sw and films after copyright? (Re: DRM technology and policy)

Adam Back adam at cypherspace.org
Thu Apr 24 13:56:21 EDT 2003

On Thu, Apr 24, 2003 at 09:56:06AM -0400, Trei, Peter wrote:
> > I'm presuming that as long as people are interested in consuming those
> > things with whatever the legal framework those things will be
> > produced.  
>       [...]
> ["Those things" are creative works; movies, books, music, etc. -pt]
> OK, I'll call you on this one - what is the basis of that presumption?
> Some creative works require an up-front investment which is
> beyond what can be acheived on a shareware or charity basis.
> Would the LOTR trilogy be filmed without hope of ROI? Would
> we be awaiting 'The Matrix Reloaded'? I don't think so.

So I realise this is a somewhat controversial view.

And what Peter is discussing here I think is the balance between two
opposing public goods.  One the one hand (1) we have the current
copyright powergrab by the content distributors where individual
freedoms are losing (most seem to agree on this); on the other hand
(2) we have the issue Peter articulates that if the copyright scheme
were completely removed, perhaps some works people would like to view
copies of would no longer be made.

I acknowledge that this conflict exists.

I'd also invite others who agree that (1) is a problem to discuss
other changes to copyright law which might address that problem.

I think that movies, and music would still be created, because there
are existing business models which account for I think some
significant proportion of their revenue which still work without

- live performances of music
- cinema viewing of films before DVD release

(the latter is as easily enforced by trade secret, and private
contract as copyright law; I'm not sure what they currently rely on
but they seem fairly successful avoiding digital copies leaking prior
to DVD release.)

Software is another interesting case.  (Yes Derek, I work in the
crypto software industry, and I realise the irony that my fat salary
is arguably propped up by the current systems).

So would software production stop?  I'd argue not because companies
need software to work.  At minimum software written for a single
company under contract would still work.  Software supported by
support contracts etc., such as cygnus model, redhat etc would still
work.  Such models may end up having a more level playing field in
competing with proprietary software, as the government subsidy effect
I discussed would be gone, and I think this helps the proprietary
software industry more than the open source.

So while it's difficult to predict the overall picture in software and
content production and distribution after such a change, my view is
that in net it would be an improvement.  Freedoms would no longer be
eroded, a government subsidy would have been removed, and software has
enough complexity problems without propping up the proprietary model
with the government subsidy.


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