Copyright or Wrong???

I have problems explaining to my 9 year old daughter that my not helping her download songs from the Internet is due to ethical issues and not to technological incompetence.

-She knows that I am technologically incompetent, so does not buy my argument. Nevertheless, she can’t understand why I delete the icon of the music archiving service that she and her friends use, from the desktop of the computer at home.

I try to explain to her that copyright infringement is a crime, even if everyone does it. I explain that as a Patent Attorney, I help people protect their intellectual property, so I cannot have illegal software on my computer, including illegal downloads.

She does not understand. She has a problem seeing how her downloading and listening to songs that she has no intention buying and no facilities to pay for, harms anyone.

She has a point.

Although supportive of the system of IP rights that I make my living from, I am critical of some aspects of it.   

The Rabbis have always been against instituting ordinances that the population can’t live by, and I think copyright legislation as interpreted and enforced in the US is an example of something that needs rethinking.

Here is a link to an article I found amusing in a bitter-sweet sort of way… 

http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/01/a-fathers-confe.html



Categories: Copyright, Israel Copyright

9 replies

  1. Yeah, it’s a lot easier to infringe a copyright than to go out and do the hard work of mugging someone on the street, but I don’t find that wired piece particularly touching. A crime so easy even a 7 year old can do it. That’s an argument for tougher DRM.

  2. Thanks “rapleafwatch”

    A crime is a crime, regardless of the sense or nonsense of a law.

    Nevertheless, I can be critical of the law, and think that perhaps the US has got it wrong as far as copyright in concerned.

    Not only is copyright infringement so easy that a seven year old can do it. it is also apparently easier to extend corporate copyright protection for another twenty years to keep Disney profitable, than it is for them to come up with new characters.

    Maybe the Sonny Bono amendment does not strike the happy medium between the various interests and does little to promote creativity?

    The Digital Millenium Act may make uploading legally purchased music onto your iPOD or MP3 illegal, but should it be? In the UK they don’t think so. In Israel they don’t think so. In Canada there seems to be a lot of opposition to a US style copyright law.

  3. Yeah, the extensions for copyright protection were excessive and unwarranted.

    There’s an element of dilemma in the iPod scenario you describe, but there’s no doubt about file-sharing to acquire the latest masterwork of Snoop, Alicia Keyes, or Keyshia Cole.

    Snoop will go on strike if everyone just downloads his stuff.

  4. Who’s Snoop? No matter.

    I don’t think the link between copyright and creativity has ever been proved, but for arguments sake, let’s assume it exists. So what we need is a decent technology to prevent illegal downloads and perhaps much shorter copyright periods – say 5 years?

    Do you remember the film “About a Boy” where Hugh Grant stars as a contented, Londoner in his late thirties who lives comfortably off the royalties of a Christmas tune that his father wrote?

    Is that scenario so far fetched? Should people be able to live of the royalties of their ancestors? Does that encourage creativity?

  5. I know what the Constitution says about promoting the useful arts and sciences, but I don’t think that limits the equitable intent underlying patent and copyright, which is to create something like a property interest for authors and inventors in the exclusive right to their work. I rather think the phrase is directed at justifying the “limited” in rights secured for “limited times.”

    I would further argue that the Constitution granted the power of making such laws to Congress in order to keep the States from making laws that would grant rights of substantially longer duration. The presumption, then, is that these rights in intangible property were and still are felt to be as real as the right of a landowner in his property, which he may pass down to the Nth generation of his descendants without questions being asked.

    So I’d argue that copyright is intended and commonly understood to confer an inviolable right of property in a different sort of property, which right is only limited for reasons of social policy. Nothing changes if theft of intellectual property is so easy a 7 year old can do it. One gets the feeling that most of the sentiment against copyright derives from a class of computer users who simply refuse to consider the possibility that they might be criminals: “Who me? But I’m educated and I’m just typing stuff into a computer. And because I have a computer I’m smart.” Again, I think it’s more manful to do the hard work of mugging some poor guy on the street. I suppose another difference is that a mugger steals for necessities and, possibly, to feed a drug habit. The file-sharer is stealing luxury items that he could easily live without. Much of this is the arrogance of social class. Widespread tolerance in our culture for copyright infringement is a scandal.

  6. I think most readers would prefer someone listening to their music or reading their books, than being mugged.

    That as may be, there are a number of technologies that are in use or being developed that will address the illegal downloading.

    My particular interest at present is not in downloading songs or written word without paying for same, but rather in reach through copyright, moral rights, plagiarism and derivative works.

    I think such creations should always be allowed. Possibly, in certain circumstances where the creative contribution of the earlier work is clear, and that earleir work is itself original, some type of royalty or profit sharing may be appropriate.

    Back to digital file copying – at present the system does not work. The punitive fines are out of proportion with the damage. Copyright is international and the US is trying to inflict her values on other cultures and civilizations.

    The whole system simply does not work. It needs rethinking. Enforcement, the balance between conflicting interests and the challenges of modern technology are all factors that should be taken into account. The US did rethink, but the results are not very impressive.

  7. Your point about readers of this blog preferring to suffer copyright infringement rather than a mugging has to do with the element of violent crime in the latter; but both are equally crimes, and I consider the element of crime in the one is as evil as the element of crime in the other: particularly because there’s never any sense of recrimination or wrong-doing. It’s as though an entire civilization has passed beyond knowing the difference between right and wrong.

    I leave the matter of sorting out plagiarism, derivative use, and fair-use to be sorted out by the lawyers. My central concern is the reckless disregard for the clear property rights in copyright.

    Your last paragraph seems to be nothing more than an attack on the US. I agree that DMCA extensions to the duration of copyright (applied retroactively) seem unreasonable. As I understand it, US copyright law is enforced in other country when those countries are signatories to a treaty that recognizes the jurisdiction of US copyright law. I can’t take responsibility if your government or another government signs a treaty with the US. I find myself irritated at times by treaties that the US has signed, which thereafter have the force of law. I also find myself wising we could sign a treaty with the EU or its member states that makes EU data protection law apply in the US. As it is, the Internet is simply a stomping ground for the most reckless behavior in regard to: 1) violation of copyright; 2) defamation ; 3) invasion of privacy (abetting stalkerism through Google’s massive reach; and 4) the dissemination of pornography. I don’t believe that Google safesearch or any of those other “fixes” redeems Google from being a mere purveyor of smut and from deriving deriving revenue from smut. I also don’t believe that the 1st Amendment (sorry, US law) was meant to protect forms of speech that are really forms of conduct. Smut isn’t speech, it’s conduct and can be reasonably suppressed under the “police power” of the state. The same is true of these other Internet excesses, now so much more feasible with the assistance of Google.

  8. The bottom line: file sharing is here to stay. We just can’t unring that bell. The question is how do we bring our laws into line with what our society does? And how can we establish international norms? The Berne convention was a great pre-internet start, but in the U.S. were there are gobs of unregistered copyrights (small artists) that are unprotected, a very permissive work-for-hire doctrine, and the big content owners have the means (and the legal justification) to obtain huge judgements against even small users, something has got to give.

    Perhaps user-generated content will change things in ways we haven’t anticipated, but in the meantime, it would be nice to see the world’s biggest content-generating country at least have an open discussion about how to deal with the fact that every 10-year old with a computer violates copyright law, almost daily, without penalty. Copyright laws are starting to become as disrespected as drug laws. Maybe filesharing is the new “gateway drug.”

  9. Thanks for your comments.

    The following link may be of interest:

    http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/index.php?p=900

    (a) There is definitely a need to compensate creators for their work.

    (b) Computer downloading is here to stay.

    (c) Applying pre Internet concepts of copyright to the Internet does not work

    I am not sure that the US is the biggest content provider. Certainly it is not the biggest provider or quality content. It is a big player though. My reference above was to circumventing WIPO with WTO and Gatt so that the US can bully other countries to accept their way of doing things, when the US legislation represents a balance of power between lobbyists at Capitol Hill, and not neccessarily the most appropriate balanced position for other places.

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