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back to article MPs wrestle slippery bureaucrats in intellectual property Jell-O

The all-party group of MPs looking into the UK's looming obliteration of copyright rounded on their quarry yesterday - and it turned out to be an enthralling battle of wits. John Alty and Edmund Quilty of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) were quizzed on their controversial role in maintaining - or failing to maintain - …

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I do love a bit of Sir Humph every now and again. The idiot politicians being led by the opaque mandarins. Classy.

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"you need a copyright system. I don't think anyone in the mainstream is really challenging that"

Especially if this is based on circular reasoning, whereby one must not be challenging the need for copyright, to be considered "in the mainstream."

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Re: "you need a copyright system. I don't think anyone in the mainstream is really challenging that"

If you don't believe there should be any kind of copyright at all, then you're not in the mainstream. That's not circular thinking, just a definition of where most people are on this issue. Until persuaded otherwise. Which may, or may not, change. i don't see it myself though.

Most people think there should be a mechanism to pay people to create [insert loaded term here] intellectual property. It doesn't mean they agree what it is, how it should be enforced, or when it should be allowed and when not.

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On the contrary

It showed the IPO to be self serving weasels and well done to the comittee for pinning them to the wall.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: On the contrary

I bet they couldn't even answer the question "Are you self-serving weasels?" in a straightforward manner.

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Why?

"Sir Humph" always has a logical reason. Even if it's stupid and self serving. What do the Bureaucrats get out of damaging Copyright?

Though the protection period is probably too long, format shifting for personal use needs to be legal and what constitutes "fair use" extract copies needs to be clarified. But the proposals of Hargreve et al are stupid.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Why?

"What do the Bureaucrats get out of damaging Copyright?"

Quite a lot.

In a market system, which is how most rights are traded, there's very little place for bureaucrats. But in an Extended Collective Licensing system, there are lots of new opportunities for regulators and jobsworths. Setting the price, vetting the participants, censoring things they don't like, and general poking around, etc.

All this comes at the expense of future opportunities for people wanting to trade those rights - because the markets don't exist. But it does ensure jobs for children of regulators who want to be regulators when they grow up.

Perfect, really.

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Anonymous Coward

Why is the Register so pro-IP?

So I've noticed that the Reg is taking a very strong pro- stand on this issue lately (maybe more copyright than patents or other IP). Any particular reason for that? I would have thought techies would have came down on the "freetard" side of things generally (though obviously the comments here generally represent all sides of an issue).

I for example couldn't give a flying tuppeny fudge if textbook authors couldn't monitize their work directly, perhaps because I'm not a textbook author, but also perhaps because I think society would be better off if they were paid upfront and their work released under some liberal licence to be built on by others. Am I just a deluded tree-hugger?

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

Only the rich, eg trustafarians, can afford to work for nothing. Lucky duckies.

As Mark Bide pointed out here recently - people tend not to give a tuppeny fudge about either privacy rights, or their creative rights, until they need them - and realise they've lost them.

As for ripping people off in the name of the Common Good - I presume you've seen Hot Fuzz?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

So that's not really a nuanced position you've got there, I was hoping there was more to it.

First up, getting paid for creating something, getting paid for related stuff (e.g. a pop star advertising hair gel) and getting copyright royalties from enforcing a government granted monopoly are three seperate things. Wanting to weaken, or even remove, copyright isn't equivalent with assuming everything will be created by self-sufficient philanthropists. Again, I would assume techies would grasp this since arguments about the poorly named "free software" have been going on for a couple of decades now and whatever side of that you end up on, if someone's arguing that (for example) Google's Android programmers aren't getting paid because their stuff is released under a liberal "free software" licence is obviously trolling.

And if you're serious about that Hot Fuzz comment, you are perhaps unaware that the only justification (though generally not the historical reason) for copyright and patents is to "rip people off in the name of the Common Good" i.e. to be specific copyright is a government intervention meant to transfer money from one group to another, based on the premise that everyone will be better off under such a system. To argue against the repeal or reform of such a system (i.e. just changing the parameters of existing government intervention) with such extreme anti-government rhetoric (comparing it to the extermination of social undesirables for those that haven't seen the movie) again, just seems like trolling.

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Devil

Re: Why is the Register so pro-IP?

In the words of Mandy Rice Davies when giving evidence, Well, they would, wouldn't they ?. As to whether the Reg is driven first by techie or media interests, figuring that one out appears not to constitute rocket science.

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Holmes

Re: Why is the Register so pro-IP?

Anyone whose means of making a living involves creating IP is likely to be pro IP: even writers. The main exceptions are those who get paid the same no matte how much their IP sells: academics and civil servants are obvious candidates.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

It is quite hard to parse your sentences because they are so long and contain many clauses, but I'll give it a shot.

I think what you're saying is that "intellectual property is theft" (artificial and unfair), so stealing it back is morally equivalent.

The point is: if you want to strip human rights from individuals - and be honest with yourself for a second, this is exactly what you imply should happen as a 'solution' - then we want to hear a jolly good justification for doing so. It's never been necessary before, remember.

New technologies do sometimes require copyright to get a legislative tweak - because they usually add new rights to the existing bundle. Not the removal of rights.

By the way try not to use the word "troll". You seem very keen to label ideas and arguments that you don't like, and don't want to tackle, as "trolls" or "trolling". Perhaps you imagine that this somehow, magically, invalidates those arguments? It doesn't really work like that.

And why are you so terrified of using your real names alongside their argument? :-)

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Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

Asking for a reduction in stupid laws isnt anti-ip, its just pushback against the sort of people who believe that they have an intrinsic right to make money forever and ever.

I remind you that most artists make nothing from the record companies because of their accounting practices, which only seem to get exposed when artists finally get the money to get someone to look into it all. "Hollywood accounting" is such a common method of preventing money getting into the hands of artists, that its entered popular vernacular.

Locking up songs for at least 70 (At the moment) at the behest of the gatekeepers gains nothing for anyone except for the gatekeepers. (How much of that do you really expect the artists involved to see? honestly?).

In the real world, no-one should expect to continue making a living from something they did 70 years ago. There are things that allow you a decent living after many years. There called "Pensions". Its what everyone who doesn't have magical protection of IP law use to provide an income after 40 or so years of work. (Although, as mentioned above, that's a moot point anyway, as the record companies take most of it.)

While its true that some people have an overarching sense of entitlement, i think your wrong to think its just on one side of the argument.

Dont get me wrong, i do consider Copyright a good thing, just not the way its currently implemented, mostly for the benefit for a few large companies.

(By the Way, I have noted that the Phrase "IP" law is in general only ever used when someone is deliberately trying to confuse the three legally separate branches of law, Trademark, Copyright, and Patents, all of which I have different views on)

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Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

Andrew,

Can you tell us a little more about your views on IP.

Do you think IP reform is necessary at all? For instance, what do you think about some of the more contentious issues such as:

* extremely long copyright terms

* format shifting

* ridiculous patents being issued/patent trolling

I don't think you really need to keep arguing for having IP rights, most people accept that it is pretty much essential and must be enforced. But the current state of affairs is just taking the piss and has led to a lack of respect for copyright amongst the public.

recent example - $675,000 fine for sharing 30 songs ... http://rt.com/usa/news/supreme-court-tenenbaum-riaa-891/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

"By the Way, I have noted that the Phrase "IP" law is in general only ever used when someone is deliberately trying to confuse the three legally separate branches of law, Trademark, Copyright, and Patents,"

These are three related types of Intellectual property

Copyright - I expressed myself in a certain form of words, and you should not using them for your own ends outside what the law permits

trademark - I invented a name for my widget which I use when selling it, and you should not using that name for your own ends outside what the law permits

patent - I invented an idea for a clever machine, and you should not be using that idea for your own ends outside what the law permits

the concept of a novel arrangement of something (words/letters/parts) into a valuable but intangiable and portable form is common to these three. The specific laws may vary but I think the link is obvious.

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I concede

Look I'll be honest, I believed you were trolling your techie readers in an attempt to drum up pageviews, but you've convinced me that you're a genuine copyright fundamentalist.

I'm genuinely curious about copyright as a human rights issue. Is there somewhere I can find out what people who hold this view generally look for in copyright legislation? Like exactly how many years it should last, what exemptions there should be (you're pretty scathing about educational exemptions in the article). Am I breaching someone's human rights when I put CDs on my iPod? When I pause live TV on my TIVO? When I sing Happy Birthday?

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Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

Errr... I'm a big fan of open source but AC seems to have forgotten that the vast majority of paid contributors to FOSS projects are employed by companies that can afford to do so because they make lots of money in other areas where they do have IP. Companies like RedHat are rare.

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Re: Why is the Register so pro-IP?

Who would pay the textbook authors? Who would decide what was published and what was not?

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Go

Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

> Only the rich, eg trustafarians, can afford to work for nothing. Lucky duckies.

True, though the question then becomes, "who benefits in general from the IP laws?"

If it isn't the *people* who create, all we need to do is have the the laws framed so that costs (i.e. employee costs - salaries etc) of the corporation can be covered in a reasonable time-frame.

Perhaps all copywrite applications should include a supported valuation of the cost to produce. Then set the term to be costs + 100% or 7 years, whichever is sooner. Something like that.

Government is "for the people." Not for UK plc.

Where is the research that shows how much IP laws benefit the creative people? I want to see the mean, median and mode values please. Show me that the laws do what they are meant to do and I'll support them. If the laws don't do what they purport to do (as I suspect is the case) then my support will be less forth coming. The research also needs to be broken down by industry/sector so that we can see which IP laws are having an effect in which industries.

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Re: Why is your so anti-IP?

@willish

Bingo. This is the big problem with "IP". It brings three totally separate idea, sticks them in a pot and mixes them up. It then tries to blind the public with legalese. We should never discuss "IP". We can talk about copyright, trademarks and patents if people want.

But never, ever, ever "IP" as that is just some made-up bullcrap that muddies the waters and confuses matters.

Copyright - the current terms are too long. The measures currently in place (region locks etc) are too restrictive and IMHO lead to infringement.

Format shifting (part of copyright) - for personal use this should be allowed. No levy on blank media. Making mix-discs for a friend? Strict infringement? Sure. Should anything be done about it? No. It's part of human nature to share and so long as it really only is the odd copy or two floating around amongst friends....that's just life. Suck it up.

Patents - never on software. First to file (in the USA) is a joke, it should be possible to appeal a patent after it is granted should prior art be found or obviousness be questioned.

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"Extremely long copyright terms"

I'm a little concerned by this "extremely long" descriptor being bandied about.

Suppose you wrote a book. Suppose it was never really huge being a bit visionary but years later, somebody noticed how awesome it was and it got huge. HP Lovecraft is a good example here. However, suppose that unlike Lovecraft, you survived.

If copyright terms were as short as I've seen mooted here, you would quite literally never earn a penny on your creative genius. You would die in poverty (like Lovecraft) while everyone else had a great time reading your book on their Kindle.

Something about this strikes me as really, really not fair.

Is that wrong of me? Does that make me a copyright fascist? It must be horrible to be the one making that kind of call.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I concede

Copyright is definitely NOT a human rights issue. Period.

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Re: I concede

Copyright is definitely NOT a human rights issue. Period.

The right to own property, and only have it taken from you by legal due process is a standard part of most, if not all, definitions of human rights.

So if you accept that there can be such a thing as intellectual property. Then IP is a human rights issue. Whether you like it or not.

Personally I get queasy when the words 'human rights' come into a discussion, because things tend to get messy and complicated after that.

But then, this is a messy and complicated topic.

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Re: I concede

"So if you accept that there can be such a thing as intellectual property. Then IP is a human rights issue."

By your reasoning company can have human rights then?!?

The term Intellectual property is (deliberately?) ambiguous but has absolutely nothing to do with real property and should not be treated as such.

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Re: I concede

"By your reasoning company can have human rights then?!?"

Nope. Individuals can own intellectual property too, and they have human rights that apply to the property they own.

"The term Intellectual property is (deliberately?) ambiguous but has absolutely nothing to do with real property and should not be treated as such."

Now that's a different argument. Currently the law disagrees with you. So you'll have to get it changed before your statement can be true.

Peronsally I don't care how it's done. And I'm not lawyer enough to have an opinion anyway. I believe that people should have some control over, and right to make money from, stuff they create. Even though it's not physical product. Subject to a time limit. This is partly a matter of fairness, and partly because I want society to be able to benefit from professional creators being able to create more stuff - by doing it full-time. The rest is all details and arguing over a fair share of the cash and the stuff. Which is important, but not something I'm that knowledgable or excited about. Whether you call it intellectual property, or temporary government licensed monopoly or whatever, I don't mind. As with any other market, the rule of law needs to apply, or the market can't operate properly. And if people creating the good stuff don't get paid, we'll get less of it. Which would be a shame.

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I would have a lot more sympathy for harsher penalties

if we had a reasonable copyright period. 70 years?

20+20 maximum.

Properly defined Fair use. (Including at least format shifting for personal use)

However, as we are unlikely to get proper fair use, and the chances of getting a reasonable copyright term are none-existant, i feel the "creative industries" can f*k right off.

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evs

Lets be honest

> Anyone whose means of making a living involves creating IP is likely to be pro IP: even writers. The main exceptions are those who get paid the same no matte how much their IP sells: academics and civil servants are obvious candidates.

Change "living" to "trading".

Included in those exceptions are the vast majority of content creators: programmers, graphic artists, tech writers, actors, musicians etc. While IP law is marketed around the notion that content creators get some kind of royalty for their work, the reality is that most IP is now created as work-for-hire and the actual royalties all accrue to "producers".

An artist absolutely deserves protection for their work for some limited period. When that same mechanism can be used to sue the artist for plagiarizing themselves or extends long beyond any reasonable natural lifespan then we have to be honest and admit that something is broken.

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I look forward to Google sharing all the IP in their search & ranking algorithms.

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Nothing about "IP Law" requires sharing. If I understand correctly, the formula for Coca Cola syrup is neither copyrighted nor patented but is a very closely kept trade secret. Google could copyright their searching algorithms, but that would not be useful because someone else could reimplement them with minor changes and no infringement. As algorithms, they are not (in the US, yet) patentable. Their utility, like that of the Coca Cola formula, is tightly connected to their secrecy.

In the US, the chief benefit of patents is supposed to be that the clever idea is disclosed, allowing others to build upon it, in exchange for a time-limited inventor's exploitation right, and the same is true, more or less, for copyrights. In both cases, the monopoly grant to the author or inventor presumably is to reward work accomplished, not (as seems often to be the case) to prevent others from doing like things and ensure a long-lived revenue stream to companies, heirs, and other hangers-on. In the particular case of copyright, it is genuinely difficult to see how a copyright period that extends for 70 years beyond the death of the author is an effective incentive for further creative work outside of law offices and corporate legal departments.

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Facepalm

Telling.

Is the real problem with a lot of the creative industries explained in Andrews final words in the third paragraph when talking about those same creative industries: 'whose existence relies on copyright law and enforcement'

And there was me thinking that they should rely on creativity, producing Fantastic content we all want to consume and involve ourselves with.

Most people will not argue with the fact that people should be recognised for their work, however many of us object to the retrospective changing of laws in favour of big companies and a few individuals who will earn more in a year than we will in a life time. The artist created the work under the old laws, if they wer good enough then why are they not good enough now?

Us mere mortals have to scrimp and save and put away for our retirement and to provide for our children.

I would love to be paid for life plus more for the work I did yesterday. Just think the house I am renovating, all the creaetive effort I have put in to the design of the extension and the careful detailing of the work, In the future whenever the house is sold on, I get a kickback each time as the 'artist' that created that product.

Where is the incentive to create more fantastic works if you don't need to do so to keep the money rolling in?

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Re: Telling.

in the third paragraph when talking about those same creative industries: 'whose existence relies on copyright law and enforcement'

And there was me thinking that they should rely on creativity, producing Fantastic content we all want to consume and involve ourselves with.

There's no actual contradiction here. It doesn't matter how superb the content that's created is, if there's no mechanism for people to get paid, then they won't get paid. That mechanism needs to have some kind of legal status, as well as a working market - and a sane business model.

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Pirate

>Andrew,

Can you tell us a little more about your views on IP.

Do you think IP reform is necessary at all? For instance, what do you think about some of the more contentious issues such as:

* extremely long copyright terms

* format shifting

* ridiculous patents being issued/patent trolling

Bet you never get an answer.

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