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Thread: 500 Years of Copyright Law

  1. #1
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    500 Years of Copyright Law

    The following is a reposting of my entry into "The Future of Copyright 2.0 Contest"



    The history of modern copyright can be broken down into three basic periods:

    • Cognitive Era (1710-circa 2020)
    • Existential Era (circa 2020–2097)
    • Metalegal Era (2097–present)


    The beginning of what could be identified as modern copyright law occurred with the enactment of the Statute of Anne in 1710. The Statute of Anne was the first statute to provide for copyright regulated by the government and courts rather than by private parties and royal privilege.

    Since then the law has had to struggle with the problems that arise from the application of a protected copyright monopoly. One of the most common factors to virtually every jurisdiction when it comes to copyright is the idea—expression divide; which divides an idea from the expression or manifestation of that idea, thus limiting the scope of copyright protection. However, this simplicity can be misleading. Some ideas can only be expressed intelligibly in a limited number of ways which would make the expressed idea unprotected or limited to verbatim copying only. For example, a time travel story is expected to contain elements such as the method of traveling to the past, a time traveler, ect. These elements are not protected by copyright. Specific sequences could be protected by copyright such as a story about someone taking this pamphlet back in time for some personal agenda.


    Other terms for the second era of copyright law such as ”Ephemeralization Era” are also used by scholars and there are just as many beginning dates as alternative era names. The ”Existential Era” refers to the popular art form at the time known as ”copypunk”. Copypunk is a hybrid of two other forms of speculative fiction: Cyberpunk and nowpunk. Cyberpunk often used techniques from detective fiction while copypunk would borrow methodology from legal drama. The popularity of copypunk seems to reflect a general realization of progressive nature that copyright protected an artificially scarce good. The availability of copyrighted material as a resource was by any definition unlimited due to technology but hampered by law.


    Most of the Cognitive Era only addressed what could be printed or recorded. The 3D printer made it easy for whole objects to be copied. Attempts to put digital rights management into 3D printers were sooner or later unsuccessful against hardware hackers. There were open sourced 3D printers but many perceived them to be inferior to the commercially patented ones. When the commercial 3D printers were used to make other printers most companies left the marketplace. This left many still infringing the 3D printers with the excuse that the printers became ”abandonware”.

    There are many possible reasons why 3D printing quickly became a copynorm. Some might have copied 3D objects because they perceived no difference between an object or a copyrighted book. The copyrights were often infringed when the ”physibles” were placed under Creative Commons’ ”NoDerivs”. Changing properties, such as color, against the creator’s wishes was a common form of infringement. There are several accounts of individuals comparing the rules preserving the moral rights of a sculpture to Henry Ford’s apocryphal quote, ”People can have the Model T in any color — so long as it’s black.” It’s also possible that many thought of 3D printing as just another way a program is executed. One unsuccessful defense in court tried to argue that the torrent files for 3D printers were recipes which did not have copyright protection.

    Of course, there were many positives. Many who could not afford to buy expensive products could afford the energy and raw materials the 3D printer needed to produce products. By 2050 the fabrication tablet (or ”fab tab”) made it possible for every home to have a recycling center which could break down and reuse material on demand. The ability to print objects inspired innovation and many inventors no longer needed the services of a machine shop to produce parts for prototypes. Many small businesses owed their success in large part to 3D printing.


    The evolution of database software from ”intelligent” to ”self-learning” posed a challenge to both database right and the ”sweat of the brow” doctrine in some jurisdictions. AdD software could easily identify information lacking in a database and could go into cyberspace to find the needed data without human supervision. AdD was capable of autonomously arranging, selecting and presenting the data. If it needed to AdD could create patterns in the database without the user requesting it be done.

    Under the ”sweat of the brow” doctrine an author gains rights through simple diligence during the creation of a work. Originality or creativity was not required or was set at a minimum in these jurisdictions. Since AdD had basic artificial intelligence it could easily mimic the same kind of diligence with basic thought. A person with AdD on their computer could create a ”seed” database and the software could rapidly expand it without any further need of the user. When a large enough database was created the user could print out a hard copy of the output and claim legal copyright without anybody being the wiser that a computer had done the grunt work.


    In November 1996 Personal Computer World magazine described the concept of a ”Soul Catcher” memory chip which could theoretically be implanted behind a person’s eye and record all the thoughts and experiences of their lifetime. At that time it seemed the only limitation to that technology was storage of the vast data that would be accumulated. By the Existential Era the limitation was legal. After accumulating a lifetime of data how do you legally use the data when there was a vast amount of copyrighted material encountered during daily life?

    Copyright only protects material that is fixed in a tangible form. People daydreaming about something they watched or listened to couldn’t be accused of infringing because thought was not tangible, therefore no actual copying occurred. Then along came brain-machine interface technology. Suddenly a memorized favorite song only sung off-key in the shower became a derivative copy.

    In 2011 UC Berkeley scientists decoded brain activity and reconstructed it as digital video clips on a computer screen. This experiment captured the brain signals using an fMRI machine and the computer was able to reconstruct an approximation of what the human eyes saw by analyzing 18 million random video clips from an internet site known as ”YouTube”; each clip being one second in length. This analysis built a database of potential brain activity for each clip.

    Video quality was low at first. As the technology improved and better software was created it became commercially possible to make a ”dreamcam” product. By this time the databases had over 100 million licensed clips but hackers used specialized AdD software to increase the databases to billions of unauthorized clips.

    People using the modified dreamcam were often guilty of copyright infringement twice. First, by recording the dream. Second, by uploading it to a social media site. If any of their friends shared the dream with other users then the friend would be guilty of contributory infringement.

  2. #2
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    After the patent laws protecting naturally occurring DNA sequences became weakened in such jurisdictions as the U. S. there was increasing pressure from the biohacking movement to open source genomic databases. Many companies dealing with genetic engineering put most of their resources into synthetic genomes. As the limits of silicon computing were reached computers began to use biologically derived molecules to perform calculations. As the patents for synthetic genomes fell into the public domain many companies sought to protect their expired patents using copyright law based on a legal philosophy similar to music sampling.

    The genetics companies argued that their synthetic creations were original and creative, therefore any company using their expired patented material had to get a license for the use. This argument had limited success in jurisdictions which gave copyright protection to typeface. When this occurred artiDNA compulsory licenses (referred to in the computing industry as ”ersatz tickets”) were established in law to allow the use of synthetic DNA and to deal with the orphan works of defunct companies.

    Many historians attribute the fad of ternary computer research during this period as a result of legal fear from the genetics industry rather than a cargo cult in the computer industry.


    The most esoteric cases during this era are found in claims of copyright infringement dealing with quantum computers. Early versions of this computer relied on quantum mechanical effects. When the calculations began to be done through entangled particles several rights holders tried to apply to quantum computing the previous generation’s idea that programs could infringe copyright when they are copied into the random access memory. The courts were faced with the physics paradox that an unobserved particle could exist in several places simultaneously but an observed particle collapses into one state thus destroying the ability to run a calculation. How does the law deal with the crime of copying when the crime can’t be observed and preventing engineers from exploiting nature’s copies negates an entire technology?

    One court simply dismissed a case like that without prejudice. Other courts made decisions based only on the copyrighted programming and ignored the execution process of the software. As a result quantum computer software was treated differently than other software. The rule of thumb was that in jurisdictions where computer programs were considered literary works application software had copyright and patent protection while embedded and system software was only protected by patent law.


    The Existential Era came to a boil during what is arguably the greatest hoax in scientific history. On September 2, 2088 a press conference was held by fusion heir A. Dennis Leeman to announce that a SETI program he funded had detected the ”first continuous extraterrestrial signal marking first contact” within the Solar System. Independent triangulation confirmed the claim that the signal came from an orbit around Neptune. Communications with an alien race, it seemed, wouldn’t be limited by light years of delay. The ”Rooks” as the voice referred to themselves in broadcasts were only around four light hours away.

    The skepticism at first was that the broadcasts were only of one voice. Later criticism was based on Leeman’s miserly claims that all radio broadcasts from the”alien ship” were his intellectual property. Any one of Earth’s 11 billion citizens was free to broadcast to the Rooks. Any response, Leeman insisted, was his property.

    The hoax ended on April 5, 2089. If it hadn’t been for a fault in the betavoltaic power supply on Leeman’s orbiting satellite the hoax could have gone on for years. At the time of the failure Leeman had already initiated 32 copyright infringement lawsuits and one patent infringement suit against a group developing a theoretical Woodward drive described in several broadcasts.

    It was later revealed that the ”broadcast voice” was generated by software created by one of Leeman’s employees 8 years earlier. The program was a breakthrough in artificial intelligence but due to a waiver in the employee’s contract she lost all rights to the program and wasn’t able to enter it into the Loebner Prize contest as she planned.

    Criminal charges of perjury were brought against A. Dennis Leeman due to the false claims he made in the copyright applications for the Rook material. Leeman’s defense was that despite the Earth origins the artificial intelligence was programmed to believe it was alien and it’s orbit around Neptune was indeed ”extraterrestrial”. However, Leeman’s claims that he deserved copyright protection of his work to promote further research and development seemed to contradict his ”autonomous computer” defense.

    Leeman was able to negotiate a plea deal in which he plead no contest for a sentence of probation. All the intellectual property from the hoax, including the satellite’s artificial intelligence software, was to immediately enter the public domain. Three weeks after the deal was finalized Leeman disappeared during a holiday trip to Gisborne, New Zealand. To this day Leeman’s disappearance is as much an unsolved case as what the mysterious lights were in the area around the time of his disappearance.


    The Metalegal Era began as a movement which could trace its roots back to the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement. The metalegal movement was mainly orchestrated by the Pirate Parties International to apply a modified version of metalaw philosophy to copyright law. The goal of the movement was to weaken if not void the Berne Convention of 1886 by establishing copynorm as a norm of Jus Cogens.

    Metalaw philosophy was first articulated by attorney Andrew Haley in 1956 as a system of law which could be equally applied to all possible intelligent extraterrestrial species. In the new version of metalaw each sentient mind was treated equally as if each brain was an alien world.


    On October 4, 2097 seven industrialized countries each gave notice of denunciation to Director General M. Anton under Article 35 of the Berne Convention. During the next year a set of values and rules was drafted by the seven countries with supervisory assistance from the Global Commonwealth Tribunal. This drafted set established a fundamental principle of ”peremptory copynorm” that would unify all the member countries. On January 28, 2099 all seven countries ratified the Copynorm Exchange Decentralization Entente (CEDE).

    Almost all the values and rules have withstood legal challenge. The one exception was that CEDE would not originally protect religious works claimed to be from god or gods. Many remembering Leeman felt that whether it’s God or alien all their information given should be public domain. That bias was corrected later. It doesn’t matter if you are a creator or the Creator your rights are just as respected as the consumers of your copyright under CEDE.

    The text is from the pamphlet ”An Abridged Copyright History”. First published in
    the year 2210. The pamphlet promoted the publication of An Unabridged History of
    Copyright Law and looked back at the previous 500 years of copyright as public law.
    Last edited by Holovision; 12-24-2015 at 03:54 AM.

  3. #3

    I am an Objectivist (Ayn Rand), anarchist, economist. Therefore I do not believe in intellectual property, patents, copyright, or National Security. The development of each coincide nicely with inventions of: Printing Press, Capitalism, Corporations, Computers & Internet. Yes I know, people want ways to be protected & profit from their Creativity? *I get that.

    It takes a lot of willpower to invent or produce things. And less to copy someone else's hard work. But on the whole I think the total effects of these institutions on society are negative.

    3D printing's future incarnation:

    What's that going to do to current IP laws?

    In a free society authors & inventors could still be rewarded because people & customers who genuinely care about the author/originator of some works, would reward him & her, and not some impostor or plagiariser.

    It would be possible to trace the origination of some idea or piece of text Perhaps using a Bitcoin Blockchain like timestamp? Why buy a copy from someone else if the original is almost as cheap? And the designer creator knows his product inside & out, and constantly improving upon it?

    Only those who are extraordinarily & wilfully inefficient would lose out. Because everything desired would be so abundant.

    Does Automation Lead to Economic Collapse?

    I think anyone who has the willpower, knowledge, dedication, and resources (or can convince others to finance it) - should be free to copy anything, and be rewarded by the free market if his outputs cost lest than competitors'.
    Last edited by Mr. Empiricist; 12-24-2015 at 06:44 AM. Reason: thumbs up

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Empiricist View Post
    I am an Objectivist (Ayn Rand), anarchist, economist. Therefore I do not believe in intellectual property, patents, copyright, or National Security. The development of each coincide nicely with inventions of: Printing Press, Capitalism, Corporations, Computers & Internet. Yes I know, people want ways to be protected & profit from their Creativity? *I get that.
    I am for copyright reform. In my opinion one of the best friends the anti-copyright philosophy ever had is an idiot named Gordon Roy Parker. Just Google his name to see what I mean.

    In this case I'm not calling him an idiot because he claimed copyright infringement on his own video. That's just one of many reasons. In this case I am calling him an idiot because he made the argument in his video that he's an idiot. He was ranting in his video about how he needs, needs, needs the SOPA law to be passed in order to stay in business. I commented to him that the video had be posted around three years ago; SOPA wasn't passed and he's still hawking his crap and making money. Therefore, I argued, SOPA wasn't ever needed. His only rebuttal was to claim copyright infringement on his own video.

    On second thought I am calling Gordon Roy Parker an idiot in this example for claiming copyright infringement against himself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Empiricist View Post
    It wouldbe possible to trace the origination of some idea or piece of text Perhaps using a Bitcoin Blockchain like timestamp?
    I'm sorry but after thinking about that for awhile I really don't think block chain technology is practical. First, copyright protects unpublished work and the fact that it would have to exist in the block chain means all protected works would need to be published. Also, current block chain technology makes all transactions public but the timestamp would be private so the stamp wouldn't give public notice. Each block is limited in size so a large ebook, for example, would be invalid in the chain.

  6. #6
    All that can be solved with, Innovation! :-)

    First we agree the block-chain is only a means of establishing shared consensus Right?
    It's not really about timestamps, but answers "Which transactions happened first?"
    Second, there are now projects emerging to deal with persistent long-term public data storage.
    BittorrentSync folders

    To Protect Unpublished Works, what you do is :
    1) Encrypt it.
    2) Hash both the cleartext & "ciphertext", using for ex. SHA256.
    3) Publish the encypted file to public locations like IPFS.
    4) On the blockchain: have only a link to the IPFS url and its 2 checksums. Now In the future anyone can prove that you uploaded that file, comparing the outer checksum. But no one can read it yet. Unless & until you Decrypt it. Or you may never publish it: It might be a rough draft; or a private business plan.

    5) Once you "publish" the Decryption Key. Your customers can decrypt it.
    a)and Checksum the inner "cleartext". If it matches it's proof you're the original author, because you released the only decryption key. :-)

    Simple as that.

    This could be built into future eBook readers or "Book Store" apps, to make the purchase & decryption process invisible to customers. Once this technology takes off there will be an emergence of 'BlockChain Copyscape' like services & algorithms to spot people stealing your work. Other problems will be solved in time:;wap2

    Something else to mention if your encryption is a One Time Pad, it's virtually impossible for anyone to crack it:

    The point I'm trying to make: almost anything can be solved with innovation & algorithmic thinking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Empiricist View Post
    The point I'm trying to make: almost anything can be solved with innovation & algorithmic thinking.
    Further discussion of the technology would probably be better in a separate thread.

    While I would agree with you to a point; the "almost anything" are important keywords that make the difference. In hindsight Universal probably regrets taking Sony to court over the VCR because a lot of money was made by selling VHS tapes. Fortunately the VCR was declared legal because of fair use time-shifting; but the decision was close and the conflicted Supreme Court could have easily declared VCRs to be illegal.

    Even with great technology what you're proposing would require a huge rewriting of the law. I support that but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

    It's one thing to invent a breakthrough for a cheap and abundant energy source. An agent of the Los Angeles FBI told me that research into "free energy" is considered economic terrorism. To spare you the long story I'll just state that it was nice that the FBI returned my computers but on Feb. 12 it will be two years since they seized my papers and library card and I'm still trying to get those back.

    Anyway, I feel that the energy industry is nothing compared to Big Copyright. A handful of large oil companies and some mid-sized energy exploration corporations compared to the countless rights holders with music, movies, written works, visual art, ect.? I'm not going to state it's impossible because Gandhi got the British to leave India. I would love to be wrong but sometimes great technology just isn't enough.

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