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Re: CLUEBAT: copyrights, infringement, violations, and legality

On Tue, Jan 28, 2003 at 11:16:24PM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> [Followup to -legal.]
> Okay, I'm going to a pull an RMS and plead for a change in our
> collective use of certain terms.
> * Under U.S. law and the laws of most countries I'm familiar with,
>   copyright IS NOT A NATURAL RIGHT.

Is this comparable to "the right to bear arms"?

Copyright is the right to make copies. That's the morphology of the
word... The logical leap comes in that it is an exclusive right.

> * For many years, copyright infringement wasn't even illegal.  The first
>   U.S. criminal copyright statue passed in 1897.  Prior to that --
>   meaning for over 100 years since the U.S. Constitution was ratified
>   with its Copyright Clause, copyright infringement could only be
>   tortious, not criminal.  This means that copyright infringement claims
>   had to be prosecuted by civil plaintiffs, not government prosecutors.
>   Times are different now, of course, and especially over the past
>   couple of decades the criminal penalties for copyright infringement
>   have skyrocketed, meaning that in the United States you can spend more
>   time in prison for annoying the Walt Disney Company than you can for
>   killing someone.  Some people might feel that punishing the
>   infringement of a legal fiction more harshly than we punish violations
>   of universally accepted human rights reflects a priority inversion in
>   the legal system.  Some people also feel that the very large media
>   corporations that now control most published, copyrighted works in
>   existence have ample resources to pursue tort claims against
>   infringer.

That's nice for those corporations. As a contract software developer,
I have no such legal muscle. A tort-based system would make the idea of
copyright essentially useless to me.

> If one is unconvinced that copyrights are fundamentally different from
> natural rights, one may wish to perform a thought experiment.  Do you
> believe that the ancient Greeks and medieval Europeans had a right to
> life and free exercise of religion?  Was it possible for a Greek to be
> murdered, or a medieval man or woman wrongly persecuted by the
> Inquisition for his or her heretical religious beliefs?  Now, then, do
> you think Euclid held a copyright in the _Elements_?  Did the apostles
Bad example. The elements are not an expression of an idea. They are the
matter themselves... Of course, the US Patent Office would probably have
granted him a patent on them...

> of Jesus hold a copyright in the gospels?  If so, when did these
The Evangelists? Of course. If I write a book, isn't it mine to control
who reads it?

> copyrights expire, or have they?  If they haven't, who controls them
Of course they should. Once the author (or authors) are dead, then time
should run out. Copyright isn't an asset to be bought and sold, it's a

> now, and by what right?  Should the Roman Catholic Church have sued
> Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other Protestant leaders for
> copyright infringement?  Do these questions sound ridiculous to you?  If
> so, then you shouldn't speak in terms of "illegal" copyright
> "violations".

> Needless to say, if you don't share my premises, feel free to ignore
> this message.  Please do not endeavor to persuade me that bypassing the
> region coding or CSS encryption on a DVD in any way morally resembles
> arson, assault, torture, or murder.  Thanks.

True, but none of those examples represents copyright infringement.

If I write my life's work, the book that will make me rich and famous,
and someone takes a photocopy, puts his name on it and sells it as his
work, is that as bad as if someone burns your house down while you're
not there... After all, a house and contents is just stuff. A book is
concentrated effort and achievement. (Extreme, I know. The point I'm
making is still valid, I feel.)

(For reference, the stuff I deleted seemed generally agreeable to me)

Now off to the list archives to see what interesting debate spawned
this crosspost.

Paul "TBBle" Hampson, MCSE
5th year CompSci/Asian Studies student, ANU
The Boss, Bubblesworth Pty Ltd (ABN: 51 095 284 361)

Of course Pacman didn't influence us as kids. If it did,
we'd be running around in darkened rooms, popping pills and
listening to repetitive music.

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