Comments on: this is so depressing Blog, news, books Tue, 10 Oct 2017 06:01:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jim Carlile Thu, 16 Nov 2006 08:57:17 +0000 This might be a naive question, but why are ALL the European recordings blocked on the archive site? Does U.S. copyright law– and the retroactive extensions– apply to works that weren’t even registered or published here in the first place years ago?

I’m sure that many of them never were, or were never re-registered way back when, especially before 1964.

And here’s another thing. Why is my sitting here in California and accessing a web site in Europe any different than me flying there and accessing it locally? I’m not ‘buying’ the material from here. Why is one source of acquisition infringement, and the other not?

By: kay withers Fri, 03 Nov 2006 07:53:16 +0000 The ippr report mentioned above and all papers relating to the year long research project are available to download for free at

This includes a great paper by Rufus Pollock on the economic value of the public domain, something we also attempt to tackle in chapter 2 of the final report.

Please read it and let us know your comments if you have the opportunity.

By: lessig Thu, 02 Nov 2006 17:47:36 +0000 kloot, I don’t get your point. Andy noted the anti-extenders didn’t introduce evidence of the economic value of the public domain, nor the value of sampling. So what? I don’t doubt that’s true. I also don’t doubt the reporting of what the other people said. That has nothing to do with the howler about the £143m. No doubt, these errors are not his — in the sense that he asserted them; they are just errors he’s reporting. But my point was about the balance in the presentation. Imbalance (regardless of how good either side is) produces exactly these sort of errors. AndyO was reporting them.

By: Kloot Thu, 02 Nov 2006 15:34:18 +0000 Professor, your feud with Andrew is beginning to look like a persecution complex.

I read the news article you refer to. Unlike you, Professor, I read to the end. He very clearly laments the absence of economic evidence for the public domain, and public domain benefits of shorter terms, such as sampling.

You owe him an apology – if your ego allows it.

By: Evan Thu, 02 Nov 2006 07:20:03 +0000 Ah. Thank you, Professor Lessig. That had been bugging me for a while–it’s great to have an answer.

By: lessig Thu, 02 Nov 2006 04:56:43 +0000 Re ex post facto: That clause was interpreted early on to apply to criminal laws only.

And Sharon: yes, that’s the way to email me.

By: Janet Hawtin Thu, 02 Nov 2006 00:32:59 +0000 You will also recognise a lot of the characters in theme parks and movies from traditional stories, Brothers Grimm etc. Defended as IP by their current squatters.

By: Sharpsight Wed, 01 Nov 2006 23:38:28 +0000 Parasite
(sense 2) (pejorative) a useless person who always relies on other people’s work and gives nothing back.

1. Protection of an artist’s or author’s rights, including the right to receiving income derived from their work(s), for their lifetime.

2. Should the creator of a work have no immediate family who are dependents on his or her income (e.g. young children or an elderly spouse), then copyright should expire upon their death, with the work becoming public domain.

3. Should the creator of a work die and leave behind immediate family who are *entirely or almost entirely dependent* on the creator’s income, and not capable of beginning to generate their own income (i.e. get a job), then copyright should be extended beyond the creator’s death for a fair and reasonable period (e.g. until any dependent children turn 21, or in the case of say, an author’s elderly widow, or mentally retarded child for the remainder of her/his life).

4. If the creators of works see fit to sell or otherwise transfer their rights to all or part of the income deriving from their work to another party (e.g. to a publishing house, other person or company), the exclusive right of the other party (or their legal successors) to receive income deriving from the work should continue until either (a) the creator of the work dies, leaving no dependents (as in point 2); or (b) the creator’s dependent children come of age, or any elderly or incapacitated dependent dies (as in point 3).

Greedy, parasitic, culturally sterile companies should no longer be allowed to feast exclusively on the creativity of the long-dead, and stifle derivative works. Assuming we haven’t destroyed the planet, in 300 years’ time will there be huge corporations which produce nothing new, simply living off copyrights preserved from the 20th Century? The way things are going in the USA & elsewhere this may not be as silly as it sounds.

I took children to a theme park recently, and found that I knew all the cartoon characters (which were old even when I was a child). Sylvester, Bugs Bunny, etc. Many of these characters are more than half a century old: where was the new stuff, I wondered? I was expecting a generation gap and found none: it has been filled with a congealed mass of legal and creative constipation.

“Consume our plastic product”
Bugs Bunny seemed to say
“Have a happy jolly time,
just like yesterday.”

And yesterday it was the same
and same tomorrow too.
Don’t check out that indie stuff
as *we’re* not selling it to you.

Our marketing is simple,
our marketing is clean,
not confused by creativity:
just buy from our Machine.

Hmm.. sound a bit like the fast food, pharmaceutical, & other industries too…?

By: Evan Wed, 01 Nov 2006 22:17:26 +0000 Yes, that’s the kind of argument that I’m talking about. As for the possibility that copyright law “could be considered not to apply to people, but to publishers and their works,” how could that change anything? Is there something in the definition of “ex post facto” that somehow limits it to when rights are taken away? If someone commits a crime, then the law they violated is rescinded (ie, the privilege is granted to them), they can still be charged, can’t they? What about people who are in jail after being sentenced under stricter laws–do they get their sentence commuted?

Even if it is true that ex post facto laws are only considered to be those that take away rights, the wording of the copyright clause seems, at least to me, to imply that there is some sort of trade-off with longer copyright terms, or at least the people who wrote the Constitution thought so.

By: Crosbie Fitch Wed, 01 Nov 2006 21:30:42 +0000 1) Click on the ‘contact’ option at the top of this site.
2) (In some browsers) the e-mail is obtained by clicking on the highlighted text ‘Lawrence Lessig’.
3) The e-mail is

NB e-mail addresses are spam-protected on this site.

By: Sharon Holt Wed, 01 Nov 2006 21:09:11 +0000 Hi again
I commented over a week ago asking a question about who owns the copyright to comments on my blog – me or the commenter – in regard to a book I might write collating the comments (my blog is a word game). You replied that I should email you. Perhaps I’m a bit too blonde but I still can’t figure out any way of emailing you. I tried via the Law School but haven’t had a reply so I’m not sure if you received that and have just been busy or whether it didn’t get to you. So, I wonder if you can give me an idea how to email you. Sorry if it’s obvious to others! Thanks again.

By: Crosbie Fitch Wed, 01 Nov 2006 20:41:30 +0000 Sorry Evan, I thought you meant constitutional revisionism rather than the copyright term.

Extending the copyright term could be considered not to apply to people, but to publishers and their works – and to extend a privilege to be positive by definition.

I don’t think many would listen to an argument (I’d be happy to have) that an infringer of a 51 year old publication had their liberty strained ex post facto.

I did once suggest creating a PledgeBank proposition that signatories would promise to fileshare copies of John Lennon’s Imagine when its copyright term is due to expire in 2021… OR immediately as a protest should the copyright term be extended.

It had been published in 1971, incentivised by the fact it wouldn’t truly become the people’s intellectual property until 2021.

To renege on the deal is a grievous theft from the people.

It’s also a temporal aberration to propose that in 1971 Lennon included his expectation of term extension in his incentivised decision to publish and hence we must play our part in living up to his expectations.

Au contraire. I think you’ll find his expectations are quite at odds with this notion given his lyrics:

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

By: Khalid Yaqub Wed, 01 Nov 2006 20:21:35 +0000 The full IPPR report can be downloaded for free from this BBC page.

By: Evan Wed, 01 Nov 2006 20:11:21 +0000 Crosbie Fitch, assuming that was directed at me…

I’m not talking about the copyright clause (“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;”), I’m talking about the clause in article 1, section 9 which states that “No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”

To me (and IANAL), it seems like retroactively extending copyright terms would be an ex post facto law, regardless of whether or not there is some sort of quid pro quo.

By: Crosbie Fitch Wed, 01 Nov 2006 19:45:17 +0000 Constitution said ‘limited’, did not specify limit.

* * *

If copyright was a contract then it should apply at the time of publication.

For retrospective term extension (as opposed to just on new publications) there should be a quid pro quo. In exchange for extending the monopoly, what precisely is the public receiving in exchange? It was expecting unfettered access to the works upon the completion of their delivery into the public domain. If the works are valuable, then perhaps the publisher should be paying the public for denying them enjoyment of this value?

Ask the publishers how much the extension is worth to them in revenue terms. Then ask them how much of that is from export. The extension is logically worth a payment to the public purse of all but export revenue and say 50% of the export tax.

Somehow, I think the publishers are expecting a free handout. You can tax their continued revenue, you can’t tax the value of the public domain.

If the government is demonstrating that it is not acting in the people’s interest, it can only be up to the people to rectify this.

I will not accept the enslavement of my fellow man, nor any imposition upon his liberty, as reward for the publication of my art.

By: Evan Wed, 01 Nov 2006 18:23:05 +0000 This is slightly off-topic (US law, not UK), and probably a stupid question, but could someone please explain to me why copyright term extensions aren’t considered to be in violation of the ex post facto clause of the US Constitution? I’ve been wondering for years, but don’t recall anyone even mentioning the idea.

By: Lessig Wed, 01 Nov 2006 18:05:14 +0000 Re the Berne Convention: They might argue that, but they would be wrong. See, e.g., US copyright law which places all sorts of formalities on US copyright holders. So too could the British proposal be limited.

By: lucychili Wed, 01 Nov 2006 17:01:36 +0000 Thanks for the url fix cf.

By: Barbara Wed, 01 Nov 2006 14:48:45 +0000 I’m sitting here in California and just downloaded Verdi from your link given above to

By: Anon Wed, 01 Nov 2006 13:50:58 +0000 Don Foster’s idea is great, but its not going to go anywhere. Opponents to his idea will simply pull out the Berne convention trump card which they’ll say forbids such formalities.

By: anonymous Wed, 01 Nov 2006 12:31:27 +0000 Orlowski is an idiot. Why would you even link to the guy?

By: Crosbie Fitch Wed, 01 Nov 2006 11:04:31 +0000 Don’t put punctuation after URLs…

Unfortunately, they weren’t designed for use in plaintext.

By: lucychili Wed, 01 Nov 2006 10:02:35 +0000 I was asked to explain FOSS and DMCA in 30 seconds, because if I couldnt explain it quickly then I didnt have something to say.
Its simpler to say something about FOSS because you can get some sort of concept to chew on in 30 seconds. For me its the right to participate.

But DMCA/copyright can only give you starting positions in 30 seconds. imho. It gives you room for table tennis and not much more. It again boils down to the right to participate for me,
but the response is the right to own and that gets us a pictue of the problem but no traction on negotiating change.

Yes the terms are becoming longer, and the ranges of exemptions are chipped away with each iteration or step each nation takes.
Peter Drahos describes it as a ratchet system.

Meanwhile at the internet governance forum

By: Crosbie Fitch Wed, 01 Nov 2006 06:59:09 +0000 IP maximalists will ignore all unsympathetic speech, let alone propositions.

So, speak in their language:
- Accede to their terms for greater protections.
- Grant them unlimited term.


- Require the public’s liberation by default.
- Require registration for protection and monopoly.
- Require fees for each extension.

I discuss this on my blog here: Good Copyright, Bad Copyright.