Another week done, another week of funny and insightful comments. The top two on the insightful list both discuss ideas for copyright reform. The one voted the most insightful, by charliebrown
, suggests a 25-year term on copyright
OK, let's have a serious discussion here and try to look at it from all sides.
The big content industries, such as the major Hollywood studios, major recording labels (and, let's face it, they are major because they are big and they got big by starting early in the game and eating up the competition) and large publishers such as, but not limited to, Random House or Harper Collins... They see the products they make or sell or publish as investments with never ending returns. The fact that there's a lot that is out of circulation not withstanding, once they spend any money on it, they want money back for it forever. And if they can never spend money on it again (such as royalties) and still get money for it, they would consider that to be even better.
The actual creators - writers, actors, singers, songwriters, authors, photographers - they want to be able to earn a living doing what they love. The average person works at their job and they get paid for that day's work, or that week's work, and never get paid for the same work again. To continue getting paid, they must keep working. Whilst I am not against a creator earning money from their old works, especially as the content companies are getting money from the creator's works still as well, it should end somewhere.
The pubic just wants the books, comics, movies, TV shows and music.
Now, let's take the fact that copyright exists not as a means of a perpetual return on an investment but as a means of encouraging creativity, we should apply the fact that most people get paid for their work once. Now if you extend that to writing, singing, acting, etc, well, they can either get paid once (work for hire) or they can get paid whenever money is made from their work (royalties) but if you only need to make one successful work and then you can retire from it, what good is that? It has destroyed your desire to create more, which is contrary to why copyright exists.
Let's take TechDirt. Mike writes an article. People read the article, for "free" - with ads popping up on the page down the right hand side (seriously, sometimes the home page of TD takes ages to load because of this, thus annoying me, thus I am spending my time waiting to read the "free" content) and that is where Mike earns money. I can comment. I comment for free: Nobody pays me for my comment. Mike makes no money from my comment other than the money he would make from the ads on the side of the page, which would be there anyway even if I didn't comment. Is it fair that Mike makes money from my comment? I don't know but I don't care, I am still making my comment which I did not get paid money for and am spending my time posting and you are spending your time reading.
I think I've side-tracked here (I usually do, maybe I should hire an editor!) my point of the above paragraph being that I am getting no financial payment or any other kind of payment for posting this comment and yet I am still posting this comment, thus creativity, in the form of my thought processes and ideas, are flowing.
Now, public domain. I am of the opinion that copyright should be for around 25 years. Why 25 years? Easy: That is a lot longer than most people have to earn money from their work. If, for example, The Beatles got an hourly wage, they would not have made much money. But with the number of copies and subsequent royalties made over 25 years from 1967 to 1992, they would have made a lot, and a lot more than on an hourly wage. However, after 25 years, the majority of people who bought the album would still be around to enjoy any derivative works made from it. Assuming the price drops slightly one the copyright expires (from royalties no longer having to be paid) more people could afford to buy a copy of the album and hear it. This in turn would generate more interest, not just in The Beatles, but also in the four members, two of which are still alive and, on occasion, actively recording.
Using TV shows as an example now, there would still be a call for new TV shows to be produced. However, with less money needing to be paid, reruns of old shows could take the place of the endless parade of cheaply produced shock documentaries and reality shows. DVD's of these shows could be released, with the big companies applying restoration to make the "official" edition worth paying a bit extra for. There'd be no need to replace the music in shows like "Happy Days" and there'd be no need to cut out any scenes just because some two-bit actor, who's only leading role was in some late-night telemovie made in 1972, objects to them being seen in a bit part.
There is a huge stack of money able to be made from public domain works for those who are willing to invest. Just ask any publisher who prints Jane Austin or Charles Dickens or Shakespeare. Movies could be available for cheap but only those companies who invest the time, money and effort to keep the print quality good will earn money. TV shows, likewise. Music could be remastered by people who don't believe that all music should be made at full blast. And in many cases, there is now no need for physical media, meaning a startup company could invest in the restoration (if needed) of their selected item... let's say one company wants to release the movie "Psycho 2" from 1982 and another wishes to release "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield. They could invest the money, time and effort to restore, digitize and master these works to make them look and sound as if they were recorded yesterday, then distribute them at almost zero cost. A low retail price would ensure higher sales so it should not take long, even at only $2 to $3 per copy, to recoup the costs of restoration and have the profits start to roll in.
But where is the benefit for the creators? Well they've had 25 years to reap the benefits, which is a lot longer than most people get. They could, also, take their own work once the copyright has expired and release it themselves. A long established musician, for example, such as Jon Bon Jovi, who is still touring, could sell CD's at his concerts and not have to worry about forking over 95% of the profits back to the record company who is supposed to pay him and doesn't (by the 25 year standard I am suggesting, the first three Bon Jovi albums are public domain, with two more due in the next three years)
The cultural benefits of all of this, even if nobody ever bothered with derivative works, are enormous. Things you saw or heard or read as a kid would be a lot more readily available to show to your kids. You could write a sequel to your favourite book and nobody could say you shouldn't.
There IS money to be made and creativity to be had with public domain material. You just need to invest the time and effort in the first place to get it out there for people to consume it.
25 years sounds pretty arbitrary to me, though, I guess life plus 70/90/whatever years is pretty arbitrary as well. Rather than pick numbers out of a hat, I really wish we'd start looking at the actual data in terms of what creates the most incentives, but that seems unlikely. The comment voted second most insightful is from Dark Helmet
, and he explains why a registration/formalities system for copyright
makes a lot more sense than our current system:
This is the problem with an automatic opt in copyright system. You've got content, people that want the content, and other people that want to disseminate that content to people. With our system, you have to automatically assume you can't have the content. Why is that the default?
Wouldn't it be easier to require registration for copyright? A registration with explicit rules about how you mark the content in different mediums? Say, a blog that wishes to enjoy copyright must display the mark on their homepage banner? That way, if (insert major media publication here) wants to use the content, they just check for the mark and if it's not there they're good to go. Instead we have a system in which everyone is so afraid to act that they don't.
I'm pretty sure that isn't the point of copyright....
On this I agree. I'd greatly prefer a system with formalities than the crazy system we have today where everything automatically is granted a ridiculously long copyright. As for editor's choice, I'm going to pick two comments (each were among the top six vote getters) that came from people who showed insight based on knowledge/experience in the field being discussed. The first, from Miff
, discussed the ridiculousness of the Australian ruling that the song "Down Under" by Men at Work infringed on an old Australian folk song
As an amateur musician, let me say this (without being familiar with the songs in question in the article):
1) Music does not operate like some other art forms, such as writing, in that a single expression does not represent a specific idea. For example, the sentence "He went to the store." can only mean one thing, that a male traveled to a store. The series of notes C(1/4)-E(1/8)-G(1/4)-E(1/8)-C(1/4), however has no specific meaning.
2) Since music has no specific meaning, it operates on a different level of conciousness then literature, and therefore it's difficult to tell whether a series of notes is wholly original or based on something remembered.
3) The only way to know for sure is for music to be composed by those who have never heard any other music before, which would be nearly impossible to do.
The next one is the very first comment from Jojoyojimbi
, who explains he registered just to weigh in on the topic of Monsanto and farmers
This story is the first time I've felt compelled to add my 2 cents to the argument. I'm an avid reader of Techdirt, Consumerist, Slashdot, etc and this is the only time I've felt I HAD to register and provide a point of view.
I grew up on a farm. I'm 33 years old and I grew up in Iowa on a farm with farms all around me.
Monsanto was whispered like "he who shall not be named" in farming communities. God forbid you did something to piss off Monsanto, then you couldn't get feed or seed or the chemicals necessary for daily life on the farms of America.
Monsanto alfalfa and GMO crops are going to literally be the end of the family farm, they're intent on suing everyone who isn't using their products into the dirt, god forbid you wanted to save seed! That's a mortal SIN in Monsanto's eyes.
The bullshit and patent abuse that goes on in the agricultural businesses is tantamount to family farmer genocide.
I strongly recommend you guys contact some state representative and senators and urge them to stop allowing corporations to strip rights from family farms. It's too late for any of the members of the House or Senate of any Midwestern state, they're so deep into the pockets of big agribusiness they likely share the same blood supply.
I pray, with every fiber that this is the straw that breaks Monsanto's back and begins the downfall of their pitiful existence.
That's all the rant I have in me for this afternoon, Sorry
Enough of the insight... let's move on to the funny. The top one is a late entrant, coming in Friday evening, but immediately rising up the charts, it's by Marcus Carab
, and is his response to Tim Cushing's post, about how to make it big as an "IP Maximalist"
Dear Mr. Cushing,
I followed your advice and it changed my career—nay, my life—forever. Not even my extraordinary songwriting prowess can put the gratitude I owe you into words.
Before I read your guide, my album's CD and casette editions sold poorly, and yet I was constantly plagued by unpaying (and thus ungrateful) fans telling me they "loved my work" and it "means so much to them" and it makes them "cry tears of ecstasy" and other such no-cash-value remarks. It was as if they thought that just participating in the magic of music and knowing I had touched the hearts of so many strangers would be rewarding somehow. Music doesn't make me happy! It's just a job, like accounting or cleaning Rush Limbaugh's trough.
These ungrateful fans kept asking me "got any t-shirts?" and "why aren't you on itunes?" and shit like that. I didn't spend all of high-school playing the guitar so I could become a fashion designer or a nerd—I did it to meet girls! But when that didn't work, I turned it into a career, and I shouldn't have to do crap like diversifying my skill-set just to succeed in the workplace. I just want to work for the weekend and live for the paycheque.
Now, thanks to your advice, that's exactly what I'm doing! Well, except for the paycheque part. And the weekend part, since I had to get a second job after we didn't draw bar-minimum at that venue I booked last mont. But even though I'm still miserable, at least I know I'm not bringing joy to a bunch of freeloading assholes.
One Smart Musician
The next two were very, very close behind, (and both quite short), so I'll include them both. The first, comes from Atkray
, explaining the possible logic sequence of the former RIAA lobbyist-turned judge in a simple if-then statement
If integrity > payment
And the next one requires a bit of an explanation. It's from Josh in CharlotteNC
, on the post about licensing vs. letting people just use your stuff for free. There was a bit of a thread going on, with someone suggesting that "bad laws" need to get repealed. A copyright supporter said that copyright is not a bad law, to which another commenter, Greevar
, questioned what makes a bad law, concluding with "does it need to kill babies?" And that's where Josh's comment came in
Does it need to kill babies?
No, I think patent law has that one covered fairly well.
Finally, for the editor's choice, I'll pick a comment that actually did really well on both "insightful" and "funny" but didn't top either list. It's by anymouse
, and it's his "rewriting" of Chris Dodd's latest speech in his new role as boss of the MPAA. Or, as anymouse put it, FTFY Chris...
Let’s begin with perhaps the single biggest threat we face as a Country: cultural theft. At the outset, I want you to know that I recognize and appreciate that MPAA members are on the front lines every day when it comes to practicing cultural theft. Further, I want you to know that the member studios of the MPAA deeply appreciate the efforts you make every day to ignore the hemorrhaging of cultural theft that we are engaged in. Without the ignorance and apathy of the general public, and , we wouldn't be able to steal your culture and sell it back to you over and over again to continue to make the obscene profits we have become accustomed and entitled to.
We must continue to work together, pushing for stronger laws to protect intellectual property and more meaningful enforcement of those laws is the only thing we know how to do these days. We must also educate parents and students and everyone else about the real world impact of cultural theft on jobs and on local tax revenues, and how our ability to steal your culture can have a direct impact on on our ability to make the kinds of profits that we wish to see.
I'm sure there's plenty to comment on here, so have at it, as the new week begins...