Re: Fundamental reform of (C) (Fwd)

From: Mike Holderness <mch[_at_]>
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 96 16:52 BST-1

On 23/09/96 John Lederer <johnl[_at_]> wrote, and I mislaid in the welter of messages:
> On 09/20/96, mch[_at_] (Mike Holderness) said:
> >
> > 2) Clear definition of privileged uses which attract lower
> > charges to be met from taxes -- this to be justified to
> > tax-cutters as the cost to society at large of avoiding the
> > much larger future costs associated with the creation of an
> > "information underclass". The model is the Public Lending
> > Right payments to authors for use of material in public
> > libraries in (e.g.) Germany and the UK.
> >
> > On (2): I have not yet thought of a better definition of a privileged
> > use than use *on the physical premises of* a school, university,
> > health centre, courthouse, or public library.
> With due apologies to my academic friends, I am very concerned with
> proposals that separate out some groups as "the groups that ought be
> able to get copyrighted materials for less" based on existing
> institutional structures.

All "fair use" is doing this, but in a loosely-defined way. I'm moving regretfully towards thinking that we need clear language to define fair use... mostly as a consequence of the *accounting*, rather than legal, implications of the new media.

I'd like to have thought of a clear, non-institutional definition... but I haven't, yet.  

> Though I grant that academics and libraries have the characteristics
> of being concerned with knowledge in a less commercial way and being
> poor (should I say "financially challenged"<g>), I am troubled.
> It seems to me such a proposal cuts against two items:
> 1) The core problem is in the structure and theory of copyright.
> Excusing some groups from the implications of that structure and
> theory lessens the impetus for what is really needed, in my opinion,
> -- basic reform.

This is where we disagree. I think the _fundamental_ structure of Berne -- the concept of authors' rights -- is sound, and it's would-be-monopolistic publishers' trimming which worries me. You'd like a new fundament. But I don't see any good ones on the horizon; Barlow's concept of "performance" is appealing, but worries me because it omits a cash value for the actual work; Dyson's "you pay for _attention_ is fine for software and for the editor of an industry newsletter who can make most of her money on the lecture/consultant circuit, but _hopeless_ for news.  

> 2) The internet, as you noted, creates a broader need for
> dissemination/availability of information, and consequent copyright
> tangles. When I can, for $6 a month put up my own web site, declaiming
> the need for political action to eliminate the wearing of neckties, or
> explicating the meaning of Kiowa spear notches, are libraries and the
> other groups you mentioned really different in their function than I?
> Why should a library be excused from paying high copyright fees on the
> seminal 1906 work on Kiowa spears, but not I, for use on my web site?

Is it still in copyright? <FX: "flubhh" -- sound of red herring hitting the fan>

I visualise a Xanadu-like micropayment system in which, if you _quote_ a substantial portion of the seminal 1906 work on Kiowa spears, a portion of the revenue from your work is passed to its author. You're not paying that author from your pocket: you're sharing revenue from your readers. That includes a portion of your (lo-rent) revenue from the hypothetical "Public Reading Right". Rapid disappearance of logical problem.

Mostly, though, you use fair-use quotes and summarise, and the author of the seminal 1906 work on Kiowa spears gets revenue from those of your readers who choose to follow your citation to read the original.

Mike Holderness

Spitalfields, London, England
(More worried about the need for a halal bagel bakery. Stoplights? Tell your neighbors they'll learn to ignore them :-) Received on Tue Oct 15 1996 - 15:58:38 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Mar 26 2007 - 00:35:22 GMT