3.725 copyright meditations (188)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Thu, 9 Nov 89 19:11:20 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 725. Thursday, 9 Nov 1989.

(1) Date: Wed, 8 Nov 89 19:19:23 EST (28 lines)
From: amsler@flash.bellcore.com (Robert A Amsler)
Subject: A way to view machine-readable text under copyright

(2) Date: 08 Nov 89 21:51:20 EST (83 lines)
From: James O'Donnell <JODONNEL@PENNSAS>
Subject: Copyright

(3) Date: Wed, 8 Nov 89 22:08:32 EST (14 lines)
Subject: Re: 3.717 copyright; diary editing; collation software (77)

(4) Date: 9 November 89, 14:51:35 SET (16 lines)
From: Marc Eisinger +33 (1) 40 01 51 20 EISINGER at FRIBM11

(5) Date: 9 November 89, 14:56:25 SET (16 lines)
From: Marc Eisinger +33 (1) 40 01 51 20 EISINGER at FRIBM11

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 8 Nov 89 19:19:23 EST
From: amsler@flash.bellcore.com (Robert A Amsler)
Subject: A way to view machine-readable text under copyright

I am curious whether it wouldn't make a great deal of sense to
consider machine-readable text a `translation' of another work for
the purposes of copyright. This would immediately establish the
copyrightability of any machine-readable version of a work not in
copyright (and I might add, create considerable economic incentive
for the production of classic works in machine-readable form).

In part, the basis for this sort of copyright interpretation would be
a declaration that while an original work consists of letters of the
alphabet arranged in some order---a machine-readable text consists of
bits; hence there was creative effort in determining how to convert
the characters and their placement in a printed work into those bits.
While the original work does provide a guide to what should be done;
there is no one interpretation of how to encode everything in the
original book--hence the creative effort needed to encode it becomes
the reason for the restoration of copyright in the electronic medium.

In this regard, it would seem no different than allowing for sound
recordings of the reading of Shakespeare or video recordings of the
performance of a play being copyrightable even if the original play
is in the public domain.

Any opinion?

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------88----
Date: 08 Nov 89 21:51:20 EST
From: James O'Donnell <JODONNEL@PENNSAS>
Subject: Copyright

From: Jim O'Donnell, Classics, Penn

In principle, I stand with Bar-Ilan University's attempt to maintain its
intellectual property, but I think the contribution of Mark Olsen raises
a far-reaching question. To address it, I need to recount a little
family history. Apologies if this seems wordy, but the issues are
important. In the sixth century, St. Columba founded the island
monastery of Iona because he had been expelled from Ireland in penance
for starting a war over a book. What he had done was to make a copy of
a Latin Psalter with his own hand; the owner of the original complained
and referred the matter to the local kinglet, who ruled `As the calf
belongs to the owner of the cow, so the copy belongs to
the owner of the book' -- in short, he declared a primitive form of
copyright. (Columba won the battle, kept the book, and the O'Donnell
family carried it into battle as a good-luck charm throughout the middle
ages, and did just fine, thank you. In the sixteenth century one Manus
O'Donnell gave the book into safekeeping, and it's been all downhill for
the family from there, starting with the battle of Kinsale in 1601 and
ending in the likes of me. The book itself, as it happens, may still be
inspected in the library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.) What
makes copyright possible? As in the case of Columba, copyright can be
exercised when the mechanism of copying is labor- or capital-intensive,
thus subject to constraint from outside, and when the artefact that
results is bulky and easily identified. Real copyright as we know it
came into play only with printed books, because of the intensification
of both of those factors. Printers had large shops with heavy equipment
very vulnerable to constraint, restraint, and distraint; and a thousand
copies of a book take up quite a bit of space, travel about freely,
retaining the evidence of their origin. The development of book
technology from the fifteenth century to the present has essentially
preserved those circumstances with mild changes. Now, for example, it
is the mechanism of distribution and sale that is bulky and easy to
trace. I submit that computers change things utterly. Computers are
not mere Xerox machines, for a Xerox machine produces a copy that is
inferior to the original in several ways. A computer, on the other
hand, makes a copy that is every bit as good, in every way, as the
original computer file being copied: the 1's and 0's are identical.
Further, the computer can make the copy silently, swiftly, and in many
cases without the owner of the original copy even knowing that a copy is
being made. Further, the resulting artefact is virtually invisible, can
be transferred from place to place instantaneously. Copies can be
multiplied at will; and copies are extremely easy to disguise (filenames
can be altered, a valuable stolen file could have a few KB of bogus data
prefixed to discourage any browser from finding it; a file with
distinctive markups of one sort or another can be altered mechanically
to change those markups). For these reasons, I think that the technical
features of book production that made traditional copyright possible
have been altered beyond recognition, and that nothing like traditional
copyright will have much life in computer world. Already we have seen
that copy-protection of software, for example, meets strong consumer
resistance; and I am not aware that any reasonably inexpensive
copy-protection exists that is unbreakable. This is in many ways a
catastrophe. The economics of the production and dissemination of
knowledge depends on the proprietary interest of the producer and his
ability to recover his costs through sale: it is because of copyright
that writers no longer require the patronage of a wealthy lord. Take
away that guarantee that a successful product will pay your for your
trouble: what incentive do we have any longer for producing? More to
the point, who will pay us? If there is hope for traditional copyright
in computer world, it arises out of that economic desperation. Where
the power of despair is concerned, I am theologically skeptical.
Shareware is too attractive; if Bar-Ilan protects their database,
somebody else will just create an almost-as-good one and give it away.
All this illustrates a rule that we all know and usually ignore: the
introduction of a new technology in the production and dissemination of
knowledge usually changes the world in ways that practitioners of the
old can never imagine, and usually for the benefit of groups of people
who were not themselves practitioners of the old, or at least not
specially privileged or successful practitioners of the old. I feel
comfortable saying this on a network housed in Toronto, where Innis,
McLuhan, Havelock, Stock, and others have pursued the history of such
moments in intellectual history. I sympathize with Bar-Ilan and others
who try to protect their property; and for the record, I obey license
agreements, register my software, and even once erased a disk on which a
friend had given me WordStar to use and ordered a copy of my own for
$210. But I think I'm a dinosaur, and the climate has been really weird
lately and I've begun to notice there aren't so many dinosaurs around
any more.
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------22----
Date: Wed, 8 Nov 89 22:08:32 EST
Subject: Re: 3.717 copyright; diary editing; collation software (77)

on copyright:
I'm not sure that the writer understood the situation. Bar-Ilan claims
that they paid thousands of dollars to have the material keyed in and
then some- one else got access to the files and is now distributing them
commercially. While the facts of this case are disputed between atm and
Bar-Ilan and I think it must be sorted out in court or by arbitration
and not by innuendo, I certainly think that whatever the text, if
someone has invested in having it put into electronic form that they
have rights to that particular form of the text. If I typeset a new
Bible, no-one has the right to photo- offset that book and sell it under
copyright. Am I wrong on that?
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------25----
Date: 9 November 89, 14:51:35 SET
From: Marc Eisinger +33 (1) 40 01 51 20 EISINGER at FRIBM11

Subject : e-Bible and Copyright

Of course the Bible is not copyrighted but an e-text can be
owned by someone.
As far as I am concerned, it took me 10 years to "keypunch"
a large book and I wouldn't like someone to steal my work in
10 minutes. Am I wrong ?
And even if the Bible text is not copyrighted, to steal a Bible
in a library is not legal.

Marc Eisinger
IBM France
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------25----
Date: 9 November 89, 14:56:25 SET
From: Marc Eisinger +33 (1) 40 01 51 20 EISINGER at FRIBM11

Subject : Transborder file transfer

As far as I know, transborder file transfer is not always restricted but
the data received may be unauthorized. For example, in France, you may
not record personnal data on someone without a legal authorisation and
therefore "importing" personnal data may be illegal. Furthermore, to my
knowledge, some european countries restrict data transfer to specific
areas (business for example).
Marc Eisinger
IBM France