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back to article Publishing barons: Free speech a 'cloak for tawdry theft'

Search engines, internet service providers and the British Library are among a number of bodies trying to scale back the scope of copyright, the head of a UK trade body has said. Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, criticised the organisations, which, together with research councils, consumer watchdog …

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Anonymous Coward

Of course!

audacious hyperbole should be reserved for those who equate copyright infringement with theft or murder (piracy)

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Holmes

Re: Of course!

It's the old trick of controlling the discussion, then leading it to where you want.

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They don't have fundamental rights

They have a right that we as a society have deemed useful and beneficial to all - a limited term monopoly with various restrictions and inclusions. With the understanding that they enter the public domain after a certain time. This is to encourage the creation of works, giving society access to more intellectual or creative material.

None of this is any sort of 'natural right'. And for good reason - works are not created in a vacuum, and works become part of culture and (IMHO) common property over time.

i would argue the exact opposite to him - that for the good of all society we must banish this ridiculous idea of 'ownership' rights over intangibles, where in reality we have a cooperative arrangement that is put in place to benefit all parties.

He's probably just angry because (with the internet and next-to-free distribution of anything) his business model is becoming irrelevant.

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Re: They don't have fundamental rights

Agreed, it's not a fundamental right, it's simply a privilege granted by society and the laws that it creates. I say that as someone who holds copyright on a range of things.

There does need to be a balance struck, but it seems to me that the ones currently doing the pushing are the middle-men. Their business model is slowly failing, largely because they aren't needed as much in today's connected world. It's a balance between the creators and society that needs to be struck, not between the middle-men and society.

There are, always have been and always will be those who don't respect copyright. To some extent, this probably has increased with the advent of P2P etc. But most will (according to surveys) still pay for stuff if they perceive it as good value.

Pricing can be a difficult area though. People expect a digital copy to have a marginal cost because they don't realise that the bulk of the work that goes into an analogue copy still has to be done for the digital. Hence things are perceived as excessively priced (I'm sure some are!) which worsens the situation. Not sure quite what can be done about that, but it's something that needs to be tackled.

Any 'Rights Group' or x 'Association' is always going to be massively self-interested. They generally exist to collect money, and do nothing but. So unsurprisingly, they start to make a lot of noise if they see their income dropping. Copyright infringement allows them to ignore the fact that their business model no longer works, because they can point a finger and say "they iz stealin, it's costing us trillions a year!"

The answer, I think, is to grant copyright ownership over everything to me! I'll sort it out somehow but y'all can pay me royalties in the meantime.

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@David Hicks -Re: They don't have fundamental rights

"..works are not created in a vacuum.."

A very good point. Authors, of whatever kind, do not spring from the womb with an idea for a good book or a great script in their heads. They spend years living in society and observing us. They watch us as we struggle and work and laugh and love and despair and then die. If it wasn't for us ordinary people, they wouldn't have any ideas for stories. They are leeching off us!

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Thumb Up

@Ben Tasker Re: They don't have fundamental rights

A very good post, upvoted.

You mention pricing as a problem, and while for some it is, I don't see it as being the major cause of infringement. The major problem is, first and foremost, geolocation, region-locking and restricted regional releases, and secondly, the problems caused for legitimate customers by DRM primarily designed to enforce the same restrictions.

This restriction-by-region is the biggest piece of two-faced hypocrisy on the part of Big Media in history. They extol the advantages of globalisation when it lets them outsource jobs to third-world countries for cheap labour, putting millions of people out of work and wrecking the Western economy, but they don't want Johnny Public to enjoy the same benefits - such as being able to buy media cheaply from a third-world country or from the first country it's released in - and that is what region-locking is all about. It's OK for them, but not OK for us.

So this region-locking and geolocation bullshit has to stop. Big media has to be forced to understand that if they want to take they have to give as well. The internet has enabled globalisation for the whole world, and the unfair and idiotic notion of release by country no longer has any validity as a business model.

For example, I recently read a report that Australians are the biggest pirates of the popular fantasy series Game of Thrones. The reason is 1) it's only shown on Foxtel here, and Foxtel, the greedy bastards, exploit it by only making it available if you buy their most expensive plan - around $60 a month. But more importantly, 2) they only release each episode a week after its initial airdate.

This precludes Australians from all the online discussion in Facebook, forums and blogs that takes place after each episode airs. And that is the single major reason cited by people as to why they pirate the show. Not cost so much as location restricted release. Huge numbers said they would be willing to pay to get each episode if they could get it as soon as it aired, but they can't. So people can't talk about the show with their overseas friends online because of the idiocy of regional restrictions.

Once the industry wakes up to the fact that people outright refuse to be shafted by this hypocritical region-locking crap and accepts that simultaneous worldwide releases are the only way they're going to make any money from their work, the sooner the piracy problem will be reduced to insignificance and the sooner we can all move on from this stupid copyright war.

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"...moral equivalence between stealing someone’s work and the struggle for political representation"

There isn't one, of course, and the complaint misses the point. The equivalence is between the ever more oppressive actions taken to preserve or enhance the capability to make profit/rule the masses and also between the common responses - which are pretty much the same in both cases.

I'm not going to nick your copyrighted materials. Trust me. You don't have to put me in a strait-jacket to ensure that.

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Mushroom

Receive 3 letters -> go on a blacklist

No thank-you.

Convict, then go on a blacklist.

No end-runs around the legal system please.

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Joke

Re: Receive 3 letters -> go on a blacklist

1. Sign up to the Mailing Preference List

2. Receive 2 letters

3. Produce logs that show you didn't have that IP at that time (or whatever)

4. Declare it unsolicited mail and report them

5. Sit back and watch whilst nothing happens (damn MPS)!

6. Buy a Justin Bieber CD and shove it into the nearest music exec (orifice is your choice)

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Whatever.

If it's available in ones & zeros format, it can be shared online. This is a fact. It can't be gotten around. People who think otherwise are horribly ignorant.

Note that I'm not discussing the right & wrong of this situation, just the reality of modern real world communications capability.

The concept of "copyright" need to be revamped, given today's reality.

Quite simply, traditional publishers no longer control the distribution channels.

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Anonymous Coward

Eroding Copyright?

Most people would be happy just to stop the never ending creep of the length of it. What is it now? the life of the creator + 50 years? That is just ridiculous. I'm all for people being paid fairly but I don't do some work and expect to be paid for it until I die and then expect my descendants to also be able to get an income from it.

I would like to see it reduced to 20 years. That seems like a reasonable amount of time to allow someone to make money from it. After that it should be public domain. If the copyright rules were a lot more reasonable then maybe people would respect them more.

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Re: Eroding Copyright?

How about 0 years?

Or do we really live in a society where people won't buy stuff off the guy who made it? I don't think so.

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Re: Eroding Copyright?

No. If you create something you should get the money for it. If there was no copyright at all people would knock it off.

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Re: Eroding Copyright?

I've upvoted your post because I too disagree with the creeping extension of copyright terms. I say that as a photographer who has spent his working life building a business which depends upon owning the copyright of my own work in order to make a living. But that also perhaps gives me a slightly different viewpoint on the argument about copyright (and hence earnings ability) being passed on to children. Like any small business owner, I do want my children to benefit from the fruits of my life's work of building my business into something valuable and viable.

In my case, that's as more about the copyright in the work I have already done as it is in the bricks, mortar and equipment and even the client list I've accumulated over the years. Why should my valuable copyright legacy be any less capable of being inherited than any of my physical properly?

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Re: Eroding Copyright?

To the thumb down, I'm not suggesting that the idiot this article is about it correct. Just that creative works should be protected for a while and then made public when it's right to do so.

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Re: Eroding Copyright?

Maybe there should be a two tiered system for copyrights - one length of time for nonprofit uses, and a different length of time for for-profit uses.

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Re: Eroding Copyright?

>the life of the creator + 50 years?

Nope. The life of the creator + 70 years (after the Berne Convention in late 80s).

Before then, there used to be a steady living for small publishers, to launch 're-appraisals' of authors newly out of copyright. Then, the 50 year hiatus meant that some of the material was still relevant to the modern day.

Indeed, the popularity of the War poets was owed to their timely deaths in WWI, allowing anthologies to be printed (copyright-free) for the use of Eng Lit students in the 60s.

But now, with longer life expectancy and the Berne Convention, we might easily wait a century or more for such re-appraisals - and our culture is the poorer for it.

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Re: Eroding Copyright?

There's a fundamental difference between eroding copyright and eroding publishers, of course.

I'm certainly in favour of the latter, because they are the main reason the the copyright system is so broken.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Eroding Copyright?

Perhaps we should differentiate between businesses where profit is made on mass distribution and those where sales volumes are low.

With great (market power) comes great responsibility (to give back to society)?

The greater the profit, the shorter the copyright?

Probably abusable by corporate structure manipulation, I don't know, I'm just throwing ideas out there.

The rules are there to protect creativity, but with all the "re-imaginings" and sequels which are not actually "what happened later" but "the same story told again" I don't see too much creativity coming out of big media.

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Unhappy

Re: Eroding Copyright? - @Neil Lewis

On the other hand, why should your descendants get a benefit from your work that the descendants of someone in a different type of work do not get? My children/grandchildren will not benefit from my employment for 70 years after my death. Can you imagine the chilling effect on employment/society if the next two generations were to be paid the wages of their parents now?

The age of the starving artist who died and left his family in penury, as in "Vanity Fair", is over. There is no need for descendants to control/get paid a proportion of sales of work done by a parent.

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The most dangerous computer program in the world

#!/usr/bin/perl

use strict;

use warnings;

use Bit::Vector;

use File::MimeInfo::Magic qw(extensions mimetype);

use IO::Scalar;

use File::Spec;

use File::Path qw(make_path);

# Set up a Bit::Vector to count from 0 to +infinity

my $vector = Bit::Vector->new(1);

# Get the current working directory

my $dir = '';

my $cur_dir = File::Spec->curdir;

# loop for ever

while (1) {

# Convert the vector into hex digits and

# Split into groups of for to create a directory

# Name based on the contents of the vector

my $hex = reverse $vector->to_Hex;

my @dir = ();

while ( $hex=~ s{\ A (.{4}) (.) }{$2}msxg ) {

push @dir, $1;

}

$dir = File::Spec->catdir($cur_dir,@dir);

# Split the vector into 8 bit bytes

my $data = join('', map {chr} $vector->Chunk_List_Read(8));

# Calculate the file extension based on the vectors

# contents

my $mime = mimetype(IO::Scalar->new($data));

my $extension = (extensions $mime)[-1];

$extension ||= '000';

if (! -d $dir) {

make_path($dir);

}

# Write out a file containing the data

local $"=', ';

print "$hex\t$mime\t$extension\n", $vector->Size, "\n";

open my $file, '>:raw', File::Spec->catfile($cur_dir, @dir, "$hex.$extension");

print $file $data;

close $file;

# The important bit. Add one to the vector

my $carry = $vector->increment;

if ($carry) {

$vector->Fill;

$vector->Resize($vector->Size() + 1);

$vector->increment;

}

}

__END__

Do not under any circumstances run the above program as if you run it for long enough you will

a) Be violating copyright

b) Be classed as a pedophile under the cartoon porn laws

c) Be classed as a terrorist for having documents likely to be used in a terrorist act

b) Be prosecuted under section 3 of the official secrets act for having copies of top secret documents on your hard drive.

What does this evil program do?

It counts integers from zero storing the binary representation of the number as a bit pattern to disk, or in layman’s terms:-

It counts numbers.

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Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

::shrugs::

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hd[of your choice]

[insert code for walking zeros here]

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Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

Very cunning, John, but running it 'for long enough' might require you to wait a while (i.e. very much longer than the age of the universe) before any violating material emerges (particularly if you're expect a video file). There's a good discussion of this in 'Gödel, Escher, Bach'.

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Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

But what if

a) I change the starting point from 0

b) Give the program to lots of people each with a different starting point and get them to send me the results.

And it's still only counting.

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Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

No John, not even if you run it in parallel on every fundamental particle in the universe - 2^1,000,000* is a very big number**. Of course, if you compute the value of a file and start the program at x-1,000,000 that would work.

* Taking 128KB as the smallest offending file size - it would be a pretty grainy JPEG!

** In physical terms - mathematicians work on much bigger numbers without breaking into a sweat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

Excellent job!

However (and IANAL)...

"a) Be violating copyright"

No, I don't think you could be violating copyright. You actually have to copy the original work (perhaps by copying a copy) in some way, rather than just producing something independently that just happens to be identical. Yes, you'd have mp3s that would be identical - cmp would find no differences - with mp3s others have copyrights in, but you wouldn't have copied them. If those other mp3s were different - if Lady Gaga had sung some different lyrics - your program wouldn't produce different output as a result. Lady Gaga does not have the power to change the order of the natural numbers through the medium of music.

If you were to search through your generated files for those that are identical, or sufficiently similar, to such mp3s, and you were then to make use of those generated files as a result, then that arguably would be copyright infringement. After all, if Lady Gaga had sung different lyrics, you'd end up with different files matching.

"b) Be classed as a pedophile under the cartoon porn laws"

And you'd end up with indecent pseudo-photographs of children, too. Like with Lady Gaga, I'd argue that you wouldn't end up with any actual photographs, since the digital image files aren't produced photographically. But you'd certainly end up with pseudo-photographs, since they'd be identical to actual and possible digital photographs, so would obviously look just like them.

Come to think of it, with the cartoon porn law, you could argue that all the other generated files provide a narrative context that establishes that the image files in question aren't pornographic, since they aren't of such a nature that they must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal. Show that the generated files are basically a long list of numbers, generated by counting through them, and the narrative context is simply counting. They're just numbers, misinterpreted as pornographic cartoons.

"c) Be classed as a terrorist for having documents likely to be used in a terrorist act"

I dispute that. You'd have documents identical to documents likely to be used by terrorists in terrorist acts, but your particular documents, your particular instances, would be highly unlikely to be used in such ways.

"b) Be prosecuted under section 3 of the official secrets act for having copies of top secret documents on your hard drive."

Again, I dispute that. After all, since the top secret documents are secret, you don't know which of your generated files are identical to actual top secret documents. Similarly, you can't find out the combination for a padlock just by generating a list of all possible numbers in that padlock's range. No secrecy is breached in such ways.

Having though about this kind of stuff before, I'm pretty much decided that it comes down to entropy, in the information theoretic sense. Or, at least, that it ought to, if it doesn't already.

But I've got to say, I'm glad that someone's actually bothered to write a program to actually generate all possible files by counting!

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Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

The problem I was trying to flag up was that you can't actually tell whether an individual file was downloaded, and therefore an illegal copyright, or an actual digital photo and therefore liable to get you done as a pedophile or weather it's the output of my script.

As the law stands having those files on your hard drive is conclusive of guilt whether or not they came from my script.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

Reminds me of an idea I once had for a file archive format that would allow an archive file to ostensibly contain every possible file (of finite length) that could ever be, while still being of finite size itself. (The idea involved using simple, generative grammars, like BNF, as archives containing implicitly numbered files. An infinite archive could be very simple.)

It occurs to me that the idea of such a file could be used to assess the reasonableness of the sorts of laws you referred to in your post. Would someone in possession of an infinite archive, from which any possible file could be extracted, be in breach of such a law? If so, it's arguably an unreasonable law (since anyone who knows how to count endlessly, in binary, already has such an archive in their head). If not, then it might not be unreasonable.

<start> ::= "" | <bit> <start>

<bit> ::= "0" | "1"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

"The problem I was trying to flag up was that you can't actually tell whether an individual file was downloaded, and therefore an illegal copyright, or an actual digital photo and therefore liable to get you done as a pedophile or weather it's the output of my script."

Digital systems work by producing new bits anyway. In a sense, every copy of a file was generated afresh by all the logic gates that produced that copy. It doesn't matter whether or not some files were produced by your script if your reason for generating them is that they're identical to existing files it would be illegal for you to copy or possess.

I could write out a list of all ten thousand possible four-digit PINs. If you've got a bank card with a four-digit PIN, that PIN is going to be on my list. If, after looking over your shoulder at a cash point, I discard all 9,999 PINs that aren't identical to yours, and keep the one that's remaining, specifically because the discarded 9,999 aren't your PIN, then I'm clearly copying your PIN. I'm producing a copy of your PIN by discarding the other 9,999. The fact that I literally wrote down that number first, before I had any idea what your PIN was, isn't going to change the fact that I'm copying your PIN by discarding the rest.

I could even just put a mark next to the PIN that's identical to yours. That would be enough, I would argue, to constitute a copy of your PIN.

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Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

Placing a mark against a number in a list of numbers constitutes copying that number. We are in worse trouble than I thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The most dangerous computer program in the world

"Placing a mark against a number in a list of numbers constitutes copying that number. We are in worse trouble than I thought."

I think you're being too literalistic about "copying", and focussing too much on the mechanics.

Alice, with a blank sheet of paper, looks over your shoulder at the cash point, and writes down your PIN. She has clearly copied your PIN. Do you deny that?

Bob, with a book full of ten thousand different PINs, looks over your shoulder at the cash point, and puts a mark in his book next to your PIN. Is there really a relevant difference? Or only a pedantic quibble?

Each ends up with a piece of text that is based, at least in part, on your PIN. Bob might not have 'copied' your PIN in the very literal sense that Alice did, but he's certainly produced a piece of text that says what your PIN is. He's certainly copied your PIN in that sense. The mark, in that context, next to your PIN, is a copy of your PIN, since that's what it literally means.

I'm pretty confident that the laws you referred to were not intended to be interpreted so pedantically, so literalistically, as to accept that Bob didn't copy your PIN when Alice did. It is unreasonable to assume that the law was intended to be interpreted so as to allow it to be circumvented in such quibbling ways.

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"He added there needs to be recognition that creators have fundamental rights to their property."

Yes, absolutely. Everyone deserves to get paid for the work that they do. No one dispute this. The problem at the moment is that publishers / promoters / middlemen have all the rights, not the creator.

Quick solution; artistic copyright is only assignable to actual people, not corporations, who have to be able to demonstrate original effort in the creation.

And the copyright period needs to be cut. 20 years is more than enough time for Cliff Richard to wring a profit from "Living Doll".

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Devil

My undying hate.

If you really want to switch things up, only allow real living people to posses copyrights and patents. Make them 20 years for copyrights and 5 for patents and make them non- transferable. Make the process or implementation patentable, and leave the idea itself patent free to have the implementation improved upon for the betterment of mankind.

The core problem is that corporations by their very definition are sociopathic non-dying entities, and allowing them to "own" information in any way is a recipe for disaster. I'll give you a glimpse of the future, guess who is going to own EVERYTHING? I'll give you a hint, it's the undying thing with all the money and an army of lawyers.

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Anonymous Coward

A, I think, confusing post

I feel like there's a mood of letting copyright last only for about 20 years.

That's all fine and dandy by me - if you can't make enough money in that time, then you're either a new Kafka (or similar) or your work is shit!

Now that I've brought up Kafka - what happens if I write a grand novel, but before I can get it published, I die and my children publish it for me. Is there no copyright for them because I'm dead, or is copyright just always a 20 year thing - the latter seems to me the obvious choice, but then who decides who gets it? (I'd assume regular inheritance law could clear that up)

Secondly - there might be a bit of a problem with use of the copyrighted item. The use of an item I feel should be permanently definable by the creator. I don't mean "nobody can read my book!" - but more that just because a song is 20 years old - and thus without copyright - it should not be the case that if the artist has adamantly stated "My song must never be used in a commercial" then it's just too bad, because copyright has run out.

Now I might just be unaware of something that is in place for this already, but it just strikes me that a certain kind of "creator-rights" should be in place.

After 20 years your work is free to be distributed by anyone for private people to use in private, but other than that you can ban or allow any use of it you'd want to.

I don't know, maybe I'm just rambling (and I'm currently too hazy to bother re-reading this post) but I feel I do have some point.

And of course there are problems with this, but I just kinda sorta felt like it needed to be adressed in some way.

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The problem with special rights

The law is not supposed to be fair to everybody. The law just creates a common framework so everybody knows about his rights and the rights of others. A law trying to be fair to everyone would be so complex, that it would be unintelligible (and thereby useless for everybody).

So your examples for cases where a strict 20-year copyright limit might be unfair (Kafkas children, unintended use of the work ...) are quite useless.

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Re: A, I think, confusing post

AC, I cannot agree with your ideas about creator-rights going beyond the term of copyright (whatever the term). After copyright has expired, the work becomes part of the commons. Too bad if the song you wrote becomes the anthem for a political party you don't like - it has become part of the additive experience of society and anyone could use it as they pleased.

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This cannot be taken seriously

He added there needs to be recognition that creators have fundamental rights to their property.

... This is precisely what creators do not have.

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WTF?

British Library

Finally someone calling it out for the den of thieves it really is - not only for having a copy of Johannes Gutenberg's original work, but sharing another copy online! Not to mention all the patent violations upon his invention of the printing press!

This is why I argue that copyright should be 544 years + life of the creator.

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Megaphone

Copyright is only a concession

Copyright is granted by society to encourage creativity. Does society have a lack of creativity (or at least the production of copyrighted works)? I don't think so. In fact rather the opposite in most fields.

So logically, we'd be better off with less protection for copyright holders and more of their work being available for the benefit of others. A greatly reduced copyright term would be a good place to start.

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FAIL

They don't care if you break copyright if it makes them some dosh

There was a time when you could have sampled the shit out some old song, made a underground dance remix of it and if it got popular, nine out of ten times the rights holders would authorise you to release it legitimately once they saw the pound signs flash in their eyes at the thought of royalties. Sometimes though they would sue you if the tune had already sold big and get all the earnings from it.

If copyright infringement makes them money then they want to know. This is why you can sample other's music and get away with it if you make little or no money - it would cost them more to sue you than they would get in damages.

The reasons these guys want three strikes is so they can sue you and be up on the deal. No other reason. They cannot do it in this country at the moment and make it stick. It dose not matter also if its big corporate music, books, whatever. Rather than come up with a decent business model that works in the 21st century they would rather stick to what they know - screwing everyone in sight - can't blame them really, they are after all a type of pimp.

Please by all means sue large scale criminal pirating operations. But when you start suing your customers for downloading Justin Beiber's latest vocal arse sludge based on some dodgy list of IPs then you're no better than crims yourself really.

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Flame

With copyright of *some* media at 70+ years. *all* to protect the rat.

f**king Disney.

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Anonymous Coward

Weasel words

"He added there needs to be recognition that creators have fundamental rights to their property."

Although in reality the ones doing the squealing are never talking about the actual 'creators', but those who buy up IP for a pittance, frequently under pressure, from the creators then make money for eternity off the back of it.

Follow the German example and forbid the transfer of copyright from the creator, put some tight restrictions on the duration of licensing and watch the fur fly. I doubt the suits are that keen on 'creators' after all.

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Split Duration

Copyright has a unitary term, all rights expire at the same time. I propose a split term as follows:

* Non-commercial use copyright lasts 20 years.

* Commercial use lasts 40 years.

Thus, after 30 years, anyone can play a song privately, but if your band wants to use someone elses song in a concert, you still have to pay for that.

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