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October 22 at 10:04am

Lessig’s New Copyright Rules

Unfortunately Lawrence Lessig doesn’t make the rules, but we are lucky we have him to fight for us.  Last week he published five recommended changes to the copyright law designed to help those who create to continue to create.  When the law starts to do the opposite of what it was intended you have to wonder.

Deregulate amateur remix: We need to restore a copyright law that leaves “amateur creativity” free from regulation. Before the 20th century, this culture flourished. The 21st century could see its return. Digital technologies have democratized the ability to create and re-create the culture around us. Where the creativity is an amateur remix, the law should leave it alone. It should deregulate amateur remix.

What happens when others profit from this creativity? Then a line has been crossed, and the remixed artists plainly ought to be paid — at least where payment is feasible. If a parent has remixed photos of his kid with a song by Gilberto Gil (as I have, many times), then when YouTube makes the amateur remix publicly available, some compensation to Mr. Gil is appropriate — just as, for example, when a community playhouse lets neighbors put on a performance consisting of a series of songs sung by neighbors, the public performance of those songs triggers a copyright obligation (usually covered by a blanket license issued to the community playhouse). There are plenty of models within the copyright law for assuring that payment. We need to be as creative as our kids in finding a model that works.

Deregulate “the copy”: Copyright law is triggered every time there is a copy. In the digital age, where every use of a creative work produces a “copy,” that makes as much sense as regulating breathing. The law should also give up its obsession with “the copy,” and focus instead on uses — like public distributions of copyrighted work — that connect directly to the economic incentive copyright law was intended to foster.

Simplify: If copyright regulation were limited to large film studios and record companies, its complexity and inefficiency would be unfortunate, though not terribly significant. But when copyright law purports to regulate everyone with a computer, there is a special obligation to make sure this regulation is clear. It is not clear now. Tax-code complexity regulating income is bad enough; tax-code complexity regulating speech is a First Amendment nightmare.

Restore efficiency: Copyright is the most inefficient property system known to man. Now that technology makes it trivial, we should return to the system of our framers requiring at least that domestic copyright owners maintain their copyright after an automatic, 14-year initial term. It should be clear who owns what, and if it isn’t, the owners should bear the burden of making it clear.

Decriminalize Gen-X: The war on peer-to-peer file-sharing is a failure. After a decade of fighting, the law has neither slowed file sharing, nor compensated artists. We should sue not kids, but for peace, and build upon a host of proposals that would assure that artists get paid for their work, without trying to stop “sharing.”

This was in the Wall St. Journal.  It’s gotten a lot of play in the blog world already, but I’ve been a bit swamped lately.   Lessig’s got a new book coming out, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive In The Hybrid Economy.  Let me know if you’ve read it and what thoughts you have.

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October 2 at 11:08am

Toxie Knows The Internet Must Be Free For All

Troma’s own Lloyd Kaufman, the man who brought us not just THE TOXIC AVENGER, but also POULTRYGEIST and many, many more, is also head of IFTA, the Independent FIlm and Television Alliance, the organization that runs the AFM (American Film Market).

As a true independent filmmaker, he recognizes what is stake, and is not afraid to speak up, albeit with his own particular brand of wit.

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October 1 at 11:28am

MPAA Spokeslawyers Insist They Not Be Identified

BoingBoing reveals how in suing RealNetworks, the MPAA has tried to keep their efforts hush, hush — and journalists complied!  The report was first published on the Wired blog which outlines the whole case.

If you hadn’t heard, RealNetworks released RealDVD, which allows consumers to copy the DVDs they own using their computers.  The Studios are demanding that a judge block the sale on grounds that copying is akin to theft.  RealNetworks says that they are stifling technological developments.

“We are disappointed that the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the music industry and trying to shut down advances in technology, rather than embracing changes that provide consumers with more value and flexibility for their purchases,” RealNetworks said.

This is such a tricky situation.  I think with all the hysteria to prevent the film business from falling into the crapper like the music industry, the efforts are coming close to making it inevitable.  It’s not a war against the consumer and advancement that the Studios seem to think is the case.
Wired boils this case (and another one) down at the end of the article:

The lawsuits beg the question of whether it is legal to copy an encrypted DVD for personal use. The courts have not squarely decided the issue as applied to CDs or DVDs, although the music and movie industry oppose copying.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which the MPAA claims RealDVD and Kaleidescape are breaking, says descrambling or circumventing encryption is a violation carrying a penalty of up to $2,500 per DVD.
RealDVD and Kaleidescape allow users to copy DVDs in their original encrypted form. Those companies, and other similar services, say their wares prevent the movies from being uploaded to torrent trackers.
Lawyers for the MPAA, in a teleconference with reporters, said Kaleidesape and RealDVD are circumventing “technology designed to prevent copying.”

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