Monday, July 23, 2001

Framing the copyright debate I just returned from the DMCA protest in New York City, where people were raising awareness over Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov incarceration for talking about security flaws in Adobe's proprietary eBooks format. Although it's terrible that the FBI arrested Sklyarov, it has helped bring a human face to a topic most people find opaque and boring -- no one cares about some bizarre legislation they can't understand and seems to be against piracy.

Part of the copyright battle is being lost in debate terminology. "Intellectual property," "piracy," "theft," are all "ideas as property" based terms that play into the hands of Recording Companies and other publishers who see their livlihood threatened by cheap, ubiquitous distribution. To win the public debate, those on the side of open distribution need to reframe the issue by introducing new terminology that substitutes "ideas" for "intellectual propert," "sharing" for "piracy," and "access," for "theft." The Dmitry case needs to be about "an individual sharing ideas about access," not "a pirate helping others steal intellectual property." This does not mean doing away with all copyright laws or saying that piracy is OK, but it should help shift the conversation back to notions of fair use, public domain, and the intellectual commons.

Also, some tips on organzing a protest (learned from the NYC event):
- LIST-SERVs are great organizers.
- Settle on the time and date early. It makes advertising the event easier.
- Organizers should bring their own signs and flyers for protestors to use.
- Tables and banners make the event look more photogenic. Giving newspaper photographers photo-ops is helpful.


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