Thanks, Ed, for the kind words. I learned a lot from covering the Cato debate. More to come.
Day: September 20, 2002
Are there any lawyers in the house that can help David Johnson deal with weblogger? As a clued-in individual, I can’t even imagine confusing the two. Here’s the breakdown:
- Weblogger.com: A for-profit company that hosts weblogs.
- Rollerweblogger.org: An open-source Java-based weblogging project not intended for the general non-hardcoregeek public.
It could get ugly.
Sam Ruby has also picked up on David Johnson’s problems with a similar call for help:
Unfortunately, this isn’t the fun or education that he was looking for. I encourage anybody with insight into the origin of the term “weblogger”, or the alleged ability to copyright a word, or the legal significance of a lapsed trademark to either contact snoopdave privately or leave a comment on this blog entry.
Russ chimes in with:
Erin, suck MY dick. Do your lawyers speak Spanish? You don’t have a trademark, you don’t have a copyright, and you don’t have a business plan. Please go back into the hole you crawled out of.
Bret Morgan’s take on the above comment:
Workbench has some constructive stuff to say:
I’m a Weblogger.Com customer with lots of nice things to say about the company (great customer service). However, I would be amazed if it could get anywhere with a trademark claim on the word “weblogger,” and I can think of nothing that would sour more people on a weblog hosting company than an effort to chase people off that word.
But you need to be prepared for a variety of annoying and pathetic phone delays before you’ll get thru to a person. Swearing at the voice mail system loudly and vociferously is recommended. Swearing at the customer service representative is not.
I will be driving up to Ohio tomorrow. Hopefully I will be able to find some form of net access tomorrow and/or saturday. One must avoid the gaping calendar hole at all costs.
A Cato Institute Panel Debate
Copy Fights: The Future of Intellectual Property in the Information Age
Bear with me, as this will be the first time that I attempt to transcribe pen and paper notes into a weblog entry. A few weeks ago Ed Cone asked if any bloggers out there would attend the Cato panel debate that you are currently reading about. I’m just outside of DC, and I blog, so I said heck yeah. Ed lives in Howard Coble’s district in North Carolina, and Coble is the co-author of the bill being debated in Congress that fuled this debate.
After taking the long way around several closed sidewalks, I found the Cato Institute at 10th and M streets NW. The building looked really nice without being too over the top. After finding my registration card, I sat down to read some articles that were set out. Here’s a quick breakdown of the articles that I read:
Let Hollywood Hack by James Miller
Compulsory Entertainment by Wayne Crews
Musical Mandates by Wayne Crews
When Rights Collide by Wayne Crews and Adam Thierer
The Digital Dirty Dozen by Wayne Crews and Adam Thierer
Berman was unable to attend, but he sent an aide in his place. The panel as it sat was (from left to right):
James Miller from Smith College. He’s an economist and the same guy who wrote Let Hollywood Hack.
Troy Dow, MPAA.
Mr. French, Berman’s aide. I’m sure he said his name, but I didn’t catch it.
Phil Corwin from Butera & Andrews. He’s a lawyer who has represented Sharman Networks (think: KaZaA), mp3.com and others.
Ed Black from the Computer & Communications Industry Association
John Mitchell from Public Knowledge.
As a sidenote, I’m listed on the second page as Matt Croydon from Postneo.com. I was probably the least significant person at the panel debate. Mike Grebb was listed as attending from Wired News, though I didn’t run into him. Perhaps I’ll scan the roster of attendees when I get a chance. After the panel discussion, I had someone ask me, “What’s postneo.com?” I replied with, “It’s just a weblog.” We had a quick conversation, and there is now one more weblog-aware person in the world.
Adam Thierer, Director of Telecommunications Studies at Cato, was the moderator. He plugged the book that he and Crews have recently written called, amazingly, Copy Fights. There is a hardcover and paperback version available at Amazon. The panel debate was streamed over the web in both audio and video form. The streams are in Real Audio and Real Video formats. If you end up listening to the audio version of the debate, the speaking order is French, Dow, Miller, Corwin, Black, and Mitchell.
Mr. French spoke first. He was really sorry that Berman couldn’t make it, but he was at the White House doing Congressional stuff. He let us know early that pirates would attack the bill. He stated that the theft of copywritten works is the primary use of p2p networks. His main argument for the afternoon was that songwriters are supposed to get eight cents in royalties, and each illegal copy denies a songwriter their .08 cents. It was sort of a running gag, something that was referred to a million times during the debate.
Mr. Berman’s aide also used the word Libertarian about a bajillion times, told us why Libertarians should like the bill, and why Libertarians should not agree with his opposition. Somewhere at a campaign office in North Carolina, staffers were giving each other high fives. This spin had to be designed to hurt Tara Sue Grubb’s longshot chances against Howard Coble. Are they scared?
Mr. French noted that the bill would only provide a limited safe harbor for copyright owners to thward file traders from trading their own works.
He wasn’t into Apple’s Rip. Mix. Burn. ad campaign. He noted that there was a disclaimer: don’t steal music. KaZaA was the same. They had a disclaimer too: don’t steal music. He noted that 4000-6000 movies are downloaded from KaZaA each day. Everybody out there was talking about the problem, not the solution, and he was behind the Berman bill 100% because Berman is looking for a solution.
He wants to be able to protect his copyright by hacking into the p2p network. National and local laws stipulate that he might be liable for damages for doing just that. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is holding him down, as are many state and local laws. He wants to know what are “reasonable mesaures” to protect his copyright, and he thinks that this bill allows him to take those “reasonable measures.”
He pretty much read his paper. He argued that the recording and movie industry can’t compete against the free nature of p2p pirates. He noted that even if you could download a song for fifty cents legally, why would you when you could download the same song for free? With new epaper technology, the same could be said for free versus a $75 textbook. He doesn’t even think that the Berman bill goes far enough.
Miller sees two alternatives to the Berman bill. Hollywood can sue thieves into submission, but that won’t work. The industry can impose digital rights management, but that’s hard to do effectively. He did concede that you can never stop very sophisticated users, but you should be able to stop the majority of people from stealing through p2p networks.
And then the other side of the panel spoke. He noted that the internet is the most disruptive technology since the internal combustion engine. He said that copyright is a means to and end, not the end itself. The value of an unprotected digital file is almost zero.
He cited the recent war on file sharers. The Hollings bill, Verizon suit, and other legislation would brand millions of young americans into criminals. According to him, p2p is the essence of the internet. He noted a study by Stan Liebowitz who did a study on file sharing. He concluded that there was no proof that file sharing is causing harm now, but it will soon. Then he said that it never will be harmful to the industry, now he thinks that there is currently no harm, but in the future there will be a 20% reduction in CD sales. I think he should make up his mind.
He noted that CD and audio tape sales were down, but that the summer box office numbers were up. DVD sales are also up 80%. He was not happy with the Department of Justice’s passive role as a result of this bill. Any means that the record and movie industry uses to protect their copyright will remain private at the DOJ. How would people outside the US be affected by this bill?
He thinks we should calm down. Where’s the evidence? The record and movie industries are poised to make more money than ever according to him. He noted that p2p networks were not the only way that illegal files are traded. Many illegal files are traded of Aol’s Instant Messanger.
He has an analysis of the bill somewhere, I’ll have to find it later. He said that the peachy description of the bill by Mr. French was not realistic. He was involved with the DMCA, a bill that was a compromise to many people. He thinks that this bill is based on extreme interpretations of the DMCA. Intellectual Property is too impartant and he is worried that it will be ruined. IP should not be stretched beyond its purpose, but to be preserved.
He noted that every copy of music or other files downloaded from p2p networks is not illegal. From what I hear, almost all of it is though. He accused the industry of trying to preserve a middle managment form of distribution that is inefficient and that makes many people lots of money. He did not that laws from another era need to be updated. How exactly do you modify older laws for today?
He asks whose intellectual property are we protecting? If the rights of copyright holders is enlarged, when does it begin to limit the rights of others? He noted that DRM can curtail what you have legally bought. He raised privacy concerns if the industry is allowed to write spyware programs that report back your illegal activity without your consent.
I have a few more pages of notes from the rebuttals and Q&A session. I’ll try to get them online soon. All in all the panel debate was like two seperate groups talking into a wall in the middle. At points it reminded me of a high school debate. Horses were beat into the ground (eight cents!) and analogies were overused (if someone stole your bike…).
Overall it was a great event to attend. I also got a free lunch out of it. I know this blog entry doesn’t do justice to the event, but I’m tired and need some food. Eventually I’ll clean it up and make it a story.