Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


Canada to "modernize" copyright law

It's official. The Federal Government of Canada unveiled Bill C-32 this afternoon; it places emphasis upon the sanctity of technological protection measures (TPMs). Michael Geist gives the Reader's Digest version. He points to some good news, including: ISPs retain the notice-and-notice system (that they have informally been working under for years); fair dealing has broadened modestly (parodic and some educational uses would be included); and some other consumer-friendly provisions are proposed (I think it will finally be lawful to video-tape a television program and watch it later.) However, if circumventing a TPM is involved, all bets are off.

For those of you who have been counting, this is the third effort, in the past five years, by Canada to amend the Copyright Act. The previous two each died on their order papers - victims of Parliamentary instability. That is unlikely to happen this time. It appears the government will endeavor to fast-track the bill into law.


In the real world, you have to steal more than $5000 worth to get into real trouble, real trouble being Criminal Code of Canada stuff. And by "steal" I mean actually depriving someone of their real possession such as a car.

The fines for this proposed law, in the "personal category", range up to $5000.

The real kicker, is that circumventing TPMs trump all your other rights, meaning that you essentially have none. Of what value are any of the rights that might be granted under this bill in that case? Total control goes to business.

All this to protect "15000 jobs", according to Tony Clement, Minister of Industry. There are more than 10,000,000 people working in Canada, which is about a third of the population, all of whom are put at risk for the 15000.

Wasn't Nortel laying off 15000 jobs a week at one point? My point being that 15000 is a minuscule number in the big picture.

This strikes me as kowtowing to business interests by providing them with a new business model.

But, I'm wondering if it's already too late for the Conservatives. True, there is no real Opposition, but when everybody (and I do mean everybody) is heavily downloading media from the internet to the point where dedicated appliances to suit the job are selling like hotcakes*, it makes me think that Johnny Canuck is not going to take this lying down.



* There are plenty of examples. Off the top of my head,

Ironically, name-brand appliances, sold by the same companies that are complaining about piracy, contain media players for content that could really only have come from the Internet. Pretty much any Blu-Ray player has an ethernet port on it and TV's are starting to embed media players too. Heck, even the Xbox and Playstation make super media consoles.

If someone uses your services and then does not pay you, what has the person who performed the services lost? Is that stealing?

In other news: The Vatican modernises its geocentric orrery to achieve ever greater celestial harmony. The coprolites representing each heavenly body have been further polished. The mechanism now awaits only a papal blessing prior to the resumption of its successful exploitation by the aerospace industry..
An anonymouse wrote:
If someone uses your services and then does not pay you, what has the person who performed the services lost? Is that stealing?

This actually depends. If "uses your services" means you performed marginal labor on their behalf, for which they didn't pay you despite a prior agreement that they do so, then it's a) morally wrong and b) smells an awful lot like breach of contract.

On the other hand, if there was no prior agreement that they pay, then they owe you nothing. This applies e.g. to guys that squeegee your car windshield and then ask for money -- you may donate money to them but you're under no obligation to pay. Similarly, if you wander past a busker and hear their music (and even if you like it) and they have a tip jar beside them you're not legally or morally obligated to donate, though you may do so anyway.

If no labor was performed to provide you the service, then even more clearly nothing is owed. For example, if you have the GIMP installed on your laptop and you use it to de-redeye a photo you have in some sense consumed a service. However, nobody performed any labor on your behalf. (Though labor was involved in creating the GIMP in the first place, no *additional* labor is performed each time red-eye removal is done, except by the user who's clicking the mouse, and he's the one who reaps the benefit. I use a laptop in this example to dodge the issue of electric generation; this way the red-eye removal consumes stored energy that's already yours, bought and paid for. Otherwise there is labor done on your behalf when you do the red-eye removal, at the power company, who will bill you for it.)

Note that the above clearly attacks, on a moral level, any attempt to push us to a "pay-per-use" software model, sometimes also called "software as a service". It's an attempt to get paid over and over again for one piece of labor done in the past, and thus illegitimate.

(Note: this has to be distinguished from when an actual ongoing service involving actual ongoing labor or resource consumption is provided. People subscribing to WoW get server bandwidth and other things from Blizzard that they have every right to charge for. Any kind of support contract for software likewise involves ongoing service of some sort, like some guys standing by ready to leap to your assistance if you run into a problem. In fact the main way open source makes money seems to be by selling support contracts to the bigger users who use it in more mission-critical ways, such as for work. There is nothing wrong with this, either, so long as you can use the software without a support contract if you choose to, and are not expected to pay for the use of the software itself.)

Of course, downloading and listening to an mp3 also consumes labor and resources only of the uploader and downloader, and where the uploader is not a big record label, no big record label's labor and resources in particular are consumed.

Note that for "consuming a service that nobody labors or has a resource consumed to provide, and not paying anyone" to be wrong would make breathing wrong: oxygen production is a service though human labor and resources are not used to provide it. If it's morally necessary to pay to *use* software or to pay third parties to download mp3s above and beyond the uploader, then it's equally necessary to pay someone (but who?) for the air we breathe, which seems pretty ridiculous.

Unfortunately, in the area of mp3 downloading, the law (in most places) currently diverges from morality by requiring payment to or even permission of a third party.

The Vatican modernises its geocentric orrery to achieve ever greater celestial harmony.

Tell me, is the Earth in this orrery represented by a flat square? Or perhaps a disc?

The coprolites representing each heavenly body ...

My Latin is a little rusty, but that looks suspiciously like it would translate as "the pieces of shit representing each heavenly body". Surely you're joking?


If someone knocks on your door and asks whether you would like your lawn mowed for $25 and you say yes, but then fail to pay this person after completion of the task, then what is the wrong?

Breach of contract. You made a prior agreement to pay, then reneged. Same as if you order $25 worth of food at a restaurant from a menu with a clear price list, then leave without paying.

Okay. That makes sense.

How about if someone uses a cable television signal for which they did not pay, or connected to the power pole without the power company's knowledge?

Cable signal: moral, if you don't degrade the signal quality for others or damage others' property (avoidable e.g. by using an induction coil to sense and copy the signal without breaking an existing cable). Simpler example: decoding a satellite signal you're already in the reception footprint of, or decoding a higher-tier cable channel in your own feed when you have basic cable (and only paid for basic). Cracking "trial" software to keep working after the clock runs out would be another similar case.

Power pole: immoral, even with an induction coil. The juice you suck from that pole has to be generated somewhere at a nonzero cost, so your marginal added consumption results in marginal costs to the power company somewhere.

It's easy to do the math: if your consumption adds to someone else's costs, and more the more you consume, they have a moral right to force payment for usage (e.g. power) or a subscription fee (bandwidth, physically delivered newspapers and magazines). If your consumption adds a fixed cost regardless of its amount, incurred to add your access, then they have a moral right to force a single installation fee to be paid (e.g. broadcast information services). If your consumption adds no cost to them, they have no moral right to force payment (e.g. virally-shared mp3 file; third parties absent from any given transaction).

If something requires ongoing maintenance there's an ongoing cost component. Cable companies are justified requiring recurring fees for cable use (though not usage-based) as not only do cables require maintenance, but each added user adds to the maintenance burden (since there's some per-subscriber cabling and other machinery). Satellite is where they're laughing all the way to the bank: a one-time cost to launch the satellite, and a flat ongoing cost to transmit new content to the satellite for rebroadcast, yet the law allows them to demand monthly charges per user, even though none of their costs scale per-user. An added user is merely decoding a small patch of the signal's footprint that was being absorbed on their land anyway instead of not decoding it; this does not increase anybody's marginal costs except their own. (In practice, the satellite company may be expected to pay more the more users are watching, based on some copyright thing or another, but that's just passing the buck: the copyright holder's costs didn't change. On the other hand, advertisers expect to pay more the more people watch, but they also expect to *get* more, meaning more are vying for higher-rated shows and so there's a higher demand for a fixed supply. Econ 101 predicts, and justifies, a price increase under those conditions. To supply more high-rated advertising time to the market would cost the television industry something.)


Interesting comments.

When the power company takes someone to court for using power for which they did not pay, what is the crime, or was there one?


1) Copyright is an anachronism and in diametric opposition to the nature of information and the need for human beings to exchange it. Hence geocentric vs heliocentric.

2) Copyright is a legislative turd no matter how much you polish or 'modernise' it.

3) Progress occurs in spite of copyright, not because of it - correlation is not causation.

4) That corporations bless copyright does not actually make it viable.

Vandalism and trespass to chattels, I expect (given that in reality they probably physically modified a cable they didn't own). Or something like that.

Crosbie: ???

I agree, but what's with the sudden topic veer?

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