Reasonable Anger In Europe Over Ridiculous Copyright Extension

from the your-public-domain-is-being-seized dept

One of our most popular stories last week was about how Europe was retroactively extending copyright yet again. It’s been interesting to see the reaction to the story among Europeans, where I’ve seen nothing but very palpable anger about this. Pretty much everyone who isn’t a record label seems to think that this is a complete joke, and nothing more than an attempt to grant subsidies to big record label companies. It’s even coming through in the more mainstream press in the UK, where Shane Richmond has cynically blasted the plan in The Telegraph (and reminded us that the main person driving this worked for the record labels just a few months ago). Is it that cynical when the regulatory capture by a single group of companies is so obvious?

I?ve written at length about this before so I won?t go over the arguments again here but study after study has shown that longer copyright terms do not protect creativity; they harm it. And yet copyright terms keep growing, in the face of the evidence.

This is part of an ongoing pattern – a more cynical person might even call it a campaign – in which copyright will be extended until it never expires. In 15 years or so, you can expect a renewed campaign to extend the copyright on sound recordings to 95 years, matching the term in the US. After that, we?ll see pressure to extend terms further, so that recording artists receive the same protection – life plus 70 years – as composers and lyricists.

The thing that amazes me about all of this is how the supporters of this law don’t realize how much harm they’re doing to their own cause. When stories like this come out, there’s so much anger directed at the system, the politicians and the law that it makes people respect copyright law a hell of a lot less. If the industry still believes that they just need to “educate” people, the education people are getting is that copyright law is a joke that serves no purpose other than to protect the interests of a few big companies.

Richmond, nicely, contrasts the laughably false claims by the IFPI that copyright extension benefits artists, by pointing to the upcoming termination rights battle in the US, to show that the major labels and their trade groups (RIAA/IFPI) clearly do not have the artists’ best interests in mind, and it’s ridiculous for them to pretend they do:

It?s expected, according to Rolling Stone, that the record labels will argue that these artists were ?work for hire? and therefore not entitled to their rights back. Labels like to talk about the rights of artists until the artists? interests conflict with their own. How will the IFPI spin this argument? We?ll see soon enough.

The real shame is that the EU politicians, who approved this, will never actually have to answer for their seizure of the public domain, and for the fact that they reneged on a deal which the public made with content creators with no compensation. Those who voted for copyright extension — in the face of widespread evidence that it does nothing to help artists and plenty to hold back culture — should be seriously ashamed. They’ve sold out the public, who they’re supposed to represent.

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Comments on “Reasonable Anger In Europe Over Ridiculous Copyright Extension”

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54 Comments
Richard (profile) says:

Original reason

The original reason I started to dislike copyright was the term extensions that happened around 20 years ago in the UK.

The worst thing about it was that they used the (then imminent expiration of the) Peter Pan/Gt Ormond St. bequest as a lever to extend all their copyrights. Of course what should have happened was that another public spirited children’s author should have replaced the bequest – and allowed Peter Pan to enter the public domain – but no – we had to extend all the copyrights just to cover one special case. It was shameless then – just as it is now.

Tor (profile) says:

Of course there is a degree of corruption (often more subtle than in the form of direct money transfers of course) behind this. But beyond that, why aren’t we hearing more young artists speak up against this? After all, the extension will make it so that a smaller part of what people spend on cultural works will go to them.

The great liberal thinker Fr?d?ric Bastiat once said: “the State is the great illusion where everyone thinks they can live at the expense of everyone else”. The last couple of days I have been thinking about that quote. It seems to applies so well to copyright too – just replace “the State” by “the copyright monopoly”.

The ideas of Fr?d?ric Bastiat is relevant also in the sense that he discussed the fact that we often recognize centralized benefits, but fail to notice distributed costs and lost opportunities that such centralization leads too.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re:Bestiat

I always thought the State should be something where all the people lift themselves up by lifting up each other. If everybody lives for everybody else, doesn’t that mean that we’re all taken care of? Unfortunately, people aren’t like that. Most of them are part of a “me first!” or “every man for himself!” culture. They try to live at the expense of everyone else, and refuse to contribute back to society, so they can achieve greater wealth because that is the modern American dream. It’s the difference between competitive and collaborative behavior. Competition elevates one above others at the expense of those others, while collaboration benefits all whom participate. That’s what the sharing culture that copyright fights against is. It’s a collaboration of people helping others access more knowledge and culture to achieve a greater understanding for all, without putting a few above the rest. We’re all peers in this great discussion called humanity, so let’s start “peer”-ing.

Gordon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:Bestiat

In regards to your point of copyright’s in your post I have to agree. They should be lessened not extended. The culture of the planet and society as a whole should come before a small group of businesses. Copyrights should be there but for a definite, SHORT period of time.

The rest of your post I have a couple suggestions for your idea.
We’ll call it Socialism or maybe Communism. Hell look at the Soviet Union. They were all had the same amount of wealth and all had the same amount of pow……..oh wait….never mind.

Wealth and power are NEVER distributed equally, even in societies that claim to be set up that way.

I’m all for helping others when they need it to get back on their feet. But supporting them indefinitely is not sustainable. Just look at the welfare system here in the States. When you see second and third generation welfare families, the system is broken.

Sorry all, for the rant not part of the subject discussion. Had to be said.

My 2 cents.

Gordon.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:Bestiat

Collaborative behavior doesn’t necessarily equate to socialism or communism. It just means society’s incentives need to be shifted to reward collaboration rather than benefit the king of the hill. Sure, competition incites innovation, but it also costs the majority for the benefit of the few because one wants to dominate all. Capitalism is, by nature, a constant march towards monopoly because to be competitive, you must strive (achievement is not required) to dominate all others in the market. It can be just as effective to spur on innovation with a “helping my brother helps me” attitude. The thing is, people want to get ahead others and they don’t care if it takes opportunities from others to do it. They all believe “somebody has to lose”, which is just not true. There’s a dominant strategy and a dominated strategy. One will get me ahead at the expense of everyone else, the other will give me less, but others will get the same as I do. It’s like the prisoner’s dilemma, but they have the option to work together. It’s going to take a completely different set of ethical sensibilities than most possess, which makes such a shift so difficult.

- (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Engstr?m on his website wrote that:
“The Belgian, Czech, Dutch, Luxembourg, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian and Swedish delegations were the only ones to vote against the extension. Austria and Estonia abstained.”

https://christianengstrom.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/copyright-term-extension-defeat/

He doesn’t say explicitly that all MEPs from those countries voted against though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You can do better.

Use diffuse(graphical tool for merging and comparing text files) to edit laws and put them into the public.
http://diffuse.sourceforge.net/download.html

Create your own forum where people can send in suggestions and critics to the laws proposed, amendments to it.

Because it doesn’t matter who you put there, the industry knows this that is why they get anybody in there that will just do what they want and when they get out it doesn’t mater if they get their old positions or not they have a comfy job with the industry, so unless we are talking about thousands of ex-government functionaries every year the industry don’t care.

jimbo says:

apart from the time extension itself, what is also so wrong about these types of rulings is that when being discussed, the only parties involved are the politicians and the entertainment industries. no party representing the public is allowed, the meetings are always behind ‘closed doors’ and the participants sworn to secrecy. until the result becomes law very few no about it. how can any politician say, hand on heart, that they are doing as they were elected to do, being a representative of the people? absolute B/S!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well than it is time to create our own forum where they are not welcome too.

How hard could it be to create a prototype of a forum that tracks the laws, drafts and others things where people can comment on those and submit their own versions for the laws?

Once you have that, you can elect anybody, and I really mean anybody and the only thing they need to do is enact the laws the people already debated and choose to create, modify or amend.

That is what people really need to do, if they want to take control of their destinies again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Shaming a politician who isn’t up for re-election is pretty meaningless. It proves how out of touch some people are.

As for trying to get the “work for hire” lined up with “protecting the artists”, remember that the artists are paid their “hire” in part as a percentage of sales and other royalties. There is no contradiction here. they are protecting the artists rights to sell their rights for money, paid over a very, very long time.

Anonymous Coward says:

People need translations.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/onlinesubtitles/
http://translate.sourceforge.net/wiki/virtaal/index

2 tools that can be used to create webserver to cooperative translations of documents, videos and podcasts.

The bits and pieces to create something are all in place, we just need to organize and put the tools out there so the next step that is the creation of trust can be done by people who have that ability to inspire people.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

I, as a Dutch European, have given up to care. These morons will continue to drive their own business into the meat grinder with the constant extending of the copyright term.

We all know that the European Government is as corrupt as it is wasteful, and they’ll never listen to the citizens.
We, the people, will never be able enact change in certain respects.
Just look at in how many ways the politicians are trying to get software patents approved in the EU.
Money talks, votes don’t count. Just dazzle the people with a bauble, and some meaningless chatter with a lot of juicy soundbites, around election time. And then give the voters the shaft when you’re in office.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I disagree people can enact change, it is just that it is difficult to get everybody on the same page.

That is why people need tools, that they can trust.

The lobbies inside government just showed to everyone how it is done.

You get a group of people who is determined to do something.
They draft the laws.
They find people willing to support their cause.
They fill in every position that they can appoint someone with the people they got elected.

And voila you got the laws that you want.
Now why the people that have the power to vote anybody into office not capable of doing that?

We just need to take the discussion of those things outside of the government offices and into the streets or more precisely the internet.

Surely we can find a set of laws that the majority can agree to change or enact and elect anyone to do it for them, just like lobbies do.

Anonymous Coward says:

The big problem here that lets the Record Industry control the politicians is money, plain and simple.

In the USA a group recently did a study on how responsive politicians in congress are to their constituents based on how rich they are. Turns out they’re VERY responsive to the top 33%. They’re somewhat responsive to the middle 33% (though they often get ignored to), and they completely ignore the bottom 33%.

The reason why is all the money politicians have to raise to get reelected. Some excongressmen even told the people who did the study that over 30% of their time on the job in congress was spent fund raising.

I’m sure this problem is very similar in Europe and elsewhere to.

In the USA this problem has only gotten worse in recent years thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that corporations (which the record industry is) can spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

Spointman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The assumption in your statement is that voting for someone else will somehow change things, which in turn implies that other politicians would be different. I’ve yet to be convinced that’s a real possibility. More to the point, changing the mind of one elected official is irrelevant. You have to change the mind of the majority of them, AND convince them they won’t lose the next election if they endorse your stance.

The nature of the modern “democratic” political system is that he who has the most money (to campaign) has a huge boost over he who doesn’t. In turn, corporations can raise and spend way more money in one election cycle than an average person earns in a lifetime.

Politicians who get elected either have to have that money, or they have to have some edge over their opponents to draws votes — and unless that edge is a national issue that affects pretty much everyone in a public and emotional manner (e.g., wars, pension payments), it also won’t affect the outcome.

Copyright is not a sexy or emotional topic. No one gets out of bed thinking, “We have to change copyright!” People DO get out of bed thinking “We have to end this war!” or “We have to make sure my grandmother gets her government pension/social security check/welfare payment/other handout!”

Find a way to show that copyright will cause or extend a war, or will cause checks to your grandmother to be cut off, and you’ll see copyright changes that benefit the public. Otherwise, you have to be able to outspend the copyright industry on lobbying to have a real shot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually no, you can change things changing everybody that it is in there.

There are 2 instances I know of that happening, the Tea Party and the Koizumi children, the Tea Party showed that people can find reasons to stick together and put different people in power what they don’t have is a plan and that is what Koizumi had he already new what he wanted he just didn’t have the majority inside the legislative to do it, so what did he do? He said hey look I have this plan and I need you the people to vote for these other people who had pledged to enact that plan to put it in motion and so he did.

This is how you do it without money.
But you need a plan, you need a communication channel.

NullOp says:

Here we go again...

Ah yes….the record companies. Run by the greedy with nothing more than self serving thoughts in mind. Politicians, being the simple folk they are, are swayed by the lies told detailing the great losses that the artists might endure if they don’t get copyright back to the beginning of time and til the end of time. It’s really too bad politicians are so easily diverted from their real job of doing what is best for the people rather than what’s best for some of their “friends”.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Copyright becoming ignored

Ever since I was old enough to care, I have viewed copyright as something not meant to be respected. It has just always been a tool for the big corporations to beat us citizens and each other around with. Not a single person my age or anybody younger that I know feels any differently. The RIAA and MPAA have guaranteed their own fate. The public just doesn’t care about copyright anymore as anything respectable. Any good it possibly could have had is now destroyed. For it to stick around for another 50 years it will have to change drastically to something very short, and very reasonable. Just how it is.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: This was exactly the harm that Larry Lessig talked about

This was exactly the harm that Larry Lessig talked about when he said that the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act would create if upheld. The AA’s copyright maximalist extremism is giving way to a copyright abolitionism on the other side. Since it’s getting cheaper and cheaper to copy, this will be the only way unless copyright gets to be fairer, freer, and actually expires again.

In the Anglo-american tradition, Copyright is actually not about “protecting intellectual property” (as the AA’s claim). It’s not even about protecting artists. It’s about “promot[ing] the progress of useful arts and sciences”. To save copyright, we must recognize that as its intention, not as a perpetual property right. Otherwise, we end up going down the path to the end of copyright.

I realize some people here wouldn’t mind seeing the end of copyright, but I do. I just wish it were fairer and freer (and expired at a reasonable term, like 50 years maximum instead of the unreasonably long 95 years). The selfish interest of the AA’s is harming copyright more than strengthening it.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This was exactly the harm that Larry Lessig talked about

Are you talking about copyright terms in the US or in the EU? In the US, the copyright term is (statutorily) 95 years or life+70 years, whichever comes first. Then again, the terms will be extended yet again in 2018 just so Mickey Mouse could be kept under Disney Corp.’s control.

Also, I disagree with you that copyright should be extremely short, like 1, 2, 10, or even 25 years. I mean, if we had a two-term system like before 1976, I would happily accept a 25 year term (with 50 years (or two 25-year terms) as the maximum). But 10 years as you want may be too long for most commercial products, but it’s way too short for that 2% that last (e.g. Star Wars, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, etc.). That’s why I see 50 years as a compromise. Just because the RIAA and the MPAA are maximalist extremists doesn’t mean that I accept abolitionist extremism in the opposite direction.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This was exactly the harm that Larry Lessig talked about

There is something to be said for having an escalating cost for increasing terms. That way, the really successful properties can be extended – obviously they are making money – while less successful ones can be left to enter the public domain. On the other hand, given that most copyrights are heald by big corporations, renewal costs are fairly meaningless to them, whilst they could potentially be crippling to the smaller creator.

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