September 17th, 2006

teddyborg, geeky

The WIPO Broadcasting Treaty and LJ: Why I wasn't worried at first, but am now.

Here's a link that's been going around: Should LJ have copyright-like rights over your fanfics?

First: I don't believe that LJ would ever choose to exercise the limitations on original content contained in the proposed new WIPO Broadcasting Treaty. However, the proposed new WIPO Broadcasting Treaty is a very real problem. The Electronic Frontier Foundation doesn't like it. Intel doesn't like it. I don't like it. Note that these lists of stuff have concerns I had before reading the EFF commentary, and concerns I had after reading the EFF commentary.

Why I'm not worried about LJ:
  • Reading EFF: this is about sound and images. The vast majority of the stuff on LJ is text.

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  • Reading EFF: This seems to be primarily aimed at video media, from the language at the EFF commentary. I'd be worried about places like YouTube before LJ. But if they come for our video and no one speaks up...

  • Bottom line: I trust LJ.

Why I am worried about more than fic and things other than LJ:
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  • Reading EFF: This is aimed at "sound and images" -- video. The Intel position is that it would severely restrict private use of media, even private use that is allowable under copyright law. I join them in not liking that.

  • Reading EFF: This would affect vidders heavily.

  • Quoted from EFF: Proponents say they need this treaty to prevent "signal piracy." But the treaty goes well beyond that by creating rights to control "fixations" of broadcasts that only apply after you've received and recorded a signal. EFF and an international coalition of NGOs support a real treaty against signal piracy. We've drafted a treaty that does just that, but treaty proponents have refused to adopt it.

  • Reading EFF: This would potentially restrict people's ability to skip commercials on pre-recorded broadcasts. I think that's the kicker right there. I think that's one of the major driving forces behind this. The market of commercial media is being shaken up by people refusing to watch the commercials that pay for it. Commercials operate by being annoying enough to stick in your head even if you're halfway across the house getting a drink during the commercial break. If you don't even hear or see them as background noise, all that money's up in smoke for them. And it looks like they're reacting by attempting to crack down, not attempting to re-evaluate the market and adapt to fit it. (If I were them, I'd go for more product placement, and putting watermarks on the corner of the screen like the channel does. And switch to wacky commercials distributed on the internet, with prizes for the most creative remix of the commercial. But that's just me. And is it just me who would like to see on every major advertiser's website a section on what ads they are running right now, both video clips and print? I would have loved to get my hands on an official copy of that HP ad that ran in selected bits of Europe, the one with the very happy bride wearing frosting. )

  • In general: In LJ's TOS, it says that it has the right, but not the obligation, to crack down on any violations of copyright. Notice that language. That language is important. If that language ever disappears, and you're in any way dubious about the copyright status of anything you have posted, run. I don't expect it to disappear, because LJ does not want to have to devote staff to being Copyright Police. They have their hands full enough with "Hey, es* is using my materials without permission and I said "No!" and es said "Make me!" so MAKE ES QUIT IT!!!!" They don't want to go looking for wank. (That's fandom_wank's job, and they do it well enough for anyone.) LJ's statement on copyright.

  • Bottom line: I don't trust other sites like I trust LJ. I don't trust mass broadcasting companies. I don't trust the mass-media coalition as far as an emaciated actress could shove my muscular plump self. This proposed little bit of legislation needs to stop, not because it'll give LJ rights it doesn't want, but because it gives mass media rights it doesn't deserve.

What You Can Do:
  • Sign the EFF electronic petition.

  • Poke your lawmakers. The US has been rather the loudest at the World Intellectual Property Organization on this front; it's time that they started listening to the actual US. Other countries that are a part of WIPO may be able to address their lawmakers too.

  • Spread awareness.

  • Correct misconceptions. I was very dismissive of this at first, because the angle I saw going around, without reading the context, was "LJ could have rights to my fanfic!" Because of the IRC channels I hang out in, I tend to take that statement with a chunk of halite the size of my fist, especially when I see an actual Six Apart employee saying that he does not want our fanfic, with the subtext of "Really, please keep the vast majority of your fanfic; have I introduced you to Mr. Cut Tag lately?" However, "The media special interests do not want you recording your favorite show so you can skip the commercials and plan to enact laws so you aren't allowed to, and legislate controls on technology so you can't" is far more accurate, and far more of a problem.

* German gender-neutral pronoun, used in favor of "they" or "it".
Edited to correct some details.
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