Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Eisner Whether or not Eisner is worth 11% of Disney's profits is between the company and its shareholders. But he treads on dangerous ground in his FT op-ed against "piracy." While Lincoln may have approved of copyright under it's original 14 year duration (with an optional 14 year extension) he would have taken a dimmer view of the current life+70 year monster.

Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." It's pretty clear that retroactive extension and essentially unlimited terms do neither, no matter how loudly the content hoarding industries (Hollywood the RIAA cartel) argue otherwise. In fact, if you're going to get all misty eyed and start basing ideas on what's best for society, it's worth noting you the current copyright regime costs $57 Billion and that's just for CDs.

Finally, as Dave Winer notes, there's also the cost of enforcement. The CBDTPA nee SSSCA would essentially burden the technology industry with the cost of policing unauthorized digital copying. This cost is ruinously high, as content owners well know -- note that no individual has actually been charged with copyright violation, only tools have been attacked via the DMCA. If the cost of policing a law is greater than the harm breaking that law does, then it shouldn't be a law at all.

Fundamentally, Eisner is wrong. Ideas aren't property. Copyright owners are free to persecute unauthorized copyers under exiting laws, and should do so (isntead of outlawing tools). This is not arguing for no copyright, just a lower copyright tax. Copyright, in it's current bloated form, harms society and should not be supported.


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