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Old 01-24-2008, 12:29 PM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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EU Copyright Harmonization In the Works

Nancy Prager, an IP attorney, offers this perspective on News.com about the European Union's attempt to harmonize copyright laws, smoothing the way for internationally-offered online content. Her perspective mainly references online music, but it applies to e-books as well.

Quote:
"The EU's new position is that a simplified copyright compliance process is the necessary prelude to the creation of a vibrant digital economy. The European Parliament plans to consider the recommendations for a harmonized copyright system by the middle of this year."
Further information can be found at her blog site.
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Old 01-24-2008, 07:39 PM   #2
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Ms. Prager's quote gave me quite a laugh We already <have> a vibrant, dynamic digital economy. Unfortunately, it doesn't follow the current rules of property........
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Old 01-25-2008, 09:23 AM   #3
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Ms. Prager's quote gave me quite a laugh We already <have> a vibrant, dynamic digital economy. Unfortunately, it doesn't follow the current rules of property........
Tell me: When you say "we", are you referring to the entire EU, or just your country (where are you)? Do you see the present copyright system (different in differing countries) as impeding the present digital economy, or do you disagree with her statement?
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Old 01-25-2008, 03:05 PM   #4
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Steve,

When I said <we>, I was looking at the entire world. After all, (within linguistic limitations (yes, and sometimes government limitation, i.e. China)), on the internet one can access information (i.e. digital content) anywhere in the world. It may be done in a legal framework, or not. I am not stating that doing things in an illegal framework is good, (see my other posts) - but there is a large contingent of people in the world who don't wish to follow such niceties. But both combined already form a large and vibrant digital economy. (I use economy in a broad sense, not just in a limited money sense. Look at linux, for example. It was not built on the profit motive (sic), but has become a major digital entity, and legally.) The digital economy is here, and it's real, <now> even if major parts of it don't follow current legalities.


That's why I found the Ms. Prager's quote so funny. She was stating the EU must make an action before (prelude to) a vibrant digital enconomy being able to come into existance. (Ignoring the current vibrant digital economic reality.) It's as if an elephant doesn't exist until a government announces it is real, all the while it is standing on your foot! (Ask MPAA, RIAA, et.al.)


As for my views on copyright see thread 17938 "interesting NYT article on 'copyright morality' " post 252. That's easier that my rehashing it here. You might also think over the fact that in the US, patent is only 20 years, while copyright is life + 95 (70 for current works). Why is one so much more valuable that the other? Both are products of a creative mind.


Do I see different length copyright laws as an impediment to the digital economy. No. The only people who think it is are governments (and their legal servants.), and those people with a vested interest in the status quo (pre-digital age).


As to my corporeal location - I'm a native Texan residing in Texas.
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Old 01-25-2008, 03:40 PM   #5
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As for my views on copyright see thread 17938 "interesting NYT article on 'copyright morality' " post 252. That's easier that my rehashing it here.
Ah, so... you're one of the people waiting for anarchy to set in!

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Do I see different length copyright laws as an impediment to the digital economy. No. The only people who think it is are governments (and their legal servants.), and those people with a vested interest in the status quo (pre-digital age).
And people who hope to make a profit off of their work, intellectual or otherwise, in whatever system there is. As copyright laws are essentially designed to guarantee at least some minimal amount of profit for the creator, I see a copyright system as a useful commodity, encouraging people to do creative work that, due to unprofitability, they otherwise would not do.

(I'd also suggest that, if no one is getting paid for digital content, well, you don't really have a digital economy anymore. But anyway...)

Setting aside that you ultimately don't believe in the copyright system... do you not believe that a unified copyright system would at least encourage international commerce that is presently hindered by the existing systems?
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Old 01-26-2008, 06:33 PM   #6
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First, let me explain my terms. Even if you don't agree with them, at least if you can understand them, we can communicate meaningfully. I use the word economy in a broad sense. I refer to the interaction between people for goods, services, ideas, and any other concept that may be created and exchanged - either willingly or unwillingly. Further I do not limit this to a static view, the dynamic flow over time of these things is as important as the things themselves. It can be driven by the profit motive, vanity, altruism, and myriad other human motivations. I'm not giving a value judgement on any of them (scientific method), just trying to measure them and understand their flow. I think (please pardon me if I am wrong, no insult of any kind intended) that your definition is limited by the worldview defined by the profit motive. That is the current major worldview, but there are others, and I try to look at all of them in one big picture. To me, a monk is as much a part of the economy as Warren Buffet, even if the monk doesn't show up on the income tax roles. Finally, I look at what <is>, rather that what I prefer or like.


As to believing in the copyright system - <sigh> - the copyright system is dying, whether I believe in it or not. It was born by technology and is dying by technology. I consider the EU effort to "harmonize" the copyright akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. But that does not mean I'm cheering on the sinking. In addition, this harmonization will probably end up with a worse set of laws that what is currently in existence (remember, cynic is part of my label). I'll bet you see life + 95 or greater coming out as the grand compromise. (Plus life imprisonment for illegal downloading (no death sentence in the EU)).


Finally, copyright does not guarantee <squat>. I have several copyrighted items, they have earned me nothing (nor do I expect them to). It's purpose is to grant a creator a monopoly on his/her creation for a limited time to encourage further creation. I consider this a valid and reasonable granting of a monopoly. But this is a grant - <not> a natural right, <not> a commodity! Furthermore, I can see <no> reason for life + anything. Dead people don't create! (If they do, the person running the Ouija board get the copyright, not the ghost.) Of couse, what life is for a multi-party creation is certainly up for discussion. But look at patent. Creating a <new> invention is far harder that writing a unique piece. But a patent is only 20 years and take thousand of dollars to get even with a valid creation. Somehow, the world of making things gets along very well with only 20 years protection (and people complain about even that!)


(We Texans are used to anarchy. That's why we love guns so much)
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Old 01-27-2008, 04:16 PM   #7
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"I'm not dead yet... I'm getting better..."

I agree wholeheartedly that copyright (and patent) law has not kept pace with the rapid changes that the digital era has brought about, and in some cases, may even be doing more harm than good.

Here's where we substantially disagree: I do not consider the above statement to mean that "copyright is dying," or that it has no place in the modern world. In fact, copyright is a modern and advanced concept, specifically designed to deal with a world where people's works can be practically copied and used by others, to make certain the original creator receives proper compensation for their works. It wasn't needed prior to Gutenberg and mass production, as it was not practical to copy others' works prior to that. But the need for that protection stands today, and it will until the day when all people have everything they could ever want, and need work for a living no more.

Yes, copyright as a concept is not performing as well as it should (and understanding that many of the "complaints" regarding copyright are specifically from people who simply want it to go away, so they can get what they want for free... needless to say, I don't consider those "complaints" to have much validity). That is a clear sign that the concept needs to be reworked, modernized to fit the modern age and society's existing (and evolving) needs. Considering digital products to be "insubstantial," "unreal," or "valueless" is simply being unrealistic... it's "Santa Claus" economics, believing that if you're good (or sneaky) and you wish hard enough, you'll get everything you want.

The rise of the computer in business has ably demonstrated the value of digital goods, to the extent that anyone who denies that value is being purposely obtuse. Creative digital works have as much value as creative works on paper, celluloid, clay or bronze, and they deserve the same protections. The fact that those protections aren't easy, is not enough of a reason not to find a way to set them.

Maybe the concept of copyright needs to be seriously reworked, to the point where what we have no longer resembles the idea of copyright as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, but has evolved into a very different concept or mode of execution of its fundamental intent. It makes sense... the Founding Fathers could not have envisioned digital products. Fortunately, they did understand that they could not possibly anticipate the needs of future generations, which is why they created a system that could evolve with the changing times.

What is the alternative? Abolishing copyright will make it so difficult for creators to get fair or appropriate compensation for their efforts, that they simply will not create, and society will be bereft of their talents and products. It is a historical fact that the present copyright and patent system has served to spur invention and development of products and creative works, just as it was intended. Sure, some things will still be created by individuals who feel the need to create, whatever the cost (or loss) to them. But it will not be accomplished as fast as it has been in the past, and some things may never be created at all, without the support of copyright and patent systems. I maintain that we, as a society, would not be better off in that case.

So, back to the issue: I see the EU's actions as the first step to bringing copyright law into the 21st century (which is more than I can say for the U.S.), reworking it to encompass the digital goods that were simply unheard-of when the concept of copyright was created. In time, that should (theoretically) result in a copyright and patent system that is agreeable to everyone, everywhere (with the exception of those who want everything for free).
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Old 01-27-2008, 04:24 PM   #8
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Here's where we substantially disagree: I do not consider the above statement to mean that "copyright is dying," or that it has no place in the modern world. In fact, copyright is a modern and advanced concept, specifically designed to deal with a world where people's works can be practically copied and used by others, to make certain the original creator receives proper compensation for their works.
That is not true. There is no idea of "proper compensation" in the motivation for copyright. It was designed to solve the problem of how to get people to not stop to create things.
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Old 01-27-2008, 04:53 PM   #9
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That is not true. There is no idea of "proper compensation" in the motivation for copyright. It was designed to solve the problem of how to get people to not stop to create things.
Well, how do you think they planned to solve the problem? By guaranteeing creators compensation for their efforts, as encouragement for creating and sharing. That's the whole point of copyright and patent law... pure capitalism at work, "If you do it, the government will make sure you get paid something for it."

Now, we can debate matters like "proper" and "fair" and "value" until the cows come home (and one of your anarchist neighbors shoots one of your cows for dinner ), but "compensation" is clearly the point.
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Old 01-27-2008, 08:41 PM   #10
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Reading the Path report on the tumor...

Steve,

What is (in your view) fair?

The EU has never met a law they didn't like. Frankly, I don't smell a rat - I smell a Mouse! I think that Hollywood (sic) wants a Sono Bono act for the EU, and are trying to quitely get one. Their holy grail is to get copyright converted from a limited monopoly to a real (perpetual) property. So when I hear "harmonization", I don't think of bringing copyight into the 21st century. I think of a Rock Ridge land grab. I'll wager 1 oz. gold that the "harmonization" ends up as longer terms than Berne and harsher penalties for violation. You may consider that "the 21st century" but I consider it more like the 16th.

That's why I compare copyright law with patent law. How far would technology have progressed if you had to pay a royalty on every transistor, and then every IC (both), on every chip produced since 1947 and 1957? And royalties to IBM on every hard drive until 2080? Or whatever price Fleming's hiers and assigns choose to charge for penicillin since 1929? (And every time it looks like it'll fall into the public domain, the terms get extended - after judicious lobbying.) And you can't use <any> of these things for creating new products unless the owners <allow> you to...That's what the world would look like if patent law was run like the copyright law. Where would the level of technology be? 1950? 1960? maybe 1970? It certainly wouldn't be what we now have in 2008!


Copyright (and Patent) are products of mass production. They are nearly self-enforcing in a mass-production environment. The unstoppable problem is that "the digital world" is <not> a mass-production environment. Because it is <inherently> different, mass production rules just don't apply to it. Like it or hate it, that is every bit as real as sunrise.


I understand your economic problems with this reality. I, too, work in a dying profession. I'm a mainframe COBOL programmer. It doesn't matter how good you are when there is little demand for your skills. Or how much you love what you do. But I have to change my skills to survive. I get no continuing payment for work done years ago, nor do people change laws to help <my> plight. Shucks, when <my> jobs get sent overseas, I don't even get the retraining breaks an assembly line worker gets - by law!
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Old 01-28-2008, 09:59 AM   #11
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What is (in your view) fair?
For the purposes of this discussion, more than nothing... which is potentially what I could legally end up with if copyright is abolished. As I said, "fair" is a point to be debated... but I don't want to debate it in this thread. The practicality of copyright is what I want to debate here.

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The EU has never met a law they didn't like. Frankly, I don't smell a rat - I smell a Mouse! I think that Hollywood (sic) wants a Sono Bono act for the EU, and are trying to quitely get one. Their holy grail is to get copyright converted from a limited monopoly to a real (perpetual) property.
This is why I agree that patent and copyright law need to be revised for the 21st century. Killing copyright is just throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

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That's why I compare copyright law with patent law. How far would technology have progressed if you had to pay a royalty on every transistor, and then every IC (both), on every chip produced since 1947 and 1957? And royalties to IBM on every hard drive until 2080? Or whatever price Fleming's hiers and assigns choose to charge for penicillin since 1929? (And every time it looks like it'll fall into the public domain, the terms get extended - after judicious lobbying.) And you can't use <any> of these things for creating new products unless the owners <allow> you to...That's what the world would look like if patent law was run like the copyright law. Where would the level of technology be? 1950? 1960? maybe 1970? It certainly wouldn't be what we now have in 2008!
I disagree there. We would still have all of those things with extended patents... they simply would have been more expensive. Patent laws did not keep them from being bought and used and experimented with, it just kept them from being cheap. In fact, most of the effective experimentation, development and initial marketing of those products occurred during their patent coverage.

And during that time, the inventors made enough in compensation for their efforts that they were willing and able to go back to their drawing boards, and develop even more. Now, imagine if AT&T had never made a dime off of the transistor, or their other developments, and ended up going bankrupt and ending the run of one of the most proficient technology developers of the twentieth century? Where would we be now... powering our iPods with vacuum tubes?

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Copyright (and Patent) are products of mass production. They are nearly self-enforcing in a mass-production environment. The unstoppable problem is that "the digital world" is <not> a mass-production environment. Because it is <inherently> different, mass production rules just don't apply to it. Like it or hate it, that is every bit as real as sunrise.
Digital products are indeed products of mass production... in fact, they are the ultimate goal in mass production: The sellable product that requires zero cost to make. Like it or not, mass production rules DO apply to digital works... it just means that the big end of the stick is firmly in the creator's hands, not the buyer's... and this is what we're really debating here, the fact that the buyer--you--aren't making out on the deal the way creators are.

No one likes to feel like they're being ripped off, and we expect a fair price for the things we buy. The digital revolution has thrown a sizable monkey wrench into the original works, as they have effectively separated materials and production costs, one of the largest financial elements, from manufacturing. It brings a serious variable to the question of "what is fair?" This is such a new idea that we, as a society, haven't wrapped our heads around it yet.

The easy answer is, "Well, just make it all free." But that doesn't solve the dilemma of a planet of approaching 7 billion people, all forced to live together and cooperate to survive, and who have needs that must be addressed. "Free" doesn't work, as there's not enough of everything to go around, and not enough people willing to share what they have. So, until we have unlimited resources and universal magnanimity, "free" isn't even on the table. This is a problem that must be worked out, because doing so will be far easier than accomplishing unlimited resources and universal magnanimity (though if you've got a good idea along those lines, now's the time to say so).

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I understand your economic problems with this reality. I, too, work in a dying profession. I'm a mainframe COBOL programmer. It doesn't matter how good you are when there is little demand for your skills. Or how much you love what you do. But I have to change my skills to survive. I get no continuing payment for work done years ago, nor do people change laws to help <my> plight. Shucks, when <my> jobs get sent overseas, I don't even get the retraining breaks an assembly line worker gets - by law!
Hey, in my life I've had and lost literally dozens of jobs, and I do understand the need to give what the market will take. I'm also familiar with giving up careers when the jobs dried up (I originally trained as a draftsman, and I've had and lost two other professions since). That's life. But there's no reason to make it even more difficult by officially taking the easy way out, because you don't like the paperwork, and making it legal to simply take other people's work. Our society cannot and will not function like that. Anyone who thinks that it can is simply ignoring the realities of the world around them.

Whether we like it or not, we need rules and laws to be able to survive on this planet, all of us together. If a rule doesn't fit anymore, we have to change it... not toss it. Copyright needs to be changed, not tossed... and it's our job as a functioning society to make sure that's exactly what happens, or suffer the consequences.

<pausing for breath>

Now, I realize that many people who have (actually) read these rants of mine are just saying, "Agh, he's just trying to protect all the money he makes from his books." In the interest of disclosure, the money I make off of these books wouldn't pay for a set of tires on my car... hell, it wouldn't pay for even one... after I cover the costs of maintaining the website that sells the books. I make my money (today) as a web developer, that's how I pay my mortgage. I'm not making enough money off of my books to make it worth much more than an intellectual exercise. If tomorrow it turns out that I can no longer sell my books, down they come... oh well... and I'll move on to something else to occupy my time.

So don't feel I'm doing this out of some desperate need to maintain my personal status quo. I am simply addressing the system as I see it, from the standpoint of a member of a global civilization who can't see how anarchy in the face of progress is going to help us to survive.
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Old 01-28-2008, 03:10 PM   #12
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I agree that copyright should exist (in some form), and creators should get paid. What I don't see is <how>? When every computer is a digital mass production factory, how do you control what is produced? This is a serious question, and not a call for abolution of the copyright system. From my viewpoint, I don't see any way to provide that control short of Draconian measures. Big Brother spyware on every computer? No ability to permanently write data? Take away all the PCs? Encryption has not done the trick. Even if it did the trick, there is still the analog hole. (Stop all analog to digital converters?)

I'm not trying to sound silly. I'm just flat out stumped. And I haven't heard any other idea that (to me) might seem to work (and believe me, I've listened to lots). That's what I've been trying to say. If you have a better idea, let me know. But unless somebody has that better idea, I don't see how copyright will survive in a practical sense, even if it remains on the legal books. (If you sued eveybody who violates copyright today, the entire court system would collapse from the overload.) The only thing I've been able to come up with is to run a ding joint (Ask for a donation in every book). Many creators find the idea offensive. Perhaps the EU committee will have that better idea, but I'm not optimistic.

Remember, in the digital world the buyer owns the factory, not the creator, not a middleman (capitalist).

You are quite correct that design and production have been separated in the digital world. The rules of scarcity apply to the design end, but they do not apply to the production end. And that mismatch is the core problem. Look at Project Gutenberg. It is a ding joint for its operating costs, and depends on free labor (to which I have contributed) and free (expired copyright) designs. Look at the number of downloads (free) over the years.
People are not standing in line or doing without to get these downloads (take all you want - electrons are almost free). Or the mobilread ebook library. How do you graft a cost structure on it for the cost of new works (designs). Sorry, I don't know. (and I wish I did).
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Old 01-28-2008, 04:41 PM   #13
Steven Lyle Jordan
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I agree that copyright should exist (in some form), and creators should get paid. What I don't see is <how>?...
I'm afraid that, although no one will want to hear this, the solution will almost certainly be one of more complexity and involvement in the copyright process. Unfortunately, I'm no expert either, so I also cannot enumerate specific answers. But I'm sure they will involve the evolution of technologies like digital watermarks and tracking numbers, probably include access to home systems, and require more involved ID tracking.

Yeah, it'll be tough. Think of what extremes governments have to deal with to fight money counterfeiting, and you'll have an idea how tough this is going to be.

As bad as all this sounds, though, it isn't much more than we already put up with to use our cellphones and cable televisions, buy things with credit cards, drive our cars, travel on a plane, or buy beer. All of these things have become more complex with time, and require multiple instances of ID checking, tracking and verification along the way, most of which were certainly bitched about when they were initiated. But we got used to the rigmarole over time, and we'll get used to the copyright rigmarole, too.

Look at it this way: When it gets to be that complicated, we'll be using our computers to automate the process, and it won't seem that bad at all. Like buying MP3s from iTunes easy.
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Old 01-28-2008, 05:04 PM   #14
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Well, how do you think they planned to solve the problem? By guaranteeing creators compensation for their efforts, as encouragement for creating and sharing. That's the whole point of copyright and patent law... pure capitalism at work, "If you do it, the government will make sure you get paid something for it."
I objected to the word "proper". Some compensation is one way to solve the problem. There might be other ways. But if you define the problem as how to give "proper compensation" to somebody then you will miss a lot of possible solutions.
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Old 01-28-2008, 05:29 PM   #15
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I objected to the word "proper". Some compensation is one way to solve the problem. There might be other ways. But if you define the problem as how to give "proper compensation" to somebody then you will miss a lot of possible solutions.
would you accept reasonable and a substitute for proper?

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