Thursday, September 29, 2005

On Copyright, Royalties, and The New Economy

I will string out my wonderfully cogent and insightful gerrymandering piece, alternating it with postings of misc interesting items.

One note, though... may I ask you please feel free to mention even misspellings in comments! This is one reason I post drafts! Tweaking before publication in other places. CITOKATE, right?

=On Copyright and Google=

Google Takes On Copyright Laws -- (Wired -- September 19, 2005)  With Google's book-scanning program set to resume in earnest this fall, copyright laws that long preceded the internet look to be headed for a digital-age test. The outcome could determine how easy it will be for people with internet access to benefit from knowledge that's now mostly locked up -- in books sitting on dusty library shelves, many of them out of print.

I am less worried than some, about mass availability of literature. iTunes shows that I was right in The Transparent Society. Decent people will pay what seems fair.

Still, my personal bugaboo is works of copyrighted material that are kept SECRET by the copyright holders. This is not what patent and copyright law were for! They were set up as bribes to lure creative people into the open! Judges who supported Scientology, for example, in prosecuting people who shared Church of Scientology documents, were simply clueless. Those data thieves needed to be fined to compensate the CoS for the real damage in LOST ROYALTY INCOME that those pirated versions took away from normal sales. (Hint: normal sales were zero, because of secrecy. But that is none of the law’s business.)

But this does not piss me off as much as the deliberate imprisonment by MOVIE STUDIOS of something like 10,000 screenplays! Every year studios commission these as works-for-hire or buy rights outright. Fine The writer gets good money. But then the soul-killing thing happens. Only a few scripts get filmed. The others? (And other DRAFTS?) These get sealed away in armored rooms, never to see light again. If the writer so much as circulates a few private copies? Whammo!

More than 10,000 works of art (many awful, of course, but some possibly gems) have been locked away this way. A crime against literature! I favor a law, allowing screen writers to at least post their scripts AS STORIES.

Who knows? Maybe groundswell opinion would even convince studios they have untapped wealth and a few might even be filmed.

One thing, I would love to be able to post-compare three Postman scripts. Eric Roth’s original horrid, nasty evil piece of doggy doo... vs Brian Helgeland’s filmed version, which was pretty good in places, though uneven and faltering in the end (probably not his fault)... vs one that I wrote, that has been seen by only a dozen people on Earth. Sigh. I bet mine would win any blind taste test.

= The New Economy=

New-EgalitarianismIn a new article, PPI’s Rob Atkinson writes that its time for a new approach to addressing growing income inequality. The chapter appears in a new volume The New Egalitarianism edited by Anthony Giddens and Patrick Diamond (Polity Press, June 2005).

Atkinson writes that while the New Economy has brought renewed growth and dynamism, it has also brought a disturbing increase in economic inequality. Compared to the prior war mass production economy that provided a comparatively egalitarian labor market in which there was robust growth, widely shared, today the U.S., and a number of other advanced economies, enjoy growth, unevenly shared.

Where tens of millions of poor and working families, even ones without much education, were propelled into the ranks of the middle class in the old economy, today we are creating relatively few middle class jobs. Where President John Kennedy could confidently proclaim, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’, today a rising tide lifts the yachts much higher than the dinghies. Where a confident welfare state ‘leaned into the wind’ of the remaining income inequality with tax, spending and regulatory policies, today’s conservative policies make existing inequalities worse.

If we are to develop a third way on income inequality it will have to be based in the recognition that the New Economy has brought about fundamental new realities that can’t be ignored or reversed. It will require new kinds of pro-competition, pro-innovation policies that foster both greater growth and egalitarianism. But it will also require embracing policies such as more progressive taxation, better skills training efforts, and labor law rules that level the playing field for workers engaging in collective bargaining.

In short, we need an agenda that takes both growth and progressiveness seriously. View the article on the PPI website.

=See this op-ed by Peggy Noonan  It fits right in with what we've been saying about how Katrina illustrates the “war” between citizens and their paid protectors. Yes, it isn’t as good as if your favorite author had a better soapbox...

=The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released the results of a national study of election practices. Created in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, the commission is charged with improving how elections are run.

= Charged with Murder, Connected to Abramoff Two of three men charged with the mob style hit of a businessman a few months after he sold a fleet of casino boats to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff were ordered held without bond Wednesday.

=The Republican Money Machine: The Hammer Falls  It isn't just Tom DeLay. The vast corrupt money machine that funded the Republican Revolution is exploding before our eyes.

=Solar Minimum Explodes -- (NASA -- September 19, 2005)  On Sept. 7th, a huge sunspot rounded the sun's eastern limb. As soon as it appeared, it exploded, producing one of the brightest x-ray solar flares of the Space Age. In the days that followed, the growing spot exploded eight more times. Each powerful "X-flare" caused a shortwave radio blackout on Earth and pumped new energy into a radiation storm around our planet. The blasts hurled magnetic clouds toward Earth, and when they hit, on Sept 10th and 11th, ruby-red auroras were seen as far south as Arizona.
Dang! I guess they were right about Global Warming... ;-)

And finally...As for my web site I get a lot of overtures offering to make it “updated” or more similar to everything else out there that follows collective wisdom. Simplicity rules! Go with simple and large graphics! Lots of open space and big type! Be easy on the eye! To which I reply Bah! (sorry ;-) I WANT to be different. I want it clear that this is a place that is SUPER content-rich! You could have a 27” screen and still the menus only begin. I want the range of fun to be clear to the eye, even if you have to squint! This is a place for serious, not casual visitors.


Rob Perkins said...


You can have content wealth without homepage spew. It's possible, but it takes... a well-trained web designer.

I am Not That Designer. HTML makes me think of Perl, and I hate Perl quite a lot for the mess it can make. But consider that you might be hampering access to interested parties because your site is hard to get through.

Peggy Noonan arises from time to time as my Heroine in print. She never overdoes conservatism. More of her. Less of Ann Coulter. And please, please, someone like her from the Democrats. (Hint: Maureen Dowd is not what I mean.)

iTunes needs to lower some prices to $0.49, for songs which are not that popular, unless it can be shown that the artists are being paid most of that money, IMO. And, naturally, the stuff I'm *really* interested in still isn't available on iTunes. (I go in for some pretty obscure stuff, that used to be popular in Europe in the late '80's. If you've heard of Rondo Veneziano and have a source for them, do let me know.)

Re movie studios sequestering unproduced scripts... I thought the WGA had clauses that left rights to republishing scripts firmly in the hands of writers. J. Michael Straczinski, who wrote most of the scripts for his TV series, Babylon 5, for example, is releasing them in print form this year, and for a pretty good price, because he has those rights.

Is the picture different for scripts written for the feature film industry?

The Democrats out-raised the Republicans for the '04 cycle, didn't they? With more money raised from very wealthy donors than the Republicans could manage, whose bulk came from medium and small businesses?

(It's what I heard, and thought I'd verified from source data. I'm very pleased to be wrong about it. If you can prove it.)

I don't have many positive things to say about campaign finance, which absolutely didn't get fixed before '04 (and IMO made the problem worse, with the 527's and so forth), but one of the things I *do* have to say is that while reprehensible, the only thing that made them more effective than the Dems was a unified organization the Dems didn't appear to have.

I think they have something like it, now. Say what you will about Terry McCauliffe, he *did* get them organized.

Author said...

"I want the range of fun to be clear to the eye, even if you have to squint! This is a place for serious, not casual visitors."

I'm a 50 year old diabetic with slowly "softening" vision. I recently elected to start university for a bachelor's degree (so I can better keep up with, and one day contribute to, "egg head" dialogue about vital issues). I continue to work part-time while experimenting with the undergrad system for 9 course hours in my first-ever semester. I rob from my schedule for school, work and health (sleep, diet, exercise, etc.) to visit my handful of blogs, etc., every other day or so.

I'm serious, not casual. Keep me in mind next time you make design decisions that obscure your message and information as a "challenge" to the sincerity of your audience. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


On the increasing divide between rich and poor, I cannot recommend highly enough the book Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips. A former economist for the Nixon administration, he has changed his tune and now makes a very effective case that large concentrations of wealth are in fact poisonous to the ideals of democracy and freedom. When I talk to others, and I tell them of the books that shaped my political philosophy, I name two books: Wealth and Democracy, and The Transparent Society.

Anonymous said...


Income inequality helps to foster the destruction of the middle class - that's why you should care about it. The problem is, once you reach a certain level of wealth, there's not much else to do with that wealth but gather more around yourself - usually by stripping it from others, via whatever means you can pay for.

The book I mentioned earlier (Wealth and Democracy) does an excellent job of describing why and how this happens, and what (Usually collapse, followed by revolution) comes next.

David Brin said...

Rik: a growing middle class almost defines the "diamond shaped society", tho it is also healthiest when:
ALL boats rise,
when today's poor are richer than past kings,
when the rich only get privileges bigger and sooner, not differences in KIND
when greater wealth/power is accompanied by greater accountability
when being born into a portion of the diamond only has a small influence over which part you occupy thirty years later.

Patriot-X, I never meant to insult you. But I really do need to show the full range of ideas on my entry page. As my eyes fade with age, I buy bigger monitors... (two is better!)... and there are 2X tricks in some programs.

But maybe I should have an "Easy Viewing" Optional entry page, hmmm? Anyone care to design that for me? Something that would distill the RANGE of topic/interest areas for people at a glance? I could offer that option pretty easily.

Thanks Thane. I'll look up Phillips.

Anonymous said...

To those complaining about the size of text -- please note that any browser will allow you to increase/decrease the text size easily. View->TextSize

Anonymous said...

@ Rob Perkins

The Democrats out-raised the Republicans for the '04 cycle, didn't they? With more money raised from very wealthy donors than the Republicans could manage, whose bulk came from medium and small businesses?

The biggest story last election was the growth of small donors. Largely through the Internet. That's what powered Howard Dean's campaign. And then it converted over to the actual election, too. This is analysis of the funding from after the conventions. Let me quote a bit.

"Aside from the sheer volume of cash, the big story of 2004 was the growth in small (under $200) contributions. The candidates raised $205 million in small amounts in 2003-04, more than four times as much as the $50 million that their predecessors of 2000 had raised in small gifts.


# Democrats’ under-$200 contributions rose from $11 million to $127 million, or from 17% to 36% of all of their contributions from individuals.
# Republican candidates’ small donations as whole went up less, from $43 million to $78 million, or from 28% to 31%. However, President Bush’s small donations went up from $15 million to $78 million, or 16% of his total contributions from individuals in 2000 to 31% in 2004."

Kerry did slightly out-fundraise Bush, I think, but he had to spend some of that on the primaries, and didn't spend quite a bit of it that well. (Seriously. Democrats? NEVER hire Bob Shrum to run a campaign again. He's lost the last what, six that he's been the campaign manager for.)

Most of the money for both parties comes from wealthy donors and big businesses. That's the way it's been for years, and the Republicans have actually had leads on that for a while. Probably because their policies are "business-friendly" while the Democrats used to get money because they were the ones in power. And most wealthy people and big companies are going to bribe both sides, to make sure whoever's in charge knows who their friends are. And who they owe their job to.

I'm sure there's after-election statistics of exactly how much both parties and candidates got from where, but most of the ones I found weren't easy to glance over.

And for the days of Napster. Not so much because it was free, though that was part of it, but because you could find ANYTHING on it. None of the record label sanctioned networks have everything and the file-sharing networks have been broken up and scattered so there's no one place to go find everything.

Dr. Brin, it's not just movie scripts. How many actual movies do the studios have lying around in their vaults that they don't think it's worth converting to DVD? Just old celluloid, breaking down. And there's thousands, maybe millions of books, artwork, poetry, and so on, that are "orphaned". The company that held the copyrights went out of business and nobody's sure who owns it now. More expensive to track down the actual owners than could be made reprinting it. (sometimes)

All this stuff just rotting, and nobody's allowed to preserve it, remix it, rewrite it, or so on, for eternity in increments of two years. All to protect Mickey Mouse.

Rob Perkins said...


I think the basic layout of your home page is more like a "site map" page than a home page.

What I might suggest doesn't really change the layout of the page. Rather, make use of a technology like "cascading style sheets" and offer a large-print version of the page to those who want it. That would mean using specific fonts instead of the graphics picture buttons for the menu entries.

Another approach is to bring the page to life a little bit by collapsing those menus on the left and using a bit of trickery to display submenus with the topics when a user goes over them with the mouse.

That sort of thing lets you maintain the front-page density you want, without overwhelming someone at first blush.

David Brin said...

Rob, do you know anyone who could implement such a techno phantasmagory for me on the cheap?

Rob Perkins said...

Yes. I'll email you a reference.

Author said...

I get by with off-the-shelf readers. My issue is that some of us don't have time to ponder where things are, what's new and what's not.

When I commented I was feeling touchy and shouldn't have written. For me the issue is about communication, and about making it as easy as possible for people to consider a position. Ben Franklin moved people to reconsider their positions though specific changes in his "debate" style, and "sold" people on ideas they would otherwise reject wholesale because he learned to couch his "argument" in ways that improved communication.

I believe that Dr. Brin has things to say that need to be read/heard, and anything done to diminish the odds of that are fixable speed-bumps. Entropy and misunderstanding don't need help. Wooly-thinkers are quite good at avoiding rational reflection. If even fans have trouble (in my case an inconvenience) accessing the valuable content then how much less likely will it be for opponents to encounter the ideas?

Dr. Brin has less time than I do, so his being unable to spend much time or thought on streamlining the website make sense. Declaring the motivation of disallowing improvements in accessibility to be a disregard for "casual" participation did not wash with me. My comment was to try to encourage a reconsideration of broadening the reach of the message rather than narrowing it. If a qualified person or group wants to repackage the information for clarity ... why not?

Now I go back to reading/lurking....