Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




Author Challenges Peter Pan Copyright

from the go-get-'em dept

Well, here's another copyright lawsuit that we'll all probably be following. A woman named Emily Somma recently wrote a "derivative" book using the Peter Pan character that was first invented about a century ago. The hospital that owns the rights to the copyright says that she's violating it. She's now decided to sue them for the right to use Peter Pan in her book, saying that the character has entered into the public domain. Larry Lessig is involved with the case as well. Yet another example of how companies are completely twisting the real purpose behind copyright law. Copyrights are supposed to encourage creativity. Here, they're being used to discourage creativity. How much more clearly does it need to be spelled out for people?

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  • identicon
    Orion888, 31 Dec 2002 @ 6:23am

    Not meant to protects thieves' creativity

    Uh, yes, as you say, copyrights are intended to spur creativity. But this is because the creators will own and control their products (if they do not violate someone's prior work.) The copyright law is not intended to spur creativity by thieves who steal others works and use them as their own as a basis for their own creativity.

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    • identicon
      Timmmay!, 31 Dec 2002 @ 6:37am

      Copyright is not perpetual

      This doesn't protect the creator because they are dead and buried. It protects the rights of their do-nothing-sit-on-their-asses heirs who with their friends *cough*disney*cough* want to keep extending copyrights in perpetuity. That is what the case is about -- that the extensions made to copyright terms are unconstitutional.

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      • identicon
        Mark Fox, 31 Dec 2002 @ 7:30am

        Re: Copyright is not perpetual

        The heirs in the case of Peter Pan is a hospital in London.

        Furthermore I take it that you don't intent your do-nothing-sit-on-their-asses heirs to get anything in your will.

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        • identicon
          Timmmay!, 31 Dec 2002 @ 8:27am

          Re: Copyright is not perpetual

          The heirs in the case of Peter Pan is a hospital in London.

          The only non-socialized (i.e. government) hospitals in england are private hospitals owned by the insurance companies for the wealthy so spare me the tears. The fact that it's a hospital changes nothing.

          Furthermore I take it that you don't intent your do-nothing-sit-on-their-asses heirs to get anything in your will.

          There's a big difference between leaving anything to your heirs and letting them slide though life without having to work for anything. Ever notice how the children of the rich and successful tend to be total washouts?

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        • identicon
          Steve, 2 Jan 2003 @ 12:21pm

          Re: Copyright is not perpetual

          Even if it is a hospital that is doing good things and deserves money...why should a hospital benefit from some one creating a fictional character? Why should anyone other than the creator benefit from the character they create? This is really the biggest problem with copyrights--the creator often isn't the one benefiting from his or her creativity. Everytime a copyright exchanges hands, the remaining term should be cut in half if not dissolved completely.

          Copyright is an imaginary construct to create value through a forced monopoly. There is no intrinsic value in intellectual property--you can't literally own an idea or image and once you've seen, heard or read an idea, you can't "unknow" it. Since you can't own an idea and since ideas are not material so they can be exchanged essentially for free, you can't profit off of it--and if you can't profit off of it, not enough people would spend the time to create things.* To stimulate the creation of ideas, a way was needed to provide incentive to the creators, so the Consitution gives Congress the power "to promote the progress of science and useful arts."

          If the purpose of copyright then is to stimulate creativity by enticing creators to work for the possibility** of financial reward, then once they are dead or no longer hold the copyright on something, that copyright no longer serves the purpose of promoting or encouraging the creation of ideas.

          The same argument holds true for most musicians and artists who work for some place like Disney--they are working for a salary, the company they work usually owns the copyright for anything they create. So copyright is only indirectly promoting the actual creation of arts & science. Obviously applying this same argument to patents however gets mucky since corporations do a good chunk of the research done in this country and if they couldn't reap the benefits, they wouldn't spend the money.


          *Of course this is really not necessarily true in either art or science. Many of the great artists and scientists and many of us create things for the joy of creation or for the enjoyment or improvement of others and without regards to money.

          **Something that is always lost is that copyright only provides a possible opportunity for financial reward, there's no guarantee that you will make money from it. As such, the incentive aspect of copyright is severly exaggerated.

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      • identicon
        Steve, 2 Jan 2003 @ 11:02am

        Re: Copyright is not perpetual

        Unfortunately your wrong. (Though I agree).
        Though I still haven't seen a final runling in Eldred v. Ashcroft, in reading the full arguments of Lessig and the Justices' questions and comments, it seemed pretty clear to me that while they were very critical of the motives and actions of congress in the extensions, and essentially came out and said that they were bad laws, unfortunately the copyright extensions seemed to not be counter enough to Congress' general powers to regulate copyright for them to ruleare constitutional. It sucks but the Supreme Court doesn't have the power to overturn bad laws or even evil laws, only ones that don't jive with the Constitution.

        And of course my personal opinions are at odds here--generally I believe in a strict reading of the Constitution, and if something isn't explicitly stated, then it was chosen to be broad so we could apply the sensibilities of our time to it, because this may chage over time. They were intentionally broad using "limited term" and trusted Congress to decide what the appropriate definition of that is. Unfortunately what they didn't forsee is Congressmen owned by corporations special interests. The only way around that is campaign finance reform but unfortantely the Courts seem to believe that campaign contributions (ie bribery) is speech so we're stuck.


        Looking back at this, it seems awful fatalist. I do have an idea to make things better that actually deals with the existing political realities--just give up Mickey. Allow the Disney to renew the copyright on Mickey et. al. forever with a signfifigant renewal fee every year. Give original copyright protection for free for a reasonable time period (anywhere between 7 and 30 years is fine with me). Then each year after that, you pay a $100 fee times the number of renewals. So the first renewal cost you $100, second $200 and son on. They'll get Mickey for as long as they want. We get everything else back into the public domain, plus some money for the stuff that isn't. I have seen one proposal that said to make the fee exponential so renewal fees go $1, $2, $4, $8, ...This means that in year 21, it's over a million dollars and by 25 or certainly 30, there's no way a company would make enough to warrant the renewal. The arguement is that loss to society of derivative works is exponential. While I argree with the philosophy, any new system needs to keep Disney et. al. happy and give them at least what they currently have, if not more or it won't get changed.

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      • identicon
        Orion888, 3 Jan 2003 @ 9:55am

        Re: Copyright is not perpetual

        If I create something, it is my property, and if I choose to assign ownership to my heirs after I'm gone, that's my right. Are you also in favor of taking estates from heirs as well? Property ownership, real and artistic, is a fundamental right of our system. Patents are somewhat different because the idea is that after a certain period of time the general public as a whole will have clear and present benefits from technology in the public domain. Artistic works have no such obvious benefit. That the rationale, anyway. If you don't like it, call your congressman/woman.

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    • icon
      Mike (profile), 31 Dec 2002 @ 9:44am

      Re: Not meant to protects thieves' creativity

      Uh, yes, as you say, copyrights are intended to spur creativity. But this is because the creators will own and control their products (if they do not violate someone's prior work.) The copyright law is not intended to spur creativity by thieves who steal others works and use them as their own as a basis for their own creativity.

      Sure it is. Do you realize how much of human creativity is based on taking something else and building on it? Almost all of Disney's popular movies are based on exactly that. Creativity is a process of building on what's come before.

      You might be able to convince me if the character hadn't been invented 100 years ago, but come on. This isn't "stealing" in any way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        orion888, 3 Jan 2003 @ 9:57am

        Re: Not meant to protects thieves' creativity

        Whether or not it is stealing is up to a court of law. Whether or not it is right is up to personal philosophy and morality regarding ownership of artistic works.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Linda Corby, 9 Nov 2005 @ 9:04am

    Rip off authors

    A lot of cases are so complicated that one cannot decided until a court judgement is given.
    I do not believe any author is or should be intitled to rip off another by using the other writers ideas or copyright. I have personal reasons for saying this as a famous author did this to me. So please go to my website and take a look. 'The truth is in there!' Linda Corby

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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