Since When Has Copyright Become Life Plus 343 Years?

from the perpetual-copyright dept

If you follow copyright issues at all, you know that the length of copyright has been extended time and time again, mostly at the behest of entertainment industry interests who are fearful of their content falling into the public domain (even if they used public domain material to create their own content in the first place). However, copyrights do eventually expire, but it seems like fewer and fewer people recognize that. Jim writes in to point out the unfortunate example an IP lawyer discovered recently upon visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Despite the fact that the museum normally allows photographs (as long as there's no flash), it would not allow them in a display of artwork by Nicholas Poussin, who died in 1665. When questioned why the "no photography" rule was in place, he was told that it was because of the "copyright" on the artwork. While this is obviously a minor slip-up by a museum guard, it does show that people are becoming accustomed to the idea that copyright lasts forever, which is a serious problem. The more people understand copyright, and why limits on copyright are important, the more likely we are to start to shift the system away from the ridiculous levels it's reached.

Filed Under: copyright, metropolitan museum of art, nicholas poussin


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  1. identicon
    Rekrul, 14 Apr 2008 @ 1:33pm

    This is not true. If I buy a book, I don't have to pay over and over again to read it. If I buy a song from iTunes, I don't have to pay over and over again to listen to it.


    It IS true. When a person in a normal profession does a job, they get paid once. When someone writes a song, or a book, or makes a movie, they get paid again and again for the same work. There was a news story a while back about how some British musicians are outraged that once the copyrights expire, they will no longer receive royalties for music that they recorded 50 years ago.

    I cannot understand this hatred of copyright. Writing and performing are jobs just like flipping burgers. This is the only way these people are going to get paid.


    The hatred comes from the fact that the content industry has perverted the entire idea of copyright to suit their own greed and in the process, the consumer loses more and more rights.

    When the idea of copyright was originally invented in the US, it was for a limited time only. I believe (I'm too lazy to check) that it was for 14 years, extendable for another 14. After that, the work became public domain, no if's, and's or but's.

    The idea went something like this; People will be more likely to create if they can be assured of being able to profit from their creations, however the fixed length of the copyright term ensured that they couldn't profit from a work indefinitely. After a maximum of 28 years, they lose their cash-cow and will need to create something new if they want to keep getting paid. Authors and artists have an incentive to create more and the rest of the world gets a steady flow of free content that they can use for their own inspiration.

    Disney certainly appreciates the public domain; Many of their most popular films are based on public domain stories and characters that they didn't have to pay a cent to license.

    The problem in today's world is that after having drawn on the public domain for inspiration, corporations are deathly afraid of letting anything they've produced pass into the public domain to be the inspiration for others. So they go to the government and get their puppets to extend copyright terms to ridiculous lengths. I think it's now the life of the artist plus 90 years for indiduals and life of the artist plus 70 years for corporations. How does this benefit society? The original creator will be dead and buried and his family will be sitting back raking in his royalties for their entire lives as well. The public domain is drying up and people/companies have little incentive to create.

    Look at how Disney trots out the classics for sale on DVD every few years, trying to create artificial demand for them. This is exactly the kind of thing that the original copyright limits were intended to prevent. If the government hadn't bent over for them and extended the terms, many Disney films would now be public domain and could be copied freely.

    Besides all the negative effects above, companies are also using copyrights to take away from the consumer. Why can't you buy & play a DVD from another country? "We need to protect out copyrights!" Why can't you legally copy the content of your legally bought DVD onto your portable video player? "We need to protect out copyrights!" Why can you record a TV show off cable, but you can't download it off the internet if you forget to schedule a recording? "We need to protect out copyrights!" Why is downloadable video only available in DRM-crippled formats that will usually only play on Windows and which expire after a set period of time? "We need to protect out copyrights!"

    What else are they doing? How about "broadcast flags" to control which TV shows you can and can't record? How about recordings that can only be played once, or for a set period of time before they're automatically erased? How about commercials that can't be skipped? Or equipment that should be compatible but isn't because it doesn't conform to Hollywood's standards of restrictive DRM? Or a bill that would allow the police to confiscate any equipment used in the commision of copyright infringement? (keep in mind that the RIAA has made quite a few errors in its lawsuits and that according to US law, a person need not be convicted of anything for asset seizure and forfeiture to proceed. Look it up)

    The movie industry says it's being devastated by internet piracy. It also says that 2007 was a record-breaking year. They can't both be true, so which is the lie? Better yet, why is an industry that clearly lies and exaggerates the truth one of the main influences on US law?

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