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Copyright blues

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This would be hysterical, if it were not so benighted.

Pariser [the head of litigation for Sony BMG] has a very broad definition of “stealing.” When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the record labels, Pariser suggested that what millions of music fans do is actually theft. The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or downloading songs you already own.

Gabriel [lead counsel for the record labels] asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ’steals just one copy’,” she said.

The poor (and I use this term very loosely here) lawyers are actually following a certain logic. It is the logic of physical property rights that have been translated into ideas and intellectual property. This was done at the time when technology was lined up behind those who controlled production and distribution of the goods based on those ideas. Supply chains and business models followed. But technology (and behaviour based on it) has changed that and the current understanding of copyright seems a rather crude application of property rights to the realm of ideas and innovation.

So the lawyers are not being ‘evil’ in following the letter of law but in their inability to look beyond it. I know, I know, they are not paid to do that by those who want to protect the status quo of copyright. However, this is going to be a legal battle. The users-pirates can bring on the pressure to shift the debate but ultimately, it will be lawyers who will have to create a legal framework that reflects reality.

via Simon Phipps

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2 Responses to “Copyright blues”

  1. Trine-Maria
    on Oct 4th, 2007
    @ 14:25 pm

    I wish it was the lawyers – but isn’t it in fact the politicians that create the framework? And where is the political party with a creative commons policy and a grand vision for the new copyright rules? Not many in my country I am afraid :-)

  2. David Glover
    on Oct 4th, 2007
    @ 23:00 pm

    I do think we need to start insisting on precise terminology from lawyers and others.

    In legal terms, “Theft” and “Stealing” apply to physical objects. “Piracy” has to do with demanding things with force on the high seas.

    All these terms have been applied to copyright as metaphors – because they have more emotional power than “breach of copyright” or “unlicensed use” which would be more precise.

    Journalists need to understand the precise terminology, and challenge the lawyers when they cloud these issues with emotive words.

    The bastards will just keep escalating it. I notice one “anti piracy” leader on my (bought and paid for) DVDs links unauthorised DVD duplication to “world terrorism”.

    Copyright is an arbitrary granting of rights (and, it’s worth noting, the withholding of other potential rights). It’s a social system, with a loose relationship to physical reality.

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