richardf8: (Default)
First, some background: ganked the following for [ profile] dsgood

The U.S. Congress is currently considering the Trademark Dilution Revision Act, which critics say would remove important free speech protections. The bill as it currently stands would remove three exceptions from part of the present trademark law: news reporting and commentary, fair use, as well as non-commercial use. [Editor and Publisher]

Sent the following to Betty McCollum:

I am writing to you regarding HR 683, The Trademark Dilution Revision act. I am asking you to propose or sponsor an amendment to this bill that would preserve exceptions for news reporting and commentary, fair use, and non-commercial use that the current language of the bill seeks to abolish.

These exceptions are essential to free speech in both the journalistic and academic arenas which rely on fair use to provide useful reviews or provide evidence to support intellectual debate.

Past years have seen major assaults on the right of Americans to make use of their countrymen's ideas as copyright extensions have reached the point where they are no longer merely preserving benefit for the natural person who created the work, but seem to aim to give estates and corporations monopolies on knowledge in perpetuity.

With such extensions in place, it becomes all the more imperative to allow exceptions for news reporting, commentary, fair use, and non-commercial use, lest the building of ideas become the sole province of those who can afford to defend an Intellectual Property dispute in court.
richardf8: (Default)
I was tempted to say, on George W. Bush's position on Stem Cell research, that he might be doing the right thing, if for the wrong reasons, in hampering it. After all, technology growth has outpaced the abilities of our ethicists, philosophers, and religious institutions to develop responses to it that will allow us to use the technology wisely and morally. The commodification of human material is definitely something we need to tread lightly around.

I was tempted, I say, because then I realized something. Bush has not proposed a ban or moratorium on the research, or, for that matter, even the creation of new stem cell lines. Rather, his actions merely amount to a refusal to provide money from the public sector. As I meditated on the implications of this for a moment I realized that what this means is that any meaningful stem cell research that gets done is going to be a strictly private sector endeavor, and that any discoveries, inventions, and methods resulting from this will be the exclusive intellectual property of the corporations that funded it.

Publicly funded research has given us an awful lot. The internet emerged from a DARPA funded project at MIT. Developments in radio and television also have their roots in publicly funded (mostly military) research, and it is because it was publicly funded that these things became as pervasive as they have.

It seems to me that what Bush is doing isn't so much about "the sanctity of life," as it is about excluding the public sector from a technology with significant business potential, and ensuring that the patents are privately held. Whether that is his intention, or merely the effects of him short-sightedly following his moral compass, I cannot tell.
richardf8: (Default)
Today, I was reading in the paper about a local band calling itself "The Olympic Hopefuls" which, receiving a C & D from the USOC, changed its name, quite simply, to the hopefuls. It seems that "Olympic" was trademarked in a 1950 Congressional act.

I see stuff like this happening all the time. Copyright owners (more often companies than artists) cracking down on fan web sites and fan fiction. Trivial suits over whether one can use the word "Spam" or "Windows" or the time Coors Brewing company sued R.J. Corr's natural sodas. Here in Saint Paul, there was once a local Pizza shop, owned by a man named John, called "Papa John's." When the national chain by the same name moved into the area, his business had to bcome "John's Pizza Cafe."

Seems to me that we've got a lot more trivial lawsuits in the arena of Intellectual Property than in Liability. But since IP Lawsuits tend to entail corporations winning against ordinary people and small business owners, rather than ordinary people and small business owners winning against corporations, I don't for see any calls for IP Law reform forthcoming.

Indeed, I think it can be safely argued, that with companies needing to do expensive and exhaustive "prior-art" searches before investing in invention, and given that the Garage inventor does not have the resources to do this, that our IP law has crossed the line from fostering innovation to inhibiting it.

Here is a link to the Spider Robinson story "Melancholy Elephants" which I think is an essential read for our times, dealing as it does, with the ultimate consequences of IP law:
richardf8: (Default)
As I consider the aggressiveness with which the RIAA has been attacking P2P networks and their users I am forced to conclude that they really are battling for survival. Sure, they were disturbed when tape recorders came out, but they compromised. Same with DAT (which never materialized into the threat they thought it would). But their policy on this whole computer thingy, and P2P networks in particular is nothing short of draconian. And that is because its not just about their Intellectual Property. It's CERTAINLY not about the artists. Its about a deep down threat to the very foundation of their existence. And anyone who has read Scott McCloud will surely have guessed at my meaning by now.

A P2P Network isn't much more troubling than cassettes when its just listeners exchanging music from listeners. These people will grow up and by legal albums of the pirated music they listened to in their youth. For thirty years that model has worked. But, when its artists exchanging music with listeners, things get truly dangerous. The RIAA becomes superfluous. And the issue of payment that plagues the web-comic world is of less import to musicians who get pittances from the RIAA but get their gravy at live shows. So, if an artist takes a P2P network by storm, and he puts on his web page "hey, I'm playing in Pullman tonight, come see me," he's getting his gravy, but the recording industry isn't getting theirs. Especially if the P2P networks make him popular enough that he can say "hey, I'm playing the Meadowlands tonight," and count on a packed house.

This has record execs quaking in their boots, I expect. And the best way to prevent this scenario is to completely demonize the P2P networks, to create an image of them that causes the listener to say "hey, if I download ANYTHING from here, I might get sued." Then, even if an artist releases a song under the GNU Public License, people will be afraid to download it.

This is also why the record execs don't worry about image. They're fighting to remain the only game in town, and when you're a monopoly, it doesn't matter what people think. But the REAL mark of fear is the recent price reduction on CD's. The RIAA gives enough credence to the threat that P2P networks can pose to their very reason for being that they are not only willing to scare users away with lawsuits, but to lure them away with lower prices. Now that's like publicly wetting your pants!

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