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Re: GNU License and Computer Break Ins

Paul Serice writes:

> Mark Rafn wrote:
> > 
> > Some authors' wishes are dishonorable (in some opinions).
> That's a good point.  I'm not sympathetic when they try to abuse the
> system.
> > > If pressed, I will break.  At some point, technology should fall
> > > into the public domain or a GPL-like public domain even against an
> > > author's wishes, but people have already reached this tradeoff.
> > 
> > Why?  From a pure theoretical sense, if bits and ideas can be owned
> > and their use and distribution limited by an author, shouldn't that
> > ownership be permanent?  Or do inventors/authors just lease their
> > ideas?
> > 
> > What justification for having it expire in X years cannot be applied
> > to having it expire in X-1 years?
> Yeah, I get squeezed in on both sides.  The other question I need to be
> able to answer is: What justification for letting it survive X years
> can't be applied to X+1 years?
> This particular belief of mine is partly subjective and partly
> objective.
> Subjectively, it seems right that, if somebody spends 30 years writing
> the best novel of the 21st century, she should be allowed to give the
> proceeds to the charity of her choice for as long as she wanted.  After
> all, the book will be in the public library system soon so no one can
> claim that they are being denied access to it.

Well, the process of "giv[ing] the proceeds" to someone involves
_obtaining_ the proceeds, which, without copyright, might belong to a
third party, not the author's agent.  So you first have to seize the
proceeds of someone else's sale of a copy of the document, and then
give them away.

On the other hand, in cases where there aren't any proceeds, you have
to obtain the proceeds by estimating how much they _might_ have been,
and then trying to compel payment of the estimated hypothetical
proceeds...  As was recently noted, since the aftermath of the
LaMacchia case, non-commercial copyright infringement has been a crime
in the United States.  So if you give away copies of the text of the
"best novel of the 21st century", the author gets to punish you for
not collecting proceeds of this sale in order to give those proceeds
to the charity of her choice.

It's not just like "the proceeds" are an object sitting out there
somewhere in a publisher's office, and the copyright just means that
the author can come in and collect them.  Copyright is implemented as
a set of regulations and restrictions on all third parties' behavior.

> Subjectively, it seems wrong that someone could abuse the copyright or
> patent laws to produce a monopoly like the one the justice department is
> in the process of breaking up.
> Objectively, by combining both subjective paragraphs above, you more or
> less end up with my general rule that copyrights are fine until they are
> abused.

I'm working on the argument that copyrights are so confusing because
they are really an attempt at a government subsidy to authors (to
promote the Progress, etc.), cleverly disguised as a minor market

The copyright strategy for compensating authors is unfortunate,
because it produces murky concepts like "intellectual property" and
hides the nature of the underlying goals.  And, as Richard Stallman
has pointed out, it also works by denying individuals the ability to
do things that (if they didn't happen to undermine this indirect
subsidy) would otherwise be thought of as perfectly natural and

I think it's correct that copyright in the U.S. was originally,
quite explicitly, all about money.  It would promote the Progress if
authors were paid: so here is an indirect strategy to try to get them
to be paid.  No moral rights, no natural rights, just an effort to
subsidize creativity.  Since then, all kinds of other things have
accreted on top of the copyright system, so that authors have become
quite insistent about their absolute "ownership" of their work, and
the dire necessity of expanding legal protections for that
"ownership".  (Never mind how incredibly weak the analogies between
physical property and intellectual property are.)

This isn't to say that copyright might not be one of the most
effective ways of implementing a public subsidy to promote creativity.
But it is definitely one of the most confusing.

Seth David Schoen <schoen@loyalty.org>  | And do not say, I will study when I
Temp.  http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/  | have leisure; for perhaps you will
down:  http://www.loyalty.org/   (CAF)  | not have leisure.  -- Pirke Avot 2:5

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