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Congress Must Make Clear Copyright Laws 179

Posted by Zonk
from the definite-change-of-pace dept.
WSJdpatton writes "WSJ's Walt Mossberg takes a look at what's wrong with the DMCA and DRM given the recent lawsuit brought against Google's YouTube by media giant Viacom — 'Under fair use, as most nonlawyers have understood it, you could quote this sentence in another publication without permission, though you'd need the permission of the newspaper to reprint the entire column or a large part of it. A two-minute portion of a 30-minute TV show seems like the same thing to me. But why should I have to guess about that? What consumers need is real clarity on the whole issue of what is or isn't permissible use of the digital content they have legally obtained. And that can come only from Congress. Congress is the real villain here, for having failed to pass a modern copyright law that protects average consumers, not just big content companies.'"
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Congress Must Make Clear Copyright Laws

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  • A non-lawyer indeed (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:22PM (#18448147) Homepage Journal

    As a nonlawyer, I think these clips seem like "fair use," an old copyright concept that seems to have weakened under the advent of the new laws. Under fair use, as most nonlawyers have understood it, you could quote this sentence in another publication without permission, though you'd need the permission of the newspaper to reprint the entire column or a large part of it. A two-minute portion of a 30-minute TV show seems like the same thing to me.

    I'm afraid that our friend over at WSJ misunderstands the law a bit. The length or exact portion of the copyrighted material does not matter. In fact, the key issues that a judge looks at is if the use is necessary to the contested work, and if the contested work shows enough original thought to be considered a separate entity. Direct copying of even a small snippet is very much illegal if there is no larger work around it.

    For example, if I had only quoted that paragraph above and smacked the "submit" button, I'd be guilty of copyright infringement. I'd also be looked upon as a tool by the Slashdot community as a whole. But by including this commentary about the quoted work, I'm creating a greater work that requires the fair use of someone else's work. And Slashdotters get to decide whether I'm a tool or not based on the opinions I state in the larger work rather than some silly action.

    It's the same for videos. Taking a 2 minute clip and copying it verbatim is pretty much copyright infringement. Using that same clip for purposes of video or text commentary, on the other hand, would be perfectly acceptable "fair use". Similarly, creating a fan trailer, a movie review video, or generally commenting on the state of whatever would also allow you to make fair use of the video clip.

    However, one does need to keep in mind that a judge will consider whether the entire clip is necessary or not. If you put up the entire interview of Bill Gates on the Daily Show just to comment on how funny the cat's name portion was, you're still guilty of copyright infringement. A judge would be likely to find that you were using simplistic commentary to try and cover over your infringement, and that showing only the part dealing with the cat incident would have been sufficient to make your point.

    Now, with that out of the way, I'd like to point out that the DMCA is actually a positive in this situation. (I know, I know. How could I defend Slashdot's favorite whipping boy?) The Safe Harbor and common-carrier provisions of the law ensure that sites like Youtube can exist. Without those provisions, Viacom would have a much stronger case against Youtube.

    Standard Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, only an individual with an interest in the law.
    • by MrSquishy (916581) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:31PM (#18448289)
      <larger_work>Direct copying of even a small snippet is very much illegal if there is no larger work around it.</larger_work>
    • by linguizic (806996) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:34PM (#18448347)

      I'm a tool
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm a tool
        You fool! you should have posted anonymously. Now the GP poster is going to know who you are and sue you for copyright infringement!
    • What if I build a 15-minute commentary around a 30-second TV ad and it's clear there's nothing that can be cut?

      Am I guilty of infringement?

      If so, you've just found an "out" for anyone who wants to copy anything - just surround it with enough original, informative commentary that using the entire original is necessary.

      If not, then you've used copyright laws effectively stifled my freedom to comment on your work in any meaningful. So much for the 1st amendment.

      Suppose using the entire 30 second commercial IS
      • What if I build a 15-minute commentary around a 30-second TV ad and it's clear there's nothing that can be cut?

        Apply common sense. Is it necessary for you to show the entire ad? If it is, then you're probably in the clear. Obviously it's a case by case situation, but genericly, you'd be in the clear.
        • by bigtangringo (800328) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:49PM (#18448587) Homepage
          Common sense in regard to law? That's unpossible!
        • Ok, so what about mashups and musicians like MF Doom who sample music?

          You might have an answer for that too, but it really doesn't matter. The problem is that there are a lot of situations that don't have a clear answer. Use common sense? That works great if everyone has the same "common sense", but since people have differing opinions on things, using common sense is not the answer. If it was that easy, no one would be listing counter examples to your explanation. The point is that common sense does
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by repvik (96666)
          "common sense" doesn't mean what you think it does. There's nothing "common" about common sense.
      • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:48PM (#18448571) Homepage

        If so, you've just found an "out" for anyone who wants to copy anything - just surround it with enough original, informative commentary that using the entire original is necessary.
        Good job, Watson! You've just rediscovered the entire idea behind why we have a "fair use" doctrine in the first place! What you describe is precisely what fair use was intended to cover.

        Now, perhaps your fundamental goal is the copying, and not the commentary. However, you still do have to produce the commentary, or you don't get to copy. So, in the end, it works out the same as if your fundamental goal were the commentary.
      • by arminw (717974)
        .....Now the question is, just how much commentary do I need to add to "fair use" copy Bill Gates's interview with Jon Stewart?......

        The copyright violation should only be predicated on the premise that it is NOT a violation at all if the one that does the copying cannot ever benefit financially in any way. That is what real 'pirates' do. They use other people's IP to make money for themselves. A consumer copying a CD or file to their ipod or emailing a song to their friends should always be allowed. What d
        • by morleron (574428) *
          You make some good points. However, you miss a third possibilty in your "listen to copy then..." scenario and it's the one that the RIAA and MPAA are hanging their hats on: the possibilty that you will listen to a copy and never buy a "real" copy of the material from them. This loses them money and the fact that unauthorized copies of something exist is why they lost the money, hence, in the world according to the alphabet lobbies no copies should be allowed, at all. That's why the RIAA is suing everyone
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Dara Hazeghi (1076823)
      Those are good points you make. Also, a judge may look at the commercial interests of the alleged infringer. A non-profit or educational institution will likely be given far more leeway in the raw amount of material copied. A student taking a 2-minute clip for an in-class commentary is different than a movie studio producing $200M blockbuster using the same clip.

      Dara
    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:41PM (#18448463)
      It's the same for videos. Taking a 2 minute clip and copying it verbatim is pretty much copyright infringement

      But what if you put it up with the idea of collecting comments about it? Or for use in a wholly different webpage to reference?

      The concept of "larger work" is a but fuzzy where you put something up anticipating the larger work that may come later.
    • But here's the problem. There aren't enough judges for every 2 minute video on YouTube, MyTube, OurTube, TheirTube and all the other tubes that are going to spring up. There's too much stuff. Walt's other point that Congress has to make the laws more clear cut is spot on, even if the 30 second commercial producers get screwed, because in the future there will be so much stuff that there is no way to keep the consumers safe from lawsuits, unless the law is so simple that even a 3rd grader can understand i
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by honkycat (249849)
        That's why the courts respect precedent -- after a few cases get through the expensive system, a single interpretation will likely take hold and the landscape will be clearer.
    • I find it a little funny that I just had this conversation with some one taking classes in video production.

      My question was simple. Take a long time show (Lets say Stargate SG1) take no more than 2 min of footage from 30 different episodes. Edit them together into a new episode. So you designed the episode, you story boarded it, it was your idea, you collected the footage, you did the work. Who owns the copyright on it?

      I figure it falls under a gray area that a judge would need to decide on.

      But just for fun
      • Take a long time show (Lets say Stargate SG1) take no more than 2 min of footage from 30 different episodes. Edit them together into a new episode.

        This is all according to something I heard on the radio years ago....

        That's exactly what happened in the '40s when someone made a "compilation piece" out of a lot of songs.

        The original artists wanted to pull the plug.
        He wanted a free ride.

        The courts split the baby.

        They ruled that copyright law could not be used to stop him from creating or airing this original work, but he had to pay royalties on the pieces he used.

        I'm not sure if the courts imposed a royalty agreement, left it up to the parties to negotia

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      The length or exact portion of the copyrighted material does not matter.
      If the amount copied is irrelevant to fair use, then one should be able to point to instances of complete verbatim copying of works that were still declared as fair use. These days they deny that even for educational purposes.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Question. If I have a blog, and I'm creating an original work, and I made a joke that relies on something seen in a (say) Futurama episode... would it be infringement to link to a YouTube of that particular Futurama joke?

      What if it was *only* viewable through my blog and not to the public via YouTube?

      What if I modified the video clip to say "posted as an illustration of a point made a this url: www.whatever.com"?
    • by cfulmer (3166) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @04:15PM (#18448947) Homepage Journal
      Well, you're wrong. Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright act lists out four non-exclusive factors to be used in determining whether a use is fair. One of them is the "amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole." It's not dispositive, but it is one of the factors courts consider.

      Adding value to the original work will help on a fair use claim, but it's not essential. Heck, in the Sony Betamax decision (1984), the Supreme Court thought that time-shifting--copying an entire show--was a fair use. You're sure not adding anything there. But, a magazine's articles that included excerpts of a book by Gerald Ford about the Nixon Presidency was not a fair use.
      • Key wording: in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

        i.e. If the larger work is a substantial enough work AND it depends upon the amount of infringing material in use, then that amount of infringement is "fair use". The exact length of that infringement does not matter as long as it's found to be substantively required by the larger use.
        • by cfulmer (3166)
          You're comparing it to the wrong work. If X is the original copyright work, Y is the potentially infringing work, and A is the portion of the original that is used, this factor is concerned with A/X, not A/Y.

          That said, especially in a transformative use, a court will pay attention to whether you took more than you needed to. In parody cases, for example, you have to be able to take enough of the original to remind people of the original, but you can't easily copy the entire thing and claim a parody.
          • That said, especially in a transformative use, a court will pay attention to whether you took more than you needed to. In parody cases, for example, you have to be able to take enough of the original to remind people of the original, but you can't easily copy the entire thing and claim a parody.

            I hope you realize that you just restated exactly what I said in my original post. So indeed, you are agreeing with me. If you don't believe me, go back to my original post and read it again.

            The specific case that de

            • Again, this shows that the litmus test is whether the larger work using the material requires the amount used.

              No, not really. None of the traditional four factors is more important than any other one, nor is the fair use analysis strictly mechanical. For example, time shifting in Sony had three of the factors against fair use (it used the whole work, it wasn't transformative in any way, and the work was creative in nature), but was still a fair use. In practice, of course, that fourth factor -- whether the
            • by cfulmer (3166)

              I hope you realize that you just restated exactly what I said in my original post. So indeed, you are agreeing with me. If you don't believe me, go back to my original post and read it again.

              I don't think I am agreeing with your original post. You said that "The length or exact portion of the copyrighted material does not matter." In fact, it does matter, as the amount taken is one of the factors to consider in whether a use is fair.

              As you mention, there are some fair uses, such as criticism, which hinge

      • Although I don't know the name of it offhand, there's a textbook case illustrating the idea that even a small excerpt of a large work can be considered infringing, if it's a really important part. I think that this snippet [tripod.com] of text is from a magazine article that scooped key details of an upcoming book of President Ford's memoirs. That is, the memoir book was about to come out, and (by questionable means) someone obtained the text and went to press with a few small quotes which were the part readers really w
    • by inviolet (797804)

      :golf clap:

      Well said.

      Alas, too few people understand the idea of context. No wonder they're clamoring (as in the WSJ article) for an impossibly concise general rule that says something like "30 seconds but not 31 seconds".

    • So, suppose 45 volunteers ("The Commentators") each comment on one minute of a 45 minute TV show. Each quote includes a one-minute clip, along with discussion.

      Suppose another party ("The Distributor") publishes those clips and commentary on its website (such as youtube).

      Suppose someone else ("The Programmer") writes software to piece together all 45 clips, and then output a full reconstruction of the TV show.

      Suppose another person ("The User") takes The Programmer's software and runs it, recreating the show
      • So, suppose 45 volunteers ("The Commentators") each comment on one minute of a 45 minute TV show. Each quote includes a one-minute clip, along with discussion.

        Fair Use. The is significant original work in relation to the fair use work, and the larger work depends on the fair use work.

        Suppose another party ("The Distributor") publishes those clips and commentary on its website (such as youtube).

        If the distributor owns the rights or has permission, then he's clear. Otherwise, he's violating the copyright. Sim

        • by DeadCatX2 (950953)

          Suppose another party ("The Distributor") publishes those clips and commentary on its website (such as youtube).

          If the distributor owns the rights or has permission, then he's clear. Otherwise, he's violating the copyright. Simply shifting the media used to carry the content does not convey any original thought.

          I think you missed the point, and this is what I was trying to say in my post, and another responder to your post said the same thing.

          You said before that the 45 individual "larger works" which have

          • That's what I keep trying to get at. If I use YouTube as the vehicle for my fair use, there's a Schroedinger's Cat involved; the video is both fair use (in the context of my larger work) and not fair use (outside of my work).

            I don't understand what you mean by "outside" your work. The fair use chunk you used still belongs to the original copyright holder. Your work surrounding that one minute belongs to you. You may distribute the one minute in each of your works as long as those works show a need for that

      • by honkycat (249849)
        Did this really happen independently? If there was an arrangement to organize the various steps, then they're probably all guilty of conspiracy. It's hard to imagine this really happening in an even remotely plausible scenario. IMO, I think you'd be very hard pressed to claim that quoting ALL of the original was necessary and truly fair use, even in small pieces. I suspect that step one in your process would probably not fall under fair use. You almost never need to quote ALL of a every section to say
    • Riddle me this... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DeadCatX2 (950953)
      Take the NFL's copyrighted copyright statement before their games. "This broadcast blahblahblah may not be reproduced without our permission".

      There's currently a fiasco [arstechnica.com] regarding whether or not a Ms Wendy Seltzer could put that video up on YouTube. A lot of people say that she it is a fair use to do so, since she is doing it for the educational purposes.

      But, I wonder, what about everyone ELSE who views the video, outside the educational context?

      The greater implication is that, given your statement about c
      • Re:Riddle me this... (Score:5, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @05:12PM (#18449875) Homepage Journal
        First, allow me to make clear that my original post does not address this matter. It was intended as a response to the WSJ author, and not a complete tretise on the state of copyright law. These screwy issues that people are coming up with are so far off the topic at hand as to be ludicrous.

        Now, to answer your question. (To the best of my ability.) And that answer is in the form of a question, "Why did she pick the NFL Legal clip in specific?"

        If you consider that question in detail, it should become obvious that the Legal clip shouldn't be copyrightable material. After all, it's a statement of fact. Why can't we share statements of fact? The answer is that we can freely share statements of fact. Copyrights are only provided for creative works. An impassioned speech given on the events of the Revolutionary War would be considered a creative work that derives from factual events. So it's copyrightable, though anyone is free to relate those facts in their own words. On the other hand, a statement of fact document in a legal case is pure fact, and is not a copyrightable work. (Not that such a limitation has stopped lawyers from trying to claim it's creative.)

        So looked at as a whole, Ms. Seltzer's act was a very calculated maneuver intended to expose the problems with Viacom's position while simultaneuosly ensuring minimal legal liability. That's why she's the law professor, and I'm just a guy on Slashdot. ;-)
        • by DeadCatX2 (950953)
          You punted on the riddle, though. And this does go back to what you said in your post, I was just using Ms Seltzer as background.

          Suppose I create a larger work. A piece of this larger work is hosted by YouTube. When the YouTube video is in the context of my larger work, it qualifies under your definition as a fair use. (I realize there are other factors to determine fair use; control for them for a moment)

          Now, what about the YouTube video on its own, outside the context of the larger work in which I hav
          • By posting it on Youtube, you've made it available outside of your larger work. Thus your larger work is fine, but the Youtube usage is probably infringing. This is based on the fact that Youtube as a whole is a site for sharing videos amongst a community. Had you posted the video to a generic webserver (where it could possibly be downloaded individually, but is not presented except as a larger work), then you're more likely to be in the clear.

            Of course, judges can be unpredictable. A judge might agree that
    • In fact, the key issues that a judge looks at is if the use is necessary to the contested work, and if the contested work shows enough original thought to be considered a separate entity.

      True, but that's not the whole story.

      Here is the fair use provision in its entirety, as written in Title 17, Section 107 of the US Code:

      Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include--
      (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
      (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
      (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
      (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
      The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

      Judges are instructed by this section to look at all four of the factors, and not just whether the surrounding commentary constitutes an "original work", although that's the most prolific use of fair use (quotations, citations, commentary, criticism, etc.).

      I'm not sure whether abandonware can be considered fair use under criterion 4; I would imagine the alleged infringer

    • by yar (170650)
      I'm afraid your understanding is not entirely correct. ^_-

      To determine whether or not a use is fair requires the evaluation of the four factors of fair use, which include the purpose of the use, the amount of the work used, the nature of the work used, and the effect on the market. Each of these is equally important (although some will argue that the fourth is more important, the courts seem to be moving away from that viewpoint).

      In some cases, the use of the entire work is not infringing. In some cases, th
      1. 30 Minute source manipulated according to the following scenarios
      2. , two minutes of which is included in snippets in another 30 minute project
      3. extensively remixed and/or altered for Comedic effect. Includes filking, etc
      4. Extensively remixed and or altered so as to be a cover version of the item (even if in a different genre)
      5. Extensively remixed and or altered so as to obviously be a new work, although with much owed to the original (Theme and variations, etc) (NB Luciano Berio's Sinfonia which has extensive qu
  • But will they? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Applekid (993327) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:25PM (#18448201)
    It's a mistake to ask congress for a definitive non-porous law. The citizenry are no friend, only the companies behind the lobbiests that line their pockets. If they put their foot down right now and cemented some law it seal away what final rights we are "illicitly" enjoying.

    Am I naive to believe that someday, some day, the US will have a congress that's for the people?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pembo13 (770295)
      Yes, I think that's a bit naive, and overly wishful thinking...save for some mass, global revolution. But I doubt it. Governments (as far as I understand) aren't typically known for being "for the people" for any significant portion of time. Even back in the days of Rome, leaders who were too "for the people" got assassinated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HTH NE1 (675604)

      It's a mistake to ask... for a definitive non-porous law.
      "There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute! Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions."
  • I think recent (the last decade) legislation has shown that Congress is hardly qualified to make that kind of determination.

    Copyright lawyers seem to be on one side or the other of the "bribed by content creators" fence.

    The EFF is hardly a nonpartisan source of opinion.

    So that leaves the question, who is qualified to make these sort of determinations as to what form copyright laws should take?

    A good number of /. readers would probably say that there should be no copyright laws (mostly those who have no
    • I think recent (the last decade) legislation has shown that Congress is hardly qualified to make that kind of determination

      Congress has a long history of attempting to give itself powers outside of its jurisdiction such as "Act of 1820, commonly called the Missouri Compromise" [nytimes.com]. The DMCA is what happens when the SCOTUS doesn't impose those limitations for a century or more [articlev.com].

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      The EFF is hardly a nonpartisan source of opinion.

      Yeah, it's true. The EFF is on the side of freedom, which is what this country was supposed to be about. How terrible!

    • You're 100 percent right, but you're 100 percent scary!

      It's become apparent over my short 25 years that asking congress to do anything is worthless, no matter who's in charge, They are like a mini version of the UN, a lot of talk a lot of work, and something might get done a couple years after the first discussion begins.

      And you're right about the Copyright lawyers being biased (hell any law they write will be written in such a way that both sides will still be needed for years to come. AKA Active lawyers
  • by Bullfish (858648) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:29PM (#18448267)
    The big companies get to lobby 24/7 and 365 if they want. Consumers only get to lobby every four years, and not enough turn out to vote, and make their preferences felt.
    • by Itninja (937614) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:34PM (#18448335) Homepage
      Welcome to a capitalist economy.
      • by BoberFett (127537)
        Welcome to big government.

        Who would the capitalists run crying to when somebody stole their precious "intellectual property" without big government? Hell, intellectual property only exists due to government. Don't be surprised when those with a vested interest spend large amounts time and money trying to bend the law in their favor.

        The more laws that exist, the greater the reward for controlling the law. If you want capitalists to have less powerm, have fewer laws not more.
        • by Thaelon (250687)
          Which is why we need a simple, adaptive set of laws. Here is my (very short) modest proposal [slashdot.org].

          How is a "common man" supposed to decipher a law that is not based on "common" sense? Laws should be based on common sense, easily interpreted, and not require lawyers to figure out. Let's do away with the entire lawyer profession, it's time to move on and make things better.
          • I fail to see what your proposal has to do with Swift. Although I agree with the premise that laws should not be written by or for lawyers, lawyers should be banned from ever 'serving' on a law-making body, and perhaps used to appease angry volcanoes if the need arises.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Consumers vote everytime the spend money, write a letter, and speak out.

      Everytime someone breaks copyright law, they vote.

      If the number of people who complain that congress doesn't work for them actually got involved the laws would change.
    • by msblack (191749)

      The big companies get to lobby 24/7 and 365 if they want. Consumers only get to lobby every four years, and not enough turn out to vote, and make their preferences felt.
      Someone needs to revisit their civics class. Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years; Senators are elected every six. Presidents don't create laws; they either confirm or veto Congressional votes.
    • The big companies get to lobby 24/7 and 365 if they want. Consumers only get to lobby every four years...

      What? Consumers (or citizens, as they prefer to be called) lobby all the time. Usually they get together in groups to be heard.

      AARP [wikipedia.org]
      NAACP [wikipedia.org]
      ACLU [wikipedia.org]
      Common Cause [wikipedia.org]
      Planetary Society [wikipedia.org]
      NRA [wikipedia.org]
      Free Software Foundation [wikipedia.org]

      If group lobbying isn't your style, try the direct [senate.gov] approach [house.gov].

  • You can have any copyright law you want. You just have to bribe^?^?^?^?^? donate more to the congressman's re-election campaign than the RIAA does.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:38PM (#18448401)
    The Great and Honorable Walt Mossberg Jumps on Bandwagon (after 100,000,000 others).

    The US Constitution is pretty clear about fair use; it's the bribed congress that has allowed intellectual property to become seemingly permanent for the benefit of IP aggregating organizations.

    Does it matter that a self-aggregandizing WSJ columnist has now finally also asked for clarity that this is newsworthy? St Walt is going to get all of those lobbyists out of the pockets of Congress? I hardly think so.

    Mark me up as flamebait, but he does clarity no great favor by asking for it, especially so late in the game. It's like asking Bush to remove troops from Iraq. The come-lately's have no guts.
    • by westlake (615356)
      The US Constitution is pretty clear about fair use; it's the bribed congress that has allowed intellectual property to become seemingly permanent for the benefit of IP aggregating organizations.

      I doubt you'll find fair use mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.

      You are looking at statutory or judge-made law.

      Politicians vote the interests of their constituents. The Kansan wheat and corn. The Texan oil, gas and cattle.

      The information and entertainment industries are important to New York, California, Flor

      • First, go here: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/a r ticle01/39.html [findlaw.com] to find out about how US case law finds the constitution and related fair use provisions of copyright law.

        Then, if you believe that politicians vote the interests of their constituents, then I'm sorry for your blindness, and hope one day they find a cure for your malady. It really is a miracle that you're able to get slashdot content read to you, what with this handicap slowing you down.

        Finally, we don't disagree that the ent
    • I guess realizing you made a mistake, changing your mind, and trying to make amends has gone out of vogue.

      Be right first or don't bother being right at all.
  • But unless you get all IP law to limit its scope to that of plagiarism, it's all a bunch of hogwash. Present law deals with distribution. It has nothing to do with the creator of a work. In effect it's a "prohibition", just like that against drugs.
  • what's the deal with the google logo? what do they have to do with this?
  • it's the producers of content that post intentionally post missleading 'notices'.

    When you watcha DVD there will be an official and clear copyright message, usually follwed by another 'notice' created by the industry.
    This creats confusion.
  • Come on, Walt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by russotto (537200) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @03:54PM (#18448651) Journal

    How frigging naive can you be? The Congress that passed the DMCA without opposition, that passed the "No Electronic Theft Act", the Congress which has been extending the scope and duration of copyright for decades, the Congress which is fully in the pocket of the xxAAs, THAT Congress is going to pass a new copyright law which protects the little guy?

    No, Walt, that just ain't going to happen. When the other side suggests that the answer is just to follow the law and if you don't like it, get the law changed, I know that's just gloating over the power they have. When someone who opposes the status quo says it, and it's not credible that they are really that naive, I have to wonder what is going on. Are they so afraid to believe the system is broken that they cling to ineffective measures? At what point, Walt, will you say "To hell with it, the system's broke, raise the Jolly Roger and copy away"? Never? Then you may as well throw your lot in with the xxAAs.

    If you don't like all of the restrictions on the use of digital content, the solution isn't to steal the stuff.

    There's FOUR solutions:

    1) Suffer loudly. Follow the restrictions and complain about them. Unless you're a major public figure, nobody gives a shit about your complaints, so if you do this, the xxAAs win.

    2) Suffer in silence. Follow the restrictions and don't complain about them. This is the xxAAs favorite solution. Equivalent to 1 if you aren't somebody big.

    3) Pirate loudly. Violate the restrictions openly and notoriously. Best case, you get what you want but otherwise nothing changes. Worst case, you lose your freedom and your life savings, and your name becomes a word to scare other would-be pirates with -- the xxAAs win with that. And no one who hears about it who matters supports your case -- civil disobedience does not work when the issue is esoteric, and even less so when your opponents are the media.

    4) Pirate in silence. Violate the restrictions and try not to get caught. Same outcomes as 3) above, only the worst case is less likely.

    The outcome where the copyright laws are changed for the better and those irritating digital restrictions go away? Sorry, that outcome is simply not available. No matter how many times Don Quixtote tilts at the windmill, the windmill still stands. The only way to get rid of the restrictions is self-help, and that means violating the law.

    And as for "steal the stuff"? Just because they bought a law doesn't make it "stealing". I'll give them the term "piracy", because everyone knows the difference between piracy on the high seas and copyright violation. But calling it "stealing" isn't intended as metaphor; it's intended to actually blur the distinction.

    • 5) Circumvent them by only buying music from independent labels who distribute without DRM or with a creative commons license and watch as the bastards flail helplessly trying to sue you for not breaking any copyrights.

      6) Write and perform your own music.

      • by russotto (537200)

        6) Write and perform your own music.

        That's the "let them eat cake" solution. The RIAA would love that... "Don't like the army of restrictions we bought? Then perform the music yourself." (at which point ASCAP steps in and says "Make sure it isn't any of OURS. Or share any notes with ours, for that matter.")

        It's not acceptable, any more than it would be for the major carmakers to decide to put restrictions on how you could use your car, and put you in jail if you violated them. "Build your own car" is

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FunWithKnives (775464)
      There's FOUR solutions:

      Actually, there is one more, which I have been engaging in for the better part of ten years now, since I was thirteen:

      Do not buy it, do not watch it, do not listen to it. I decided long ago that they could go shovel their shit to someone else. They effectively do not exist to me. I support independent, local, and DIY bands. I only go to local punk or indie shows, and will never pay more than thirty dollars for one. I support my local independent record shop, which (surprise) sti
  • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @04:00PM (#18448733) Journal
    Right here [findlaw.com]. What we need is proper interpretation and enforcement.
  • Larger issue? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rantingkitten (938138) <kitten@mirrorsha ... minus herbivore> on Thursday March 22, 2007 @04:30PM (#18449229) Homepage
    Is it possible this is symptomatic of a larger issue with our legal system? Specifically, when laws get so bloated, so numerous, and so detailed that it requires a specialized degree to understand, how is the average citizen supposed to comply with the law?

    The summary asks "Why should I have to guess about that?" But this is hardly the only area where statutes on the books are virtually incomprehensible, if they can even be easily accessed, by a nonlawyer.

    A quick offtopic example is when my driver's license was suspended, and the judge said it would be suspended for 90 days. Fine. To me, that meant that on day 91, it was no longer suspended, and I could drive. Long story short, I got caught driving on day 92 and arrested for driving on a suspended license -- because I hadn't paid a "reinstatement fee". Now, how was I supposed to know about that? When I posed this question to the court I was told only that "it's the law".

    I realize there will always be certain circumstances or specific areas where laws need to get detailed and intense, but for the majority of things the average citizen is going to do, there is a problem if that average citizen cannot comply with the law because he cannot access it or cannot understand it.
  • Most SlashDot users will disagree with my stance. I'm not a fan of the DMCA or RIAA. However, a two-minute excerpt exceeds fair use principles. Fair use excerpting is about critical review, not just adding some excerpt to your MySpace profile. The emphasis is on criticism, not sampling. For further discussion, do some research or look at the Wikipedia page for a primer. Just because you dislike the recording industry or believe the RIAA is too aggressive in prosecuting downloaders does not justify pirating
    • Excerpts, and their size, have nothing to do with fair use. Fair use is quite a subjective concept.

      Consider:
      - take a 2 minute clip of someone's song / video and work it into a satire*. Fair use? Sure, you say.
      - take an 8 second sample from someone else's CD and use it as part of a song your wrote for your own album. Fair use? Hmm maybe not... See Grand Upright Music Ltd. v. Warner Brothers Records [wikipedia.org]

      Examples like this demonstrate why copyright law is so confusing. Congress needs to put forth some effort
  • Unfortunately, this YouTube case has some merit. What a news program does make money by providing a stream of data with snippets of content sandwiched between commercials. YouTube makes it money by providing a stream of data with snippets of content sandwiched between online ads. When you have a community site with people recording the snippets from TV and displaying them on YouTube, you've created a direct mechanism that does direct harm to the content creators.

    This is unfortunate because there is great
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ratboy666 (104074)
      "Making quality content is expensive, it can costs tens of thousands of dollars to get a few snippets of a reporter out in the field."

      Let us examine this more closely. The "reporter out in the field" has been paid. The program has been paid for. By the advertising placed on the original broadcast of the material.

      Since there is little value on old newscasts (do you really want to watch last years news?) EXCEPT to people doing critical analysis (or, in some cases nostalgia), the money MUST have come "up front
      • Let us examine this more closely. The "reporter out in the field" has been paid. The program has been paid for. By the advertising placed on the original broadcast of the material.

        I take it that you learned business in a dotbomb start up. The web site was paid for by the investors, why does the site have to make money? It was already paid for upfront.

        Investors who bought that idea lost all of their money.

        In the world of writing, a great deal of stuff comes from freelancers. These people throw their

        • The only time you have "upfront payments" is when an investor is involved. The investor is only willing to make that upfront investment if they see an adequate return. An intelligent investor looks at the full run of the item that they purchased.

          It is true that copyright debate is often dominated by the massive firms with gigantic libaries. These people want to protect their powerbase. The debate on copyright needs to be driven y what we want in the future. Of course, there is no future when nothing is do
  • Copyright doesn't make sense in a digital society. It can still apply to physical copies of works, sure (at a more realistic time frame -- say two to five years), but copyright should not apply to digital copies of information. It just doesn't make sense and only serves to hamper the arts and sciences.
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      Well, OK. But then you have Sony/BMG/EMI owning everything. It is all about distribution. If you remove copyright, then your neigborhood band can end up on the shelf at a store with a Sony label on the media. And, I'll bet you anything that Sony makes more money than the band does.

      No copyright? No GPL.

      No copyright? You will see zero investment in anything new and the last 20 years endlessly recycled. What is cheaper than cutting together Rocky IV and Independence Day for something really funny? Why
  • by foo fighter (151863) on Thursday March 22, 2007 @05:20PM (#18449987) Homepage
    I've written to my three congress-people several times (yes, I live in a small state with a single House rep) about how long copyright times, the use of DRM, and it being illegal to break DRM are bad for our nation because they're stiffling our culture.

    The replies have all been to the effect of "we hear your concerns, but media companies are a huge percentage of our (USA) GDP and we won't do anything to hurt that." Which obviously implies "media companies" give us a lot of money and their lobbyists have more ready access to our offices and restaurants and golf courses on Capital Hill than you.

    So until it can be shown to our Congress-people that bad copyright laws (from the POV of the citizen) and legally unbreakable DRM costs more money than the alternative we're stuck with it.

  • it's about participary culture. The era of people passively consuming media is over. Too many people are now pulling out iMovie and making their own mixups. Once again, the people have spoken, and copyright is in the way.

    Unfortunately, what is more likely to come out of congress is tougher laws to "educate" people about copyright restrictions.
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      The question is what is a "mixup"? Is it a creative work that deserves protection as such? Or it is simply a plagarized work that belongs to some other people that are having their creative rights violated?

      Further, do we want a "culture of mixups" or a culture of creativity? While I might think it the height of humor and artistry to take a well-known song and combine it with a silly video does this not affect the original creator?

      I see the "culture of mixups" as a path of laziness and sloth. People "bor
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        I see someone who has been brainwashed by big media to think that.

      • by bky1701 (979071)
        "I see the "culture of mixups" as a path of laziness and sloth. People "borrowing" and plagarizing when they are too lazy to make something original."

        Spoken like someone who never produced anything creative. All art (well, all anything) is based on something "borrowed". If I make a scifi movie, I am going to be borrow from all past scifi, even if I don't directly make a ship called enterprise commanded by a bald guy who likes Shakespeare. You would find it very hard to make something without "borrowing"
  • Indeed, copyright for the creative business is like software patents for tech. Only, you don't even have to show any originality in your work, just publish to get your rights! I really think that unless it is made clear what fair use is and when a work enters into public domain, copyright will stifle creativity.

    Some ideas:

    1) Unless the author explicitly claims copyright, the work should be public domain
    2) A work should enter into public domain a fixed number of years after first publication

    Reg. 1: Creative

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