Slashdot on Daryl McBride’s Latest (updated)

True, it’s clearly flamebait, and Slashdot rises to it: McBride’s New Open Letter on Copyrights. The letter/press release is a look into a seriously peculiar interpretation of the GPL, but what would you expect?

However, there is a group of software developers in the United States, and other parts of the world, that do not believe in the approach to copyright protection mandated by Congress. In the past 20 years, the Free Software Foundation and others in the Open Source software movement have set out to actively and intentionally undermine the U.S. and European systems of copyrights and patents. Leaders of the FSF have spent great efforts, written numerous articles and sometimes enforced the provisions of the GPL as part of a deeply held belief in the need to undermine or eliminate software patent and copyright laws.

The software license adopted by the GPL is called “copy left ” by its authors. This is because the GPL has the effect of requiring free and open access to Linux (and other) software code and prohibits any proprietary use thereof. As a result, the GPL is exactly opposite in its effect from the “copy right ” laws adopted by the US Congress and the European Union.

Uh-huh. Except, of course, that the GPL’s legal force derives from the very copyright laws that Mr. McBride asserts that it acts to subvert. Apparently, there are only some things one is allowed to do with one’s monopoly, and electing to use it to do something other than to extract monopoly rents is unconstitutional. I wonder if all of Mr. McBride’s life is governed by marketplace behavior — life at home must be pretty interesting.

And dragging Eldred v. Ashcroft into the discussion is just tragic.

Update: As usual, for the straight poop, see Groklaw, particularly the excellent Darl’s “Greed is Good” Manifesto — an excellent reminder that liberty, not profit, underlies the American experiment in government. Note that, according to GrokLaw, the site is cited in IBM’s recent reply briefs in advance of today’s hearings in Utah. The power of community……..

Alternative Compensation for Music Workshop Today

I see that Derek and Ed are going to Development of a Alternative Compensation System (ACS) for Digital Media in a Global Environment. Should be interesting to hear what comes of it. The perils of falling behind, this is the first I’ve heard of it — nothing like missing something going on under one’s nose! (See also Mary Hodder’s post)

The meeting proposed by the Berkman Center will take place on December 5, 2003, from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, on the Harvard Law School campus. The meeting will have two broad segments: the morning will focus on a mandatory, state-run model; the afternoon will be devoted to consideration of a voluntary entertainment co-op model. The format will be a discussion led by Prof. Fisher.

Alternative Compensation Meeting

I see that Derek and Ed are going to Development of a Alternative Compensation System (ACS) for Digital Media in a Global Environment. Should be interesting to hear what comes of it.

The meeting proposed by the Berkman Center will take place on December 5, 2003, from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, on the Harvard Law School campus. The meeting will have two broad segments: the morning will focus on a mandatory, state-run model; the afternoon will be devoted to consideration of a voluntary entertainment co-op model. The format will be a discussion led by Prof. Fisher.

A Lot of Boo-Hooing Over at USAToday….

(Sorry — No Boston Globe to read at breakfast today <G>)

Bemoaning the decline of the album format: Downloading squeezes the art out of the album: A growing single-song culture is wiping out the multiple-track format [pdf]. A lot of column-inches set aside, describing the return of the single as the leading edge of the end of music culture. Really.

The digital age, driven by single-song downloads, threatens to eradicate the multiple-track album, whether on compact disc, cassette or old-fashioned vinyl. It’s not just the physical artifact that’s joining shellac 78s, turntables and 8-track tapes in the pop graveyard: The very concept of songs integrated into a whole faces extinction.

[…] ”The disappearance of the album as an entity would be sad, but anything to do with the evolution in how people access music excites me,” singer Alanis Morissette says. ”I’m very album-oriented, and my highest preference is that people experience my album as a whole, but I know people can gravitate to a certain song and listen to it ad nauseum. That’s their right. It’s about freedom of choice.”

[…] Paid downloads, expected to reach $80 million this year,$1.1 billion next year and $3.2 billion in 2008, account for a fraction of music sales but are expected to explode as Generation Y brings its entertainment dollars to the marketplace. While baby boomers maintained an allegiance to the album format as they graduated from vinyl to tape to CDs, the so-called echo boomers, a staggering 78 million of them, increasingly prefer the pay-per-tune route. And they favor shopping online over standing in line. In the week ending Sunday, downloaders bought 1.3 million tracks while stores sold 186,000 physical singles, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

[…] Joe Levy, music editor at Rolling Stone, theorizes that the CD has killed the album; that is, the arrival of the shiny digital disc with expanded room for sound helped push the concept of a bundled batch of songs toward extinction.

”The CD has been responsible for the death of the album in two ways,” Levy says. ”One is technology. Once music was sold in a digitized format, it could be easily traded on the Internet. CDs began to disappear as consumers collected music one MP3 at a time.

”The second factor is artistic. If you grew up with vinyl, you got 30 or 40 minutes on a record. Now you get 70 on a CD. The album format got swollen, unmanageable and, to some degree, unlistenable. Either you don’t have that much time to listen to it or the experience isn’t rewarding.”

Give me a break! When’s the last time you bought a pop CD that had more than 45 minutes of music? At least Dave Matthews gets it:

Dave Matthews sees the album’s demise as just another pothole in the music industry’s road to ruin.

”The real issue is that the technologies of how to access information have exploded, so everything the industry took for granted has been shattered, and now the industry has to get up and figure out how to deal with it,” he says. ”The industry as it stands is going to be antiquated out of existence. And there’s no question we’ll work our way through it and become accustomed to something new.”

Or something that predates the recording industry: performing live. The album’s doom may be a boon not for singles but for the concert circuit.

”I don’t feel threatened financially by the collapse of the industry,” Matthews says. ”The vast majority of my living is made from touring. Nobody’s going to be able to download that.”

But, striking a blow for the Paris Hilton Weltanschauung, we get Michelle Shocked:

Michelle Shocked considers the album’s downfall a another step toward a cultural wasteland. When she finished 1991’s Arkansas Traveler, an ambitious song cycle inspired by the blackface minstrel tradition, her label demanded she add a radio-friendly single. She dutifully delivered Come a Long Way.

”You can adapt to mundane things like marketing, but when the tail is wagging the dog and you generate singles for their own sake, you can pretty much kiss the concept album goodbye. That’s the direction labels are going in, because that’s where profit lies.”

Shocked refuses to dissect her 1988 breakthrough, Short Sharp Shocked, for track-by-track online sales. ”I control the destiny of that album,” she says. ”I own the rights so no label could chop it up and sell it on the Internet. If I did that, they’d only buy (hit single) Anchorage, which is only a part of that whole image. I refuse to be treated as a one-hit wonder.

”Trust me: We’re heading into a novelty song culture.”

Sorry, Michelle — get over yourself. You can create anything you want; but you shouldn’t expect me to sacrifice real technological advances, much less my own freedom to create and innovate (not to mention to elect not to buy your art), just to satisfy your artistic vision.

Litman’s Latest

Ernie points to Jessica Litman’s latest, Sharing and Stealing. I haven’t had a chance to read the paper yet (don’t ask what I came back to here at MIT — suffice it to say that an important NSF grant is now no longer being held up by an embarrassing oversight on my part!)

However, it’s interesting to read Ernie’s comment, wherein he takes on one of the weakest points of the common P2P apologist’s argument — the claim that, if 60 million people are doing it, it must be right. He correctly points out that the issue with copyright is about something far more fundamental, and discussions that center on claiming that moral authority lies with the majority is just undermining the principled stand.

Ernie contends that "Copyright is about issues of culture and free speech." I’d suggest that there’s a third point — the connection between freedom and competitive markets. Jefferson’s famous copyright quote ("It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property"), recall, emerges out of a larger debate about the merits of offering monopoly economic powers to creators (see this kuro5hin article to get some insight: Thomas Jefferson, The DMCA, Copyright, Fair Use, et al.).

As those who attended my recent lectures in the UK have been hearing, I have been working on showing how a large part of the problem of copyright emerges out of the fact that it is built upon two key compromises: trade-offs of that sacrifice (1) freedom of speech and (2) competitive markets in favor of (3) remunerating creativity. It’s still too complicated a story to tell in a blog entry, but I’m working on it.

For 200 years, that compromise has worked out to the public’s benefit, and for 200 years the incentives deriving from copyright have served to maintain a workable balance. However, today’s copyright interests are so focused upon remunerating creativity that they are making choices/developing technologies/promoting legislation that are shifting the balance of those early compromises increasingly against the core freedoms upon which we rely.

Although some would argue otherwise, I do not believe that Jack Valenti and those of his ilk are actively pursuing a strategy to suppress our liberties. Rather, they are acting in accordance with the incentives we have set up for them — we have given them the monopoly that they are acting to protect and defend. But, those who are continuing to give them what they want are failing to recognize that each award in their favor is a blow to free speech and free market competition; and there is only so much resilience in the system before something will have to give.

Michael Robertson (and the Rest of Us) Lose archive is destroyed

Michael Robertson’s attempts to save the million-song music archive of the company he founded,, appear to have been unsuccessful. The domain was bought by CNET, and Vivendi Universal had warned that the plug would be pulled.

“I had no luck in buying the content, paying for the content to be backed up or facilitating a relationship with,” Robertson told us today in email. Robertson had met with Vivendi, and as we reported,’s Brewster Kahle was only too happy to host the content.

[…] “We’re about to lose a museum filled with digital antiquities that are every bit as meaningful as their physical counterparts filling today’s museums,” Robertson had said.

Plus ca change…

The Register: Round 3: RIAA sues more file swappers; CNet News: RIAA launches new file-swapping suits; Red Nova: Music Industry Targets Even More Computerless

The recording industry has filed 41 more lawsuits against computer users in at least 11 states it said were caught illegally distributing songs over the Internet, continuing its aggressive campaign against online music piracy.

[…] Among the RIAA’s recent targets is retiree Ernest Brenot, 79, of Ridgefield, Wash., who wrote in a handwritten note to a federal judge that he does not own a computer nor can he operate one.

Brenot was accused of illegally offering for download 774 songs by artists including Vanilla Ice, U2, Creed, Linkin Park and Guns N’ Roses.

Brenot’s wife, Dorothy, said she and her husband were stunned by the claims, offended at the suggestion they listened to such music. Brenot was targeted in the previous round of 80 suits the recording organization filed late in October.

Brenot and her husband said their son-in-law briefly added Internet service to their own cable television account while living with the couple because Comcast Cable Communications Inc. said it would add a surcharge to send separate bills to the same mailing address.

“There’s a mistake in this case,” Dorothy Brenot said. “We’re innocent in all of this, but I don’t know how we’re going to prove it.”

Catching up….

Back from a long weekend in London following my teaching stint at Cambridge University, so it’s going to be a little slow around here today — and I see from this morning’s snow squall that I got back just in time for winter to start in this Cambridge, anyway….

I see from Donna’s site that the Posner decision I briefly mentioned on Wednesday(A Setback for the Second Enclosure Movement) is getting considerable commentary out there.