Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Copyright Maximalism: Why It Will Never Die

Long copyright terms are for zombies
We live in a world where values and the meanings of words — even ideas, keep changing. Critical thinking is essential to navigating this unless you want to end up in a situation where you have to join a group you  may not be in full agreement with just for safety in numbers. Whether or not you've hitched your wagon to an ideological position or group you still need to question your own beliefs or motives from time to time or you're going to end up like this guy.

Rick Falkvinge was disgusted by his tone-deaf post, which generated a flurry of angry responses on Twitter and a scathing takedown by Rick on his blog: Copyright Monopolist Claims Legal, Non-Infringing Use Of Your Own Property, Without Asking Unnecessary Permission Anyway, Is Like AGGRAVATED RAPE - Falkvinge on Infopolicy.

No doubt Techdirt will weigh in on it soon. Anyway, rather than repeat or repost what I've already said (I might Storify it later) I'll just link to my own conversation with him on Twitter and leave you to make up your own minds.

Copyright is STILL not property, Dave

Skip down to the comments on his blog post where I am constantly accused of pretending to be an expert. The takeaway: whereas case law has established that copyrighted works are not property, they are anyway, so there, because he says so.

When he can't ignore this any longer:

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, empowers the United States Congress:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. - Wikipedia
he looks to cherry-picked laws including the Fifth Amendment RE: taking by the government to justify his stance. However, the pesky old Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 keeps reasserting itself. After that, the appeal to authority kicks in along with the reminder that I'm not an expert. Then he doesn't like my tone. I use the same tone with everyone and it didn't change there. I think he was expecting to own me or get an internet mob of great justice to help him out but unless you've got God's honest truth on your side, good luck with that.

Oh, and I did Latin at school for my Intermediate exam in Ireland in 1987. I got an A.

Why they win anyway

Logical fallacies are rarely, if ever, cited in Congressional discussions on copyright terms. Instead, the new uses for copyright including welfare for authors and their families, heirlooms, and perpetual cash cows, are trotted out and accepted by credulous representatives who can almost smell that sweet, sweet campaign donation money, not to mention the cushy lobbying jobs that are handed out like candy to the faithful.

They own the narrative

They've been sneaking IPR extensions into international trade agreements, then going back to Congress to remind them of their international obligations under those treaties, expanding the terms over and over. And all that time, they've been "educating" the public about copyright to the point where people don't realise that the benefits aren't for the little people but for the wealthy and powerful.

A friend once told me copyright should be perpetual and passed down like an heirloom. He couldn't quite explain what this would apply to or how it would work because, as Rick Falkvinge so adroitly pointed out, it's like a religion, you mustn't question the Preciousss. Well the way I see it if it doesn't stand up to scrutiny, it has no value. Ditch it. But that doesn't happen in a world where emotional arguments are sacrosanct.

What we can do

Well it starts with pointing out that other options are available, and by "other options" I mean new business models where you don't have to rely on rent-seeking to pay the, erm, rent. Then we need to educate the public about the truth where copyright and IPR are concerned. Much of the information you can use is in my post Pirate Party Talking Points: Copyright. Help yourselves to whatever you need from there. We need to lose the freetard label our detractors have pinned to us and that I keep on trying to crowbar off and demonstrate that we contribute to culture by supporting artists and other creatives too.

Most of all, though, we need to keep talking, celebrating examples of artists and creatives who use alternative business models and do well from them, and calling out lies from the maximalist corner. The most egregious one is "Own it now on DVD." That is a breach of the Trade Descriptions Act, for a start. We need to keep this up until people realise that copyright is a monopoly privilege, not a property right, and that is going to take time. And a lot of people talking. Will you help?

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