Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Mar 2010 23:18 UTC
In the News And thus, our true colours reveal. Since Obama was the young newcomer, technically savvy, many of us were hoping that he might support patent and/or copyright reform. In case our story earlier on this subject didn't already tip you off, this certainly will: Obama has sided squarely with the RIAA/MPAA lobby, and backs ACTA. No copyright and/or patent reform for you, American citizens!
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Well, I do have a problem with current copyright law as I can see that ramping up restrictions is not only theft, in as much that the copyrighted work in the end belongs to all humanity, but that it is actually counter productive in that measured like DRM and un-skip-able (is that even a word?) copyright notices take away from the consumer experience and make the pirated versions that much more attractive. Mind you, I'm saying all this as a musician who has spoken with many fellow artists and the vast majority of us feel the same way.

Somebody else before me has put all this in better terms so I'll just post his argument here:

"Don Munsil — February 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Copyright violation is not theft, neither morally or legally. Most copyright violation isn’t even a crime – it’s a civil issue, providing a justification for a lawsuit.

This whole “piracy is theft” crap is a framing device created by content industries to try to paint their opponents as crime-loving communists.

I, personally, do want to make sure artists and creators have a robust market for their work so they can get compensation for their creations, but I recognize that the reason we as a society provide them with the limited copyright is so that that market will exist and thrive. It’s not because of some moral commitment. It’s entirely about incentives to produce.

Right now, I am in complete agreement that it’s so easy to copy content that there is a risk of the market for content becoming either non-viable or at least less attractive, reducing considerably the incentives for production, and I’m actually very interesting in trying to fix that situation. I’m just realistic enough to see that ratcheting up the restrictions on copying is going to be ineffective, and possibly counterproductive, in achieving that goal.

Something similar happened with songwriting back in the early 20th century, and many people proposed fixes that included stronger laws and more criminal penalties for unauthorized song performance. Luckily for all concerned, people realized that was going to be unwieldy and ineffective and a system of compulsory payments was implemented instead, leading to the formation of ASCAP. And now (with limits) anyone can perform any song they like without having to get permission first as long as they pay the statutory royalty.

The result: the songwriting market still exists, there are still plenty of songs written, and songwriters get paid whenever their songs are performed or reproduced. The level of un-paid commercial performance is relatively small, because it’s easier to police commercial usage.

The point is that there are lots of ways of incentivizing production of works. Strong monopoly copyright is one. A less strong copyright with a compulsory payment system is another. There are other ideas that are interesting, and at bottom I just want us to pick a workable, efficient system with minimum government intervention.

And there’s always a possibility that non-commercial file sharing isn’t really what’s hurting the content industries. Every content industry is hurting, largely because there’s so much legitimate free stuff to see/read/hear on the internet. If we could somehow stamp out the filesharers, it’s not obvious that this would result in a significantly more robust market for content. And a robust market for content is the goal, not some kind of moral purity of artist’s rights."

As for patent reform, I feel that software patents don't really fit the mold although copyright doesn't always fit with software either. Obviously the patent system is very good when it comes to things like an improved process for creating alloys in that it encourages the creator to share his/her process with everyone yet still gets the recoup and profit from the invention. For such an invention, 20 years does not sound like too long a time to me. On the other hand, I've only seen one good recent example of software patents actually doing what the patent system was originally set out to do and that's the i4i vs. Microsoft case.

So yeah, I think your ideas on patent law reform have a lot of merit but I'm more inclined to advocate the segregation of patents on the basis of type, i.e. have different rules apply to software patents as apposed to manufacturing patents. Obviously the small inventor needs some kind of protection from predatory big business but in the software world, 20 years is a very long time. Two to three years sounds much more reasonable to me.

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