Public Knowledge on Copyright Reform

by on November 1, 2007 · 8 comments

Public Knowledge has proposed some copyright reform principles. I agree with one of them. As for the rest… the “expansion” of copyright law that the proposed reforms are supposed to redress has come about in a context in which traditional enforcement mechanisms for copyright have become almost impossible to use. Given this problem, it is hard to see how the “expansion” as creating an imbalance–rather, it is a result of an imbalance created by technology. Unless one addresses the enforcement problem, one is not really addressing the “expansion” problem.

I do agree that music licensing needs work (proposal 4).

Re 1) Expanding fair use to include personal use etc. would create an exemption that would swallow almost all of copyright law.

Re 2) Why undermine the growth in licensing services since Sony was clarified and updated in Grokster? That is what a codification of the vast oversimplication of letting all and any “substantial non-infringing uses” behind a protective wall would do. If one is fond of the Sony case, one had better read the whole thing–and be aware of what it doesn’t hold, and it’s qualifications. If the law doesn’t keep up with technology, well, it can’t maintain balance very well.

Re 3) How about comparable penalties for overstating the rights of fair use? Or their importance? Or their role in the economy?

Re 5) Presumably consumers would get notice of contractual limits if they read the contracts… This no more needs to be legislated than any other aspect of the terms of sale. I do expect that market forces will continue to lead to improvements–there is room for those. In the end, though, what gets put front and center on the packaging ought to be determined by demand. Wrapping the entire package in fine print about what the technology can and can’t do (you can’t play it backwards like a movie reel… etc. etc.) is not likely to help anyone. It won’t get read.

  • Lewis Baumstark

    Presumably consumers would get notice of contractual limits if they read the contracts…

    How can they read them if the contracts are not available pre-sale? Mind-reading? How is a purchases to “vote with their dollars” and accept/reject DRM if they don’t know what the effects will be?

  • Lewis Baumstark

    Presumably consumers would get notice of contractual limits if they read the contracts…

    How can they read them if the contracts are not available pre-sale? Mind-reading? How is a purchases to “vote with their dollars” and accept/reject DRM if they don’t know what the effects will be?

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Gigi Sohn wrote an excellent speech. Too bad she did not propose that the effective period of copyright entitlement be reduced to a reasonable period.

    Singleton raises the “enforcement problem”. From the content producers side, enforcement means the ability to extort revenue from the consumer. From the consumer’s side corporations are being given the power to be judge, jury, and executioner. It seems the “enforcement problem” Singleton wants to solve is the legitimization of corporations having the unilateral ability to create and impose “regulations” (contracts by adhesion).

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Gigi Sohn wrote an excellent speech. Too bad she did not propose that the effective period of copyright entitlement be reduced to a reasonable period.

    Singleton raises the “enforcement problem”. From the content producers side, enforcement means the ability to extort revenue from the consumer. From the consumer’s side corporations are being given the power to be judge, jury, and executioner. It seems the “enforcement problem” Singleton wants to solve is the legitimization of corporations having the unilateral ability to create and impose “regulations” (contracts by adhesion).

  • Doug Lay

    Well, I thank Solveig for pointing out an excellent speech by Gigi Sohn, which I would otherwise not have been aware of.

    I especially like the reminder at the outset that the Supreme Court regards fair use as an essential safety valve that keeps copyright law in compliance with the First Amendment. This point needs to be hammered home again and again when content industry apologists dismiss fair use as a relic whose scope can be diminished as “transaction costs” are supposedly reduced.

    The jury is still out on whether the “enforcement mechanism” provided by the DMCA really works to reduce unauthorized copying. Actually, in the case of music, the jury verdict is in, and it’s a resounding NO. In the meantime, the curbs on technological innovation are real, and harsh. In my opinion, there will never be a wholly open-source consumer computing platform, mobile or otherwise, as long as the DMCA anti-circumvention provision is in place.

    As for whether there should be penalties for overstating the rights of fair use, I think there already is one. It’s called being found guilty of infringement. For better or worse (worse, mostly), those corporations who try to overstate the *limits* on fair use don’t face any comparable penalty – a little negative publicity maybe, a few dollars wasted on lawyers, but nothing worse than that.

    Despite finding little to agree with in Solveig’s critique, I do commend her for arguing in a more reasonable manner than her PFF predecessors DeLong and Ross.

  • Doug Lay

    In the above post, the last sentence of the third paragraph should read:

    In my opinion, there will never be a broadly successful wholly open-source consumer computing platform, mobile or otherwise, as long as the DMCA anti-circumvention provision is in place.

  • Doug Lay

    Well, I thank Solveig for pointing out an excellent speech by Gigi Sohn, which I would otherwise not have been aware of.

    I especially like the reminder at the outset that the Supreme Court regards fair use as an essential safety valve that keeps copyright law in compliance with the First Amendment. This point needs to be hammered home again and again when content industry apologists dismiss fair use as a relic whose scope can be diminished as “transaction costs” are supposedly reduced.

    The jury is still out on whether the “enforcement mechanism” provided by the DMCA really works to reduce unauthorized copying. Actually, in the case of music, the jury verdict is in, and it’s a resounding NO. In the meantime, the curbs on technological innovation are real, and harsh. In my opinion, there will never be a wholly open-source consumer computing platform, mobile or otherwise, as long as the DMCA anti-circumvention provision is in place.

    As for whether there should be penalties for overstating the rights of fair use, I think there already is one. It’s called being found guilty of infringement. For better or worse (worse, mostly), those corporations who try to overstate the *limits* on fair use don’t face any comparable penalty – a little negative publicity maybe, a few dollars wasted on lawyers, but nothing worse than that.

    Despite finding little to agree with in Solveig’s critique, I do commend her for arguing in a more reasonable manner than her PFF predecessors DeLong and Ross.

  • Doug Lay

    In the above post, the last sentence of the third paragraph should read:

    In my opinion, there will never be a broadly successful wholly open-source consumer computing platform, mobile or otherwise, as long as the DMCA anti-circumvention provision is in place.

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