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“Making Available” is Not Infringement

Give it five years and the RIAA will want everyone to be “making available” the knowledge of which content they possess so they can keep tabs on what’s hot. They’ve got their backwards pants on for years now, but within the five next years they will finally wake up.

Via SlashdotNewYorkCountryLawyer Debates RIAA VP:

From the debate transcript:

MR. BECKERMAN: The law runs the country. This is a nation of law, not a country of lawyers who are best paid by large content owners.
PROF. HANSEN: Ray, let’s not get ad hominem. You know what ad hominem means? You’ve got a losing argument and you’re desperate. So just stick to the merits. […]

I guess the insinuation there is that calling someone a lawyer paid by large content owners is an ad hominem in the eyes of Professor Hansen. I found that funny, because it colored the prior statement by Mr. Beckerman darker than it originally read for me.

Anyway, this debate was all about whether simply “making available” equates to an infringement of copyright. That is, whether anyone actually downloads the files, is simply allowing the possibility equal to dissemination in terms of infringing the copyrights of the files?

First and foremost, making available in a more concise definition is simply the announcement of existence some file that is labeled in some way. If I write a hyperlink here: Buy a Time Machine from Jesus I’m making a certain representation about the contents to be found at that link. In practice that link could contain anything.

It could even actually contain Jesus’ ecommerce website where he sells time machines. Without executing the link (that is, generating a HTTP request to the server it specifies for the document it specifies, or otherwise executing whatever command is intended by the semantics of this hypertext document) one cannot know what it leads to.

And yes, that can actually be proven by looking at the halting problem from Computer Science. Basically, if you could prove for all cases what clicking a hyperlink would do, then you could solve the halting problem. Because it can be shown the halting problem is unsolvable, it follows that the link-clicking problem cannot be solved either.

Now, for a subset of links, or in this case the subset is the filesharing software’s function to execute the downloading of a file, it is conceivably provable. But then, it must be shown, in court, that executing that function of the software would result in the transfer of copyrighted content which is particularly described and proven to be owned by the plaintiff. And even then, you’ve only proven that the defendant is in fact “making available” said content.

Now, can making available constitute an infringement on the rights of a copyright holder? Typical infringement refered to as distribution or dissemination is infringing because without authorization from the owner some third party gives possession of the content to another party. This differs from making available drastically. Making available is more like mentioning you have the content.

A software anthropomorphization:

Bill: Anyone got the Hill of Soap song, “Noodles are Cruel?”

Steve: Hey I got that song.

Ah, but that’s even still an overbroad example of making available. One wouldn’t even have to ever respond to a query for the content’s availability! It just has to be in a folder that the software has marked as “shared” to be considered “making available.”

And we have reached the pintacle of the absurdity of “making available” as infringing copyright. You download the file sharing software. You install it. Instantly you have infringed countless copyrights because the software automatically scanned your drive and marked all multimedia folders as “shared.”

So, frankly, making available cannot possibly constitute infringement of copyright. Copyright is there to give an incentive to create content. The incentive is that by creating content you have the exclusive right to distribute, perform, profit from, etc. for a period of time. That right does not include “keeping people from discussing your work,” or announcing or responding to a query about whether they have that work on their computer.

Give it five years and the RIAA will want everyone to be “making available” the knowledge of which content they possess so they can keep tabs on what’s hot. They’ve got their backwards pants on for years now, but within the five next years they will finally wake up.

CNN Faces Absurd Lawsuit

A lawsuit against CNN seeking $1 per person in China. At around 2200 lbs per $1 million, that’s approaching 300,000 lbs, or 136,000 kg; that’s as much as the ultrasaurus is estimated to have weighed.

Via ReutersCNN now sued for $1.3 billion – $1 per person in China:

[…] a suit against CNN in New York over remarks they say insulted the Chinese people and are seeking $1.3 billion in compensation — $1 per person in China […]

The suit brought because of comments by Jack Cafferty:

They’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.

What’s interesting about that quote from my perspective is, foremost, the notion that you could sue for $1 for every person in the country when even the most egregious, blanketed statement is undoubtedly wholly accurate in some minority of the cases.

That is, there is no way that all of the Chinese people aren’t “goons,” etc. And there’s no case that you could convince a jury a goon can be insulted for being what he/she is.

Of course, there’s other problems with the suit. Some of Cafferty’s remarks at the time were true. Most were not directed at the Chinese people themselves, but the government and businessmen. But even excepting that, and the above point about the existence of some goons in China, and supposing that judgment was made against CNN, you’re looking at the notion that every person in China would actually get their $1.

The actual costs of distributing that money would be enormous. Would prisoners (political or otherwise) get their dollar too? It’s just a downright absurd, preposterous lawsuit. Especially taking into account what should offend the plaintiffs and the majority of the Chinese people is their government’s behavior toward human rights, especially vis-a-vis Tibet, Syria, et al.

Just as we in the United States should be insulted by our government’s behavior with regard to Iraq and the mishandling of the war on terrorism, the complete lack of respect for the law shown by our President, and so on.

If anything this lawsuit will serve to bring more attention to China’s need for reform. As will, hopefully, the silly multi-billion dollar sporting event involving the circles and the fire stick.