Argentina Plans To Increase Copyright In Photos From 20 Years To Life Plus 70 Years, Devastating Wikipedia

from the cultural-memory-loss dept

As Techdirt has pointed out, copyright extensions are bad enough, but retroactive ones are even worse, since the creation of the work has already occurred, so providing additional incentives makes no sense, even accepting the dubious idea that artists think about copyright terms before setting to work. Moreover, copyright extensions are a real kind of copyright theft — specifically, stealing from the public domain. If you think that is just rhetoric, it’s worth looking at what is happening in Argentina.

As a post on the Wikimedia Argentina blog explains (original in Spanish), a proposed law would extend the copyright in photos from 25 years after an image was taken (or 20 years from first publication) to life plus 70 years — a vast extension that would mean that most photos taken in the 20th century would still be in copyright. That’s a big problem for Wikipedia in Argentina, since it is using photographs that have passed into the public domain under existing legislation. If the new law is passed in its current form, large numbers of photos would have to be removed:

Wikipedia would have to erase nearly all the photos of twentieth century history: the mere exposure without consent of the new rightsholders would be a crime. Not only Wikipedia: even the General Archive of the [Argentinian] Nation would become illegal and 40 million Argentines would be left without access to their historical memory.

It’s a great but sad example of how copyright can destroy culture on a massive scale. Let’s hope that law doesn’t pass.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Argentina Plans To Increase Copyright In Photos From 20 Years To Life Plus 70 Years, Devastating Wikipedia”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

That sounds familiar

Life plus 70 years, where have I seen that before? Ah yes, that would be the copyright duration in several other countries, leaving me wondering if this is yet another example of a country trying to slip in changes to the law prior to a ‘trade’ agreement being passed, so they can lie and claim that the agreement had nothing to do with the law changing.

Well, either that or a few palms were greased, some not insignificant amounts of ‘donations’ changed hands, and a few politicians are pushing the law for the ones who bought them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

looking into the future….

companies will cherry-pick which countries gets to host their content

as systems detect that users are in the country, the data will magically shift to a different country where the laws are favorable

that way, they can protect our privacy AND provide a useful service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It stands to make any country willing to protect it a LOT of money… but you see they are already in on this.

Why do you think they want a global trade agreement with EVERYONE? So they can stop it.

You must first gain a monopoly on a market in order to effectively control it! All of the secret agreements they are trying to put in place are to acquire this monopoly so they can control things.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Hmmmm - wouldn't extension only apply to "new" pictures?

in the US, if the work was already public domain when the law passed, it would not be “removed” from public domain. The new law would only apply to any “new” photos.

What makes you think that?

In Golan v. Holder, the Supreme Court held that it is not unconstitutional for Congress to remove works from the public domain by granting their authors copyrights long after their creation and publication. It is, as one would expect, a dismal Ginsburg opinion which, like Eldred, is willfully blind to the practice of ever ratcheting term extensions or the nefarious use of treaties as an end run around Congress.

Anonymous Coward says:

For the record, I'd been for 28 year limits, but after seeing examples here of how good it is to lock up crap, I'm for eternity.

Also, corporations should never be permitted to monetize the “public domain”, as they are not the public, just legal fictions that we persons foolishly let get out of control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Pretty sure US law doesn’t allow retroactive law changes either”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was amended to give retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that broke the law when they illegally spied on the public, as well granting retroactive immunity to the government officials who ordered them to break the law.

And let’s not forget that the Supreme Court basically creates its own laws that can over-ride everything else (even the Constitution).

In Golan v. Gonzales / Golan v. Holder (2012) the U.S. Supreme Court re-classified numerous foreign-country works that had been in the public-domain for decades and placed them under new copyright terms.

Whoever says:

Wikipedia should replace all affected photos with a notice

For a few days, Wikipedia should replace all affected photos with a notice about the proposed change.

These types of changes to laws slip in because people either don’t know about it, or think that they won’t be affected. Show them how they would be affected and an educated populace may push back on such changes.

Anonymous Shill says:

Listen, if we don’t allow photo creators the rights to their photos, no one would take pictures. This is only fair, the people who took pictures in the past knew that copyright would be retroactively reinstated, which is why they took the photos. You copyright freetards are all ignorant of why people take photographs. Also my business should be able to take the copyrights that small individuals who can’t afford to fight me in court over pretend to currently own.

Anonymous Coward says:

I still cannot wait to see how the ttp will whitewash countries that encourage slavery and if they will make it commonplace in current countries where it is illegal to make everyone the same.

Since in theory laws prohibiting slavery would hurt profit margins. They could rule that slavery is allowed if such a thing were passed hypothetically

scann (profile) says:

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN HELPING, with a group of colleagues we’ve put together this declaration (in spanish): which also has a small gif with some of the photos that will be lost if this proposal is enacted.

A good way to help for those who have twitter is to send that gif with a simple tweet to @lilianamazure and @argra_ (the main proposers of the modification) and also to @SeminaraEduardo and @gastonharispe , which are the others who are signing the project. Or if you get inspired do your own gif, or feel free to say whatever you want to them!

Please help spread the word!


Anonymous Coward says:

28 Years

Copyright was originally, and really should still be, 28 years, 14 years + a non-automatically renewable term of 14 years.

Back when the first copyright law was passed in 1780, there was no real incentive to create new works. The creators just kept raking in money from the existing ones.

Copyright forced the works into the public domain. If you wanted a continuing income stream, you created new works. That’s the way copyright works. The creator gets *SOME* protection before the work falls into the public domain.


Giles Byles (profile) says:

No more pictures for you

Management sometimes makes bad decisions.  Judges sometimes make bad rulings.  Legislators sometimes make bad laws.  When Argentina passes this bad law, simply announce that Wikipedia photos will no longer appear inside Argentina.  Let ’em use a proxy or a VPN & take the long way ’round.

Or just shut the whole thing down for ’em.  “We’re sorry, the Wikipedia service is no longer available in your region.”  & the rest of the world just moves on without ’em.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: citations

Oh but I’m sure they’d be glad to set up an extor- I mean collections agency to handle that sort of thing. And if they can’t or aren’t interested in finding the actual photographers to give them their money, why I suppose they’d just have to keep that tiny amount of money all for themselves, what else could they do with it?

tqk (profile) says:

Like children around a cookie jar when mom & dad aren't looking.

I’d like to think a lot more of all my fellow human beings, but this sort of crap isn’t encouraging. Unlike cookie theft, these guys aren’t even trying to hide it behind their backs when caught. It’s more a “Nyaa, nyaa, you can’t stop me!” insolence kind of thing. They need to be spanked (but that’s abusive nowadays, I suppose).

Pathetic. They’re wandering around tossing economic hand grenades. It’s depressing that they’ll likely get away with it. Remember that line from the first “Rollerball” movie: “We just lost the 13th Century.” QED.

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