DRM technology and policy

bear bear at sonic.net
Wed Apr 23 13:47:08 EDT 2003

On Tue, 22 Apr 2003, John S. Denker wrote:

>On 04/22/2003 05:36 PM, bear wrote:
>> Material which is coyrighted
>> must enter the public domain when copyright expires.
>Says who?
>That's not the law.
>I see no reason to make that the law.

That's what copyright protection is supposed to
buy for the public.  If stuff never entered the
public domain, there would be exactly zero motive
for us to provide copyright protection for it at
all.  We extend copyright protection so that the
Tolstoys and the Shakespeares of the world will
bequeath to us their literature instead of locking
it in a damn box somewhere and showing it only to
personal friends.  That's the deal.  The artist
gets paid, and the public eventually gets the art.

>My unpublished notes are protected by copyright.
>They are also private.  The copyright will eventually
>expire.  It is not guaranteed or even likely that the
>material will become public at that time.
>(Note that patents are different from copyrights.)

Copyright wasn't necessary in this case.  What
you don't disclose doesn't become public, and
doesn't need to eventually become public property.
In fact, I'd consider this a "privacy" protection
rather than a "copyright" protection, because
you're not seeking payment for those notes (ie,
you are not selling that work to the public via
the copyright transaction). But in the same way
laws against sexual harassment are often couched
in terms of sexual discrimination (and therefore
don't apply to bisexual harassers?), the laws
protecting privacy are couched in terms of

> The analogy is not perfect, but you can see
> the point:  Copyright infringement is a bad
> thing, and it doesn't become unbad just because
> it is technically possible to do it in a sparsely
> distributed way so that the individual acts seem
> private at the time.

It's not clear to me that copyright is necessary
any more.  Amateurs seem perfectly willing to
expand the public domain, and have even taken to
using copyright laws to prevent their work from
being appropriated by the intellectual-property
industry.  There are some very good writers who
put their work on the web for free, and I respect
the hell out of those guys.  ObCrypto, I have to
cite the Handbook of Applied Cryptography as one
example of available content, but there are a lot
of producers who go even further and put their stuff
all the way into the public domain. But the point
is, the public domain is being expanded - with
really good stuff in a lot of cases - without the
need for the people to extend copyright protections
or pay for the expense of enforcing them, so what
exactly justifies the continued existence of
copyright is no longer clear.

I reiterate; copyright protections were justified
solely because they were necessary to expand
the public domain with good stuff at one time.
If they're no longer necessary for that purpose,
then they're no longer justified.  If there are
a lot of really good artists who expand the
public domain for free, then what the hell does
it buy us to pay good money to facilitate the
greed of others who seem to want to lock their
stuff away from the public domain forever?

> If we solve the new problems right, there is
> tremendous upside potential.   Right now
> typical web content is produced by amateurs
> and hobbyists.  That's fine for some things,
> but not for everything.  Imagine how much
> niftier the web would be if people who created
> good stuff actually got paid to put it on
> the web.

<choke><gag>  Clearly, you weren't on the web
before 1995, when it truly was an all-amateur
effort.  The suckage of the web has increased
exponentially the more people are trying to
make money off of it.  Think of the web without
ads, popups, spam, and "pros" who want to use
horrible colors or make everything *&%^ *wiggle*
when you're trying to read it.  Amateurs produced
a lot of pages that sucked, but *really* horrible
design, and serious disrespect of the people
accessing the content so far has been nearly
the sole province of the so-called professionals.

It used to be that people were more or less equal,
here; colleagues accessed each other's sites for
information, and people did entertaining things
to provide fun for each other because they liked
each other.  There's no way commercial motivations
can compete with the atmosphere that we had then.
Copyright has been actively bad for the web.

> Maybe cyberspace is intrinsically barbarous,
> such that everything that can be stolen will
> be stolen, and everything that remains will
> be subject to onerous and intrusive controls.
> The real world doesn't work that way, but
> maybe cyberspace is intrinsically worse.
> OTOH, maybe cyberspace will turn out OK.

I think and hope it *will* turn out okay,
but then I suspect that I may be what you
call a barbarian.


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