Remunerating Copying vs. Use

[Updated: 2-14-03 ]

Alex Macgillivray discusses Bennett Lincoff’s compulsory license plan (which I have discussed here.)  Alex argues that we should “base pay on what we do with music: listen, mix, and derive new music” rather than copying.

Basing pay on precisely how something is consumed has some drawbacks, though.  Monitoring use could be seen as an invasion of privacy.  Someone might not want their MP3 player sending statistics back to a server telling it exactly how many times s/he listened to a particular song, for example. 

It’s worth noting Professor Fisher’s plan doesn’t pay out this way (I think); while it’s based on sampling, it still only samples downloads or streams rather than particular uses.  It does not examine how many times you play a given song, even though the pay out for each artistic medium does take into account the typical.use of the medium.  All the sampling is done at the router or ISP or webcaster level.

Later: Alex has a good response here.  He’s right that tracking copying can be just as privacy invasive. (Though I didn’t note it before, it’s also worth pointing out that tracking particular uses would mean more costs for software creators, which would be troublesome  for open source/free software creators.)

Alex’s idea of tracking use made me think once again about how  certain reuses of art would work in Fisher’s proposal.  I know that we would lift copyright law as it stands now.  I assume that includes derivative works. 

But, what if you incorporate a song into a movie?   Or, what if I synced a music album with a movie (a la Dark Side of the Rainbow)?   Those aren’t even really derivative works, since they’re not new versions of the original – they’re using the exact original.  Sounds like that the original artist deserves something for that.  (If they don’t, then Fisher’s system would be pretty easy to get around. You could, for example, take a picture of yourself, include it with the new Britney Spears song, put that that out on P2P services with your own watermark, and claim that you’re the only person who deservers remuneration because you created the picture+song work.)

So, how do you make sure that the watermark is retained in the movie+song work? Would it be difficult to include the song’s watermark along with the movie watermark? Would transactions costs be high enough to make it difficult for people?

321 Studios Creates Piracy Prevention Program

Berkeley’s bIPlog directed me to this announcement by 321 Studios, the company being sued for the DVD Copy Plus and DVD X Copy software programs.  They are offering a reward to anyone who turns in DVD pirates using 321’s software.


I’m pretty conflicted about this.  On the one hand, I like that 321 is taking these good faith actions to convince the MPAA that the software isn’t a danger.  This “Piracy Prevention Program” will hopefully help protect 321 and allow them to keep producing their cool software.  On the other hand, encouraging snitching always seems a little weird.  Moreover, they’re asking people to snoop on 321’s customers.  Just like the MPAA, 321 is treating their customers like potential criminals, who must be watched very carefully.  This does not seem like the optimal direction for the copyfight.

Some Technical Difficulties

I seem to be having some technical difficulties with the site. The Harvard blogs site is still in its more formative stages and still needs a bit of testing. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to play with the features – and by that I mean, touch things I shouldn’t be touching – and by that I mean, break stuff. So hang with me if you’re having trouble accessing anything. Should be fixed soon.

Five minutes later: The one difficulty I was having is fixed, but I’m sure I’ll create some more errors sooner or later.