aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
In the ongoing saga of Scrabulous, the unauthorized online version of Scrabble that has found many fans on Facebook but has upset Mattel and Hasbro (who own the rights to Scrabble), it appears that RealNetworks and Mattel have finally put out an official version of Scrabble for Facebook—but the problem is that it’s terrible. As the NY Times reports, “Facebook Scrabble takes a long time to load, does not always quickly update to show recent moves, and the words the game will accept do not reflect standard Scrabble dictionaries, or even the English language.” While it’s nice to see that Scrabulous still hasn’t been forced offline, it seems odd that the authorized version is so terrible. It still probably would have made the most sense to just do a deal with the brothers who created Scrabulous (and there are still rumors that a deal has been discussed, but without a decent resolution), but if that doesn’t work, the way to compete is with a better product. Putting out a product that’s not very good isn’t likely to win over many fans.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Apple passes Wal-Mart
Over the past few years, we have watched Apple climb the music sales chart courtesy of the iTunes. Last month we learned that Apple passed Best Buy to become the number two retailer in the the US. Now, Apple has ascended to the top of the charts, surpassing Wal-Mart for the first time ever, according to the NPD MusicWatch Survey. [...]
For the music industry, there is a dark side to Apple's ascension to the top of the charts. Buying patterns for digital downloads are different, as customers are far more likely to cherry pick a favorite track or two from an album than purchase the whole thing. In contrast, brick-and-mortar sales are predominantly high-margin CDs. For 2007, that translated into a 10 percent decline in overall music spending according to the NPD Group, and it's a trend that's expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Overall, paid downloads accounted for almost 30 percent of all music sold in January, a number that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. With the Big Four labels throwing off the DRM shackles and experimenting with new delivery models like Last.fm's free streaming service, the future looks bright for digital music distribution.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Creative Labs not very creative IP solution!
Apparently, many users have been upset that Creative has failed to support certain systems, and a user in the Creative Labs’ forums started releasing drivers to make things actually work or work better. Creative struck back and has removed the various threads in their forums discussing these drivers (thanks to Joe [not me] for sending in the link). Basically, this user, Daniel_K was making Creative products work better, and Creative has forced him to stop, claiming that it’s violating their intellectual property rights. From a legal standpoint, Creative is probably absolutely right. But from a business perspective, the move seems suicidal. Just read a few of the comments in the long thread following the announcement from Creative. Many people were buying Creative products because of Daniel’s mods, and will now look elsewhere. This seems like yet another case of IP laws being used to hold back innovation, rather than encourage it.
And a company choosing to alienate its best customers, rather than build brand loyalty!
Monday, March 17, 2008
A letter from Mark Twain to Helen Keller on St. Patrick’s Day 1903
When, at the age of 12, Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism, Michael Anagnos of the Perkins Institution in Boston convened a nine-member jury that acquitted her of the charge by a single vote. His. He later turned on her calling her “a living lie.” Keller would remain defensive about plagiarism ever after.
On St. Patrick’s Day 1903, Mark Twain wrote Helen a consoling letter that is quoted by Siva Vaidhyanathan in Copyrights and Copywrongs. I quote it again this St. Patrick’s Day, intending to make it my own small tradition:
I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they’ll say, “there they come--sit down in front.” I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was at Henry Roger’s last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not at all well--you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is just as lovely as ever.
I am charmed with your book--enchanted. You are a wonderful creature, the most wonderful in the world--you and your other half together--Miss Sullivan, I mean, for it took the pair of you to make complete and perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy, penetration, originality, wisdom, character, and the fine literary competencies of her pen--they are all there.
Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul--let us go farther and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances in plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second hand, consciously or unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them any where except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.
When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten thousand men--but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his but there were others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone, or any other important thing--and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite--that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.
Then why don’t we unwittingly reproduce the phrasing of a story, as well as the story itself? It can hardly happen--to the extent of fifty words--except in the case of a child; its memory tablet is not lumbered with impressions, and the natural language can have graving room there and preserve the language a year or two, but a grown person’s memory tablet is a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase. It must be a very rare thing that a whole page gets so sharply printed on a man’s mind, by a single reading, that it will stay long enough to turn up some time or other to be mistaken by him for his own.
No doubt we are constantly littering our literature with disconnected sentences borrowed from books at some unremembered time and how imagined to be our own, but that is about the most we can do. In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes’s poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dedication, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my “Innocents Abroad” with. Ten years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass--no, not he; he was not a collection of decayed human turnips, like your “Plagiarism Court,” and so when I said, “I know now where I stole it, but who did you steal it from,” he said, “I don’t remember; I only know I stole it from somebody, because I have never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anyone who had!”
To think of those solemn donkeys breaking a little child’s heart with their ignorant rubbish about plagiarism! I couldn’t sleep for blaspheming about it last night. Why, their whole histories, their whole lives, all their learning, all their thoughts, all their opinions were one solid rock of plagiarism, and they didn’t know it and never suspected it. A gang of dull and hoary pirates piously setting themselves the task of disciplining and purifying a kitten that they think they’ve caught filching a chop! Oh, dam--
But you finish it, dear, I am running short of vocabulary today.
Every lovingly your friend (sic)
Mark Twain had complex and contradictory views on creativity and copyright. For much more here’s the Mark Twain and the History of Literary Copyright chapter from Siva’s Copyrights and Copywrongs (pdf).
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
A Fair(y) Use Tale (NOT a Disney movie - again)
Eisner “believes” in copyright. But Fair Use? Not so much. Which makes this viral hit mash-up from last year all the more fun to watch. I promise you’ll laugh and learn…
Bucknell prof Eric Faden has produced the most amazing video mashup I’ve ever seen: “A Fair(y) Use Tale” cuts together thousands of extremely short clips from dozens of Disney cartoons, lifting indivudal words and short phrases to spell out an articulate, funny, and thoroughly educational lesson on how copyright works. This is the most subversive and hilarious use of Disney material I’ve ever seen—and there’s even a really smart chapter about why Faden used Disney material to make his film. This should be required viewing in every K-12 classroom in the country.
Eisner & Lincoln & copyright
Michael Eisner gave an interview at SXSW on Tuesday (with Mark Cuban acting as the interviewer). While he discussed a variety of things, at one point he was asked about copyright issues and he responded with a strongly pro-copyright statement:“I have a long history, obviously, of believing in copyright. I think basically what separated this country from the rest of the world was patents and copyrights. President Lincoln introduced a lot of this, fought for (the idea that) to pay people for their intellectual work was no different than paying them for their physical work. And nobody would think twice about paying someone for their physical work.”
Eisner has been repeating this bizarre and near totally incorrect claim about Lincoln for years. In fact, in 2002 he wrote an editorial for the Financial Times with the bizarre claim that Abraham Lincoln would hate file sharing. Then, last year, in another interview he talked about how important intellectual property was in the US since the time of Lincoln. It certainly would appear that he has Lincoln on the brain when it comes to intellectual property. There are just a few problems with this, with the first one being that Lincoln had almost nothing to do with intellectual property laws in this country. While he is the only president to hold a patent, he didn’t do much with that patent, and during his administration there was no major legislative changes to either patent or copyright law. Thus, it’s not at all clear why Eisner seems to repeatedly be crediting Lincoln with setting up our modern copyright and patent law. [...]
Furthermore, Eisner seems to have a total blind spot to the fact that much of Walt Disney’s success was due to its widespread use of stories and concepts from the public domain (the very public domain he doesn’t seem to want to exist any more). Even the beloved Mickey Mouse was originally a concept copied from a popular movie (which was still under copyright at the time Disney copied it). Eisner is no longer at Disney, but it’s not a stretch to suggest that a big part of Disney’s troubles, leading to his own ouster, had to do with his inability to adapt to the changing times and changing marketplace that wasn’t so reliant on artificial scarcities.
Monday, March 03, 2008
David Pogue: a “Tedly” on the music wars
A legal and social history of music and media on the Internet in 4 minutes…
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
‘Dykes on Bikes’ trademark OKd
A San Francisco motorcycle club gained long-sought legal approval Monday for its trademark of the name “Dykes on Bikes” when the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a challenge from a lawyer who said the term denigrated men.
Without comment, the justices denied review of an appeal by Michael McDermott of Dublin, who challenged a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to grant the San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent exclusive rights over the commercial use of Dykes on Bikes.
The motorcycle club applied for a trademark in 2003 after using Dykes on Bikes for three decades as the moniker of the motorized unit that leads San Francisco’s annual Gay Pride Parade. The club’s attorney, Gregory Gilchrist, said the group had no business plans for the phrase but decided to seek legal protection after an offshoot group, now independent, discussed putting the name on T-shirts for sale.
The trademark office initially rejected the application, saying the name was disparaging to lesbians, but approved it in January 2006 after the club submitted evidence that activists were trying to reclaim dykes as a term of pride. Gilchrist said the lawyers pointed out that the office had approved trademarks for other once-derogatory terms - for example, the television show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
McDermott, a self-described men’s rights advocate, objected to the trademark office and the courts, arguing that the term was disparaging - to men - as well as “scandalous and immoral.” Those categories are grounds for denial of a trademark.
A trademark would put the definition in the hands of a group of “thought police” and contradict the “widespread documented understanding of the term â€˜dyke’ as describing hyper-militant radicals hateful toward men,” McDermott wrote in his Supreme Court appeal.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The Negative Spaces of Copyright
The Boston Globe has a piece today, Creative vigilantes, about how magicians, chefs, and stand-up comics are protecting their creative property without the law. The piece suggests this could be one future for intellectual property:
Over the past 15 years, the rise of digital technology and the global economy has made it ever easier to copy, distribute, and profit from the fruits of other people’s creativity - from the new Fergie album spreading across peer-to-peer networks to pirated “Spider-Man” DVDs showing up on the streets of Shanghai. In response, American lawmakers have instituted increasingly sweeping laws, seeking to stymie intellectual-property theft with lengthier copyright terms and more stringent consequences for violators. Without these measures, they reason, innovators will lose money, and innovation will suffer.
In something as simple as the public outcry of a Hollywood jokester, [Christopher] Sprigman, an associate professor of law at the University of Virginia, sees an approach that he hopes could put the lie to this thinking, and turn the heads of lawmakers. He sees a comedian enforcing respect for originality [expletive-laden video] without resorting to legislation, lawyers, or the courts. He sees intellectual property being protected - not by the strong arm of the government, but by way of the very technologies that have incited stronger laws in the first place.
“People usually talk about how the Internet destroys intellectual property,” says Sprigman. “But here the Internet enforces intellectual property. It helps to protect creativity by shaming pirates.”
Comedy is not the only creative industry in which scholars are finding evidence that challenges assumptions held on Capitol Hill. Over the past two years, a flurry of papers have appeared on so-called “negative spaces” of intellectual-property law - industries that receive little to no legal protection for their ideas or products, yet that continue to innovate, often at a rapid clip. Articles have already appeared about high fashion, haute cuisine, and professional magic, with another planned by Sprigman and a colleague about stand-up comedy. And already, Washington seems to be paying attention. Last July, Sprigman testified in Congress against a bill that would have tightened copyright control in the fashion industry; the fashionistas, he argued, are better off on their own. [READ ON]
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
MPAA’s infriging monitoring software challenged
The MPAA’s “University Toolkit” (a piece of monitoring software that universities are being asked to install on their networks to spy on students’ communications) has been taken down, due to copyright violations. The Toolkit is based on the GPL-licensed Xubuntu operating system (a flavor of Linux). The GPL requires anyone who makes a program based on GPL’ed code has to release the source code for their program and license it under the GPL. The MPAA refused multiple requests to provide the sources for their spyware, so an Ubuntu developer sent a DMCA notice to the MPAA’s ISP and demanded that the material be taken down as infringing. Link (Thanks, Victor!)
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Cornell’s Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States is a terrific reference:
This chart was first published in Peter B. Hirtle, “Recent Changes To The Copyright Law: Copyright Term Extension,” Archival Outlook, January/February 1999. This version is current as of 1 January 2007. The most recent version is found [here].
The chart is based in part on Laura N. Gasaway’s chart, “When Works Pass Into the Public Domain,” [found here], and similar charts found in Marie C. Malaro, A Legal Primer On Managing Museum Collections (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998): 155-156.
See also Library of Congress Copyright Office. Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright: Provisions of the Law Dealing with the Length of Copyright Protection (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2004) [here].
Thursday, November 15, 2007
What’s good for the Goose…
His copyfighter’s emphasis is on her indignation that the studios don’t want to share download revenue with the writers:
When you illegally download something and the network doesn’t get any money for it, they call it piracy. But when you download something or watch streaming video with commercials and the writers don’t get any money for it, the networks call it promotion. DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS. Steal from the networks. You KNOW how much they hate it. But we’re not supposed to hate it if they steal from us.
Alan cautions, “I’m not particularly keen on a recommendation to steal, even from the Cartel thieves, but it definitely captures the spirit of what this debate is about.”
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
RIAA v Georgian who was 13 or 14 at time of infringement
We have just learned of a case being prosecuted in Columbus, Georgia, in which the RIAA is pursuing an 18-year-old girl based on infringements she apparently committed when she was 13 and 14, Elektra v. McDowell.
The RIAA moved for summary judgment.
The Court granted the motion to the extent that it sought an injunction against further infringement, but denied the motion as to damages, holding that there were factual issues concerning the defendant’s defense of innocent infringement.
RIAA’s Statement of Material Facts*
Defendant’s Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment*
November 6, 2007, Order, Granting in Part, and Denying in Part, RIAA’s Motion for Summary Judgment*
* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Rob sez, "Local Chicago architecture critic and condo board member at the Marina city towers (most of you coasters will recognize the buildings from the cover of Wilco's YHF) covers from the inside the board's desire to copyright all aspects of the building - including the name. He points out that they only own the top 2/3rds of the building, did not design or construct the building, are claiming assertion under state law - it goes on from there. Needless to say even smart people can be dumb sometimes and that part of the fallout of this whole RIAA mess is that people are now of the mind that they can use copyright as some form of supplemental income for something they didn't even make and is wholly within the public sphere." ... Link
Why We Fight: Support the writers strike
Friday, November 09, 2007
Redstone: ‘If Content Is King, Copyright Is Its Castle’
It’s a fun quote:
He may look his age when he’s not speaking, but when Sumner Redstone, the 84-year-old chairman of Viacom and CBS, starts talking about the shifting media landscape, you forget he was born when radio was a novelty.
Making the keynote speech at Dow Jones and Nielsen’s Media and Money conference in New York on Thursday, he dug at Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO - news - people ), championed the accomplishments of the media properties he owns and offered a vigorous defense of copyright. “If content is king, copyright is its castle,’’ he said. “Copyright compels creativity, it furnishes the incentive to innovate. If you limit the protection of copyright, you stifle the expression of self.”
I doubt anyone reminded the old man of how few kings in castles we have left today. Or how little of the globe they rule.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Lessig @ TED
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Teachers need Fair Use training
Here's how bad it is: not a single teacher interviewed for a recent study on copyright reported receiving any training on fair use.
Copyright confusion is running rampant in American schools, and not just among the students. The teachers don't know what the hell is going on, either, and media literacy is now being "compromised by unnecessary copyright restrictions and lack of understanding about copyright law."
That's the conclusion of a new report from the Center for Social Media at American University. Researchers wanted to know if confusion over using copyrighted material in the classroom was affecting teachers' attempts to train students to be critical of media. The answer was an unequivocal "yes." [...]
Researchers found that teachers may not understand the law (or may understand it to be unduly restrictive), but that they deal with their confusion in three different ways. Teachers can “see no evil” by refusing to even educate themselves about copyright, on the thinking that it can’t be wrong if they don’t know it’s wrong. Others simply “close the door” and do whatever they want within the classroom, while a third group attempts to “hyper-comply” with the law (or what they perceive the law to be).
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Tim Wu on “Tolerated Use”
The video is a companion piece to Part 4, Tolerated Use: The Copyright Problem, of Wu’s five part series on American Lawbreaking, “areas in which our laws are routinely and regularly broken and where the law enforcement response is Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ nothing.”
Friday, October 05, 2007
The labels win
A Minnesota woman was found liable Thursday for copyright infringement in the nation’s first file-sharing case to go before a jury:
The verdict, coming after two days of testimony and about five hours of deliberations, was a mixed victory for the RIAA, which has brought more than 20,000 lawsuits in the last four years as part of its zero-tolerance policy against pirating. The outcome is likely to embolden the RIAA, which began targeting individuals in lawsuits after concluding the legal system could not keep pace with the ever growing number of file-sharing sites and services.
“This is what can happen if you don’t settle,” RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel told reporters outside the courthouse. “I think we have sent a message we are willing to go to trial.”
Still, it’s unlikely the RIAA’s courtroom victory will translate into a financial windfall or stop piracy, which the industry claims costs it billions in lost sales. Despite the thousands of lawsuits—the majority of them settling while others have been dismissed or are pending—the RIAA’s litigation war on internet piracy has neither dented illegal, peer-to-peer file sharing or put much fear in the hearts of music swappers. [...]
The case, however, did set legal precedents favoring the industry.
In proving liability, the industry did not have to demonstrate that the defendant’s computer had a file-sharing program installed at the time that they inspected her hard drive. And the RIAA did not have to show that the defendant was at the keyboard when RIAA investigators accessed Thomas’ share folder.
Also, the judge in the case ruled that jurors may find copyright infringement liability against somebody solely for sharing files on the internet. The RIAA did not have to prove that others downloaded the files. That was a big bone of contention that U.S. District Judge Michael Davis settled in favor of the industry.
Of course in the same trial we learned that these lawsuits are a big money pit.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
RIAA money-losing anti-fan lawsuits
The next line of questioning was how many suits the RIAA has filed so far. Pariser estimated the number at a “few thousand.” “More like 20,000,” suggested Toder. “That’s probably an overstatement,” Pariser replied. She then made perhaps the most startling comment of the day. Saying that the record labels have spent “millions” on the lawsuits, she then said that “we’ve lost money on this program.”
The RIAA’s settlement amounts are typically in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000 for those who settle once they receive a letter from the music industry. On the other side of the balance sheet is the amount of money paid to SafeNet (formerly MediaSentry) to conduct its investigations, and the cash spent on the RIAA’s legal team and on local counsel to help with the various cases. As Pariser admitted under oath today, the entire campaign is a money pit.
Individualized watermarks are bad businesss
Alex Halderman calls it a blunt antipiracy tool and a bad bet for the content industry. Amazon was wise not to use it:
Last week Amazon.com launched a DRM-free music store. It sells tracks from two major labels and many independents in the unprotected MP3 file format. In addition to being DRM-free, Amazon’s songs are not individually watermarked. This is an important step forward for the music industry.
Some content companies see individualized watermarks as a consumer-friendly alternative to DRM. Instead of locking down files with restrictive technology, individualized watermarking places information in them that identifies the purchasers, who could conceivably face legal action if the files were publicly shared. Apple individually watermarks DRM-free tracks sold on iTunes, but every customer who purchases a particular track from Amazon receives the exact same file. The company has stated as much, and colleagues and I confirmed this by buying a small number of files with different Amazon accounts and verifying that they were bit-for-bit identical. (As Wired reports, some files on Amazon’s store have been watermarked by the record labels, but each copy sold contains the same mark. The labels could use these marks to determine that a pirated track originated from Amazon, but they can’t trace a file to a particular user.)
Individualized watermarks give purchasers an incentive not to share the files they buy, or so the theory goes, but, like DRM, even if watermarking does reduce copyright infringement, that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes business sense. Watermarks create legal risks even for customers who don’t engage in file sharing, because the files might still become publicly available due to software misconfigurations or other security breaches. These risks add to the effective cost of buying music for legitimate purchasers, who will buy less as a result.
The difference in risk between a customer who chooses to share purchased files and one who does not is ultimately determined by computer security issues that are outside the content industry’s control. Aside from users who are caught red-handed sharing the files, who can be sued even without watermarks, infringers and noninfringers will share a multitude of plausible defenses. Their songs might have been copied by spyware. (If watermarking becomes widespread, spyware authors will probably target watermarked files, uploading them to peer to peer networks without users’ knowledge.) They might have been leaked from a discarded hard drive or backup tape, or recovered from a stolen laptop or iPod. The industry will need to fight such claims in order to bring suit against actual infringers, leaving noninfringers to worry that they could face the same fate regardless of their good intentions.
More on Amazon’s Digital Music Store from the NYTimes.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
ISBN NOT IP
The apparent new policy could be a response to efforts by Crimsonreading.org-an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers-from writing down the ISBN identification numbers for books at the Coop and then using that information for their Web site.
Murphy said the Coop considers that information the Coop’s intellectual property.
Yesterday a friend pointed me to the coop’s claim - “more hawkish than I” - and to the lambasting of the Intellectual Property claim by copyright lawyers from Harvard’s Berkman Center:
We’re not sure what “intellectual propertyÃ¢â‚¬Â� right the Coop has in mind, but it’s none that we recognize. Nor is it one that promotes the progress of science and useful arts, as copyright is intended to do. While intellectual property may have become the fashionable threat of late, even in the wake of the Recording Industry Association of America’s mass litigation campaign the catch-phrase-and the law-has its limits.
Since the Coop’s managers don’t seem to have read the law books on their shelves, we’d like to offer them a little Copyright 101.
Copyright law protects original works of authorship-the texts and images in those books on the shelves-but not facts or ideas. So while copyright law might prohibit students from dropping by with scanners, it doesn’t stop them from noting what books are on the shelf and how much they cost.
The Supreme Court tells us that “[t]he sine qua non of copyright is originality.” That’s why the compilers of a white-pages telephone directory lost their claims against a competitor who copied listings… What about the prices that the Coop set and affixed to books? Copyright doesn’t protect the “sweat of the brow” involved in compiling facts, either…
We recognize that the Coop can kick anyone they want out of its store-although even the Cambridge police seemed to think the Coop was taking things a bit too far. If they call again, the Coop’s managers might want to come up with a better reason than “intellectual property” or risk marring the intellectual face of Harvard. And Harvard might want to re-think its relationship with an institution that seems to put its own profit margin ahead of its students’ access to information.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Weak IP laws make the fashion industry thrive!
A dear friend who has been treated quite nicely by the publishing industry and is a beneficiary of the current copyright regime - one might even call him a copyright hawk - sent me this from The New Yorker hinting that even he can see that there are times where the extension of copyright works against the interests of an industry.
James Surowiecki, in The Piracy Paradox, finds that cheap (legal) knock-offs help keep the fashion industry healthy and profitable:
Congress now finds itself considering a bill, pushed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, that would give original designs a legal protection similar to copyright.
Designers’ frustration at seeing their ideas mimicked is understandable. But this is a classic case where the cure may be worse than the disease. There’s little evidence that knockoffs are damaging the business. Fashion sales have remained more than healthy-estimates value the global luxury-fashion sector at a hundred and thirty billion dollars- and the high-end firms that so often see their designs copied have become stronger. More striking, a recent paper by the law professors Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman suggests that weak intellectual-property rules, far from hurting the fashion industry, have instead been integral to its success. The professors call this effect “the piracy paradox.”
The paradox stems from the basic dilemma that underpins the economics of fashion: for the industry to keep growing, customers must like this year’s designs, but they must also become dissatisfied with them, so that they’ll buy next year’s. Many other consumer businesses face a similar problem, but fashion-unlike, say, the technology industry-can’t rely on improvements in power and performance to make old products obsolete. Raustiala and Sprigman argue persuasively that, in fashion, it’s copying that serves this function, bringing about what they call “induced obsolescence.” Copying enables designs and styles to move quickly from early adopters to the masses. And since no one cool wants to keep wearing something after everybody else is wearing it, the copying of designs helps fuel the incessant demand for something new.
Friday, September 14, 2007
The economic value of Fair Use
We’ve known for a while that fair use has allowed entire new industries and companies to grow, and to bring beneficial new services and innovative devices to consumers. Now, an interesting new study released yesterday by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (of which Google is a member) attempts to quantify the contribution of industries relying on fair use to the economy.
The study—which I encourage you to check out—concludes that the “fair use economy” in 2006 accounted for $4.6 trillion in revenues (roughly one-sixth of total U.S. gross domestic product), employed more than 17 million people, and supported a payroll of $1.2 trillion (approximately one out of every eight workers in the US). It also generated $194 billion in exports and significant productivity growth. Using a methodology similar to a previous World Intellectual Property Organization guide, the results of the study demonstrate that fair use is an important economic driver in the digital age.
Copyright law involves a delicate balance, and here in the U.S. fair use is an important part of that equation. This study suggests that it’s also an important part of the U.S. economy.