Copyright Extension Goes Into Effect In The UK: More Works Stolen From The Public Domain
from the they-don't-have-them dept
Even as there have been indications around the globe that perhaps we’ve had enough copyright term extension and it’s time to move back in the other direction, over in the UK, they just put in place a big new copyright extension which increases the term from 50 years to 70 years for sound recordings and performers’ rights. We had discussed the EU decision two years ago to seize the public domain by retroactively pulling works out of the public domain, and now it’s officially gone into effect.
While we’ve pointed out for years that when people claim that infringing works are “stolen,” they’re using the wrong word, since nothing is missing, that is not the case here. Here, things are absolutely missing. The entire purpose of copyright law is to provide the incentives to have the work created in the first place. As such, it’s a deal, where the public grants the creators an exclusive right for a number of years, in return for getting the work (in a limited fashion) for a period of time and then having that work become public domain at the end. Retroactive copyright extension is a unilateral change in that deal — directly taking the work away from the public domain without any recompense to the public the work has been stolen from. This makes absolutely no sense. Clearly, since the work was created, the incentive was good enough at the time of creation. Adding on more years that the public doesn’t get it at the end does nothing to incentivize the work that was already created fifty years ago.
There is simply no reason to have done this, and to have taken these works out of the public domain. Scholars have pointed out that there is no legitimate reason to do this, no evidence that it does anything useful at all. Instead, there’s plenty of evidence that the cost to the public is tremendous — somewhere around a billion euros. The cost to culture in general is even worse, because the longer copyright terms are, the more works disappear entirely, and the more it harms the dissemination of knowledge. It’s basically a disaster all the way around — except for some old record labels that still have the copyrights.