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
    Dave, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:02am

    Not so much copyright as ignorance

    I'm more likely to think that the guard had no idea who Poussin was or when he died. It isn't likely that he thought copyright was forever but simply that he thought it may apply to this one and he wouldn't know if it did or not.

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  2. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:35am

    Access to Copyright Work

    A good slippery slope concept. The concept or copyright, as this example demonstrates, is clearly misunderstood. However, there is a greater question at issue here; placing works in the public domain behind a "pay wall". Actually, it could even be a "free wall". The content may be in the public domain, but the public may not have access to it.

    One of my concerns along this line has been the use of DRM/proprietary technologies that restrict access to content. Fast forward 300 years. Will the content created in 2008 that is on CD/DVD/Websites that would now in the public domain be accessible by the public?

    My guess is that the content (DVD/CD/Websites) will magically remain "locked" based on disclosed "technical issues". True, the content may be in the public domain, but the providers of the content won't make it easy for the public to use.

    The good news, I suppose, is that we do have some websites that make it possible to freely use material in the public domain.

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  3. identicon
    Ward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:39am

    Copyright protects salaries only!

    Ok, let’s look at the root reason for breaking copyright laws. I will use movie and music industry for an example, since this is where it has all started. Now, why would anyone want to waste time to copy either source? At $15 plus for each title, anyone with math experience can see that they will have spent a fortune on entertainment. I love to be entertained just as much as the next person, don’t get me wrong! I will completely agree that sometimes there is reason to pay a little more for a 'good' show.

    Let’s look at what were actually paying for when we purchase titles. Many multi-million dollar salaries. There is nothing more than just that, salaries. Sure we could break it down into logistics, but that’s minute and we will leave that alone.

    Now from the consumers’ point of view - continued spending HARD earned money so the rich can get richer for mere singing and acting! So what is the next best thing? Well cheaper entertainment, of course! We can copy one DVD or CD and share the wealth so to speak among others whom have the same belief. The entertainment has gone from $15 plus to a mere, at most, $5. Who wouldn’t pay $5 for entertainment? No one! What will it cost Hollywood and the record producers alike? One-third their salary - yes, still in the millions with this cut.

    Copyrights secure the salaries of talented people and nothing more. Its simple to see, the movies and music 'value' is nothing more than the actors and musicians salary. Understandably they’re very good at what they do; but so are the Florida orange juice producers. Should we start giving them $15 plus for one instance of their product too?

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  4. identicon
    Rekrul, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:41am

    Back when I still had posting priviledges on the IMBd (before the staff banned me for critisizing their "All decisions are TOP SECRET and FINAL!!!" policy), I had a short exchange with a user who had never heard of the term "public domain" before. They honestly thought that copyrights were forever and that it was never ok to download any commercially produced music or movies unless it was the company themselves giving out copies.

    This is exactly the kind of belief that the content industry dreams about spreading.

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  5. identicon
    SomeGuy, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:46am

    Re: Copyright protects salaries only!

    I dispute this claim on grounds that I would happily pay $60+ to see a well-done stage show, but most of the stuff Hollywood churns out isn't worth the same respect. It's not that I balk at paying talent, it's that I balk at the low quality of what's being sold.

    That being said, I'm not the sort who pirates movies. if I'm interested in one, I'll rent it. If I like it enough to want it close at hand for a rainy day, I'll buy it.

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  6. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, 14 Apr 2008 @ 6:03am

    Re: Copyright protects salaries only!

    Take it from a smaller viewpoint.

    The first season of battlestar galactica on HD-DVD is $69.95 US on Amazon. This is down from their $99 I saw Friday. This is while they are having the "Get rid of HD-DVD" sale.

    This kind of price gouging is prominent all throughout Sci-Fi. $100 for individual Star Trek seasons on DVD. I probably payed over $1000 for the entire collection of Farscape. Compared to seasons of Buffy and Angel that can be found for $30-40.

    If I could buy Star Trek seasons for $30-$40 I would already have all of them. For now I'll just live with my downloaded copies.

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  7. identicon
    noshit, 14 Apr 2008 @ 6:26am

    duh.

    uhh i think the guard stopped him from taking photographs due to the artwork's photosensitive nature?

    it's highly positive since many paints and dyes react when flash is used (photons).

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  8. identicon
    Pete Valle, 14 Apr 2008 @ 6:26am

    The masses

    I think the important thing we should get from this post is that the masses are starting to be aware of copyright and, what I understand Mike is trying to say, they have it all wrong.

    In other words, the campaign by big media for copyright issues is working in their favor. Even people, like a security guard, who'd otherwise have no interest on what copyright is, are conscious about it and their view of it is skewed.

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  9. icon
    skyrider (profile), 14 Apr 2008 @ 6:37am

    re: duh - RTFA.

    "Despite the fact that the museum normally allows photographs (as long as there's no flash)"

    and in the original article-

    "The Met normally allows photography just about everywhere, provided that no flash is used - which is sensible both for preservation and politeness reasons."

    And, of course, my original favorite- the museum that doesn't even allow sketching. http://joi.ito.com/archives/2005/01/09/stop_sketching_little_girl_those_paintings_are_copyrighted.ht ml

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  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 6:44am

    Not the Guard's Fault

    The linked article actually speculates, and I tend to agree, that this was not a "slip-up" by the guard but rather the less-than-truthful reason the museum management had instructed him to give. I have seen it happen quite often that management in various organizations will try to use bogus "legal" excuses to cover their own otherwise questionable policies. In this case management probably didn't want the guard telling people that the real reason was "because the owner is anal-retentive and museum management didn't have enough backbone to say no". So they made up a lie instead (and not even a very good one). The guard was just telling people what they told him to tell them.

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  11. identicon
    Sean, 14 Apr 2008 @ 7:00am

    "perhaps the greatest landscape painter - ever"

    Certainly Poussin is incredibly important and helped to elevate painting to an art-form, but saying he was possibly the "greatest landscape painter - ever" is pushing it. The Grand Academy style was all the rage for a few hundred years but it's seriously dated now...

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  12. identicon
    Powerkor, 14 Apr 2008 @ 7:21am

    Reverse-babble

    I would have taken the picture anyway and gave them my card.

    Next time, be sure to bring some random documents with you that have the word 'copyright' throughtout it.

    Wave it in their face and spit some babble about it being 'open source'. Throw in something about Immanuel Kant and Bill Gates in the same setence and don't forget to polish it with words like 'technically' and 'binding'

    Lastly, Proceed to take the picture.

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  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 8:30am

    Were I the guard, I would have said, "I don't know specifically, but those are the house rules."

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  14. identicon
    bshock, 14 Apr 2008 @ 8:52am

    maybe it's a good thing

    The primary effect of eternal copyright is that works of art representing our culture are not perpetuated, since such perpetuation tends to be carried out through unauthorized copying.

    Considering the culture that these works represent, I'm fairly happy that they won't be passed along to the ages.

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  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 9:12am

    Re: Copyright protects salaries only!

    Ok, let’s look at the root reason for breaking copyright laws...(lengthy load of bull cut)

    What an obvious industry tool.

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  16. identicon
    L Janik, 14 Apr 2008 @ 9:16am

    Of course copyright protects salaries!

    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.

    If your issue is how much they get paid, then that is your problem. Don't buy it.

    As for the multimillion dollar salaries, this applies to every corporation in the world -- Apple, GE, 3M, Microsoft. Every product you buy supports some CEO's multimillion dollar salary. Why should entertainment be different?

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  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 9:17am

    Re:

    Were I the guard, I would have said, "I don't know specifically, but those are the house rules."
    Even if your boss told you to tell people it was due to copyright? That would be a good way to get fired.

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  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 9:24am

    Re: Of course copyright protects salaries!

    Oh boy, the old one-two strawman punch. The first troll comes along and sets them up, then the second comes along to knock them down.

    You guys are going to have to do better than that.

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  19. identicon
    Ven'Tatsu, 14 Apr 2008 @ 9:37am

    Re: Access to Copyright Work

    It is totally legitimate that a gallery charge for access to an original that has passed into the public domain. Public domain only means that the painting can be reproduced without requiring the permission of the works owner, it does not ever, under any circumstances, remove the physical ownership of a work. Copyright is about the right to reproduce a work, it is not (or should not, depending on jurisdiction, be) about what can and can't be done with the physical embodiment of that work.
    The physical right to a painting includes the right to charge to view that physical painting but does not cover preventing any one from making copies of the painting, or demanding payment to view the copies.

    A "pay wall" in front of an original of an original painting is quite different than DRM. Assuming all sides honor the law, after I have passed the pay wall once and have made a legal copy of the painting (a photograph) I can legally view it my self and after the painting is in the public domain I can show it to anyone and make as many copies as I desire. DRM is the equivalent of putting a screen in front of the painting that blocks all photographs preventing me from ever producing a copy of the painting. To equate pay walls with DRM trivializes the insidious effects DRM has on fair use and the eventual transition to the public domain of a work.

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  20. identicon
    SomeGuy, 14 Apr 2008 @ 9:54am

    Re: Of course copyright protects salaries!

    Incorrect. Performing comes close, but no one here is complaining about ticket pricing to concerts. In MOST jobs, like flipping burgers, you get paid once for a quantifyable amount of work (usually hourly in this example; I know few short-order chefs who have a salary). What Copyright does is pay you over and over and over again for the same work you did years ago (in the form of royalties and liscences). Further, Copyright is *not* the only way these guys are going to get paid, as has been shown repeatedly by a number or authors and musicians in recent months.

    And FURTHERMORE, the guy in question is centuries dead. Even with the copyright rules we have now (which wouldn't have applied to him anyways) his works are public domain. The confusion and ignorance surrounding what copyright means is as much the point of this article as whether or not copyright is useful or appropriate.

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  21. identicon
    L. Janik, 14 Apr 2008 @ 12:30pm

    I do not pay over and over for the same work

    What Copyright does is pay you over and over and over again for the same work you did years ago (in the form of royalties and liscences).

    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 up to the artist to decide how he or she wants to sell their work. If you cannot comply with the terms and conditions, don't buy it.

    I understand that the primary issue is the age of the painting, but it seems as if there is an argument being made that copyright shouldn't exist (see Copyright protects salaries only!)

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  22. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 14 Apr 2008 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: Access to Copyright Work

    Sorry if I was not clear about the distinction between DRM and a "pay wall". As you correctly note, access to content in the public domain can be controlled. My point with DRM technologies is that the content, even if it enters the public domain, will remain crippled by DRM technologies.

    For example, you have a Region I DVD, the content enters the public domain, would your Region II DVD player recognize that the content is no longer "protected" and allow you to play it? I don't think so.

    All the discussions that I read promoting the use of DRM technologies talk about how the content needs to be locked. I have yet to see any discussion of how "locked" content, on the day it enters the public domain, will become unlocked.

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  23. icon
    John (profile), 14 Apr 2008 @ 1:01pm

    New strategy for the MPAA/ RIAA

    Maybe this is a new strategy for the MPAA, RIAA, and all the others who want copyrights extended. Why go through the hassle of getting a law passed when they can spread propaganda and misinformation to the public?

    Who cares if the law actually states "life +30" as long as the public is "educated" to believe that copyright is infinite.

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  24. identicon
    Mischa, 14 Apr 2008 @ 1:30pm

    Re: I do not pay over and over for the same work

    Did you read the sentence you quoted? It doesn't say that you are paying over and over for the same thing, it says that you are being paid.

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  25. 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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  26. identicon
    L. Janik, 14 Apr 2008 @ 1:57pm

    Don't buy the movie

    If you don't like the terms, don't buy the movie.

    You have no implicit right to view or enjoy an artist's work. When you buy a book or a song, you are agreeing to a contract of sale which is governed state and federal law. If you don't like the terms, then no one is forcing you to buy.

    It almost sounds as if you have a problem with capitalism. Why shouldn't Disney create a demand for a movie? Would you suggest that Apple shouldn't create a demand for its operating system upgrades? McDonalds shouldn't create a demand for its cheeseburgers?

    Who is to say that an artist has to benefit society over his own pocketbook?

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  27. identicon
    Clueby4, 14 Apr 2008 @ 3:12pm

    STFU with "Don't by the X"

    Please STFU with regard to "if you don't like it don't buy the book/movie/song/etc"

    The are using our tax dollars with bogus criminal investigations. They've gone so far to claim that terrorism (aka the bogeyman) as a benefactor of copyright violation. If the Fair-Use rapists used civil courts exclusively you might have a point with the "Don't buy" flappings, however since the don't you can pipe down.

    Copyright's original purpose was to benefit society, and to provide some benefit to the author as an incentive to create. Incentive, not a never-ending revenue stream. You shouldn't expect to be able to live off of an incentive, hence why most people have a problem with copyrights.

    Simply put copyright is broken, especially without any public domain requirements.

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  28. identicon
    L Janik, 14 Apr 2008 @ 3:40pm

    Constitution

    To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

    If you want to argue "limited times", call your congressman. I think "exclusive right" is pretty clear.

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  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 4:27pm

    Re: Re: I do not pay over and over for the same work

    Did you read the sentence you quoted? It doesn't say that you are paying over and over for the same thing, it says that you are being paid.

    Trolls are notoriously poor readers.

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  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Don't buy the movie

    When you buy a book or a song, you are agreeing to a contract of sale which is governed state and federal law.
    No, that's completely untrue. That's not how contract law works at all and laws, unlike contracts, apply whether you agree to them or not. If what you said was true then if someone gave me a copyrighted book I could legally distribute copies of it because I never agreed to anything by buying it.

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  31. 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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  32. identicon
    Reverend Joe, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:22pm

    Re: Constitution

    > If you want to argue "limited times", call your congressman.

    I agree with the 1st part, but not the 2nd.

    I *AM* "arguing limited times", but explicitly NOT by "calling my congressman". That would be like "arguing taxation without representation" by "writing a strongly-worded letter to The King of England". Or like "campaigning for office" by "screaming at a tree". Or like "getting some work done" by "masturbating to porn". Or like ... well, you get the idea.

    I prefer to stick with my Boston-Tea-Partying method of argument, thank you very much.

    It seems to be having, as historical analysis would indicate, ACTUAL results.

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  33. identicon
    Reverend Joe, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:31pm

    Re: Constitution

    Oh, and one other important note: it seems a recurring theme that those from your industry always seems to skip right over the first (and, to me, most important) part of the Progress Clause, in order to make it seem LESS like copyright is an OPTION for Congress to implement, as it really IS, and MORE like an OBLIGATION (which it really ISN'T):

    The Congress shall have the power . . . To Promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

    You may wish to pay particular attention to the fact that "shall have the power ... To" and "is required ... To" have COMPLETELY different meanings in this context.

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  34. identicon
    L Janik, 14 Apr 2008 @ 5:43pm

    ?

    An artist can freely distribute his works. That is his right.

    An artist may choose to charge for his work. In many cases it is because being an artist is his only job and he needs money to buy burgers. That is his right.

    I don't understand how the music industry can be considered a monopoly. I am also not defending the music industry. My personal interest is in writing. The harsh reality is that very few people and businesses make any money selling fiction. If an artist does get money, I see no problem with getting royalties for the rest of his life and his heirs getting the benefits of that work.

    There are a lot of business models where a seller gets paid over and over again for a single effort. Apple gets paid over and over again for its operating system. Many industries license a process and continually get paid for use of this process. Landlords get paid over and over again for the use their apartments. This model must exist when there is a large up front effort or cost. However, in the case of artists, they may only have one commercially successful effort in their lifetime and this work must fund their entire career.

    It may be difficult to separate the "art industries" from the artists. I would be very curious to know what the average artist feels about the current copyright laws.

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  35. identicon
    Quartz, 14 Apr 2008 @ 6:39pm

    Since When Has Copyright Become Life Plus 343 Years?

    I have read many of the comments here and would beg to offer up a potential reason for the suggestion of a work being copyrighted despite being of apparent vintage to merit an exuation of such a term.

    There is the possibility that the work in question has been "restored", if this is the case the museum can quite legally enforce the copyright act on the restored painting as has happened to the famous "Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci in Santa Maria delle Grazia, Milan. This may not be the case here but I thought some of you would not be aware of this method of "back-door" copyright extension.

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

  36. identicon
    Reverend Joe, 14 Apr 2008 @ 6:43pm

    Re: ?

    > An artist can freely distribute his works. That is his right.

    True enough. In the US, at least, the 1st amendment grants that right -- though its important to note that even Freedom to Speak freely is limited in this country (some would say in increasingly detrimental ways) -- you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater is the classic example.

    > An artist may choose to charge for his work. In many cases it is because being an artist is his only job and he needs money to buy burgers. That is his right.

    Not strictly true. There is no "right to make money" enshrined in the Constitution. Also, and this may be arguing semantics, but many would argue that the exclusive monopoly to creator's discoveries is a matter of policy and therefore should not be called a "right". IOW, the constitution says creator's rights are OPTIONAL for Congress to implement, while it REQUIRES that persons be granted due process, not be subject to unreasonable search and seizure, etc. etc. You are right, however, in the sense that, under current law, you may be able to get the government to enforce your monopolistic control over certain types of creations (if you're rich enough and / or work at one of the *IAA's, the chances of getting something done improve greatly, of course).

    > I don't understand how the music industry can be considered a monopoly.

    Then, I'll explain to the best of my ability, though there are others here that may do a better job than I.

    Basically, its NOT the music INDUSTRY that is a monopoly, it is the copyright ITSELF.

    In a perfect free market, anyone can sell anything they choose, that they are able to create. For example, there is no copyright on facts. Lists of ingredients in a recipe are legally considered facts. You may create a recipe and put it in your copyrighted cookbook, and I can't copy that recipe, but I *CAN* use your recipe to create the same dish, and write down the list of ingredients I used, along with how *I* went about combining them to create the dish, in my own words. Additionally, titles are not copyrightable, so I can probably call my recipe exactly the same thing that you called yours.

    There is a truly free market for lists of ingredients, though cookBOOKS cannot be copied wholesale. As Mike often gives the example on this site, this is similar to the world of pizza-making or fashion. Designs of shoes or combinations of toppings on pizza are NOT afforded copyright protections, which is one of the reasons (IMHO, of course) the markets for pizza and fashion and shoes and recipes is so robust and thriving -- no one can step in and, backed by the power of government enforcement, force another to stop selling what they are selling. That's a free market.

    If there were a perfect free market for books, as soon as one was published, anyone who could copy it and was inclined to do so, would do so, and become competition for the original seller of the book -- this is considered by economists a perfectly efficient free market, as the original seller is not able to command a price any higher than what it costs to create a copy of a book (at least not in the long run, though there is typically a "first-mover" advantage to selling the books).

    When the government, however, steps in and says, "the law says you CAN'T sell a copy of that book, the author has an EXCLUSIVE right over ALL uses, including the making and selling of copies", that is, by definition, a government-enforced monopoly.

    We can argue at length over whether authors getting this kind of monopoly is a net benefit to society or not (as an aside, I, personally, am NOT for the abolishment of all copyrights, though I do think a valid case can be made for their abolishment), but the definitions of the words makes it a FACT that copyrights ARE a government-enforced monopoly, and NOT conducive to the efficient operation of free-market economics.

    > There are a lot of business models where a seller gets paid over and over again for a single effort. ... This model must exist when there is a large up front effort or cost.

    Again, the you got the 1st part right, but not the second part. Firstly, most of the models you mention involve copyright or patenting of some sort, but large-cost projects existed before these laws, so the second part of the argument is incorrect on its face. Secondly, what about the interstate system? We don't directly pay for it "over and over again". If you don't like the inclusion of that, because its a tax-funded system, then what about Ethernet, or HTML, or Google, or any number of another large, complicated systems that cost a lot to develop up front, but are free for all to use?

    > It may be difficult to separate the "art industries" from the artists. I would be very curious to know what the average artist feels about the current copyright laws.

    I know quite a few -- musical artists, anyway. Though this is changing somewhat (though slowly, but particularly among YOUNGER artists, who grew up with the Internet), they, by and large, have accepted the industry's party line with little questioning. To their own detriment, most would say. It is a sad fact that many of the people defending the current copyright system are those who have been most screwed-over by its workings. You'd think they'd want more change just on basic principle. You know, one of those, "if i'm not making money on it anyway why should some rich guy who screwed me on my contract" kind of deals.

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

  37. identicon
    L Janik, 14 Apr 2008 @ 7:19pm

    more questions

    Suppose I spend 10 years of my life writing the great American novel, or Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings. I decide to let my friend read it by lending him my flash drive. My friend sees its brilliance and without my knowledge or consent he publishes the book under his own name and becomes the richest man in the UK.

    Without copyright, what is my recourse? How could it possibly be fair that he gains so much from my hard work? Wouldn't my tale of woe discourage future young writers?

    By the way, Google is only free to use if you are not advertising on it.

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

  38. icon
    Mike (profile), 14 Apr 2008 @ 10:48pm

    Re: more questions

    Without copyright, what is my recourse? How could it possibly be fair that he gains so much from my hard work? Wouldn't my tale of woe discourage future young writers?

    That's not a copyright problem, that's a problem of fraud. Your friend passed himself off as the author when he was not. You don't need copyright to deal with that.

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

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 11:44pm

    Re: Don't buy the movie

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

    What an ignoramus. Copyright law is about reproducing and distributing a copyrighted work. It has nothing to do with viewing it.

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

  40. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2008 @ 11:57pm

    Re: more questions

    Suppose I spend 10 years of my life writing the great American novel, or Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings. I decide to let my friend read it by lending him my flash drive. My friend sees its brilliance and without my knowledge or consent he publishes the book under his own name and becomes the richest man in the UK.

    Without copyright, what is my recourse? How could it possibly be fair that he gains so much from my hard work?
    Well, according to what you previously wrote copyright protection shouldn't even apply in this case because your friend didn't "buy" it and thus agree to your "contract" in the first place. Make up your mind because you don't seem to have any idea what you're talking about.

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

  41. identicon
    L Janik, 15 Apr 2008 @ 4:48am

    Exactly a copyright problem

    My scenario is exactly a copyright problem. Without copyright, my friend has as much ownership of the words as I do.

    If you cannot concede the value of copyright in that scenario, then I cannot comprehend these arguments.

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

  42. 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?

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

  43. identicon
    L Janik, 15 Apr 2008 @ 8:51am

    Copyrights should be limited

    I concede that copyrights should be limited in length.

    I think that the writers of the constitution were very wise in the terminology securing for limited times.

    It seems as if our argument is over the length of this limited time. I agree that eternal copyrights were never intended.

    At this point, I have to go back to flipping burgers.

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

  44. icon
    Mike (profile), 15 Apr 2008 @ 10:25am

    Re: Exactly a copyright problem

    My scenario is exactly a copyright problem. Without copyright, my friend has as much ownership of the words as I do.

    No, it's not copyright. Copyright isn't about passing off someone else's words as your own -- which is the scenario you discussed.

    Copyright is merely the right to copy -- no matter who the words are attributed to.

    You're confusing plagiarism with copyright.

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

  45. identicon
    L Janik, 15 Apr 2008 @ 10:46am

    Plagarism is not against the law

    Without copyright, I have no recourse if someone uses my words verbatim.

    Plagarism is not against the law unless you are plagarizing a copyrighted work. I can plagarize William Shakespeare with impunity. Plagarism may get you kicked out of Oxford, but it won't get me any money from the friend who publishes my work.

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

  46. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2008 @ 11:04am

    To L. Janik

    Go troll someplace else you greedy capitalist pig.

    I hate capitalism and I'm damn proud of it.

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

  47. identicon
    L Janik, 15 Apr 2008 @ 11:12am

    ok

    bye

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

  48. icon
    Mike (profile), 15 Apr 2008 @ 11:23am

    Re: Plagarism is not against the law

    Without copyright, I have no recourse if someone uses my words verbatim.

    Sure you do. It's still fraud. They're passing off your works as their own.

    Trying to squeeze copyright into that is not what it's intended for.

    Besides, if you have friends who would do that to you, you need better friends.

    Even if you could go after him for fraud, you could easily publicize the fact that he blatantly used your works, and it would probably get you a lot more attention.

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

  49. icon
    Mike (profile), 15 Apr 2008 @ 11:24am

    Re: To L. Janik

    Go troll someplace else you greedy capitalist pig.

    I hate capitalism and I'm damn proud of it


    I assume you're being sarcastic. But I'm confused how copyright can be considered capitalistic? After all, it's a government regulated monopoly. That seems like the opposite of capitalism.

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

  50. identicon
    Rekrul, 15 Apr 2008 @ 12:06pm

    I concede that copyrights should be limited in length.

    I think that the writers of the constitution were very wise in the terminology securing for limited times.

    It seems as if our argument is over the length of this limited time. I agree that eternal copyrights were never intended.


    Yes, that's the main problem. There are many works (movies, music, TV shows, games) that should be public domain by now, but aren't.

    As an example, I have a video of a single-episode, horror TV show that was aired in 1978. It's fairly obscure but there are enough people who remember it that it's a fairly common "What was that show..." question among people who like that genre. For many years it was assumed to be lost to all but the network, who seem to be content to lot it rot in their vault unless someone is willing to offer them ridiculous amounts of money. A few years ago, someone on the net discovered that a relative had taped it on one of the first VCRs available at the time and that the tape was still in fairly watchable condition. They encoded a copy to mpeg format and covertly offered it up to people who were looking for this rare show. As a result I now a copy of it to enjoy and (illegally) pass on to others. If copyrights were still limited to 28 years, I could openly offer this show, or even put it on a web site for others to enjoy. As it is, it will remain under copyright until the original network copies rot away to nothing.

    Another problem with copyrights today is that the content owners want too much control. They don't want people obtaining their copyrighted work for free, or distributing copies to others. Fair enough. However they also want to have control over what you can do with those works.

    As an author, would you try to prevent a person from reading your work to a non-profit gathering of people? The music industry would consider that a public performance and demand a license fee for such things. As would the movie industry.

    Would you get upset if someone used a scanner and a text to speech program to record one of your books to an MP3 player so that they could listen to it on the way to work? The music industry isn't happy about people doing this and the movie industry actively tries to prevent this kind of thing by not allowing people to circumvent the DRM on DVDs, even if it's for personal use.

    Do you try to prevent your books from being sold in other countries unless you negotiate a specific publishing deal in those countries? The movie industry does, through the use of region codes.

    When you write a book, do you put a limit on how many people can "use" a single copy of it? Software companies do exactly this by writing EULs that say the software can only be used on a single computer unless you pay for additional copies.

    Once someone has bought a copy of one of your books, do you try to prevent them from selling that book to anyone else? Microsoft tried to do exactly that with copies of Windows. The music industry also does this with digital downloads. If digital copies are no different than real goods, shouldn't people be allowed to re-sell them, provided that they don't keep any copies?

    Does the publisher of your books add DRM in order to prevent copying, but which also inconveniences honest users, such as using black ink on maroon paper? DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and software all come with DRM that often inconveniences honest users. The Macrovision on DVDs prevents the player from being hooked up through a VCR (my TV only has one set of A/V inputs, so hooking it up through the VCR is the only option unless I'm willing to spend more money) and the CSS prevents people from legally transferring the movie onto a portable player. The DRM on Blu-Ray discs can prevent you from hooking up older TVs that don't conform to the proper DRM standards. The DRM on software can prevent you from making a backup copy and even keep the program from working on some systems.

    These are the kinds of things that make so many people oppose the current copyright climate.

    For the record, I think the idea of copyright is generally a good thing, it's just been tipped way too much in favor of the content industry at the expense of society in general and individuals in particular.

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

  51. identicon
    Reverend Joe, 15 Apr 2008 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: Plagarism is not against the law

    Mike,

    Though this is an aside to the already-aside discussion of copyright terms we seem to have gotten on here, I'm interested in this point, because you obviously have a lot more knowledge of economic theory than me.

    My question for you is basically, if capitalism is defined like this (pulled from a random google definition):

    Capitalism: an economic and social system in which individuals can maximize profits because they own the means of production.

    What about copyright IS NOT capitalistic? Personally, I think I'd agree with you that its both not EFFICIENT (at least the way we in the US do it) capitalism, and also not in the spirit of "free markets" (ironic, considering so many maximalists claim to be "free marketers"), but I'm not sure I see how, with this definition, it can be considered ANTI-capitalistic.

    Either way, I'd be the first to say that just because something IS NOT anti-capitalistic, that in no way implies that it's a Good Thing (at least not measured by the metric: "resulting in the best results for the greatest number").

    Is there a deeper definition of "capitalism" in economic theory? Or are you assuming that "not efficient capitalism" is tantamount to "anti-capitalism"? In any case, I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks.

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

  52. identicon
    Reverend Joe, 15 Apr 2008 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Copyrights should be limited

    Given that we've found some common ground on the out-of-balance way copyright is now implemented (I would say "Unconstitutional way copyright is implemented", but that's a discussion for another day), I'd ask you to consider taking the NEXT step advocated on this site.

    Namely, the realization that you may be able to DO BETTER by giving up your STRICT copyright controls and making your material "more free". I would point you to the career of Cory Doctorow as an example of a fellow writer that has embraced this concept.

    Given that you say you have to go back to flipping burgers, anyway, it would seem that the old maxim is true that obscurity is a greater threat to your career as a writer than is piracy -- what would you have to lose by embracing one of the many business models to pay for your writing career advocated on this site?

    Note that I, personally, would be glad to pay you (a reasonable price) out of my own hard-earned money for a book full of your words, as I often do when I am able to buy a DVD, CD, book, painting or other artwork sold directly to me by the artist(s) (usually local artists in my case, though there are some indie film makers whose movies I have purchased that can be bought directly from the artists' websites).

    I will NOT, however, spend my money to support the lobbying efforts of industries intent on ruining the "Progess of Science and the Useful Arts" by locking all thoughts, ideas, and expressions of ideas away behind a DRMed-to-last-forever pay wall.

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

  53. icon
    Mike (profile), 16 Apr 2008 @ 1:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Plagarism is not against the law

    What about copyright IS NOT capitalistic? Personally, I think I'd agree with you that its both not EFFICIENT (at least the way we in the US do it) capitalism, and also not in the spirit of "free markets" (ironic, considering so many maximalists claim to be "free marketers"), but I'm not sure I see how, with this definition, it can be considered ANTI-capitalistic.

    Good question... and I'll give a two part response. The first is that to some extent I've been using a shorthand of "capitalism = free market" or, more accurately "capitalism = lack of gov't interference in the market."

    But, more to the point, I don't think that definition actually contradicts the definition you brought up:

    "Capitalism: an economic and social system in which individuals can maximize profits because they own the means of production."

    The key element in owning the means of production is the lack of gov't interference in those means of production -- hence the free market mentality.

    As for how copyright fits, with that, I absolutely disagree that copyright is about owning the means of production, because it does not. Nothing in copyright is about owning the *means* of production (which would be one's brain, from whence the content comes...). Copyright, instead, is giving one individual or company a monopoly on any *output*. So it's regulating the output, and does nothing to free up the means of production. In fact, it *limits* the means of production of others, by saying they can't use an available and unconstrained resource for their own efforts.

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


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