Archive for the 'copyright' Category

Closed Data

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Es scheint als ob es zu dem Thema keinen griffigen Titel gibt, es sei denn so ein halbseitiges Untertitel-Ding, welches im 18Jh beliebt war:

“Closed Data, oder wie die Öffentlichkeit dem Staat Forschung und Datenerhebhung finanziert, und wie dieser uns für die Resultate nochmals bezahlen lässt; oder wie er die Daten an Dritte verkauft die sie dann wiederum an uns verkaufen”

Na, immerhin, damit ist gleich gesagt um was es geht.

Wir Bürger eines Staates finanzieren eine ganze Menge wissenschaftliche Forschung über die Steuern, und selbst da wo der Hintergrund nicht wissenschaftlich ist, sondern ganz einfach begründet in Verwaltungstechnischer Notwendigkeit — Zensus, Vermessung, Steuern, Rechteausübung, Justiz — fallen Daten an die wissenschaftlich interessant sind.

Strassen-, Zonen-, und Katasterpläne, Höhenmodelle, hydrographische Modelle, demographische Daten, meteorologische Daten, kriminalstatistische Daten und so weiter. Und dadurch dass diese Vorgänge schon seit längerem laufen, auch historische Daten. Für alle diese Daten haben wir bereits einmal bezahlt, in dem wir ein Bundesamt oder eine Kantons- oder Stadtverwaltung damit betraut haben, und es dafür mit Steuern bezahlen.

Bildungs- und medizinische Einrichtungen produzieren nicht nur Daten, sondern forschen auch wissenschaftlich in sämtlichen Bereichen. Auch solche Institutionen werden aktiv vom Steuerzahler unterhalten. Der Forscher wird bezahlt, dafür dass er für sein Institut, und schlussendlich für die Allgemeinheit Forschung betreibt.

Ein kleiner Teil dieser Daten sind Datenschutztechnisch relevant: Daten die sich auf lebende Personen beziehen: Steuererklärungen, medizinische Verläufe, etc. Bei diesen ist der Halter zu Geheimhaltung verpflichtet, so dass bei allfälliger Veröffentlichung oder Weitergabe nicht auf die Person geschlossen werden kann. Diese Daten haben aber ebenfalls wissenschaftlichen Wert, wenn sie in passend anonymisierter Form vorliegen, z.b. um Gesundheitsrisiken statistisch auswerten zu können.

Damit ist eigentlich klar, dass hochauflösende Karten zu jeglichem Thema, anonymisierte Personenbezogene Daten, Umweltdaten jeglicher Art, und wisschenschaftliche Forschungsergebnisse der Allgemeinheit gehören.

Möchte der Bürger nun aber Zugriff auf diese Daten, so stellen sich ihm plötzlich Hürden in den Weg:

  • Historisch gewachsene Bürokratie. Daten müssen manchmal ausgewertet (z.b. zusammengestellt, anonymisiert, katalogisiert) werden bevor sie veröffentlicht werden können, und historisch gesehen war die Veröffentlichung selbst mit nicht geringen Kosten für Druck, Kopie oder Sendung verbunden. Dies hat dazu geführt dass Institutionen ihre Daten als prinzipiell “intern” angesehen haben, und jeden der zugreifen wollte als Bittsteller, welcher bitte zuerst warten und dann die Veröffentlichungskosten tragen sollte.
  • Finanzieller Druck. Institutionen, seien es Ämter oder Forschungseinrichtungen, stehen unter einem finanziellen Druck von oben. Die Betrieber möchten möglichst wenig Geld ausgeben, und so erscheint es am einfachsten sich nicht nur die externen Kosten der Veröffentlichung bezahlen zu lassen, sondern da auch gleich Einnahmen zu generieren. Sobald die Publikationskosten gegen Null tendieren, was seit Grössenordnung 1995 mit dem Internet der Fall ist, dann sieht man plötzlich wie eine Institution Geld verlangt, für etwas was schon lange bezahlt ist. Weshalb genau kosten Schweizer Karten 1:25’000 in elektronischer Form SFR 14 pro “Blatt” [1]?
  • Propaganda. Der Schritt von “für die Publikation müssen wir die Unkosten der Veröffentlichung selber erstattet haben” zu “für die Publikation wollen wir die Unkosten der ganzen Forschung erstattet haben” ist ein kleiner, aber sehr relevanter. Plötzlich sind die Daten nicht mehr der Öffentlichkeit, sondern zum Rechtsgut derjenigen geworden die sie erstellt haben (auch wenn die Öffentlichkeit sie dafür eigentlich bezahlt hat). Es werden Copyright-Vermerke draufgeknallt, und man versucht die ganze Verwertungskette zu kontrollieren. Gefördert wurde dieses Denken durch die wachsende Propaganda seitens privater Rechteverwerter seit den 1980er Jahren, die es auch geschafft haben, das Urheberrecht seither nicht weniger als X mal zu verschärfen — jedesmal auf Kosten der Öffentlichkeit. Auch hier wieder als Beispiel die Swisstopo, respektive deren Lizenzen [2].
  • Rentensuche. Noch wildere Blüten betreibt das Geschäft mit den Öffentlich finanzierten Daten im akademischen Bereich. Hier haben sich einerseits wissenschaftliche Verlage etabliert, die die Aufmerksamkeit und Reputation Ihrer Leser an potentielle Autoren verkaufen, welche dann nicht nur die Publikationskosten in einem Journal bezahlen, sondern auch noch Reviews der Arbeiten anderer Autoren gratis durchführen damit schlussendlich die Verlage das Journal den Bildungseinrichtungen zu horrenden Abonnementspreisen wieder zur Verfügung stellen können. Eine komplett parasitäre Einrichtung welche eigentlich nur via Bildungsbudgets von der Öffentlichkeit eine Rente bezieht.
  • Futterneid. Die Daten die die eine Institution oder der eine Forscher hat, die sollen andere entweder nicht haben, oder nicht benutzen können ohne dafür zu zahlen. Und natürlich ohne zu berücksichtigen dass die Daten eigentlich schon von der Öffentlichkeit finanziert wurden. Auch hier spielt wieder das Urheberrecht mit, oder wenigstens die von den obig erwähnten Rechteverwertern geprägte Weltbild. Aber noch viel interessanter ist hier ein anderes System, dass es erlaubt allen anderen die Benutzung von eigenen Ideen zu verbieten (Nota bene: Es erlaubt nicht die eigenen Ideen selber zu benutzen; es ist ein reines Veto-Recht gegenüber anderen). Das Patentsystem. Während akademische Forschung früher das früher zur Privatsache erklärt hat, ist es durch das Zusammenspiel der hier erwähnten Faktoren zum Usus geworden als Einrichtung Patente zu fördern, so dass schlussendlich die Öffentlichkeit eine Erfindung die sie bezahlt hat, nicht einmal mehr Nutzen darf ohne Lizenzgebühren zu bezahlen.

Diese ganzen Mechanismen machen es schwierig für Bürger die Daten die mit ihrem eigenen Geld erhoben wurden zu bekommen. Als ich 1996 im Rahmen einer soziologischen Arbeit [3] Daten gesucht habe, konnte ich die in der Schweiz nur entweder auf Papier oder sehr teuer “einzelne Anfrageresultate” auf Diskette bekommen; schlussendlich habe ich stattdessen US-Daten verwendet.

Ich bin nicht der einzige der schlussendlich irgendwie ausgewichen ist. Das http://www.openstreetmap.org Projekt besteht aus Daten die von Leuten ehrenamtlich per GPS gesammelt wurden, obwohl genau dieselben Daten schon in Grundbuchämtern und den Topografischen Institutionen vorhanden gewesen wären.

Wie hingegen die Welt aussieht wenn Bürger und interessierte Stellen Zugriff auf solche Daten haben, das sieht man in den Beispielen auf http://opendata.ch/ Schlussendlich ist die Summe eben grösser als die Anzahl ihrer Teile; und was alles aus irgendwelchen Daten entstehen kann können wir uns im vornherein nicht wirklich genau vorstellen, also ist die einzig sinnvolle Reaktion eben den Zugriff auf diese Daten möglicht vielen Leuten zu ermöglichen.

[1] Swisstopo
[2] Swisstopo: Lizenzen
[3] Attitudes towards Victimless Crimes, Peter Keel, 1996

Whining about copyright violations? Shut the fuck up!

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

A world fragmented

I recently got “upgraded” from google android market to “google play” which supposedly lets you also buy movies, music and books apart from android apps. Guess what?

We’re sorry. The Google Play music player is currently only available in the United States.

And

We’re sorry, the document you requested is not available in your country.

That’s when I started to realize that I’m probably not the only one, that Switzerland is probably not the only country, and google play is probably not the only service that experiences this. Indeed, it’s what happened to the webmaster of Depeche Mode too. With the same predictable reaction.

I find it rather strange that anyone on this planet can cope with the “content industry” blaming the results of their distribution mess onto “dearth of copyright enforcement”; including some morons of legislators which seem to believe it and start rows upon rows of new copyright-toughening. Don’t they see an industry producing a total fuck-up in their attempt to fragment the market in order to sustain their obsolete business-model?

You do realise what happens in the world of “things” if you try to do the same? Yes, smuggling and black markets develop.

And, didn’t anyone notice that I can very well fly to the USA, buy CDs, DVDs and books there, and take them home? I can even order CDs, DVDs and physical books via the internet, and they will deliver it. Across borders. With the same content they don’t want to sell me in digital form? (We’ll ignore those ridiculous region-codes for now)

Does not work here

The stupidity does not end there. Maybe, maybe somebody in your or some other country, will actually want to sell you something. But then, this happens:

Our eBooks are AdobeDRM protected. That means that your eBooks can only be read on devices which support the DRM protection (certain eReader, iPad-Apps, programmes on PC/Mac etc). Please beware of the following limitations:
* You need the Adobe Digital Editions and an AdobeID to unlock and read the eBooks.
* Up to 6 devices can be authorized with the same AdobeID.
* You can not print out eBooks.

You’re kidding me? You deliberately made it impossible for me to read my books on the platform and operating system of my choice? In the above case, that means not on Linux. Since 2007, by the way.

Obviously, this is a blatant attempt to control the market of media-players and book-readers to the detriment of the customers. Why didn’t consumer-protection and antitrust-law already step in? Instead, which morons let this kind of monopoly-making practice even be given protection by law?

And, in reference to the title, what do you think will happen if you couple your content to some specific player? The customers will happily buy both content and player, change their operating system, not use their hardware they already have, and submit to the whim of arbitrarily instituted restrictions like “no printing”? No, they won’t. They’ll just get their movies, media and books from somewhere else.

We locked it up again

Now with that situation of deliberate or accidental market fragmentation and institutionalized incompatibility, you might want to avoid the whole mess altogether, and decide that you do not want to participate in that market. Instead, you might want to read, watch or listen to something older.

Foiled again! The very same industries managed to retroactively expand the duration of copyright again and again. When Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote “Tarzan”, he could expect 28 years of copyright protection after publication. The last “Tarzan”-Novel was theoretically out of copyright in 1972. But that’s not what happened. 1976 this was extended retroactively, and 1998 extended again; so it was placed under copyright again and will only be out of copyright in 2020. Unless someone expands it again.

Obviously if you’re going to disfranchise the public via lobbying in copyright extensions, you do not exactly foster the respect for said copyright.

Instead, what happens is what Thomas Babington Macauley predicted 1841: “And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living.”

To recap

So you’re whining about the public violating a law (you extended in scope and duration by factors) refuse to sell some media in some countries (because the distribution system you installed doesn’t allow it) in a format everyone can use (with a system you put into place to control the players market)? Well, just shut the fuck up!

An Intellectual Poverty Law

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Upon my research on 18th and early 19th century England, I stumbled upon a process that was taking place from the 16th to the 19th century in rural England.

It’s enclosure.

Basically, the medieval system is, that a village has, in addition to the fields of the individual farmers, a large commons, where all the inhabitants of that village can gather wood, graze livestock and so on.

This commons was now more and more split up amongst the villagers, with wealthier people buying land of the less wealthy ones, making subsistence-farming more and more impossible, and finally leading to widespread poverty in the 19th century.

And this is exactly the same process that’s happening since about 250 years with our intellectual commons.

Copyright, which was initially just that, a “right to make copies” and sell them, and which lasted 14 years from the publication of a work, became extended to “70 years after the death of the author” and incorporated more and more provisions for the copyright-holder.

Other laws wrapped under “intellectual property” are also working in the same spirit, none more so than patents, which provides not a monopoly on “being allowed to do something” (as copyright does) but a right of “prohibiting others to do something”. Which is of course much more far-reaching.

Trademarks also play a part in this, disallowing references to trademarks not only on ground of competition (as initially meant), but with any spurious explanation the trademark-holder can come up with to quash criticism, satire, art, history and everything else related to that trademark.

The theory, and thus the title, is of course, that these intellectual property laws are the equivalent of enclosures, and will lead to very much the same outcome in another dimension: poverty of intellectual capital and depredation of culture.

And with rows and hedges (read “technical measures”) to keep the now-inclosed commons in private hands, this will only get worse as the century wears on.

Competing against illegal copies

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

I was somewhat baffled about the success of Apples iTunes-Store.

As I detailed in an earlier article Schwarzkopien und Marktwirtschaft in german, illegal providers of copies of works are effectively a competition to legitimate providers. In principle, they offer the same product for less money. Market says, in that case, people will acquire the cheaper product. However, there are some factors which can change the outcome in different ways.

The works itself

  • Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). This will somewhat alleviate the availability of people illegally giving out copies; on the other hand, it effectively punishes people buying from the legitimate vendor. It decreases the value of the legally obtained product.
  • Metadata. This increases the value of products, especially if every product of this type supports the same metadata, ordered the same way. If I can offer 100’000 works, all tagged the same way, I have a distinctive advantage over people offering illegal copies, because those copies will not adhere to any common standard where metadata is concerned, as a result of the very fragmented nature of that “market”.
  • Quality. This is another thing that increases the value of the product, and also something that can work in favor of the legitimate vendor, because here too, he can offer products of consistent quality all over the whole portfolio. Of course, if your quality is lower than the average quality of illegally offered works, you’re going to loose.
  • Usability. This is on one hand related to DRM (which decreases usability by placing restrictions on what one can do; but also trough the demands of the DRM-system itself, i.e. the 50% increase in processing power needed by the Content Scrambling System of the DVD), but on the other hand also determined by other factors, like interoperability (can I access the work from different devices and operating systems), availability of software that can manage and/or process the work, bandwidth needed to transfer the work and processing power needed (which can be unrelated to DRM. For instance, compression needs processing power too). It’s a bit difficult to tell who can achieve an edge here, but generally, widely used and patent-unencumbered standards will have an edge here, because they attract programmers and manufacturers to produce software and devices designed to work with the content.

Distribution

These all apply to the works itself. But there are other factors which seem to make a crucial difference to shift the advantage towards the legitimate provider, and we can see that most prominently in the case of iTunes.

  • Availability. How easy is it to get the desired works? And here, legitimate providers can really ramp up, in ways people offering illegally the same products can’t compete.
  • Other competition. Actually, all works are in competition to each other. There are more works on this planet than anyone will ever be able to listen to, to read or to watch ever in his lifetime. This doesn’t affect people who illegally provide works; but it very much afflicts legitimate providers, insofar one can sell somebody only a limited amount of works. Since the body of works is so much bigger than anyone can consume, and there are even a great many works available legally for free, so apart from advertising and trend-setting, it can only mean one thing: Price.
  • Price. On the outset, it looks like you can’t compete with a price-tag of “zero”. However, as it turns out, combined with easy ways to access and pay for the works, there is a price that is “low enough”. There are of course challenges for a legitimate provider to achieve this price, because historical precedents (i.e. “a book on paper was always this expensive”) and grown structures (like the byzantine ways of music- and movie-distributions) tend to get in the way. Right now, people illegally offering copies have the edge, but by abolishing of price fixing and radically re-structuring collecting agencies this could be fixed.

Law

And with “collecting agencies” and “byzantine distribution channels” we arrived at another very different factor influencing the competition between legitimate and illegitimate providers of works: The law

This is actually a bit hard to dissect, since it not only covers the relation between the creator and the final recipient of a work, but it also rules the relation between intermediaries and sometimes even institutes them.

  • Acceptance. Right now, the law is not working in favor of the legitimate provider of works, although it was written by them, and designed to grant them rents. Which is precisely one of the problems, because nobody respects the law anymore, after all, it’s just right-holders giving themselves more and more rights to allow them to collects rents.
  • Complications. The structure of how works should be distributed and the return-paths of payments have been cemented in by laws, sometimes instituting collection agencies who should work on behalf of rights-holders, and making it generally very difficult for someone who wants to re-sell works.
  • Unknown rights. A further problem induced by law, is that for a large body of works, the right-holders are unknown (orphaned works), impossible to get (because they were split amongst heirs) or very difficult to get (because of byzantine machinations of right-holder cartels sanctioned by law, e.g. right-holders representatives differing regionally, making it impossible to (re-)sell a work in an international market).
  • Outlawing tools. This is a bit nonsensical. A solution looking for a problem. The idea is to outlaw tools which can be used to break DRM systems. However, apart from decreasing acceptance of the law, it also produces problems regarding accessibility, and reliance on it might lead to very grave problems in the future, for instance with archival. Right now, it does not help legitimate vendors and is mainly used to quench competition in fields unrelated to illegal copying.

Final notes

Finally, a lot hinges on the law.

Ideally, you want to have rights to a lot of works, in order to make them easily available in high quality with consistent meta-data and no DRM for a low price. This will allow you to compete successfully against copies offered illegally, which are more or less tedious to get, of wildly varying quality, have inconsistent meta-data, but no DRM and a price-tag of zero.

To get that body of works, the law isn’t helping you right now, it’s hindering you in various ways. Also, the sheer land-grab by previous generations of right-holders has left the general public with disdain and with no respect for copyright.

There will always be people illegally offering works, but the point is that this phenomenon should be relegated to a small percentage of the market. Because it should be easier for you to legally publish works, and easier for the public to acquire such works, leaving only people who really can’t afford even to pay very low prices to need to revert to illegally offered copies.

References

I’ve written a lot about these issues. So if you think there is too little evidence presented, or would like to have addressed some issues a bit more in-depth, here’s the other things I’ve written:

Lies, Damned Lies and Propaganda

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Propaganda trumps scientific evidence everytime.

Face it, there is nothing like propaganda, backed by some hearsay evidence and a few vivid examples. And science cannot offer anything to counter that.

It used to be “Statistics” in that title-phrase, but that’s not true anymore, if it ever was. You don’t need statistics to make people believe global warming isn’t happening. You don’t need statistics to convince a nation that some other nation has “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. You don’t need statistics to convince an entire world that monopolies are good for it. Nobody except scientists bother with statistics if they want to convince you of something.

Statistics aren’t appealing to your gut-feeling, examples are. No matter how scarce and how much the result of some other unknown influence they are, examples is what relates to the public, and also what causes fear and anxiety. It doesn’t matter if a few hundred-thousand people get killed in some faraway land. But if something happens to a person you know, no matter how faintly you know the person, or maybe you only read of it, this is obviously evidence for whatever malfaisance or problem-du-jour exists, and is a big problem. A freak accident gets a “security problem” with something, a robbery a “crime problem”, somebody killing himself a “suicide wave” and so on. It does not matter if said accident is the only in the world that ever happened with that specific device, your crime-rate is the lowest on the planet, and the suicide-rate the second lowest. You may now be convinced that this specific thing is a huge problem which must be addressed immediately. Of course, you probably don’t get the idea that there might be a problem yourself, so that’s why we’ve got propaganda.

Or to put the other way: People doing propaganda will use exactly that mechanism, that we tend to believe in examples and not in statistics, to convince you their lies are the truth.

Alright, some of the examples initially used are pretty far off, you you might think that you’re not afflicted with believing such lies. I’ll give you some examples (ha! See?) of things you might believe in, that have no scientific evidence whatsoever:

  • In the middle ages, people thought the world was flat — That’s actually a fairy tale from the 1830ies. Since at least Aristotle nobody believed in a flat earth. Certainly not people in the middle ages who revered Aristotle as the greatest philosopher of all.
  • Copyright is necessary for the compensation of the efforts of creators of works and to ensure that they will produce more. — You should have told that Shakespeare and Beethoven
  • Patents are necessary for innovation — There is absolutely no scientific study which can prove that patents are in any way beneficial to innovation. There are however studies proving monopolies are always inhibiting innovation.
  • Patents are at least necessary recouping costs of research and development — Well, Ciba, Sandoz, Novartis and so on didn’t need them until 1954. And they where already huge multinationals then.
  • Harsh weapon laws reduce crime — No, they don’t. There’s no correlation between the availability of weapons and violence. In some places there is, but this is most probably a coincidence, resulting from some other reason.
  • Knife-bans will reduce violent crime — Scissors get lumped into the same category as knifes in criminal statistics. Now guess what’s actually used most often?
  • Data retention helps to reduce crime — No, it actually produces crime. Not the same ones it tries to address, but things like fraud, extortion, theft of services, privacy breaches, stalking etc.

And this goes on and on. For all of above mentioned things we hold for self-evident, there is either no scientific data backing them up, or even data refuting them. But most of those are actually the result of propaganda, the result of someone trying to get its agenda accepted. Even the flat earth is the result of (in that case anti-clerical) propaganda.

Of course, asking “cui bono” (who benefits) will often yield interesting questions about such a belief in the first place, but often might be misleading as well. Usually it boils down to “who benefits more”. More often, trying to get hard scientific data — statistics or better the raw data of the statistics — supporting your belief will immediately tell you if what you think is true really is. Because typically, you won’t find any.

The search for a flat earth in medieval sources turns up nothing — but pictures of round earths. My request for data and methodology regarding so-called “software-piracy” (a propagandist term, of course, we’re actually talking of “copyright infringement”) from the Business Software Alliance turned up only some vague statements about “estimations regarding past sales and sold hardware”, but not a shred of hard data. My quest for evidence of innovation-fostering of the patent-system turned up loads of citations of people iterating a mantra, and one paper; the paper coming to the conclusion that “there is no evidence”.

My impression is, that scientists, and scientific methods, and data, gets completely overwhelmed by propaganda. A spectacle orchestrated by propagandists to further their agenda, and also by unwittingly victims of that propaganda. It’s actually hard to believe that somebody does not have an agenda, but somehow, some scientists gave me the impression that they don’t really have an agenda — and furthermore, that they do not understand why somebody could consider the results of their work not desirable. And it’s clear, if you don’t understand why you’ve got enemies, and what they are using, you’re going to loose.

I don’t have any solution to this, apart from educations, but it’s terribly hard to get people to get themselves informed when everyone is surrounded by propaganda and propaganda-induced misconceptions daily spewed by mass-media and repeated by websites every day. And, most of the above propaganda is actively backed by powerful interests in economy and politics.

I didn’t include any links to research in this post, but you’re welcome to do your research on these topics yourself. Otherwise, you’ll also find some posts on this blog which sum up some of the topics mentioned and link to further articles and research.

Ways out of Darkness – Re-Attenuating Copyright

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I am a pretty verbose critic of todays copyright, and I highlighted several Issues in past blog-posts:

The general strife of enlarging the protection of copyrights because of rent-seeking behaviour in the past 200 years, pretty much since its inception, both in length, and in breadth, has shown some dire consequences to the “promotion of the art and sciences”.

This post will try to show how these problems could be fixed, and a balance between rights of artists and public may be achieved.

No rights for the dead

Thomas Babington Macauley already warned 1841 in front of the House of Commons from doing that, and the consequences in diminished respect of the copyright and in problems with inheritances and orphaned works are dire. So

Copyright may at most last to the death of the creator
of the work. If the work is made by several artists, at 
most to the death of the last one of those. 

For works whose author is unknown, this needs to be considerably less, I’d propose 14 years after publication if one does not decide to accept my next proposal:

Making the Long Tail public

Most works generate 95% of its revenue in the first few years. There exist several estimates, ranging from 7 to 14 years. There are only very few works which are lucrative beyond that, leading to the situation that the very long copyright-terms are only useful for a handful of works, while keeping the vast body of works unavailable. So:

Copyright shall expire 14 years after publication, 
or with the death of the creator. 

There’s room for discussion with this for best-selling works, maybe one could give another 14 years upon request and public note of the artist. Or maybe one could rise the duration to 20 years altogether, but I think that should be the maximum. Anonymously published works will be granted the same duration of copyright.

Protect the Public Domain

There is rampant copyright-infriction nowadays by publishers, which republish public domain works and illegaly assert that they own a copyright on it. So

For works in the Public Domain, everyone has the right to 
initiate legal action against illegal assertions of copyright. 

This is in line with the practice of the artist able to take legal action against infringers against his own rights.

Protect the future and people with disabilities

The practice of putting on Digital Restriction Management (DRM) schemes has spread from software to works of art, sometimes it is even applied to works in the public domain. Even if DRM-schemes are mathematically proven to be ineffective, there is still a lot of effort needed to break or circumvent them; and they do not automatically disappear when a work becomes public domain. With the latest WIPO-treaty, it has even become mandatory to outlaw circumvention of it, hampering science, outlawing cryptanalysis, and finally enacting barriers to people with disablities. Thus:

Works employing Digital Restriction Management 
will not be granted copyright at all. 

This isn’t even an issue with online-games, which very well may decide to employ DRM instead of copyright.

Save computing heritage

Computer porgrams are especially protected by copyright, for instance the fair-use clause usually does not apply, meaning every copy without a license is a violation of copyright. Furthermore, a lot of computer programs are distributed in binary form, only runnable on one computer-type or operating system; which is of course not suited for archival purposes. Thus

computer programs only enjoy copyright
if the source-code is publicly available

This would not mean you could legally change it or republish it, but it would be available when copyright expires. But it would make debugging and finding security holes in the meantime much easier, thus increasing software-quality.

Transition Periods

There need to be some transition periods, in order to allow publishers to adjust to these laws. Most noteably, publishers need some years to fix erroneous and frivolous assumptions of copyrights on public domain works, to remove DRM from publications and to publish source-code for their software. The dead need no transition periods, but it might be prudent to allow for an initial transition period in the same length as the coming copyright period if one decides to shorten the copyright ahead of the death of the artist.

Goals

Apart from freeing a large corpus of works into the public domain and thus not only protecting our heritage, but also allowing free incorporation of old works into new ones, one of the goals of this is to actually strengthen copyright. It only lasts a few years, thus people will show more respect towards it. What’s more, since there won’t be so many works in copyright, this will free up legal resources, thus making it easier to take legal action against infringers.

Remedies against infringement

There are absolutely no new remedies needed if copyright does not get reduced to last only a few years; actually, they are astronomically already. But if copyright only lasts 14 years, one might very well decide that copyright violation is much more serious than as viewed today, where people have lost respect towards it due to the landgrab of copyright holders. I however still consider this a matter for civil law.

Copyright-violations are a vast field, from re-mailing a picture of a cute cat to your whole office or to putting a map on your homepage, to wholesale distribution of block-buster movies on DVD. Since most people don’t even know that they’re violating a copyright when e-mailing said picture, the law must be extremely clear cut on what is allowed and what is not.

A clear cut law which everyone understands will help a lot to quash unintentional copyright infringements.

A few notes on Software

Copyleft-licenses like the GNU Public License or various Creative Common Licenses grant the public more rights than copyright before copyright expires. This isn’t actually a problem. Typically, Software gets changed constantly so if copyright would expire for works older than 14 years now, Linux 1.2 would become Public Domain (you can still download that, but you will be disappointed: Personal Computers at this time featured a Pentium clocked at 133Mhz maximum), as would Windows 95.

Aufstand der Toten — per Urheberrecht

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Tote erzählen keine Geschichten

Zumindest nicht bevor sie nicht seit 70 Jahren tot sind.

Denn erst 70 Jahre nach dem Tod des Urhebers läuft das Urheberrecht und die zugehörigen Nutzungsrechte aus. Zumindest in der Schweiz, der EU und der USA. Mit dem Erfolg dass kein Rechteinhaber ein Interesse hat mässig erfolgreiche Werke, auch wissenschaftliche, nachzudrucken, da diese in Konkurrenz mit neuen Werken stehen könnten, und gleichzeitig niemand anders die Werke nachdrucken darf, bis die Zombies nach 70 Jahren endlich wirklich tot und begraben sind und das Werk gemeinfrei wird.

Wer die Toten weckt…

Die Konsequenz dieser absurden Frist ist auch dass nun das ganze Urheberrecht von einem Grossteil der Bevölkerung nicht mehr ernst genommen wird, wie schon Thomas Babington Macauley 1841(!) gewarnt hat: “And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living.”

In Deutsch: “Und ihr werdet herausfinden, dass ihr mit der Versuch unvernünftige Restriktionen über das Nachdrucken von Werken von Toten einzuführen, zu einem grossen Teil die Hemmungen die heute die Leute davon abhalten die Lebenden zu Plündern und zu Betrügen, annuliert habt.”

Und er hat recht behalten. Die einzig sinnvolle Konsequenz daraus kann nur sein die Urheberrechtsfristen rigoros zu kürzen. Weder ein drakonisches Urheberrechts-Regime noch immer längere Fristen werden diesen Respekt zurückbringen im Gegenteil; mit jeder Verschärfung und Verlängerung verliert das Urhberrecht noch mehr an Glaubwürdigkeit.

Mehr Lebendig als Tot

Die zweite Konsequenz kann nur mit absoluter Dummheit und Ignoranz seitens der Gesetzgeber erklärt werden. Aus der Tatsache dass diese Rechte über den Tod hinaus geltend sind leitet sich nämlich ein Erbrecht ab. Und damit ist die Büchse der Pandora geöffnet die das ganze Urheberrecht selbst seiner Funktion beraubt.

In einem Forum sucht ein Erbe in der 4. Generation herauszufinden wer denn sonst noch Erbe eines bestimmten Malers sein könnte, von dem er im Rahmen eines Zeitschriftenartikels Werke veröffentlichen wollte. Mit anderen Worten, die Urheber- und Nutzungsrechte für diese Werke sind nun auf beliebig viele Personen verteilt, Anzahl unbekannt, es könnte eine Person sein, aber auch 50. Jede dieser Personen hat kein Recht selber etwas davon zu veröffentlichen, aber jede davon hat ein Recht jegliche Veröffentlichung zu verhindern. Und das ist noch nicht der schlimmste Fall. Bei Werken die von mehreren Urhebern gemeinsam geschaffen wurden wurden gilt dies für sämtliche Beteiligten, respektive deren Erben. Was bei Filmen durchaus hunderte Personen sein können.

Tot und Begraben

Das ist das was diese Schutzfrist über den Tod hinaus schon lange sein sollte.

  • Sie verhindert Nachdrucke in dem sie es Verlegern ermöglicht die mit neuen Werken um die Aufmerksamkeit des Konsumenten buhlende alte Werke unter Verschluss zu behalten.
  • Sie vernichtet aus obigem Grund auch gleich alte Zellulose-Azetat-Filme welche zwischenzeitlich zu Essig werden. Und manchmal auch andere Werke die entweder nur in Kleinauflagen vorhanden waren, oder noch gar nicht publiziert waren und Opfer eines Brandes oder einer anderen Katastrophe werden.
  • Sie verhindert Publikationen durch Aufspaltung von Erbmasse. Und vernichtet damit ebenfalls Kultur, da auch diese Werke Opfer einer Katastrophe werden können.
  • Sie verzögert Neubearbeitungen von älteren Werken und führt damit ebenfalls zu einem geringeren Korpus an Publikationenen.
  • Sie vermindert den Respekt gegenüber dem Gesetz selbst.

Artificial Scarcity

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Whenever technology solves a problem with scarcity, somebody steps in to keep the scarcity by means of politics, wealth, power, propaganda.

  • case in point: patents were probably NOT introduced to further innovations, but to keep others innovations down, so the own innovations would be worth more.
  • case in point: copyright. As it became easy to print and reprint, and content-producers (or more often, the printers) wanted to have a temporary monopoly on it. As it became even more easy trough the internet, the laws became more draconian.
  • case in point: revenue services. Not only it fills the coffers of the state, but it also keeps foreign competition out of the own markets. And with trademarks, it can be used to keep cheap imitations out of the market.

The irony of this when it pertains to intangible goods, is that the corpus of works is much bigger than anyone on earth can digest. In effect, the availability of such an enormous amount of works has created an “economy of attention”. Since every living being has access to more works he can read, listen to or watch in his lifetime, you need to goad him into “consuming” your work; and preferably to pay for it. Apart from marketing, how do you do that? Maybe by putting a monopoly on works you’re not even interested in? With the hope that most of those works will not be available to the public…

Stealing from the Public Domain

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Everybody is talking about “illegal copying” (most often in propagandist terms like “stealing” or “piracy”), but nobody of the opposite: Taking a work in public domain and slapping your copyright-notice over it; something which very much borders on plagiarism. And of course asserting to have a copyright on something which you are not entitled to is also a violation of copyright.

The very funny thing is, there is a repository of thousands of books whose copyright is violated this way. It’s books.google.com. Nowhere else, such a mass of works wrongly tagged “copyrighted material” can be found.

An example? Captain Frederick Marryat died in 1848, yet a search for his books returns THIS. How the bloody hell does this publisher think he can slap a copyright notice on it? or another one: A Young Sea Officers Sheet Anchor, 1819. Note the “copyrighted material” on each and every page — well, of those few available that is. The Author Darcy Lever died 1839. Well ye, those authors are relatively unknown, what about the literary heavy-weights? Goethe! His Die Leiden des Jungen Werther is of course not downloadable from google, tough they indexed the whole content.

Google Booksearch is of course in some ways only the messenger. The real problem really being rogue publishers assuming copyright on one hand, and publishers bullying Google and the rest of the world about “respecting” copyright (which, as we see, may or may not be theirs). Of course, “do no evil” Google helps them by craving in and taking the easiest approach of assuming everything is copyrighted.

Addendum: As I’ve learned, this is actually known, and there is a word for it Copyfraud

Wo bleibt die Globalisierung?

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Man stelle sich vor, ein weltweiter Markt, ohne Schutzzölle, ohne Handelshemnisse, ohne Protektionismus, ohne Subventionen!

Gute Idee. Die Frage ist, wann kommt er? Und wann werden diese Hindernisse endlich abgebaut? Es stellt sich beim näheren Hinsehen nämlich heraus das genau die Proponenten dieser Globalisierung Ihre grössten Feinde sind!

  • Subventionen: Natürlich kann ich billiger produzieren indem ich in China meine Umwelt versaue. Effektiv subventioniere ich mit Schäden an öffentlichem Gut meine Exportartikel. Das betrifft nicht nur das Beispiel China, sondern es betrifft auch den Internationalen Transport; da werden mittels nicht-besteuerung von Treibstoff die damit angerichteten Schäden an die lokalen Steuerzahler abgewälzt. Dies ist auch National der Fall, das schweizer Bundesamt für Verkehr hat ausgerechnet dass der Benzinpreis um SFR 2.50 erhöht werden müsste um nur schon die Schäden und Kosten abzudecken die der Steuerzahler jetzt schon bezahlt (in Form von Gesundheitskosten, Unfällen, Aufforstung, Umweltkatastrophen, Trockenheit usf.).
  • Schutzzölle: Es ist ja durchaus verständlich wenn man Wegzölle erheben möchte, um .z.b. zum Erhalt von Verkehrswegen beizutragen. Es ist bedingt sogar verständlich dass man Zollkontrollen machen möchte um die Einfuhr unerwünschter Waren zu verhindern. Was aber nicht verständlich ist, ist dass diese Globalisierungsgegner vom Zoll irgendwelche Pakete (deren Inhalt sogar deklariert ist) öffnen, die Verpackung mittels Klebeband wieder zusammenbauen und dabei von eckiger in runde Form bringen, die Zustellung eine Woche verzögern, bei 100 SFR Warenwert SFR 6.25 Zoll draufpappen und dafür auch noch SFR 30 Bearbeitungsgebühr verlangen. Was für ein immenser Aufwand um ein Handelshemniss darzustellen!
  • Patente: Das Allergrösste ist ja dass die WTO, die sich selber die Globalisierung auf die Fahnen schreibt, gleichzeitig der grösstmögliche Globalisierungsgegner darstellt wenn es darum geht irgendwelche Monopole zu schützen, und entsprechende TRIPS und WIPO-Abkommen in der ganzen Welt gegen jeglichen lokalen Widerstand versucht durchzuprügeln.
  • Copyright: Etwas ganz ähnliches wie Patente, nur wir hier ein Verwertungsmonopol gegeben statt allen anderen das Verwertungsrecht zu nehmen. Hier geht es um Monopole, deren Geltungsbereich von ursprünglich 14 Jahren nach Erscheinen des Werks in letzter Zeit auf 70 Jahre nach dem Tod des Autors aufgeblasen wurde. Und was versuchen die Globalisierungsgegner von der WTO durchzuwürgen? Natürlich, die grösstmöglichen Monopole die irgendjemand haben könnte. Das Maximalmonopol soll als Internationaler Massstab durchgesetzt werden.
  • Parallelimporte: Was anderes als eine Monopolvergabe ist ein Verbot von Parallelimporten? Wie kann es dazu kommen das solche Verbote noch im 21. Jh. erlassen werden? Wie kommt es dass irgendwelche Globalisierungsgegner es wagen dürfen einen Datenträger mit “Regionalcode” zu versehen?

Scheinbar geht die Globalisierungsfreundlichkeit nur soweit wie es den eigenen Vorteil, oder besser gesagt, den Vorteil von irgendwelchen schon bestehenden Monopolisten betrifft. Meine Herren, das nennt man nicht “Globalisierung”, das nennt man “Merkantilismus“!