January 17, 2013

Borrowing from theoretical physics, we now have “Quantum Copyright”

Filed under: Books, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:22

At Techdirt, Tim Cushing explores the legal phase changes that introduce heretofore unknown states of copyright:

Eric Hellman tackles the ambiguous nature of copyright infringement, especially as it pertains to the “region-free” aspects of the internet, in a post amusingly titled, “Heisenberg’s Uncertain Copyright.” (via The Digital Reader)

Hellman turns his attention to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and using his skills in the area of “Quantum Copyright” (a term he threw into his LinkedIn profile for a bit of fun), determines that the question of whether or not copyright infringement has occurred might depend on where the copying occurred, something that is even harder to define when the copying takes place via the internet.

[. . .]

While Hellman exaggerates the repercussions of making a hypothetical copy (the highest statutory claims would apply only to willful infringement [which this could be, especially when infringing in order to prove a hypothesis] and the jail time only applies to criminal infringement — which this almost certainly would not be), the fact remains that one deterrent of infringement is the underlying threat of legal action (whether civil or criminal). No doubt F. Scott Fitzgerald’s estate is in no hurry to give up the American rights (and the attendant enforcement of those rights), seeing as The Great Gatsby earned its author all of $8,400 during his lifetime — but generates $500,000 per year for his daughter. This secondhand largesse enjoyed by many heirs is one of the motivators behind the ever-extending copyright lengths here in this country.

[. . .]

Certainly, copyright-centered entities like the MPAA would prefer to simply have our copyright laws exported to other countries with less stringent laws, especially any sections that extend the length of copyright protection and weaken fair use/fair dealing exceptions. Getting other nations to sync up with our copyright lengths would certainly eliminate these hypothetical discussions, along with many items in the public domain. Many aspects of current copyright laws were written years ago, long before the internet made “country of origin” a meaningless term and reproductions as simple as a right-click on a mouse. What it usually boils down to, after all the discussion, is this:

    You could also be a cynic and say the only thing that matters is where the judge is sitting.

Much like fair use is often determined by a courtroom appearance, the “quantum” aspects of copyright are largely theoretical — right up to the point that someone finds themselves at the other end of an infringement lawsuit.

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