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
    Reverend Joe, 14 Apr 2008 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Don't buy the movie

    > You have no implicit right to view or enjoy an artist's work.

    Yes, I do. The US Constitution, currently being pissed upon by people from your industry and the people they've purchased (the US Congress), specifically states creator's exclusive rights will only be for "Limited Times" -- thereby GUARANTEEING that I *do*, in fact, have a right to view or enjoy artist's work -- even against that artist's will -- if I can get access to it after it has passed into the public domain.

    The Constitution-pissing begins when those or your ilk nudge-nudge-wink-wink their way into taking away those rights I *should* be guaranteed, by not-so-subtly implementing their policy of making copyrights last "forever minus one day" ... twenty years at a time.

    > It almost sounds as if you have a problem with capitalism.

    No, I (and others on this site and others that agree with me) have a problem with *protectionism* -- in this case, in the form of government-enforced monopolies. Which is, in fact, what you are defending ... the right of artists to NOT have to compete in the free market as the rest of us must.

    Put another way, if authoring music is, in fact, as you claim, a job "just like flipping burgers", why then should there be ANY special government monopolies to incentivize people to do it? The Constitution explicitly DOES NOT REQUIRE copyrights be granted to creators, it only says that Congress "shall have the power" to implement them (or not), at its own discretion.

    So why not just remove copyright from the US Code and make authorship of music be EXACTLY like flipping burgers and other jobs, as you seem to think it already is, and subject to the EXACT same labor laws -- minimum wage and others? I'm certain there are several record labels or even wealthy musicians that would be happy to employ popular songwriters for $5.35 (or whatever minimum wage is now) an hour to write good music!

    In fact, I'd expect that particularly popular singers / songwriters could command a very healthy premium over the minimum wage (just as particularly-talented burger flippers (read: "Executive Chefs") are able to charge a premium for their skills) for the creation of recorded music.

    Even in the absence of copyright, patrons for these music-creators could make a tidy profit by putting the the music up for free on a website and selling Google ads for access to high-quality copies of that music -- especially if they only had to pay real-world (ie, "non-monopoly") wages to the musicians to create the music ONCE, and then never have to pay them again (like we currently do with burger-flippers). And from the consumer's standpoint, why would I download an unsure copy from P2P, when I could get the music for free from the "official" source?

    Conversely, if musical artists are to be afforded ultimate control of how their creation is to be used, why not afford burger-creators (flippers) that same monopoly, if their labor is no different from creating music? Why not say that once a burger is created by being flipped a certain number of times, then assembled with a particular proportion of mustard, ketchup, and pickle, the burger-creator then has the government-enforced power to deny any others the ability to "steal" a copy of that creation by creating a similar burger?

    What about other jobs -- why should the author of the music I listen to get to charge for every use of his creation, but the construction worker who built the road in front of my house doesn't get to charge all my friends who use his creation to attend dinner at my house?

    What's that? You say it would be ridiculous to grant burger flippers and construction workers these government-enforced, exclusive monopolies on their creations? Because the market conditions which govern burgers and roads are very different from those governing music? And that one class of goods are tangible things -- which are very different from so-called "infinite goods", which can be replicated any number of times for a near-zero cost?

    My point exactly.

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