Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Thu, 01 Nov 2001 01:52:55 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Sam Steingold <>
| Let me repeat: copyright laws restrict the an individual's freedom to,
| e.g., xerox a whole book.  Is not clear why the society can do that.

  No, copyright law does not restrict that.  It restricts what the owner
  can require that you not do with the work you have a copy of.  (It also
  provides som useful defaults for what you cannot do.)  This is a somewhat
  subtle difference, but contract prevails over law when the law delineates
  what kinds of contracts the courts should uphold.  Surprisingly, members
  of the Berne Convention all agree to this, even if their legal systems
  vary considerably.

  If you do not give the book to anyone, but, say, use it instead of the
  original because you do not want to wear out the original, you are within
  your rights, even if this can be construed as an instance of your silly
  argument abaout monetary losses.  Private use and fair use are still very
  important in U.S. copyright law.  These are the areas primarily under
  attack, because they force the publisher to accept certain restrictions
  on what they can require in the contracat entered with the purchaser of a
  copy of a work.

| When A takes a jacket from B, we do have a conflict - two people cannot
| use the same jacket at the same time, so we do establish the "property
| laws" and we say that if a jacket "belongs" to B, then A cannot take it
| from B.

  This is a wonderful red herring, and amazingly powerful in its ability
  confuse people who do not understand the normal _property_ rights, either.
  I tried to forestall against this silliness by having the stolen car in
  my example returned before the owner needed it, but lo and behold! that
  did not register with those who want to use any bogus example to fight a
  copyright law that does not exist.

  What is most interesting about this stupid example is that it is the
  _thief's_ view of property, not the owner's view.  The "argument" is
  actually saying "If you won't notice that I have stolen it, why do you
  care that I did?".  Most criminal minds believe that it is not illegal if
  they simply avoid getting caught -- it is OK if they get away with it.
  Most owners have a significantly different take on this issue, and that
  extends to "intangible goods".

| When A xeroxes a book written by B, there is no obvious conflict (see my
| first message in the thread with the DOS example).

  I _thorougly_ debunked your DOS example, but you just repeat it, without
  any attempt to defend it.  Such arrogance is typical of the ignorant who
  do not even understand that they have been presented a counter-argument,
  but if you discuss copyright issues, you better know what you talk about.

  The obvious conflict is that the _owner_ of the book's contents did make
  a condition on what you could do with it which you _agreed_ to when you
  bought the book (or got it from someone who did -- I do presume that you
  did not steal if from someone you thought would not miss it), and now you
  go ahead and act in violation of that agreement (presuming you go ahead
  and give away or worse, sell, the copy to someone else).  The owner gave
  you no _right_ to do this.  _That_ is the conflict.  That conflict is
  completely unchanged whether you can get away with it or not, whether you
  can make a copy without stealing the original or not, etc.

  Yours is political propaganda against copyright issues you fail to grasp
  in the misguided assumption that other peole who also do not understand
  copyright issues will believe your version of them, is it not?  Well, the
  law does not work that way even if it works wonders to confuse people.
  Ignorance of the law is no excuse.  Just because a bunch of people agree
  to a really stupid interpretation that no expert in the field agrees to
  and which the final authority on legal issues, the courts, will laugh at,
  does not mean that the world is helped by such stupid propaganda.

  You keep making a number of statements that are _trivially_ factually
  wrong and you are so sloppy with your terminology that it is impossible
  to know what you will come back and claim you meant when your sloppiness
  is taken seriously (because we have no other choice) and corrected, yet
  still think you have any useful credibility in this issue.  I have no
  idea _what_ you have so strong opinions about, but it is definitely _not_
  the copyright laws of _any_ of the Berne Convention member states.  Now,
  go do your homework, damnit!  Legal issues are not a child's game.  The
  law is not some open source document you can go in and alter if you find
  a "bug" in it.

| Nevertheless, we establish the copyright laws to encourage authors.  IMO,
| these laws has been much abused by the corporate copyright holders - to
| the detriment of the authors and the public alike.

  Understand them first, then come back with your opinion about them.

| [All this is based on the premise that the Source of the law is the
|  People -- thus the laws reflect what people think and might change
|  accordingly if the public opinion changes.

  Some countries have constitutions that _fortunately_ limit the power of
  the "people" to make changes.

|  There are other legal systems around, but you appear to subscribe to
|  this view, so I adopt it for the sake of this discussion.]

  I have not given you reason to believe I subscribe in any particular
  organization of society or legal systems.  The fact that I accept the
  prevailing laws as just that has the very simple reason that acting on
  doing otherwise is the very hallmark of a criminal.  People who break the
  law in the hope that whatever they did will sometime be legal are only
  stupid, _not_ clever social reformers.  If _you_ cannot work to change a
  law while you respect its prevailing interpretation, do not expect anyone
  who "disagrees" with you to respect your much improved (I'm sure) law
  while _they_ work to change it back, or to something else.

  If you want to know, I consider the "people" to be utterly _inept_ at
  formulating laws -- they can barely be trusted to follow it and you have
  no way to know whether the "people" who vote for a change are criminals
  or law-abiding citizens.  The best the voting "people" can do is hope to
  be able to choose from a few competent people who _are_ able to formulate
  reasonbly good laws.  For this to work well, you need a constitution that
  limits the ineptitude of politicians, too.  The law must above all be
  _stable_ because a law that is changed by the "people" to fit whatever
  they believe in from election to election offers no more protection than
  the complete absence of law.  People, being generally concerned more with
  lining their own pockets than ensuring that everybody can prosper equally,
  offer a negative force in practical politics, because transcending the
  "interests" of self-serving special interest groups is the only _really_
  hard part in being a politician.

| >   today's intellectual property laws protect the small creators against
| >   the big ones
| I don't think this is true now.

  I know that you are seriously confused about what copyright law today is
  all about, so your conclusions have no credibility or merit whatsoever.
  I do not claim to fully understand this issue, which is why I point to
  some sources that I are _way_ more authoritative than some GNU freak with
  a vested interest in confusing people.  I do, however, know very well
  what copyright is _not_, and most of the silliness that its attackers
  think it is, is unfortunately _completely_ bogus.
| I don't think that a corporation should be able to become a copyright
| holder.  I don't think that the copyright term should be unlimited, as it
| (effectively) is now.

  I don't think you should post more on this before you have read Paul
  Goldstein's excellent book, International Copyright, and come back when
  you have seen his very good exposition of the _principles_ of copyright
  that are honored in spirit yet vary in the letter of their laws by all of
  the countries who have joined the Berne Convention.  It is really a very
  good book.  If you cannot be bothered to read such an important book,
  please shut up about copyright issues.  This is too important to leave to
  opinionated ignorants with a political agenda and especially those who
  see these things only from the criminal's point of view.  "I want, so I
  take" is simply a version of "might is right", which is what some of you
  are fighting _against_ when it comes to "big business".  It is no more
  acceptable on a small scale than on a large scale.

  Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's
  Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate.
  Carrying a Swiss Army pocket knife in Oslo, Norway, is a criminal offense.