The Real Problem With The Google Book Settlement Isn't The Settlement, But Copyright Law Itself

from the fix-that-and-there's-no-problem dept

In Congressional hearings on Thursday about the Google book settlement, most of the news reports focused on two particular things: (1) the fact that Marybeth Peters, head of the US Copyright Office, spoke out against the settlement, claiming that it violates copyright law and (2) Google's "concession" in letting other booksellers offer up the "orphan works" that Google would scan. Both are interesting, if not particularly surprising developments. Indeed, the controversy over the question of orphan works in the Google books settlement is a big one. But the real issue isn't the settlement, but copyright law itself. The whole problem of "orphan works" is solely a result of the continual and ridiculous level of copyright expansion over the years that has created these so-called "orphan works." It seems that the only person who actually seemed willing to discuss that was Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who actually used the occasion to call for a repeal to the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, noting that it was a large part of the problem. While that has almost no shot of actually happening, it's great to see at least one person in Congress recognizing that the problem was created by Congress (at the demand -- and funding -- of the entertainment industry).
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Filed Under: book scanning, copyright, orphan works
Companies: google


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  1. icon
    wvhillbilly (profile), 13 Sep 2009 @ 8:14pm

    Copyright forever

    If the entertainment industry had their way, everything would be copyright forever, there'd be no public domain and no such thing as fair use.

    It's not far from that now. Under current copyright law it's not inconceivable for the term of copyright on a given work to last over 150 years, and if Disney is going to get another 20, 50 or who knows how long extension of term every time their copyright on Mickey Mouse is about to expire, then for all practical purposes the term of copyright is already "forever".

    And the scope of copyright is just as ridiculous. Anything that can be reduced to a tangible medium automatically receives a copyright as soon as that is done. Even your baby's scribble on a sheet of paper! Even buildings can be copyrighted. Is it infringement to photograph your city's skyline if such a building incidentally appears in the picture? Can individual bricks be copyrighted? To what extreme can these absurdities be carried out?

    I think it's high time copyright law be returned to its originally mandated purpose, scope and time limits, to provide authors a *limited* time monopoly for the purpose of encouraging new works, and allowing building on previous works as old copyrights expire, instead of the endless gravy train for the entertainment industry it has become.

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