The 8,000 Year Copyright?

from the forever-minus-a-day dept

There's a popular saying among copyright maximalists, that if copyright must be "for limited times," it should be "forever minus a day." And, in fact, part of the problem with the so-called "education" campaign that copyright supporters have been pushing over the past decade or so is that they never bother to spend much time on consumer rights, fair use or the importance of the public domain. So, it should come as little surprise that the default thinking among many is that copyright does, in fact, last forever. Witness this story that plenty of folks have been sending in, about the United Nations new World Digital Library that has posted ancient texts from around the world. Just one problem... the site is claiming that the texts may be covered by copyright, even though many of the texts are older than 8,000 years. Obviously, the copyright claim is wrong, but it seems to be the default position taken by lawyers these days, and many people who have falsely been told that "sharing" equals "theft" will believe that copyright lasts forever. For anyone who actually recognizes the importance and value of the public domain, and how it's helped expand our creative culture over the years, this should be quite depressing.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 5:26pm

    Well ...

    My father's father's father's ... (and so on) wrote that and I find it completely ridiculus that anybody thinks they can read or even see those documents without my explicit permission. I DEMAND MONEY FOR MY ANCESTOR'S WORK!!

     

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  2.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 5:28pm

    Copyrighted by Whom?

    If the UN is claiming copyright ownership, how did they acquire copyright ownership? Where is the "chain of title"?

    If the copyright remains with the descendants, by this time virtually everyone in the world would be a partial owner and entitled to use the content.

     

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  3.  
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    MoreStupidThanHim, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 5:34pm

    Who's law?

    What if at the time Thag produced the cave drawings the copyright on the work was for 9000 years...

     

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  4.  
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    Luís Carvalho, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 5:43pm

    They are actualy copyrighted.

    The owner is Humanity. Each and every single one of us, owns it.

    So, if you are a alien, trying to download our culture, we have legitimate reason to blast you.

    Oh! And the cave paintings, they are owned too. So, if you plan to use anything even remotely inspired in that work, technique or method, you will have to pay all of us rights.

    We humans, own in perpetuity ALL the human culture.

     

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  5.  
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    DJ, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 6:09pm

    Re: Who's law?

    Yes, but did Thag plagiarize in the first place? If so, that REALLY complicates things.

     

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  6.  
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    Ryan, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 6:10pm

    Sounds like a good Onion article

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Poster, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 6:15pm

    The copyright claim is probably trying to be made on specific translations of the ancient texts, rather than the ancient texts themselves.

    It's still stupid, though.

     

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  8.  
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    1812lsd, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 6:17pm

    The mighty wheel.

    My ancestor's created the wheel, car makers owe me a whole load of cash!

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 7:12pm

    Where?

    I have read the legal page several times and yet do not see any claim that 8,000 year old works are covered by copyright. I wish someone would check these things out just once before they write about them.

     

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  10.  
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    silly billy, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 7:16pm

    Re: The mighty wheel.

    how 'bout some stock?

     

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  11.  
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    Really? I mean REALLY??, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 7:23pm

    Ignorance, selfishness, stupidity

    So how is buying a book and sharing it with a friend who shares it with a friend any different then making a digital copy of a work and sharing it online? Why is it when technology gets involved it's the end of the world for a few people because it's getting out of control?

    Copying VHS and casette's wasn't an issue in the 80's
    but OMG when people share mp3's and digital copies of text they will pay!!!!

    Innovation! Get on the bandwagon or get left in the technological dust! You can still profit from this you whiny little kids, but you have to STOP WHINING!!! Step up and take that which has offended you and turn it around into the next big thing. You can sell a hardback and a softback book... why not start selling e-books! WOW WHAT A HARD CONCEPT!!!

    Can't control something? Sell it cheaper and faster; then you can control it! How do you think Wal-Mart has gotten this far?

     

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  12.  
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    NZN, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 7:24pm

    Re:

    Indeed. He speaks for the People. Even though the letter 'e' was copyrighted by it's founder, my ancestor, under eternal Terms written in blood and sealed in stone as writ of original covenant... his words are our words. So back off Alien infestor... you have been warned!

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 7:31pm

    Pooper...

    If the Greeks invented anal sex, they should sue the World Digital Library, the US, and many other governments for the mass anal rapings they've conducted.

     

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  14.  
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    Professoriate, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 8:01pm

    Translation

    The World Digital Library legal disclaimer expressly states that content is contributed by partners and questions regarding copyright should be directed at those partners. Though I share the general concern about intellectual property rights, etc., I think the WDL -- which is about the free distribution and sharing on these documents -- is the wrong target for your article.

    You may also want to consider the issue of language. It hasn't been the same for 8,000 years. It is true that any intellectual property claim to the original content is ridiculous, 99.9% of readers will only deal with it in translation and that translation is the much more recent work -- which might be due some IP consideration. Finally, if a recently discovered ancient text or the translation of it are subsequently proved to be misdated, misattributed, or outright fraudulent, that could also have an impact on the associated rights. There are reasons the WDL needs a legal disclaimer page that have nothing to do with the issues you mention.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 8:36pm

    Re: Where?

    Agreed. This is slashdotters (and subsequently techdirt) going off with sensational bullshit that has no grounding in fact.

     

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  16.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 11:56pm

    Re: Translation

    Professoriate wrote:


    The World Digital Library legal disclaimer expressly states that content is contributed by partners and questions regarding copyright should be directed at those partners.

    Why? It’s not usual for distributors to claim copyright in the goods being distributed, just because they’re distributing them.

     

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  17.  
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    Dan, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 1:09am

    Lawers

     

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  18.  
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    Dan, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 1:12am

    Lawers

    By the same logic we can then assume that all lawyers are corrupt thieves and should be stoned on sight to save civilization.

     

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  19.  
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    Garry, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 3:22am

    Re: Translation

    I think the issue at hand is even simpler. The items from the period 8000 - 499 BC are photographed. The Copyright is attributed to the photographer in the articles.

    I would have been nice for someone to have taken the same photos and publish them under a Creative Commons licence. Then this library could be more interesting.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 4:13am

    I had a similar issue when I went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. The guide told us no pictures. I asked why, expecting some scientific thing on the light degrading the fragile paper. Nope copyright.

    I said, they are thousands of years old, how can there be a copyright. He said if you take pictures of those fragments, you are stealing. I laughed, and said, surely you can see the difference:

    I infringed on the copyright of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
    or
    I stole the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    He didn't think it was funny as I did, so I shut up at that point so I could actually see them.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 5:03am

    Billy and Tommy are playing in daycare. Billy lets Tommy use his red firetruck. Billy is now a thief, because he shared his truck with Tommy.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 5:28am

    Re: Translation

    Exactly. All the legal disclaimer page is saying is that because of the various states involved that they are not in a position to determine whether copyright issues exist. That is not the same as saying copyright exists on an 8,000-year-old work.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 5:29am

    Re: Re: Translation

    Why what? This sentence is not a claim of copyright at all. Re-read the sentence.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 5:32am

    Re:

    That is dumb. Flash photography is frequently not permitted for some historical documents because the light causes deterioration of the documents. Because some cameras and film speeds (depending on whether you are digital) require flash, and because flash is so often built into cameras, it is easier to have a blanket restriction on photography. Though some places state "no flash photography." There are no copyright issues on the dead sea scrolls. He did not know what he was talking about.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 5:33am

    Re:

    Billy is not a thief. He had license to the red truck. It was his to give permission to loan. Your example is specious.

     

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  26.  
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    Luís Carvalho, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 5:39am

    Re: Re:

    Next day, Billy left is red firetruck alone and went to play with the yellow racing car.

    Tommy sees the red firetruck and plays with it.

    Tommy is now a Pirate.

    The daycare will be prosecuted for allowing piracy.

    In the end of the day, Billy still takes the yellow racing car, and, the red firetruck home with him.

     

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  27.  
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    Mechwarrior, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 6:03am

    Re: Ignorance, selfishness, stupidity

    VHS was a huge thorn on the side of Hollywood. They couldnt control how it was used or what was recorded on the tapes. They fought for years to put laws to basically ban VHS recorders. Obviously they failed.

    And they will continue failing with controlling the internet. So, not much loss for most people.

     

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  28.  
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    Dohn Joe, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 6:38am

    "Education"

    ...and here is a Wal-Mart employee "expert" resulting from that "education":

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20080813/0402251963.shtml

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    If the red firetruck was left unattended in a public place, the Tommy cannot be a pirate. The red firetruck was legitimately purchased, and license for the red firetruck attaches to the red firetruck (assuming no contractual obligations). When the red firetruck was left unattended in a public place, it was effectively abandoned. Tommy is now a salvager. However, Tommy nows owes the state a percentage of any proceeds he gets for salvaging the abandoned red firetruck, if he sells it for profit. Unfortunately for Billy, he no longer owns the red firetruck because he abandoned it.

    At the end of the day Billy takes the yellow racing car with him, and Tommy takes his salvaged red firetruck with him.

     

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  30.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 24th, 2009 @ 9:01am

    Re: Ignorance, selfishness, stupidity

    "Copying VHS and casette's wasn't an issue in the 80's"

    Erm... actually yes, they were. Google "Universal vs Sony" for the Betamax action (applicable to VHS as well) and "home taping is killing music" for the panic that the RIAA tried to start surrounding audio cassettes.

    The solution for them in both cases was simple - listen to customer demand and give them something they want. They're just panicking because a simple format shift isn't going to cut it this time.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    LostSailor, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re: Where?

    Indeed, Mike is once again taking an offhand, and flatly wrong, comment in the Slashdot article and claiming something that isn't true. I'm going to guess it's because he doesn't actually look at the linked documents or sites before flinging out a facile and usually overblown commentary.

    The WDL site is not claiming copyright in the underlying documents submitted by their partners. Further, the legal page does not say that the documents are covered by copyright, but that they may be and it is up to someone who wants to use them to contact the partner who submitted the item to determine whether there is a copyright concern.

    Here's the language:

    Content found on the WDL Web site is contributed by WDL partners. Copyright questions about partner content should be directed to that partner. When publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in a WDL partner's collections, the researcher has the obligation to determine and satisfy domestic and international copyright law or other use restrictions.


    Even a cursory visit to the site shows a "timeline" slider going from 8000 BC to 2009 AD. Using this slider, one can within seconds determine that there are 201 items dated 1921-2009, some of which might presumably be covered by copyright.

    Mike says: Obviously, the copyright claim is wrong, but it seems to be the default position taken by lawyers these days, and many people who have falsely been told that "sharing" equals "theft" will believe that copyright lasts forever.

    Since he apparently didn't bother to actually do any actual research he didn't see that this statement is obviously wrong.

    Then there's this: There's a popular saying among copyright maximalists, that if copyright must be "for limited times," it should be "forever minus a day."

    Source please? I've never heard anyone ever use this "popular" saying.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    The infamous Joe, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Where?

    Don't get me wrong, I agree with you that the legal page is a "you deal with it" kind of thing.

    However:

    Source please? I've never heard anyone ever use this "popular" saying.

    A simple google search would lend you the answer. I picked the wikipedia page because everything else seemed to be pdfs.

    I hope that clears things up. These extreme pro-IP people are completely insane.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Where?

    Source please? I've never heard anyone ever use this "popular" saying.

    You have to remember the context of the usage of "popular." Mike was saying "popular" as used by copyright maximalists. There may be no such people in your entire state - there are very few, if any, in my state - so you may never have heard the saying.

     

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  34.  
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    LostSailor, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Where?

    Well, since I have to usually follow up with actual reading beyond the first link in Mike's posts, it seemed only fair to ask him to cite his source for this "popular" saying.

    Looking at your google search, all the reference I find are by copyright opponents to the same thing: Jack Valenti apparently said this, and Mary Bono repeated it in a House speech. That's it. I'd like to know how many "copyright maximalists" there are and how many of them use this "popular" saying. I suspect it might be "popular" only to Mike and copyright opponents.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where?

    Well, I guess there are two, so far. So it appeared popular among two, one of whom is now dead. So I guess it is popular among one copyright maximalist.

     

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  36.  
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    Alex, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    "forever minus a day" is still "forever"

    Those who understand the arithmetic of infinity would know that "forever minus a day" is still "forever".

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Re: "forever minus a day" is still "forever"

    I think we all understand that it is forever. Do you have a point besides the obvious one?

     

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  38.  
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    Bloodyscot, Apr 25th, 2009 @ 7:06pm

    is forever long enough?

     

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  39.  
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    Bloodyscot, Apr 25th, 2009 @ 7:21pm

    is forever long enough?

    The only thing stopping copyrights being forever minus a day is the politicians like to get paid in campaign funds every 20yrs or so.
    The copyright lobby maybe the most powerful group in the world, they control TV, newpapers, movies, music, radio, books, most news outlets and to lesser degree cable and software.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    plastic molding, May 16th, 2009 @ 3:26am

    thank you!

    How's China printing industry developed this years, who can tell us? China based plastic injection molding services with low costs and supeior quality Steel and aluminum scaffolding for construction is a very useful tool.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    China Tent, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 11:49pm

    This article is written in,I was looking for the
    information.Thank you and your share this articl at here.

     

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

  42.  
    icon
    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 6:43pm

    Hmm, whose law, my law.

     

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


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