ryan is the supernicety wrote:
] Ryan-- The key, as we were discussing last night, is the
] "sweat of the brow" doctrine which was overruled by the US
] Supremes in the most famous database/copyright decision, Feist
] Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, 499 U.S. 340. In
] that case, Plaintiff published a telephone book. Defendant
] copied it. Plaintiff knew he did because they had placed
] false listings in it.
] I don't widely advocate using copyright law to accomplish
] this, but I think that databases probably should be protected
] in some form or another.
I think there is some substance to the sweat of the brow argument, but the devil is in the details.
This proposal has no expiration date. No copyright has expired during my lifetime, and so I see copyright as eternal by matter of fact, but of course there are laws which claim that some copyrights will expire at some time eventually. No matter how unrealistic those laws might be, in this case there would be no such laws at all. In many ways this fits the rules with the reality, but I think this is wrong in both circumstances.
The scope of this law is incredibly unclear. It obviously could apply to search engines which take facts out of your website and reindex them on it's website. It might apply to Google News. It might apply to MemeStreams. It could prevent people from republishing stock quotes and sports scores unless they obtained them first hand. Any kind of software (such as the "Sherlock" program in MacOS) which finds information published on the internet and recontextualizes it might be illegal unless these rights were specifically given up by the publishers (and who does that?). Bioinformatics software which uses the bioperl modules to make applied use of data in the Blast database of genomes would be illegal if the results were republished on a website. If you wanted royalty free access to a genome you'd have to sequence it yourself. Pricewatch/Froogle systems would almost certainly be a thing of the past.
Furthermore, given the course that intellectual property law has taken in recent years I think it is naive to assume that the scope of this will be limited. Even if it is limited at first, it will expand over time.
Clearly this will have the effect of removing information from the public domain or making it more difficult and/or more expensive for the public to access. Industries which take raw data and recombine it at a second or third level would impacted. This is being done because it is believed that it will increase the incentives that information compilers have to compile that information in the first place.
Basically, we're saying that we want more tier one databases and less tier two and tier three applied re-use of that data going on in our society. Is this a desirable social outcome? Are there databases that we would like to see that aren't available right now because no one will compile them due to the fact that others will simply steal the contents? I can't think of a single example.
No, this, much like copyright extension, is a social policy which literally makes our society dumber, that thereby weaker and poorer, for the direct short term financial benefit of a very small number of people. Its a crime.
Now, how about crafting a law which provides a reasonable, clear distinction between "stealing" sweat of the brow data and republishing it in another tier one database, versus using sweat of the brow data to create recontextualized, value add tier two INFORMATION, and which requires royalties of the first activity (selling photocopies of the phonebook) but not the second (Google News), and you might find me supporting it.
But of course, thats not going to happen, because thats not really what these people are interested in.
RE: Wired News: Hands Off! That Fact Is Mine