Microsoft Windows, then if Microsoft goes out of business, the ebook is now worthless. For archival purposes, open-source licensed encodings are clearly the best choice. For commercial purposes -- well, that's a different issue (though some consumers place value on non-DRMed products for their future-proof qualities; e.g. I know I'll still be able to play my .ogg files 10 years in the future, but if I buy something from iTunes, they could decide to prevent me from accessing it 10 days from now!).
developing laws/technologies that help content creators retain rights and get compensated while consumers also retain rights and content doesn't end up locked up is obviously a difficult and currently unsolved problem.
It's not that difficult, it's just that no one actually wants to solve it. The anti-DRM side, honestly, at best doesn't understand how artists are paid and at absolute worst doesn't think the artist DESERVES to get paid. The middlemen see it as an opportunity to try and get VOD and similar systems up and running (which, of course, will fail because the consumer hates them). And most artists aren't technically informed enough to be able to make these decisions.
Whining about software is fun: discussing copyright law in a calm, logical manner is boring. Therefore, people will choose to whine about software.
Well, if you've devised a scenario in which an ideal balance is achieved between artists' rights, consumers' rights, and media player creators' rights, I'd be interested to hear it.
Oh, I've got all sorts of ideas on this topic. :-)
1) Codify, once and for all, the rights the consumer has when purchasing media. As of now, much of what people think of as a right (using it in your own artwork, for example) is a lot more legally nebulous than people realize, largely because true copyright enforcement is impossible in the physical world but VERY easy in the digital. Firming that up, under the First Amendment, would be great.
2) Put limits on the behavior of DRM (no narcing, no malware, only copy-blocking). If it is or becomes malware (Sony's rootkit), the company that issued is liable for those damages and problems, period. After all, if we're going to fight "cyberterrorism", let's fight cyber-pollution.
3) For things like FairPlay, ensure that the terms cannot change arbitrarily.
4) Establish REASONABLE penalties for piracy. Criminal charges are patently ridiculous, so let's take that off the board. Also private enforcement and civil suits. Instead, if you get caught, you fork over the fee you would have paid if you'd paid for the media in the first place. Similarly, if people downloaded it from you, they have to pay the fee. It's just being an adult; if you wouldn't watch it unless it was free, just wait for cable.
5) Make artist rights stronger. Instead of essentially buying the copyright as it stands now, the artist licenses it exclusively to the publisher. If that publisher goes out of business, engages in corporate malefeasence, or simply stops publishing the work and informs the artist that they're not going to be reissuing it, then the artist gets the rights back, period.
6) Fix public domain. Delete the Sonny Bono law from the books, at the very least, and create an "abandonment" standard so if the artist has no estate and the publisher is out of business, the material goes into the public domain.
Yeah, these are pretty good ideas, though there are some practical difficulties with enforcement of some of them.
There's also going to be disagreement about what rights the consumer should end up with; I'd like there to be generous provisions for sampling and remixing, but not everyone is going to agree with that, and even if they did you have to be able to determine what is a legitimate remix and what is essentially flat-out copying with a token change.
But yeah, definitely this would be better than the current system :).
I'd like there to be generous provisions for sampling and remixing, but not everyone is going to agree with that, and even if they did you have to be able to determine what is a legitimate remix and what is essentially flat-out copying with a token change.
As long as the Tom-Tom Club gets their royalties. :-)
2008-02-09 06:09 am (UTC)
1) It is. It's called "Fair Use" and the reason it can't be PRECISELY codified is Because technology will keep changing, and it's much much much harder to change strict and inflexible rules once they are on the books, then simply applying existing ones. Trouble is, the people creating the legislation as well as those in the courts judging the merits of these regulations as well as the numerous lawsuits that get brought up about this do NOT understand the technology or all it entails. So what we get is strict regulations that suffocate innovation, the exact opposite of what copyrights were created to do.
4) You do realize that the whole point behind penalties is not to make things REASONABLE, but to act as a strong deterrent, right? Although we both know that it's never a tactic that actually works. If penalties for crimes were handed out in such a rational fashion, I don't think criminal justice fiasco's like the war on drugs would be an issue for us freedom-lovin' Americans.
I'm totally down with 2, 3, and 6. 5 if it would work, but it wouldn't. Too much money to be made. That's why Disney's still got Mickey Mouse.
5 if it would work, but it wouldn't. Too much money to be made. That's why Disney's still got Mickey Mouse.
Yeah, this is really pie-in-the-sky, if-we-lived-in-an-ideal-world stuff, some of it.
Fair Use is as updated as any other kind of copyright law (i.e. it was revisited last in MAYBE '68.) While I agree there has to be some wiggle room, part of the problem is that RIAA and others have been arguing that Fair Use only applies in the physical realm due to the limits on copying physical media inevitably impose.
I want reasonable penalties because strong deterrents have, as you noted, failed and honestly, you're more likely to get the point across by hitting people in their wallet. If you download "Meet the Spartans" illegally, hate it, and then forced to pay ten bucks for it, I honestly think that would curb piracy a lot more effectively than the Civil Lawsuits of Doom RIAA keeps flinging out.