A conversation with Cory Doctorow

Written by Wil Harris

February 27, 2006 | 12:37

Tags: #article #cory-doctorow #democracy #interview #video

Companies: #eff #electronic-frontier-foundation

On internet content

Cory also serves as an advisor to the Participatory Culture Foundation, a group dedicated to helping out and improving the way we consume content on the internet. The Foundation has recently released Democracy, a video player for Mac and Windows that hooks into RSS and BitTorrent to pull all the new wave of cool IPTV shows straight to your desktop, in a really simple way.

A conversation with Cory Doctorow On Internet content
The Democracy player features easy ways to get new video content.

bit-tech: You've also been involved with the new online video platform, Democracy. Can you tell us about that?

Cory: Democracy is genius. It's a trivial platform for watching video on the internet. The experience of watching video on the net up until now has been really clunky - the browser's not a great tool for watching video on. The experience of publishing video on the internet has been even worse, because obviously you put a couple of gigabytes up and then you go broke! So by combining BitTorrent, RSS and VLC, they've really delivered everything you need in one package to publish and retrieve video and make it as easy as sitting down in front of the television.

bit-tech: Some might say that it also makes it fantastically easy to grab the latest feeds of 24 and Lost...

Cory: Well, I don't think that's really the intention...

bit-tech: Well, we suppose that the intention is that it will be used for the massive amounts of legal content on the Net now. There's all kinds of cool stuff out there: dl.tv, Diggnation and the like. Whilst Democracy could be used for copyright content like 24, do you think the massive non-infringing use this programme has will protect it from legal intervention?

Cory: If you look at what the Supremes (the court, not the band - Ed) found in Grokster, the fact that Grokster had a substantial non-infringing use wasn't that important to the court.

I hope you're right, though.

When you look at the way tech evolves, you make something, you advertise that it's useful for some suite of uses, you don't know which of those uses is legal or not until a court rules on them, because that's how copyright works.

The court says, the following use is illegal, this one isn't, but it says, oh you've got a substantial non-infringing use so you can continue to market it.

Well, under the Grokster test, the test is that if you 'incite' people to use a work in a way that's illegal your technology is also illegal - so in other words if you say "Use our P2P system to download Top 40 music and not Creative Commons music" then you've broken the law. Well, Sony advertised the Betamax for two purposes: one was for use as a tool to timeshift, and the other was a use as a tool to make content libraries. No court has ever ruled that making a library is legal, it might not be legal. If a court finds that it's not legal under the new Grokster test, the VCR is illegal today, because it was advertised as a library.

A conversation with Cory Doctorow On Internet content

bit-tech: On the subject of new types of content and distribution, did you see that the Ricky Gervais podcast is now going to be paid-for only?

Cory: I saw that, I thought, well... I guess that's cool, as an artist, as an entrepreneur, I don't have any problem with it. I just think that as an entrepreneur, it's a little silly. The universe of free podcasts that are as entertaining as Ricky Gervais' exceeds my ability to listen to podcasts. My problem with podcasts right now isn't that I can't find enough podcasts cheaply to fill my day, it's that among the pool of free podcasts, there are more than I can conceivably listen to, I have to throw away perfect good podcasts in order to have enough listening in my day.

I don't understand who's going to buy it. I guess some people will. But in the universe of podcasts that are entertaining, I don't know that Gervais is really worth it.
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