Regarding Intellectual Property

The editor in chief of InformationWeek wrote an editorial about IP and copyright. He believes that IP is something worth protecting because it generates money and subsequently jobs — especially in USA. Of course, there is the other side of the coin, people who want to see an abolishment of IP, copyright and patents.

I fall right in the middle of the dispute, as usual, with the ancient Greeks’ wisdom guiding my opinion: “pan metron ariston” (translation: “all good things in moderation”).

You see, IP is something that is strong in USA because it’s a product in itself. But it’s not as strong in, let’s say, Greece. Greece produces feta cheese and olive oil. 99% of Greeks don’t give a rat’s ass about Intellectual Property. And this is not because they “don’t get it” or because “they are savages”, but its citizens don’t have an interest in IP because they don’t produce any. In fact, the few that do produce IP (e.g. musicians), don’t actively secure it because it’s not in their mindset. Same goes for 90% of the countries of the world.

USA has created a virtual cash cow with this IP business. It looks to me that in 50 years from now the big business in USA would be to sell virtual islands inside virtual worlds. As stupid that might sound to us today, I am sure that modern IP law would sound the same to an early 20th century person. While ideas can be translated to real products, what it’s actually being secured is the idea, and not the final product (for example, Microsoft won’t sue you for stealing the actual box and CD of MS Office, but the actual software in it). Having said that, writing software is hard. Writing good software is much harder. Creating a good movie is hard. Writing any book is hard. Writing music, not so.

My opinion is that there are too many restrictions currently. I try to abide to IP laws, but there are some restrictions that I really don’t like. For example, if I make a small home movie to put on youtube and used Madonna’s music, I want to be able to do that. Recently, I tried to license some music from Magnatune for my personal video projects, and even their license is not clear enough: they want $5 for all YouTube videos, but they ask for $0 for non-commercial projects. So, where does my non-commercial video that would be hosted on BOTH the commercial YouTube and on my non-commercial web site and linked from an ad-driven video-tech forum falls to? Should I use the YouTube license, or the non-commercial license? And if I use the YouTube license, can I still upload that same video elsewhere, like on an ad-driven forum that I don’t own? It’s just not clear. I emailed Magnatune, and no one knows.

Fuck that. Through a lawyer friend I got in touch with CreativeCommons for using some of their music for my non-commercial videos (videos that would also be hosted to commercial sites though, like YouTube). Their non-derivative license clause says that you can use CC-by-nc-nd licensed music with your videos as long as there is no “synching”. What the hell “synching” is? Is the ‘one-note is for one-frame’ technical explanation, or the artistic explanation of “use a horrific part of music for a horrific moment in your video synchronized to create a specific feeling”? We asked in the list and the official CC lawyer, and guess what: no one knows! (or haven’t replied yet).

Fuck that too. Here’s what I read now: music companies asking protection money from small shops, no matter if they checked that they use copyrighted music or not. Eventually, a law will pass and all shops will require to pay music fees no matter if they use music or not. Like in some countries, you have to pay a monthly TV fee, no matter if you have a TV or not.

*That’s* where I am getting pissed of at. At the fact that the laws about something as BASIC as entertainment or knowledge are so complicated and so restrictive, that they take the “entertainment” out of the whole experience.

I believe that IP must be protected, but not go overboard with it. Laws like the DMCA are nazi-like (”tell me who told you and I will put him to jail too”). Poorer countries must be allowed to have a cheap pass on IP. Simplify the laws, and allow for more freedom on how people can use ideas. For example, for some open source licenses (possibly “public domain” licenses only), allow developers to use patents at their own will. For individuals who just made a home-made video clip, allow to use some copyrighted music in lower quality (e.g. 48kbps). For individuals who would like to include a 30-sec scene from a movie to remix it on YouTube, let them do so.

In other words, it comes down to this: Expand the fair use law and make it clear as day. Why is this so hard to do?

Update: My reply to a similar issue, about IP-likeness.

3 Comments »

mikesum32 wrote on July 10th, 2007 at 7:52 AM PST:

Lack of comments can mean either one of two things. A: nobody cares, or B: everyone agrees and there is nothing to add. IP laws are out of control, and there’s nothing left to say.


Richard wrote on July 10th, 2007 at 9:13 AM PST:

It’s funny, how this issue influences my preference for music, but I always search music sites for specific creative commons tags.

In my opinion, only Attribution and ShareAlike are acceptable, NoDerivs could mean that I could not use it as background music for a little movie, because this would propably mean some adjustments, and NonCommercial would mean that it could not be played at a commercial place, like a club or something without jumping through loops.

Of course, for listening at home all those CC options are good, but you could need that additional freedoms sooner as you think.


RandomGuy wrote on July 10th, 2007 at 12:41 PM PST:

“Like in some countries, you have to pay a monthly TV fee, no matter if you have a TV or not.”

Yeah, like Germany. If you’ve got a PC (with internet access), you’ve got to pay for TV, even if you don’t own a TV set.

But what I _really_ hate about this is not so much that they want to steal my money but that they try to justify it like this:

“You have internet access so you _could_ use our online material.”

Yeah, sure. First of all, their online stuff sucks, it’s nowhere near the quality of, say, BBC online information.
Furthermore, yes, I _could_ use it. So could people in Switzerland, Belgium and everybody who speaks German.
Does that mean that the GEZ wants to invade these countries?

The plain and honest answer to the question “Why do you screw me off my money?” would’ve been:
“Because we can!”


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