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The Forum > Article Comments > Pirating copyright reform > Comments

Pirating copyright reform : Comments

By Lynne Spender, published 7/4/2008

The Swedish Pirate Party is setting out to reform copyright law and the patent system and to alert people to the dangers of a 'surveillance' society.

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Thank you, Lynne.

This should be treated much more seriously as a political issue than it is. Without any proper informed public discussion, laws which quite possibly turn the majority of Australian citizens into criminals have been enacted in recent years.

If there is a grain of truth in the propaganda we are subjected to these days whenever we view a rental DVD stating that copying DVD's is theft, it is far more applicable to the major legal copyright owners, who, by the undemocratic imposition of these laws, have stolen from humankind the massive potential benefit that open sharing of knowledge would bring.

It costs almost nothing today to reproduce knowledge, be it music, an engineering design, software or a movie. The greatest cost is in producing the knowledge in the first place. So, from the point of view of our global society, it would make much more sense to share that knowledge as freely as possible.

Where would our global society be today if software such as the Apache webserver or the Linux operating system, released under Open Source licenses had, instead, been subject to the same restrictions that commercial software products had been subjected to?

As each webserver would have been required to purchase commercial webserver operating systems and other necessary software instead of making use of the freely available Apache webserver, Linux operating system, etc. it stands to reason that only a small fraction of today's Internet would exist.

This one obvious example surely illustrates that we must be worse off rather than better off because of the prevalence of the commercial copyright system.

Posted by daggett, Monday, 7 April 2008 11:46:47 AM
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That said, we do need a commercial model which does allow creators of knowledge to gain benefit from their work. Complete removal of restrictions on copying knowledge could leave many of them just as under-remunerated as they are today.

As I have argued before, I believe that with computer technology, it should be relatively easy to derive measurements of the value of a particular work principally from the number of downloads. To those measures could be applied a non-linear function which would see everyone who had contributed anything of worth adequately remunerated whilst allowing more generous, but not excessive payments, to those who had made more outstanding contributions.


I once subscribed to the mailing list for the Australian Pirate Party, but never heard any more of them. Do you know anything of them, Lynne? I would support them, although, as a general rule, I don't think single issue parties are a good idea. If parties such as the Greens or the Democrats had any sense, they would adopt the Pirate Party's policies.


It may be of interest to note that, whilst I don't idealise the historical pirates of earlier times, their defeat in the Atlantic Ocean, principally around the Caribbean Sea, by the British Navy in the 18th century allowed the slave trade from Africa to the Americas to flourish.
Posted by daggett, Monday, 7 April 2008 11:49:03 AM
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As the marginal cost to reproduce intellectual property per unit decreases stronger attempts are made to monopolize the content of such property, which in capitalism this also includes increased commodification, which is contrary to the technological telos.

As advanced economies have transformed from their agricultural, industrial and now informational base, the conceptual range of intellectual property has expanded dramatically in advanced industrial societies. Copyright law in the United States for example, began with literary composition, and expanded to include photographs (1884), musical recordings (1971), and most recently, architectural design.

Likewise patents have expanded from Industrial Design (1852), to include flora (Plant Patent Act, 1830), Surgical Procedures (1950s) and Software (1981). Intellectual property lawyers have even argued that athletic maneuvers should be patented.

We are in the incredible situation where patents and copyright, once a means of protecting individuals, are now a serious fetter on production and research. Worse still, there is an entire industry of patent and copyright law dedicated to making restricting the availability of human knowledge. In the interests of a more productive and free society, the actions of the Pirate Party are to be endorsed.
Posted by Lev, Monday, 7 April 2008 12:19:51 PM
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Five years isn't long for a creator to earn from their creation. I suppose 70 years is so they can bequeath their earnings to desendants. How can we always "get the lot" for free from people who need to make a living?

It depends on the creation; with writing, music, entertainment, it would probably be acceptable to individual creators and descendants to share in a limited way their creation and be paid small amounts by interested people even though they have sold "rights" to some other entity; the entity would understand that an interested party could buy portions in the same way that it is legal for an individual to copy parts of a book for private use. This would leave some power to the creator.

Scientific research is owned by the entity where the scientist works as I understand.(As in the situation of the man who found how to make the blue LED and got zilch). Perhaps scientists should have the right to share their discoveries, freely or with a small fee, with interested parties in such a way that there will not be an unreasonable loss of income to their employers.

The problem of the free and legal sharing of mad, bad and dangerous information hasn't been considered as far as I can see. The thought of this being freely available to one's grandchildren is more than unwelcome. But, at least, if this has to be purchased there is some record of who made the purchase
Posted by d'Helm, Monday, 7 April 2008 3:02:18 PM
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Here's an alternative to the 5 year idea. Make it longer, say, 30 years (70 after the originator's death is absurd), but if the work becomes unavailable - goes out of print or otherwise disappears due to neglect - then after a period of, say, 2 years for the owner to republish it, if its still not available the copyright is lost & the work transfers to the public domain.
Posted by commuter, Monday, 7 April 2008 4:53:24 PM
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The trouble here is that never will everyone agree on one approach, and rightly so. Copyrighting a song or other 'artistic' piece of work deserves in my opinion the existing copyright privilege since after all it's nothing more than entertainment and can not be regarded as 'knowledge sharing' as I have seen bandied around.

A naturally occurring substance, reaction or process on the other hand should not be afforded the same right since these can be adopted by others for the greater good. Not to say some protection of the investment by both the inventor and innovators shouldn't be applied to encourage the development and discovery of such things. 70 years, however, is not a realistic provision.

Copyrighting a movement, an existing word, phrase or otherwise is simply absurd as it cannot possibly be sustained when we eventually run out of all the combinations at our disposal.

Regarding DRM's, while I can understand the motivation of some to avoid paying for something they want to enjoy, it's hardly either necessary to have it or detrimental not to and therefore is just straight out theft. On the other hand, I cannot condone the use of authorities at the tax payers expense to police such activity. If you put it out there and do not protect it (digitally) then it's your problem. On the flip side distributing that material at either a profit or not should be policed to ensure we encourage the generation of it in the first place.

Too many lawyers and vague interpretations of the existing legislation is the problem. Tighten up the legislation and be realistic about it.
It's a complicated problem that deserves much more attention by the politicians, and a much greater depth of community consultation to find an acceptable medium, as well as more refined definitions of 'copy' and 'right'.
Posted by shayne, Monday, 7 April 2008 10:46:44 PM
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