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Author Topic: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law  (Read 36213 times)

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Thad

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Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« on: March 30, 2008, 10:45:50 PM »

NYT/Nrama/uncivilsociety.org: federal judge restores a portion of the Superman rights to the Siegel family.

I am ambivalent about this.

While I am a strong advocate of creators' rights and it is absolutely tragic what a bum deal Siegel and Shuster got, I'm also a strong opponent of indefinite copyright extensions and think Superman should be in the public domain by now.  If this ruling holds on appeal, then it will stand as an excellent precedent, and a very important symbolic gesture acknowledging the decades of publishers taking advantage of artists, in many industries but perhaps in comics most of all.  But on the other hand, giving royalties to Siegel's heirs doesn't undo those wrongs, and it's absolutely ridiculous that there's still a copyright on Superman after 70 years.

I guess what I'm saying is, I want the courts to uphold this ruling, but I want the legislature to give us a copyright system that makes sense and make it a moot point.
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Büge

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2008, 05:25:40 AM »

Blame Walt Disney and Sonny Bono.
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Guild

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law for TROLLING
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2008, 03:51:25 PM »

Judges should all be robots with no emotion.
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2008, 03:55:12 PM »

Uh-huh.

Any intention of elaborating, or should I just default back to ignoring you?
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Guild

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law for TROLLING
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2008, 04:01:14 PM »

I was actually half serious (which I usually am*).

I like the premise of Gort, the galactic judge/jury/executioner robot, sent to earth to judge our race for breaking very basic galactic laws against weapons of mass destruction. The galaxy-wide rule was something like 'no weapon can be made that is capable of killing more people than it takes to operate the weapon.'

Actually after a few seconds of research it turns out I made the specifics of that law up in my nostalgia, but the idea is similar.

The judge in this case got a big wet liberal tear in his eye and decided to screw the fans of Superman out of much desired public domain material because something happened in the past. It's fine to be an apologist, but I disagree with being an appropriations apologist.

*though I can see why a person who's only ever half serious would infuriate your poor analytical brain :D
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2008, 11:36:32 AM »

The judge in this case got a big wet liberal tear in his eye and decided to screw the fans of Superman out of much desired public domain material because something happened in the past.

Er, no he didn't.  You've either completely misunderstood or you're toying with me.  Or both.

The case wasn't a decision on whether the Superman rights would become public domain or default to the Siegel estate.  It was a decision on whether DC would keep them all or the Siegel estate would get some of them back.  Public domain wasn't even part of the conversation.

I brought public domain up because I believe Superman should be public domain by now, which would make the ownership issue moot.  However, that's not a matter for the judiciary.  The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 redefined copyright terms to last 70 years past the creator's death or 95 years past corporate publication, and the Supreme Court has already ruled the Act constitutional, so there's not a goddamn thing a federal judge can do about it.

The public domain issue is related to this case -- again, because if copyright law were sane there wouldn't be a suit here -- but it's far outside the judge's jurisdiction.

I'm still not sure whether you're trying to have a real conversation here and just not following, or whether you're doing this on purpose to try and get me to waste my time replying to you.  If you want me to continue paying attention to your posts on this particular subforum, I would advise you read the posts here more carefully, check out the articles they link, and post more than a couple sentences to summarize your argument.  (You only devoted two sentences to what you were actually talking about, and all they did was reveal that you don't understand what we're talking about and also don't know what "apologist" means.  The rest of your post was a tangent.)  That and the use of phrases like "big wet liberal tear" sort of implies you're just trying to get a rise out of me.  (Yeah, because LIBERALS are responsible for extending copyright indefinitely.  That's exactly what liberals want, to consolidate power in the hands of a few and prevent the public from gaining any more control than it already has.  Why, that's just common sense; it's the very textbook definition of "liberal".)
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2008, 10:27:32 PM »

Two more from Jeff Trexler @ Nrama: summary of the ruling, thoughts on possible settlement.

I've been reading up a lot on the background information of this case, and it's pretty interesting stuff.

Apparently in the 1970's, US copyright law was changed for just such situations as this, to allow creators the right to revoke copyright transfers.  The catch is that they have to wait 56 years, which of course is completely asinine.  It also strikes to the heart of my "this should be public domain rather than going to his family" complaint -- 56 years is long enough that most creators are going to be DEAD before that time elapses.  10 years seems a lot more reasonable to me.

And what of Shuster in this case?  Well, he went blind and died in a rest home, leaving no immediate family, but his nephew is apparently getting into the game now.  He missed the 56-year window, but gets another opportunity at 71 years, meaning in 2013 the OTHER half of the rights to Action Comics #1 is going to be revoked.

More to come, no question; this dispute has been raging since the 1940's and isn't going to go away.  It could take literally decades to determine what "derivative works" are covered and what the Siegel (and eventually Shuster) estate is entitled to in the way of royalties.
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2008, 04:51:41 PM »

Have been noticing a lot of yakking lately on the Orphan Works bill.  Jeff Trexler @ Nrama again explores the issue from both sides.

I looked up Lessig's comments on the issue, since I tend to agree with his stance on copyright.  IANAL (though I have to say, I'm increasingly tempted to go into copyright law), but at a glance it seems like a reasonable compromise -- keeps the current "if you can prove it's yours, you have a copyright on it" policy for 14 years after creation, but THEN forces anyone who wants to keep a copyright to file some paperwork with a (non-government) registrar.  That sounds to me like it does a good job of protecting individuals' rights while strengthening the public domain.

Of course, it doesn't do a goddamn thing about corporations' advantage in the copyright market, and obviously a corporation will have an easier time registering its interests than an individual will.  I still want to see copyrights that expire within, say, 30 years of creation, and on a broader level I'd love to see Nader's idea of a 28th Amendment consisting entirely of the text "A corporation is not a person" implemented.
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Cthulhu-chan

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2008, 09:55:12 PM »

a 28th Amendment consisting entirely of the text "A corporation is not a person" implemented.

oh god please this
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TA

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2008, 11:28:31 PM »

Suppose I buy a TV that has been negligently designed, and it overheats and explodes and takes out both my eyes.  Who do I sue?  If a corporation is not a person, I can't sue Sony.  Shall I dig through piles and piles of paperwork and records, if records are even kept of such things, to find exactly which engineers introduced the flaw, which engineers failed to notice and correct it, which executives approved it, etc etc etc, introducing countless people all of whom must be sued individually, and with nearly no chance of success due to the near impossibility of tracing any specific negligence to a specific person with the minimum 51% certainty that a civil suit requires?  Or would it be better for me to be able to just sue Sony and be done with it?

Perhaps corporations should be prohibited from owning intellectual property, maybe limiting them to licensing it from the creators.  It's incredibly complicated, and I don't pretend to know a lot about copyright.  But legal personhood is a very broad thing, and centuries of jurisprudence and lawmaking have hinged on corporations as legal persons for the purposes of liability and ownership.  To make this change would be an impossibly huge and utterly infeasible task, because you'd pretty much have to restructure the majority of law from the ground up to account for it, and you'd still have problems like the one described.
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2008, 12:07:13 AM »

Suppose I buy a TV that has been negligently designed, and it overheats and explodes and takes out both my eyes.  Who do I sue?  If a corporation is not a person, I can't sue Sony.

Your entire premise is flawed.  "Only a person can hold legal liability" is a false statement.  Nobody claims the government is a person, and yet you can sue the government.

An entity made up of individuals can hold legal liability without being entitled to Constitutional freedoms such as privacy.

That said, the context in which I brought this up is perhaps a little glib.  I don't suppose I'm inherently opposed to the notion of corporate ownership, though I DO believe it needs to be weakened.

Treating a corporation as a person is an inherently unfair proposition, because a corporation inherently has more POWER than a single person.  I hesitate to play constructionist, but the Constitution was CLEARLY designed to protect the rights of individuals, not of faceless abstract entities.

The notion that a corporation can drop hundreds of millions of dollars buying a candidate's way into Congress or the White House, and call it "free speech", is abhorrent.  The mere definition of money as speech is a "some are more equal than others" proposition, and when you add corporate personhood, you effectively state that corporations are entitled to more free speech than actual human beings.

You've turned the issue on its head.  You are suggesting that corporate personhood protects individuals from the abuses of corporations.  In reality, it does the opposite.  It doesn't grant the little guy a right to stand up to an unfeeling, powerful abstraction -- the little guy already has that right.  It grants the unfeeling, powerful abstraction the right to claim that IT is in fact being oppressed by the little guy.

And in a dispute between two persons, one of whom has the resources of an actual person and the other of whom has the resources of a corporation -- well, it's pretty clear who the likely victor is.  Especially if it's the same "person" who wrote the law and paid various politicians to sponsor and pass it.
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Brentai

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2008, 09:24:40 AM »

I:wuv:ANAL, but isn't the very definition of a corporation that it serves as a person legally?  You'd have to sort of redefine the word to make it work, or else ban the notion of "Corporation" altogether and only allow LLCs or whatever.

Semantics, yes, but corporate law is nothing but semantics.
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2008, 03:24:53 PM »

No.  A corporation is defined as an entity that has a set of rights, privileges, and liabilities that are distinct from those of its constituent members.  Having the same rights as an individual person is not inherent in that definition.

Corporate personhood dates back to the late 19th century, and was a court decision rather than a legislative one.  Changing the law would eliminate 150 years' or so worth of precedent, but that's what Constitutional Amendments are FOR: granting rights to the populace that have, under earlier precedent, been denied.

The opposing argument is that removing corporate personhood LIMITS rights -- but it doesn't limit actual humans' rights, it limits corporations' rights.  Which, given the way the country is presently run, exist in DIRECT OPPOSITION to the people's rights.
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Mongrel

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2008, 04:35:37 PM »

Quote
RIAA loses key music decision

Mathew Ingram, today at 12:28 PM EDT

One of the long-running lawsuits that the Recording Industry Association of America has against illegal file-sharing of digital music tracks is the Atlantic v. Howell case, which involves a husband and wife and the music that they kept on their computer. The RIAA's argument last year -- an argument that was initially accepted by the court -- was that even though the agency couldn't prove that anyone actually downloaded copies of the music from the Howell's PC (other than a company working for the RIAA), the simple fact that their files were kept in a "shared" folder available to the Kazaa P2P software was enough to breach the law.

That decision was struck down this week, however: Judge Wake of the District Court of Arizona ruled that while section 106 (3) of the U.S. Copyright Act gives the owner of copyrighted works the exclusive right to "distribute copies" of those works, the law doesn't define the term “distribute,” and so the courts have had to do so. The general rule, Judge Wake said in his decision, was that “infringement of [the distribution right] requires an actual dissemination of either copies or phonorecords.” The decision (PDF link) goes on to quote copyright experts William Patry ("without actual distribution of copies of the [work], there is no violation of the distribution right”) and William Goldstein (“an actual transfer must take place; a mere offer for sale will not infringe the right”).

The court also rejected the RIAA's motion on another point: the agency argued that the Howells were guilty of primary copyright infringement for sharing the music through Kazaa -- but the court decision said that even if someone had downloaded a copy of the music from them, because of the way that a peer-to-peer network functions, that would still only be a case of secondary copyright infringement, since the downloader would not be taking the Howells' file, but merely making a copy of their copy.

The decision ends with this statement: "The court is not unsympathetic to the difficulty that Internet file-sharing systems pose to owners of registered copyrights. Even so, it is not the position of this court to respond to new technological innovations by expanding the protections received by copyright holders beyond those found in the Copyright Act." The decision doesn't mean the Howell case is over, however -- it now proceeds to a regular trial. The RIAA had been pushing for what's called "summary judgment," which is a much faster process.
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Arc

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2008, 09:16:52 PM »

tl;dr

sauce?

a/s/l?
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Brentai

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2008, 09:46:54 PM »

The essential:

Quote
The decision ends with this statement: "The court is not unsympathetic to the difficulty that Internet file-sharing systems pose to owners of registered copyrights. Even so, it is not the position of this court to respond to new technological innovations by expanding the protections received by copyright holders beyond those found in the Copyright Act."
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2008, 12:03:00 AM »

Quote
"The court is not unsympathetic to the difficulty that Internet file-sharing systems pose to owners of registered copyrights. Even so, it is not the position of this court to respond to new technological innovations by expanding the protections received by copyright holders beyond those found in the Copyright Act."

"That's Congress's job."
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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2008, 01:40:47 AM »

I view the RIAA as a bunch of old senior people screaming at the kids on their lawn and having no idea where they are or what they're doing.
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Kazz

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2008, 04:40:00 AM »

I respect the RIAA's position, as far as the rights of copyright holders not to have their material shared without their permission (specifically, the ability of a product's creator to control how it is distributed).  I don't respect a single fucking thing the RIAA has done to defend its position.  Once you single out some oblivious individual out of the millions guilty of the "crime" you're against and turn their lives directly into shit, you lose all my sympathy and fuck you sideways.
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Thad

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Re: Another thread on copyright/patent/trademark law
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2008, 11:56:43 AM »

I respect the RIAA's position, as far as the rights of copyright holders not to have their material shared without their permission (specifically, the ability of a product's creator to control how it is distributed).

See the mistake you just made there?  I'm sure it was just a slip of the tongue, but it's a nontrivial one, and takes us back to where I started this thread.

Part of the problem here is that publishers, not creators, hold all the cards here.  And part of the problem is that they see that power slipping away.  Time was, you wanted to make a career as a musician, comic book writer or artist, whatever, you had to go through them.  And that's not the case anymore.

The RIAA's response has been to attempt to stop the inevitable, to try to close the barn door after the horse has already left.  As the judge said, you can't just extend copyright law because new technology has been created (and as I sardonically added, Congress has repeatedly done exactly that).

The RIAA is the villain in this story not for trying to protect its copyright, but for suing fourteen-year-olds and trying to make it illegal to copy CD's to your iPod.

Oh, and for the past several decades of treating the actual creators who make the music like shit.
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