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Re: [dvd-discuss] Fwd: Australian Court rules: Films aren't software

Yeah...but half the problem is recognizing it IS a tarpit. Remember that 
those poor creatures that got trapped in the LaBrea tarpits thought they 
were at a watering hole.  After the first few got sucked into the mire, 
they  probably had safe lines where they thought they could stand and not 
get sucked down. Whole parts of the legal community are attempting to put 
a "functional" dividing line between technology that the practitioners of 
it cannot.  In a situation such as that NO line is best rather than an 
arbitrary one that leads to arbitrary enforcement or just sucks everybody 
down into the mire.

The problem is not if films should be software, films should be data, data 
should be software, software should be data for the purposes of copyright. 
The problem, not being addressed by the courts,  is that despite all the 
attention paid to copyright law in the last 25yrs, it's really gotten even 
less clear what is copyright and what is fair use.

Copyright Object Type 1. One copy allowed for personal use. Cannot be 
rented but leased forever.
Copyright Object Type 2. Copies cannot be made. Can be rented.
Copyright Object Type 3. Many copies can be made for personal use. Cannot 
be rented.
Copyright Object Type 4. No copies can be made. Cannot be rented.

"Robert S. Thau" <rst@ai.mit.edu>
Sent by: owner-dvd-discuss@eon.law.harvard.edu
02/08/02 12:11 PM
Please respond to dvd-discuss

        To:     dvd-discuss@eon.law.harvard.edu
        Subject:        Re: [dvd-discuss] Fwd: Australian Court rules: Films aren't software

Peter D. Junger writes:
 > "Robert S. Thau" writes:
 > : (The flip side of the argument is that if you call Postscript
 > : documents "programs", then you can also call plain text documents
 > : "programs" in a language in which each character is a "command" whose
 > : semantics are to print that character and advance one space, with a
 > : few extras for newline, etc.  But it is possible to draw principled
 > : distinctions here; for instance Postscript is Turing-complete, if run
 > : on a machine with space for an infinite stack, and the "ASCII command
 > : set" is not...).
 > Turing completeness does not support a principled distinction. 
 > The PostScript language program may be Turing-complete, but few
 > if any PostScript programs are Turing complete.

I'd wager most programs in *any* practical language aren't
Turing-complete, in the sense that (with suitable inputs and backing
storage) they can be made to perform any desired computation.

But we can make a principled distinction between a document that is
*written in* a Turing-complete machine-executable language, such as
Postscript, and a document like this email message, which is not.
(Well, at least until computers start to take commands in unrestricted

Which doesn't have any legal meaning, of course, since the law's
definition isn't phrased in terms of Turing completeness... but that
was the problem with the whole conversation the first time around.

Apologies for diving back in the tarpit.