This article originally appeared in the 11.29.12 issue of Metrolan
IT WAS A NEW DAY YESTERDAY
happened again. Facebook blew up on
Monday with a cut-and-paste declaration of “rights” that went seriously
viral. It was very similar to something
that flew around earlier this year; it boldly proclaimed something about
privacy and copyrights, cited the “Bernsey” treaty, and the U.C.C. (Uniform
Commercial Code) and the fact that Facebook was now a publically traded
company. These things supposedly
combined to empower the poster to tell the world (and Facebook in particular)
that the poster’s personal information was not to be ever, ever used for
anything ever by anybody ever. Or
me how many people of intellect and sophistication fell for this and reposted
it. Because it was all gibberish. Mumbo-jumbo. Claptrap. Balderdash.
Hokum! When you sign up for
Facebook, you agree to be bound by its terms of service (which neither you nor
I have never read and probably never will). It’s what we lawyers like to call a
contract. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Between you, party of the first part, and
Facebook, party of the second part.
Period! There is no “Bernsey”
treaty. There is something called the
Berne Convention, which is an international copyright treaty that has
absolutely nothing to do with your relationship with Facebook. And neither does the U.C.C. or the fact that
Facebook is a publically traded company.
Corporations are people, my friend.
on. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of
public speaking on copyright issues, and have been putting more and more
emphasis on how ill-suited the copyright laws are to how people actually live
today. File trading, mash-ups,
Pinterest, social media, etc. have turned every one of us into criminals, and a
bunch of massive corporations have locked up most of our culture more or less
perpetually. I’ve been pondering how
this is going to play out. Is this legal
war that’s been raging for the last ten years ever going to end? Is anyone gonna actually benefit from the
copyright laws other than the shareholders of Viacom, Disney, etc. and the
lawyers who work for and against them?
The key, of
course, would be to overhaul the law. But
the Obama administration, sadly, toes the line for Big Media, as do most of the
Democrats in Congress. And the
Republicans, well, has there ever been a more clueless and despicable bunch of
morons gathered in one place in all of human history?
week or so ago, a bomb dropped. On33 Friday, November 16, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the
policy arm of the House Republicans, posted a policy brief entitled Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to
Start to Fix it.
In 8 crisp pages,
the paper made the following points:
1) The purpose of copyright is not to reward creators and protect
certain industries, but to benefit society;
2) Copyright law creates government enforced monopolies and
is therefore the antithesis of free-market capitalism; and
3) Copyright law as currently enforced is a form of
corporate welfare that stifles competition and innovation.
right. The paper then brilliantly describes how copyright law stands in the way
of a robust DJ / Remix industry (!!!) and other business that would provide
“added value” to creative works, how copyright hampers scientific inquiry,
inhibits the growth of public libraries, and penalizes legitimate journalism
and public inquiry. The proposed
solutions? Bring statutory damages
(which can be as high as $150,000 per infringement) back down to earth, expand
fair use, punish bogus infringement claims, and drastically restrict what
copyright covers by limiting protection only to works that are formally
registered with the Copyright Office and by shrinking the term of copyright to 12
years, with renewals pegged to paying a percentage of the revenue generated by the
copyrighted work (presently, copyright arises automatically upon a work’s
creation, and lasts for 70 years after the creator’s death).
every copyright lawyer in the country fell out of his or her chair en masse
. Those of us who are so-called “copyleftists”
were happily shocked and more than a little confused. This came from the House Republicans
anti-women, anti-science, anti-minority douchebags? Here all along we thought we were indeed
copyleftists and now we learn that we’re tea
Saturday, the policy brief vanished from the RSC’s webpage, and a few hours
later a note appeared that the brief had been withdrawn because it had not been
“properly vetted.” Yeah right. It was posted by mistake
We all know
what happened. Big Media landed on the
RSC like a ton of bricks. Groups like
the RIAA and MPAA, which contribute huge sums of money to House members of both
parties, went batshit crazy and got the most incisive and sane IP government
policy statement of our lifetime yanked.
OK. Because the conversation none of us
thought would ever occur has begun.
Paul Rapp is a local
IP attorney who’s posted the phantom RSC policy brief on his blog