Monday, June 11, 2007

And now for something completely pleasant!

Despite all the folly, foibles and fury mentioned below, life still has it's pleasures. Amongst them are the happy intersection between the coolest device yet devised by human artifice, the iPod, with the greatest expression of human expression of human civilization, the public library.

The Orange County Library System, serving Orlando and Orange County, Florida, where I live, is an excellent public library system. Its features include multiple branches, a large selection of print, CD, DVD and other items, a fantastic home delivery system, and several other features and services that I'm either barely or completely unaware of. Truly, it's a wonder, and undoubtedly contains more human knowledge than the fabled Royal Library at Alexandria.

(In itself, that last sentence is intimidating. Imagine how much more knowledge will be available two thousands years hence, when our modern libraries, even the huge collections in Washington, New York, London, Paris and Moscow will seem small by comparison.)

Lately, I've been "raiding" the library's music collection. In the past two weeks, I've added 1108 pieces of music to my collection. That amounts to 3 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes and 15 seconds of material. I've grabbed everything from old heavy metal albums ("The Number of the Beast", mentioned by XWL recently, was one such album), to newer metal albums (Iron Maiden's "A Matter of Life and Death"), to experimental stuff that I've heard about, but never actually heard (Kraftwerk, for example), to mountains of "classical" music (Bach's Cello Suites (by Jian Wang) and the St. Matthew's Passion (Otto Klemperer's 1962 production)), to whatever else struck my fancy.

And, thanks to the science and technology of the day, I can carry all of that and much more with me wherever I go. Truly, we live in an age of wonders!

Added: Thanks for the anniversary present, honey!


bill said...

The library is also a good source for audio books on CD. Of course, you do know this is technically illegal.

Icepick said...

Is it? I'm not distributing copies to anyone, either for free or for comercial gain. (Seriously, I'm just not sure if it is or isn't.)

bill said...

This can get into some thorny areas of copyright and fair use, with good arguments on both sides, but under current understanding of the laws I'm pretty sure it's "technically illegal." Just like swapping mix CDs or taping a song off the radio is "technically illegal." I thought the EFF had something recent on this, but I had no luck trying to find it. So here's my understanding.

Fair use doctrine gives me the right to use excerpts of a work and to make copies (for backup) of works I've purchased. This is ignoring the role DRM has played in completing subverting fair use rights. If I buy a CD, I can make a copy for myself or rip it to my computer and add it to my iPod (though the RIAA has tried to make this illegal). I cannot make a copy and give it to you.

Back to the library. I can request that the library make a copy of an artical for me. I can photocopy a few pages from a book. I can't take that book to Kinkos and copy the whole thing. While I should be able to make clips from DVDs or CDs or my own use (again, ignoring DRM issues), I don't have permission to copy the whole work.

Personally, I never did napster, don't do P2P, never swapped hard drives of mp3s, but I'll swap the occasional mix CD and have copied CDs from the library.

bill said...

Quote from a 2004 Larry Lessig paper:

These costs from copy-protection technologies must be considered
in light of an obvious fact: that the ordinary use restricted
by these technologies is not, ordinarily, a copyright infringement.
A consumer who purchases a CD, and then shifts the content of
that CD to his computer so that he can listen to music, engages in
a “fair use” of that content. No doubt some might not be protected
by fair use — a user who systematically copies CDs borrowed from
the library to build his own library of music, for example. But the
vast majority of users would be using purchased content in a totally
legal way.

Icepick said...

Hmm, I got curious and looked into this. It turns out that US copyright law is damned near impossible to understand. I've lost track of the section number, but if I read one part of it correctly then I'm already in trouble for making copies of the albums I own. The section I was reading implied that one can make at most three copies.

Typically, I've made one copy onto my hard drive, a second copy onto my iPod, a third copy to my wife's library, a forth copy to her iPod, and a fifth and sixth copy whenever I back up my system. All of which puts me three over the legal limit. (Wait, that appears to be for libraries.)

Still, after reading some large chunks of the relevant code, I'm sure I'm legally entitled to listen to any of the albums I actually own. Section 114 of Chapter 1 of Title 17, section (b) states the following:

The exclusive right of the owner of copyright in a sound recording under clause (1) of section 106 is limited to the right to duplicate the sound recording in the form of phonorecords or copies that directly or indirectly recapture the actual sounds fixed in the recording.

Well, shit, I've got an excellent memory for music. Therefore, if I listen to any of it, I'm likely to "duplicate the sound recording in the form of ... copies that ... indirectly recapture the actual sounds fixed in the recording." So, having listened to copyrighted material in the past, I'm now going to go to jail for remembering the music. So my goose is already cooked.

Incidentally, this is one more example of the failure of our government. The law is so damned complicated no one knows what it actually says. Thus the need for paid sophists in court proceedings.

Icepick said...

Lessig wrote: A consumer who purchases a CD, and then shifts the content of that CD to his computer so that he can listen to music, engages in a “fair use” of that content.

But the section I quoted above makes no such distinction about making a copy to ones hard drive, nor did any of the wording in Section 107, which covers Fair Use. Here's a quote:

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Here's how a coping a CD that one owns to a hard drive (and hence to an MP3 or other such player) stacks up under the above criteria:

(1) the nature is of indirect commercial use, namely not having to buy a copy from iTunes or the like;

(2) a phonograph recording;

(3) the whole CD has been copied, in remarkable digital clarity;

(4) has allowed one to listen to the music without having to purchase an MP3 through another source.

Truly, our laws are atrociously written.

Bill said...

Yes, laws are atrociously written and companies have also behaved atrociously. For The Child, we usually burn her a copy of the original CD. That way, if she abused it and ruined it, no harm done, just make her another copy.

But can't copy a DVD to VHS for the same purpose. Even though fair use says I can make a backup copy, there's the issue with DRM. It is illegal to circumvent DRM, so to make my legal backup I'd have to break an even harsher law.

But I also blame us. While I've always been sympathetic to the idea of "information wants to be free," things like napster always bothered me. Just because you can download 10,000 songs you've never owned doesn't mean you should. Can does not equal right.

So there's a group of people acting like idiots, then you've got giant corporations treating their customers like criminals because of those idiots, leaving the rest of us to think that if they're going to treat me like a criminal for making grandma a CD, then maybe I should just act like a criminal.

We can't just own and use something, we have to use it in exactly the manor we're told to. Bah.

Here's a fun one: Hollywood Continues Legal Battle Against Remote DVRs

Icepick said...

Just because you can download 10,000 songs you've never owned doesn't mean you should. Can does not equal right.

Well, I guess that makes me 1/9 idiot, then. This blows. Well, I guess I'm going to have to delete all of this stuff, then, or face the wrath of the RIAA. (But not until I've listened to everything, first.) A lot of it won't be missed. The Husker Du, for example, does nothing for me. But a lot of the "classical" stuff can be hard to get.

bill said...

I wouldn't go that far. Use the library to experiment with music, not necessarily to create a massive library of songs you'll never listen to. And if it takes a few months/years to decide you don't care for the CD you're trying out, then that's the way it goes.