UK Decides Against Copyright Extension — Pity The Poor Musician Who Can't Live Off His Work From 1955 Any More
from the phew! dept
Following a long debate on the topic, it appears that over in the UK they’ve wised up to the fact that continuous copyright extensions don’t make sense. They’re set to shoot down a plan to extend copyrights to last 95 years rather than 50 years (as it is today). This is interesting for a variety of reasons, especially since it’s one of the first times we’ve seen a copyright extension plan not sail through easily. This is, in part, because this is an issue that’s finally gotten enough attention that people care about it. In the past, it wasn’t thought about widely, but that’s definitely changed more recently (in part due to the efforts of folks like Larry Lessig). It also could mark the end of the sneaky game of leapfrog played over the years, where Europe and the US go back and forth extending copyright further than the other, thus getting the other side of the Atlantic to push to extend copyrights to “catch up” to the other side.
There are some fairly ridiculous quotes included in the BBC piece about the UK not going forward with copyright extension, claiming that this is somehow a “blow” for the industry, and suggesting that copyright limits of “only” 50 years doesn’t make sense any more because it was set in an age before popular culture (no, seriously). Apparently, the fact that the purpose of copyright is to put in place incentives for the creation of content is secondary to whether or not some musician can keep milking some song he wrote fifty years ago: “You can make a record in 1955 and have been getting royalties… been living on that and suddenly they’re gone.” Boo hoo. What other job in the world lets you do something in 1955 and still make a living on that work today? Most people who got paid for something in 1955 had to do it again in 1956, 1957, 1958 and every year forward if they wanted to keep making a living off of it. The quote also completely ignores all of the additional content that was created in 1955 that no one can hear or read or find any more because it was locked up by copyright (which is a vastly greater amount than those still supporting someone with royalties). With all that content moving into the public domain it opens up new opportunities for people to do something with it to make it available again.