Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Copyright Ramblings

"The Congress shall have Power... 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"
United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Over the past eighteen months or so, I've made several YouTube videos on the subject of copyright: copyright criminals, copyright bozos, and the death of fair use.

My position has shifted slightly over this time, from just trying to explain the law, and why it's wrong to simply re-post somebody else's creative work and then claim "fair use" to focusing on the abuse by copyright owners that threaten our common culture. I've shifted from trying to correct the pseudo-libertarian viewpoint that "information wants to be free" to a growing anger at the attacks on fair use.

Certainly, I support copyright. While it's not a major part of my income by any stretch, I do get book royalties monthly and would be upset if somebody else started selling my books. But on the other hand, when I get a call asking if a certain example in the book may be used in a larger collection, I'm honored to allow that.

The constitution put in the power to make laws regarding copyright and patents to encourage "science and the useful arts" not just to make authors and inventors rich, but to enrich the public commons. These protections were for the creators, not their publishers, and only to be for a limited time before ownership would pass to all humanity.

That Warner Bros still owns (and jealously protects) the Happy Birthday Song nearly 100 years after the author's death (and really, all she did was adapt an existing folk song), to me, signals the death of the public commons. That the State of Oregon would prosecute public interest web sites that post the law is simply beyond absurd.

Yes, I still get pissed off at the teenagers who post an episode of The Simpsons and then claim it's fair use. But they just don't know any better. They can be educated, and controlled. The entire concept of fair use should not be discredited and discarded because of their stupidity.

But when high paid corporate lawyers, who do know exactly what their doing, try to reshape the law in way that goes against both common accepted use and the long-term public interest, I get angry.

Here's a couple of good links for you:
And here are a few of my videos on the subject from November of 2006 to now:

For more blog postings about copyright, click here.

(and thanks to B.K. for inspiring yet another blog post)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The VP Guessing Game

Now that the presidential nomination process is all over but the dropping of the balloons, all arm-chair prognosticators are turning their attention to the "veepstakes." Who will Obama and McCain pick as running mates?

Before we begin, I want to make one thing clear: I don't believe that this is "the most important choice" either of them will ever make. The VP nomination may make the difference for a handful of voters, but you have to go back to 1960, and LBJ helping JFK carry Texas, to find an election where the choice of VP put a candidate over the top. And even Dan Quayle couldn't sink Bush I's presidential bid. But let's play veepstakes anyway...

Of the rumored leading contenders for the Democratic ticket, I'll venture a guess that Jim Webb, the junior Senator from Virginia, is a strong possibility, and would make a good VP choice. He has what Obama is accused of lacking, military experience. He's a Vietnam vet and former Assistant Secretary of Defense. And, of course, he'd help in Virginia, where Obama will almost certainly lose otherwise. He'd be a reassuring presence on the ticket for those Democratic voters who are concerned about "too much change."

Okay, it wouldn't right to address this topic without saying something about Hillary. I don't think she'd be a good VP choice, but she wouldn't sink the ticket. The amount of extra votes she'd bring to the ticket are probably balanced by the number of votes she'd scare away from the ticket. And, as VP, her husband presents some problems. The Second Spouse should not be the most visible person in any administration. But you've heard all this before...

So, on to the Republican ticket. Here's where I break from the crowd. My suggestion for McCain is one that I'm surprised to not find anybody else suggesting: Christine Todd Whitman. She's the former governor of New Jersey who went on to be Bush II's head of the EPA. She quit that job "to spend more time with her family" (translation: she thought the administration, and VP Cheney in particular, were pushing too hard to reduce regulations on air pollution emissions). While she's remained active in Republican politics, she's also been vocal about criticizing the current administration's divisive political tactics.

As a more moderate Republican (and woman, obviously), she could help pull in some of the Hillary supporters who are unsure of Obama, and show that McCain hasn't become a total tool of the right. Also, New Jersey is a state that often threatens to go Republican, but usually ends up Democratic; Whitman could make the difference there.

Okay, you heard it hear first. If Whitman gets the VP nod, I want credit for suggesting it. On Jim Webb, I'm just one of the pack, I know.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Universal Health Care

Here's my second political collaboration video with my conservative friend, PappyStu. The topic today is Universal Health Care, and whether or not the U.S. needs some form of reform to provide health care for all.

As with my previous collaboration with PappyStu, the point of these videos isn't to reach consensus; it's just to begin a civil conversation on issues that are important in our national life.

I'm the guy on the left, politically speaking.

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