I am an enthusiastic member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. People like Lawrence Lessig and Dan Gilmore seem to share my point of view about the current dysfunction of copyright law in the US and I highly recommend adding them to your news aggregator. But, occasionally my views on this subject are reinforced by personal experience.
Last August I published an entry in my TUUN blog titled Human or Robot. I reference an article I saw in Popular Science magazine and linked to a PDF I created so readers could peruse the original source document. A little more than three months later I received an email message from the author of the article, Dan Ferber. Here is a copy of my reply to Dan’s message:
From: Dan Ferber
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 4:41 PM
To: John K. Davis
Subject: my Pop Sci article
* I see that you have placed a pdf file of my Popular Science
* article "The Man Who Mistook His Girlfriend for a Robot" on
* your web site.
Hi, Dan! It is a great article.
* I wanted to make sure that you have secured proper permission
* from Popular Science. Have you?
No Dan, I did not get permission from Popular Science. I did retain their identification information including links back to the site.
The Transhumanist Unitarian Universalist Network (TUUN) weblog is a personal website where I promote transhumanism within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). I am creating a TUUN church-affiliated organization at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego and plan to create a UUA affiliated TUUN organization at the denomination's General Assembly this coming June. Both are not-for-profit endeavors.
* If you haven't, and you are selling it, you could be sued for
* stealing copyrighted material. Just wanted to let you know.
Thanks for the warning, Dan. But not to worry; I am not selling it and have no intention of doing so. I would love to get more people to read it though--it describes a fascinating example of how we are blending technology and our humanity. It is a bit hidden now in the archives, but if you do not mind my publishing this communication at the TUUN blog, I will link back to the original post and a number of visitors might investigate.
* I'll be forwarding your URL and screen capture with my article
* listed to AOL Time Warner staff to make sure all the i's are
* dotted and T's are crossed.
Good idea, Dan. It is always best to give the suits a chance to quell their fears.
I'll be looking for additional contributions you might make that will further the dialogue at TUUN.
This communication highlights just how broken copyright law has become. Fair use in the age of the Internet is just one of the issues that have made the current system obsolete. Even more important is the damage copyrights and patents are doing to innovation--the system is not only obsolete, but it is holding us back.
Many of us are just barreling ahead, doing what seems right to us in an environment where the rules are nonsensical and any attempt to enforce them usually backfires on the plaintiff.
If I hear from the "suits" at AOL Time Warner you can bet that my experience will be fodder for many new posts, probably here or at the TUUN blog.