The art website Deviant Art has started a discussion on Art Theft with eight articles on Copyright infringement and related topics that effect digital artists on the internet. Based on the comments, the articles are extremely controversial, especially the one on Stealing, where they separate the concept of stealing from copyright infringement. I’m glad to see this. Copying may be wrong or even illegal, but it’s not stealing. Stealing is taking something away from someone. When a copy is made the person still has the original. If we’re going to build a future in our changing times where artists are paid and treated fairly, then we are going to have to start by being specific about what we are talking about. Words have meanings.
About 15 years ago the music industry went bananas over Napster and started the incessant drumbeat claiming that copying and stealing are the same thing. Now there is a generation of people who can’t tell the difference and I can see a lot of that in the angry comments on Deviant Art. But the music companies didn’t want to build a future for artists. They wanted everything to stay the same so they could keep their revenue streams. They just wanted people to stop copying so they came up with a dramatic short cut to re-frame the discussion and shut it down. Copying is stealing and that’s that. Well it’s not, and the reality is much more complicated.
And change isn’t going to stop either. As artists we need to take charge of this discussion because it’s up to us to build the future for ourselves. Let’s say what we mean and mean what we say, and not fall into the trap of using language that was designed to stop the discussion and stop change.
Check out the related videos that are presented after watching an acoustic version of Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? on YouTube.
The big budget movie “Avatar” gets the top three spots. Why? The official music video version of Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? has almost the exact same title and also has WAY more views than any of the other three, yet it gets bumped to fourth position. The movie “Avatar” only matches one word in the title of the current video but it gets the top three spots. I sense something fishy. Are small independent producers getting pushed down in the rankings in favor of companies like 20th Century Fox? It looks like it to me.
VoloMedia announced today that it has been awarded what it calls the “patent for podcasting.” OK, whatever. Podcasting is so last Tuesday but the government takes a long, long time to approve these things so, what’s this all about. Turns out it was an application from 2003 that doesn’t even mention the word “podcasting” (because the word hadn’t been invented yet.) I think then it’s a bit disingenuous for the company to say it’s the patent for podcasting in the title of their announcement about it. It looks to me like they might be trying to make claims after the fact.
And who is this VoloMedia? I’ve been podcasting for three years. I speak at technology conferences about it. I’ve never heard of VoloMedia until today.
OK so what does the patent claim actually say? Here are the details from VoloMedia’s website. (See you on the other side of this quote. Don’t get lost on the way 😉
For reference, below are the claims issued under U.S. patent 7,568,213:
1. A method for providing episodic media, the method comprising: providing a user with access to a channel dedicated to episodic media, wherein the episodic media provided over the channel is pre-defined into one or more episodes by a remote publisher of the episodic media; receiving a subscription request to the channel dedicated to the episodic media from the user; automatically downloading updated episodic media associated with the channel dedicated to the episodic media to a computing device associated with the user in accordance with the subscription request upon availability of the updated episodic media, the automatic download occurring without further user interaction; and providing the user with: an indication of a maximum available channel depth, the channel depth indicating a size of episodic media yet to be downloaded from the channel and size of episodic media already downloaded from the channel, the channel depth being specified in playtime or storage resources, and the ability to modify the channel depth by deleting selected episodic media content, thereby overriding the previously configured channel depth.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising automatically providing the user with an indication of the availability of updated episodic media via the channel dedicated to the episodic media in accordance with the subscription request.
3. The method of claim 1, further comprising synchronizing the updated episodic media automatically downloaded to the computing device associated with the user with a portable computing device communicatively coupled to the computing device associated with the user.
4. The method of claim 3, wherein synchronization of the updated episodic media automatically occurs in response to a predetermined user setting.
5. The method of claim 3, wherein synchronization of the updated episodic media occurs in response to a request received from the user.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the updated episodic media is made available to users not associated with the computing device over a local area network.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the automatic download is further based on a priority assigned to the channel.
8. The method of claim 3, wherein the channel dedicated to the episodic media is reduced in size during synchronization in order to fit available cache storage within the portable device.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the channel dedicated to the episodic media is modified in size by removing one or more episodes of episodic media.
What a bunch of vague gobbly-gook. This patent claim could apply to iTunes, my DVR… heck it could even apply to Twitter and Facebook. There’s no mention of an RSS feed at all which is essential for a podcast. I don’t think this patent is enforceable but they could certainly cause trouble for a lot of people.
What’s happening here reminds me of what happened a hundred years ago to the emerging motion picture industry. Several companies got together and formed the “Edison Trust” and tried to control the industry with their patents. The “independents” as they were called (the ones shut out of the trust) moved to the west coast to get as far away from the trust as they could. They concentrated on story and longer feature length films that were easier to market. In the end “content” beat out the control of the technology.
So, what does it all mean? Tom Webster over at Edison research has some good thoughts. Leesa Barnes over at Marketing Fit weighs in as well. But all in all, Alex Lindsay from Pixel Corps may have said it best on twitter:
OK… whoever approved this at the Patent Office… I want my tax dollars back for your salary… youre an idiot.