Pulpit Bulls

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Archive for the ‘intellectual property’ Category

The Constitution and the Copyright

Posted by Eric on June 26, 2009

Over at RealClearPolitics, Cathy Young pens a sharp piece about a quasi-sequel to Catcher in the Rye written by a Swedish humorist called, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. A judge has put a restraining order on the novel, in compliance with a copyright infringement claim filed by J.D. Salinger’s attorneys. Young uses this to make some smart observations about the draconian nature of intellectual property laws in the United States and invoked copyright critic Lawarence Lessig’s belief that, “unless copyright law is reformed, it will end up stifling the creativity of a generation.” I think that’s correct, but let’s also remember that overbearing copyright laws like the DMCA stifle technological innovation and that stringent patent laws prevent things like medical patients buying life-saving pharmaceuticals at reasonable prices.

But corporate copyright holders are powerful and have lots of money that they share with congresspeople who also like power and lots of money. That’s why every time Mickey Mouse’s copyright is about to expire, congress seems to pump out a new, stricter sets of laws and, whadya know, Disney still owns the rights to Mickey. While congress changing its mind isn’t very likely, it is always important to note that current copyright laws are pretty contrary to the founding fathers’ wishes. From Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution the founders write:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The Commerce Clause, at least in its current application, would certainly give congress jurisdiction to pass intellectual property laws, so Constitutional objections probably are a waste of time. Still, the founders were right and current copyright enthusiasts are wrong. Our current intellectual property laws are misguided and this should be repeated again and again.

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Don’t Mess with Pirates

Posted by Eric on June 8, 2009

JollyRoger

As the creators of bit torrent website Pirate Bay continue to slog through legal waters — defending their website over charges of copyright evasion — Pirate Bay users aaaarrrrrrrrr striking back against those who would shut the service down:

Lawyer Henrik Pontén knows all about getting on the wrong side of pirates and just recently had yet another reminder that he is widely hated on the Internet.

Just recently Pontén received a letter from the Swedish tax authority (Skatteverket) informing him that his request for a change in his personal details had been accepted, which came as quite a surprise since he had made no such request.

From May 29th 2009, said the letter, 43 year-old Henrik Pontén would have his name changed and become known as Pirate Pontén, undoubtedly to the high amusement of millions of file-sharers.

Of course piracy is a crime and these types of shenanigans are not the least bit funny. I wish Mr. Pirate Pontén the best in getting his original name back.

In related news, the Swedish Pirate Party — a political party fighting to legalize filesharing — just won 7.1% of the vote in the EU elections and will get one or two members in the European Parliament. Shiver me timbers!

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DMCA: Draconian Copyright Policy

Posted by Eric on May 23, 2009

Ars technica reports on the MPA’s lawsuit with RealNetworks regarding whether or not Real’s DVD-copying software violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA):

Real has long argued during this case that its software merely enables DVD buyers to make legitimate copies of their legally purchased discs—this would theoretically fall under the fair use guidelines in US Copyright Law.

The case boils down to Real asserting that their product is protected by “fair use” while the MPAA argues that fair use provisions are irrelevant since the DMCA is legislation independent from other governing copyright laws.

It would be a nice and certainly unexpected surprise if the court rejects the MPAA’s case. The DMCA is a rather pernicious set of laws that, more or less, prevents even the process of bypassing any digital protections on copyrighted work. In Burkhart’s and McCourt’s book Digital Music Wars, the authors detail how the DMCA is so stringent that it makes it illegal to even “traffic” (i.e. share) any information that could lead to bypassing a copy protection. The law has had deleterious consequences in technological, academic, and artistic innovation and basically prevents anyone from doing anything. Ever.

The DMCA is bad public policy. But so long as Congress is on Hollywood’s and the record industry’s payroll, legislative correction seems unlikely. We can at least hope that the court will weaken some of the Act’s more onerious provisions, resulting in a welcome win for consumer’s rights.

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