Dispatches from a Small Business
Apparently the RIAA has demanded $75 trillion in damages from file sharing site Lime Wire. Via Overlawyered.
I had no idea they were that critical to the world economy. Who the hell do they think is going to pay that?
Well, now we know that it's file sharing that caused the recession.
This is the kind of insanity that rules in current anti-piracy and pro-copyright circles. Copyright as we know it is D-E-A-D-DEAD. Without making draconian and ill-considered changes to the nature of the internet itself, you cannot -- repeat: CANNOT -- effect control over copyrighted works, and, as such, you CANNOT win a battle over access to them.
I've written about this insane notion -- and why it's insane -- before.
Here's a repost of it:
IP concepts no longer work as it is. Intellectual Property is not, as is attempted to be treated, the same as "Real" property.
It has a large number of significant underlying facets of its nature which render the comparison seriously defective for a whole host of reasons. It needs truly different laws which reflect those expectations, and, sorry, no, most IP law isn't about IP at all, it's about trying to control the containers which fit it -- books, discs, and so forth.
Now, though, with digitized IP, much of that transfer occurs without any containers, so what will be done to interdict the flow of bits? I think that it's hardly debatable that the so-called "War on Drugs" has shown limited capacity to stop the national and international flow of various drugs. It HAS managed, however, to institute a whole host of questionable, freedom-and-liberty infringing law onto the books, of which the RICO Stats are but a "single" instance.
One of the best articles I've ever read on the need for a new paradigm for copyright come from John Perry Barlow, and, while it's 15+ years old, it's still spectacularly accurate in its content:
The Economy of Ideas
How, then, with that kind of history, do you think the government will fare attempting to prevent the flow of something so ephemeral is "electronic bits" around the world? I predict, with fair certainty, that it will be a total bust.
...but you can bet your sweet ass that there will be one HELL of a LOT of freedom and liberty destroying laws put into place in an effort to stop it.
It is generally regarded a truism that the internet "treats censorship as noise and routes around it".
Now, what is censorship?
Censorship is someone in the government saying "This we deem dangerous, therefore you may not have access to it"
What is copyright-as-is?
Copyright is someone in the government saying "This you have not paid for, therefore you may not have access to it"
Got that? They're the same activity -- both are about denying access.
NOTE: Granted, there are moral implications to censorship which aren't applicable to copyright -- this is not about that, only about the mechanisms as faced with the reality of the internet's inherent functional qualities.
So what, then, does that truism say about copyright?
Right -- The internet treats copyright-as-control as noise, and routes around it.
And this is borne out in the internet's history. Playboy shuts down "Scanmaster" for scanning and freely distributing Playboy images, and literally hundreds of other people start scanning them. The RIAA shuts down Napster, and a dozen p2p applications pop up to take its place. The MPAA shuts down the "RealWorld" website, and a dozen alternative sites spring to life. Controlling access is noise, and it acts to find a reliable pathway around it.
I repeat -- this is not saying that copyright has the same moral issues as censorship, only that copyright is the same underlying activity directed to a different purpose, and therefore, as-currently-defined, cannot be made to function. And worse still, if you could make it function, then those same techniques would enable censorship as well.
Nor is this the foolishly immature "information should be free" whine. Perhaps "data should be free" -- one could argue that. But information is someone's hard work and talent and time used to re-order or otherwise manipulate "data" to demonstrate a specific point of view unique to that creator. This is true whether that data is musical notes, words on a page, scientific concepts, or images and sound on film. If we don't reward people for turning data into information, there won't be a lot of impetus to do so. Society will suffer as a result.
As the Constitution suggests, there is a higher purpose behind Copyright. The purpose is to promote the Sciences and the Arts. The best way to do this is to reward those who create in some manner. Some manner. "Control" is the historically provided mechanism -- by controlling the distribution of containers in which IP is kept, the reward has been made possible.
It's time to de-couple the reward from the control.
Since copyright-as-control cannot work any longer, we need to create a new system, in which copyright-as-reward doesn't depend on control. I could speculate a whole host of ways in which this might be done, but beyond a single example, I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader:
Create a slush fund from various sources -- government inputs in general, media distribution taxes (i.e., internet volume in bits transferred and blank media purchases) and similar things. Now, using some metric of search engine hits, dole out that slush fund's income to various individuals who have created things being searched for.
That is incredibly simplistic I agree, and leaves a whole host of gaming options which need to be addressed prior to implementation -- but it's certainly possible to see how such a system might work. It also places the reward back where it belongs, in the pockets of the creators, who are likely to subcontract with people who enhance their work without being the major force of creating -- editors, promoters, and so forth. The vast array of middle men who don't contribute will be cut out.
That would be organizations like the record companies, the movie distributors, and book publishers. The distribution model flattens out and the middle-men who have their hands out while producing nothing and creating nothing wind up having to get real jobs. Boo-f'in-Hoo.
Time to redo the notion of copyright. It's a right to a reward, not to exact control. If you want to control it, then keep it to yourself, stuff it into the back of your closet, and revel in your control over your idea. The world will proceed without really noticing.
The pithy one liner I use to describe this phenomenon is: Intellectual "property" isn't.
If I take your car, (real property) I have something and you have lost something.
If I make a duplicate of a CD you produced, I have something, and... you still have everything you had before, too.
The recording industry is TBTF???
That is the effect of piracy and unauthorized file sharing. This is also very critical to our economy. But the amount is impossible to pay, it's huge.