Politics: October 2002 Archives
October 22, 2002
I've been reading Lawrence Lessig's weblog for a few days now, and I'm really interested by his proposal to reform software copyrights. The original post is here: the coke classic. The salient graf is here:
So I say: give the inventor of code a relatively "opaque" monopoly for a truly limited time -- 5 or 7 year terms, renewable to 10 or 14 years if the inventor wants. But as part of that bargain, require that the inventor escrow the code, so that at the end of the monopoly, the public gets something useful contributed to the public domain.
There are various responses to this post; Lessig links them in a followup here. His major detractor, Ted Shelton, seems to be arguing that there's a substantive difference between patents and the proposed software copyright, in that while an expired patent merely provides all the information required to reproduce the object or process covered by the patent, the new style software copyright would provide the object or process itself. I don't think this is a substantive argument.
October 8, 2002
There's a couple of encouraging developments in the War on Fair Use. Two bills have been introduced to Congress (though they will almost certainly sit still until the next session) which would return significant Fair Use rights to consumers of digital media, mostly removed by the DMCA. The first is the Digital Choice and Freedom Act. The DCFA would explicitly provide consumers with the same Fair Use rights with digital media they enjoy with analog media (such as cassettes and VCR tapes), among them the right to make personal copies and compilations.
The second act in question is the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act. This act would counteract the portions of the DMCA which make circumventing copy-protection schemes illegal even for uses previously covered under Fair Use. Essentially the act would make it legal to bypass the copy protection on a DVD in order to make a backup copy or to extract clips from the film for use in a personal compilation. (Currently even attempting to bypass such protections is illegal.) This has very, very important consequences for digital research—there have been a number of important cases where legitimate academic researchers have had their research shut down (or chilled, which amounts to the same thing proactively) by the threat of prosecution. The bill also would extend some pretty strong protection to devices which merely are "capable of enabling significant non-infringing use of a copyrighted work", in stark contrast to the DMCA's inverse requirement.
As noted, the bad news is that neither of these bills will go anywhere until next session—and in fact, probably neither will be passed. The hope is that by introducing two such bills, Congress will be forced to address the issue somehow—preferably by repealing or significantly reworking the DMCA itself.
This provides a unique opportunity, since there is an election coming up, after all (nice timing by the bills' supporters). Send the candidates in your area letters or e-mails requesting that they clarify their stance on the two bills in question, and vote your conscience. It's time the consumers had a say in the Rape of Copyright.
Saw this via Ars Technica.
October 1, 2002
From today's UPI story entitled Blix: Iraq accepts all UN inspector rights:
"On the question of access, it was clarified that all sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access," he said in his statement.
Which sounds like a good thing. It conjures up visions of a group of Marines standing watch over the guards of a suspected WMD lab while inspectors search it over the loud protests of a commandant. Au contrare, my naive friend:
"However, the Memorandum of Understanding of 1998 established special procedures for access to eight presidential sites."
Come again? Either "all sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access", or they're not. You can't have unrestricted access to "all sites" and yet have to jump through hoops to inspect some sites.
We're not talking about a couple of country cottage retreats, either; the presidential palaces comprise "hundreds of acres both within and outside of Baghdad." You can hide a hell of a lot of weaponry -- conventional or otherwise -- in hundreds of acres.
Blix is claiming this as a victory, which disappoints me. I had hoped he might actually prove to be up to his nominal job. Instead he's basically invited Iraq to pick up right where they left off in '98, playing hide and seek with the inspectors. Anytime the inspectors get too close to actually finding anything worthwhile, doubtless the trail will lead to a presidential palace, and by the time the "special requirements" have been satisfied, the game will have started all over.