Charles Moore's Mailbag

Copyright Bullies, Fair Use, Fear of Change, Free Culture, Ballistic Laws, Opting Out, and More

Charles Moore - 2006.03.20 - Tip Jar

All but one of this week's emails were written in response to Copyright Bullies May Win Some Battles but Must Lose Their War. - Tip Jar

Music Cartel vs. Fair Use

From Melvin AhChing

Dear Charles,

This has got to be one of the best articles I have ever read regarding copyright law and our deteriorating fair use rights. I have been someone who has supported the music industry by buying a lot of my own music not once, but twice or three times in my life due to media format changes such as going from vinyl records to tapes to CDs and in some cases now, even digital download (yeah for iTunes!).

That said, like everyone I else stand on the firm ground that I bought the music, therefore I own the music as well as the media. Therefore I get to do whatever I like with the music - except for reselling copies that I made - while still retaining ownership of the original.

I have long been a so-called "home taper" where in my childhood I recorded stuff on reel to reel tape and later cassette from records I owned or at times borrowed - and of course from the radio too. As technology advanced I made the proverbial mixed tapes off both records and CDs . . . and have today now ripped my own CDs and other audio sources and made compilation CDs and many playlists for play on my two iPods and Apple Macintosh computers. I don't see anything wrong with this as long as I use it in the privacy of my own home.

In the 1990s my Internet access was dialup, which means I never downloaded anything from Napster in its heyday, though I have used some more obscure stuff like Hotline to do very few digital downloads of music. With dialup it is way too slow. It was and still is much easier for me to borrow CDs from friends or the public library to make my own copies, even though I now have DSL.

Still I prefer to buy my own music on the original media (CDs), since I have a perfect copy (most of the time - I avoid the copy protected CDs) of said music on the original CD, off of which I can make copies to play in my iPod or other media. I don't think this is stealing.

And yes, I buy from the iTunes store, which is a great source of ala-carte music purchases. It brings back my enjoyment of buying single releases one song at a time and then compiling my own K-Tel style all hits CD compilations and iTunes playlists. For this I love iTunes.

Most of the time I will buy only one or two tracks by an artist off the same album. If I think the album will have more than two good songs, I rather buy the entire album on "hard copy" like a CD and rip the songs back into my Mac and iPods. Makes more sense to me.

What I am disturbed about is the music industry's constant campaign to erode our digital fair use rights through the use of legislation in Congress, extension of the copyright laws, and, most alarming, the possible plug of the so called "analog hole" by the year 2013. They want to remove the familiar analog outputs and inputs off many of the kinds of devices we now use such as home stereo systems and boombox. It is rather troubling that some of the music recording companies are also owned by the hifi hardware manufacturers - for example, Sony.

Once upon a time Sony was seen as a champion of the fair use act through its much celebrated Betamax case, where they were on the consumer's side to allow us to home tape TV shows (and of course have them sell more VCRs). Today Sony is on the side of the rest of the music cartel in terms of stripping away our fair use rights (re: the infamous rootkit CDs).

For this reason I am holding on to most of my old media (records, tapes, traditional CDs) and will probably start building up an inventory of older hardware just so that I can still enjoy the same rights I have today beyond the year 2013.

Again thanks for the great article and for putting up with my rant.

Aloha,
Mel

Hi Mel,

Thanks for the approbation. I enjoyed reading your rant. :-)

K-Tel! I guess your use of the reference and my understanding of what you're talking about dates us both. ;-)

Interestingly, they're still around, and their products are available through iTunes: http://www.ktel.com/

Charles

RIAA Has Always Been Afraid of Change

From Steven Hunter

The RIAA has a history of fighting new technology. At one point or another, the RIAA has opposed:

  • The phonograph/records
  • AM radio
  • FM radio
  • The juke box
  • Cassette tapes
  • CDs

And each time the reason was that it would ruin the music industry "as we know it" - and they were right. The RIAA is many many times more powerful, and its members generate many many time more revenue because of these advancements.

However this is the first time they truly need to fear for their existence. The Internet is the great level playing field. For $500 of rented studio time a band can cut an album on CD and distribute the music online for a fraction of the cost of distributing CDs via retail channels. I assume that there are independent musician support websites out there that do co-op style cross promotion. (Note being a music aficionado, I don't know)

I don't think TV and movie producers have anything to fear yet, but any semi-competent band can easily put together a website and sell songs.

Just my 3.14159¢

Steven Hunter

Thanks, Steven

Buggy-whip manufacturers were disgruntled about the advent of automotive transportation, too (with good reason), but the Buggy Whip Manufacturers' Association was happily not able to influence government to stand in the way of progress....

Charles

Copyright vs. Free Culture

From Edward Starkie

Charles,

Great article. For a philosophical and legal view on why and how this has occurred, Lawrence Lessig of the Stanford Law School has made numerous presentations that really get at the issue of how heavy-handed laws stifle innovation. You can check out his talk about freedom and culture at the following link:

http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html

Ed Starkie

Hi Ed

Thanks!. Yes indeed; Lessig's insights on these issues are always well worth pondering.

Charles

'Copyright Law Has Just Gone Ballistic'

From Karim D. Ghantous

Charles,

Just finished your piece re copyright bullies (linked from MacBytes.com). It's well written and easy for anyone to understand.

It's true that copyright law has just gone ballistic and is far to restrictive. I heard recently that in the USA copyright was not automatic until the '70s. Legislators need to go back, I think, and remove the thick layer of gunk that has been piled onto the original, fairer laws.

Yours faithfully,
Karim D. Ghantous

Thanks, Karim.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Charles

Opting Out of the MPAA/RIAA Monopolies

From James Taylor

Hello,

I recently read your article and felt compelled to tell you that if only more people had a rational view of copyright, as you do, the debate about piracy would be over. Your article made the most sense I've seen about this fiasco in a long time. I am firmly in agreement that the copyright holders (in 90%+ of the cases, not the creators of the work) have hijacked the debate about intellectual property in the digital age and turned it into their own personal war on technology.

I have spent hours faxing, emailing, writing, calling, and basically bugging my elected representatives, urging them to respect fair use and my rights as a citizen. Needless to say, most of the time it has fallen on deaf ears. I am truly frustrated at the lack of concern over individual rights these days from both parties in our government. We haven't seen this sort of assault before. It's getting out of hand, and, quite frankly, the courts and our lawmakers are allowing it to happen. Whether or not the government is complicit simply because it is out to "make a buck" or simply ignorant of the technological realities of today is debatable, but it is clear to most people that what the Founding Fathers had in mind regarding copyright is not what is currently available. Your article hits the nail on the head in many respects, and I think everyone should read it.

"For a limited time" does not mean life + 90 years, in spite of the Supreme Court's jaw-dropping ruling. The Constitution did not give Congress the right or power to extend copyright indefinitely, one decade at a time. The secondary issue in this fight is also clear.

How long can someone (or something) benefit from copyright protection? How is it possible to balance the rights of individuals and the rights of copyright holders? It seems that the MPAA/RIAA want it all to themselves, sabotaging our technological lead to benefit an obsolete business model. No one is guaranteed a profit in our system, yet the copyright holders expect it. They are pillaging the public domain and not replenishing it. That is truly a crime.

In my own life, I have all but abandoned any RIAA/MPAA sponsored media or outlets. I buy used DVDs to deprive them of much (if not all) of their revenue (if I choose on rare occasion to even buy a mainstream DVD). I rarely purchase music from any chain/label/artist that is associated with the RIAA (sometimes they give me the slip). I no longer go to the movies or rent videos/DVDs.

Is this what they intended? Certainly not, but they have gotten it. I can live without their product, but they cannot live without my money. I have bought enough of their products in the past to last 10 lifetimes, so I am not struggling to avoid the "shiny new" content. Simply put, the independent artists and films that you can find on the Internet are far more entertaining than the 'next big thing' from the big companies anyway. I simply won't participate in a system that is actively out to destroy me and my freedom. I vote with my wallet as well as the ballot. The trouble is, my lack of "consumption" is labeled as piracy if their revenue drops even a millimeter. That is truly one of the great tragedies of the digital age.

Thank you for reading (forgive the rambling), and thank you again for writing such an insightful piece. Keep up the good work. It takes lots of shouting to get our voices heard over the stacks of money. One day, everyone will be fed up. I just hope it's not too late.

Regards,
James Taylor

Thanks for your letter, James. I enjoyed reading your comments and observations, and we're on the same page.

Charles

All Lawmakers Should Read This

From Al Ewing

Regarding Copyright Bullies May Win Some Battles but Must Lose Their War:

Very fine article!  

Wish we could get each or our country's lawmakers to read. Enough said!

Oh, can I make copies to pass out to my friends.

Just kidding.

Keep up the great writing.

Thanks. Copy away.... ;-)

Charles

Pismo Problem in OS X

From Edmund Harris

Dear Charles,

Regarding this problem:

Five years ago I bought a slightly used Pismo, which after a while had a few quirks. It suddenly froze whenever it felt like it. No typical pattern to when or where it would happen. I had to press the power button until it shut down, and then power it back up. Sometimes it would work fine again; other times it would give the three "malfunctioning RAM" beeps. I never really cared all that much, as it didn't happen that often, and "it will probably go away after a while".

I had the same problem.

When I booted it up with a OS 9 install disk (from the Jaguar collection), it indicated that there was a problem with the L2 cache. I switched the processor out, and now it runs OS X fine with the replacement processor.

Ed Harris

Hi Ed,

Yes, I guess processor memory cache failures can be a problem with the Pismo, too, although they have mainly been identified with Lombards.

Thanks for the report.

Charles

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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