Intellectual Property

One Billion Dollars! [Insert Dr. Evil Joke Here]

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Today's Wall Street Journal dismisses Viacom's $1 billion suit against Google/YouTube. It's inevitable that the YouTube model for customer choice will win out, says Paul Kedrosky, even if Google loses:

That is why, to be blunt, YouTube doesn't matter. Because if Viacom wins this suit and busts YouTube–and there is a very good chance it will win; it is, after all, uncontested that this is Viacom's media property we are talking about–that won't change what consumers want one whit. They are demanding unbundled media, sold everywhere and in myriad assortments. Period. And if Viacom won't provide it then some new media entrepreneurs will.

Is this the beginning of the end for intellectual property? Is that a good thing? Discuss.

For more from Reason's treasure trove on intellectual property, go here.

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  1. The people have spoken: the service of reproducing, bundling and delivering content is not appreciated. Companies premised on making money for tasks that computers can do for free should not earn money. What value does Viacom actually add to the content they try to restrict access too?

  2. The intellectual commons will take a big cut out of intellectual property in the arts. People will still pay a premium for professional artists no matter how good amature work is, because they want the status symbol. However, 20 years from now, most people will consume high quality, free, amature art.

  3. False dichotomy here. Bundled versus unbundled is not a Boolean variable. Myriad assortment versus an unmyriad non-assortment is not a Boolean variable. Customer pament, both in amount and terms are not Boolean variables either.

    The final result will be somewhere in between what the consumers want, and what Viacom wants.

    How well Viacom does in court is one variable. How well they do in Congress is another variable.

    Intellectual property is here to stay, for better or worse.

    At one time I used to use Napster. Now I use eMusic. eMusic allows me less freedom than Napster and costs me more, but: (1) it doesn’t cost me much; and (2) they got a lot of what I want, digital music wise. Other people, with more hegemonic tastes use the iTunes, which costs more, but specializes in crappy bands that sell a lot, and does have less DRM than is theoretically possible, from what I hear.

    Similar thing will happen with tv and movie distribution models.

    Final comment: these shifts in distribution of copyrighted materials went a lot smoother when the content providers were less consolidated, and Congress was more deliberative and less in-the-pocket of one side of the transacting market. Professor Jessica Litman wrote a book about that. Forgot what it is called, but worth reading.

  4. I still can’t decide which campaign-reform idea I like better: (1) anyone can give anything, but identities and amounts must be released in real time on a publicized website; or (2) all donations go into a bank account from which the campaign can withdraw funds but has no other control; it cannot identify who contributed money or precisely when a given amount was sent in. (1) eliminates anonymity and reveals who is buying who; (2) makes it impossible for the pol to know who “bought” her.

  5. Whoops! How’d I end up back on this thread??

  6. What I find so astounding is that the big old media companies still have no idea what to do about this newfangled internet thing. Seems to me they’re in the best position to make money hand over fist, even by utilizing the likes of youtube if they’re really lazy, as long as they have the balls to seize the opportunity.

  7. Is this the beginning of the end for intellectual property?

    I don’t think so.

    The centralized cartels that feel they’re somehow entitled to the profit margins they enjoyed under last century’s archaic distribution model, even in the face of changing circumstances/public interests, are toast. Dinos shrieking in a tar pit.

    They remind me of last century’s commies:

    “the system we live under is perfect, but the people who live under it are hopelessly flawed”

    Blaming, propagandizing, and persecuting your consumers’ll get you nowhere.

  8. Doesn’t DMCA explicitly allow content deliverers (such as YouTube) to avoid copyright liability as long as they expeditiously take down copyrighted content at the request of the copyright owner?

  9. I don’t think this is the end of intellectual property at all. This is the end of using IP lawsuits to protect an outdated business model. Heck, Viacom isn’t even suing the real infringers. By suing YouTube it is merely trying to shut down an avenue of distribution that it can’t control. They aren’t protecting their intellectual property. They’re protecting the profitability of their very, very outdated distribution network.

    It is unfortunate that Congress allows lawsuits against highly innovative companies because some of the users of that company’s product break the law. If they sued actual infringers (and no, not the infringer’s 90 year-old grandma), and could establish that they actually lose money, I might have more respect for Viacom’s model. Instead, they squander the demand for their products (nobody is going to pay much for a Will Ferrell’s cowbell skit, but maybe 99 cents. This does NOT translate into lost sales for the DVD of the entire __ season of SNL) and flat-out lie about their economic losses.

    This isn’t the end of IP. This is the end of companies like Viacom sucking too much lawyer cock in their business model.

  10. shecky,

    They’re comfortable with the old system, and know how to make money under the old system. While the potential is there to make even more in the Internet age, that’s going to require new techniques, new ideas, and new people. That last one especially is going to be a very scary possibility for the current powers-that-be in old media interests.

  11. A music publicist put it this way: “It’s like the bottled water companies trying to turn everyone’s taps off.”

  12. My understanding was, until this lawsuit, that the burden was upon the company like Viacom, Disney etc. to notify YouTube of an infraction by one of its users and if they did YouTube had an obligation to remove it. How can YouTube be expected to be responsible for the infractions of its users if it does not know they exist? What am I missing here?

  13. Actually, according to the US Copyright Office’s Summary of the DMCA, DMCA’s Title II does not protect service providers from copyright liability if they directly profit from the infringing material. Viacom is alleging that Google makes a profit from people viewing its ads while watching illegally uploaded videos, so if their claim is true, DMCA Title II is irrelevant and Google may be liable for copyright infringement.

  14. What about how they ripped off Barney Google and his googly eyes?

  15. Well, I’ll go double check with Mr. Posner on this, but the bottom line is, right or wrong, people are going to find a way to share and distribute their media.

    Intellectual property is still as sacred as any other kind of private property, but human nature isn’t changing anytime soon, and so the Viacom’s of the world need to adapt. Simply publishing/broadcasting one’s content and letting it go at that just isn’t going to work.

  16. Is this the beginning of the end for intellectual property? Is that a good thing?

    No, it’s not the beginning of the end for IP. And that’s a good thing.

  17. What I find so astounding is that the big old media companies still have no idea what to do about this newfangled internet thing.

    Shouldn’t be all that surprising – consider the railroad business and their reaction to trucks and the interstate highway system.

  18. As Crimethink points out, the DMCA probably isn’t going to help YouTube because they are profiting off of the copywrighted material. Not only do they profit from it, let’s face it- that’s their entire business model. DMCA might be more helpful to a company like MySpace, which has users that will upload copyrighted songs to their personal webpage.

  19. juris imprudent,

    One of the major reasons that railroads found it so difficult to adapt was government regulation.

  20. Dave W.,

    Other people, with more hegemonic tastes use the iTunes, which costs more, but specializes in crappy bands that sell a lot, and does have less DRM than is theoretically possible, from what I hear.

    I dunno, iTunes has an excellent selection of opera and impressionism (amongst other things).

  21. I find it amusing that Viacom is suing YouTube, when most of what I see on YT is 70s-90s music videos, which have a current value of just about zero. The money they’re asking from YT is far, far more than the value of the property they’re protecting, not to mention the possible PR disaster (remember when Metallic tried this stunt?).

  22. I’m okay with intellectual property but I just don’t see the diff between seeing a music vid on UTube, Yahoo, MTV, VH-1….Fargin’ idiots at Viacom should be setting up a website. Like the man said……….

  23. I’ve asked this question in other venues before, and it goes nowhere, but what the heck. I can understand IP with regard to something that takes research and investment, like a drug patent. I can not understand copyright protection for a song. Before modern technology existed, a singer got paid per song. With modern technology, a singer gets paid for the original singing plus copies of the song. If the person who invented audio recording wants to share, or the people who manufacture records (yes, records – I’m an old fart – or CD’s if that floats yer boat)thats fine. But why should there be an endless stream of income to the singer for something they did 20 years ago?

    If a person invents a hammer, they don’t get a royality for each nail hammered.

  24. If a person invents a hammer, they don’t get a royality for each nail hammered.

    Sure they can, if they patent the hammer, and even more especially if they patent the method of using a hammer. It better be a pretty freekin’ special hammer, though, if the patentee expects people to use its inventive hammer and method of using same, rather than just using a plain old hammer and skipping the royalty payments.

    Side note to Grotius: If you ever read any history, then you would know that opera music is highly unpleasant.

  25. Doesn’t DMCA explicitly allow content deliverers (such as YouTube) to avoid copyright liability as long as they expeditiously take down copyrighted content at the request of the copyright owner?

    Yes. And whether they are “profiting” from the copyrighted content is immaterial, in my view, because viewers are not directly purchasing said material. They are merely looking at it and lots of other uncopyrighted crap. And if they are like me, they have trained their brains to make all web ads invisible. Except the annoying blinky ones. Those make me want to hunt down their creator and saw his head off.

  26. As the law currently stands, YouTube is quite blatantly an infringer, albeit a vicarious/contributory one. We can argue whether this sort of thing shouldn’t fall under fair use (or at least some sort of compulsory licensing scheme), but as it stands, Viacom has every right to sue.

    YouTube was worth working with or attempting to circumvent back when a lawsuit would avail the plaintiff nothing in hard currency. Now, however, Google–in its infinite wisdom–has added deep, deep pockets to the equation. They simply cannot buy off or work out deals with everyone, so this acquistion will probably cost them a couple of billion more before it’s all said and done. Which maybe isn’t that big a deal to Google 🙂

  27. Now, however, Google–in its infinite wisdom–has added deep, deep pockets to the equation.

    At least we are in a SONY versus Universal mode of litigation now, rather than Fanning versus the RIAA. 🙂

  28. Grotius,

    “I dunno, iTunes has an excellent selection of opera and impressionism (amongst other things).”

    I’ll second that. I was really surprised to see how good their selection was.

  29. There’s almost no question that intellectual property is on its way out. The only thing that ever kept it alive in the first place was the fact that the people with money could control the means of spreading the ideas that they “owned”.

  30. Pro Libertate is correct, but one has to stretch the meaning of the word “direct” in order to say that YouTube is directly profiting off of copyrighted material. Don’t worry, we have activist judges who will make sure that IP looks more and more like a plot of land or box of widgets (and many here applaud that shift). The ultimate non-legal factor that makes this an easy case is the perception that YouTube wouldn’t be worth a dime if it weren’t for the copyrighted material. This lawsuit is about control of distribution, not any specifically claimed losses.

  31. “I dunno, iTunes has an excellent selection of opera and impressionism (amongst other things).”

    they do have some strange things up there, drm schemes aside.

    my online buying venue of choice is bleep.com, since they tend to have what i’m looking for in a good size and a decent price.

  32. YouTube wouldn’t be worth a dime if it weren’t for the copyrighted material.

    Incorrect. Witness all the uncopyrighted amateur videos that get hundreds of thousands of views. Most of what is on YouTube is uncopyrighted.

  33. IP is the new prohibition. The law is getting more restrictive, while technology makes it increasingly irrelevant. Legal victories over Napster and TiVO have done nothing to reverse time. KMW is right, Viacom may well prevail in court, but the days of owning media content are over. All they can do is pick Googles pocket.

    Once again I call for doing away with copyright entirely. And observe that all IP belongs to those with the highest paid lawyers.

  34. They are demanding unbundled media, sold everywhere and in myriad assortments.

    I’m sorry…was YouTube selling something? I must’ve missed that.

    What people love is free stuff.

  35. “Witness all the uncopyrighted amateur videos that get hundreds of thousands of views.”

    washington…washington
    6’8″ weighed a fuckin’ ton

  36. Certainly the old model of the protection of IP is dead. Anyway, there is more than one way to deliver content. Advertising (as I’ve seen proposed elsewhere) in the product itself might be useful. What would that mean? Well the proposal I saw had a small portion of the screen devoted to a bit of advertising.

  37. sharks… laser beams… magma?

    /kicks pebble.

  38. Sure, times are changing but am I the only one here that is a little concerned with the idea that intellectual property may be doomed? What is the model, in the IP free world that provides the incentive for writers, musicians, filmmakers etc. to produce more?

    I’m curious to know.

  39. Why is it that Reason and the commenters turn a light shade of pink anytime an IP issue arises.

    The state serves the purpose of protecting property. I’m not trying to sound glib but if you reduce the profit motive in creative enterprises like movies, music, or written words you eventually lose the words.

    Certainly the people who produce content by the labor of their hands are entitled to its benefits. And certainly Youtube has a responsibility to ensure it isn’t selling stolen goods. And having a SNL video hosted is akin to a pawn shop owner buying a blood soaked Faberge egg at midnight from a shady looking character. Then saying, “well I didn’t steal it, can’t blame me.”

    Gleefully asserting “consumer demand” for this model will win out is a giant cop out. Consumer demand for free shit doesn’t an industry of leeches giving away other peoples work.

    Maybe I am wrong on this, but can someone give me a coherent reason why I don’t own my written work?

    Or how youtube hosting a copy of an SNL skit is any different from getting a copy of a book and publishing it at a cut rate without giving the writer a dime.

  40. Once again I call for doing away with copyright entirely. And observe that all IP belongs to those with the highest paid lawyers.

    Really? I have several published novels copyrighted, and a couple of dozen short stories. Trust me; I don’t have any lawyers in any income bracket.

    Why should you be able to take one of my stories and sell it to someone else? In particular, why should you be able to take my work and claim it as your own?

    Witness all the uncopyrighted amateur videos that get hundreds of thousands of views.

    Actually they are copyrighted:

    Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wccc.

    You can then choose to register that copyright, which gives you additional legal protection.

  41. Dakota,

    As I recall (from a lecture I recently watched), when the new Battlestar Galactica premiered it came on air first in the U.K. The Sci-Fi Channel decided to lay its entry into the U.S. market via a few months. Anyway, a bunch of folks in the U.K. shared the series and it was downloaded in the U.S. It turned out to be the most watched series the Sci-Fi Channel has ever put on the air. The sharing created a significant buzz for the show apparently. So the bottom line can be benefited by this sort of sharing.

    Anyway, it really isn’t an issue of IP; it is an issue of figuring out how to deliver content with a profit in a world where content is easily shared. I don’t think that it is pink for me to say that thinking that complex systems of control doesn’t appear to be the best way to do that.

  42. What is the model, in the IP free world that provides the incentive for writers, musicians, filmmakers etc. to produce more?

    Because some people simply enjoy making films, art, and music.

    If anything, the end of IP (a violation of the First Amendment anyway) should weed out those who simply want to make a buck and give the pure artists more exposure.

  43. kohlrabi,

    iTunes has a very diverse selection of music. The fact that I can find literally hundreds of Scandanavian musical artists on there is proof enough of that.

  44. “I’m not trying to sound glib but if you reduce the profit motive in creative enterprises like movies, music, or written words you eventually lose the words.”

    Then how to you account for all of the literary masterpieces written before the first copyright statutes?

    And “selling stolen goods” is entirely different than copyright infringement. One is a crime. Copyright infringement is NOT a crime.

  45. “What is the model, in the IP free world that provides the incentive for writers, musicians, filmmakers etc. to produce more?”

    15 minutes of fame, which is the impetus behind the vast majority of YouTube crap.

  46. Grotis,

    I see your point. And I do think that short clips and some sharing have a real value to the owner of the property. I also think that limited hosting of other peoples content falls under fair use. And this might be the case in Viacom’s suing of youtube.

    I was more talking about people painting Viacom as a dinosaur crying from the tar pit. Or a greedy corporation trying to pick googles pocket. It stands in contrast to the prevailing attitude about most real-property issues discussed around here.

  47. Dakota,

    Who knows, maybe they are a dinosaur in a tar pit. I cannot say.

    What I do know is that it seems odd that given all the broadband access in the U.S. that I cannot buy any piece of media I want to online. Listen up media companies. I want to buy your things on line! I do not want to go to the store to do it! Help me buy your stuff! Please!

  48. Dakota,

    Or, alternatively, put that stuff on streaming video, and I’ll watch it at my leisure if I so desire.

    We basically (as far as I know) have the ability to create vast libraries of material online for sale, rent, to stream for free with advertising, etc. Why the heck hasn’t this been done yet?

  49. Or rather, why can’t I get everything I want online (I realize that vast libraries do exist online – they just aren’t in any way complete libraries)?

  50. Lamar,

    Just because great works pre-date modern day copyright laws doesn’t negate the laws value. Economies existed and thrived before there were proper protections for real property too.

    I was under the impression that you could be fined and jailed for copyright infringement. Are you arguing that it SHOULDN’T be illegal. And if so could you elaborate. There is real value in words just as there is real value in a hammer I could build. I am trying to wrap my head around where you see the difference.

  51. That issue of course poses the question: is our system of copyright law too robust? Does it impede online distribution? Does it impede the collecting of materials into a more complete system?

  52. What is the model, in the IP free world that provides the incentive for writers, musicians, filmmakers etc. to produce more?

    How did musicians make money before there was such a thing as recordable music? Performance fees. They got paid to play. Also, look at open source software which is free to use and download and yet still there are companies that get paid to distribute the software. Why? Because there is time and a small amount of skill involved in downloading and extracting the free software. Enough that you can make .50 – $1 per disk selling a disk with the free software on it. The same is true of tshirts. With a color printer and a cheap cotton tshirt you can make your own “I love band X” shirts. But still people buy the shirts rather than make their own. So a band can make some money by selling copies of their music on CD for $5 and tshirts for $15 even though both are easily reproducible.

    But the main way they are going to make money is by touring and continuing to create kick ass music. Don’t believe it can be done? These guys have been doing it for years.

  53. Lincoln,

    Don’t most musicians (even major artists) still make their money off of performance fees?

  54. Grotius,

    If you continue to expose your love affair with iTunes to the light of day, we’re going to start to think you’re being paid by Apple.

    😉

  55. Gotius,

    Yeah in that way companies like Viacom are like dinos. But because they suck at getting thier matieral on the intertubes doesn’t give Youtube the right to willy nilly distribute someting they don’t own.

  56. MP,

    Heh.

    iTunes is basically my main source for entertainment related material these days. So I will happily “shill” for Apple because I like the service. Though in this instance, I’m paying them. 😉

  57. (a violation of the First Amendment anyway)

    Dan T. If you want to read an intelligent discussion of why copyright is wrong, to read tarran’s comments in the DJ Drama thread.

    I disagree with almost everything he argues, but he states his case well and it is derived from a straight forward premise.

    Claiming copyright is an infringment of 1st ammendment rights is just stupid. It’s roughly equivalent to saying you have a 1st ammendment right to libel someone.

  58. Dakota,

    Well, the clips of South Park material on YouTube have actually enticed me to buy South Park on iTunes. Indeed, I just bought two episodes last night.

  59. to stream for free with advertising

    Even though I can’t wait for the large media companies to die off I feel we should be fair to them. You cannot stream for free as your main source of revenue. Someone will grab your stream, edit it and then copy it somewhere else without your annoying advertising. This is especially true of music where you can buy a program that will record anything that plays on your soundcard. So you stream it and someone else just rips it and then uploads it to another site for everyone else to have the easier to play copy.

    What has worked tremendously for traditional media companies is what NBC has done for Heroes. They post every episode online after it has aired. They make some in advertising from Cars.com but the real money is in advertising the show itself. They drum up more and more interest for the next episode that is going to air. They are essentially doing the same thing I suggested musicians do earlier: give away the old stuff to promote the new. You are paid for the new performances – not copies of the old you have no ethical right to control.

  60. Lincoln,

    Someone will grab your stream, edit it and then copy it somewhere else without your annoying advertising.

    Alright, fair enough.

  61. Don’t most musicians (even major artists) still make their money off of performance fees?

    Most musicians sign stupid contracts to begin with and get a small percentage of CD sales back. But if they blow up that small percentage is still a ton of money. And established big shots like Metallica and Jay Z have much different contracts or just own their own labels.

    This is just an educated guess but I would wager a world without IP and the RIAA means more bands performing for niche audiences and bring back a pretax income of 50 – 100k. Compared to our current environment of many starving artists a few millionaires I think it looks a lot better.

  62. It isn’t that we turn pink when it comes to intellectual property. It’s more we turn red with anger at a set of over-restrictive laws that hamper the free exchange of ideas.

    It isn’t that YouTube is profiting off of Viacom’s IP, it’s that Viacom has been going out of it’s way to keep it’s IP hidden away and unavailable. And they’ll be able to do it for 95 years or more.

    And, goddamit, I want to see the “What’s this delicious blue meat?” skit again.

  63. hamper the free exchange of ideas

    One more time . .

    Copyright does not cover ideas, it covers the unique expression of ideas.

    If you want to claim that copyright is evil, then go for it. But at least argue about what it really covers not about things it doesn’t.

  64. “Copyright does not cover ideas, it covers the unique expression of ideas.”

    And one more time: “ideas” are not exchanged in a vacuum. They are exchanged via fixed expressions. To say that ideas are still free to move around though all expression is locked up is a bit of a hollow argument.

  65. Ok, thought experiment time.

    If Romeo and Juliet were covered by copyright, then the copyright holders could have halted the production of latest movie staring Dicaprio.

    However, they could not have halted the production of West Side Story.

    Ideas are not locked up to copyright, period. If you can’t re-express the ideas in your own way to work around copyright restrictions it is because you are too lazy or too stupid.

  66. Certainly the old model of the protection of IP is dead. Anyway, there is more than one way to deliver content. Advertising (as I’ve seen proposed elsewhere) in the product itself might be useful. What would that mean? Well the proposal I saw had a small portion of the screen devoted to a bit of advertising.

    Recently I saw Monty Python’s dead parrot skit on YouTube. Within 15 minutes (several clicks, typing, etc), I had ordered Monty Python’s “And Now for Something Completely Different.” If Viacom is not completely stupid, this suit is a negotiating tactic. How can they force Google, the master of online advertising, to link to the appropriate place to buy Viacom’s products? Lawsuits are business by another means.

  67. If Romeo & Juliet were covered by copyright, then the powerful force that gets renovated ever 5 years or so would not have spread so far and wide.

    It would have been a nice play for a locals to see, and not much else. You can’t presume that R&J would have become what it is today if it were copyrighted.

    I’m game for a thought experiment, but let’s keep it to the real world. Comparing Romeo & Juliet to West Side Story is like comparing the bible to a fortune cookie. “You must love your neighbor” might be a fine idea, but if the Bible were copyrighted? No fuggin’ Christianity.

  68. A movie that won 10 oscars is a fortune cookie?

  69. Compared to R&J’s cultural impact, WSS is a fortune cookie without lotto numbers and no entertaining examples of poor grammar. One of the reasons that West Side Story will never have the impact of R&J is because it was so beautifully adapted to its time period. That time period is long since gone, and West Side Story is on the wane, though I love the soundtrack, which I got for free. The punk rock band Schlong did a punk cover of the entire soundtrack. Not great, but interesting. I paid for that one.

    It seems that both of us are slipping too much into conjecture about works prior to copyright laws. I tend to think that these works are so important because they weren’t tied up. On the other hand, in Shakespeare’s day there was no newspaper/internet/TV-industrial complex. Plays were one of the few methods of transmitting cultural ideals (and thus more important to let the info be free across the countryside).

  70. Lamar:

    huh?

    R&J:WSS::B:FC?

    huh?

    (high#: note, i got it right, this time!)

  71. Ideas are not locked up to copyright, period. If you can’t re-express the ideas in your own way to work around copyright restrictions it is because you are too lazy or too stupid.

    Your procedure works pretty well for plays and novels, and indeed one of the leading copyright cases in this area speaks of the R & J / WSS example.

    However, things are less clear when you try to draw a distiction between a copyrighted device driver and a functional code akin to the combination of a combination lock. Copyright law may indeed overprotect software.

  72. Claiming copyright is an infringment of 1st ammendment rights is just stupid. It’s roughly equivalent to saying you have a 1st ammendment right to libel someone.

    I don’t really think this – but I challenge you to show me where the 1st admendment makes exceptions for libel or copyrighted speech.

  73. I am trying to separate what copyright allows & disallows versus the long-term consequences of copyright protection. It is the latter that is more interesting, but we never get there because so many people don’t get the former right.

    Copyright protection does not prevent Pygmalion from becoming Romeo & Juliet from becoming West Side Story. That’s the first point.

    Would copywright protection have prevented Romeo & Juliet from becomming a universally recognized classic? That’s the second point.

    From a libertarian point of view, where we care more for the rights of the individuals versus the benefit of society as a whole, the second question is not as important as the first.

    If R&J had been covered by copyright, would Shakespeare’s descendants have benefited? Definitely yes. Would society have been deprived of a classic? Probably, but from a libertarian point of view that is the cost of liberty.

  74. If R&J had been covered by copyright, would Shakespeare’s descendants have benefited? Definitely yes. Would society have been deprived of a classic? Probably, but from a libertarian point of view that is the cost of liberty.

    But your idea of liberty is little odd: the government using force to prevent things from being said or written because they “belong” to somebody else.

    “Intellectual property” is an idea that can only exist via the force of the state.

    Sorry, but libertarians cannot be in favor of it and remain true to their philosophy.

  75. “Copyright protection does not prevent Pygmalion from becoming Romeo & Juliet from becoming West Side Story. That’s the first point.”

    I doesn’t technically prohibit it, but if nobody ever knows about R&J due to obscurity and lawsuits to keep it under wraps, does it really matter whether it is technically allowed?

    I also argue that when I hear something, I am at liberty to repeat it. When the government steps in and punishes me for repeating it, that is an infringement of liberty, not the other way around.

  76. but I challenge you to show me where the 1st admendment makes exceptions for libel or copyrighted speech.

    First, the guys that wrote the 1st ammendment are the same guys that put copyright protection in the constitution.

    Second, your 1 ammendment rights are not absolute. You cannot incite a crowd to commit violence, even in a politcial forum.

    Third, the courts have long recognized a distinction between political and non-political speech. You cannot lie about your neighbor in speech or print, but you can lie about your polictical opponent to your heart’s content.

  77. I doesn’t technically prohibit it, but if nobody ever knows about R&J due to obscurity and lawsuits to keep it under wraps, does it really matter whether it is technically allowed?

    How exactly are you harmed if you cannot copy something that you never saw?

  78. But your idea of liberty is little odd: the government using force to prevent things from being said or written because they “belong” to somebody else.

    No my idea of liberty is that I have the natural right to beat the living shit out you for stealing my ideas. But since we are all “civlized” I let the state intervene to settle our dispute.

  79. However, things are less clear when you try to draw a distiction between a copyrighted device driver and a functional code akin to the combination of a combination lock.

    Depends on whether the device driver is connected to a public-domain interface specification or to a proprietary interface. In the first case, you can rewrite the device driver anyway you want and replace the orginal without infringing its copyright.

  80. I also argue that when I hear something, I am at liberty to repeat it.

    Depends on whether the original speaker is asserting ownership. Remember, that I do not support automatic copyright. Casual conversations should not be blocked from being repeated after the fact. Prepare speeches, plays, songs, etc are a different matter.

  81. “How exactly are you harmed if you cannot copy something that you never saw?”

    Forget the copying part for a second. Imagine if you had never read, seen or heard 9/10 of all plays, movies, albums and books. Would you say you are harmed?

    Remember the Dark Ages when information was locked up and unable to spread? We think that supporting a failing business model by locking up information will spur innovation? History suggests otherwise. Pretending information is the same as a plot of land is dangerous, unprecedented stuff. Please spare me the analogies. I’m familiar with them. They are analogies, not precedents.

  82. Ooops. I meant: imagine you hadn’t read 9/10 of the books etc. that you’ve read.

  83. Remember the Dark Ages when land was locked up in the hands of a few royals and the population lived in utter poverty?

    Libertarianism has this real issue to deal with when valuable commodities get locked into the hands of a few powerful people.

  84. “Depends on whether the original speaker is asserting ownership.”

    Your argument boils down to “ownership is vested in those who assert ownership because they are the owners.”

    History and tradition are not on your side. And it is starting to look like practical arguments are against strict copyright.

  85. Lamar, we are never going to get past the point that I think information can be treated like land and you don’t.

  86. “Remember the Dark Ages when land was locked up in the hands of a few royals and the population lived in utter poverty?”

    …and they were unable to organize because they didn’t have much in common, they spoke different languages, in short, the were victims of a lack of information (though admittedly there’s a bit of projection there).

  87. Very interesting take by Lawrence Lessig, whose angle shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Still, when the guy is right, he’s just plain right.

    NY Times Op-Ed (and not that Times Select BS).

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