19 February 2008

Weekday Update

It's a day late. But, since yesterday was a holiday, I'll just call this a "virtual Monday Miscellany."

  • Variety once again demonstrates that it simply cannot be trusted to report accurately on anything even remotely related to a legal issue. A story yesterday on supposed changes to Russia's copyright system asserts:

    The new law seeks to clarify Russia’s collective rights management system, which under the previous legislation was a confused and opaque tangle of overlapping authorities. Report author Golovanov explains that the new legislation divides rights management societies into two groups: those accredited by the government and authorized to represent the interests of authors and rights holders, and other societies who shall receive authorization only on the basis of agreements.

    Nick Holdsworth, "Russia improves copyright law" (18 Feb 2008) (fake paragraphing removed for clarity). Had Holdsworth even bothered to read the whole report, he would have found that it emphasizes that the literal legislation available is not the principle barrier to enforcing intellectual property rights in Russia, and has not been since the mid-1990s. It's not even the second- or third-most-important such barrier. The most frustrating barrier is, instead, the concerted refusal of Russian courts to issue enforceable judgments even under the law as it stands in favor of foreign copyright holders (and other rightsholders) against Russian citizens. Some of this is the home-court advantage; more of it, however, is a system of referrals and procedure that would have frustrated the most accomplished government functionary under Murad the Mad. The wholesale Soviet abrogation of foreign copyrights is another significant barrier that the "new" legislation simply ignores. And so on.

  • Just because communicating in clear English is beyond the willpower (and perhaps ability) of the Hollyweed press does not mean that it should be beyond scientists. Jay "Turn Down The Volume on That Shirt" Lake ("90% Rayon! Verrry Nice!") points to an interesting article on English as the lingua franca of science. And yes, that is a purposeful, multilingual bit of sarcasm.
  • Last week, it was film; this week, it's the music industry being accused of screwing creators out of royalties. There's a very simple reason that this sort of thing happens: Intellectual property is mercantilist; unfortunately, we all — especially modern corporations — live in a world whose accounting standards are firmly based on comparative advantage. These are incompatible conceptions; consider, for example, that applying "piracy" to improper copying is both technically correct... and reeks of mercantilism. In this context, though, the key issue is that comparative-advantage-based accounting assumes that the cost of goods sold is a constant that has been fully paid at the moment of sale, which is precisely what a "royalty" is not.
  • Of course, that's not the only problem in publishing I could point out. Or that I will. Consider the issue of boosterism for purported self-publishing services by vanity presses, of which Lee Goldberg exposes one particularly obvious example. Or, for that matter, the supposedly new trend toward product placement in books, which has been around for quite some time, both admittedly and otherwise.