back to article The UK's copyright landgrab: The FAQ

The UK has passed legislation to permit the mass use of copyright-protected material without the owner's permission. This applies to any copyrighted work - not just images - where identifying information is missing. The specifics aren't yet known - they'll come later in the year, in the form of secondary legislation called a " …


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  1. btrower


    Anything that pushes back against the currently over-reaching copyright laws is a good thing (TM).

    The fact that the well funded industry weasels are not making arguments using actual numbers tells me that they already know that getting rid of copyright is *in the public interest*. They would have the figures, for sure and the only reason they would not be trotting out this research in every one of these discussions is if the figures *do not support their argument*.

    This reminds me of someone selling Yellow Pages placements years ago to my small company. I asked them what research there was as to what a dollar into Yellow Pages advertising would yield in terms of net profits or at least sales. They said they had no such figures. Really? All those many millions of ads all over North America for many decades and they had no numbers at all? How likely is that? Sure, they must have had (and have now) the figures showing what kind of payback you can expect for a Yellow Pages advertisement.

    In the case of the copyright weasels and the phone company they already get more than is in the public interest.

    Imagine for a moment the effect of suddenly releasing everything from copyrights and patents. It would result in an effective windfall worth thousands of dollars at a minimum to every man woman and child. For some people, the ability to purchase a generic drug could spell the difference between life and death.

    Who or what is served by the current copyright and patent laws? Even if you have copyrights or patents yourself, chances are that you would gain *much* more personally if copyright laws and patents were abolished. If these laws really served anyone other than a handful of rent-seekers they would tell you so and back it up with evidence.

  2. chris lively

    Just wow

    We live in a culture where theft is rampant. It is done by everyone from newspapers to kids.

    Because it is so common, most people don't even think of it as such. For some reason they believe they are entitled to do the things they do. Prime examples are those who ripped music CDs in order to play them on their iPod. Others include downloading book scans, while claiming they would have paid for it if it was available on ther kindle. Yes, you owned a CD, but you didn't have the right to make a copy.

    This law just makes it legal to screw over the content creators. It doesn't matter if you can't find them with a reasonable search. It doesn't matter if you are trying to preserve history. It's still taking something that isn't yours.

    I tell you what, the day a news agency makes their content ad free and gives the text away for use to anyone then I will consider supporting their own attempts to legalize theft. But that won't happen. Instead these guys want to steal whatever they want, however they want, in order to make a buck. Here's a better idea: pay photographers to use their photos.

  3. Homer 1 Silver badge

    When the majority breaks the law...

    Then surely the problem is the law, not the majority.

    Hence the reason laws are amended, and in some cases completely abolished, or replaced with better laws.

    That's how it should work in a democratic society. The only alternative would be rule by a minority who presume themselves an "elite" group more worthy of consideration than the rest of us, i.e. an oligarchy.

    Rather than become hysterical about the majority opposing your selfish demands, perhaps you should consider that if you choose to engage in activities where the fate of the end result is, due to its ethereal nature, intrinsically beyond your control, then you need to either accept that fact gracefully or find some other, more private activity outside the public domain, where you can exercise as much control as you want to without inhibiting other people's freedom.

    And yes, this is very much about freedom, not money. Copyright infringement is a form of trespass, not theft, and in this case it's trespass on what the majority considers public "land", because like all intellectual property it's inescapably derivative, and thus should not rightfully belong to anyone.

    1. Zot

      Re: When the majority breaks the law...

      You sound like someone who doesn't sell software/music/art on the Internet. It's not an 'us and them' concept, it isn't all big corporations against the little man. It's sometimes everyday people trying to make a living on the Internet, so it sounds reasonable to let them try, rather than lump everything in as evil money grabbing corporations.

      1. btrower

        Re: When the majority breaks the law...


        Yes. When you peel back the layers and follow the money, it is pretty much 'us' (ordinary people, including people who sell stuff on the Internet) vs. 'them' (rent seekers with little or no legitimate claim whose main function is to prevent people from using things).

        There are not many 'little guys' who gain a net benefit from copyright.

        If we abolished patents and copyrights, we would see a phenomenal renaissance. Suddenly all kinds of things out of reach would be available. Hardly anybody has free and easy access to the wealth of knowledge largely funded by our Universities. People use lesser hardware and software tools because they cannot afford the better ones. The world produces multiple different versions of the same thing because of licensing issues. People using stuff like Microsoft software either pay staggering amounts for the enterprise versions of software or work with inferior versions. A generation of netbook equipment was ruined by the deliberate crippling of Windows 7 'starter edition'.

        We waste all kinds of time and energy creating artificial scarcities by metering things with little or no marginal cost to produce.

        If we could remove licensing and patenting from the table, you would see surprising increases in stuff like bandwidth. Much better 'plug and play' capabilities. Cheaper hardware, not just from removed licensing costs, but from rationalized production and economies of scale.

        Lots of lawyers would be put out of work and that can't be bad.

        Government operations would be better and cheaper and taxes would go down.

        Devices like cars and appliances would get much smarter in short order.

        Windows would get a lot less buggy if its code was open source.

        Medicine would be available in greater abundance to those who need it.

        We could stop Monsanto's relentless march to controlling the world's food supply by leveraging patents and aggressive litigation. That would lower food prices. It would also remove one of the most serious 'frankenfood' threats. Monsanto is madly attempting to populate the world's farms with genetically modified plants that are unable to live if you do not pay money to Monsanto.

        The defacto cartels formed by defensive patent portfolio pacts would be partially broken up. It would lower costs.

        Our wireless network bandwidth inventory would not be such a disaster.

        There are synergistic effects. People would be healthier and happier and live longer because they would have easy access to medicines and more disposable income.

        What would the world look like if we always used the optimal solution known to us? If artists were free to use any and all material to create new things? If all of us were free to be life-long learners with easy instant access to all the world's knowledge and cultural artifacts?

        For complex artifacts such as automobiles and industrial machinery, it is not likely that every one of the very best ideas and software is available due not only to costs but to competitors holding patents on slightly better ideas for a given thing. We cannot cost effectively build the best automobiles we know how. Many compromises are made to designs solely because of patent and copyright restrictions not only in the automobiles themselves but in the body of software and equipment used to make them throughout the entire supply chain.

        Copyrights and Patents also apply to safety features in things. Think about that.

        1. johnrwalker

          Re: When the majority breaks the law...

          Making the original that is then sold as copies, is hard work. No copyright, no payment for that work = work not done. If you were to say that copyright goes way to long, that it is too easy to extend and extend and that it is at times abused and excessive, I would agree. However copyright has a very important function in a free society as a individual , trade-able economic right. Get rid of it and you will have fun for a while, but then what?

          1. btrower

            Re: When the majority breaks the law...

            Re: However copyright has a very important function in a free society as a individual , trade-able economic right.

            I emphatically disagree. It demonstrably does more harm than good. If the people so keen on retaining the keys to the world's intellectual wealth and cultural heritage had a good argument for this, you can bet that the case would be out there with real financial figures, and a logical evidence based rationale. What you see instead is a bogus unsubstantiated claim that net wealth magically increases if you restrict access to most of the world's knowledge and ridiculous misericordiam arguments that all of the human race must suffer to prevent the alleged unhappiness of 'artists' who need wealthy corporations to make money so that they can earn a living.

            A very tiny handful of fatcat artists work a couple of years and then retire or continue to work and become obscenely wealthy. The majority of artists remain starving and copyright is *NOT* their friend. Most of the money in the creative industries does not go to working artists. That is why you know who Walt Disney is and you likely never heard of Ollie Johnston. Walt Disney, made an enormous fortune in his capacity as a *businessman*, not as an artist. People like Ollie got paid to work. Copyright and its enormous downstream income went to business people and shareholders, not artists.

            Software developers who have been paying attention know that software patents and to a lesser extent copyrights are entirely a disaster that do nothing but harm. Certainly for myself, it has been a terrible hindrance both personally and professionally.

            If you want the very best software you need to free up more people than Bill Gates and Co. to write software. Right now, nobody can really do much without running afoul of Microsoft's vast empire of patents and copyrights backed by aggressive legal teams with near unlimited funds. Even companies like IBM and HP have to sign defensive patent agreements that remove the danger to them. This has created a patent oligarchy against which it is effectively impossible to compete on even ground.

            Copyrights do not present the danger that patents do, but they do still restrict access to the technical material necessary for artists to create.

          2. btrower

            Re: When the majority breaks the law...

            Re: Get rid of it and you will have fun for a while, but then what?

            More commentards could afford spell and grammar check. Some might use it.

            From then on, children everywhere would have access to the best educational materials and tools that world society is able to create. Education would become better, less expensive and available to all.

            The liberation of wealth in the form of access to all the content in the world will be ongoing.

            The liberation of wealth due to no longer wasting people's time, CPU cycles, storage and bandwidth with copy protection and metering schemes will be ongoing.

            The synergetic effects of allowing all creators to use the very best elements without regard to paying rent seekers will be ongoing. Everyone everywhere will have access to everything.

            The liberation of wealth due to economies of scale as production shifts in favor of the best there is rather than the best rent seekers will allow will be ongoing.

            The web will be better off. As I write this, the forces of evil are gathering to put Digital Restrictions Management into web standards. Yuck. We need to take away the incentive of rent seekers to lock up everything they can or destroy anything they can't lock up.

            We will not have to worry about the otherwise inevitable prospect of some works being forever lost because they are lost behind abandoned digital keys.

            We will have less to worry about from the Frankenfood purveyors attempting to gain control of our food supply.

            The notion that we need copyrights and patents in order to support creation or invention is a pernicious lie foisted upon us by rent-seekers who wish to exact whatever toll they can from the activities of others -- past and present. They claim that our cultural wealth is theirs and that we must pay them for access to it. We were all born into that wealth, why do only some of us have access?

            The notion that most musicians, for instance, depend upon copyrights for their living is patent nonsense. If it were true, those figures would be constantly shoved in your face every time the subject came up. Courtney Love had a wonderful analysis of what, for instance, record company involvement does for artists:

            Then what? -- Then the real fun begins. We could usher in a golden age unlike anything we have ever seen. Things that could *never* have been created whilst endlessly encumbered in disputes over copyrights and patents would be created. We would always use the best way we knew how to do things rather than the way with the least artificial obstacles in the way.

            We could lift restrictions on access to the world's scientific literature. How many times do millions of people re-invent the same wheel over and over and over because they can't do a quick search for it?

            Software would flourish as never before. Easily one half of all software development activity is wasted reinventing the same things and struggling with inferior tools. Not only is the time wasted writing things already written, invariably most of the implementations will be inferior to one already written but unavailable.

            We could clean out the dross from the world's patent databases to reveal the few truly novel and interesting patents -- and then we could use the patents to actually make things rather than as tools for lawyers to do legal battle with competitors.

            The incentive for those most odious of creatures -- patent trolls -- would disappear and take the trolls with them.

            Creative people could use the very best tools and the very best material to create things that met their artistic vision. They would not have to go begging for access to the rest of the world's music and literature. With 'copyright and patent taxes' gone, they could devote more of their time to pursuing their creative vision rather than endlessly paying rent seekers for things already created.

            More new things would be created and things of all types would continue to get less and less expensive.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: When the majority breaks the law...

              "More new things would be created and things of all types would continue to get less and less expensive." One thing that would definitely get 'cheaper' is paid work.

              1. btrower

                Re: When the majority breaks the law...

                Re: One thing that would definitely get 'cheaper' is paid work.

                If it only takes ten hours a week of your time to earn a living, what does it matter what number it gets assigned? If you could get paid for 10 hours at $10 per hour -- $100 per week in real bona-fide U.S. Dollars at 20 USD to the ounce of gold every week, it would be worth more than 100/20*$1300*44=$286K annually assuming eight weeks a year off. You can live fine on that. Why, you ask, am I using that valuation for the dollar? Because that is what it *would* still be except that rent-seekers chiseled away at its value this past century or so. BTW -- we are still waiting for the other bank bail out shoe to drop. Expect that $1300 per ounce for gold to look like an insane bargain a decade from now. The biggest rent-seeker bite out of the USD, already taken, has yet to appear on your books.

                Rights abusers have managed to convince people that digital ownership is a 'zero sum game' similar to tangible property like real estate. The only reason this even looks true is because rent-seekers prevent people from accessing digital copies of things. In fact, rent seekers have done their level best, at every turn, to inhibit the switch to digital versions of things at all, even if we pay them.

                Rent seeking is a parisitic drag on the productive capacity of the world. If we take it away, there will be significantly more aggregate wealth. What little we know of the global impact of removing copyright demonstrates that it significantly increases the generation of aggregate wealth.


                I am not saying that the creation of artistic works is without value or that people creating artistic works should not be paid. What I am saying is that the current mechanisms of copyrights and patents do much more harm than good. The people being paid as a result of copyrights are not creators and except for a tiny number, creators would be better off financially if copyrights and patents were abolished.

                It is not Steve Jobs or Apple that created the 'magic' at Apple, but it is Steve Jobs' Estate and Apple's shareholders that are the beneficiaries of the rent we pay for that 'magic'. The creators show up to work every day like they always did. The only reason we (well, you) celebrate Steve Jobs is that he had the time and money and chutzpah to take credit for the actual *creation* of the magic by merely saying "hey, why don't we (meaning you) make some magic?". Worse, most of the good 'magic' stuff was not even his idea.

                Around the time that Steve Jobs died, Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie died as well. The world was awash with the praises for Steve Jobs, the guy who took all the credit and the money for other people's work. Except amongst programmers' who understood the value of his work, not much was said about Dr. Ritchie. Dennis Ritchie created the bedrock upon which most of the working computer industry is built. Most people never even heard of Dennis Ritchie before or since. He created something brilliant and beautiful whose spare beauty informs most of the world's top programming languages still, nearly a half century after its creation.

                Dennis Ritchie was rewarded, like most of us, by working for a living. He created the C programming language en passant whilst working at Bell Labs. He created value that is so enormous it is difficult to measure. Steve Jobs legacy, in my opinion, is entirely net negative. What little role he played with respect to the world of creation, it was to rip-off ideas from Xerox PARC and Bell Labs and inhibit its distribution by entangling it with legal shenanigans so he could charge rent on work not even his own.

                By allowing rent seekers to prosper, we celebrate and aid net negative players who stifle creation and ignore and inhibit net positive players who actually create the world's intellectual wealth. The real 'owners' who created this stuff gave it to us. That is their legacy, the ultimate payment for their work was to have their name attached to it for posterity. The fake 'owners' are doing their best to charge us money for taking it away from us and dishonering that legacy and erasing the names of our benefactors from history.

                I understand the necessity for capital and the necessity for some type of market mechanism to reward the deployment of capital. Copyrights and patents may reward capital, but at a cost that is not acceptable. We need to find a better way to foster the creation of new things.

                I believe there are enormous synergy effects that will make the world's wealth explode if we lift the drag created by enabling rent-seekers. Even if we just look at the one single example that we are able to now digitially make available to everyone in the world the entirety of the world's knowledge and cultural heritage, that alone should be worth whatever cost is otherwise involved. We merely have to collectively call this into being and it will come into being. It requires the vast majority of people who are injured by rent seeking to stand up to the tiny handful of bad actors who actually benefit from it.

    2. btrower

      Re: When the majority breaks the law...

      @homer 1

      Very well said. Your comparison to public land is spot on.

  4. johnrwalker

    This new law is not about 'free' anything.

    This law is not for a adoption of US style "Fair Use" provisions . Nor is it about reining in abuses of copyright such as those that interfere with the doctrine of first sale - i.e charges on the resale / re-use of copies you have paid for in full. Nor is it about reducing the over extended term of copyright.

    This law is about imposing compulsory collective management of copyright on most/many of the UKs small to middle size right-holders. This will not be 'free' just about everything, that is worth something, will be licensed i.e paid for. In fact it is certain to net cost more than the current situation.

    The individual right of copyright is being nicked, definitely not ended.


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