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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Member since:

"commentary" is absurd.

Extolling the virtues of Kucinich and Paul? Equating Obama to Bush? Equating the Democratic and Republican parties? Talk of globalist puppets? It's nonsense, in my opinion.

Anyway, rather than turning this into yet another lame political blog, maybe the comments should get back to the original issue. What "reforms" to copyright and patent law are you guys seeking?

I don't have much problem with current copyright law (I don't like piracy), but I'd like to hear what reforms you have in mind. I went to a talk by Lessig five years ago. He was a bit too cavalier wrt the rights of creators, IMO, but one thing I agreed with was his suggestion of allowing "mixing" of copyrighted materials to create new works. (I still wouldn't mind seeing the original creators get some royalties, if that created "mix" is used in a profit-making veture.)

As for patent law, I would like to see:
A. the timeline of patents shortened from 20 years to N years.
B. I'd like to have holders of patents REQUIRED to license the patents to others, including competitors, for a reasonable fee. "Reasonable" can be determined by negotiations, and if that fails, then by an arbiter.
C. In order to be given a patent, you must present a working product, and make a good faith effort to market that product.

Reply Score: 4

SReilly Member since:

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.

Reply Parent Score: 6

LB06 Member since:

It's you who's missing the point. ACTA will not be redefining copyright law. It will just make it easier for authorities to repress copyright violations at the expense of civil rights and freedom. That's what this is about.

It's about how the ends do not justify the means. It's about how in a murder investigation the police is not allowed to do a search without probable cause or a signed warrant, while ACTA would grant them this right. And for what? For copyright infringement?

Reply Parent Score: 5

license_2_blather Member since:

Define "authority".

The problem with DMCA, ACTA and its ilk is that they aim to allow copyright holders, with little effort, to impose their will on the citizenry without due process. The RIAA/MPAA are not law enforcement, and even real law enforcement can't legally do that ("antiterrorism" activities notwithstanding, though I'm leaving that one alone for now).

If a copyright holder thinks someone is infringing, then gather the evidence and take them to court. I really don't see what is wrong with that approach.

Reply Parent Score: 1

jwwf Member since:

Anyway, rather than turning this into yet another lame political blog, maybe the comments should get back to the original issue. What "reforms" to copyright and patent law are you guys seeking?

One simple reform would be fine, repeal post-1790 copyright term extensions in the US: go back to 14 years, plus a 14 year non-automatic renewal. This compares reasonably with the patent term.

Apply it retroactively, since the US Government often can't tell you with certainty whether something published in the 20th century is still covered or not. You can pay them $75 an hour or so to do a search, but it's not guaranteed to be correct. This problem can be easily solved by zeroing the affected records.

Do that, and I'd say no other action needed. Other countries should do whatever they want.

Reply Parent Score: 3

sakeniwefu Member since:

Patent terms shouldn't be shortened. They just should stop awarding patents for trivial or existing "inventions", and ambiguous patents that embrace technology the original "inventors" couldn't even dream of, and that is most of them, especially in the case of software patents. I have nothing against a company that invents a compression algorithm that gets all the data we care about down to 1% of its original size on average and gets a royalty for each sold copy during 20 years.

Copyright on the other hand is far too long. Once the original author is dead, there can't be any new book. Once the author sells his copyright to a company, he can starve to death for all Obama and the lobbies care, copyright will not encourage anything other than corporate greed. More money doesn't even encourage output like in patents.

A fixed and relatively short term, transferable, but renewable indefinitely only by the original author for a fee like (15+5*) is the best solution to have authors that 1- get paid, 2- create more and 3- don't get killed by the media companies(much more likely to hire a hitman than slashdotters). The author should never lose his authorship moral rights even after his copyright is left to expire and for a fixed time after death(eg. No Harry Potter and the Plumber Union derivative movie clause). People inheriting the author's state should have no say in either, they get the money and shut up.

In both cases, failure to enforce a monopoly should be grounds for exemption.

If you don't market your technology instead hoping to become a patent troll(or doing your best eg. publishing a paper while you secretly have a patent), all uses up to the time of surfacing should be unpunished and allowed to continue. Anything *you* release on the technology should mention the patent.

In the case of copyright, there should be an abandonware clause. Many companies will refuse to sell you old software, or out of print books, but will happily sue you for infringement. That doesn't encourage anything at all, not even greed. It is just hate.

Reply Parent Score: 3