Denmark Reverses Position On Copyright Extension, May Impact All Of Europe

from the a-tax-on-the-public dept

There is no ethically honest argument in favor of retroactive copyright extension. The point of copyright is to present incentives for the creation of new works. It's a form of an agreement with the public: the public grants the content creator a limited monopoly for a certain period of years, and in exchange, the public gets the work which will then fall into the public domain once that monopoly expires. Extending copyright retroactively makes no sense unless you are distorting the purpose of copyright law. After all, the "deal" was clearly enough at the time of creation to incent the creator to create. Changing the terms of the deal retroactively later is a way to unilaterally change the deal with the opposing party: the public.

Now, the argument most commonly used in favor of retroactive copyright extension is an argument of welfare: that poor starving musicians need this money to survive. Of course, there are two key problems with this. The first is that copyright is not a welfare program. If we want to create a welfare program for musicians, then let the government be upfront and create a specifically funded welfare program for old musicians. But, it would need to defend why it's doing that for old musicians as opposed to old "everyone else."

The bigger problem, however, is that copyright extension almost never actually helps those poor starving old musicians. Anyone who's actually looked into this has seen that the vast majority of that cash goes directly to the major record labels. And if you think they're going to start writing checks to those poor old musicians, you haven't paid much attention to how those record labels handle their accounting.

Either way, this fight comes up every time copyrights are about to expire, and there's been a big push across Europe to extend certain copyrights that are starting to expire. The EU Parliament apparently pushed for extending sound recording rights from 50 years to 70 years, but thanks to significant protests and complaints against this, the EU Commission hadn't moved forward on it. One of the countries holding out was Denmark. However, Slashdot points us to the news that Denmark has had a sudden and unexplained change of heart... and is now happy to support retroactive copyright extension. Not surprisingly, the reasons being given by the Danish culture minister are the classic welfare ones.
"I attach great importance to the musicians have strong rights. In government, we have carefully considered the matter and finds that a term of 70 years would be a sensible approach. Musicians should not experience losing rights to their recordings, while they are still active. We will therefore work towards an extension of protection that will strengthen the musicians and record companies' rights. "
"Carefully considered the matter"? Yeah, right. Notice that no actual justification is given for this other than the idea that musicians should never lose their rights. So, does that mean Denmark now supports permanent copyright? Why "70 years"? Where's the evidence that's the proper number? Don't expect answers, you won't find them. Economists who have studied the matter come up with optimal lengths much shorter than even the current 50 years that was perfectly acceptable for those musicians originally.

Of course, with Denmark switching sides, there are concerns that the current folks in power will quickly push through the proposal across Europe, and without any reasoned debate or considerations of the economic and cultural costs of retroactive extension, it will have happened yet again.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 11:19am

    Some studies

    I like how every study commissioned by various governments finds any sort of optimal length of copyright to be much shorter than 50 years, as well as others find little to no harm by piracy. The UK has had studies, I believe the EU did one as well, and then there is our own GAO over here on this side of the pond. Everything points to shorter copyrights are better, and pirates are not a problem. And whenever a government seems to be against what the industry pushes for, they just one day flip a switch a lose all reason. They fall back to moral arguments that actually have no proof to support them, and they stop answering all questions and just happen to parrot verbatim the dying industry's wishes. Quite interesting. We all know they are getting paid off to lie to the public like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 11:55am

    If we want to create a welfare program for musicians, then let the government be upfront and create a specifically funded welfare program for old musicians.

    Let's do that and be done with it. Then we wouldn't need, y'know, ACTUAL support for aging musicians.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      The eejit (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:15pm

      Re:

      Oi! I was a musician back in the late 17th Century! Where are my benefits cheques?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

      Re:

      I notice that the link you posted there points to the Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund which was founded in 1992.

      OK, you pro-copyright folk out there, explain how this kind of fund was needed before all this rampant internet "piracy" was happening and the major labels were booming in the CD re-issue age, huh?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        charliebrown (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:36pm

        Re: Re:

        FYI, the post above by "Anonymous Coward" on Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:33pm was by ME! I just didn't notice my browser had logged me out. Guess it must have deleted the cookie.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Huph, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

        Re: Re:

        Are you blind? It's a fund for *JAZZ* musicians!!! Not exactly a "hot" market since the 60s.

        How many Jazz albums did *you* buy in the 90s?

        "Oh by the way, Frank Zappa, did you know that Tupac, Biggie, and Snoop all sold millions of records? So you're doing fine right?"

        Sheesh.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 6:49pm

      Re:

      What about all the dead musicians who have died of old age?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:05pm

    What I like

    I like how ACTA didn't go through...

    And yet all of the provisions of it seem to be getting pushed through individually all over the place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Squirrel Brains (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

    Society at large is harmed by extending copyrights for absurd periods of time. Instead of incentives to create works the benefit society, people are encouraged to sit an their laurels and coast on one expression for a long time.

    It is time we put a bullet into the romantic notion of creativity. So called "creative people" should have to work just like the rest of us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

      Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

      One could reasonably argue that creative people will find ways to be creative regardless of their position in society...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      The Devil's Coachman (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:46pm

      Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

      When you get right down to it, the fact that musicians and actors can record their works at all is at the root of the problem. I'm not saying that there's anything inherently wrong with that. Back before that capability existed, they actually had to get up and work every day, or their lazy ass would starve to death. You want to hear music? Go somewhere they're playing, and either pay the admission fee, be it cash money or a three drink minimum, or hang outside and hope to hear something of it when the door opens. Wanna see actors put on a play? Go to the theater, and pay the price of the ticket. This was a process that generated income as long as the artist was working, and when they stopped, their income did too. That sort of promoted creativity and innovation, because once you play the same role and the same script to the limited audiences available, you either moved on, or came up with new stuff, or they wouldn't keep coming back.

      The ludicrous extent to which copyright has been perverted today is beyond the pale, and solely the work of industry lobbyists whose employers reap all the rewards. Not most - all. The artists generally find that if they don't perform, they still don't eat regular, unless they achieve the popularity of the Beatles, etc., (a statistical improbability on a par with becoming the next NY Giants quarterback, who by the way, still has to keep playing to generate income, unless they are fortunate enough to be a brand that advertisers will pay for). Not that many of them, either.

      Netted out, copyright promotes laziness and discourages innovation, at least on the part of the "entertainment industry" itself. Witness the steady stream of crapola movies they crank out like Yugos, as well as the dreary "music" they purvey, by talentless mannequins who couldn't perform live-miked if their lives depended on it, expecting the sheeple to pony up whatever ludicrous ticket prices or media prices they demand as though their products were gold-plated Ferraris. Screw them all. I haven't bought a CD or DVD in years, nor have I been to the festering and dank hellholes they call "theaters" in eons. Somehow, my life has seemed pretty complete to me. I still obtain my entertainment by whatever means available, which does not include "piracy", and have no sympathy for these wannabe monopolists. I hope they die and burn in hell.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        charliebrown (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:54pm

        Re: Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

        Seriously, if this was "Facebook", I would click LIKE on your comment above and then click UNLIKE just so that I could click LIKE again!

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Huph, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

      Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

      It is time we put a bullet into the romantic notion of creativity. So called "creative people" should have to work just like the rest of us.

      Wow.

      Commentary here has reached a new low.

      Alright, big man, time to put it on the table. What do *you* do for a living? How much do *you* make?

      Remember, I'm a musician, *and* I also work 50 hours a week at a physically demanding job, so I can't wait to hear all about the "real" work you do.

      Here's a tip, if your "real" work doesn't give you "real" muscles, then you're just as bad as these "creative types" you demonize. If you make more than a teacher by sitting at a desk, YOU are the problem with society. Leave the musicians out of your projected insecurities.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Steven (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 2:05pm

        Re: Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

        Really? I'm a software developer. Worked for a company for many years. Doing contract work now. And I'm fairly sure I make more than most teachers.

        Software development is probably not considered part of the 'creative' industry, but it's so very similar.

        Once I create something, it's done, created, reusable forever. I don't get paid over and over again from some program I wrote years ago even though that program continues to make thousands or millions of dollars for the company using it.

        I'm more than happy to support various forms of entertainment, but it's not my fault if they aren't capable of finding consistent ways to make a living with their trade. It shouldn't be up to the government to put in place barriers against the rest of us so some large corporations (because you really can't argue this helps the little guy) make massive amounts of money doing basically nothing.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Nicedoggy, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 6:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

          You don't get paid the company on the other hand probably does since software is also covered by copyrights.

          But there is a problem with it, although software can be changed to look nothing like the original thus making it difficult to claim copyrights on it, the protections embedded are what other industries are using to get copyright like protections, that is the loophole the allows them to create forced monopolies in certain real world spaces and even design things that will just stop working after a while.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Kisses, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

        Re: Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

        What he does for a living doesn't matter, you're the one who chose a primary job you're no good at.

        Face it there Bono, your band sucks and it's time to give up. The world has more than it's share of crappy guitarists.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Nicedoggy, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 7:06pm

        Re: Re: The Cultural Harm of Extending Copyrights

        The only thing low is your insistence that somehow you are entitled to such things that are found nowhere else inside society.

        Would you find it fair to have to pay the creator of your house for every use you make off of it?

        Would you find it fair is someone passed a law saying you must pay the creators of cars for every use you make off of it and that will cover every car that was ever made retroactively?

        Why any artist deserves that level of rights when nobody else gets the same?

        You are not special, you are not essential for life to continue, why do you need such a special treatment, what makes you deserve it?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    At this point I'd almost like to see infinite copyright completely enforced for about a month. The entire economy would collapse with everybody in courts trying to claim ownership of everything. There would probably be a boon in genealogy though. ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      charliebrown (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

      Re:

      On that note, I have been told that composer Edvard Grieg is my grandmother's grandfather. So if copyright becomes perpetual, I would have a stake in his music composed over 120 years ago. So would my younger brother. And my Dad. And his sister and two brothers. And my cousins. And my grandmother. And to be honest I don't know how many brothers or sisters she had. And her grandfather, Edvard Grieg, might have had more than one child, I don't know. And then, if so, their kids (my grandmother's cousins) and their kids (my grandmother's cousin's kids) and their kids (the children of the children of my grandmother's cousins) would also have a stake in the royalties.

      Quite frankly, I would rather it stay in the public domain where it belongs because I can go to any music store or public library and have a nice selection of recordings of those works to choose from.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      I think this is how Capitalism ultimately fails.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Whats ethically dishonest about saying that people should get rewarded in perpetuity for creating something which society decided to consume and make a permanent part of itself? Wouldn't you love to be so lucky? Wouldn't you love to get paid forever? Its slimy but theres nothing unethical about it, if you believe in the first place that you deserve to be rewarded for such a thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Hephaestus (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:52pm

      Re:

      "saying that people should get rewarded in perpetuity for creating something which society decided to consume and make a permanent part of itself?"

      Cool my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great ...... great grandfather invented the wheel. Now Pay up!!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

    the public grants the content creator a limited monopoly for a certain period of years, and in exchange, the public gets the work which will then fall into the public domain once that monopoly expires.

    The crux of the problem seems to be that creators have forgotten who grants them their rights. The rights have become unalienable to them; not granted. As such, creators resent the public for trying to take away their "rights."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Brett (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

    Who wants to bet that the US and some other countries were heavily pressuring the Danish government on this?

    In any case, music is the area of the whole media production business (which includes music, film, radio, etc) that arguably deserves the least copyright protection. There are plenty of ways for musicians to survive and make money outside of royalties, and there are some long traditions in music of doing things such as covers of older songs.

    At least film has the excuse of being very costly in terms of production expenses. Music doesn't really have that excuse, not anymore.

    For that matter, I don't see why copyrights should get such long protection - in fact, they arguably deserve less than patents. Enforcing patent and copyright law has real costs, and you'd be hard-pressed to prove that spending money on enforcing such long copyrights has a really beneficial impact on society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    PrometheeFeu (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 1:08pm

    There is no ethically honest argument in favor of retroactive copyright extension.

    As much as I hate retroactive copyright, I think this is no longer true. People can today have a reasonable expectation that copyright terms will be extended retroactively in the future. Therefore, it could be acting as an incentive to produce copyrighted works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Richard (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 4:28pm

      Re:

      People can today have a reasonable expectation that copyright terms will be extended retroactively in the future. Therefore, it could be acting as an incentive to produce copyrighted works.

      Surely you don't think that is ethical?
      It's like the bankers justifying their bonuses on the grounds that they got them last year so its fine to have them again.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Richard (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 4:28pm

      Re:

      People can today have a reasonable expectation that copyright terms will be extended retroactively in the future. Therefore, it could be acting as an incentive to produce copyrighted works.

      Surely you don't think that is ethical?
      It's like the bankers justifying their bonuses on the grounds that they got them last year so its fine to have them again.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Nom du Clavier (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    Marcellus says

    Since it's in the public domain I could reproduce it in its entirety, but that would make for a comment that's much too long when just the excerpt suffices: 'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 6:45pm

    Besides, we already have welfare programs for the poor, if you don't like them then argue in favor of them being changed. but don't turn copy'right' into a welfare program to give 'artists' (record labels) a special welfare that other citizens don't get.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2011 @ 6:53pm

    "The bigger problem, however, is that copyright extension almost never actually helps those poor starving old musicians. "

    Not to mention that the overwhelming majority of the sales on new content occurs within the first few years at most (often within the first few months even, if not within the first few weeks). The purpose of these extensions isn't to help anyone make money from the content, because that's not what they do, they're to prevent older content from competing with newer content. This is just evidence that copy'right' isn't about promoting the progress or expanding the public domain, it's about expanding a government imposed monopolistic economy. Copy'right' and patents exist for the same reason that taxi cab monopolies exist, for the same reason that private patents exist on government funded research, for the same reason why the government imposes monopolies on information distribution channels. They don't exist to serve a public good, they only exist to serve a private interest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2011 @ 6:41am

    It's about time we recognize what Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks are really for. They are simply a license to litigate. You pay for the right to sue others whether they infringed on you or not. Simple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2011 @ 12:17pm

    You tech-heads really don't like musicians/composers eh? As an author and musician i am proud and happy to get my paycheck from the local authors-rights organization when my work is streamed on TV or radio or played live. And I really don't see what is wrong with it. It is not my main income, but a nice extra. I am not saying the system doesn't need reforming, but the musicians are and were often the screwed ones in all the systems, getting rid of copyright certainly wouldn't make things better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This