Sunday, June 13, 2010

reader & writer & many more chat some more about Copyright

Author John Degen has posted some fictional conversations between a writer and a reader on his blog (June 9, June 10). I say it is fictional as it ignores how the relevant technology works, and thus not only the lack of clarity of the relationships between writers and readers but also the fact that there is a technology company as intermediary that separates there from being much of a relationship at all between writers and readers. It depicts some rare moment where all the parties involved have the same understanding of the relationship, likely because this is really just a case of John having a conversation with himself.

While I offered a serious response on the IT World Canada blog, I thought it might be amusing to offer a silly response here (using the same blogger he uses, so possibly might encourage some conversation here as well).

The scene... It is the year 2010. With any new form of communications technology in the last 30 years there have been people who have claimed that they have a technological measure that can be used to stop people from communicating things which other people don't want them to communicate. Countries like China has adopted these technical measures to target political dissidents, and western copyright holders have tried to use them to stop copyright infringement. We see the spectacle of alleged human rights activist Bono saying that the West should adopt the "great firewall" policies of China in order to keep citizens in check.

While these technologies have never been effective, and have in fact encouraged people to carry out the type of speech that the technologies were intended to reduce, the supporters of these technologies have not backed down. There have always been snake-oil salesmen willing to sell to less scientific public. In this case they are selling a Trojan horse which will (if successful) enrich these specific technology companies at the expense of all their customers (creative industries and audiences alike), their competitors, and the economy/society as a whole.

Entertainment industry: Nothing has changed in the last 20 years except that people are infringing our copyright. That must be enough proof that infringement alone is responsible for any lost sales.

Music and Movie fan: You only make content available for technology which I do not own, or a subset of technology that my friends own. I have other places my money is going such as cell phone plans, etc, etc. This is why I have not purchased your latest movie/music.

Entertainment industry: If you don't buy our stuff, it must mean you are a pirate. Piracy is the only thing that exists. (holding ears) La La La La

Business Software Alliance and Entertainment Software Alliance: Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain!

Entertainment Industry to Government: We have proof that copyright infringement is devastating our industry. Nothing has changed in the last 20 years except that people are infringing our copyright, and here is how much we claim we have lost. We must stop this at all costs.

Independent software authors, engineers, cryptographers, and mathematicians: The technologies the entertainment industry is looking for do not exist. You can protect messages such that a third party cannot intercept a decipher the message, but you can't protect a message such that it can both be readable and unreadable to the intended audience at the same time. And wait, didn't you just include brick-and-mortar retail in your alleged losses, something that you yourself are helping along when you offer legal downloads?

Montgomery "Scotty" Scott: You cannot change the laws of physics.

John Degen: Dammit Jim, I'm a sports writer, not a software author, engineer, cryptographer or mathematicisn. You claim that what I want can't exist, but there are these folks over here willing to sell it to me.

Business Software Alliance and Entertainment Software Alliance: Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain!

Russell McOrmond: Can you give me an example of online sharing of your work where you believe that these technologies, even if they could ever exist in the real world, could help you?

Folks associated with Access Copyright member organisations: You, all your engineering and math geek friends, and especially MG (who we are so afraid of we won't name), and anyone who doesn't blindly believe that we are being harmed must be pirates. You associate with pirates, thieves.. Oh, sorry, I meant to say you are terrorists -- ya, that's the ticket.

Russell McOrmond: Before copyright can help a software author, we need technology owners to have the right to make their own software choices so that they can choose our software. What you are asking for will, if successful, devistate my business and yet not enrich you at all in return. Why don't you respect the rights of fellow creators?

Access Copyright crowd: You aren't one of us, one of us, one of us. You're a geek not an artist. You go away and have your own copyright, and leave us alone. We don't understand how our abuse of software and technology, and laws which regulate software and technology, has anything to do with software and technology.

Business Software Alliance and Entertainment Software Alliance: Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain!

You get the idea...

I believe that misapplied and misunderstood technical measures have been a larger factor responsible for lost sales than non-commercial copyright infringement. The statistics used are largely bogus, and include in their alleged harm ongoing changes to the marketplace such as the transition to legal online retail. Some less technologically literate copyright holders (most non-software copyright holders?) have been more willing to trust the snake-oil Trojan-horse providers from the technology industry, rather than independent software authors, engineers, cryptographers, mathematicians or other people who they should be trusting. And at the end of the day, rather than trying to make money, these copyright holders are whining to the government to change laws in the very ways they are being warned to avoid for their own sake.

It is one thing that these copyright holders aren't interested in learning how to use technology to increase rather than decrease their bottom line, but it is another thing when they insist on taking me down with them.

Do people have anything they would like to add?

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