Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

The Silver Lining In The Eldred Copyright Extension Decision

from the the-people-are-fired-up dept

Siva Vaidhyanathan, well known for his views on copyrights, has written a great piece in Salon, which tries to look on the bright side of the Supreme Court decision in the Eldred case, which said that Congress's perpetual extension of copyright was constitutional. First, he points out that the Supreme Court made it clear that "fair use" rights are important. This statement may come back to haunt Hollywood down the road, as they work with Congress to erode fair use rights. More importantly, though, Vaidhyanathan argues that this has now shifted the argument to Congress. It's no longer an issue for the courts to decide, but an issue of policy. Policy, of course, can be influenced - and thanks to this case (and a few other events), the public is much more aware of the issues and much more likely to make quite a stink about it with their elected representatives. As he points out, when the last copyright extension act past, people didn't own TiVos or CD burners. But, times are changing. If anything (hopefully) this defeat galvanizes more people to work to effect change through elected representatives. The cynical will point out, of course, that corporations like Disney still have more pull in DC, but there is a limit to how far they can go when millions are screaming in protest. The more people point out that current copyright extensions do much more to harm creativity than to help it, the more likely that someone in Congress will take the populist stand, and fight the content cartel.

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  • identicon
    dorpus, 17 Jan 2003 @ 2:03am

    Does it matter?

    Intellectual property is a joke in developing nations. One can find rampant copycatting in the street stalls of the third world, with the Disney-esque ugly toys. If people can't sell quasi-Disney parodies here, they can certainly do so elsewhere.

    Incidentally, the older Disney cartoons are very racist, so opening them up to the public would cause a big ruckus. Bugs Bunny's "abadababadu..." line comes from a mockery of an illiterate black hunter from the South. If you listen closely to Roger Rabbit of the 1980s, you can hear the white duck at the piano call the black duck a nigger.

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

    • identicon
      bbay, 17 Jan 2003 @ 2:29am

      Re: Does it matter?

      I can't comment on the "abadababadu..." thing, unless you're talking about Porky's stutter, which is a stutter.

      As for the alleged racial epithet in Roger Rabit, see here.

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

  • identicon
    thecaptain, 17 Jan 2003 @ 3:20am

    Yeah..ok..some bright side...

    "Policy, of course, can be influenced "

    Yeah..and we ALL know just HOW these things get "influenced" and that its the public that influences these things...

    In case it wasn't clear...note the huge sarcasm...

    Fact is Disney and co. will always have more bucks and influence then joe would take a huge national movement to get anywhere NEAR the amount of pull they have...and media influences well make sure that this will never happen.

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

  • identicon
    Steve, 17 Jan 2003 @ 1:29pm

    Most people still don't understand or care

    While I certainly agree that Eldred v. Ashcroft has generated a lot of discussion and more people know and care now than before, the fact is the vast majority of people don't have any comprehension of the issue. Ask the average person and most likely they'll say why shouldn't copyright be forever--having no understanding for the balance between the "limited term" monopoly granted and the interest of the public. Most people don't understand why intellectual property should be treated any differently than real property. Most people have no comprehension of the fact that derivitive works is what enables technology and art to move forward. Only a minority of us actually know that the intent of the the copyright clause of Article I section 8 was to "promote the progress of science and useful arts" and that recent extensions, the Sonny Bono Act in particular, do exactly the opposite and actually prevent progress.

    So if there's a silver lining, it's not a thick one. It was worth a try, and I throughly enjoyed the shots the justices took at Congress, essentially calling them out for not acting in the best interests of society.

    In the end, unless campaign finance reform & the rest of the legalized bribery in the system are removed, Disney and the rest will continue to get whatever they want. The general public may be outraged enough to scare congressmen straight on a few issues, unfortunately this is not one of them.

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

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