Mixed Bag


Wired News reports on the Intellectual Property Protection Act, which may be rapidly passed in a lame-duck session of Congress. It appears to lower the bar for copyright infringement suits, and even accounting for hyperbole from opponents, it sounds like bad news, though particular sections—such as one that would allow libraries to create copies of older works still under copyright but no longer being commercially exploited—are attractive.

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  1. I guess you mean “passed?”

  2. …or was this a comment on technology outrunning regulation?

  3. FYI, I think “rapidly past” should have been “rapidly passed.” (Feel free to delete this post after it serves its purpose.)

  4. So if I tape a show on a VCR and fast forward, would they lock me up?

  5. You can legally skip “offensive content” but not ads or forced previews. Even if you own the media.

    I really don’t know what to say.

  6. … although “rapidly past” does have a certain poetic ring to it, that you could use when talking about how time passes. Something along the lines of:

    Trekking time’s passage, we’re ambushed by how fast
    The darkly future becomes rapidly past

    (I won’t give up my day job.)

    Off topic: The bald guy in the exercise ad at right creeps me out more every day. I would suggest the placers of the ad either replace that imagery, or at least intersperse it, with an image of a chick who’s buff yet hot — a Sybil Danning or Cynthia Rothrock type. Then I’d be more likely to click on the ad. Right now, I’m too afraid.

    On topic: The act sounds absurd. Once you buy the media for your own personal use, you should be able to view it as you like, in part or in whole, whether you “edit” it by putting your thumb on the fast-forward button or use commercial-skipping software to do it for you.

  7. Skip an ad, go to prison.

  8. Agreed, the ad to the right creeps me out, too. I can’t look at the image of him doing the push-up without thinking of Dave Chappelle as Prince humping the basketball in the “skins vs. blouses” sketch.

  9. Mo,

    Although it looks like what glenn said at 5:41 is correct, I don’t know how the DOJ would know about your doing that with a standard VCR. I think you were being facetious with your question, so this post is mainly my (lame) attempt at being the straight man.

    Now, let’s have a post from Sam I Was (and, to a lesser extent, joe) telling us that these arguments against strengthening the protections for people’s intellectual property prove that we really don’t believe in the concept of personal property.

  10. Oh they will definitely know when you fast forward. VCRs are over. DVR’s (digital video recorders) are an early-adopter technology now, but they are going mainstream very soon. The cable companies are starting to bundle DVRs in the decoder box. Microsoft is a big player with its Windows Media Center technology. The satellite providers too. TiVo and ReplayTV know every keystroke you make on the remote.

  11. Shawn,
    I was being, mostly, facetious. But when I forwarded this article to H&R I did say that this would essentially make Tivo and friends illegal. Look, I understand and support copyright law, but I despise and I’m opposed to the bs crap like country codes and personal copying rules that these fuckers are ramming through. Once I buy a DVD, it is MINE. If I want to watch it on a DVD player I purchased in Singapore, that’s my perogative. This is why people don’t care if others steal from the RIAA. The RIAA wants legitimate uses, like a Tivo or personal backups of CDs, just as illegal as stealing music.

  12. Well I’m not Sam I Was or joe, but as far as I’m concerned, copyrights are a good thing. The trampling of fair use by big media through government force is not. I just don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath here by doing what Warren suggests in his comments above. Intellectual property IS property. Unfortunately it seems that some people of a libertarian persuasion would like to protect some property rights, but not others. Every use is not fair use, sampling and skipping previews are not in the same class as distributing over an open network.

  13. Anyone else notice the minor controversy over TO’s meet-up with Nicolette Sheridan on MNF?


  14. Ideas are not property. I can steal your car, or your wallet, thus depriving you of a material thing. But ideas aren’t like that. By nature, they become part of our culture. The *idea* of a car, the idea of a computer. All derived from past ideas.

    Overall I agree with the idea of copyright. Being able to profit from your idea for a limited time does encourage the creation of new works. But eventually these things all pass into the public domain. Patents expire after 20 years, with no renewal.

    Yet copyright has become the life of the author plus 95 years, or 95 years for a coporation. Originally it was only 14 years, with one renewal. Congress has extended it several times, most recently 1998. In the Eldred v. Ashcroft case, Dr. Lawrence Lessig argued that these extensions essentially meant a perpetual copyright. The Supreme Court agreed with him in principle, but they left it up to Congress to fix it. Frankly, I don’t think that will happen.

    What happens when all the new ideas are locked up in perpetual copyright? Cultural and scientific progress slows to a crawl. How could you create the new from the old if you have to pay a dozen license fees first? It becomes another barrier to entry. Another form of intrusive government regulation.

  15. The bill would authorize the Justice Dept. to file civil actions against copyright infringers. We believe that is an inappropriate use of federal funds to enforce private rights of action

    Absolutely, it puts government power and our tax dollars in the hands of some businesses for civil matters.

    H.R. 4586 The Family Movie Act
    The entertainment community has hijacked this provision and turned it against consumers and the tech community. Now, the affirmative right to watch and skip parts of the content that a consumer has legally obtained only exists if certain conditions are met: no commercial or promotional ads may be skipped. Additionally, technology manufacturers must provide a notice at the beginning each showing stating that ?the motion picture is altered from the performance intended by the director or copyright holder of the motion picture.? This sets the functionality of the everyday VCR and TiVo on its head.

    They want to force this part of our lives to be conducted as if individual liberty is worth nothing!

    The groups that lined up against the bill include the Consumer Electronics Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the American Conservative Union. The American Conservative Union, plans a major print ad campaign this week to oppose the bill, mainly because some provisions would require the Justice Department to file civil copyright lawsuits on behalf of the entertainment industry.

    “It’s just plain wrong to make the Department of Justice Hollywood’s law firm,” said Stacie Rumenap, ACU’s deputy director.

    Let’s help them out. This thing is outrageous! What about liberty?

    Please contact your senatores! We can make a difference.


  16. Tell your senatores to delay the vote, or vote no on, HR2391 the “Intellectual Property Protection Act”

  17. “the darkly future?”

  18. Let me see if I got this straight. This election “proved” the virtue of conservative cultural values and a refutation of Hollywood and all the sin and depravity that it represents. In order to drive this point home, the Republicans, led by Sen. Hatch (R-Mormons/RIAA) are going to make the DOJ Hollywood’s lawyers and give the evil studios more money and power.


  19. Mo,

    I’m in pretty much total agreement with your statements in your 7:01 post. My profession (computer programming) relies on Copyrights being enforceable in order to generate revenue and prevent others from claiming my work as their own. I therefore don’t disagree with copyrights in general, only their current, and probably future, implementation.


    The reason I brought up Sam I Was is that the first time we disagreed on copyright law, he sounded like “fair use” was only a possible, not necessarily sufficient, defense against an infringement claim. Perhaps I misunderstood him, but I got the impression he didn’t agree that fair use “rights” existed. That impression leads me to believe that he believes a copyright holder has the final say as to how all copies of their property are used, not just copied and distributed. I could be completely misinterpreting his position here, and if so, I apologize, and I’m sure he will correct me if necessary.

    Now, when it comes to skipping commercials, a broadcaster could say that is worse than placing the latest Brittany Spears album or The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on an open network, because you are taking their product (your eyeballs) away from their customer (the advertisers), and could be conceivably costing them far more money than the open network downloads. Would that broadcaster get very far in court? My guess is probably not, but that it would depend on the jury or judge.

    Finally, as Hannah Mechtis noted several months ago, “intellectual property” is different from “physical property” in that it is far easier to copy “intellectual property” than to move it, and vice versa for “physical property.” I’m not sure how much of our legal code regarding theft is based on the idea that it is generally much easier to move physical property than to copy it, and perhaps if it is a foundation of our code, it might explain the problems we have applying property law to ideas. Then again, I’m not a lawyer, so that last statement could just be a bunch of smoke up my anus.

  20. How high-tech does my commercial-skipping system have to be to qualify as prohibited? If I look away, cover my ears, and loudly hum the Final Jeopardy music (about thirty seconds, just right for this purpose), am I breaking the law?

  21. “the darkly future?”

    Dark’ly, adv. 1. With imperfect light, clearness, or knowledge; obscurely; dimly; blindly; uncertainly.

    Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, (c) 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

    I was forcing an adverb (I’m cruel that way) to be an adjective with an almost-appropriate meaning, modifying a noun, in order to be parallel to the “rapidly past” construction.

    Unwrinkly your brow, I’m not giving up my day job to write stinkly poetry.

  22. stinkly or twinkly
    my brow remains wrinkly

  23. [satire]
    I think the provision banning the skipping of advertising is brilliant! I think that magazines such as Reason should force their readers to read all the advertisements; you can’t access the next article until you’ve answered a quiz regarding the preceding ads. It’s brilliant, I tell you! Guaranteed eyeballs on EVERY ad! Further, highway billboards should come with gates in that obstruct traffic. You can’t move until you punch in the answer to a question about the ad on the billboard.

    TVs and radios should come with a processor that detects a commercial, and that would prevent the radio from being adjusted (volume, station, and power buttons all disabled) while a commercial is playing.

    It’s paradise on Earth, I tell you!

  24. irilyth,


    I was thinking of that as well before my 8:19pm post. It reminded me of the Kurt Russell movie where there was a chimp that was predicting all the hit television shows and a line in it that went something like, “He went and got a beer during the commercial!” referring to the chimp. Well, if what is being reported is correct, that chimp would be hauled into court on a literal reading of that bill.

    I know, from now on all audio/video recording devices must have a camera and the appropriate visual recognition software that detects if someone isn’t watching the commercials, and if not, phones up the DOJ and local sherriff with the appropriate arrest warrants filed so they can lock the pirate up. Anyone who wants to sell an audio/video recording device must have the COMPLETE specifications for the device submitted for government approval BEFORE the first unit is sold. Failure to do so will subject you to a (ten times annual gross income + net worth) fine and five to ten years in prison. Possession of a device that doesn’t meet those specifications will result in similar fines and/or imprisonment. Oh, and in order to be sure that pirates are shut down, we need to have the police thoroughly search all homes in their jurisdiction. What do you mean, first, fourth, eighth, and forteenth amendments? Who cares about that piece of paper, anyway? Don’t you know there’s a war on, and we need this power to keep you safe from the pirates and terrorists?! Now shut up and get back in line, traitor!

    That should stop the pirates.


  25. “How high-tech does my commercial-skipping system have to be to qualify as prohibited? If I look away, cover my ears, and loudly hum the Final Jeopardy music (about thirty seconds, just right for this purpose), am I breaking the law?”

    Probably. You’ll definitely have to use that new “Pause Live TV” feature that comes with many cable-boxes if you get up to go to the bathroom during a commercial…

  26. But that’s because, according to the TV broadcasters, you’re STEALING programs if you aren’t watching the commercials that get them paid.

    As a two-Tivo owner, I wonder how many of the tv execs have ever used a Tivo. The main problem I have with commercials is that there is such a limited number of different ones shown. Every program break is the SAME 5 COMMERCIALS. By 2 breaks into a program, you know who’s sponsoring it, you know what special episode of whatever show on the network is coming up on tuesday, you know everything they’re going to tell you in the commercials. Most of the time, you’ve seen those exact same commercials for weeks on all different shows, thanks to targeted marketing.

    So what do you use Tivo for? To not waste time on the same viewing material. I know that when I’m forwarding through a show, in the 10 or so seconds that it takes to forward through a commercial break, I’m watching for the end of the commercial break. Coupled with having already seen all the commercials, I always know what they are, and what they’re selling. If it’s a new one, especially if it looks interesting, I’ll stop and look at it, since some commercials are better than the shows. But the 18th ‘According to Jim’ promo in an hour is something I don’t need to waste my time on (again).

    I really can’t fathom the depths of the broadcasters hubris, in trying to force everyone to conform to their ideal of watching every commercial with new laws. It’s appalling.

  27. So if I was a Communist, could I skip the ads because I find Capitalism offensive?

  28. Yes, but first you have to get permission from all of humankind first, since they own the TV just as much as you do.

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