Category Archives: Law and Politics

MJY Blog Entry #0005: An Image A.S.C.A.P.

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #0005, on the subject of An Image A.S.C.A.P..

At one time, if you wanted to hear music, you had very few options.  You could learn to make your own, have family or friends perform for you, attend a concert (either buying a ticket or attending one paid for by a government or arts patron), or hire musicians to provide it.  Technology changed that drastically, beginning with Thomas Alva Edison’s discovery that audio waves could be transformed into physical etchings and recreated as audio waves–the beginning of recorded music, the analog record.  At that point you could buy a Victrola and purchase originally cylinders and later disks on which musicians had recorded their performances, and you could listen to them whenever you wished.  (There were previously of course music boxes which provided a much narrower choice of songs and lower quality of tone, and player pianos and orchestrions, which were far more expensive and demanding to operate.  Recorded music was a game changer, and these others are now novelties.)  Musicians who once made money only by live performances now could make money by selling their performances to record manufacturers so that they could be heard by people who never saw them.

The game changed again with the advent of radio.  It was now possible for the operator of a radio station or radio network to play someone’s music for audiences which quickly went from hundreds to hundreds of thousands.  At first the Federal Communications Commission frowned on such stations playing pre-recorded music, and so music was mostly live concerts–but often such live concerts were also recorded and replayed later, so it was becoming a moot point.  Now a musician could be heard by many people from the sale of a single record–but the sale of a single record would never support the artist for even one day, and he could not produce enough records in a day to do that.  It was agreed that a radio station who played a recording by an artist owed that artist–and indeed, also owed the composer and the publisher–royalties under copyright law.  However, as the number of radio stations burgeoned and the number of available recorded songs multiplied, that was going to be a prohibitive issue.

A solution was found.  The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers came into existence.  Now a musician simply registered his recording with the society, and the society negotiated with radio stations to collect royalties for airplay of songs.  The theory is that every time a radio station plays your song, you split a penny with several other people who also get paid (like your record company and, actually, A.S.C.A.P. itself).  Of course, it was not then possible for anyone to count how many times every song was played on every radio station, but A.S.C.A.P. had a simple solution.  Every week some sample group of radio stations–a different sample group each week–writes down every song it plays, and A.S.C.A.P. compiles these lists and extrapolates from them how many times each song was played on all radio stations in the nation.  Every radio station then pays a license fee to A.S.C.A.P. (there are numerous factors determining how much is paid, largely based on how many people are likely to hear it), and that money gets paid to the musicians.

The system has expanded over the years.  Today churches who wish to sing songs that are not in their hymnals without buying sheet music for everyone buy a license to print or display songs for use in services, and the composers, authors, and sometimes performers of those songs are compensated from that.  It certainly has been taxed by the development of file sharing and the Internet, but thus far it has managed to expand to meet the changing times.

I am going to suggest that it expand a bit more, or perhaps that it be imitated.

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One of the problems on the Internet is that there are a lot of pictures–“images”, whether photos or computer drawings or scans of artwork–and that it is extremely simple to copy an image and use it somewhere else.  For most of us, that’s not a big deal–what little artwork might be labeled mine is of meager quality.  We would object to our personal photos being used in some corporate advertising campaign, but probably wouldn’t think twice about someone using something we drew somewhere else.  In fact, we frequently post and repost probably thousands of images per day on Facebook, knowing that they are gone beyond our control and we will never be compensated for any work we invested in them.  However, there are people who are dependent on being able to sell their images–photographers, artists, animators–and when we “steal” their work we are robbing them.  Often, though, we have no way of knowing whether any particular image we encounter is free to use as is, free to use in other ways, or something that requires the purchase of a license.

It might be argued that in a world in which everyone carries a digital camera in his pocket there is no longer a place or a need for professional photographers.  When was the last wedding you attended at which “a friend of the bride” did not shoot the pictures?  Photographers may be a profession of the past.

That is not necessarily true.  We do not get many photos from tourists visiting war zones, or admitted to peace talks or legislative sessions; for these, at least, we need professionals.  We probably need them for many other things.  If, though, we do not compensate them (not to mention others in the visual arts) for their work, they will be forced to cease doing it.  Yet it is a simple thing, a small thing, to use an image that you find floating out there on the web and float it a bit further, without any notion of its origin.  Is there a solution for this?

Certainly it is possible for photographers, artists, animators, and filmmakers to surf the web seeking their stolen images, and sue any offending web site; however, absent some clear indication that the thief was aware of the ownership status of the image, United States law only allows for an order to remove the image from the site.  Something more is needed for compensation.  Yet the tools all exist to launch something like A.S.C.A.P. for artists and photographers.  We already have systems monitoring traffic to various sites, so we know how heavily any site is visited.  We have “spiders” crawling the web, and Google has demonstrated the ability to identify images by subject matter.  Digital signatures can be implanted in images that alter nothing visible but make the image recognizable to such a spider.  Let’s let people who create such images sign their work digitally.  Then every company that provides web site hosting space can be required to buy a license on behalf of those whose sites are hosted on its servers, price based on server size and traffic volume, costs to be passed to those who build the sites.  Then if you happen to use a photo from an Associated Press photographer, or an image from an unfamiliar artist, or any other work on which someone holds rights, the system will count it and tell A.S.C.A.P. to compensate the owner.

It works for registered songs on the radio; why not for images?

I have previously written on copyright law, including Freedom of Expression:  Copyright and Intellectual Property.

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#4: Just Do the Job

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #0004, on the subject of Just Do the Job.

There has been an increase in “self-driving” features on new automobiles.  The popular one is the car that parallel parks itself.  I remember that parallel parking was one of the most difficult parts of the driver road test, not only when I took it but for several of my sons.  People failed on that frequently, and here in New Jersey we joke that you know you’re from New Jersey if you could negotiate a traffic circle before you could parallel park.  What, though, if you take your road test in one of these self-parking cars, and when instructed to park you simply activate the car’s self-parking feature and remove your hands from the wheel so it can do what it is designed to do?  Would the instructor be obligated to pass you, or to fail you?

Digital Drivers License
Digital Drivers License

Bear in mind that most people who receive their standard passenger vehicle drivers license are unable to drive a standard transmission.  I was unable to do so when I got my license, and had only the vaguest notion of the purpose of that extra pedal.  I learned eventually, but know many people who drive all the time and cannot drive “stick”.  It is not really required that the driver is able to operate every motor vehicle in the class; only that he demonstrates the ability to drive one such vehicle.  Further, note that our laws creating opportunities for the handicapped permit them to obtain licenses operating vehicles specially equipped to accommodate their specific disabilities–hand controls for accelerator and brake for those without the use of their legs, for example.  In these United States, driving is for many a necessity, the only way to go to work, to obtain household supplies, to reach medical care.  We attempt to facilitate the right for as many persons as possible.

So if a young driving license candidate uses the automatic parallel park feature on his father’s new car, should he pass, or fail?  There is no evidence that he can park without that feature, and honestly the first car he buys for himself is unlikely to have it.  Yet he did manage to park the car, and there is no proof that he could not have done so without that “assist”.

Yet how far can this be permitted?  If a candidate arrives in a Google® self-driving car, so that all he has to do is give voice directions to an onboard computer which will operate the car using its sensor array, onboard maps, and computer uplink, does the fact that he can direct the car adequately to complete the driving test, without ever touching any of the controls himself, mean that he qualifies for a license?

What if he is blind?

Yes, certainly there are vision test requirements which must be met before one can take the road test, but if cars are made able to drive themselves with their own superior “vision” installed, that could well become “discriminatory”.

Now, imagine that you are a local motor vehicles agency test certifier:  it is your job to test candidates for driver licenses, and to sign a form certifying that this candidate is qualified for a license.  Remember, as I previously said concerning licenses:

…a license is government permission for someone to do something which would be illegal without a license….a license both permits specific categories of conduct and imposes certain responsibilities on the licensee….a license is a means by which the government regulates specific conduct, both to prevent conduct it wishes to discourage…and to encourage conduct it desires….

In the case of a license to drive, the signature of the test certifier asserts a belief by the certifier that the candidate is sufficiently skilled at driving as to be permitted to drive on the public roads unsupervised.  It is therefore the certification that the candidate is qualified for the license.

I have of late seen many Internet images with the suggestion that there are people who do not agree with their jobs, or did not expect that their jobs would require them to do certain things, but they do the jobs anyway because these are the jobs.  They are of course aimed at the Kentucky clerk who will not sign her name to marriage licenses for homosexuals (and to avoid being charged with discrimination, she will not sign her name to any marriage licenses).  Yet this is the heart of the problem:  the clerk does not believe that couples incapable of becoming biological parents can be certified as “married”.  It is her job to make that determination, the determination of whether a particular couple is qualified for such a license; the voters placed her in that position for that purpose (among others–it is not the entirety of her job).  She is undoubtedly expected to refuse such licenses to persons who are not qualified–incestuous relationships, bigamous marriages, applications from minors, cases of coercion or duress.  Her signature on the license is not “just doing her job”; it is certifying that she is persuaded that the applicants meet the requirements for marriage as she understands them.

That to some degree puts her in the same position as the motor vehicle road test supervisor who is asked to sign a form stating that this blind person has passed his road test because he happens to have come in a car capable of driving itself based on his verbal instructions.  It may be that this person has passed all the legal requirements technically, but in the opinion of the person required to make that certification the candidate is not qualified.

There are certainly arguments that Kim Davis should just sign the licenses, based on the fact that the candidates are fully qualified under the laws of her state; there are also arguments that she should not sign them, because under the constitution of State of Kentucky such marriages are unlawful.  This is what is called a conflict of laws issue, and technically the Supreme Court decision requires the State to amend its constitution to comply with the Court’s ruling–but until it does, that constitution is a valid basis to conclude that her personal assessment that these persons are not qualified for a license is also legally supported.  It is a weak argument, but in law it remains an argument made stronger by the fact that her oath of office (which I have not specifically read) undoubtedly requires her to “uphold” and/or “defend” that state constitution.

So stop saying that Kim Davis should just do her job.  She is doing her job:  she is assessing whether applicants are qualified to receive marriage licenses as she understands them.  She is refusing to certify licenses for persons she believes are not qualified, and so as not to be discriminatory about it she is also refusing to issue licenses to persons she might believe are qualified.  You might think that these people are qualified, but she does not, and she is the one who has to certify that they are.  It is, as she has said, her name on the form.

In addition to the articles linked in this post (Homosexual Marriage and Miscellaneous Marriage Law Issues), the author has also written In Defense of Marriage, Christianity, Homosexuality, and the E. L. C. A., and blog posts in both the Law and Politics and the Bible and Theology categories bearing the Homosexuality and Marriage content tags.

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#2: Planned Parenthood and Fungible Resources

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #0002, on the subject of Planned Parenthood and Fungible Resources.

I’m remembering being a kid.  I’ve saved two dollars from my fifty cent weekly allowance, and now have permission to walk the couple miles down the busy road to the corner store.  I’m planning to spend my allowance on candy and comic books.  Candy is usually ten cents a bar, with gum and Lifesavers® a nickel; comic books are, if I remember aright, a quarter.  I have not decided how much I will spend on either candy or comic books, because I haven’t seen what they have, but I’ll probably split it down the middle, a dollar on each.

Hey, this may sound like fantasy to you, but that’s what it was like when I was a kid.  Also, New Jersey did not have a sales tax then, so I don’t have to worry about that in my calculations.  Only the next part never happened–but it might have.

So as I’m leaving my mother in a fit of generosity gives me an extra dollar–but she says I am not to spend any of it on candy.  So now I have three dollars, two of them my own to spend as I like and one that is specifically limited as “not candy”.

I look over the comic books and find four that I like, and that’s a dollar; so I spend my mother’s dollar on the comic books, and buy twenty candy bars with my two dollars.

Of course, I did not spend a dime of my mother’s dollar on candy; I spent it all on comic books.  However, because I had that dollar from her, I could get four comic books with her dollar and free up my own money to spend on candy.  The result is that I got the same number of comic books (half of the money with which I started would have bought those four books) and twice as much candy, because having my mother’s dollar for the comic books I did not have to spend my own money on them and I could get the candy.

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Planned Parenthood swears that it does not spend any Federal money on abortions.  I believe them.  They undoubtedly have strict accounting procedures that enable them to track where the Federal money goes, so they can account for it.  That money goes into services that are certainly valuable to men and women alike.  In fact, those services are so important that Planned Parenthood would probably make the effort to fund them by other means were there no Federal money to provide them.  Fortunately, mom gave them a dollar that they can spend on those other services, which frees up that much money that would have gone to those services to pay for abortions.

Certainly Planned Parenthood does not spend as much on abortions as it gets from the Federal government; for one thing, that would be obvious, and for another they have plenty of other services for which to pay.  It is undoubtedly true that the Federal money makes it possible for them to provide more of those services than otherwise, as well as divert other monies to abortions, and that without the Federal money they would still offer everything, including abortions, but that they will provide fewer services overall to fewer people.  Yet no matter how you argue it, it is still obviously the case that the Federal money makes it possible for Planned Parenthood to put more money into abortions, money which would have to go to other services if they did not have that Federal money to pay for those other services.  The administrators who are paid in part from Federal money are in part running the abortion services of the organization.  The buildings that are funded by Federal money are used in part to facilitate abortions.  Money that keeps Planned Parenthood operational is de facto money that supports its abortions programs.

The argument that no Federal money goes to abortion does not work.  The fact that Federal money pays for programs, services, facilities, and personnel that would otherwise be paid out of money that now pays for abortions means that abortions are being subsidized by that money.  We can argue–we are indeed still arguing–as to whether an abortion is a means of freeing a woman from the enslavement of an unwanted child or the murder of a child by its mother; we can argue whether we want tax money to pay for such things; we cannot argue that it does not enable them rather directly.

It really cannot rationally be said to be otherwise, as long as the one organization receives money from the Federal government and spends money on abortions.  I can argue that I used my mother’s dollar to buy the comic books and bought the candy with my own money, but obviously I would not have spent as much on candy if I did not have that dollar because I would have bought some of those comic books with my money.  Planned Parenthood can argue that the Federal money does not go to abortions, but just as obviously they spend more on abortions because they have the Federal money to pay for other programs that would otherwise come out of their regular budget.

The author has also written Was John Brown a Hero or a Villain?, Professor Robert Lipkin, the Concert Violinist, and Abortion, and the song Holocaust, addressing related issues of abortion, on this site.

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