Cory Doctorow: It’s Time to Stop Talking About Copyright

I inaugurated this column in 2008 with an editorial called ‘‘Why I Copyfight’’, which talked about the tricky balance between creativity, culture, and the relationship between audiences and creators. These have always been hard subjects, and the Internet has made them harder still, because the thing that triggers copyright rules – copying – is an intrinsic part of the functioning of the Internet and computers. There’s really no such thing as ‘‘loading’’ a web-page – you make a copy of it. There’s really no such thing as ‘‘reading’’ a file off a hard-drive – you copy it into memory.

The story of modern Internet regulation and copyright goes back (at least) to 1995 and Al Gore’s National Information Infrastructure hearings, where Bruce Lehman, Bill Clinton’s copyright czar, pushed for expansive new copyright rules for the net. These proposals were pretty bonkers, so Gore sent him packing, and he scurried off to Geneva, to the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization, where he instigated the WIPO Copyright Treaty, which became US law in 1998, as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

We’ve been arguing about copyright and the Internet for at least 16 years now, and the arguments keep going back and forth over well-defined ground, wearing deep grooves in the discourse.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century: copyright policy ceased to exist. Because every copyright policy that we make has a seismic effect on the Internet, and because you can’t regulate copying without regulating the Internet.

For example, take the matter of ‘‘intermediary liability,’’ the kind of abstract subject that was once the exclusive purview of genuine copyright nerds. In law, intermediary liability is the liability borne by service providers and other entities that transmit or host material that infringes copyright. One of the major questions that’s burned up the copyright debate for 16 years is whether ISPs, web-hosting companies and other ‘‘intermediaries’’ can be found liable for their users’ infringements, and if so, under what circumstances.

But this isn’t a copyright policy. Intermediaries carry plenty of material that has nothing to do with the copyright wars – political videos during election season, first-hand accounts of war crimes, private videos of kids playing in the bath, emails between doctors and patients (or attorneys and clients), and much more besides.

Viacom, in its billion-dollar copyright lawsuit against YouTube, asked the court to declare that intermediaries should be forced to disable privacy features on their services so that every hosted file could be examined by its copyright enforcement bots. If the Internet consisted of nothing but entertainment content, that might make sense, but entertainment’s the Internet’s sideshow, while the main event is everything else we do online.

Various record industry legal theories have asked courts to hold that universities and colleges should be held liable for students’ illegal music downloads unless they install network spyware that snoops on all the network’s communications to find the ‘‘bad stuff.’’ If campus networks were nothing but glorified TV and radio delivery systems this might make sense, but for universities, the main thing that the Internet enables is free intellectual inquiry, and the entertainment stuff is just a diversion between scholarly pursuits.

The disconnection laws that the entertainment industry has bought for itself in the UK, New Zealand and France provide for removing whole households from the Internet on the strength of their copyright accusations. If the net were just cable TV, this might make sense, but for families all over the world, the net is work, socialization, health, education, access to tools and ideas, freedom of speech, assembly and the press, as well as the conduit to political and civic engagement.

There just isn’t such a thing as ‘‘copyright policy’’ anymore. Every modern copyright policy becomes Internet policy – policy that touches on every aspect of how we use the net.

And as we make the transition from a world where everything we do includes an online component to a world where everything we do requires an online component, it’s becoming the case that there’s no such thing as ‘‘Internet policy’’ – there’s just policy.

I’m all for sorting out the rules that govern the entertainment’s supply chain, but let’s keep some perspective here: when we ‘‘solve’’ copyright problems at the expense of the Internet, we solve them at the expense of 21st-century society as a whole.

When musician Don Henley writes in USA Today in support of the proposed PROTECT-IP Act, which will establish a national Internet censorship regime in the USA, ostensibly to fight copyright infringement, he says that free speech doesn’t enter into it, because ‘‘piracy’’ isn’t a form of free speech.

This is why it’s time to stop talking about copyright and creativity and start talking about the Internet. Because someone can be as smart and talented as Don Henley and still think that you can establish nationwide networked surveillance and censorship and all you’re going to touch on is ‘‘piracy.’’

For so long as we go on focusing this debate on artists, creativity, and audiences – instead of free speech, privacy, and fairness – we’ll keep making the future of society as a whole subservient to the present-day business woes of one industry.

Cory Doctorow is the author of Walkaway, Little Brother and Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free (among many others); he is the co-owner of Boing Boing, a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a visiting professor of Computer Science at the Open University and an MIT Media Lab Research Affiliate.

From the November 2011 issue of Locus Magazine

51 thoughts on “Cory Doctorow: It’s Time to Stop Talking About Copyright

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  • November 2, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I admit to not knowing that much about the internet — mostly because the internet, for the most part, seems such a waste of time. Despite what you say above, regarding the Viacom lawsuit from what I can discern, you’re dead wrong. The majority of the internet is, indeed, used for “entertainment”: from porn to vidiots who think their every thought and action is worth documenting (that someone out there finds the latter entertaining is sad, indeed). Yes, the internet is used to share research, documents, news stories, etc., etc. But since the amount of actual news being produced thesed days (in ANY field) is shrinking as fast as a man’s penis in the middle of an ice storm, the majority of space on the internet seems, by and large, devoted to entertainment (in whatever form that might take for whomever is accessing a particular document, picture, video, whatever). Yes, people and companies use the internet to sell things, but since many of those things deal with entertainment (magazines, movies, books, games, etc.), that, as they in Hollywood, is still entertainment.

    Entertainment is what most people use the internet for. The OTHER things — medical and scientific research, etc., — those are the sideshow.
    (This magazine, in fact, is entertainment — it may be related, in may ways, to the business end of things, but it’s entertainment. As is your column, for some folks).

    Since there is always a person or persons behind the creation of things made to entertain people (stories, videos, etc., etc.), and since that person (or persons) don’t usually have a corporation overseeing their future (pensions, healthcare), then the royalties earned from the selling of various bits of entertainment — stories, books, songs, videos — SHOULD be protect by copyright (because those roylaties are their annuity). And if more control over the internet (which is a man-made tool, not something natural like, say…water) is the only thing that will stop self-centered morons from stealing (rather than buying) these various bits of entertainment (created by other men and women who worked hard to do so), then we should enact more control over internet (you know, the way we often already do over things like…water, land, food — things that are both essential and natural).

    It may be my uneducated point-of-vew, but it often seems like some people — due to a bit of fame earned by being, say, the “guy who fights for no copyright protection” — too often get so blinded by a bit of noteriety, and they refuse to see the forest for the trees. Your arguments that copyright protection — and, indeed, respecting the rights of others, especially the creators of various works — cannot exist hand in hand with the adance of technology (“we solve them at the expense of 21st-century society as a whole”) makes absolutely no sense. The best thing that internet offers humankind is the sharing of IMPORTANT information: from medical to scientific information, things that will save and improve lives (faster communication for the everyday, average person — those on a cell phones, or otherwise — ISN’T one of the good things about the internet). Those important things done on and via the internet , and the sharing of information derived from those things, will not be affected by copyright protection.

  • November 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I would tend to view Don Henley as blinded by self-serving short-sightedness. But then I have never been overly politic.

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  • November 2, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    @DT, you’re right you are showing your ignorance of the internet. Sure a lot of the internet is used for entertainment, an I’ll be the first to admit to waking in the morning to get my news fix, just as many people used to read the newspaper while breakfasting. Once I leave the house it’s a different story altogether, and I’m not sure I’m that much different than a lot of other people in the 21st century.

    As someone who understands the internet intimately, the main usage is communication, whether it be e-mail, video conferencing, SMS, social networking, or any one of a thousand other activities that don’t include downloading or streaming video. Businesses use the internet for transferring information that’s needed to enable commerce. Frequently I use the internet to bank and order goods that you might one day buy from me. When a customer needs additional information about a product, I can access manufacturer sites to obtain that information. The internet connects me with my supply chain and allows me to ensure that others in my retail chain have access to the same information that I do.

    As a software developer I do think that copyright protection is a good thing, but entertainment business, like Disney want to protect their assets indefinitely, so they lobby to extend and warp copyright laws into something they were never meant to be, in particular a profit protection scheme. You can’t blame them, they’re looking after their interests.

    The problem is that politicians are not listening to what the people want. They’re listening to to whomever has the most money for their election coffers. This is what the “Occupy” movement is all about.

    Government is not supposed to be about protecting special interests. It’s supposed to be about protecting the rights and interests of all the people that are governed. Western culture is rich and vibrant because of copyright, but when the interests of just one side of the issue is protected, as has happened, the culture will stagnate.

    Here’s an example: Song of the South. It was a film of it’s time and portrayed black people in a prejudicial way. The film was set during the Reconstruction, and sure by today’s standards it is politically incorrect. But it is a period film and uplifting in many ways. Sadly, the film is probably rotting in the film vaults of Disney Studios and will never be seen again. A part of culture would be lost except that a version was accidentally distributed in the UK and while the quality isn’t great but a copy made it’s way into my movie collection.

    Cory is right, though, the fight has now got to be about protecting the Internet. If politicians want to keep a revolt from happening the pendulum must begin to swing back to protecting culture instead of protecting industry.

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  • November 2, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    @DT Shindler: I’m not sure you fully understand the problem.

    First of all, the internet IS much more than entertainment! It’s news, it’s collaboration, it’s communication with friends, it let’s us get in touch with people on the other side of the globe, it’s a distribution network of information and knowledge. And NOT all of it should be available to the world!

    The privacy aspect is real and important – do you seriously think that it should not be possible to privately share personal photos and videos by less than encrypting them? Because let’s just face it, you won’t want to set up your home PC as a server, mail it on a USB drive or make it 100% public just because some entertainment company says you’re not allowed to share anything in private since that’s inconvenient for them.
    And how long, exactly, do you then think it will take for crypto to get banned on public services?

    Good luck sharing ANY file larger than 20 MB over and kind of distance if you want it to be private! Also, say bye bye to Dropbox.

    Also, copyright infringement is BY DEFINITION NOT THEFT! I don’t understand why anybody keeps calling it that for any other reason then to make it seem worse than it is, as if some man-made law ware a natural right and the authors died a little inside every time their works are copied.
    In fact, there’s NO objective proof that it’s even harmful!
    Seriously, how much do you think the Avatar makers lost? That movie was pirated in masses, and yet they made HUGE amounts of money! Do you really think they’d made more if none of these people could have accessed it? What’s the probability that they’d payed up? Remember that most of them just does it because it’s convenient!

    Accessibility, man, make it more accessible over legal methods. You can’t just ban all methods of distribution you dislike to protect a failed business model. The businesses should adapt instead!
    Lower the prices and let the BUYER choose where to get it (DVD/Bluray from store, legal torrents, more streaming sites, etc…). Or else they’ll just find another way to get it!

    If the media companies are allowed to demand TOTAL insight into the internet, you can be 100% sure that NOTHING confidential or private EVER will move through it’s wires ever again – and poof, the advantages of the internet just went away since the rest of the usage won’t make up for the drop in traffic.
    (Do you think any highways would get the same maintenance as today if there were only one car driving there a week? Not? Then, don’t expect the internet to survive if you got your plans through.)

    Do you REALLY think that the ability to securely transfer private/confidential information over a distance, hidden from outside eyes, should be limited to banks, governments and similar? Really? Do you want Viacom to have full access to your Dropbox account with banking info, private pictures, etc? Your private YouTube videos that’s only intended for friends?

    Why lock down the internet for the sake of of businesses that intentionally are trying to avoid having to compete fairly? Why enforce harmful rules to protect companies that will fail anyway?

    If nobody pays the media companies, they’ll go away. If people want them, they’ll start paying again when they realize it’s the only way to get their products. If they DON’T care enough, these companies will forever disappear and NOBODY should prevent that!

    If people aren’t willing to pay for something that isn’t even important for society, why bother saving them by destroying useful services on the internet (Dopbox, file storage lockers, etc)?

  • November 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    DT Shindler you really should learn more about Internet to understand that first, you are assuming the only way to make business with content is making people to pay for digital copies of it, and this is simply not true and there are quite a lot o examples. Actually it’s all about the service. But most important entertainment is really sideshow here. Believe it. It’s like scratching the surface. Internet is a lot more about communication of many with many and entertainment is big part, sure, but not the key part here. Contents of some copyright holders bring context, but most of the entertainment, mixed with popular culture boosts because people who create it want it to be shared. So if you eliminate privacy, which is what SOPA supporters really need, we will lose essential freedoms and most important, creators and most copyright holders will never innovate to finde the new business models based on allowing people to share and engaging them in other ways.

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  • » There is no copyright policy, only Internet policy; there is no Internet policy, only policy

  • November 3, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I am (or more accurately, was) an independent musician who spent 8 years being actively involved in this debate. While I have divorced myself from the profession of music and this debate a year ago, Mr. Doctorow’s post (and the comments already posted) seems like a logical place to add a few additional thoughts on this subject.

    The Internet was created for the exchange of information. A perfect example of this purpose was the use of it by the Chinese medical community to stop the SARS epidemic despite their government’s stance.

    The “amount of actual news being produced these days” may appear to be shrinking, but that is just because “news” has fallen into the trap of commercialism. There is still as much news out there as there ever was. The internet has actually greatly improved our ability to find out more information on any current activity around the world instantly, despite attempts by governments to suppress it and the “news media’s” willingness to ignore it. The Arab Spring movement and Occupy Wall Street are perfect examples of that.

    Entertainment companies view the Internet as a threat to their existence. My horse in the race was the fact that the net has been a boon to undiscovered talent, which can now get itself heard or seen without the need to pass approval by the old guard (record companies, movie studios). Independents can now go directly to the audience, bypassing the old gatekeeper systems which were in place for so long.

    Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that the product of the corporate entertainment world became just as accessible to the public and the net has been used as a method of bypassing admission and purchasing fees for these once very profitable entertainment companies. This is how the copyright infringement issues came to the forefront, along with the ridiculous assertion that copyright infringement is theft. Don Henley may be having more difficulty making a profit from recorded music, but he still owns all of it. No one has stolen it from him, except maybe the record labels he used to work for, as we shall find out in 2013 (but that’s another story).

    The greater problem, as Mr. Doctorow points out, is that the entertainment world’s refusal to adapt to 21st century technology is going to be used as an excuse to undermine the usefulness of the Internet going forward. Remember the lady who posted a video of her infant dancing to a Prince song and was accused of copyright infringement? The future scenario is that this will not be proven to be fair use. Make an accusation and this person will be deprived of Internet access. Due process will be erased. Your kid shares a music video without authorization? You are now a non-entity, with no way to complain or to seek redress, much less access your bank information or communications from your employer.

    Yes, the Internet seems to have become dominated by entertainment and the pointless Facebook and Twitter postings of what your “friends” had for lunch today. But the actions of the foolish masses is no excuse to abuse our rights of free speech and deprive the rest of us of access to real information — and there is more of it out there than ever before.

    We can solve the problems of drunk driving and transporting drugs (or stolen property) by ripping out all the streets. But that doesn’t mean it is a rational solution. Neither is the IP-Protect Act. Intellectual property is an imaginary construct and this proposed law is a very anti-intellectual, unimaginative approach to figuring out how to discern the difference between the information people wish to profit from and the information which is freely offered to society.

  • November 3, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Here in the US, my state has started allowing voter registration online. My previous job posted my tax forms on an online portal rather than mailing them. The majority of the communication I have with my attorney is over email. Most job postings are online and require an online application. Most banks offer online account access, and many are only allowing such perks as “free” checking or waiving monthly fees by eliminating mailings by sending statements via email.
    This is all information that I would prefer not be pooled for access by whatever quasi-governmental entity that wants to go trawling. These are all vital services that disconnection from the internet would eliminate from my life. None of these are entertainment related, though I do get a few chuckles when I’m doing my taxes.

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  • November 3, 2011 at 9:56 am

    It seems that Doctorow is getting it backwards. Copyright isn’t about downloads, it’s about uploads. I don’t think universities should be responsible for their student’s downloads, but I don’t see a problem with requiring them to pull the plug on someone posting copyrighted material until the offending matter is removed.

    Anti-copyright arguments seem to be based on the notion that copyright is just too complicated for average people to understand and apply. But if you’re going to make a habit of passing things along, you’re going to have to learn. Newspapers, including small ones with barely trained staffs, have been dealing with this for over a century. If you want to report someone else’s material, paraphrase. If you quote, attribute, and use only a small portion. Given the ease of posting links to legitimate sources if someone wants to share more, I don’t see how copyright issues should be a problem at all.

  • November 3, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Why do we even accept the lie that creators *need* copyrights? Shakespeare never had any copyrights and yet Shakespeare’s plays exist. We need to stop listening to the arguments of people that deny even the possibility that Shakespeare’s plays might exist.

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  • November 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    First, I gotta say that despite all of the talk about the internet being MUCH more than entertainment, I haven’t seen many examples of WHAT everyone else thinks the World Wide Web is full of (me, I think it’s mostly b.s. — twits about what someone had to eat, and a LOT of bad entertainment, but hey — maybe I’m tuning into the wrong channel — educate me).
    The problem isn’t in my not understanding the internet: I covered the “news” part of the equation (if one of the respondents was too slow to pick up on the fact that what you get on the internet is rarely _news_, that it’s usually more akin to opinion, ala “Fox news” (because most internet stories are hurried into print as fast as TV “news”, with little or no verification), and because the majority of the “news” stories fall into the realm of entertainment or spacefiller, well, what we have her is a failure to communicate — and that ain’t my problem, nor is the internet (despite what those espousing the internet’s “aiblity” to help them communicate) type, twitter, or tweak.
    As for the internet being vital to communication, that’s a load of crap: cell phones do the same job — they just don’t come with all of the (wait for it) “entertaining” bells and whistles (games, movies, etc., etc.)

    Rather than go into it all again, I’ll just point to the latest bone-headed comment by one Renee MarieJones: “Shakespeare never had copyright and his plays still exist”. Me thinks Renee’s protestation doth go to the heart of the matter of the ignorance and self-centeredness of the twit-wit generation.
    Renee, if Shakespeare WAS alive today, he would be (as Charles Dickens once did) visiting a rain of shit upon the heads of idiots who don’t think copyright and creative ownership don’t matter to authors. He would be screaming so loud it would make sturm take note of drang. How…slow…does…one…need…to…type…before all of you twitwits get the message: copyright protects the AUTHOR. It assures him or her that publishers (or hollywood filmmakers) can’t make loads of money, so that morons who have seen one too many Ryan Phillipe movies and think “information wants to be free” (cause, ya know, information is sentient), can justify STEALING the work (short stories, novels, etc.) of someone else who worked hard to produce it. Yeah, Nathanel — uploading and downloading copyrighted material is, indeed, stealing. Ask those who are supposed to make money off of it — the ones from whom you (or anyone else who does so) is stealing. As Harlan Ellison said in an article in “Book” magazine, all writers aren’t Stephen King — most of them actually count on the dollars and quarters and pennies that don’t land in their pockets because some pimply-headed no-nothing thinks he or she should have what they want (and have it now).

  • November 3, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    P.S. Before someone thinks I’m a total Luddite and crank, I should say that yes, I recognize the good of email (save a forest, etc.), and I know that a lot of companies (banks, etc) are using it to save money. I also understand about the online job searching (although newspapers, last time I checked, aren’t completely gone from the planet). But NONE of that, from what I’ve seen, adds up to anywhere NEAR the amount of “space” that entertainment takes up (and wastes, since most of it ain’t truly entertaining — just ignorant, or a way for some mook to make money) on the internet.

    And I’m serious about wanting to be educated on this: How many of you defending Doctorow’s claim that entertainment is merely the sideshow — and not the center ring, as I believe — can give me a list, or (if there are some true geeks out there) easily validated statistics proving that the majority of space on the internet is wasted on “entertainment”, from knuckleheads who drone on about themselves (or post “offerings” of their talent) on youtube to anything else one can imagine.

    And while we still talking about NOT paying for downloaded fiction or music or movies, how many of you have noticed just how many ads surround the “news” pages, and just about every page on your PCs when surfing teh internet — even those hovering, click on me so I will go away thingamajigs are no doubt making SOMEONE some money. So why are you so ready to begrudge the writer/composer, etc., his or her share of the wealth — especially when that particular creator actually worked for it?

    Also: Not sure how email, etc., would be affected by copyright protection. The arguments FOR (in the comments above) seem to be getting rather nebulous.

  • November 3, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Rdio, Vevo, Youtube, Mog, Spotify, itunes, netflix, icloud, is also talking about an internet that respects copyright. Let’s also talk about them.

  • November 4, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I like the notion by Kirk H. that copyright infringement is more about uploading than downloading.

    Personally, I equate the Libertarian notion in GZT’s post that nobody has ‘stolen’ Don Henley’s works — as he still has them — to someone saying he is not really ‘stealing’ another’s person’s eggs out of his hen house as HE still has the chickens.

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  • November 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Of course the ‘net is full of crap. We all know that. What the hell does that prove? Most books are fiction, i.e. entertainment. Let’s take away your opportunity to read books, because they’re mostly entertainment, so you don’t really need them to survive, do you? Most clothes are designed to look good rather than keep you warm, so maybe you don’t need any of those either. Because if a majority of a thing is just for entertainment, we can just get rid of the whole thing, right?

  • November 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    The internet is the biggest thing since the printing press. Check out the Khan Academy! And MITOpenCourseWare! WikiPedia! Wiktionary! IBM developerWorks!

    Soon online banking will be the ONLY banking. How about we disconnect you then, because someone accuses you of copyright infringement? And the best part? The burden of proof will be on YOU. You will be regarded as guilty until you prove your innocence.

    “As for the internet being vital to communication, that’s a load of crap: cell phones do the same job”
    Wow… You really don’t realise that 90% of what cell phones do today is only possible because of the internet?

    “copyright protects the AUTHOR”
    Really? Haven’t you noticed that the ones pushing for this kind of legislation are corporations who never create anything except lawsuits? The actual CREATORS have gotten the short end of the stick from publishers since day one of publishing. The ‘net has made it easier than ever for artists to find an audience, bypassing the gatekeepers and the middlemen.

    The formula for making money is simple: You offer a product that people want, in a format that people want, at a price that people are willing to pay. That’s it.

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  • November 7, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Stig: Like Rose MarieJones arguing that copyright didn’t affect Shakespeare’s longevity (which completely missed the point), YOUR argument about the entertainment manifestations of the internet (big surprise) missed the point _I_ was making: that Doctorow is WRONG in stating entertainment is the sideshow (But now that I’ve made my point once again, I don’t expect you’ll get it this time, either). So your rant about needing or not needing entertainment was completely pointless (much like a LOT of the internet). And — this will come as a shock to your system — a LOT of books…music..and paintings are considered ART: that’s a medium wherein the creator not only entertains, but imparts messages that enrich. (The clothes lines — pun inteneded) of your ridiculous first screed will kindly be ignored, since they made even less sense the rest of it all).

    Likewise, you’re statement that the internet makes it possible for cell phones to do “90 percent” of what they do, merely points out your ignorance of cellphones, satellites, and communications systems in general (and how you are, indeed, one of those who notices only the “bells &whistles” — provided by the internet — on cellphones. As for copyright and how it relates to authors, your ignornace _there_ is likewise too obvious(come to think of it, your ignorance, in general, is hanging out a like a hip-hop singer’s underwear): saying corporations are the only ones who use copyright laws to protect themselves, so we should get rid of copyright laws is monumentally dumb. What’s next? Law firms are the ones who use the legal system to make a lot of money, so we do away with laws, statutes, etc? How, exactly, do you think the CREATORS are able to protect their work from the corporations you blame for any and all problems with copyright (think maybe copyright law might come into play)?

    I’ll have to assume you weren’t seriously thinking when you typed the bank/copyright/loss of connection line. And

    Listen, what the hell: no one really ever came up with a list of Things Essential to the Internet that shows they take up 90 percent of the space on that mostly useless medium…and if you and Rose MarieJones (and the “arguments” — I use that term laughingly) are the best defense that Doctorow and company can come up with regarding why people should fight copyright protection measures, I can see I’m wasting my time trying to insert commonsense (and common decency) into a crowd that only hears their own raised voices (and who STILL can’t see past their own need/desire/want for immediate gratification and immediate, albeit largely souless and meaningless, communication).


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  • November 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    DT: Ok, I admit the clothing metaphor was not the best and has a lot of holes in it.

    You’re saying art is separate from entertainment? Then who defines what is art and what is entertainment? You?

    I think Doctorow is right in calling entertainment the sideshow, because even if it constitutes the majority of the internet, it is _not_ the most _important_ thing we use the internet for. You seem to think that if you lost your internet access tomorrow, you could just go about your daily life as normal, only with less available entertainment. I don’t know where you are, but I can tell you that here in Sweden life is getting more and more difficult for the (especially older) people who are without access. A lot of the things we do today are easier and/or faster and/or cheaper with the help of the net. It is only a matter of time until internet access will be _required_ and not just helpful in doing some of these things. Hence my note about banking in the future.

    I never said we should get rid of copyright laws alltogether. But there’s a big step between making sure Joe Author gets a fair deal from the Big Movie Company, and suing Alice Mom because she posted a video of her daughter dancing to a song on the radio.

    The moment I read “uploading and downloading copyrighted material is, indeed, stealing”, I should have known better than to try to persuade you of anything. If you can’t see the difference between copying and stealing, I have better things to do than to argue with you.

  • November 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    DT Shindler, The Internet seems to be only useless entertainment, facebook and twitter status updates to you, don’t make the arrogant mistake of thinking that your case is representative of the billions of people hooked to the Internet today.

    When you look at traffic reports, entertainment takes a considerable chunk of the pie because entertainment by nature require lots of bandwidth to transmit. Here is an example. Someone published 18,592 scientific articles (out of copyright of course) on The Pirate Bay. The entire collection scanned without OCR (inefficient) adds up to some 33GB. That is about 9 DVD quality movies, or in some extreme cases, one Blu-ray movie. You cannot claim that the Internet is largely entertainment because you see lots of it around you, or because you are looking at bandwidth charts.

    Also, This web page is probably powered by Linux and other software that became possible because of the Internet (Apache, wordpress…). Do you use an iPhone 4S? Siri is no good without the Internet. Location services, weather reports… Got a Kindle? You may use facebook and other social media a lot for chit-chat, but I challenge you to say you have never used it to perform something important, like pass a message cheaply, reach someone you needed to for some vital information (I interact with my doctor friends on Facebook before I check in with my GP just to make sure I won’t be wasting his consulting time)…

    I am currently taking a few classes from Stanford (example: all because of this Internet. I am on the other side of the world, and have never set foot in the USA before.

    That said, the media Industry is being rather bone-headed about the issue. I’m not a musician, and I have no stake in their survival, but as a music lover, and one who buys a lot of music, and movies to a lesser extent (largely because of annoying DRM), I consider what the media industry is doing as “extremist”, and I think changing their ways would render the issue of piracy moot or largely irrelevant, and it is best for the Internet that they adjust, rather than we cripple the Internet in order to protect them.

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  • November 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Renee Marie Jones:I don’t hink you understand what copyright is. Copyright limits who has the right to copy a work. It does not, as you seem to think, “never had any copyrights and yet Shakespeare’s plays exist”, allow anyone to copy. If Shakespeare had copyrighted his plays, then he would have been the only person legally permitted to publish them, as was not the case (his plays were popular even in his day and many people therefore published them without his permission).
    As to why copyright is necessary, it is so that the authors and creators otherwise of copyrightable works can, through the means of publishing their work, earn money to continue creating and publishing, rather than have to get a ‘real job.’

    Stig R: Yes, I have noticed that the only pushing for this sort of legislation are “corporations who never create anything except lawsuits.” That’s because copyrights are saleable, and because many people publish through said corporations. This does not, however, change what copyright is MEANT for, which is, yes, protecting the author, see above.

    I point you both to this link:

  • November 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Measuring bandwidth is easy, so when you do that, entertainment (huge file sizes) looks like the vast majority of ‘net use.

    It’s a lot harder to find out how real people use their time on the internet, but the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project surveys North Americans at least. The August 2011 report says:

    Search and email remain the two online activities that are nearly universal among adult internet users, as 92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web, and a similar number (92%) use email.


  • November 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    DT Shindler asked a good question about a list of other things the web is used for. While a few people offered anecdotes about their own use, it seems to me like the discussion could be improved by some real facts in answer to DT Shindler’s question.

    [I’m assuming that when he asks for uses of “the web” he’s also referring to the larger internet as these are often used interchangeably.]

    Here’s another report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, from December 2010:

    “Finally, the biggest online trend: While the youngest and oldest cohorts may differ, certain key internet activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups. These include:

    Search engine use
    Seeking health information
    Getting news
    Buying products
    Making travel reservations or purchases
    Doing online banking
    Looking for religious information
    Rating products, services, or people
    Making online charitable donations
    Downloading podcasts

    Even in areas that are still dominated by Millennials, older generations are making notable gains. Some of the areas that have seen the fastest rate of growth in recent years include older adults’ participation in communication and entertainment activities online, especially in using social network sites such as Facebook. Among the major trends in online activities:

    While the youngest generations are still significantly more likely to use social network sites, the fastest growth has come from internet users 74 and older: social network site usage for this oldest cohort has quadrupled since 2008, from 4% to 16%.

    The percentage of all adult internet users who watch video online jumped 14 points in the past two years, from 52% in May 2008 to 66% in May 2010.

    51% of all online adults listen to music online, compared with 34% the last time this question was asked, in June 2004. While Millennials used to be by far the most avid listeners, Gen Xers and Younger Boomers are catching up.

    As of May 2010, 53% of online adults have used a classified ads website such as Craigstlist, up from 32% in September 2007.

    Additionally, searching for health information, an activity that was once the primary domain of older adults, is now the third most popular online activity for all internet users 18 and older.”


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