Consumer Freedom

Copy Protection Joins Castro on Deathbed?

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Looks like someone in the music industry has finally noticed digital copy protection is on its last legs. "Major label EMI — home of Coldplay and Norah Jones — is in discussions with online music stores about selling its music without copy protection, or digital rights management (DRM)."

Last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs created a huge stir when he called on the music industry to dump DRM, saying it hinders sales. Yahoo Music general manager Dave Goldberg predicts that by Christmas, most of Yahoo's catalog will be DRM-free.

"The labels understand that DRM has to go," he says. "It's nothing but a tax on digital consumers. There's good momentum behind DRM going away."

Goldberg said sales could increase by 15% to 20% without DRM, which prevents protected music from being played or stored in certain formats–for example, if the protections were lifted then songs bought on iTunes could be played on non-iPods.

More from Reason writers on the music industry's shallow learning curve here and here.

More from me on the iPod here.  

NEXT: Wasted! Youth!

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  1. The top CD seller in 2000 was N’Sync and it sold nine million records. The top selling record last year was a children’s record, Disney’s High School Musical, and it sold three million records. No amount of copy protection is going to change the nature of consumers. Put the protection on and they won’t buy the stuff as much. Take it off and they will buy more but share more. The hard fact is that the music industry just isn’t as profitable as it once was. The market changed.

  2. So can we make .mp3 players with a little circle controller pad now without Jobs suing us?

    Oh yea, I forgot, he is talking about OTHER people’s rights, not his.

  3. In a free society, the government would not enforce any sort of copyright or intellectual property rules. The notion that abstract, non-scarce things like ideas, music, or combinations of words belong to somebody amounts to a restriction on the rest of us.

  4. Guy, the labels can be as hard-nosed about this as they want on principle and won’t get a fight from me.

    However, this development (along with the data) suggest that clinging to the fact that they’re right on principle is rather impractical, and practicality is going to carry the day.

  5. Another factor to consider–sales by the major labels have dropped, but anecdotally as a metal fan, there are many indie labels that I have to believe have taken away sales from the majors. I’d be curious to see sales figures (both CDs and downloads) from the industry as a whole, and not just the majors. The last thing the majors have a hold on is lowest common denominator shit (N’Sync etc.) and children’s music (all of that Disney ‘tweener stuff). The rest of the music biz has become a series of niche markets that do not need the muscle of major labels to sell.

    More on-topic, copyright management schemes were a loser from day one, regardless of the legalities. Antagonizing your customers is never a winning business model.

  6. Guy Montag: Are you saying that Steve Jobs’s argument is wrong or are you saying that he is correct, but a hypocrite? Or something else?

  7. In a free society, the government would not enforce any sort of copyright or intellectual property rules. The notion that abstract, non-scarce things like ideas, music, or combinations of words belong to somebody amounts to a restriction on the rest of us.

    Dan T., you are aware, of course, that one of the credos of your anardchist communists is that “the government should not enforce any sort of . . . property rules.”

    Really, you are the last person who should be claiming that ideas are “non-scarce.”

    I’m fascinated by your idea that there should only be a property interest in things that are scarce. The first question, of course, is what counts as a “scarce” resource. And, naturally, who decides.

    From my perspective, the biggest scarcity in the world right now is the apparent acute shortage of good ideas. Yet you seem to think they are so common that no one should be able to charge for them.

  8. I have absolutely no objection to the concept of DRM. Too bad there’s no practical way to make it work without putting severe restrictions on what the buyer can do with their purchase. All music I’ve ever purchased in an analog format, from LPs to cassettes to CDs, is also stored digitally. And I distribute it, within my own home, and between my own devices, at my discretion. Anything that gets in the way of that is something I have absolutely no interest in.

  9. Dan,

    You are actually not too far off the mark. While there is no libertarian consensus on intellectual property rights. However, consistent libertarians will be inevitably opposed to them.

    The soundbite explanation which is overly simplistic but lays out the central ide is thus:

    A system of property rights is essentially a system for defining who gets to control scarce objects. For example, you can not simultaneously throw a rock into the water, while I heat it in order to use it in a sauna. Ownership is a system of describing who decides how the object can be used.

    Intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, and copyright) are attempts to assign ownership of objects to people who conceived the pattern expressed upon them regardless of who owned the object prior to impressing te pattern upon it.

    So, for example, if I were to purchase paper, ink and a pen, and write a book with these things, nobody would question my ownership of it. Furthermore, as ownership can be transferred, I could trade that book to others ro give it away. However, if my words hapenned to tell a story about a young wizard named “Harry Potter”, under intellectual property laws, the control (r ownership) of the book becomes J.K. Rowlings. By impressing that pattern on the paper, the paper and ink have become her property.

    This is an absurd idea (to my mind), because there is no inherent conflict to be resolved! My book does not prevent Ms Rowling from enjoying her story. Nor does it deprive her customers of the story. Moreover, as far as intellectual property law is concerned, it is irrelevant whether or not I came up with my idea independently of the owner of the idea! Granted in the case of a full novel, the notion of independent authorship is pretty improbable, but the point still stands. Intellectual Property Rights break Real Property Rights.

    Incidentally, it is possible to have contractual I.P. that does respect real property ights: non-copying contracts.

    So, Ms Rowling could require all purchasers of a Harry Potterbook to agree not to copy the book or make it available to third parties for copying. A person who broke the contact would be in effect guilty of theft, they stole their copy of the book from Ms Rowling (by not carrying out their side of the bargain).

  10. Guy Montag: Are you saying that Steve Jobs’s argument is wrong or are you saying that he is correct, but a hypocrite?

    Yes, the whole time I have been saying that Jobs is just being a hypocrite. If he truly believes this then he will stop suing people who make computers the same color as his. Only a lawyer could believe the basis for that.

    To the extent that I think he is ‘right’ is only that music companies have a product that is too impractical to protect in order to demand a price higher than most of the market will pay and they might as well drop all of the DRM schemes and go with a lower price/larger volume model.

    IIRC, that cotton gin boy learned this market lesson the hard way before he got into the gun business.

  11. Actually, RC Dean, ideas are non-scarce in that there is no limited supply of a particular idea. Yes, the generation of new ideas is a relatively rare event, however, once an idea is communicated to others, there is no limit to the number of people who can hold it in their head, or the manners in which it can be impressed onto physical objects.

    The ownership of objects arises from their inherent scarcity: if I am using a chair, you are precluded from using it youself. On the other hand, if I am humming a tune, it no way precludes you from humming that same tune yourself.*

    *Actually, I think this is impossible since, I am told, I am somewhat tonedeaf. Thus, no sane person would want to hum like me 😉

  12. Dan T.: The Constitution created a right of ownership of ideas because there was none inherent in the common law. In 1788 there was a perceived need to encourage and protect ideas, and creating property rights to be a part of the otherwise free market was the best way to do that. Nowadays we need a Constitutional amendment to discourage boy-band acts. I can’t bring myself to reject all copyright or trademark protections, even if they are unnatural. IP exports are one of our fastest growing industries, and I can’t say that our IP system has nothing to do with it. True, I have a snob’s eye view of what passes for content these days, but that doesn’t mean our entertainment industry should have the rug pulled out from under it, regardless of how much of a visionless jerk Jack Valenti is.

  13. tarran,

    For some reason your post reminds me of an argument some of my hacker buddies were trying to make on Off the Hook at WBAI radio and some of the old email lists associated with 2600 Magazine, except it comes from a Socialist angle and really has very little to do with your argument other than the media, in their case CDs.

    The argument went something like: record companies are producing CDs now, which are much cheaper than vinyl, so they should be forced by the government to lower their price under (forgot which crackpot regulation).

    My counter argument was: no, you are not purchasing just the media, you are purchasing the information on the media and that is what they are really charging you for, over and above the cost of the media.

    You can imagine how well that went over, with a bunch of “no they aren’t because I say so” and “the media does not cost them $10.99” (I never figured that one out) responses. Of course, I responded with “then just buy a bunch of blank media and listen to it”.

    Anyway, I have no problem in the slightest with an author owning their work forever and it being part of their estate after their death. Of course, I have no problem with them publishing it and making money off of it either and if I don’t like their price then I won’t buy it. However, when they make it available on the radio and distribute it in easy to copy formats I have about as much sympathy for them as I do for a shop owner who leaves his doors wide open when he goes home. I am not going to steal from him, but I bet someone behind me will! Combine that with charging more for his goods than most people want to pay and then leaving the door open? HA! I certainly do not need a tissue.

  14. can we make .mp3 players with a little circle controller pad now

    DRM is not exactly the same issue as patent protection, guy. Really, they are different words, and they actually have different meanings. Try to focus.

  15. The ownership of objects arises from their inherent scarcity: if I am using a chair, you are precluded from using it youself.

    So, we’ve all given up on the labor theory of value as underpinning property rights.

    Some questions on the scarcity theory of property rights:

    How does it justify me having a property right in more than I can use at one time? If the reason I own my chair is because we can’t both use it at the same time, then why should I be able to bar you from using it whenever I happen to be going to the fridge, or wherever?

    How does it justify real property rights? If I own twenty acres, why can I tell you to keep off the whole twenty acres, even if you just want to walk across?

    How does it justify rights in any intangible object, such as stock? After all, stock or any intangible object exists in a potentially infinite supply – all the company has to do is issue more.

  16. DRM is not exactly the same issue as patent protection, guy. Really, they are different words, and they actually have different meanings. Try to focus.

    If “look and feel” extended to basic shapes made by man for centuries or colors used in plastics, counts as a patent issue than your lawyer buddies need to get out more.

  17. Dan T.: The Constitution created a right of ownership of ideas because there was none inherent in the common law. In 1788 there was a perceived need to encourage and protect ideas, and creating property rights to be a part of the otherwise free market was the best way to do that. Nowadays we need a Constitutional amendment to discourage boy-band acts. I can’t bring myself to reject all copyright or trademark protections, even if they are unnatural. IP exports are one of our fastest growing industries, and I can’t say that our IP system has nothing to do with it. True, I have a snob’s eye view of what passes for content these days, but that doesn’t mean our entertainment industry should have the rug pulled out from under it, regardless of how much of a visionless jerk Jack Valenti is.

    You’re correct, and I’m not saying that copyright law is a bad idea, only that we should acknowledge that it’s a restriction of freedom, not a way of increasing it.

    That’s kind of the idea behind any concept of property – we call them “property rights” but they’re really property restrictions. Your government-protected ownership of an object restricts my use of it.

  18. RCDean, quick answers:

    How does it justify me having a property right in more than I can use at one time?

    It does not. Ownership can be broadly defined as having the moral right to control something. Just becuase you happen to not be exercising ownershp does not make something unowned (there is a school of thought whic disagrees with this notion, I think they’re called Georgists).

    If the reason I own my chair is because we can’t both use it at the same time, then why should I be able to bar you from using it whenever I happen to be going to the fridge, or wherever?
    Assuming that the chair is acquired morally (in other words you did not acquire it or the materials in it through theft or fraud), your absolute right to do with it what you want does not cease when you get up.

    How does it justify real property rights? If I own twenty acres, why can I tell you to keep off the whole twenty acres, even if you just want to walk across?
    According to Lockean notions, yes. It’s what you want to do with what you own that matters.

    How does it justify rights in any intangible object, such as stock? After all, stock or any intangible object exists in a potentially infinite supply – all the company has to do is issue more.

    Yes, but buying stock in a company is really entering a contractual agreement with the officers of the company. It may not be property per se, but the share acts like properry. It constitutes a fraction of an ownership of the company assets, most companies allow the shares they issue to be transferred to other people than the original investors, etc. Anyway, shares are scarce. If a company decides to issue 50,000 shares then there are only 50,000 shares kicking around. To acquire a share, you must get it from soemeone. Think of them like carrots, a farmer can always grow more carrots, but that does not make a single carrot any less of a ownable object.

    Sorry about the sloppy writing and lack of proofreading. I must dash…

  19. Assuming that the chair is acquired morally (in other words you did not acquire it or the materials in it through theft or fraud), your absolute right to do with it what you want does not cease when you get up.

    Doesn’t he have to say “fives” to save his seat when going to get beer or ot is up for grabs?

    Gotta say something else to keep people from changing the channel while you are away too and I have been informed that it is not “if you change that channel I am throwing you under a truck.”

  20. Yes, but buying stock in a company is really entering a contractual agreement with the officers of the company. It may not be property per se, but the share acts like properry. It constitutes a fraction of an ownership of the company assets, most companies allow the shares they issue to be transferred to other people than the original investors, etc. Anyway, shares are scarce. If a company decides to issue 50,000 shares then there are only 50,000 shares kicking around. To acquire a share, you must get it from soemeone. Think of them like carrots, a farmer can always grow more carrots, but that does not make a single carrot any less of a ownable object.

    I usually think of shares like currency that is on the float. That whole Friedman thingie.

    The issuer of either can do all sorts of things to make it worthless or they can do things to make it quite valuable, but either way the totality of the value is represented by a simple set of tokens.

  21. Doesn’t he have to say “fives” to save his seat when going to get beer or ot is up for grabs?

    In our parlance, you’ve gotta call ‘five minute whore’ on said seat.

  22. I ask:

    How does it justify me having a property right in more than I can use at one time?

    tarran answers:

    It does not.

    And I check out, because I just can’t take seriously any theory of property rights that will only support my ownership of something that I already have clutched in my fist.

    Assuming that the chair is acquired morally (in other words you did not acquire it or the materials in it through theft or fraud), your absolute right to do with it what you want does not cease when you get up.

    But why not, if the only reason I have ownership of it is because we can’t both use it at the same time?

    It’s what you want to do with what you own that matters.

    I thought it was whether I was actually using it in a way that precluded you from using it. Once we get into the realm of “potential” uses, its a whole new ball game.

    It may not be property per se, but the share acts like properry.

    It doesn’t just act like property, it is property.

    Anyway, shares are scarce.

    Only because the company doesn’t issue more. The supply is potentially unlimited, just like the number of people knowing an idea is potentially unlimited.

    To acquire a share, you must get it from someone.

    Begs the question, which is why is there any property interest in shares of stock at all, since they are not necessarily scarce, but only scarce because the supplier of them declines to allow free distribution of them.

    Kind of like how the “owner” of a patent or copyright declines to allow free distribution of his intangible property.

    ind of like to get a license to use intellectual property, you have to get it from someone.

  23. Perhaps there is a distinction between natural scarcity and false scarcity?

  24. RC Dean,

    I think I answered unclearly. The point was that you can own more than you can physically cotnrol at one time. I thought I was saying that by saying “No” when I should have been saying “Yes”.

    Now, I think you are misunderstanding what I mean by scarcity. Ownership is the moral right to control something. Any system of property rights is designed to identify who gets to control an item. Conflicts arise when two people want to use an object simultaneously in differing ways. A property right defines who should get their way. This of course is indepndent of who actually gets their way. A thief can take my car, and physically begin controlling it, even though I am the only one with the moral right to control it.

    My argument is that a person who owns something can do whatever he wants with it, including leaving it on the floor when he gets up to use the fridge, and nobody else can acquire control without his permission. Just because he made a chair that looks like mine, does not give me a claim on the chair he produced.

    One last thing. Your conflation of shares and copyrights is absolutely inapt – When GE sells a share, they are basically saying that in return for the first purchaser’s money, they will allow the owner of that share to have a say in picking company officers and in dividends produced by the company. If I create a couterfeit share, if I try to exercise it, I am committting an act of fraud, I did not pay for a share in the profits and in voting on company decisions. They owe me nothing.

    On the other hand, if I hum happy birthday sitting around a campfire with my children’s classes, I am not taking anything away from the people who own the copyright. After I sing the song, they will still have the same possessions as before I sang the song. no fraud involved.

  25. In a free society, the government would not enforce any sort of copyright or intellectual property rules. The notion that abstract, non-scarce things like ideas, music, or combinations of words belong to somebody amounts to a restriction on the rest of us.

    Oh my god. For once I agree with Dan T, wholeheartedly.

    I can’t bring myself to reject all copyright or trademark protections, even if they are unnatural. IP exports are one of our fastest growing industries, and I can’t say that our IP system has nothing to do with it. True, I have a snob’s eye view of what passes for content these days, but that doesn’t mean our entertainment industry should have the rug pulled out from under it, regardless of how much of a visionless jerk Jack Valenti is.

    This is one issue that I must fully agree that most Libertarians are hippocrites on. Just because a government enforced artificial monopoly on information happens to benifit some buisnessmen, doesn’t mean it is right or just.

    While physical property has real meaning, even without government enforcing it (You don’t believe so? Try to convince a nest of hornets that they don’t have a natural right to their hive and see what happens!). But “Intellectual Property” can only be enforced by the state. Information is something without any real scarcity, and so long as I am not using the information in an agressive way or defrauding anyone, I should be able to use that information in any way I want.

    Now, to those that think that there will be any long term damage to the economy from the collapse of the music industry: How many people have purchased computers because they want to download music? How many people purchased mp3 players because they want to listen to downloaded music? How many people have purchased high speed internet in order to download music faster? There are a lot of people making a lot of money on “free” music, and those people don’t need an artificial government monopoly to do so!

  26. Am I the only one who thinks that copyright laws are good AND that piracy is good? In other words, the optimal level of piracy isn’t zero, and it also isn’t infinity.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure this is what most people believe, but nobody ever says it. All one reads is either, “copyright infringement is murder!!!” or some hippie-esque crap about information being free.

  27. tarran, your first three paragraphs do not support any distinction between tangible and intangible property, or between scarce and non-scarce property, or between physical property and intellectual property, so I really have no problem with them.

    As to my conflation of shares and copyright – I was merely pointing out that scarcity provides on basis for distinguishing between the two, as there is a potentially infinite supply of both.

    I agree with you paragraph on why shares of stock should be treated as property, as well.

    On the other hand, if I hum happy birthday sitting around a campfire with my children’s classes, I am not taking anything away from the people who own the copyright.

    Well, you are. You are denying them the right to control who sings the song with or without their permission. As the creator of the song, why shouldn’t they have the right to say who uses it, and how?

    After I sing the song, they will still have the same possessions as before I sang the song.

    Well, no. You have reduced the value of their control over the song in pretty much the same way that someone who counterfeits a share of staock reduces the value of the rest of the stock. As a real stockholder, after all, you still have the same share of stock you had before, don’t you? It’s just worth a little less.

    Just like a patent or copyright is worth a little less each time its infringed.

  28. To add to Rex’s comment, a lot of musicians are going to continue to make music for tips, fees and other methods of payment than royalties from a third party. Case in point…my favorite band!

    Poster Children’s Single Of the Moment

  29. There are a lot of people making a lot of money on “free” music, and those people don’t need an artificial government monopoly to do so!

    There are also a lot of people making a lot of money on stolen cars. That doesn’t mean we should revoke all property rights in cars.

    The notion that abstract, non-scarce things like ideas, music, or combinations of words belong to somebody amounts to a restriction on the rest of us.

    All property “amounts to a restriction on the rest of us.”

    Like most objections to IP, this one fails to make a defensible distinction between what is supposed to be non-property and whast is supposed to be property.

  30. “There are also a lot of people making a lot of money on stolen cars. That doesn’t mean we should revoke all property rights in cars.”

    If it is a benefit to society to turn all that property over to the public good why not? I am not for nationalizing industry, but if one industry owned say 80% of the useful land in this country and refused to sell it and intentionally limited its use, that would be a problem.

    I am all for some form of copyright protection. Howe ever, at some point things need to revert back to the public domain to be used by new artists. We have reached a point where we are going to have, thanks to Disney and the media companies, endless copyright. If we had had that in the past, there wouldn’t be any Disney because The Brothers’ Grimm LLP would have sued ole Walt out of business in the 1930s.

    As far as this whole idea that if artists don’t sell records there won’t be any more music, that is bullshit. The world before the record industry and copyright protection gave us Bach and Mozart et al.. I think the arts could survive Disney loosing the rights to Snow White.

    Two days and nothing about the Grammies or the Police reunion on Hit and Run. Sad.

  31. “There are also a lot of people making a lot of money on stolen cars. That doesn’t mean we should revoke all property rights in cars.”

    Most of the people making money in digital music are doing so legitimately, out in the open. Not so with people who make money from crime. Your analogy could possibly work if we apply it only to the guy selling burned CDs on the street. Otherwise, it’s just another attempt by the copyright people to make MP3’s look like stealing.

    I second John’s last three paragraphs.

  32. There are also a lot of people making a lot of money on stolen cars. That doesn’t mean we should revoke all property rights in cars.

    If your “intellectual property rights” need the government to spy on the files I download, if your “intellectual property rights” need the government to coerce software makers and manufacturers to cripple my consumer electronics, if your “intellectual property rights” can only exist with a vast government beurocracy and army of law enforcement to protect them at gunpoint, if your “intellectual property rights” need to be enforced by removing all my natural, constitutional, and common law rights, then your “intellectual property rights” ain’t shit!

    Your “intellectual property rights” do not come from natural law, they are a legal privledge that can only come from a state granted monopoly. Calling them “property” (they are not a physical object, piece of land, etc.), calling it a “right” (if you can only get something from the government, it is a privledge, not a right… rights are innate), is just a way to twist the issue and ignore what you are really talking about: Government Monopoly Privledges. There is no such thing as “intellectual property rights”, there is only Government Monopoly Privledges on certain peices of information.

    Your car analogy is bulshit. If Henry Ford claimed the “intellectual property right” to a monopoly on mass producing automobiles, in perpetuity, then that would be a good analogy for the type of thing you are talking about. Someone stealing a car would be like someone stealing a physical CD from the record store.

  33. You are denying them the right to control who sings the song with or without their permission. As the creator of the song, why shouldn’t they have the right to say who uses it, and how?

    You are assuming the conclusion here. You have not shown that authoring a song creates a property right to it.

    You have reduced the value of their control over the song in pretty much the same way that someone who counterfeits a share of staock reduces the value of the rest of the stock.

    Stock counterfeiting is an issue of fraud; it is not the other shareholders who are injured, it is the person you sell the counterfeit to. Your reasoning suggests that anyone who gains some advantage through their labor can never have that advantage taken away.

    If a restaurant opens up across the street from a pre-existing restaurant, it will cut into their business. Does that mean that the govt should forbid new businesses from opening if they may compete with existing ones?

  34. To paraphrase Thomas Szasz, the hallmark of property is that people are not constantly insisting that it’s property. Now, I think copyright and patent laws are a good idea, taken to a reasonable extent. But, as the Constitution explicitly states, they represent a pragmatic attempt to promote progress in the arts and sciences, not a property right.

  35. R C Dean — great, lucid stuff.

    Now, good God, where to start? I guess with the thread’s leadoff post:

    JOHN: The top CD seller in 2000 was N’Sync and it sold nine million records. The top selling record last year was a children’s record, Disney’s High School Musical, and it sold three million records. No amount of copy protection is going to change the nature of consumers. Put the protection on and they won’t buy the stuff as much. Take it off and they will buy more but share more.

    Are you asserting that the “High School Musical” compact disc was sold with copy protection? It was not. It was sold on the same media as the ‘N Sync album.

    JOHN: The hard fact is that the music industry just isn’t as profitable as it once was. The market changed.

    Usually when people talk about industries affected by a “changing market,” they’re referring to stuff like shifts in supply and demand, competitors’ innovations, and other above-board developments. They don’t typically mean things like rampant piracy and other illicit activities that falsely distort the market picture. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, life isn’t fair, Mr. Businessman, the market changes.” It’s another to say, “Hey, life isn’t fair, I’ve decided to consume your product but not pay you for it.”

    It has in fact become quite difficult for record companies to make the sorts of judgments that a normal marketplace would allow. Was that drop in bestseller figures caused by piracy, or was it caused by something that in a standard market could be accurately identified and addressed? Who knows. Piracy has put a huge kink in the normally efficient chain of communication between buyer and seller, screwing up the signals for everything from proper pricing on down.

    REX RHINO:This is one issue that I must fully agree that most Libertarians are hippocrites on. Just because a government enforced artificial monopoly on information happens to benifit some buisnessmen, doesn’t mean it is right or just.

    Er, I can’t say I’ve seen many people, of any political persuasion, defend copyright as just and right because it “happens to benefit some businessmen.” People who defend copyright believe it is just because it protects the rights of creators, and that it is right because it gives them the incentive to create.

    I know you were responding specifically to Lamar’s comment that we should not “pull the rug out from the entertainment industry.” I agree with him, though not because I share his concerns about the economy.

    My reason is that it would be a moral travesty. The “entertainment industry” exists because it entered the market and invested resources with a good-faith understanding that society protects the rights of creators to control their creations. At the very least, if society chooses to back out of that deal and eliminate copyright, it should not eliminate protection of those works that were created under copyright in good faith. (Though this is precisely what the anti-IP forces are de facto practicing by their advocacy of file-sharing, etc. This makes them untrustworthy people who are willing to break contracts.)

    JOHN: If it is a benefit to society to turn all that property over to the public good why not?

    Giving up property for “the public good”? Am I on a libertarian message board, reading a post by the conservative John?

    Christ, these debates make my stomach turn. I do have a question: Where do you expect further intellectual property to come from once copyright is eliminated and everything immediately belongs to “the public”? Would you like your favorite novelists to scribble their next opus after getting home from the 9-to-5? Do you want Reason to disappear because anyone else can make a prettier website and start plopping all this content up there?

    Seriously, the whole “free music, dude!” stream of thought is so myopic, it astonishes me when it comes out of the mouths of grown adults. I know that you currently look out and see a voluminous body of intellectual property out there. Yes, it indeed exists. But have you stopped to think about why it exists?

    Right now, when a filmmaker invests in the production of a film, we say that he is taking a risk; in your copyright-free world, we would call his investment a charity donation. Yeah, let’s see how that whole scenario pans out.

    And finally (I know — fish in a barrel), REX RHINO:

    If your “intellectual property rights” need the government to spy on the files I download

    Where and when has this happened?

    if your “intellectual property rights” can only exist with a vast government beurocracy and army of law enforcement to protect them at gunpoint

    Which “vast government bureaucracy”?

  36. Typical IP rights Hippie shit.

    IP protects rights holders-not “creators”.

    The fact that the artist is sometimes the rights holder does not change this.

  37. IP protects rights holders-not “creators”.

    Um, if you’re eager to play with semantics, note that “IP” doesn’t protect anything. IP, in fact, is what’s protected. It’s copyright that does the protecting.

    At any rate: Simply because a creator may assign his rights to others does not mean that, for the purpose of a blog comment that was already downright long-winded to begin with, there’s a fatal flaw in using the word “creators.” The creator is always the rights holder until he cedes those rights — by contracting them out, creating a work for hire, etc.

    It certainly doesn’t change the substance of the argument, and it definitely doesn’t make it “hippie shit.” In fact, I thought the hippies were the ones on the “free music, dude!” side of the fence.

  38. “At the very least, if society chooses to back out of that deal and eliminate copyright, it should not eliminate protection of those works that were created under copyright in good faith.”

    Well, so far the “moral travesty” has been operating in the opposite direction (retroactive copyright extension providing windfalls to a small number of copyright holders), and there’s every reason to expect this to continue, for the standard reasons (in the political market, concentrated interests outbid dispersed interests, etc).

  39. Well, so far the “moral travesty” has been operating in the opposite direction

    Insofar as decisions about extending copyright have been made by society — via its representatives, just like the Constitution’s copyright clause itself — that’s a difficult argument to make.

    You can and should lobby your representatives if you’re concerned about copyright length, despite perceived difficulties inherent in the political market. You should also lobby them to eliminate copyright altogether, if that’s what you want.

    But we shouldn’t say, “Hey, I know we made you think that the work you created was protected by the Constitution, so you invested X, Y and Z into it, but now we’re telling you tough luck.”

  40. If your “intellectual property rights” need the government to spy on the files I download
    Where and when has this happened?

    if your “intellectual property rights” can only exist with a vast government beurocracy and army of law enforcement to protect them at gunpoint

    Which “vast government bureaucracy”?

    Actually, it’s not a government bureaucracy, it’s the RIAA and the MPAA, but they get their enforcement abilities from the government.
    And yes, they do spy on the files that you download. For example, I work at a university, and we frequently (like every couple of days) get letters from the MPAA or the RIAA telling us one of our students (or employees) has music files available for download, and telling us unless we shut off their internet connection they’ll come after the university as a whole. So the answer to your question is ‘frequently’.
    The bureacracy is the RIAA and the MPAA, but they would have not teeth unless the government stood behind them giving them enforcement rights.

  41. Tom, it is no less a “moral travesty” when government wrongly takes from the public and gives to the few, than the reverse. But it’s interesting that you don’t see it that way.

  42. Actually, it’s not a government bureaucracy

    Yeah, ding ding ding. But honestly, I was hoping Rex Rhino himself would take this one up. I was really curious to see if someone who felt qualified to write long posts about copyright actually thought the RIAA was a federal department. His post certainly indicates that he thinks it is.

  43. Tom, it is no less a “moral travesty” when government wrongly takes from the public and gives to the few, than the reverse.

    Max, what is the government “taking” from the public in this case? What is “the public,” anyway? And to which “few” is it giving what?

    Also, you’re talking as if you would be ineligible for copyright protection. That of course isn’t the case.

    If you think that copyright durations are too excessive, you are free to petition Congress to change the statutes. If you think that’s unrealistic because corporate interests can more successfully “buy votes,” then that’s a problem with the process of vote-buying — not with the issue of copyright itself.

  44. (Sorry, “too excessive” is a redundancy.)

  45. if the protections were lifted then songs bought on iTunes could be played on non-iPods

    Arrg.

    Make an iTunes playlist.

    Burn it to disc.

    Rip the disc into Windows Media Player, Real Player or whatever you want to use.

    Download the results to your Creative Zen.

    Too complicated for the French, evidently, but really not that big a deal.

  46. Tom:

    (1) The difference in sales of the N’Sync album and High School Musical shows that the market has changed. The fact that both were released in the same medium further supports this.

    (2) You are saying that the market is changing due to “rampant piracy and other illicit activities.” You have no proof of this. People wanted to download music, and the record companies insisted on a strategy of sticking with CD’s and suing software companies. That is why the record companies are like a buggy maker in the era of cars. It’s pretty sad when the porn industry can figure out a business model but big music can’t. The record companies also don’t groom their musical acts like they used to and many are shelved after one album. Of course, in my opinion, A&R is one of the biggest letdowns in the system. And yet, you deny all of this, and prefer to blame lower CD sales on “rampant piracy.” There’s nothing to indicate that people would actually buy a song they downloaded, and it is equally plausible to argue that downloading spurs sales (it’s the new radio, it gives people a peak). Piracy a huge kink? More like a huge crutch to shield stagnant CEO’s from shareholders who should be pissed.

    (3) You talk about the music industry getting into the copyright business in good faith. First, the RIAA has spent millions on “lobbying” politicians to get copyrights extended and to get the DMCA. THEY changed the rules along the way. People are just doing what they’ve always done. Remember when the industry said that cassette recordings were going to be the death of music? Digital downloads are on a grander scale, but that is more than offset by the ability to sell downloads as well. There has always been fair use, and there has always been protections for technologies that had legitimate uses. Your claim that “piracy” is changing the rules of the game is historically naive. Moral travesty? What a crock of shit.

    (4) Should I bother to address your “Where do you expect further intellectual property to come from once copyright is eliminated” question? John has never advocated eliminating copyright. John said, “I am all for some form of copyright protection” and you turned that into “free music, dude.” I’m not sure if you are purely disingenuous in your argument style, hoping that people are too lazy to see that you are making shit up, or if you are just so high on copyright moralism that you’ve lost touch with what John actually said. I suspect the latter.

    (5) Is there a big difference between the government spying on my files and the RIAA spying on my files as long as the RIAA can get a warrant without any real evidence of wrongdoing? There’s little to no court oversight under the laws created by the government. Just because the record companies are the ones spying doesn’t make the invasion of privacy less real and it doesn’t make the government innocent.

    (6) You are aware that there is a copyright office? And you are aware that there is a bureacracy there? There is a copyright royalty tribunal as well. Don’t play coy and pretend stuff doesn’t exist. Shall I go on? The courts that grant warrants and permit seizure of computers (as well as the people who carry out such warrants) are also part of the bureaucracy in that respect. You like to pretend that this is all just a private matter, but there is plenty of government stink all over the escalation of copyright protections. See Geoff Nathan’s comment. Also, despite thinking you “won one”, nobody thinks the RIAA is a gov’t department.

    (7) Your attempt to assign “hippie shit” to one side of the debate is laughable. I wonder which side of the debate baby rapers come down on. Hope it ain’t mine.

    (8) While the Congress extended copyrights (the issue of lobbying/bribing aside), it was the courts that took away fair use. It was the Supreme Court that modified settled law (the Betamax case). Even better, you flat out say that there can be nothing wrong with legislation bought and paid for by industry lobbyists (it’s a systemic problem, not a problem with the copyrights themselves. BS).

    (9) Tom, your idealism is pure, and I respect that. You seem to argue that if there is no copyright, then where will the next generation of music from? I ask you, where did the current generation of music come from? Where did Johnny Cash get many of his melodies? Public domain, which you advocate shrinking. Why has the record industry been so late to the digital download game, when porn got in there real quick? Home recording has skyrocketed in popularity, why has the RIAA not profited from it? Oh, that’s right, it’s somehow a moral travesty that the RIAA’s business strategy was to lobby and sue rather than switch over to making cars when buggies became less popular.

    10) You’ve done a good job of picking apart minor flaws in people’s grammar, or taken analogies literally, but you really haven’t made a case as to why this supposed right should be extended or enforced when it didn’t exist before the Constitution, when it directly contradicts the First Amendment, when it is incapable of physical protection, when it has always been tempered by fair use, and when it has a clear mandate to promote the useful arts and sciences, and most importantly, when strict enforcement appears to be bad for business.

  47. “Max, what is the government “taking” from the public in this case? What is “the public,” anyway? And to which “few” is it giving what?”

    Retroactively extending copyrights is simply the inverse of nullifying copyrights. The victims and victimizers change positions, but it’s the same principle. It’s breaking the deal, either to provide a windfall to copyright holders or a windfall to the public. For some reason, you see the latter as a “moral travesty” but the former as perfectly okay. I wonder why the double standard.

  48. Oh well. I guess Tom said his carefully scripted points and left.

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