The Copyright Clause and Me

When I started blogging over on Core last month, I wrestled with the issue of copyright infringement. It’s one thing to cite sources and use quotations, another to use images, in my opinion – even though copyright law allows for so-called “Fair Use”. But what happens when “Fair Use” overlaps commerce? The Core website receives income from advertising on their blogs. And that makes me somewhat uncomfortable. For that reason I made a deliberate decision to use WordPress over Google’s Blogger for this blog because the latter has built-in advertising functions. The grey area was looking more like an 80% cool grey.

Well, it appears this issue will now be taken up by the courts. The Guardian reports that the AFP news organization is suing Google over copyright infringement. Why is that important to reBang? Simple. You only have to visit the CGTalk forum, the Polycount model resources section, or a virtual sim like Second Life to see or read about IP violations of the 3D variety. On CGTalk the issue is often whether or not modelers who recreate and sell vehicle designs violate car company IP. On Polycount people routinely create models of recognizable IP (Simpsons, Star Wars figures, etc). And in Second Life people run virtual storefronts selling virtual clothes branded with recognizable real world logos. If I have issues with images, it’s a safe bet I have an issue with some of this as well. So in the near future when all this virtual stuff can be inexpensively made into real product by casual users through “fabbing” technology (and hasn’t Bruce Sterling been beating that drum pretty loudly lately?), IP ownership will become an increasingly slippery issue. So anything and everything regarding intellectual property is of interest to me; including my own decisions in regards to it. So expect fewer images as I make more deliberate decisions in what to appropriate for this blog.

The Anti-Sony

C|Net is carrying an interesting article on Samsung. I seem to recall Samsung on a design hiring spree around 1997 – forming a partnership with a well-known design firm (whose name escapes me at the moment) and setting up studios to help them develop the kinds of products needed to…well…kick Sony’s ass. Looks like that effort, doubtlessly part of a much larger strategy, has worked.

This success does, however, pose a problem for me. The speculation is that Sony stumbled in part because they were attempting to protect their entertainment division. Even if someone dreamed up an iPod before Apple, when a company owns content, they’re naturally going to be hesitant to develop products which facilitate its theft. Before they got into the media business, they doubtlessly had little concern about the effects their Walkmans or VCR’s would have on the entertainment industry.

The problem now, for content creators, is that a lesson is being learned in corporate boardrooms everywhere; that lesson being: forget protecting content. For designers looking more and more at creating content as options to the declining job market in the West (as it moves to low-cost Asian countries), this does not bode well. And in the long run, it doesn’t bode well for the public who thinks nothing of stealing music and movies. That is unless Westerners are prepared to watch subtitled movies and listen to foreign-language pop songs.

I can just see redneck Bubba, dressed in his Indian-made Western clothes, listening to Filipino singers covering Hank Williams tunes on his Taiwanese radio driving his Japanese truck to his job at the Chinese buffet. Just hope he likes Tsingtao beer.

The World of Legalistic Wordplay

Whether it’s the political speeches or the corporate fine print, there’s one thing becoming increasingly clear: variations in word meanings are turning the planet into another Babel. Witness the latest word out of Russia courtesy of Gizmodo:

Basically the catch is in the definition of “distribution” under that law implies actual physical sale of pirated cassetes and disks, in case of downloads the DA office said that “Allofmp3 does not distribute copies of CD’s, but creates conditions for its users to use the content themselves”, and they don’t have an article against that. I think it’s their online encoding feature that “saved” them – with it, the user supposedly makes a copy of the song himself, and this is not something that was assumed under the anti-piracy law.

And here’s a link to a Russian blog (in English) discussing the case.

Of course much of the West has gone down this path before. But this case is a good reminder to ask ourselves: did we do it correctly? Assuming rapid prototyping becomes affordable and readily available to consumers, will the high-resolution models being created for videogames be ripped and “saved” as toys? It’s certainly possible for me to do this now – and I do not use the game’s 3D model to accomplish this. So what are the laws preventing this activity? Are there “outs”? Do they use terminology that ignores the possibilities of future technologies or methodologies the way this Russian law does and ours once did…. maybe still do? Have to wonder how many loopholes we have yet to find in the U.S. legal system.