OFFSystem gives lawyers and law-makers new headaches
The problem with geeks and law is that geeks are way better and faster in interpreting reality than lawyers are in interpreting laws. Here's a good example - the Owner-Free Filing system.
The OFFSystem is a distributed file system (essentially creating a huge disk drive where you can put whatever content you want, and everyone else using the same system can see that content, too) - but what is interesting is that it is really stabbing at the heart of copyright as defined.
You see, it does not store encrypted data. It stores numbers, and it uses the same numbers to store many different kinds of data. So the question is - whether the store in itself is copyrighted or not? Yes, the act of fetching a file from the store may be illegal in some jurisdictions, since that may end up in a copyrighted work for which you do not have legal permission to use, but the store itself contains only numbers, from which it is impossible to figure out what the content actually is. So, in a way, while no actual copying of copyrighted content ever takes place, you could still be infringing someone's copyright. Just another example why the word "copy" in copyright means nothing in the digital age.
The legal system has been wrestling with the concept of whether offering .torrent -files is illegal, since they don't contain any copyrighted content - but they might point to copyrighted content - and if Pirate Bay is illegal, why isn't Google? (Since really the easiest way to find stuff these days is to go and type "xxx-movie torrent" in Google.)
OFFSystem and its likes (like Tahoe) are going to cause way more interpretation problems that Bittorrent ever did. And, while the courts are chewing on that, there's four-five years of time to invent something completely new.
Copyright is badly broken, out of touch with reality, and needs to be fixed.
Now there are two other numbers that may be of interest, depending upon how you interpret them. Consider the following big numbers:
Then consider adding them together.
Are these numbers copyrighted? Can I store them on two separate computers? Would that break the law? What if they were never added together? Would their existence still break the law?
What if I give you two other numbers? Again, and again.
There are two consistent ways to answer the above questions. One leads to the conclusion that “All numbers are copyrighted.” The other leads to the conclusion that, “There exists encodings of copyrighted number that are NOT copyrighted.”
If the first conclusion is true, digital copyright is pointless. If the second is true digital copyright is meaningless.
(By the way - using the OFFSystem technology, you could make every song to be a copy of Never gonna give you up - all you would need to supply the mathematical difference between a song and the Rick Astley piece. So if you're a copyright lawyer, I suggest you grab your maths book or hire your friendly neighbourhood geek to explain all this.)
Edit: Also read this wonderful piece about the Colour of bits, and why the colour matters.
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