Microsoft: Hate the Sinner, Not The Sin

In the wake of the Cryptome brouhaha with Microsoft over the publication of the latter’s “Online Global Criminal Compliance Guide”, all sorts of people have been complaining about Microsoft’s heavy-handed DMCA tactics, and how you’d really think they would know better than to try and bluff Cryptome, of all places.

Unfortunately, this has also brought out some anti-copyright activists – or more properly, some people who are masquerading as anti-copyright activists…

One such example is this not terribly insightful article at Public Intelligence, which tries to use some really inane sophistry to argue that the Microsoft document at the heart of the Cryptome takedown is not eligible for copyright, because:

“There must be something original in the work which is capable of making it a work of authorship. In fact, the word author comes from the Latin auctorem which literally means “one who causes to grow?. The word is a form of the Latin word augere which means “to increase?. An author is one who increases the sum of knowledge in a community by contributing an intellectual work which is able to be communicated to others within that community. Copyright is a means of recognizing the contribution that such a work makes by providing a set of rights which allow the creator to be the one who benefits from their own work.

Microsoft Online’s Global Criminal Compliance Guide does not do this. The Microsoft guide is a description of the ways in which the Microsoft Corporation retains your data, providing law enforcement easy access to some of your most intimate information, including private messages. The publication of such material is clearly protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, regardless of any copyright claims.”

That’s… just not how it works, unfortunately. I have great respect for the folks over at Public Intelligence – who among other things are basically what Wikileaks could be, if they ever return, pull their head out of their collective ass, and stop being spastic drama queens – but I think it’s clear that they’ve allowed their (well-founded) dislike of Microsoft to badly cloud their thinking on copyright issues.

The Microsoft “corporate spying document” – which, let’s be honest, is immensely boring tripe which maybe five people worldwide actually give a shit about – is, for purposes of copyright, a “literary work”, because it’s written. It’s as simple as that. You can’t copyright ideas or policies – though you might be able to patent them, but that’s a whole different story – but you absolutely can copyright documents containing them.

Trying to argue otherwise is just foolish.

By the confused pseudo-logic of Public Intelligence, surely no poetry should qualify for copyright, as poetry is merely an expression of emotion, and the Copyright Act says nothing about emotion, right? And, hell, photographs should be exempt from copyright, because they’re just frozen moments in time, and surely you can’t copyright time?!

If you want to hate Microsoft, hey, don’t let me get in your way. And if you want to hate on companies that abuse the DMCA, or abuse copyright claims in general as a way of asserting power over “the little people”, more power to you. But don’t be an idiot and suggest that there’s some retarded reason an original, written document produced by an evil corporate entity is somehow magically exempt from copyright.

Microsoft is bad. Serial killers are bad. Microsoft uses copyright laws in ways you disagree with. Serial killers use knives, guns, and ropes in ways you disagree with. Hate Microsoft; hate serial killers. Don’t hate copyright laws, knives, guns, or ropes.

It’s just about that simple.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on February 26th, 2010| No Comments »

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