Can You Really Be A Copyright Expert If You Think Copyright Should Last Forever?
from the all-kinds-of-cluelessness dept
A couple months ago, a so-called “expert” in copyright law in Australia, Dr. George Baker, the director for the Centre of Law and Economics at the Australian National University, argued that rather than pushing back on over aggressive copyright law, New Zealand ought to be making copyright law a lot more strict, to the point that he actually argued copyright should last forever:
“Why not have copyright law like property law – ie it lasts forever?”
And then he claimed — really — that if copyright law were infinite it “would in turn increase the investment in industries like music.” Does he have any support for this at all? If you look through the actual academic evidence on these things, no one has ever found any proof that longer and longer copyrights leads to greater investment. It’s not as though Universal Music is going to think “gee, if only copyright lasted another century we’d invest more in it now.” No one makes decisions like that. A key study from 1998 (the last time the US extended copyrights) in fact found that increasing copyright terms would “not be a useful” as an incentive to create more content. Even more ridiculous is Baker’s focus on music, as that same study pointed out that, of all the major types of content, the revenue generated by copyright extension would have the smallest impact on music.
But Baker isn’t done with his ignorance. He’s also against any kind of fair use/fair dealing, even for research. Yes, this is an academic arguing against research exceptions to copyright.
Dr Barker was also critical of the exceptions that have crept in.
“It has become like Swiss cheese where someone can turn up and say I’m doing research and therefore I don’t have to pay you copyright. It makes it impossible to secure investment in creative goods.”
Impossible? Is he crazy? The US has decently broad fair use rights. Is he seriously arguing that it’s “impossible to secure investment in creative goods” in the US because of our fair use policy? No serious person would ever make such an argument, which raises questions about just how serious Dr. Baker truly is.
Meanwhile, over at the EFF’s Deeplinks blog, another New Zealand based academic, Eric Crampton, has posted a detailed rebuttal explaining why the idea of an infinite copyright is absolutely ridiculous.
So why shouldn?t copyright be infinite?
Five years ago, Larrikin Music, who bought the rights to an old Australian folk song, sued Men At Work for including an 11-note flute sequence from it in their 80s-hit, ?Down Under?. Where Men At Work had intended homage in its celebration of all things Australian, Larrikin, and the law, saw copyright infringement.
But does that really go far enough? If an 11-note sequence counts as infringement, how much do modern artists owe Pachelbel?s descendants? The four-chord sequence making up the core of his Canon in D has been repeated in dozens, if not hundreds, of subsequent songs. Should evidence produced by Australia?s Axis of Awesome be used in copyright lawsuits by anyone who can document that, ten generations back, Johann Pachelbel was a great-great-grandfather? It seems absurd.
Even from the perspective of a profit-seeking artist, copyright is a double-edged sword. Stronger copyright both increases the rewards from having produced a piece of work and increases the cost of creating new works.
As the piece concludes:
Current creators draw on a global commons in their artistic creations, and future generations of artists deserve a commons too
A true expert in copyright would actually understand that simple fact.