UK Green Party Speculates On Idea To Shorten Copyright To 14 Years… Leading To Mass Freakout
from the copyright-term-insanity dept
Last week, the Green Party in the UK got a bunch of attention when someone noticed its “Policies for a Sustainable Society” had put in a clause advocating for lessening copyright terms down to 14 years (which you may note is the same as it was originally in the Statute of Anne — as well as under the original US copyright law).
The vision then goes on to propose ?generally shorter copyright terms, with a usual maximum of 14 years?. By this, we mean that rather than the current maximum of 70 years after the creator?s death, it should only be 14 years after their death. Unfortunately, as written, this appears a bit ambiguous and has caused confusion, so it needs clearing up!
Honestly, this doesn’t make much sense either. If, as the Greens claimed, they were basing the plan on Rufus Pollock’s research, then “life plus 14 years” doesn’t fit at all. Frankly, some of this sounds like a cop-out by a Green Party that had no idea what it was advocating. That doesn’t necessarily speak well of the Party.
Either way, a bunch of folks absolutely freaked out over the idea that the Greens might support such a shortening of copyright length, with laughable claims like “how are we supposed to earn a living?”
— Sarah McIntyre (@jabberworks) April 22, 2015
Either way, as the chart above shows, it appears that the true economic life of most books was at least well short of 28 years. Perhaps there’s a magic number between 14 and 28 (again, Pollock suggests it’s 15), but it hardly seems like “life plus 14” is really going to create any real hardship for anyone other than the likes of Disney or other multinational corporations.
Alas, none of it really matters, as the confused position of the Green Party quickly resulted in the party backing down and admitting that it will now review its copyright policy. Going back to Tom Chance’s post, he gives a reasonable discussion as to why excessive copyright terms are a bad idea, and also highlights that the nature of copyright in the UK and the US was always about benefiting the public, not providing a “natural right” for creators to earn a living.
This is something that all too frequently gets lost in the copyright debates. Copyright system supporters insist that copyright is like a form of welfare: a right to earn money. That’s why you see these ridiculous and misleading campaigns lately about “fair compensation” for creators. But that’s ridiculous. Many artists make no money at all because no one likes what they produced. Or not enough people. Copyright gives you one way to earn some money, but it was never supposed to be the only system by which creative people made money. The fact that some act as if it’s a natural right, and some sort of welfare program that is required to “earn” them a “living” is a perversion of history, and it makes having honest rational discussions about the optimal setup of copyright nearly impossible.