Why Didn't UK Deal With Ridiculous Copyright Term Lengths?

from the good-question dept

While we've been surprised that the UK government actually appears to support putting in place much of the Hargreaves' report's recommendations, we've noted from the beginning that the report really seemed to pull its punches at times. That may have been politically necessary, but it's good to see at least some in the UK pointing out that there are even larger problems with the copyright system that the government is not addressing. Shane Richmond, at The Telegraph, has an excellent article that highlights how copyright is an "outdated law that puts a cap on creativity." While it covers a few different issues, a key point is the ridiculous length of copyright law today:
This situation is essentially ridiculous. A copyright period that extends beyond the life of the author is clearly not an incentive to create Ė whatever rewards you offer, John Lennon is unlikely to write any more songs (although the music industry did include the names of several dead musicians among the 4,000 whom it listed in 2006 as supporting a further extension, so perhaps it might work after all).
Separately, he calls out the traditional industry gatekeepers and lobbyists for pretending that they've been arguing in the best interests of the artists, when copyright law is often getting in the way of artists instead:
Even as far back as the 18th century, publishers knew that arguing for a legal monopoly for their products was unlikely to succeed. So they framed the argument around the artists and got what they wanted. Todayís arguments, whether in favour of copyright extensions or against ďpiracyĒ, are always couched in the same terms: itís about protecting artists and creators.

But copyrights are now increasingly likely to be owned by corporations, not by individuals. These companies will argue that they have invested in creativity, even if they didnít do the creating themselves. But very often, they simply bought the rights from a company that once invested in some long-dead artist, or from that artistís relatives. Itís not about creativity, itís about revenue Ė which is perhaps why, in the US, copyright extensions have tended to happen whenever Disney is about to lose the exclusive rights to Mickey Mouse.

As it stands, the true purpose of copyright has been subverted. In fact, itís now an active disincentive to create.
It's pretty amazing (and surprising) to see this in a mainstream UK publication. Hopefully people pay attention.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    The eejit (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 5:15am

    Holy crap! The Torygraph standing against IP laws?

    It's official, the first Elder Sign ahs been scrawled.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 6:31am

      Re:

      Yes, that was my immediate thought. Mainstream UK publication? Meh, there's often a lot of common sense from The Guardian, FT and others. But, the Telegraph? What next? Accurate health & immigration stories from the Daily Mail? Intelligent journalism from the Star?

       

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    •  
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      Ninja (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 6:34am

      Re:

      I can see Cthulhu awakening in 2012. The Mayans (?) were right, 2012 is the end.

      It sure is refreshing though. Maybe we'll die happily knowing MAFIAA has finally understood what's copyright all about and that file sharing is good. NOT.

       

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    Nicedoggy, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 6:20am

    It may take some time but eventually everyone will see how ridiculous copyright terms are.

     

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    Asigurari rca, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Copyright terms are a big problem in many countries. Piracy is growing and growing so it is hard to make good laws.

     

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    AC, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 6:51am

    For the most part, they can't do anything. They're bound by various international agreements which would take (at least) the US and EU for any chance of those being reopened.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    This situation is essentially ridiculous. A copyright period that extends beyond the life of the author is clearly not an incentive to create Ė whatever rewards you offer, John Lennon is unlikely to write any more songs (although the music industry did include the names of several dead musicians among the 4,000 whom it listed in 2006 as supporting a further extension, so perhaps it might work after all).

    This is a silly straw man that you guys throw out all too often. The incentivizing takes place before the creation, not after it. Obviously no one is incentivized to create something after they've already created it.

    The fact that you even put forth this argument at all, Mike, shows that you'll grasp onto anything in your desperate attempts to discredit IP. It's hilarious.

     

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      This is a silly straw man that you guys throw out all too often. The incentivizing takes place before the creation, not after it. Obviously no one is incentivized to create something after they've already created it.

      Soooooo.... you're saying that the prospect of keeping a corporation you've never heard of in cash 50 years after you die inspires you to write a song? OK.... weird, but at least it has more internal logic than most counter arguments in here.

       

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      DannyB (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:01am

      Re:

      > The incentivizing takes place before the creation


      Then we definitely don't need longer copyright terms.

      The copyright terms that were in place were more than enough incentive for all the creating that had been done for decades.

      When the next copyright extension argument comes up, we need to remember your very words. The incentives already in place are enough to have created all that is being created. More is being created today than ever before -- it's is only the dinosaur industry that is not getting monopoly rents it feels entitled to.

      Beyond that, the really good content is created as a result of passion, regardless of how many years after death that copyright may last.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:12am

      Re:

      Yeah! Copyright should last 1,000,000 years! It would be a Tardian paradise!

       

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:20am

      Re:

      Funny Mike did not put the argument out there, he just gave someone else making that argument more coverage.

      I think your incorrect, much of the incentives are collected after it is created, and collected and collected and collected.
      The ideas and concepts are locked away making sure nothing new can be imagined using those ideas.
      The ideas grow stagnant and are treated as something that must remain untouched, well unless the rightholder can find a new way to wring some more money out of it or sue someone who had a similar idea.
      How many amazing ideas that were inspired by those artists who came before them have been squashed to protect the original 75 years later?

       

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      Jay (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:28am

      Re:

      "The incentivizing takes place before the creation, not after it."

      What incentive got John Lennon to create the songs that people liked?

      What incentive had him pick up a guitar, learn to sing old blues and rhythm songs, and become a sensation?

      Even better, what incentive guaranteed that the songs they sang would become international hits?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:09am

        Re: Re:

        He did it for the chicks.

         

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          Joe Publius (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 10:25am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Exactly, if anything we need laws giving artists groupies for content creation!

          All of this right to copy/distribute is a red herring for the real issue, the loneliness and frustrations of the single artist.

           

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      Richard (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:42am

      Re:

      This is a silly straw man that you guys throw out all too often. The incentivizing takes place before the creation, not after it. Obviously no one is incentivized to create something after they've already created it.

      So you agree that copyright should expire on the death of the creator then. Good, that's a starting point.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 10:59am

      Re:

      "Obviously no one is incentivized to create something after they've already created it."

      And yet we extended copyright RETROACTIVELY. How did THAT incentivize anything?

      50 years is plenty. 50 years gives plenty of time to profit off the work and plenty of incentive to create. Nobody is going to say, "I'm not going to see that in the theater, I'm going to wait until 2061 when it becomes public domain."

      How many businesses, when buying or creating new works, worry about how much profit will be generated by that work 50 years in the future? Of course they don't. The odds are against the work still being popular, and 0% of the people working at that company are still going to be working there 50 years later (assuming the company even still exists.)

      Ever calculate the current value of profits you won't see for 50+ years? It's much, much lower than the raw amount of profits that you'll actually get. No sane person would treat that as a real incentive for creation.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:09am

    There is a pretty huge failure in this story, because the writer apparently doesn't understand some basic business principals:

    " These companies will argue that they have invested in creativity, even if they didnít do the creating themselves. But very often, they simply bought the rights from a company that once invested in some long-dead artist, or from that artistís relatives. Itís not about creativity, itís about revenue"

    What the writer fails to understand is that the smaller company invested in the artist, and may or may not have made a return. They have created value, and it's that value that they are selling on. The smaller company may or may not have recouped their investments, and selling the value on to others is part of the business model.

    It isn't any different from (in the UK, example) selling a house that is on a 99 year leasehold. They own something of value, they invested in it, and now they are selling it.

    To deny business the right to own content, or to deny them the right to sell it on would be to obstruct free market business. That would be incredibly sad.

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:25am

      Re:

      Wow that is an amazing leap, they were not discussing denying business the right to own copyrights. The discussion was about the length of time copyright should be valid. If the business can't recoup their money in 25 years, it is doubtful extending it to 75 or 125 years is going to help.

      And copyright is meant to balance the rights of society, what exactly do these massively long copyrights offer society other than a public domain completely devoid of anything new entering it.
      Oh thats right we get the special right of being charged multiple times for portions of our shared culture and the right to face lawsuits if we decide to build something from the inspiration we find in those creations.

      Seems fair.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:31am

        Re: Re:

        The length of copyright is like the length of a leasehold: The value of the underlying property is based on how long you can profit from it.

        At 75 years, example, copyright is effectively "length of life", and that anyone who was around when it was created is unlikely to be able to profit from it in the public domain, except perhaps in their old age. What is in the public domain today (that huge, massive public domain) is all from pre-20th century for the most part. At some point, much of the current material will be part of the public domain, for the next generations to enjoy.

        I cannot see a reason to make copyright shorter, except perhaps for the greed of the current rimix style artists who are running short of material to work from. Oh yeah, Nina Paley might need a music track for her next movie.

         

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          Donnicton, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The length of copyright is like the length of a leasehold: The value of the underlying property is based on how long you can profit from it.

          I'll bite. What is your defined threshold for profit for it to be considered enough of a value to hold perpetually extending copyright ownership?

           

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          Richard (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The length of copyright is like the length of a leasehold: The value of the underlying property is based on how long you can profit from it.

          So when that leasehold is extended at the expense of the public, your logic says that the public should be compensated. Funny, I don't remember that happening on any of the multiple copyright extensions that have occurred in the last 50 years.

           

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          The eejit (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:50am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You're an idiot.

          "I cannot see a reason to make copyright shorter, except perhaps for the greed of the current rimix style artists who are running short of material to work from."

          Remix artists like, say, Walt Disney Studios? Their last original work was Fantasia. There is a reason tropes exist, you know.

           

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            PaulT (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Erm, Fantasia? The animation based 100% on pre-existing music that was already in the public domain? Oh yeah... by AC's logic, Disney were just "rimix" artists and their resulting work had no value. Got it :)

             

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              The eejit (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Do you see my point, though? there is nothing original anymore. The innovation is currently about improving on old works.

              Thus the basis for new culture is, in fact, copy-culture.

               

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          PaulT (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:08am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "What is in the public domain today (that huge, massive public domain) is all from pre-20th century for the most part."

          Only because the rules keep getting changed. Not a justification. Most pre-1970 works would be in the public domain if the rules had not been changed from when those works were produced. Meanwhile how many 20th century works are rotting away or unreleasable because of current copyright laws? A lot.

          "I cannot see a reason to make copyright shorter"

          I know, you've already shown many times that you have no concept of the value of art and no imagination. I'll give you one - orphaned works. There's many more if your imagination is still broken.

           

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          Nicedoggy, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You are no economist because if you were, you would know that the lease has no bearing on the value of the property, which is set by market pressure unlike copycrap.

           

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          That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 9:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So taking cheap shots at people who actually produce content is your reasoning, you might want a better argument as it just makes you look like an asshat.

          So when Disney took public domain fairy tales and slightly tweaked and remixed them they were just being greedy. Then they used copyright laws to block anyone else who wanted to build off of the same fairy tales, because they were Disney ideas now.

          So when Nina did it she is greedy, but Disney doing it is good.

          Did you eat alot of paint chips as a kid?

          As many people have pointed out, everything is a remix.
          Things are built on top of others ideas, that does not destroy the original and might even increase interest in the original.
          There is very little gained for the benefit of society by creating these massive pools of IP, to be locked away or lost... look at the recordings being lost by the Library of Congress because the laws are so screwed up that creating a copy to save it is illegal.

          It is better to have something lost forever, than to fix a very broken system and restore the balance between society and the creators.

           

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      PaulT (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:44am

      Re:

      I see where you're going with the house analogy, but it's faulty.

      You buy a house, then you sell it later for (hopefully) a profit. You retain exclusive rights to that house but you also don't expect to get paid in between times (unless you rent it out, in which case you lose direct use of it anyway and the analogy gets messy). In the meantime, the architects, builders, electricians, etc. who built the house also don't expect to get paid each time you use it, nor do their children expect a cut.

      There's more differences between that and copyright than there are similarities, even if you consider both "property".

      "To deny business the right to own content, or to deny them the right to sell it on would be to obstruct free market business."

      Nobody's trying to deny them that right. What they are trying to do is stop the ridiculous monopoly lengths. You can still make money of public domain material, it's just that other can as well. But, if the product is hundreds of years old, what's the incentive to make more? If the incentive is that the new stuff is deemed more valuable, why the excessive copyright lengths?

      "That would be incredibly sad."

      You want sad? Look at the areas of entertainment where profit & creating "product" has replaced the urge to make art for art's sake. The artists are being edged out in favour of easily manufactured material they can peddle for the next century. That's sad.

       

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      Richard (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:52am

      Re:

      To deny business the right to own content, or to deny them the right to sell it on would be to obstruct free market business.

      I would simply deny the (artificial) concept of content being owned. Ownership of a house makes sense because, practically speaking, only one person (or small group) can benefit from it at a time. However there is no limit on the number of people that can benefit from an abstract thing, and so that concept of ownership makes no sense.

      Now content created by a person does have an unbreakable link with that person - but you cannot sell the authorship of a work to someone else, it makes no sense.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:41am

      Re:

      Lol what? Copyright is a govt. granted monopoly, the very antithesis of the free market.

      Saying copyright helps the free market is like saying you need to kill your wife in the next three seconds or she won't live another year. It's completly nonsensical.

       

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    NullOp, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:43am

    Copyright

    Copyright, it should only last ten years with no renewal and no exceptions. Most, if not all, works are a derivation of some other work. So granting long term copyrights are, in essence, putting a cap on creativity.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:45am

    IIRC, the primay movant for long copyright terms was France, and it was able to include them in various copyright treaties.

    Until the UK and the US acceded to Berne and subsequent treaties, both of them had much, much shorter terms. In the US is was 28 years, plus one extension if sought for an additonal 28 years. In the UK the term was somewhat similar.

     

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    Mitch Featherston, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:53am

    Absolutely

    The duration of copyright is not just an issue in the UK, it's an issue worldwide.

     

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    Idobek (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:53am

    For only one of the reasons I thought

    I was going to say that where the US has Mickey Mouse the UK has Peter Pan. However, Peter Pan is now a special case within UK copyright law.

    Unfortunately I was correct in my other assumption: the EU. The EU/a> now controls the term lengths in the UK. I think there is a possibility of shortening (slightly) the length of copyright on works published prior to 1995 - but that is all.

     

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      Idobek (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:55am

      Re: For only one of the reasons I thought

      Urgh, I guess I didn't close the tag properly; sorry.

       

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      Richard (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:32am

      Re: For only one of the reasons I thought

      I was going to say that where the US has Mickey Mouse the UK has Peter Pan. However, Peter Pan is now a special case within UK copyright law.

      Peter Pan - the copyright that never grew up!

      Yes - I remember the debate. All the pro-copyright people said "It's terrible Gt Ormond St. Hospital will lose out when the copyright expires - so we must extend the term. (By the way that will extend OUR terms as well - but I hope you don't notice that)".

      When what they should have said was "It's terrible Gt Ormond St. Hospital will lose out when the copyright expires So one of us should repeat JM Barrie's generous gesture and donate the copyright on a newer work as a replacement".

       

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:08am

    Copyright "puts a cap on creativity"? -- Not if you create new.

    That aspect only affects those who try to leverage on existing works. Completely different topic from most you've quoted, on "the ridiculous length of copyright law today": the overarching problem there, as everywhere, is corporatism itself.

    I'm against copying when mere remix and mash up, and I'm also against corporations! What those have in common is that other than the creator attempts to profit.

    @ AC who wrote "obstruct free market business" -- that'd be GOOD. What's needed is to restrain big business because bigness always works against FAIRNESS.

     

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      Jay (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 9:06am

      Re: Copyright "puts a cap on creativity"? -- Not if you create new.

      "What's needed is to restrain big business because bigness always works against FAIRNESS."

      Coming up next thread...

      Big Business binds businesses with Bigness binders.

       

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    Tor (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:27am

    Relating copyright term to life span of the author

    A copyright period that extends beyond the life of the author is clearly not an incentive to create Ė whatever rewards you offer

    This is not true. If people can pass on something of value to their children, then that's clearly an incentive. One could perhaps phrase it like this: why should an old person who may not have as many years left to live as a young person be given less incentive (through copyright) to create?

    I think it's a strategic mistake to argue that copyright should end when the author dies, because once you have bought in to the idea that there is a connection between coypright term and the author's lifespan it gets more difficult to argue that the copyright term should be shorter than an average life span.

    Just let the copyright term be short and of fixed duration.

     

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      Richard (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 8:46am

      Re: Relating copyright term to life span of the author

      Just let the copyright term be short and of fixed duration.

      More reasonable - BUT there will always be hard cases with a short term (authors whose work only becomes popular after a delay) and the pro-copyright lobby will haul out some sob story or other and get the term extended again.

      Personally I have come to the conclusion that copyright simply needs to be abolished. It is the legacy of our technological history and would not be invented today if we were starting from scratch (without the legal and psychological baggage of the last 300 years).

      As it stands copyright cannot be enforced except at great cost both financial and in terms of the crippling of technology. Those costs are born either by those customers who abide by the rules - or by the general public and I can see no good reason to burden either of them.

      In the modern world there are other, better ways to incentivise (though I doubt that that is really necessary) and reward creators.

       

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    Nicedoggy, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 9:31am

    http://www.zeropaid.com/news/94886/humble-indie-bundle-3-earns-over-1-million/

    And Humble Indie did it again!

    They keep putting stuff for free on the fire-and-pray scheme of things and they keep coming up with millions of dollars in donations.

    Why do copyright needs to exist again?

    Oh that is right because Big companies like to steal the little guys.
    http://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-studios-sued-for-pirating-a-movie-script-110804/

    Also Felicia Day is becoming something of a mega star in her own right and all she does is give things away for free.

    http://blogs.forbes.com/davidewalt/2011/08/03/felicia-day-dragon-age-redemption/

    And she is making more money than when she worked as a real actress with agents, going to interviews and so on LoL

     

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    Nicedoggy, Aug 6th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    About international treaties.
    Treaties are guidelines, just ask the US about the ABM treaty of 1972 LoL
    Quote:
    Signed in 1972, it was in force for the next 30 years until the US unilaterally withdrew from it in June 2002.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Ballistic_Missile_Treaty

     

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