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May 2020
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Copyright Making Sure That MTV Remains An Irrelevant Relic, Rather Than A Cultural Icon

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For those of us of a certain age, MTV defined culture. It was where we learned about not just music, but wider pop culture. Of course, MTV lost its cultural place atop the mountaintop with the rise of the internet, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't a key source of culture in the 1980s. Historically, the way that society preserves and remembers culture is to share it and spread it around. This is actually how culture is created. Yet copyright is the opposite of that. Copyright is about locking up content and denying the ability to create shared culture around it. And the best evidence of this is the fact that someone (it is not entirely clear who...) with the power to do so, demanded that the Internet Archive take down a bunch of old MTV videos that were uploaded.

From a purely legal standpoint, it seems quite likely that whoever issued the takedown did have a legal leg to stand on. The real question, however, should be whether or not they have a moral or cultural leg to stand on. After all, if the entire point of copyright -- as per the Constitution -- is to encourage "the progress" then how does taking these old clips down do anything to support that goal?There are a number of other points worth mentioning to demonstrate how crazy this whole thing is, starting with the fact that MTV itself knew how important it was to build on cultural touchstones in that its whole logo/image was built off a public domain image from just a few years earlier. The moon landing was in 1969, and MTV launched in 1981. Imagine if this image had been locked up under copyright?
This also demonstrates a separate point we've been making for years, which is that the actual commercial value of a piece of work locked up behind copyright, tends not to be that long, and yet we locked it up for basically a century for no good reason at all. In the earliest copyright times in the US, copyright initially was for 14 years, which could be renewed for another 14 if the copyright holder felt it was worth it. A maximum of 28 years would mean that most of the uploaded clips would now be in the public domain if we had kept those terms. And, as we've pointed out repeatedly, back when copyright was 28 years, renewable for another 28 years, very few works were renewed, suggesting that the vast majority of copyright holders did not see any reason to retain their copyright beyond 28 years (indeed, the numbers suggest many would have been fine with significantly shorter copyright terms):
Yet, today copyright automatically lasts beyond most of our lifetimes. And, for what purpose? Right now, MTV is not particularly culturally relevant. You'd think that someone might jump at the chance to get renewed interest in MTV's past cultural relevance, but the belief that copyright means we must lock up culture seems to prevail over common sense.Taking down these cultural touchstones may have been perfectly legal, but all it's really done is help demonstrate the many, many problems of today's copyright law and how it destroys, rather than enhances, culture.

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posted at: 12:00am on 15-May-2020
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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Richard Burr Steps Down From Intel Committee Following FBI Warrant; Feinstein Talks To FBI, While Loeffler Won't Say

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Following the news that the FBI got a warrant and seized Senator Richard Burr's phone as part of its investigation into his alleged insider trading, Burr has announced that he's stepping down from being the chair of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, where he's long been one of the biggest boosters of the surveillance state.Of course, some are now wondering if that's part of the reason why the Trumpian wing of the GOP have come out against Burr. Because the Senate Intel Committee has released a report confirming that Russia tried to help Trump win in 2016. The report is not particularly surprising, highlighting many widely known points. However, in Trumpland, no one seems to be able to handle the nuanced differences between the campaign directly "colluding" with Russia (for which the evidence is more limited) with the idea that Russia independently sought to boost Trump (for which the evidence is overwhelming). So, Trump supporters have been clamoring for Burr's head on a platter for merely stating facts, which are not allowed in this world where pointing out that The Emperor is Naked is somehow deemed to be heresy.Given Attorney General Barr's recent decisions to more fully weaponize and politicize the Justice Department, it can't be dismissed out of hand that there are political reasons for the FBI's sudden interest in Burr, but it still seems like a stretch. Sooner or later it's likely that there will be some fallout from which one can better assess the validity of the warrant, and whether or not Burr was engaged in insider trading.One point that a few people have raised is to look at whether or not the FBI is looking into any of the other Senators who sold notable chunks of stock just before the pandemic hit, though as we explained in that original story, the situations and fact patterns with each of the other Senators is at least somewhat different than Burr's case. For what it's worth, there are reports that the FBI questioned Senator Dianne Feinstein, who also sold some stock during this period. However, as we pointed out in the original post, there's little indication that her sales were COVID-19 related, especially since it was mostly selling off biotech stocks (exactly the kind of stocks you'd think would go up in a pandemic).The other Senator's selloff behavior that looked at least somewhat sketchy was Senator Kelly Loeffler, whose actions look worse and worse, as she denies things more vociferously. Just recently, she went on Fox News (natch) to claim that "this is 100% a political attack." Huh? What? You're the one who sold the stock. She also (get this) tried to blame socialism because why not?

This gets at the very heart of why I came to Washington, to defend free enterprise, to defend capitalism. This is a socialist attack.
Who knew that insider trading was "free enterprise"?Either way, while Burr has had to hand over his phone and Feinstein had to answer questions from the FBI... Loeffler simply refuses to say whether or not the FBI has reached out to her. If it does turn out that the FBI has investigated the others, but left Loeffler entirely alone (whether or not her sales were aboveboard), that's certainly going to be some evidence to add to the pile that the focus on Burr was just as much political as it was about the legal issues at play.

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posted at: 12:00am on 15-May-2020
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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