Feeds

Supremes back Disney and pigopolists vs science and culture

Dead men back the Mouse™ 7-2

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

In a decision marked by much internal dissent - bordering on outright cattiness - the United States' Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold the decision to give copyright holders a 20 year rights extension.

It doesn't quite merit up there as a crime alongside book-burning, but it does isolate the public from a vast body of literature, art and information we could otherwise freely enjoy and appears to point the intellectual thermostat in the United States to "permafrost". The original copyright law provided works of the "sciences and useful arts" with a protection for 14 years. Congress "may" extend this protection if a justification to the arts could be proved.

The Supremes ruling yesterday confirmed that Congress can and damn well should extend it as long as it sees fit. The challenge to the Sonny Bono Copyright Act - the most recent in a succession of extensions to US copyright legislation which brings the term up to 70 years - was brought by an Internet book publisher, Eric Eldred of Eldrich Press, who challenged the right of Congress to extend the legislation willy-nilly.

But why is this so surprising?

A partisan high court composed of Judges that could readily discard lifelong convictions when the time came to install a President (as they did in December 2000, in arguing that halting the Florida ballot recount would be unnecessary interference in States' rights) would surely lose little sleep over defending "property owners". While the decision robs Internet users of the works of F.Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, and Sherwood Anderson, not to mention America's greatest composers - Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong and George Gershwin - it preserved the Disney Corporations claim to the market the Mouse™.

And while the heavens wept, the Judges fought it out.

As dissenting Judges Breyer and Stevens drew on history, a sneery majority opinion from Judge Ginsberg (check the footnotes) declaimed "wishful thinking". Somehow, you get the impression that the battle lines had been drawn from the start, and reason had little part to play in the final decision.

The decision is a defeat for Stanford's Lawrence Lessig, who had devoted much of his time (which could have otherwise been profitably spent defending pigopolists such as Disney) to the case, while he mobilized a brilliant popular campaign against the ludicrous Bono act.

"If there is any good that might come from my loss, let it be the anger and passion that now gets to swell against the unchecked power that the Supreme Court has said Congress has," wrote Lessig, in his online journal.

"When the Free Software Foundation, Intel, Phillis Schlafly, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Kenneth Arrow, Brewster Kahle, and hundreds of creators and innovators all stand on one side saying, 'this makes no sense,' then it makes no sense. Let that be enough to move people to do something about it. Our courts will not."

Much less quoted on the boards tonight was Lessig's conclusion:

"What the Framers of our constitution did is not enough. We must do more."

Indeed. The constitution may be a thing of great beauty - but it hasn't saved America from becoming a tyranny.

A place that votes to preserve Mickey Mouse instead of Gershwin, Fitzgerald and Satchmo - three artists to take to any planet - clearly isn't looking after its own. The cause needs to reclaim the word "property" from the ludicrous formulation "intellectual property", and it needs to assert a common culture over corporate wisdom.

Coming up soon before the Supremes is an even more significant case that could reshape America for the benefit of Americans, only the odds are stacked heavily against it succeeding. This cause doesn't have Flash animations or Slashdot, or the blogosphere on its side. In fact, the forces mobilized against this range from Microsoft to the New York Times and the TV networks.

The Supremes will soon vote on whether corporations - like your friendly Disney - ought to enjoy the same free speech rights as you or I. In other words, can these artificial creations - which have few responsibilities - deny the common will by claiming First Amendment privileges?

This underfunded and forlorn challenge seeks only to put American business inline with the responsibilities of businesses everywhere else in the world, but a victory could allow - if only we take the opportunity - to assert the power we (remember, the people?) have by right. A right we have tended to forget to use.

The details are here, in a beautifully written piece by Thom Hartmann that will serve as America's epitaph if sit on our hands, and don't assert what Lessig did. Which is but a simple thing: we are bigger than they are. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.