News & Analysis
Great Examiner Article on Copyright, Buried Lede on Staffer's Firing
GOP sides with Mickey Mouse on copyright reform ... Illegally downloading a couple dozen songs can earn you a million-dollar fine. Setting some Robert Frost verses to music can make you a criminal. Software or hardware that could possibly be used to copy DVDs – illegal. And thanks to congressional action every couple of decades, Disney still holds a copyright over Mickey Mouse, whom Walt first created nearly a century ago. The law and law enforcement around copyright has moved far beyond its purpose of promoting arts and sciences and has become a textbook case of collusion between big business and big government. If Republicans took on this issue, they could make a play for younger voters while fighting for free enterprise. But that would require standing up to big movie studios and record labels – and that's not really how Republicans roll, as a GOP memo on copyright reform painfully showed. – Washington Examiner
Dominant Social Theme: Always side with Hollywood.
Free-Market Analysis: The lede of this article is a bit buried, in our humble view. Here's the real news: "The staffer who wrote the memo [see above], an ambitious 24-year-old named Derek Khanna, was fired – even before the RSC had decided on other staffing changes for the upcoming Congress. The copyright memo was a main reason."
But admittedly the article is generally terrific reporting, though the firing is important because it illustrates the pettiness and even brutality of those involved in this fight. There's no give here. No intention to compromise.
It is this same mindset that sent a posse of FBI agents halfway around the world to shut down Kim Dotcom's Megaupload empire on charges of copyright infringement. Law enforcement pursued Dotcom into a safe room of his house, knocked him down and stepped on his fingers. Then they confiscated his wealth, sent him to jail and illegally took his servers back to the States.
Just as happened after the invention of the Gutenberg press, copyright is being used as a mechanism of control. Information spread first by the Gutenberg press and now by the Internet is being interfered with. Copyright is the pretext to remove sensitive information that the power elite doesn't want disseminated.
The power elite wants to create global governance and does so via various scarcity memes that frighten middle classes into giving up wealth and power to globalist facilities. Copyright is a way of fighting back against Internet information. Slow the dissemination of information and you slow the effects it has on the body politic and the culture.
In Britain, copyright was widely enforced and in Germany less so during the High Middle Ages. As a result, Germany became a mighty power according to some historians beginning to critically examine these events. Eventually, Britain would go to war twice with Germany, in part because of the dominance Germany was beginning to exercise.
This is the reality of copyright and the reason it is important – if this view of history is accurate. It is always better for a society to be less controlled and less fearful. People populating a better-educated society that experiences the free flow of information can make better choices.
But the elites that WANT to control information are evidently and obviously not willing for that to happen. In fact, the dominant social theme when it comes to copyright is that reproduction can easily become theft.
The subdominant theme has to do with the gravity of the action. When it comes to Kim Dotcom, copyright transgressions have suddenly become criminalized. The whole debate has been polarized.
When it comes to even SUGGESTING copyright changes, those who do so are liable to see their careers shattered and their livelihoods jeopardized. That's what happened to poor Khanna. The penalty of suggesting loosening copyright law (and patents are equally abusive) is seemingly a Draconian one. Here's more from the article.
On the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 16, the Republican Study Committee – the conservative caucus in the House -- published a paper examining the problems with current copyright law. The paper suggested the current copyright regime is "corporate welfare that hurts innovation and hurts the consumer. It is a system that picks winners and losers, and the losers are new industries that could generate new wealth and add value."
The paper proposed lighter punishments for copyright infringements and suggested shorter terms for copyrights. (Under current law, written works are under copyright for 75 years after the author's death.)
This paper upset some powerful interests. By Saturday afternoon, the RSC had pulled the memo from its website and officially retracted it. The reason, according to two Republicans within the RSC: angry objections from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, whose district abuts Nashville, Tenn. In winning a fifth term earlier in the month, Blackburn received more money from the music industry than any other Republican congressional candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Blackburn's office did not return calls seeking comment.
Lobbyists for the music and movie industries also called the RSC to express disapproval, according to Republicans involved.
... Republicans are surprisingly close to the entertainment industry. For instance, Mitch Glazier, as a Republican House Judiciary Committee staffer in the late 1990s, played a key role in drafting GOP bills expanding copyright before cashing out to the industry. He now runs the Recording Industry Association of America, a $4 million-a-year lobby operation that fights for more government protection of record labels.
So Republican politicians, with their sensitivities to K Street and their general pro-big-business tendencies, are not eager to roll back the extraordinary government protection for Hollywood and Nashville. But free-market think tanks and writers are banging the drum.
Whether it is global warming, central banking, the war on terror or now copyright infringement, the controlling memes of the power elite are coming under attack as never before. And as we pointed out in another article in this issue, and as we have suggested many times before, there seems to be little give when it comes to the elite and enforcement of memes.
Of course, at the level at which copyright arguments are being waged, the issue is money and influence. But at the very top, where the top elites reside, the tone being set is one, as usual, of implacable rigor.
This is the most startling, disturbing part of what we call the Internet Reformation. Elite pushback is being pursued relentlessly. As we believe the Internet Reformation is both implacable and unstoppable, the increasingly energetic reactions of the elites presage continued and growing conflict.
Conclusion: From a cultural, economic and investing standpoint, this observation, if accurate, is predictive of additional chaos, perhaps lots of it. Of course, maybe that's the plan, as well.
Posted by debris54 on 12/11/12 01:55 AM
this is a related blog from an excellent source that I recommend. I am also reposting your article on my FB page, as the ground covered overlaps. Best to you in this season of (hopefully) remembering our blessings, and sharing some of them with others less endowed, for whatever the reasons might be. Click to view link
Reply from The Daily Bell
Posted by taxesbyanyothername on 12/10/12 07:01 PM
I would not dispute that copyrights, and patents are usefull but intellectual property has become nothing more than a tool for elite enslavement of the rest. Western legal systems are the largest "service" sector there is, and they produce nothing. Yet a huge portion of our productive efforts go into it.
Patenting life has consequenses beyond any use or profit motive. It has a completely different character and gives truth to the quote, 'when a difference in degree becomes great enough it becomes a difference in kind'. The upcoming U. S. Supreme Court decision about whether or not human genes can be patented may be the final straw determining slavery for the entire human race. Even without that dicision we may get there by a similar route.
Posted by Friend_of_John_Galt on 12/10/12 02:59 PM
Copyright and patent law in the U.S. is specifically authorized in the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8:[i] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.[/i]) subject to statutes that Congress may use to establish and quantify the rules. The terminology is apparently broad enough that the Supreme Court has ruled that "lifetime plus 75 years" is "a limited time" though I sincerely doubt that the framers would concur. (The Copyright Act of 1790 established a term of 14 years with a renewal of another 14 years possible.) The term of copyright protection expanded to 28 years + 14 year renewal in 1831, then in 1909 was extended to 28 years + 28 year renewal. In 1976, legislation sponsored by Sonny Bono (then a Congressman) passed extending and modifying many of the Copyright rules. This law was called the "Mickey Mouse protection act" by many critics. Further changes in 1988, 1992, 1994, and 1998 further extended the term and breadth of protection, with the DMCA of 1988 criminalizing some cases of copyright infringement.
Patents were generally given a shorter term of protection and are currently 17 to 20 years (with specific extensions for drugs that often spend years awaiting FDA approval).
Trade Mark (the commercial use of an image or words associated with a product) provides protection "as long as the mark is in interstate use" -- and is thus indefinite. So the justification of the extended copyright protection of Mickey Mouse is not entirely necessary, as Disney Corporation could use Trade Mark law to protect the unauthorized use of Mickey except under somewhat limited circumstances.
There are remarkably few copyrightable items that benefit (commercial interests) beyond 5 or 6 years. Only a relatively minor group of heavily promoted commercial items have economic value to the copyright holder much beyond that period. Frankly, the 28 year (or even the 56 year with renewal) copyright coverage period was more than sufficient to protect most copyright holders. While I hold a copyright myself, I do believe that it would be much better for my work to revert to the public domain after a few years -- and it certainly would have simplified the writing of my book, since the knowledge I delivered is built on the work of many others who have gone before me. Under current circumstances, I needed to obtain permission from many copyright holders all the way back to anything published after 1928. In the esoteric field of my writing, it is frankly exceedingly difficult to locate most copyright holders on works more than 10 or 15 years old. Indeed, even having publisher names doesn't simplify the matter, since there have been numerous bankruptcies and mergers among publishers -- and publishing contracts often include "reversionary" clauses transferring copyright back to the author when a book goes "out of print." For the small publisher or individual author, the administrative overhead of all this creates a serious disincentive to write books that directly build on prior knowledge (this results in books making assertions on various topics without explaining the basis or source of such assertions).
I understand the need/desire of the movie and music industries to have a longer term to benefit from the intellectual properties they hold and it's not unreasonable to suggest that a recorded performance by a famous band (e.g. The Beatles) might appropriately generate money to benefit the original copyright holders long after its original production... but there should be some way to separate out those commercial intellectual properties from the more mundane materials that make up the bulk of the totality of human knowledge.
Posted by budwood on 12/10/12 12:59 PM
There may be a lot of good in copyrights However, putting them into a legal framework may just cause big problems. There are many cases of governments over reacting. Copyright laws are one such overreaching.
At this point, there is so much government oversight that productive activities take a back seat to governmental power. Doesn't make much sense except to conclude that citizens place much too much faith in those people who have gotten control of most governments.