Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another Quick Commercial Interruption...

So, I've finally joined the twenty-first century. I just bought an iPod.

Don't get too excited! It's just a little iPod shuffle. But I needed something to make the gym more bearable, and I figured a tiny, cute, lightweight music player in metallic pink hit the spot.

As I continue with my studies this summer, it's amazing to me just how often I now seem to encounter copyright issues in everyday life. I think I was just never aware of the prevalence of intellectual property. Take for instance my new purchase. In order to use my iPod, I needed to use iTunes and also install some iPod software on my Mac Book. As I prepared to install the software, the following popped up:

"IMPORTANT NOTE: This software may be used to reproduce
materials. It is licensed to you only for reproduction
of non-copyrighted materials, materials in which you
own the copyright, or materials you are authorized or
legally permitted to reproduce. This software may also
be used for remote access to music files for listening
between computers. Remote access of copyrighted music
is only provided for lawful personal use or as
otherwise legally permitted. If you are uncertain
about your right to copy or permit access to any
material you should contact your legal advisor." (from Apple iTunes software legal disclaimer)

First off, that was just the very beginning of a very long document that I actually took the time to scan (okay, I took the time to scan it really quickly, but I did scan it!) Secondly, I thought it was charming that Apple encouraged me to speak with my legal advisor. Let me just dial Raul, Apple, I've got him on speed dial.

Does anyone ever actually read those legal disclaimers? I know that we should, but who has the time? Who actually understands most of what they say? I know that their purpose is to protect Apple should any sort of legal action come to light, and I have to admit that this blurb at the beginning of their long statement is written in plain enough English that most people should be able to understand it. I can also understand the importance of such a statement in a post-Napster world. In essence, Apple is shifting the responsibility for your actions onto you entirely. They acknowledge that they created a product that's used for copying, but they're not going to dictate how you use, they're just going to say how you should use it. It's like they're selling you a car, and they're saying, we know you will drive this car, but it's not up to us to determine how well you will drive the car. Here are the keys. Peace out, homeslice.

This reverts back to the personal copying that I discussed in the previous entry. It's not really legal, but it's not technically illegal either. Apple is acknowledging this. They're sure that most people aren't going to cause any problems, but in case any do, they've covered their bums.

But this also leads me to think about all the times I've installed software or otherwise quickly clicked through a licensing agreement without really paying attention to it. Was I wrong in doing so? Should I be more personally responsible and take the time to fully understand what I'm doing? Does anyone actually read those long-ass licensing agreements? Do companies intentionally make these things long-winded and vague, or do their lawyers just not know any better? At least Apple made an effort. Should other companies follow their lead and perhaps try writing a summary of the most important information in easy-to-understand language before the long-winded disclaimer?

While my project tends to focus more on copyright issues pertaining to publishing, I do find it useful to bring up examples from time to time of copyright in the real world. In what other places do you find copyright notices? What do they really seem to say? Do any of you read them? What do you think of them? Can you think of a better system for informing users?

1 comment:

John said...


Don't be embarassed about your pink ipod shuffle. I purchased a pink mini and I am the delightful subject of much speculation. My pink ipod has been the topic of much speculative concern, yet is a great conversation-starter. However, it does pull eyes whither I am in so cal.

Peace, adieu, farewell