3.793 copyright, cont. (64)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 28 Nov 89 23:13:37 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 793. Tuesday, 28 Nov 1989.

Date: Tuesday, 28 November 1989 2005-EST
Subject: Copyright, Useright, etc.

The appearance of R.J.Kost's proposals (via C.J.Grycz)
regarding the inapplicability of current copyright standards
(or at least unenforceability) to electronic publication and
distribution, and Kost's suggestions about a possible solution
(which seem to me unnecessarily complex, including the
pyramidal structure commented on by Lou Burnard), set off
some bells in my flickering remnants of memory. What is
probably the granddaddy of such schemes, and perhaps the
most comprehensively coordinated in concept -- and certainly
more simple in execution than Kost's -- is presented by
Ted Nelson in his book LITERARY MACHINES, which "describes the
legendary and daring PROJECT XANADU, an initiative toward
an instantaneous electronic literature; ... the original
(and perhaps the ultimate) HYPERTEXT SYSTEM" (I have edition
87.1, thanks to the author's generousity; the first edition
appeared in 1981). Chapter two is a "Proposal for a Universal
Electronic Publishing System and Archive," and includes
suggestions for how authors, publishers, reusers, etc. are
to be compensated for their efforts. Here are a couple of
quotes to give you a taste: "We can therefore have a system
of electronic publishing that feeds to your computer screen
exactly what you ask for, as soon as you ask for it; with
royalties divided between the document owners in exact
proportion to how much of their materials are transmitted
or used" (2.7 = 2/42 top). "To bypass some legal problems,
we forsee establishing copyright convention _internal to the
network_ and contractually agreed upon by all participants.
To wit, if you publish a thing through the network, you have
to agree to the same rules as everybody else -- which are
intended to create a fair balance of incentives" (ibid.,
bottom, col.1). "In our planned service, there is a
royalty on every byte transmitted. This is paid
automatically by the user to the owner every time a
fragment is summoned, as part of the proportional use of
byte delivery. Each publishing owner must consent to the
standard royalty -- say, a thousand of a cent per byte --
and each reader contributes those few cents automatically as
he or she reads along, as part of the const of using the
system" (2.7 = 2/43-2/44 bottom). Etc. Nelson has thought
through many of the problems (certainly not all!), and
puts puts it all into a much larger context that still
seems (at least to me) "legendary and daring," although
I wonder what my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren
will think of it (how does Buck Rogers look now? or
Jules Verne?). Anyhow, if the rather "capitalistic"
suggestions by Kost don't grab you, but the subject is
of further interest, you might try reading Nelson's
more "egalitarian" approach. Both of them are addressing
a very real problem that already impacts us all!

Bob Kraft (CCAT)