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, 15 Apr 2008 @ 8:19am

    Re: Exactly a copyright problem

    I do concede the value of copyright in that scenario. Definitely a positive value to the author, and probably to society as a whole.

    So does my concession make you comprehend?

    But even a one-year copyright would serve the same purpose as you are trying to achieve (preventing your "friend" (Harumph! Some friend!!??!!) from stealing). This would give you MORE than ample time to let your friend give you feedback, and secure a publishing deal. Will you concede, then, that one-year is the term copyright should be set to?

    The reality is that the reason most people are so upset with the current system is that any sense of that balance between the value to the author and society and the negative effect of copyright on the public domain (enriching the public domain is ultimately the REASON the founders, after much arguing, decided to allow copyright to continue to exist) has flown out the window in the rhetoric of the copyright maximalists.

    Personally, I'd be WILLING to concede even ETERNAL copyrights, if and only if the maximalists would be willing to concede a registration REQUIREMENT. IOW, if you're so convinced your words or painting or song or whatever is SO goddamn valuable, then you should have to register / license that IP with the the copyright office to get a government-enforced monopoly over your creation -- which is the way copyright worked until 1978, btw.

    This would get rid of the biggest destructive effect the current system has, that of destroying our culture as the media on which it lives dies. The reality is that the vast majority of works would pass into the public domain fairly quickly -- basically, as soon as their "commercial window" was largely expired. Disney could keep the mouse forever, but I'm QUITE CERTAIN the public domain would actually start being enriched again, as it used to be before the maximalists figured out how to take over Congress, if creators actually had to write a letter or fill out a form on a web page once every 5 or 10 years. Why? Because most creators realize what we've been saying all along, copyrights are typically only useful for a few years after a work is created (in most cases).

    Of course, this is a bit of a facetious proposition on my part, as ETERNAL copyright is ALREADY in place, so long as Disney can buy an extension from Congress every 20 years or so, so I'm not really giving anything up, but definitely AM getting something in the bargain.

    Still and yet, if copyrights are so frickin' valuable to authors and society, why should they not have to at least do as much work to maintain their ownership as I have to do for my car or little $200 motor scooter? Wouldn't that be a small price to pay for being able to basically own the expression of a particular set of ideas for eternity?

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