Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: New Third Voice version out

Author:Jeremy Bowers
Posted:9/16/1999; 7:38:15 AM
Topic:New Third Voice version out
Msg #:11123 (In response to 11117)
Prev/Next:11122 / 11124

The medium and the scale of such things should have absolutely no bearing on their legality; such is a very slippery slope.

The medium does not, but the scale already does. If you mark up your personal copy of a newspaper, nobody gives a hoot, because for the most part, copyright law only allows the copyright holder to recover damages. In the case of you marking up your personal copy of a newspaper, those damages are precisely $0 and 0 cents, making it a rather silly thing to go to court. Nor does the copyright holder particularly care, because you aren't damaging anything.

Unfortunately, the reference I had for these things (the Copyright FAQ at, which is a very good discussion on the topic, appears to be having some sort of trouble right now, so I can't get the precise numbers, but at some point in the United States, which is on the order of 10-100 violations or $5000 of damage, copyright violation goes beyond civil infraction and goes to a felony! Scale matters a lot. It also matters in whether or not something is fair use; using a brief quote in an editorial context is OK, if it doesn't damage the economic value of the work. Using the whole work (assuming it isn't trivially short), damaging its value, and a number of other things that escape my memory all step over the bounds of fair use.

Scale matters a lot, and it seems to me that saying Third Voice is OK because it performs millions of small-scale, legal modifications that would be illegal in the aggregate is either A: A really clever loophole or B: Not likely; we must approach the service as a whole, and not on a page-by-page basis.

Herein, I believe, lies a lot of the controversy/mutual misunderstanding. Those who see it as simply changing somebody's personal copy see no problem. (For that matter, neither do I. In fact, Third Voice allows you to create personal annotations on a page. These annotations are stored on your hard drive, and not even Third Voice knows what they are in any way. I know of nobody who objects to these. In fact, while I personally would rather stick with the bookmark system, personal annotations are an excellent reason to use the product.) Those who look at the service as a whole see it as a number of people viewing a modified page (that they are modifying together), and see no reason that a very large number of people may someday be seeing that page.

I do not want to live in a world where corporations and other information providers have such tight control over their "content" that they can prevent me from filtering it. Intellectual property privileges exist solely to promote the creation of content, not to enrich content creators. I can't see how less content will be produced if more people are creating meta-content, which tells me that the status quo works.

Should Third Voice and other things ever become large enough to become social issues, I think the first things to go will be shopping on the web. Unfortunately, both the assertion that Third Voice could not possibly cause anyone to not produce content, and the assertion that it can have that effect, are totally unsubstantiable, as we have no historical reference that I am aware of.

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