My latest Guardian column is "Internet copyright law has to have public support if it's going to work," and it goes into the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism, and tries to understand why so many people got upset at Glee's legal ripoff of a Jonathan Coulton song:
Copyright experts were quick to explain that Fox's plagiarism was legal – the same rules that allowed Coulton to record his cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's original "Baby Got Back" also allow Fox to produce a sound-alike version. But it's shoddy, because it is, at heart, a lie.
(Coulton got his own back on Fox: he rereleased his own "Baby Got Back" and billed it as a cover of the Glee version, with proceeds to charity – it climbed the iTunes chart while the Fox version was clobbered by angry Coulton fans who gave it one-star reviews)
Why does Fox's sin stick in the internet's craw? I think it's because Fox hasn't just wronged Coulton: they've wronged the public. We have been misled about the origin of a product we're being asked to purchase.
This is different from, say, a fake designer handbag that's offered as a cheap knockoff, where there's no intent to fool the purchaser, who understands that a 99% discount on a Vuitton bag means that it's really a "Vuitton" bag.
This kind of plagiarism is more like selling horsemeat labelled as beef burgers. Horsemeat can be perfectly harmless, and many people happily eat it, but when you buy beef burgers, you expect that you're getting what you paid for.
Internet copyright law has to have public support if it's going to work
This is a pretty amazing vacancy: “You will lead Consumer Reports in our effort to realize a market where consumer safety is protected through strong encryption; consumers’ rights to test, repair, and modify their devices are supported by copyright, security, and consumer protection laws; and consumers are empowered to make informed choices about IoT products […]
Gus the hacker puppeteer writes, “Many of us hoped the Internet would disrupt the music industry along with all other media industries, giving more power — and more pay — to musicians and songwriters. And yet, somehow the amount musicians get paid each time their songs stream is a tiny fraction of a cent.”
The trademark was granted to discount eyewear company Specsavers, whose slogan is “should’ve gone to Specsavers.” If you object, you have until October 12 to file with the IPO.
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