May 10, 2005

The Movement and the Excluded Middle, applied to Copyright

Derek Slater thoughtfully elaborated on "More on File-Sharing and the Commoners' Common Platform":

I think Seth is right that it's unnecessary and ineffective to try to ensure "moderation in everyone in the cause." I don't expect [Down Hill Battle] or other similarly-thinking groups to change their stances. However, to the extent we jointly try to define "what's at stake in the fight for digital rights" and synthesize into a common cause, that platform should be built on shared values. Maybe it's impossible to do that, as Seth suggests, but if we're going to try, it's important to outline what those shared values are (or aren't).

And Walt Crawford posted about "Finding a copyright middle ground":

Seth offers a thoughtful essay on an aspect of copyright that I, for one, find enormously troubling: The tendency of both "sides" to deny the possibility of a balanced middle ground.

In reply to the points, let me just repost something a wrote a while back, which covers the ground:

Copyright Is Broken And Nobody Knows How To Fix It (which I've noted not is not an especially original insight, but let's call it a classic, in the public domain even.)

So I've just listened to the IICA/INDUCE Act hearing, and been participating in the Freedom-To-Tinker discussion. For a while, I've wanted to write something about Walt Crawford's "Cites & Insights" library 'zine (not blog) Copyright special issue, which has extremely extensive discussion of recent copyright matters. After many, many pages of thoughtful (and non-echo-chamber) discussion, he finally concluded:

I believe in balanced copyright. If that sometimes results in coverage that seems to say "a curse on both your houses," that's because sometimes neither extreme makes much sense.

I kept thinking about this. Because, copyright abstractly makes no sense. By this, I don't mean something silly, not property-is-theft. Rather, I mean something deep, that the technological change has completely disrupted the extremely complex set of functional compromises that made copyright work in practice (for example, formerly being almost entirely a restriction on businesses, but now turning into a control on users and technology development).

Which brings us to the INDUCE Act. Much too much discussion basically boils down to posturing. As I've said in my DMCRA hearing impressions

It would great if everyone could just take a loyalty oath at the start and thus get beyond the endless querying about whether they believe in some sort of heretical radicalism. Something like:

"I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. I pledge allegiance to copyright, and to the intellectual property system for which it stands, one compensation, responsible, with property and profit for all."

Let's all assume we want artists to be fairly rewarded, and bad people punished. As well as peace on earth and goodwill to all. Now what?

For me, the most chilling moment of the hearing was when Hatch outright said, "Something has to be done here". The problem is that there may be no equitable solution which both preserves openness and current industry profits. Repeating that these both should be served, doesn't make it so. We have improvement in the ability to exchange information again colliding with a social regime which says information must be controlled. I'm on the openness side, but so what? Who listens to me? (except in extraordinary circumstances).

Nobody has the answer. Sorry, I sure don't :-(.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on May 10, 2005 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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One teeny-tiny point: I'm now calling Cites & Insights a journal rather than a 'zine, because "zine" has been captured so neatly by the artsy community. (Well, also, now that I'm sponsored, "zine" may not be appropriate.) As to the rest...thought-provoking as usual.

Posted by: Walt Crawford at May 11, 2005 12:53 PM