Re: Copyright and Intellectual property (was OT: Music)

Subject: Re: Copyright and Intellectual property (was OT: Music)
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- jci -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 09:34:35 -0500

(Intl)|21 March 2000) at 07/28/2000 09:39:12 AM
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Just a minor note on this:

The application of copyright to music is different than to the printed
word. It changed with the Audio Home Recording Act, which in essence,
traded the right to receive a royalty payment when none of your copyrighted
work was involved for the right to make an unlimited number of copies for
non-commercial use.

With the advent of that act, every blank tape that was purchased included
in its price a royalty payment to the RIAA, no matter if the tape was being
used to record copyrighted material, or your own creations. And the
copyright law, as it applied to music, was amended to allow personal
copying of copyrighted material for non-commercial purposes. This
non-commercial exemption isn't in the general copyright law, and probably
won't be until paper manufacturers end up having to collect royalties for
the publishing industry from every ream of blank paper sold.

In my not-a-lawyer personal opinion, the judge's ruling is wrong, and
strayed from the law far enough to probably not be able to survive appeal.
She took a limited view of personal copying, which the record shows
congress considered but declined to put into the law, and subsituted that
for what congress actually wrote. The RIAA has won a respite, but not the
war. I think their arrogance is catching up to them; time will tell if I'm
right. (Actually, I've always felt the Audio Home Recording Act was a Bad
Law, so the idea of it being used as the petard which hoists the RIAA
appeals to my sense of irony. When I saw the brief, I laughed out loud!)

In any case, the point on which the Napster thing hinges is not going to be
relevant to us. But the idea of copyright (which has been abused by all and
sundry for years) is central to our purpose. It's going to change over the
next few years. It has to. We have a growing mindset among the populace
that the simple fact they don't want to pay for something justifies them
stealing it. Laws are made by popular opinion. Like speed limits, like
prohibition even, no law will long survive if the majority is against it.
It won't be long before that idea is applied to what we do. (She's charging
*what* for that e-book? There's no way I'll pay that. Therefore I'll
download this pirated version for free.) We'd best start working on
business models which will survive the change *now*, so we can land on our
feet after the earth shakes.

The only way which makes sense is to follow the patents. Information now is
an industry, and patents were set up for industrial developments,
intentionally with a shorter time limit and more stringent tests in order
to keep industry growing. So we should shorten, not lengthen, the duration
of copyrights, to move information into the public domain faster, where it
can benefit everyone.

Example: JRR Tolkien. He would have been a relatively unknown fantasist had
not his US copyright lapsed. His work was picked up and reprinted after it
fell into the public domain, and it started a revival which is still going
on today. Ballantine, the legitimate publisher, was doing nothing
whatsoever with his work, until it was shown by an upstart publisher that
there was still commercial value. Then Ballantine's machine swung into
motion ("This is the authorized edition. Those approving of courtesy, to
living authors at least, will buy it and no other.") and the cry "Frodo
Lives" was heard once more in the land.

Egad, I've droned on. Sorry. Bottom line: We need to explore how we'll
continue in the soon to be changed landscape. Some of us, the hired guns
that ride in, sell a document, and write off into the sunset (yes, I meant
that) will see little impact. Also those of us whose work is primarily for
internal company consumption.

But those of us writing books and on-line help and the like will have a
different story. When free copies of "Learn XHTML in 21 Days" appear within
minutes of pay-for-download copies, will there be enough money to justify
the effort? How can we make a living under those conditions?

(Full Disclosure: I may be the one person on the planet who has never once
used Napster, so its continued existence is of no personal interest to me,
except as a beacon of what will happen to me when I show up on some rich
industry's radar.)

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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