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Who Will Obama Choose As Copyright Czar? 174

Posted by timothy
from the lessig-has-my-bet dept.
seanpark writes "Who will President Elect Obama select for the recently established post of Copyright Czar? Biden has a longstanding relationship with Big Content, and he was partly responsible for the PRO-IP Act that created the position. The short list according to the article includes a few lobbyists (who would likely be disqualified by stringent ethical guidelines) and Lawrence Lessig, who was a technology adviser to the Obama Campaign."
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Who Will Obama Choose As Copyright Czar?

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  • by symbolset (646467) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @03:25PM (#25910533) Journal

    He's a wise choice, a rational voice is a sea of stupidity. Picking him would represent a striking change, a sudden outbreak of common sense.

    Therefore it ain't gonna happen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by symbolset (646467)

      erg... "in a sea". Catlike typing detected.

      MOTD: I am looking for a honest man. -- Diogenes the Cynic

    • by yetijoe (1411395) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:23PM (#25910845)
      I feel you have a point. But I feel the first question we need to ask is will this position have any real power. Because if there is no real power then who care who is picked.

      I see it going down one of two ways. 1. Obama is able to use the capital that he has gained an push this through rather quickly and having congress act as a rubber stamp.

      2. There are bigger priorities than this in the Obama administration (economy, war). As a result this is placed on the back burner. Corporate interests therefore have more time to react and press members of congress to vote against making a copyright czar have any real power. As a result this initiative dies or must be used as a bargaining chip once things get harder to push through congress.

      I think we should not be asking who he will chose yet, but rather how large of a priority is he going to make this.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Darundal (891860)
        IIRC, you have it in reverse: the entertainment industry wants a strong copyright czar.
        • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @06:25PM (#25911503)

          IIRC, you have it in reverse: the entertainment industry wants a strong copyright czar.

          Strong when in their interests, not against them.

          "You should never hand someone a gun unless you're sure where they'll point it. Your mistake." -- Cmdr. Jeffrey Sinclair; Babylon 5: "By Any Means Necessary"

          • "You should never hand someone a gun unless you're sure where they'll point it. Your mistake." -- Cmdr. Jeffrey Sinclair; Babylon 5: "By Any Means Necessary"

            I agree with you, but a fictional character from a mediocre sci-fi series probably doesn't make the best supporting reference. To be fair though, Commander Sinclair was one of my favorite characters. Never did like Boxleitner in that role: too preachy. Sinclair just went out and did what he had to do.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        I think we should not be asking who he will chose yet, but rather how large of a priority is he going to make this.

        Shouldn't the interests of Hollywood be #1?

        Or does Obama actually support change?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) *

        But I feel the first question we need to ask is will this position have any real power.

        There's power, and there's power. Whether or not such a person has an real legal authority is an issue, of course, but no matter what they will have influence. They will also have far more of the public's ear than ten million Slashdotters ever could. The right person (and that's the real trick) in this slot could do much to put copyright back on track. I'm not sure who that person would be. Lessig is an excellent choice, looking at his credentials and his stance on the issues. Whether he's the right person

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Marillion (33728)
      I think a real outbreak of common sense would be to give the department a budget of $1 (or less) and fill the position once peace breaks out over the planet.
    • Jack Thompson's unemployed. Why not choose him?

    • by Malekin (1079147) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @07:34PM (#25911873)

      He's a wise choice, a rational voice is a sea of stupidity.

      Lessig is a very moderate voice. While he generally opposes copyright term extension, he supports DRM. He feels that people who say copyright law is utterly broken are extremist. He seems to think that the current scope of fair use provisions is adequate and just needs to be better respected. He feels that "something like the DMCA that protects adequate space for fair use and doesn't attempt to regulate technology directly is needed." (http://lwn.net/2001/features/LawrenceLessig.php3)

      I have a lot of respect for the man but you can't meet the extremism of Big Media with moderates willing to compromise. The DMCA should be dumped and language written into the law the specifically protects reverse engineering. Fair use provisions should be expanded to reflect that way we use media in our lives and to provide better protection for educational use.

      We don't need a moderate - we need somebody who will make dramatic changes to re-align the law with common sense.

      • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @08:07PM (#25912045) Homepage Journal

        How is appointing a lunatic with an opposite bent to Hollywood's going to result in the law being re-aligned with common sense?

        What you're proposing will result in no reform whatsoever. It'll result in gridlock, with the current law, warts and all, continuing to rule the land unchanged and unchangeable.

        What's needed is a moderate voice. Just because Lessig isn't a lunatic doesn't mean he's going to somehow compromise with lunatics on the other side. It means he'll be a respected voice that can shout down the extremists on the Hollywood end and propose reforms that will be taken seriously.

        • I think what Malekin is saying is, things have leaned so far in one side's favor that we need somebody to lean things heavily in the other side's favor in order to get back in the middle again.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sumdumass (711423)

            It won't matter, the DMCA and all copyright laws in the last century or so are represented by international treaties and in order to change them drastically, you will have to change the treaties or withdraw from them. The copyright extensions for instance, they were part of the signing onto and coming into conformance to the Berne Convention, and then later, the Uruguay round table agreements that resulted in the EU's harmonization directive. I know people want to blame Disney and the entertainment business

            • But you have to consider the ongoing ACTA process which is about the export of European IPR enforcement measures to the US and other nations.

              • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday November 28, 2008 @08:06AM (#25915061) Journal

                Well, that's sort of my point. This isn't just the US doing things because Evil Disney wanted them to. It is the US agreeing to do certain things because of obligations and if anyone expected anything to change, they have to understand those controlling connections. Instead of telling your elected officials that you don't want more copyright regs you need to tell them to no accept it in the ACTA treaties and stuff like that when it comes up because he might be obligated to passing something if he passes the treaties. If you want to repeal the two copyright term extensions, you need to get two treaties either amended or convince the US to withdraw from them. Simply saying quit serving Disney's or big businesses' interest over yours isn't enough because being obligate to doing something beause of a treaty doesn't make big businesses' interest the forefront of the topic.

                • Oh, Europe is about to expand the regime to 95 years

                  • by sumdumass (711423)

                    You mean life plus 95 years? or 95 years total? Europe has always been ahead of the US in the longer terms for copyright.

                    Maybe I should look deeper into the counterfieting treaty you mentioned in your earlier post. That is when and where to protest it and how to stop it. The treaty probably contains just enough legit and justifiable stuff to make it appealing to a lot of countries.

                    I just hope that the people who will ultimately complain about it and protest the extensions actually do so blaming the apparatu

        • by Malekin (1079147) on Friday November 28, 2008 @12:40AM (#25913505)

          When somebody is taking away important rights like the right to tinker or freely archive important pieces of information, the correct response is not "How about we compromise and you only take half my rights away?"

          • by Raenex (947668)

            the correct response is not "How about we compromise and you only take half my rights away?"

            How is that his position? He argues for copyright while allowing fair use, and is against restrictions on tinkering or technology.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Requiem18th (742389)

          Gridlock is preferred over movement in the wrong direction.
          But why does (s)he have to be a lunatic? Does believing in freedom of information means you have to be dumb and eccentric?
          A mathematician recently showed a formula to determine optimal copyright terms and it resulted in about 14 years for most situations. And there have been numerous studies that show DRM is not worth it (so much that some corporations are stepping out of it on their own).
          I think it is very possible to be ve

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mcvos (645701)

          How is appointing a lunatic with an opposite bent to Hollywood's going to result in the law being re-aligned with common sense?

          Exactly. If you only have lunatics on either side, what you end up with is bound to be lunacy. What we need is lunatics on both sides who shout extremist positions at each other and a pragmatic moderate in the middle who ignores them both equally.

      • by adavies42 (746183) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:40AM (#25914015)

        [Y]ou can't meet the extremism of Big Media with moderates willing to compromise. [...] We don't need a moderate - we need somebody who will make dramatic changes [...] .

        Sounds like another vote for RMS to me.

      • by RichiH (749257)

        While I may not agree with Lessig in all points, he will be a lot better than any of his precedessors. And it's good not to have an extremist in all cases. That is why there are people who mediate between others. Having a skilled mediatior in a position of power is a Good Thing.

      • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker@gnu. o r g> on Friday November 28, 2008 @06:45AM (#25914785) Homepage

        we need somebody who will make dramatic changes to re-align the law with common sense.

        What's common sense, here?

        I think the common-sense thing to do is to repeal and enact a set of laws that will be of maximum benefit to the American People, based on the best available evidence and well-tested economic models.

        Basing judgments on evidence and theoretical understanding is how we do software, medicine, aviation and construction, to name a few. I think evidence should play a role in governance as well.

        I don't have any hard evidence to back up any particular position. You didn't present any---do you have any?

        I have a bit of soft evidence: people have been copying music whenever they had the technology to do it. Back in the old days, it was cassettes. Then it was CDs, and now it's mp3s copied over the internet. The only thing that's changed is that we've all gotten a few billion more friends to copy from.

        Dragnet litigation and copyright propaganda video before every movie doesn't seem to have changed peoples' inclination to copy media. No DRM scheme has seemed to be effective in stopping people who really want to copy media.

        I suggest that (as an experimental policy) it becomes permitted to do verbatim copying of all copyrighted works for non-commercial purposes.

        If big chunks of the "copyright industries" die off and people have a shortage of music on the radio, in the tube and in the tubes, and the shortage persists over a long time as people try out new business models, then this would be evidence that copying is bad when we just let people do it.

        If people are happy about the amount and quality of new music coming out and the price of concert tickets in the new model, then that's evidence that we as a society will pay musicians enough money to make them satisfy society's needs while still doing the sharing and copying we want.

    • No, I'm not trolling. I'll explain why.

      • America's economy is deep shit, you need to save money wherever you can. Outsource that position to China will save you quite a bit of money.
      • And don't even say that is a job creation position, a position of "copyright czar" (what kind of idiot came up with that?) actually has negative job multiplicator. Therefore, you should outsource it to countries that you consider a potential competitor, so that it would do damage there, instead of in your country.
      • Your copyright
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sesshomaru (173381)
      Actually, based on some of the other picks (Larry Summers, Hillary Clinton), I'm going to guess it'll be Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movie.
    • He's a wise choice, a rational voice is a sea of stupidity. Picking him would represent a striking change, a sudden outbreak of common sense.

      Therefore it ain't gonna happen.

      Yes, well, I understand that it's popular to vote for change nowadays.

  • by alexborges (313924) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @03:29PM (#25910559)

    Of having lessig on his team. Lets hope he still has that now that he is heading to The House.

    • Lessig becomes copyright Czsar.

      The 'industry' (parasitic, development-repelling middle-men) howl and tear at their hair and eyes. They take to the streets, shirtless, throwing themselves to the tarmac, flailing themselves with mic stands. With raised arms and tear soaked faces they cry for Moolah's mercy.

      Obama is taken in by their deceit, takes pity on them, shelves Lessig and appoints their preferred Cszar; the zombie Jack Valenti.

      • by spazdor (902907)

        Weird. I just made a Zombie Valenti joke a sec ago, and then scrolled down half a page and found the exact same idea, timestamped far in advance of my slow-ass idea. Dammit.

  • Lessig would be fine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @03:30PM (#25910571) Journal
    We need a countervailing force against the minions of IP evil like the MAFIAA and the rest of them.

    However, I don't know where he would actually do more good - inside the administration which is already compromised with appointments like Rahm Emanuel - or outside fighting the good fight. As a consequence, I'm not certain he would take such a position if asked.

    It's quite possible, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

    RS

    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:51PM (#25911033)

      Parent is not a troll. I don't agree that the administration is "compromised" by any of the appointments so far, but it's clear there are things you can do inside and things you can do outside, and there's no guarantee LL's skillset will work on the former.

      On the other hand, there's all kinds of jobs the preznit can ask you to do, some policy-administrative-do stuff, like Secretary of Commerce, and some strictly advisory, like the the job Paul Volker got yesterday. In theory, you put "safe" people no one can complain about in the "do stuff" jobs, but you put the hair-burning crazies on the advisory boards to give you perspective. Lessig would be able contribute greatly leading an outside policy board.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Triv (181010)

        True, working inside an organizational system is different than working outside of one, and like you I don't know if Lessig is an inside player.

        But let's be realistic, here - all I want, all I think anybody really wants, is a copyright adviser who actually understands the different facets of copyright and hasn't spent the last decade or more working for Sony/BMG, Disney, or some other obvious media conglomerate.

        If this were still the Bush administration we were talking about here, I know the choice wou

        • by Triv (181010)

          ...which is not to say I AGREE with any of that, just that that's the logic. I think.

  • Hey Barack! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) * on Thursday November 27, 2008 @03:33PM (#25910591)
    I recommend Shawn Fanning.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @03:33PM (#25910597)

    Well, I do not care who he chooses as long as the chosen fella does not propagate policies that get in my way. I frequently download all kinds of stuff in all categories. Emule and Bittorent are my friends.

    I just wish I could be a "steam roller" like that [infamous] former New York state top official, even if it can be for a while.

  • by Archiviste (323238) <dmayrand@gmail.com> on Thursday November 27, 2008 @03:59PM (#25910725)

    ... I heard that Darl McBride is looking for a new job...

    • Damn you idiot. My iBook G4 needs to another keyboard to replace my Coke spilled one...

  • by mysidia (191772) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:11PM (#25910789)

    As copyright czar he may be in a position to push for certain changes to rules to introduce some sanity. And give the consumer some protections as well as big recording industry players' freedoms.

    The president and his staff may be more likely to listen to the ideas of a copyright czar than to some Stanford professor.

    • Considering all the actors, musicians, etc. that supported Obama (and contributed to his fund raising efforts), don't expect any positive changes to copyright law under his administration. If anything, Democrats are even more protective of Big Content than the Repulicans (remember; the Copyright Term Extension act and the DCMA came during the Clinton administration).
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by tepples (727027)

        If anything, Democrats are even more protective of Big Content than the Repulicans (remember; the Copyright Term Extension act and the DCMA came during the Clinton administration).

        Bob Dole couldn't have stopped them from becoming law, if that's what you're trying to suggest. Both bills passed both houses through voice vote, which indicates over 80 percent assent. You only need 67 percent to override a veto.

  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:13PM (#25910801) Journal
    Seriously, the LAST thing needed is another "somethingorother czar" to supposedly solve problems. What powers will this czar have, other than being the President's lobbyist to Congress to push their own agenda?
    • by King_TJ (85913)

      Exactly! But again, that smacks of logic and common sense. Don't expect much of either during this administration.

      Did you see any big improvements since the "drug czar" was appointed? (I'd say none, unless you're referring to the increased levels of THC found in most marijuana over the last couple decades.)

    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @05:03PM (#25911089)

      What powers will this czar have, other than being the President's lobbyist to Congress to push their own agenda?

      Isn't that enough? On the other hand, czars are important for bureaucratic rationalization: drug policy requires a lot of cooperation between federal law enforcement, state/local law enforcement, the medical system, foreign interdiction efforts etc. (assuming you accept drug control policy is rational, which it isn't. I think the idea of the drug tsar gives tsars a bad name. Aside from the original tsars, that is.)

      The main problem with interdepartmental plenipotentiaries, or "Tsars" if you will, is they don't really have any authority: they're supposed to be the expert in the field and know more about how to do the job than anyone, but they're beholden to the existing baize cloth routine and can't make people do anything without the president's personal intervention. Even if Larry Lessig was a "Copyright Tsar," all he could do is talk shop with Obama about what should happen and then testify to congress a lot. He might have a voice in the appointment of FCC commissioners, and in copyright office policies, but he can always be overruled by a law.

      • by spazdor (902907)

        You had me at "interdepartmental plenipotentiaries."

      • by Anpheus (908711)

        When I read the objective C in your signature, I realized why you decided to use such self-aggrandizing language. Not that what you said was wrong, but, eh, tone it down a bit?

        I leave the explanation as an exercise to the reader.

        • by iluvcapra (782887)
          Elaborate "self-aggrandizing language"
          • by iluvcapra (782887)
            Oh, I get it. But honestly I can't think of a shorter way of expressing the concept of a "baize cloth routine."
            • Oh, I get it. But honestly I can't think of a shorter way of expressing the concept of a "baize cloth routine."

              What does that mean anyway? Never mind, I'll Google it.

    • Seriously, the LAST thing needed is another "somethingorother czar" to supposedly solve problems. What powers will this czar have, other than being the President's lobbyist to Congress to push their own agenda?

      The position was created by congress in an attempt to institutionalize the MAFIAA's lobbying to the DoJ, congress and the president. Placing Lessig in the post would be about as much of a reversal of the intended purpose of the position as would be possible it would Lessig as Copyright Czar would be like the GPL is to copyright law - an almost perfect hack to use its own strengths against it.

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:32PM (#25910895) Journal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_II_of_Russia [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_the_Great [wikipedia.org]

    http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/bios/b2ivanIV.htm [hyperhistory.net]

    I vote for Peter the Great. His painting looks friendly and we all know how important image is in a copyright Czar.

  • NYCL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ubercam (1025540) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:47PM (#25910995)

    I, despite not being American (but I do live nearby), nominate Ray Beckerman [blogspot.com] (NewYorkCountryLawyer [slashdot.org]). He seems to have lots of relevant experience in this field.

    Any seconds?

  • by monkeythug (875071) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:48PM (#25911003) Homepage
    I would absolute *love* it if Lessig gets the post.

    I can see the faces on the RIAA/MPAA moguls now after they went to all that effort to convince congress to create that post, only to have it backfire on them so badly :-)

    Oh, I would laugh so hard ...
  • RMS (Score:5, Funny)

    by perlhacker14 (1056902) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:57PM (#25911061)

    Wouldn't it be apallingly hilarious if RMS was consulted or even appointed? Come on, RMS for Copyright Czar- defender of our freedoms. Seriously though, he does have some good ideas on reform, as seen at (stallman.org).

    • by Improv (2467)

      On that day, the geeks would crawl out of the basements and university computer labs to dance in the streets.

    • Re:RMS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jonbryce (703250) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @05:12PM (#25911137) Homepage

      I'm not so sure about RMS. Yes, I agree with most of what he says, but not how he says it, and he comes across as a nutter to the non-techie public, and most of the techie community as well.

      Besides we'll have him refusing to read emails that are sent from an insufficiently free *GNU*/Linux distribution.

      • by Anpheus (908711)

        He is a nutter, and that's a good thing for rallying a cause. It's not so good once the cause becomes influential--then you need great orators, which AFAIK, neither Linus nor RMS can claim to be.

        • He is a nutter, and that's a good thing for rallying a cause. It's not so good once the cause becomes influential--then you need great orators, which AFAIK, neither Linus nor RMS can claim to be.

          Well, they could take some classes.

      • On http://audio-video.gnu.org/audio/ [gnu.org] you can find speeches from the FSF. Most of them by RMS, but there are two by Bradley M. Kuhn.

        He sells the same message as RMS, more or less, but he sells it with a different tone. Give him a listen in your next one-hour drive to work (and continue on the way back), or whenever you feel like it.

  • That's Whom (Score:3, Informative)

    by El Puerco Loco (31491) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @04:58PM (#25911069)

    Whom, goddammit! Whom will Obama choose?

    • Sorry but even OED recognizes "who" as a valid substitute of "whom" these days. Welcome to the 21st century.

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      "It is precisely this sort of pedantry up with which I will not put!" ;)

  • hard choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DragonTHC (208439)

    hopefully he will choose someone who understands the futility of applying copyrights to digital media.

  • I, for one, hope that Mr. Obama doesn't appoint ANY Czars.

    What a stupid title Czar is for someone to try to pull together disparate government units.

    How about "Secretary" or "Director" or "Under-Secretary" or something.

    Really, anything that doesn't sound like the entire United States has seen entirely too many James Bond films.

  • The candidate for "change" has been stacking his cabinet with Clinton retreads and people who supported him on the campaign trail. The guy who spoke ill of lobbyists has surrounded himself with lobbyists.

    Hillary Rosen was all over the cable news networks, singing praise of Obama the Messiah.

    The industry would embrace her, and lobby Congress to approve her appointment with all haste.

    It sucks, I know. But I think y'all are overlooking how attractive she is going to be to Obama.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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