EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow died last month, and though his death had been long coming, it's left a hole in the hearts of the people who loved him and whom he inspired.
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Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "Third year Harvard Law School student Kendra Albert did a very nice job on her powerful opinion piece in the Harvard Law Record, the student-run newspaper." Read the rest
The major US writers' group, the Authors Guild, claims to represent all writers when it sues over library book-scanning and other fair uses; a new group, the Authors Alliance, has been launched by leading copyright expert Pam Samuelson to represent the authors who like fair use, users' rights, and who reject censorship and surveillance. I'm a proud founding member, along with Jonathan Lethem, Katie Hafner and Kevin Kelly. Read the rest
Few people are as qualified to write a book about the copyright wars as William Patry: former copyright counsel to the US House of Reps, advisor the Register of Copyrights, Senior Copyright Counsel for Google, and author of the seven-volume Patry on Copyright, widely held to be the single most authoritative work on US copyright ever written.
And Patry has written a very fine book indeed: Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars is every bit as authoritative as Patry on Copyright (although much, much shorter) and is absolutely accessible to a lay audience.
There are many legal scholars who've written about the copyright wars, from Pam Samuelson to Larry Lessig to Jonathan Zittrain to James Boyle, and in this exalted company, Patry's Moral Panics stands out for the sheer, unadorned calm of his approach. Patry doesn't have a lot of rhetorical flourish or prose fireworks. Instead, he tells the story of copyright in plain, thoughtful words, with much rigor and grace. Reading Moral Panics is like watching a master brick layer gracefully and effortlessly build a solid wall: no wasted motion, no sweat, no missteps. Patry knows this subject better than anyone and can really explain it.
As the title implies, Patry places the copyright wars amid other moral panics -- think of witch-hunts (both the "Communist" and the old-fashioned "witch") -- and he devotes much of the book to the sociology of moral panic, the views of the Greeks on language and metaphor, and the weaponizing of language (and the especial use which the terms "theft" and "piracy" have in this regard) and the ways that historical figures like Jack Valenti used this rhetoric to shift the debate. Read the rest
Students for Free Culture has organized a grassroots conference for, and about free culture, technology, copyright, remixing, and free software. Because most students have a fall break, we've booked it for Columbus Day weekend (October 11th and 12th) at Berkeley, University of California. We're launching the conference's site today and opening registration.
We'll have keynotes by Lawrence Lessig, Pam Samuelson, and John Lilly of Mozilla.
Day 1 will be public panels and presentations in conjunction with the keynotes, and Day 2 will be workshops, team building, and learning about effective activism.
We're doing a pay-what-you-feel system reminiscent of the one made famous by Radiohead and Girl Talk, but with one extra twist: ours also shows publicly what the average amount paid is, and right now it is around $27.
Finally, we have raised money in order to fly students in active chapters out to Berkeley for the conference, so if you’re interested in attending and have registered your chapter with Students for Free Culture, please book your flights now and visit our Travel page for more information.
Take a look at the schedule, or register now.
Thanks and see you in a month!
Free Culture Conference 2008
(Thanks, Fred!) Read the rest
Pam Samuelson, one of the world's foremost copyright scholars, is podcasting the lectures from her UC Berkeley Information Law and Policy course. Samuelson was one of the first people to criticize the DMCA, serves on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and has the respect of people from all sides of the copyright debate. I've learned something every time I've spoken to Pam. There's an RSS feed for the audio, too.
See also: Proposal to reboot and de-cruft US Copyright Law Read the rest
Pam Samuelson is one of the most important copyright scholars in the world, someone respected by players on all sides of the debate, and she has just published a paper modestly entitled "Preliminary Thoughts on Copyright Reform." "Preliminary Thoughts" is a brisk and readable 16-page paper that traces the origin of the present, 200+ page copyright frankenstatute, a law that has been amended 20 times since it was codified in 1976, so that it can barely be understood by experts, let alone by laypeople. However, laypeople are ever-more under its jurisdiction, since practically everything we do on the Internet involves making copies.
So Pam wants to revisit copyright, redraft it from the start, refactoring it like a Wikipedia article that has grown too large and weird to be properly understood. This is a capital idea, and her very concrete suggestions set out both a plan of attack and a set of principles that would make copyright safe for the age of the Internet.
By focusing on these core elements of copyright, I do not mean to suggest that
nothing but these elements should be in a model copyright law or principles document.
Yet perhaps anything else nominated for inclusion in the model law or principles should
have to be accompanied by a justification as to why it needs to be there, and why it
should not be achieved through common law evolution of copyright law by judges or
delegated to an administrative rule-making process.102
A model copyright law should also be written in plain English so ordinary people,
and not just the high priests of copyright, can understand what it means and the normative
reason that it should be part and parcel of the basic statutory framework.103 A model
copyright law should also articulate the purposes that it seeks to achieve and offer some
guidance about how competing interests should be balanced, perhaps through a series of
comments on the model law or principles.104
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