Thomas Macaulay told us copyright law is a tax on readers for the benefit of writers, a tax that shouldnít last a day longer than necessary. What do we do? We extend the copyright term repeatedly on both sides of the Atlantic. The US goes from fourteen years to the authorís life plus seventy years. We extend protection retrospectively to dead authors, perhaps in the hope they will write from their tombs.
Since only about 4 per cent of copyrighted works more than 20 years old are commercially available, this locks up 96 per cent of 20th century culture to benefit 4 per cent. The harm to the public is huge, the benefit to authors, tiny. In any other field, the officials responsible would be fired. Not here.
It is as if we had signed an international stupidity pact, one that required us to ignore the evidence, to hand out new rights without asking for the simplest assessment of need. If the stakes were trivial, no one would care. But intellectual property (IP) is important. These are the ground rules of the information society. Mistakes hurt us. They have costs to free speech, competition, innovation, and science. Why are we making them?
To some the answer is obvious: corporate capture of the decision making process. This is a nicely cynical conclusion. But wait. There are economic interests on both sides. The film and music industries are tiny compared the consumer electronics industry. Yet copyright law dances to the tune played by the former, not the latter. Open source software is big business. But the international IP bureaucracies seem to view it as godless communism.
If money talks, why can decision-makers only hear one side of the conversation? Corporate capture can only be part of the explanation. Something more is needed. We need to deconstruct the culture of IP stupidity, to understand it so we can change it. But this is a rich and complex stupidity, like a fine Margaux. I can only review a few flavours.
Maximalism: The first thing to realize is that many decisions are driven by honest delusion, not corporate corruption. The delusion is maximalism: the more intellectual property rights we create, the more innovation. This is clearly wrong; rights raise the cost of innovation inputs (lines of code, gene sequences, data.) Do their monopolistic and anti-competitive effects outweigh their incentive effects? Thatís the central question, but many of our decision makers seem never to have thought of it.
The point was made by an exchange inside the Committee that shaped Europeís ill-starred Database Directive. It was observed that the US, with no significant property rights over unoriginal compilations of data, had a much larger database industry than Europe which already had significant ďsweat of the browĒ protection in some countries. Europe has strong rights, the US weak. The US is winning.
Did this lead the committee to wonder for a moment whether Europe should weaken its rights? No. Their response was that this showed we had to make the European rights much stronger. The closed-mindedness is remarkable. ďThat man eats only a little salad and looks slim. Clearly to look as good as him, we have to eat twice as much, and doughnuts too!Ē
Authorial Romance: Part of the delusion depends on the idea that inventors and artists create from nothing. Who needs a public domain of accessible material if one can create out of thin air? But in most cases this simply isnít true; artists, scientists and technologists build on the past. How would the blues, jazz, Elizabethan theatre, or Silicon valley have developed if they had been forced to play under todayís rules? Donít believe me? Ask a documentary filmmaker about clearances, or a free-software developer about software patents.
An Industry Contract: Who are the subjects of IP? They used to be companies. You needed a printing press or a factory to trigger the landmines of IP. The law was set up as a contract between industry groups. This was a cosy arrangement, but it is no longer viable. The citizen-publishers of cyberspace, the makers of free software, the scientists of distributed data-analysis are all now implicated in the IP world. The decision-making structure has yet to adjust.
There are many more themes. The idea that greater control, for example, is always better (see my column on public data) or the way we only ever internationally harmonize rights upward. Fundamentally, though, the views I have criticised here are not merely stupidity. They constitute an ideology, a worldview, like flat earth-ism. But the world is not flat and the stupidity pact is not what we want to sign.
Political foes of Peter Mandelson are demanding that he should explain why he spent New Year’s Eve on the yacht of a billionaire who is at the centre of a major EU investigation.
The European Trade Commissioner was forced to admit that he was a guest at a party thrown by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.
Details of Mr Mandelson’s Caribbean holiday emerged as the sleaze row deepened over European commissioners accepting free hospitality.
Close aides of Mr Mandelson emphasised last night that while he did speak to Mr Allen on the deck of his 414ft yacht, Octopus, he and the world’s seventh richest man did not discuss business at the drinks party. Film stars and business leaders were among the 200 guests on what has become the most coveted invitation for those holidaying on the Caribbean island of St Barthelemy.
Conservative leaders say that Mr Mandelson, who was twice forced to resign from the Cabinet over allegations of sleaze, should learn the lessons of the past, demanding that he should be ‘totally open’? and branding him ‘naive’?.
The EU sleaze row also embroiled Josť Manuel Barroso, the Commission President, who yesterday promised a written explanation of his free family holiday on the yacht of a Greek shipping billionaire.
A week after all 25 commissioners agreed to a statement saying they had not accepted any improper hospitality, it emerged that Mr Mandelson had tacked on a four-day stay with friends in the Caribbean island of St Barthelemy during an official visit to the region. Last night he was still refusing to disclose who his hosts were.
Peter Mandelson has a long and sordid history, including being forced to resign twice from cabinet positions in the UK for allegations of corruption and taking bribes.
Paul Allen’s little ship is called Octopus. And if I had a few billion in my account, I’d probably make it my permanent address:
Two Winona High School students have found themselves in hot water with school officials.
Why? Because after Carrie Rethlefsen attended a performance of the play “The Vagina Monologues” last month, she and Emily Nixon wore buttons to school that read: “I [heart] My Vagina.”
School leaders said that the pin is inappropriate and that the discomfort it causes trumps the girls’ right to free speech. The girls disagree. And despite repeated threats of suspension and expulsion, Rethlefsen has continued to wear her button.
The girls have won support from other students and community members.
More than 100 students have ordered T-shirts bearing “I [heart] My Vagina” for girls and “I Support Your Vagina” for boys.
“We can’t really find out what is inappropriate about it,” Rethlefsen, 18, said of the button she wears to raise awareness about women’s issues. “I don’t think banning things like that is appropriate.”
But “FUBU” and “Nike” are still ok, right?
I wonder how they teach biology a that school if the word “vagina” is banned. Probably something like this;
“God created your unmentionables 6,000 years ago, from Adam’s rib. Practice abstinence until marriage, when you can obey God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply and follow the ‘Culture of Life’ and make little Christian Soldiers to ‘convert’ the heathen in Iraq. Now let us pray for our Leaders, George, Richard, William, and Tom; may God grant them the vision to purify America for Jesus’s sake and the overseas junkets to see how terrible the heathen lands are in comparison (expect for the golfing), amen.
One of the young ladies has a journal about this. The key phrase about this is a quote from the school administration:
She told me that she knew about the t-shirts and that if they get made, the students will overthrow the administration and cause a riot.
So it’s all about control.
Here’s a nice quote from the Star Tribune:
“We support free speech,” she said. “But when it does infringe on other people’s rights and our school policies, then we need to take a look at that.”
And on a related note:
A group of students organized a campaign that sold more than 200 T-shirts at Homewood-Flossmoor High School that say, “Gay? Fine By Me.” The shirts were designed to promote tolerance and acceptance and safety at the school and the idea was for the students to wear the shirts on Tuesday.
But a group of Christian students also made their own T-shirts with the help of several churches in the community. The T-shirt reads on the front, “Crimes Committed Against God,” and on the back referenced the Ten Commandments.
NBC 5′s Kim Vatis reported that both groups of students wore their T-shirts to class Tuesday, including some students who wore homemade shirts that read “It’s Not OK To Be Gay.”
“There was pretty much chaos in my first class — students wearing the God T-shirts and students wearing the ‘Gay Fine By Me’ T-shirts,” student Joe Maloney said. “Students (were) arguing with each other about the justification for wearing the T-shirts.”
“People who had gotten along in the past, and seeing each other in these different shirts saying, ‘What’s wrong with me? Do you have a problem with me?” student Sara McKee said.
Can somebody please point out to me where in the 10 commandments it says anything at all about homosexuality?
An overly excited Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO, Opera Software, today proclaimed at an internal company meeting that if the download numbers of the new Opera 8 Web browser reach 1 million within the first four days of the launch, he will swim from Norway to the USA with only one stop-over for a cup of hot chocolate at his mother’s house in his home country, Iceland.
I guess I helped save the guy’s life today…
De befaamde Britse muziekmaatschappij EMI Group heeft zijn status als bedrijf gedegradeerd zien worden tot junk-bond. Volgens de gerenommeerde kredietbeoordelaar Standard & Poor’s (S&P) zou het bedrijf niet kredietwaardig meer zijn. Ruim twee jaar geleden verlaagde S&P’s branchegenoot Moody’s EMI ook al tot junk-status.
EMI is de op twee na grootste muziekmaatschappij ter wereld en heeft artiesten als Coldplay en Gorillaz onder contract. Volgens S&P presteert EMI dusdanig slecht dat het niet geschikt is om in te investeren. Dat maakt het voor EMI moeilijker en duurder om geld aan te trekken.
De problemen voor de muziekmaatschappij begonnen in februari toen het bedrijf bekendmaakte een lagere winst over het eerste kwartaal te verwachten. Ook de omzet zou lager uitvallen. De vooruitzichten voor herstel op de korte en lange termijn zijn volgens S&P evenmin gunstig.
Goed zo. Nu de andere grote jongens nog.
Security at U.S. airports is no better under federal control than it was before the Sept. 11 attacks, a key House member says two government reports will conclude. The Government Accountability Office – the investigative arm of Congress – and the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general are expected to soon release their findings on the performance of Transportation Security Administration screeners.
“A lot of people will be shocked at the billions of dollars we’ve spent and the results they’re going to see, which confirm previous examinations of the Soviet-style screening system we’ve put in place,” Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., told The Associated Press on Friday.
But wait! Things will get better: the amount of books you’re allowed to take on a flight will drop from 4 to 2. Surely that will stop the terrorists!
Getting ready : A Russian soldier streches during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade at the Khodinskoye airfield in Moscow. (AFP/Denis Sinyakov)
The mother of seriously ill baby Charlotte Wyatt, Debbie Wyatt, 23, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London Thursday April 21, 2005 as solicitor Richard Stein makes a statement to the press.
Rejecting a bid by the parents, a British judge on Thursday upheld a court order allowing doctors to let a critically ill baby die if she stops breathing ó a move doctors say is the only humane way to end the child’s suffering.
Eighteen-month-old Charlotte Wyatt can hardly see or hear and weighed about a pound when she was born prematurely. Her brain and other organs are so seriously damaged that she has “no feeling other than continuing pain,” according to physicians.
Darren and Debbie Wyatt, who believe in preserving life at any cost, sought to overturn a court order granted in October.
But Justice Mark Hedley was not persuaded by the parents’ pleas.
“I am quite clear that it would not be in Charlotte’s best interests to die in the course of futile aggressive treatment,” Hedley ruled Thursday at London’s High Court.
Grote IT-bedrijven als Apple, Sony en Philips zijn in Nederland in het geweer gekomen tegen plannen om een kopieerheffing in te voeren voor mp3-spelers. Binnen twee maanden is een dergelijke heffing te verwachten, zo zei B. Taselaar van ICT Office, de brancheorganisatie die de bedrijven vertegenwoordigt.
Momenteel ligt er een voorstel op tafel voor een heffing van 3,28 euro per gigabyte aan opslagcapaciteit. Dit voorstel is volgens ICT Office gedaan door de Stichting Thuiskopie, die is belast met de inning en verdeling van vergoedingen aan auteursrechthebbenden voor het kopi√ęren van blanco geluidsdragers.
Een iPod-muziekspeler van Apple met 40 gigabyte aan opslagcapaciteit zou daarmee 131 euro in prijs omhoogschieten. Dit is onacceptabel, aldus ICT Office, ook omdat invoering in meerdere Europese landen dreigt. De branchevereniging denkt dat IT-bedrijven er in de toekomst voor kiezen om nieuwe producten eerst in de Verenigde Staten en Azi√ę te introduceren. Nieuwe ontwikkelingen gaan daarmee aan Europa voorbij, met alle gevolgen voor de Nederlandse elektronicasector.
Daar gaan we weer. De muziek industrie neemt gewoon blind aan dat iedereen die een mp3 speler koopt een dief is. Klootzakken.
Regelmatig gebruik van e-mail en sms is schadelijker voor de intelligentie dan dat van cannabis. Dat zeggen Britse psychologen, die in opdracht van een technologiebedrijf Hewlett Packard onderzoek hebben gedaan bij 1100 vrijwilligers.
Volgens het onderzoek, waarover de Britse kranten The Times en The Guardian vrijdag berichtten, leidt veelvuldig gebruik van elektronische tekstberichten tot slaperigheid, apathie en concentratieproblemen. E-mailen bleek bovendien een bijzonder verslavende bezigheid te zijn.
Het IQ van de deelnemers liet een tijdelijke daling met maar liefst tienpunten zien. Bij cannabisgebruikers is dat gemiddeld ‘slechts’ vier punten, aldus de verontruste wetenschappers. Zij noemen het verschijnsel, dat vooral werkende mannen lijkt te treffen “infomanie”.
Eerstvolgende keer dat m’n baas vraagt waarom ik nog niet op z’n e-mail heb gereageerd, vertel ik ‘m dat ik een jointje ben gaan roken….