Ad Age Explains How Copyright Is The Buggy Whip Of The Digital Age

from the time-to-move-on dept

Michael Scott points us to a rather surprising (given the source) piece in Ad Age asking if copyright is “the buggy whip of the digital age.” Of course, most regular Techdirt readers will not be surprised to find that I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. It’s a tool for a very different system that isn’t needed. If anything, I’d argue the situation is worse than with buggy whips. At least with buggy whips, they could just fade away as the automobile grew in importance. Buggy whips couldn’t get in the way of the automakers. Copyright, on the other hand, is regularly used to stifle and hold back new forms of creativity and to silence expression.

The article itself, by Judy Shapiro, is really a conference report from an event called “The Collision of Ideas 2010,” put on by the Copyright Clearance Center. It looks like they brought in a lot of fantastic speakers, highlighting how copyright law doesn’t fit well with what content creators are trying to do, and how it’s often being used to actively harm content creators. For example:

Mr. Hoffman, the filmmaker, gave a presentation where he confided how challenging current copyright laws are for artists. As an example, he gave us detailed insights into the challenges he had creating his critically acclaimed Sputnik documentary. He explained that half his budget was spent on copyright fees alone. Most unfairly, he had to pay exorbitant copyright fees to a network for old news footage they did not even have but which David himself had spent time to ferret out. David openly concluded that, “it was better to open the floodgates” and let anyone use his content than constrain its distribution.

Unfortunately, Shapiro is getting beaten up in the comments on that piece by folks who are doing the kneejerk thing of saying “but copyright is good, because otherwise who will create!” Still, it’s good to see that this debate is reaching a wider and wider audience through conferences like this one and in the pages of AdAge. While you can always expect the kneejerk response from folks who have always been told that copyright must be good, the more people examine the actual issues, the more they’ll recognize that as a tool, it’s current design is woefully misguided and very much against the principles for which it was created.

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Comments on “Ad Age Explains How Copyright Is The Buggy Whip Of The Digital Age”

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37 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Indeed, many new ideas covered by patent, copyright and trademark should be regurgitated and seen as such: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuA_5ApLD9U Could you imagine a product that someone made something amazinger could be sued? Silly world we live i

Indeed, many new ideas covered by patent, copyright and trademark should be regurgitated and seen as such:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuA_5ApLD9U

Could you imagine a product that someone made something amazinger could be sued?

Silly world we live in.

NAMELESS.ONE says:

seriously use canada

as a test bed OPEN copyright to this small tiny nation lesson the terms …lets do an experiment
make copyrights 30 years even

i know an idea id love to try but cant afford the fees
what you bet i could make money from an idea OR at best lesson the tax burden tha people are payng fo rme to live on disability

YOU do this and more disabled and poor will create wealth all on there own

stay greedy america cause this WILL NOT WORK. OBAMAWOOD is great at speeches and propaganda. WHAT he fails at is the reality hes inherited the BUSH train wreck created by the worlds most greedy two term president in world history.

and how about that stat trek in the prekining
wasnt bad and i know i could do a hell of a lot better if i had ability too , ALL by myself with maybe 3 people or 4
and a tiny mask budget and makeup and i mean TINY.

THIS is who will create and we’ll get better at it.
AND i dont need 20 million per actor either
i dont require unions
i dont require stunt men

Richard (profile) says:

Re: seriously use canada

Rather than a place (canada) why not a time?

Why not have a copyright moratorium week?
(Maybe even day at first)

Let’s have a week every year where anything published or broadcast goes straight into the public domain.

We’d soon find out if the claims of the copyright advocates about needing copyright to encourage creativity are really true.

Planespotter (profile) says:

Why do people think that they have the god given right to be paid over and over again for the length of their lives + 70 years? Jeez I wish I got paid for the PC I fixed last week everytime the lady used it.

Yes people should be compensated fairly for their creative endeavours but as is sooooo apparent the current system is just not up to demands of the 21st Century.

Hopefully as more and more attention is brought to this some change can be made to simplify the system and benefit both content creators and the end user.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: format shifting

that is one part of the law that really bugs me
if i have it on vhs i might by it on dvd but only because of the special features, and other extras and even then if you think im buying it new from the studio you’re insane
$30??!
hell no
15 if that from a third party seller on amazon or something
and if i have it on cassette ill spend $30 buy a usb tape drive and rip it.
i will pay for value added content like all the extra stuff on a dvd besides the movie/ tv season
but i will not pay for a new format
if thats all im buying

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Tango Delta Company....Fall In!

“Unfortunately, Shapiro is getting beaten up in the comments on that piece by folks who are doing the kneejerk thing of saying “but copyright is good, because otherwise who will create!””

What an beautifully subtle call to commenting arms 🙂

Mike Masnick’s army of hacker raporist grandma lickers to the rescue!

Seriously, though, before I go join the front lines at that article’s comments….can we call ourselves Tango Delta Company? That just sounds cool….

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

WTF

Copyrights are supposed to keep others from making money off the content creator. The laws were not written to keep people from sharing content for free.

The more I hear arguments on this topic, the more it seems clear that its not so much the content creators that have a problem with file sharing or copyright laws, but rather the people who get paid from what the content creators create.

I can’t really blame them though. If I was getting paid for the work that someone else was doing, I would fight for that compensation too.

jupiter (profile) says:

loved this comment

I always think it’s funny when artists who depend on copyrights say “I deserve to get paid for my work, just like everyone else.” Reality check: virtually no one who get paid for their work does so because they have exclusive monopoly power over the exploitation of their work product. “Getting paid like everyone else” means working for someone who gives you a salary or an hourly wage, and that’s the end of it. Or it means selling something to someone who can do whatever they like with what is now their property, free and clear, and that’s the end of it. When you license the use of something, you’re not really selling it at all. It’s more like renting it out, or leasing it on specific terms. You still retain full ownership and control, and can go on dictating exact parameters for use – including the obligation to pay royalties forever (or at least until your copyright expires, seventy years after you die). The only reason you can do this is because the law has granted you special powers. Specifically, you have been given a legal monopoly over the exploitation of your work. This is a rare and special power. Most people have nothing like it. Their work is done for hire, and once they’ve been paid, they have no further say. That’s how ‘everybody else’ gets paid. Is this really what you – as an artist – want? More importantly, do you understand *why* certain types of work have been given this special protection? Do you realize that there’s a social quid pro quo involved, and that – if certain conditions aren’t met – then the privilege can be taken away? Do you even know what these conditions are? Or are you – like most artists – totally ignorant of the legal, cultural, and social grounding for your privilege? Indeed, do you have *any* idea how dangerously close the copyright protected industries are coming to abusing their own charter our of existence? What will you do then? Go back to getting paid ‘just like everybody else’? Do you even know how?

freeHat (profile) says:

A producer complaining about production costs – shocking!

I’m assuming this footage he wanted to use for his Sputnick piece cost money to produce. And we’re talking old school production with real film and a real crew with real costs, not youtube pinheads tossing ping-pong balls around.

It sounds like he’s simply a scrounger wanting to make money off of other people’s efforts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If copyright lasted a reasonable amount of time then that footage from 50 years ago would be in the public domain.

Some of the footage was taken from YouTube but he made the mistake of trying to track down the original rights holders who didn’t even know that the footage was theirs until he told them it might be. They consulted their lawyers and what do you know, that will be $10,000 licensing fee for our old black and white footage about the space race back in the 1950s.

CommonSense (profile) says:

I know who WON'T create...

…with the current copyright situation, but who otherwise might:

“He explained that half his budget was spent on copyright fees alone. Most unfairly, he had to pay exorbitant copyright fees to a network for old news footage they did not even have but which David himself had spent time to ferret out.”

Anyone who can’t afford or is to lazy to go through that much hassle. I can’t understand how, with a direct quote from a mouth of experience, people can still claim that no one would create without copyright. There would likely be more, and it would likely be better, without.

John says:

As an publisher I have had enough with people stealing my content! Those places called “public libraries” are nothing but piracy centers! People read the entire book for free and I get no money at all! People that go into a bookstore and read more than one page are stealing. It is plain and simple. If you want to read more than one page of my book then the rate is $1.00 a page. My calculations show that I have lost $50 trillion in income. We publishers need to lobby congress and provide more laws that restrict what people can do with a copyright holders content.

My suggestions:
1) Shutdown public libraries.
2) Shutdown used book stores.
3) People should pay $1.00 per page for any book they read in a bookstore.
4) Outlaw lending a book to someone else.
5) Shutdown the entire Internet since the Internet is nothing but piracy.

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