copyright and censorship (was Re: [FoRK] NewTube VS OldTube)

Luis Villa < luis at tieguy.org > on > Thu Oct 12 16:30:58 PDT 2006

On 10/12/06, Luis Villa <luis at tieguy.org> wrote:
> On 10/12/06, Albert Scherbinsky <albert at softwarepress.com> wrote:
> >
> > My understanding is that copyright is one form of IP.
> > I also understand that the purpose of copyright is not
> > the "right to share information with one another" if
> > that property does not belong to the sharer. My
> > understanding of property involves ownership. Property
> > ownership is at the root of capitalism. I am a
> > capitalist not a communist.
>
> And so we reach a new high in the level of discourse at FoRK. Yay.
> I'll try to raise it up a little bit again.
>
> The family of limited, government-granted business monopolies
> (copyright and patent) which we now incorrectly lump in with trademark
> and trade secrets as 'intellectual property' have, in this country,
> been about inducing individuals to share their ideas with the public
> since the day the patent/copyright clause was written into the
> Constitution.
>
> In contrast, this notion of copyright and patent as *infinitely*
> controllable property is a fairly new idea, arguably introduced by
> those who fear competition and would rather rest on their laurels than
> be forced to be continuously creative. [See, for example, Disney,
> which was much more creative before they realized it was more
> profitable to hire lobbyists to extend copyright law than to employ
> more writers and artists.]
>
> The goal of sharing knowledge with the public is most explicit in
> patent law, which requires you to publicly publish instructions on how
> to create the thing you're patenting. If patents were about merely
> preventing competition, the details of the patent would be secret, and
> instructions sufficient to recreate the idea would not be required.
> Instead, we publish the idea, and the instructions to implement it, in
> order to *share* that information with the public. In return for that
> sharing, the public grants a time-limited monopoly on the use of the
> idea. But lets be clear- the monopoly is in exchange for the sharing
> of the idea.
>
> The inducement of sharing is less explicit in copyright law, but it is
> there too. You'll note that copyright is of limited duration, unlike,
> say, your claim to a piece of physical property. Again, the Founding
> Fathers wisely saw copyright as a means to induce the creation of
> information which would later be *shared* by the public, after 14
> years. Again, the limited monopoly granted by the state- what the
> founding fathers understood as a tax on the public- was made in
> exchange for 'the progress of science and useful arts'.
>
> Now, you can make an argument that even in an era of near-zero
> marginal cost for the *distribution* of ideas, you still need an
> economic/capitalist incentive to spur the *creation* of ideas, and
> hence that copyright and patent are still valuable concepts. But you
> can't claim that preventing that distribution is anything other than
> the granting of a government-created monopoly (even if perhaps a
> beneficient monopoly), particularly in a day and age when creating
> additional copies imposes effectively no additional cost on the
> producer. And you definitely can't claim that sharing is communist,
> unless you think Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers were commies
> too.
>
> But if all that was too historically accurate for you, Albert, I can
> put it another way: God bless the USA, God bless agressive,
> competitive capitalism which builds on the shoulders of others, and
> God bless our Founding Fathers and their understanding of the evils of
> all forms of anti-competitive monopolies, especially those granted by
> the government.

By the way, while I haven't read it yet, this:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=304180

looks like a fun read.

>From the Abstract, emphasis on the last sentence mine:
"Repeated Supreme Court dicta characterize the Intellectual Property
Clause of the United States Constitution as containing both grants of
power and limitations. The Court, however, has yet to explicate the
limit imposed by the Clause's opening words, "to Promote the progress
of Science and the useful Arts." Scholars and jurists have assumed
without investigation that "progress" bears the meaning most potent in
Nineteenth Century American civilization: a continuous qualitative
improvement of knowledge inevitably leading to consensus and human
happiness. This article presents empirical evidence that **the 1789
meaning of "progress" is "spread."**"

> > --- Kragen Javier Sitaker <kragen at pobox.com> wrote:
> >
> > > On Tue, 10 Oct 2006 15:09:06 -0400 (EDT), Albert S.
> > > wrote:
> > > > There is a difference between protecting IP rights
> > > and
> > > > censorship. Removing copyrighted material isn't
> > > > censorship.
> > >
> > > [Leaving aside Luis's point that YouTube has
> > > sometimes removed things
> > > for reasons other than copyright infringement.]
> > >
> > > I suppose there are different definitions of
> > > "censorship" around, but
> > > it's certainly the case that copyright is sometimes
> > > used to prevent
> > > information from reaching the public, or from being
> > > widely
> > > distributed; that meets my definition of censorship.
> > >
> > >
> > > I think the only legitimate purpose of copyright is
> > > to *promote*
> > > public access to important information, by providing
> > > necessary
> > > financial incentives for the investment required to
> > > distribute that
> > > information widely, and using it for censorship is a
> > > perversion of
> > > that purpose.
> > >
> > > I also take issue with your use of the term "IP
> > > rights".  I know it's
> > > common practice in many circles to use the term
> > > "intellectual
> > > property".  However, I try not to use it, because
> > > it's a propaganda
> > > term that serves the ends of extremists, in the
> > > following ways:
> > > 1. It erases the important legal and moral
> > > distinctions between the
> > >    various legal restrictions it describes --- for
> > > example,
> > >    copyrights, patents, trademarks, mask-work
> > > rights, the sui generis
> > >    database protection rights Europe adopted a
> > > decade ago, design
> > >    patents, and so on.  Very little of any coherence
> > > can be said about
> > >    such a diverse collection of laws.
> > > 2. It frames the debate as one about "property", as
> > > if we were
> > >    discussing whether people had the right to
> > > shoplift, rather than
> > >    whether they have the right to share information
> > > with one another.
> > >
> > >
> >
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> >
>

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