Stallman on Copyright, part 2


Read on for a continuation of the copyright discussion with actual solutions!

Before I continue with the solutions, though, here are some more fun quotes from Stallman:

"I don't own any DVDs, I hate the movie companies so much. The movie companies are the enemy of your freedom."

"Telling people to boycott all movies might be extreme, so I tell people, 'Never pay for a movie unless you have a good reason to think it's a thoughtful, intelligent film.' Now, this is almost as good as a boycott."

Let's talk about the DMCA, shall we?

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (read it here). The basic gist of the legislation is to grant publishers much more broad enforcement of copyrights. It makes it illegal to circumvent any "anti-piracy" technology embedded in a product. Not only that, it makes it illegal to describe such tools or link to them.

The DMCA has been abused by several unintended parties including printer companies that embed so-called "copy protection" in their toner cartridges, making it effectively illegal for generic toner cartridges to be used. Even garage-door opener companies are jumping on the DMCA bandwagon to enforce monopolies. Check out anti-DMCA.org for more news and examples of abuse.

By placing so much value on these so-called "copy protections" embedded in works, the DMCA, according to Stallman, basically allows publishers to write their own copyright laws. Don't want people to take advantage of low-cost alternatives? Don't want them to share? Just "embed" some "copy protection" in your product, and bam! The DMCA applies, and anyone even discussing a way around it is a criminal. Hmmmm, I wonder if there's copy protection in The Patriot Act...

Now on to the solutions

Stallman's solution calls for a drastic reduction in the length of copyright protection, as well as varying protection by type of work. As he puts it, "Why pay the same price in freedom to promote different works?"

Here are Stallman's three types of works

1. Functional Works
These include reference materials, educational materials and things like recipes.

2. Works that State a View
These would include opinion editorials, memoirs and scientific papers -- anything that reports on what someone saw, read, heard

3. Artistic Works
These would include fiction and art, generally done for its own purpose.

In terms of copyright protections, Stallman suggests something like 10 years for books and far less for software, maybe three.

His description of the rights assigned to each type was a bit incomplete, but I can imagine there's a table to be filled in. Each row represents a type of work, and then columns describe

a) length of copyright,
b) ability of user to modify and
c) ability of user to distribute.

For Type 1 works (Functional)
a) 3-10 years
b) granted
c) granted

For Type 2 works (Views)
a) 10 years
b) none
c) granted for non-commercial distributions

For Type 3 works (Art)
a) 10 years
b) granted after 10 years
c) granted with timing and rules uncertain

Finally, Stallman took special time to berate the music industry (what he refers to as the music "factory") for trying to make us feel guilty about sharing CDs when the money from CD sales hardly ever reaches an artist. For those who don't know about the indentured servitude style of the music industry, I recommend perusing Downhillbattle.org, especially this page

I'm pretty much on board with a lot of Stallman's ideas here, particularly with regard to music. Without providing a detailed analysis of the music "factory," I can tell you that CD sales do not financially benefit the artists, except in a few cases. These are the artists you see on TV telling you not to share (ahem, Metallica) because they've climbed high enough on the totem pole to actually negotiate with their labels for a piece of the pie.

For all other artists, the CD sales are basically promotional, and any money they get comes from live performances, merchandising and, increasingly, non-music activities like acting, clothing lines and commercial endorsements.

The crazy, revolutionary idea says to effectively give recorded performances away as the promotional expense that they are. This will, in turn, generate greater exposure and a larger fan base for the artist, so when he or she comes touring to your town, you the fan are more likely to buy a t-shirt and ticket to the show!

The good news is this system is already in place. The people over at FAMlicense.org have taken some of the principles of free software and open source, plus the proven experience of bootlegging in hip hop and applied it to music today. The license (FAM stands for Freedom Access Music) basically allows for the redistribution of music (commercial OR non-commercial) by any consumer so long as they re-issue under the FAM license.

By encouraging people to share music and even financially benefit from their efforts, the FAM license sets up an experiment sure to succeed. Those people who find the best way to package, promote and distribute the music they like will find success, and the music they distribute will generate a larger following. Take the centralized, bloated and ineffecient marketing department at any record label and dispurse it among people on the ground who truly know the market. What you'll find is a bunch of micro-music industry experts getting music to the people in a much more efficient fashion.

I will continue to discuss copyright and related societal and technological issues on this blog. Comments? Questions? Post away.

Oh yeah, I'll probably be in a documentary film about the spread of open source software. Check out The Digital Tipping Point

In the meantime, followup on some of the issues raised at some cool sites below

The Free Software Foundation
The Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia
Copyleft
Creative Commons