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Copyleft and Creative Commons

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  • Copyleft and Creative Commons

    Firstly, thanks to everyone in getting Multiverse back up and running!

    Mike - a fairly consistent debate these days surrounds the idea of copyright; on the one hand you have corporations lobbying government to extend the term of copyright, and introducing legal and technical restrictions to prevent people copying the works they own; at the other, you have people using technology as a way to realise the old dreams - from the open source software that powers Multiverse, through to Copyleft, the idea is of building something communally that isn't owned, controlled or distributed by the Man.

    I'm intrigues as to where you sit on this scale - on the one hand I know that politically you would describe your closest affiliation would be to anarchism. You could even see Jerry Cornelius as an experiment in 'open source' literature (one that 'failed' from your point of view at least).

    At the moment the debate has largegly centered around music, with TV and film just coming in; while text and images were the first things to be digitised, it would cost someone more to print their own copy of a book than buy it, and very few people want to read a book at a computer. Even is you had a book size screen, and text the same quality as the best printing presses, there would still be issues with reading in the bath, on the beach.

    However, as a thought experiment, let us imagine that in 100 years, books have gone the way of vinyl - a tiny niche - and that most people read everything on magic wireless 'smart paper'.There are no publishing costs, no warehouses of unsold books, no distribution costs - just like web pages now. The publishers and record industry would be out of business. (At least so long as you ignore the fact that mySpace is now owned by Moloch's News International).

    The key thing about this new world is whether copying is going to be controlled or not; for the first time it would be possible for me to simply copy Dancers for someone at work, without just lending them my copy or suggesting they borrow it from a library (sorry, just being a little facetious there, but some people do act as if the idea that someone could read or listen to music without paying 'The Man' was entirely new and due to technology).

    Getting back to the point, the choice we are being presented with is whether we want a world where information is locked up, in protected and 'uncopyable' digital formats - a world where publishers of information would still retain power - or one which would be truly free.

    My hunch is that your inclination would be towards the second, but I'm interested as to where you see the rights of authors fitting in, and of course how authors would make an income if there is no direct royalty from 'selling copies'.

  • #2
    Well the producers should control the means of production, in my view -- that is the original creator of something should be entitled to get the benefit of that creativity. Of course, frequently the middle-people do better than the creator and they appear to be the first to complain and look for the laws to protect their work. Publishers (record companies and so on) are fundamentally venture capitalists. This was understood in the early days of such associations between creators and publishers. However, since the venture capitalists started to sell out to publicly owned corporations, the balance has shifted so that creators are seen increasingly as 'for hire' workers, at least by the shareholders. As far as copyrights go, however, the good thing is that over the years the creators have actually taken increased control of their own work -- in popular music and the graphic arts, for instance, even in movies. They might not be getting the lion's share of the profits, but they are doing better than they've ever done before. I have no sympathy for the exploiter, of course, but it's reasonable to argue that anyone who lifts copyright work is actually in the same camp as the exploiter, not the exploited. Current copyright law is designed to protect the creator's earnings while they are alive and to let their beneficiaries be equally protected for some time after they die. You could argue that the creator's wife and young family can reasonably be protected and allowed to benefit after their death. I'd be happy to consider a law which guaranteed that, but my guess is that legislators have gone for 70 years after the death of the creator (in the case of books) because it covers most of the bases and is easier to apply. Differences exist between UK and US copyright law but over the years they've grown closer together and increasingly international law has accepted those models as being fair. Put it this way -- I spend some years building a boat and you come along and pinch it from me -- does that seem fair ? In an anarchist system, where we were all equally sharing in the wealth of the world, I'd be perfectly happy to put my work into the common pool. As it is, I have put quite a bit of my work into the common pool in a fifty-year-career and I still live what I believe is a moral life, sharing my income with others, I suspect rather more than most of the people I know who devote much of their lives to scoring free stuff off the net. In fact, I've frequently noticed that many of my old 'anarchist' acquaintances have been somewhat less than ethical in their willingness to pinch the fruits of other peoples' labour. I've also noticed that very few of them seem au fait with the works of perhaps the greatest anarchist thinker of them all, Kropotkin, who certainly agreed that the workers should control the means of production, but didn't apparently argue that those who could work but didn't should enjoy the benefit of the work of those who did. As it is we have a system in place, at least in large parts of Europe, that allows some of the fruits of my labour (as well as that of others) does go to help those who can't work or can't find work or, indeed, don't want to work. I'm actually a believer in higher taxes, which helps spread wealth more evenly, as was happening before around 1977, but I don't believe it's my right to bilk a taxi driver or any other small independent freelance worker of a fair return for their labour. One last point -- my only way of showing someone in the media that I enjoy their work is to buy their book or record, which is why I still prefer to buy work, even though I'm frequently in the position to receive it free. For instance I currently have a free copy of Walter Mosley's Fortunate Son, which I got because I'm about to review it. However, I also bought a copy. I can pass a copy on to someone who can't afford it, but that's not the same as stealing the book, even though it doesn't deprive Mosley himself of his royalty (but rather the bookstore of its profit). While we exist in a money-based economy, we have to accept the moral standards of that economy and penalise those (like ENRO for instance) who act against those standards.
    A final point -- I know too many fine artists of all different kinds who can barely make a living from work which is often superb, original and makes them very little money. If I chose to assume that person was rich because, let's say, Terry Brooks was rich, and rip off their work accordingly, I'd be in exactly the same position as the kind of thief who steals, let's say, a widow's pension because Queen Victoria was a widow and wasn't short of a bob or two. We can work to make copyright law more individual-specific, we can work to spread wealth more fairly amongst all citizens, we can even do something like tying patents to the length of time and amount of money the patented item took to develop, but I think it's a bit iffy should we pirate a movie or a CD on the basis that 'all' movies and CDs make obscenely high profits. As it is, books get loaned or passed on, just as CDs and movies get copied. That's reasonable enthusiasm and I know few creative people or even publishers who would argue against that, but pirating a book, CD or movie for profit puts the publisher who does it in the same moral position as the guy who steals, say, the takings of a blind fiddle-player on a street corner. So, as usual, context defines the issue. Where big publishers are wrong is when they go after an enthusiastic kid with the same vigor with which they pursue an organised bunch of pirates. I even happen to believe that putting something on the net for free often helps stimulate sales, but that should be up to the individual creator, not someone who arrogantly
    decides to 'liberate' someone else's work. Where Jerry Cornelius is concerned, I don't have any objection to an enthusiast using him, but I object a lot to someone pinching chunks of my books, or paraphrasin them, and presenting that work as their own. That's why I had no objection to Moebius's use of Cornelius and Grant Morrison lifting bits of text but in fact NOT mentioning their source (until being challenged, at any rate, whereupon he called it homage -- by and large I am happy to pay homage to Anthony Skene, creator of Zenith the Albino, but not simply by lifting bits of his writing and passing it off as mine -- that's simply not homage, it's pinching). If I lifted Alan Moore's continuity and text from Swamp Thing and called my character Marsh Demon, that would not be homage, either. Anarchism is a moral philosophy, not a license to steal.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm a bit tired and realised I ached on without really answering your question. I think the royalty system is about the best way we have of the creator getting a fair reward for their labour. How that royalty is collected and delivered is the question, as you say, and perhaps we can look to PLR (Public Lending Right) in England and Germany, where authors and composers receive income based on estimated use of their work. This, of course, comes from public funds. How you raise those funds is also a matter of debate. Taxation is the normal method -- in that we all pay taxes and don't all have kids at school or use libraries or indeed, need to call on the police or armed services, but for better or worse agree to a contract with our fellow citizens that these things are necessary and are therefore worth paying for, even if we personally don't use them. This is so far removed from current American economic thinking that I could never see it working in the US, but it could probably work reasonably well in Europe, say, where a certain percentage of tax money was raised and spent to pay royalties based on actual sales or estimated sales (like PLR).
      The way to do this in the context of the net would be, of course, to tax users or providers and pass that money on to the creators. However, this would, of course, put the cost of using or providing up, though I suspect not by very much. It is a way of doing it, though. We all know the problems with such a system, too, while there's no universal 'bill of rights' for the WWW.

      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

      Comment


      • #4
        1) Copyright is a good thing but 70 years seems too long

        2) I agree that copying for profit without paying rights is unfair

        3) In France there was a proposal of a " global licence " : internauts would suscribe for a global annual fee and buyers of new CD would pay a tax. The money would be shared beetwen artists.

        The " relative matter " is that the majors would be deprived of one of their source of income.

        In anyway copying connot be prevented.

        Comment


        • #5
          I intend to reply to Mike's kind comments later (I tried to avoid giving my own view along with the question) - but Morgan's message is shorter.
          By the way what inspired my post was a response on the Slashdot site from someone called Jherek Carnelian. . .

          1) Copyright is a good thing but 70 years seems too long
          I would entirely agree - 50 years seemed reasonable enough to me, and I would be in favour of reducing rather than extending it. The one change I would like to see is 'un-exercised rights return to the author' with a 5 year limit. Most sensible artists licence their work rather than hand it over, but I know people who sold their rights to companies that have gone bust, and their recordings are now tied up in litigation. Some fundamental artists rights would be good, if only to protect the more naive or poverty-stricken from their own actions.

          2) I agree that copying for profit without paying rights is unfair
          I think copying without profit can also be unfair, but it depends on intent and scale. Making you a copy of a CD I love in the hope you 'discover' said artist is a good intent; I think that copying a TV program I have on video because you missed it being shown is 'reasonable'. If I put a copy of your band's CD on the Internet without your permission, for anyone to download - that is completely different.

          >3) In France there was a proposal of a " global licence " : internauts
          > would suscribe for a global annual fee and buyers of new CD would pay
          >a tax. The money would be shared beetwen artists.
          I think this is the most promising idea for changing the way artists are compensated; I have read that if you charged as little as $8 per month as a broadband tax, it would result in more money than is currently spent of music. But I wonder how it would scale up - when we need to add some more to pay for films, TV, books, magazines, scientific papers, etc, how much would the extra tax be?

          >The " relative matter " is that the majors would be deprived of one of
          > their source of income.
          When there used to be a tax on blank tapes it actually benefited the major labels more than anyone else - the presumption being that all those blank tapes were going to copy Michael Jackson's Thriller. If you were an artist selling 1000 copies your chances of seeing any of the blank tape tax were about 0%.
          My view : I would rather have the majors and superstars making millions, if it means small artists can make a living, than get rid of all the small artists just to strike a blow at The Man.

          >In anyway copying connot be prevented.
          We shall see. I suspect most people are going to sleepwalk into a situation where their media systems will regulate what they can do, in the name of convenience. This is why laws like the French DRM amendment (to ensure media can be moved from one manufacturers device to another) are vitally important - although the preferable solution would of course be to outlaw DRM altogether.

          My personal view is that civil law, rather than criminalisation of copyright violation, is the right way forward; in terms of it's effect on society copyright violation is more like speeding or littering. If everyone did it all the time it would be a major problem, but most people do it on occasion without bringing about the end of civilisation.


          Sites like emusic show that you can sell music without trying to prevent it from being copied - they don't presume all the customers are potential criminals.
          Last edited by Jules; 06-26-2006, 12:44 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Mike:
            We can work to make copyright law more individual-specific
            I take it that you mean something like the law if I ran the world, wherein one could only licence, not assign, copyright?

            The small print: no sub-licensing without the licensor's consent.

            we can even do something like tying patents to the length of time and amount of money the patented item took to develop
            The problem with this one is that at least in the field of medicine, the situation is that at any one time ICI or whoever is working on ten potential drugs - nine of which will come to nothing. The problem is they don't know which one is the one in ten.

            Morgan:
            copying connot be prevented.
            Nor can rape, murder, assault... oh, how the list goes on...

            Comment


            • #7
              It used to be fifty years in England. Perfectly reasonable. But when the EU decided to rationalise the law they went for the country which had the longest period -- Germany, 70 years -- and adopted that. Would be nice for a PLR to be available throughout the EU (and US, for that matter).
              The US law doesn't automatically copyright in quite the same way as in Europe. You have to register everything yourself (or your publisher does it). You're also allowed to renew copyright one more time. It's tied to publication, rather than author's death.
              Some families control copyright forever by sheer threat -- witness the Joyce estate's extraordinary control of Joyce material. Eliot's too. I believe the desires of grandchildren can safely be ignored, but publishers, being the cowards they are are easily inimidated by the hint of a lawsuit, as I've discovered many times.

              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
              The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
              Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
              The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
              Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                The US law doesn't automatically copyright in quite the same way as in Europe. You have to register everything yourself (or your publisher does it). You're also allowed to renew copyright one more time. It's tied to publication, rather than author's death.
                .
                Again I'm slightly short of time, but there is some discussion of how the roots of this debate may come out of the differences between US and European copyright law in this biography of Richard Stallman - also known as 'Prince Kropotkin of Software'!

                http://www.softpanorama.org/People/S...#Early%20years
                http://www.softpanorama.org/People/Stallman/index.shtml

                Comment


                • #9
                  Don't know whether this has any bearing (excuse the pun) on the current topic:

                  Milne family lose Pooh rights bid

                  The granddaughter of the creator of children's character Winnie the Pooh has failed in an attempt to regain the copyright on stories about the bear.

                  Clare Milne was challenging a series of licensing arrangements in place since the books were created in the 1920s.

                  In 1983 the present owner - the estate of literary agent Stephen Slesinger - signed a deal blocking AA Milne's family from ever regaining control.

                  The US Supreme Court told Ms Milne this was still valid and rejected her case.

                  She had begun legal proceedings in 2002, trying to end the Slesingers' ownership.

                  She was trying to reassign the copyright to Disney.

                  It had already made Winnie the Pooh one of its most profitable characters by sublicensing rights from the Slesingers.

                  Trust established

                  AA Milne wrote the Pooh stories between 1924 and 1928.

                  The character first appeared in the London Evening News in 1925 in a story called The Wrong Sort of Bees.

                  Milne died in 1956 but bequeathed the ownership of the copyright to a trust rather than to his family.

                  In April Pooh was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, four months after the bear's 80th birthday.

                  In a separate case, Mr Slesinger's widow and daughter have been battling Disney for more than a decade.

                  They are claiming at least $700 million (£384 million) in what they say are unpaid royalties from Pooh merchandise and other material.
                  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/5119950.stm

                  I know the descendants of Jerry Seigel and/or Joe Shuster successfully managed to claw back some of the copyright in the character of Superman a few years back.
                  _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                  _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                  _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                  _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                    The US law doesn't automatically copyright in quite the same way as in Europe. You have to register everything yourself (or your publisher does it). You're also allowed to renew copyright one more time. It's tied to publication, rather than author's death.
                    I was under the impression that copyright IS automatic in the US, from the moment of creation. However, registering the copyright makes it easier to defend it.
                    Best/Mario

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think one of the more interesting aspects of this discussion is the way that copyright law is being attacked on both sides. Recently - say the last 10 years - there has been a public backlash at copyright law simply for the misuse that has been happening by the (as Mike calls them) Middle People. The RIAA, the MPAA, Disney, Apple, and other major corporations that do just as Mike suggested: using the artist as a for hire laborer.

                      Specifically recording artists have been obviously given the short end of the stick. I know of no other industry where an artist can create an artwork and be forced into bankruptcy *because* of it. The more the public learns of this, the less sympathetic it has become to the "middle people." If there were a way of giving direct donations to an artist, this would not be an issue, and I know of very few people that would steal works in the manner that they do now.

                      So while copyright law gets tightened by paid off politicians, gutting fair use and the public gets hammered for even *owning* something, the backlash has been steadily growing.

                      As for plagiarism, there has been a suggestion for decades now that it is impossible to have an original story anymore. Ideas get reused constantly, and there is no helping that. But direct usage of actual works is inexcusable, and there should be some prosecution when it happens. The EC is a perfect example of this concept, actually. The original hero that Mike had created and suggested be used as a template has so proliferated through the industry that most authors probably have no idea that they are following the pattern initiated by Mike's EC experiment.

                      I did want to point out a couple things:
                      The software this site is using is not considered open source in the way that you are thinking, Jules. vBulletin is not free, and modifications or pieces of its code are not allowed to be distributed except through their community and system or without their approval, at the very least. So while technically, it is open source because you can see and edit the php code directly, it is not in line with the open source movement that you are speaking of.

                      The other point was that in 1996, Clinton signed off on some copyright law modifications that allowed an automatic copyright without forcing the original content creator to register or do anything other than say "copyright 1996 by xxxxx" or something similar to turn it on. It is still suggested that you go through official channels to have a more solid protection, it is not really necessary anymore from what I understood of the law.
                      As the minutes gain momentum like a bird, man.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        compulsory copyright ?

                        If i understand, you cannot put something on the market for free ...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          What a great topic, Jules! Thanks for starting this one up. Mike's comments on the issue are indeed enlightening.

                          Originally posted by mephisto_kur
                          Specifically recording artists have been obviously given the short end of the stick. I know of no other industry where an artist can create an artwork and be forced into bankruptcy *because* of it.
                          Quite. Let's face it: it's plain sad that John Fogerty was sued by his former record label and lost the suit because he sounded too much like himself. That's exactly the type of garbage these middle-people Mike refers to are getting away with. Lately it seems copyright is being used for exactly the wrong reasons.

                          Related tangent: Why does Michael Jackson own Paul McCartney's work? There isn't a single realistic situation that could, in my mind, adequately justify this. It's just wrong.

                          Originally posted by Jules
                          I think copying without profit can also be unfair, but it depends on intent and scale. Making you a copy of a CD I love in the hope you 'discover' said artist is a good intent; I think that copying a TV program I have on video because you missed it being shown is 'reasonable'. If I put a copy of your band's CD on the Internet without your permission, for anyone to download - that is completely different.
                          This is an important distinction which corporations, especially music companies, are disinclined to take notice of. The people giving a few mp3s to friends because they are excited about some new band is not significantly hurting anyone; the people putting every single mp3 they possess up onto Kazaa is what is more likely to cause a loss of royalties. The first scenario spurs a person to go buy a CD, while the other simply supplies the entire CD free of charge. In other words, piracy occurs whenever royalties/profits are either diverted or stopped entirely.

                          For those interested and for what it's worth, check out the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Much interesting reading there.
                          "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                          --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Out of curiosity, if you post your own content on a public forum such as this, do you have any copyright ownership over it?

                            I'm guessing that determined by the individual site, with its terms of use and privacy policy.

                            What I'd like to know is - if you post a novel you are writing onto a forum, can someone just go ahead and swipe it and try to get it published?
                            Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

                            Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by devilchicken
                              Out of curiosity, if you post your own content on a public forum such as this, do you have any copyright ownership over it?
                              Of course. Copyright resides with the author of a work.* Putting on the web for free download doesn't mean that someone else can exploit it for their own profit and/or gain. For instance, Mike allow Berry to put up the New World's Fair album on the old site for free download, but if you went and made your own CDs and flogged them on eBay, you'd be infringing Mike's copyright.

                              Originally posted by devilchicken
                              What I'd like to know is - if you post a novel you are writing onto a forum, can someone just go ahead and swipe it and try to get it published?
                              Of course, they could, but it would still be infringing your copyright. By publishing it on a forum you'd be able to 'date' your claim to ownership if necessary.

                              *Normally. There are, of course, exceptions to this.
                              _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                              _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                              _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                              _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                              Comment

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