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Re: [dvd-discuss] Digital Rights Management GedankenExperiments

Ron Gustavson wrote:

> The public generally supports copyright as we have known it--even the longer
> 95 year variant. But they need to know that this tradition is, as Judge
> Kaplan told us, effectively repealed by DMCA. So, is DMCA is the first step
> in an attempt to seize total control of the raw material of speech? [the
> domino theory]

It's time to show the public (the artists and the technology industry)
what long copyrights are costing us as individuals, industries and

I've finally understood the reason for long copyrights.  It's not so
that content companies can profit from older works (they can't,
meaningfully -- c.f. Eldred et. al.). It is because the absence of a
viable, contemporary, public domain of works in the modern media would
constitute a "substitute good" for their current products.  How can you
sell a Britney Spears CD for $18.00's if every recording prior to 1974
is available either freely on the web, or for the cost of production and
distribution of a CD?  Clearly the competition from free music of the
recent past would reduce what the market will bear for new music.  What
we have instead is a complete monopoly over all modern media by a small
(and decreasing numerically) coallescing and coherent cadre of
corporations and conglomerates.  This fundamentally is the fear of the
"content" industry -- their loss of absolute monopoly over modern
media.  Their goal -- the prevention of the competition of a viable
public domain.  

This monopoly hurts the public and the artists. The monopoly rents are
coming right out of the public's pocket. Furhter, the retail channel
control it implies effectively gives these companies monopsony (single
buy) power over the authors and artists -- reducing their negotiating
position.  Thus the longer copyright terms actually harm the artists as
it puts them at a power disadvantage to the publishers.

Finally is the harm to the technology industry.  Compared to technology
and telecom -- entertainment is peanuts.  As the "killer app" of the WWW
is free access to information, the monopoly over broadband demanding
media content means that demand for broadband is (as Lessig recently
wrote) at the mercy of the big media companies.  If all film, tv, video,
music (we'll call this broadband content) prior to 1974 were in the
public domain -- this would not be so.  The free broadband content would
create demand for broadband access.  Few are willing to pay an extra
(effective) $20/mo to get broadband today -- but if all pre 1978 content
were free on the web the demand would be great.  

Think of the investment in technology and infrastructure that would
imply!  It would make the dot com run up look like a mild bull market. 
Beyond that is the secondary effects on the PC and information
applicance, and consumer electronics markets.  A viable free pile of
content (such as would exist with 28 year copyrights) would provide the
"file footage" for a new "desktop video" market, further driving the
consumers needs to follow Moore's law "best if use by T+18mos" upgrade
path through .10mic, multi GHz and beyond (3x DivX ripping implies a
60GHz processor ;-) )

It's time we show the long copyright for the bum deal it is for all of
us.  The money is coming out of our pockets, paying lobbyists to take
away our rights, putting artist at a disadvantage to the publishers, and
slowing technological progress -- all for the benefit of a few wealthy
and influential business trying to protect obsolete business models.

That is all.