[clug] 'Rip!' on SBS, last Tuesday night

Paul Wayper paulway at mabula.net
Sat Jan 9 22:48:01 MST 2010

On 10/01/10 09:58, Martin Schwenke wrote:
>>>>>> "Paul" == Paul Wayper<paulway at mabula.net>  writes:
>      >>>  must... resist... urge to rant... about copyright hypocrisy...
> Aren't you actually complaining about people not being willing to
> *license* things under reasonable conditions?  After all, copyright
> protects free software too...

There's a number of different points you raise there, and I'll try to get to 
most of them.  The hypocrisy I was angsting about when I wrote that sentence 
is that companies have taken over things that weren't copyrighted, or even 
sometimes things that were (viz the Rolling Stones vs the Verve), and then 
copyrighting the expression of those previously copyright-expired works. 
Disney taking Cinderella and copyrighting it is a classic example.  And the 
hypocrisy that struck me in writing my blog post was that we're told that 
copyright is necessary to protect all those little artists and writers (and 
patents are necessary to protect all those garage inventors) whereas the 
'people' they need to be protecting them from are those self-same big media 
corporations (and big patent corporations) who seem so heedless in violating 
everyone else's copyright (Virgin advertising with CC-licensed photos, for 

Copyright is one of those difficult moral areas, because it covers so many 
areas of use and abuse.  What can seem like a perfectly reasonable thing - 
Yoko Ono and Julian Lennon trying to prevent the use of John Lennon's song 
"Imagine" put to graphically contrary visuals by a bunch of "scientists are 
ganging up on us Intelligent Design people" conspiracy theorists - can then be 
turned around to block someone remixing George W. Bush's speeches to have him 
say the words to "Imagine".  What is "fair use" in those cases?  What's a fair 
amount of time for a thing to remain copyrighted?  What about "evergreening"? 
  Etc. etc. etc.

There's obviously a kernel of 'truth' in there - I think most people would 
want their own words and artistic expressions to not be appropriated by 
others.  There's the "moral" right - the right to have my own words not used 
to say something I don't want to say - and the "money" right (if that's the 
term) - the right to make money out of my artistic expressions.  But once you 
get beyond the very simple examples it becomes a minefield.

And, yes, we in the Free Open Source Software community - like the Creative 
Commons community - have this license which says "a few rights reserved".  Yet 
we still see a new GPL violation every single day for over a year, as 
companies across the world simply don't even think about using someone else's 
copyrighted material in a way not covered by the GPL.  So ultimately I see it 
not being a copyright problem per se but a hypocrisy problem - companies (and 
indeed some individuals) doing what they like with other people's 
"intellectual property" and hoping that they do get caught (and, if they do, 
the penalty is usually hardly enough or way too much, as we've seen with 
Microsoft vs i4i and Microsoft vs TomTom).

> Why?  There are 2 sides to this.  The original creator of the material
> says "I'm not willing to let people mess with my creation for less
> that $250K".  So, either that creation is good enough that people will
> pay the $250K... or they laugh and go and do their own creative thing.
> People have that choice: they don't have to borrow, cover or sample
> other peoples' creations.

Well, it's about $1000 per sample if you ask permission beforehand, and 
probably about that per sample if you don't and get sued.  So maybe the 
copyright owner of "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie - which of course 
isn't those entities - isn't being so unreasonable.  But why is it $1000 to 
use a two-second sample from a song, and $19.95 to buy the whole album?  Why 
is it free to listen to that song played repetitively in shopping malls, on 
TV, on radio, in taxis and restaurants and often places that we'd wish to just 
have some peace and quiet?  Why have clubs and restaurants recently seen a 
1000% increase in the cost of licensing songs to play - what sudden 
apocalyptic event caused the price of those songs to jump so ludicrously? 
Would it be copyright infringement if I went and recorded playing the 'dum dum 
dum da-da-da-dum' riff of "Under Pressure" myself, and if so why?

There are all good answers to these questions, but the simple view is it's 
crazy.  A song goes into the popular culture, a book or a movie becomes part 
of the zeitgeist of the age we live in, and people quote them and play games 
with them and use them in ways the original inventors never thought up.  If we 
had to pay a fee or ask permission every time we sang "Happy Birthday" - if it 
was physically impossible to sing it without doing so - then it would cease to 
be the popular song it is.  When does its copyright eventually expire and 
"Happy Birthday" become part of the public domain, or are we going to see it 
perpetually "evergreened" and passed from holding company to licensing front 
and kept as a private thing that restaurants must pay a license fee in case 
someone sings happy birthday?

This is why it's all crazy.

> So, why NC?  ;-)

Because I'm still somewhat a victim of the copyright mindset, and the one 
thing I'd like to have a legal way of stopping is someone reposting my blog or 
the CLUG list on sites plastered with ads.  Not that I'm likely to do so or 
anyone's going to make any serious money out of it, but by-nc-sa has become a 
mantra that I obviously need to rethink.

> peace&  happiness,
> martin

Have fun,


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