Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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IFPI, RIAA, MPAA, DMCA, EUCD, and the future of social computing

What is your opinion of the International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers (IFPI), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)?
What do you think of the copyright legislation they have sponsored, particularly the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD)?

(Please specify what country you live and work in, for informal polling purposes.)

Why I ask: personal rips, script kiddies, and takedown demands

I ask because I got a takedown demand last spring for a directory of MP3 rips from my own CD collection that I used to keep on ringil (my Linux Apache web server, currently a NetBSD system) for my own convenience - I could pull it down to my office PCs or newly-installed home systems at will. There was a big archive called, too, which had more of these. All of these were in an httpd directory that was world-readable.

As is often the case with web directories, the page got autocrawled by web bots that we of the TEUNCedain like to call "guungols" or "gyngyl" (cf. "Google" + "ungol", "yngyl"). Even though I've never submitted a directory to any listing, the guungols get them out of my embedded URLs and sometimes just random crawling ( symlinked from a directory that I'd never even used in an LJ or GJ post before). This generates a lot of traffic. once, c. 2001, script kiddies got to one of these directories and started pulling down huge files. See here for the tale of the day in July, 2004 when O. Sharp's LOTR movie got Slashdotted. I chmod'ed the whole directory, as I've now done with all my MP3 directories.

My personal opinion

For the record, I believe that recording artists, like and others, deserve to be compensated for their work (especially taiji_jian, sui_degeneris, and yodge, who often regale us with their fiddlings and wibblings at no charge). I am both an open-content advocate and a free-market capitalist, so while I agree with some of the principles in Richard M. Stallman's GNU Manifesto, I do not espouse all of the socialist principles therein. I think content should be "free as in speech, but not necessarily free as in beer".

That said, I do think that many of our intellectual property (IP) laws, standards and practices - including copyright - are quickly becoming obsolete. I personally believe that the notion of copyright and the philosophy of IP ownership, as is currently accepted by many nations, has a very limited lifespan remaining to it.

File sharing alone has not directly increased creativity; it has only changed the economic structure of music and video publishing. It has not yet had a truly lasting impact on law, only through stopgap, "loophole-closing" legislation such as the DMCA. It has not affected law enforcement, either, save to accelerate a preexisting trend towards decentralization of knowledge and distributed computing. It has affected public thinking about copyrights, and the public perception of laws and law enforcement.

It is neither illegal file sharing (like many who reserve the term "piracy" to the activities of murderers and robbers on the high seas, Captain Jack Sparrow, and adherents of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) nor open content that will alone overturn the conventions of copyright. I also don't think that shifts in social mores that some might term "erosion" will do it. Rather, the emergence of tools for sharing, integrating, and propagating knowledge will accelerate, via technological singularities, and through application to production and propagation of creative work, will effect social change.

That's a rather vacuous prediction in the abstract, so here is a concrete example. Consider the ways in which rapid propagation of news has been enabled by the internet and by the advent of residential broadband. In particular, consider how streaming video, a convergence of personal computing and search (MSN Start and the Google desktop), and the reemergence of thin clients and the "network computer" have combined to make access to news more convenient and manageable than ever before. The average person is better-informed than his or her ancestors, but not any more diligent, educated, or productive without the tools. In fact, technologies serve to make us lazier even as they make us smarter: information extraction (IE), content-based indexing of media, and portal automation are examples of this. But already we see that assistive technology, particularly in search and natural language technology (from automatic speech recognition to machine translation), has a synergistic effect with other technology-based enhancements to knowledge such as portals and knowledge-based expert systems. The individual's ability to process and manipulate information is at the heart of modern applied computing; hence the emphasis on privacy, security, usability and personalization in CS research. I think that automation, still increasing but not yet at its local peak for our century, is going to catalyze the creative use of assistive technology. This will push the present "do it yourself at home" culture of weblogging and multimedia authoring into the realm of more social computing, making human factors, social networks and collaboration even more important.

What does this all have to do with copyrights and IP? I'll go on record as saying that Robert Frost got it pretty much right on: "something there is that doesn't love a wall".

A little levity

Whew! After talking about serious issues for a while, I always feel the need for a little intellectual refreshment.

Apropos of which, here is "RIAA" (to the tune of "YMCA" by the Village People). I was going to do just this filk ("DMCA" being too obvious), but it turns out that both have been done already. "DMCA" is not nearly as original (and doesn't scan well).

Also, here are legal threats against and its maintainer's ironic responses. Go go Sverige!

Tags: dmca, eucd, futurism, ifpi, mpaa, riaa, social computing, technological singularity

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