Shouldn't Unilateral Retroactive Copyright Extension Mean Copyright Is Void?
from the just-thinking-this-through dept
I've argued in the past that this constant expansion of both copyright and copyright enforcement has only served to make people respect the law less and less, because it gets further and further away from what people think is reasonable. Rather than making more people respect the law, it drives more people to ignore the law. Dirk Poot takes that argument a bit further, and suggests that with such things, we've actually gone full circle and copyright law has become exactly what it was originally designed to stop.
If you know your history of the Statute of Anne, one key goal of the system was to stop overarching monopolies among publishers, by granting them limited monopolies. But as we've moved further and further away from such limited monopolies, Poot argues that we've actually gone back to exactly what copyright law was supposed to be against:
It is clear that the copyright deal is dead. The perpetual monopoly that Queen Anne sought to end in 1709 has, for practical purposes been restored. From the public have been taken all the benefits which made the deal worthwhile to begin with; from a cultural perspective we are back in the late 17th century.But all of this got me thinking about this from a slightly different angle. When you're locked into a term-based contract with, say, a mobile phone provider, one thing that has become standard is that if they unilaterally change the terms, you are granted an out. You get to say "that's not the deal I agreed to, so I'm voiding the whole deal." So... um... shouldn't the public now be able to make that same argument with copyright law? After all, the government has unilaterally changed the terms of the deal. The original deal was a limited monopoly of specific length, in exchange for the work itself being created, and then being contributed to the public domain at the end of the agreement. But, if the length of time is changed unilaterally -- especially with the public not getting any compensation -- then hasn't the government effectively reneged on the entire deal? Couldn't an argument be made that the public should now have the option of "opting out" of the copyright regime, because the terms of our contract have changed?
So where does that leave the public? The benefits are gone, and adding insult to injury, copyright lobbyists are actively forcing web-sniffing, packet-inspecting and blocking-technology upon society, willfully endangering basic human freedoms. What incentive, except the threat of massive litigation and draconian measures is there for the public to accept this farce of a copyright law? For how long will society put up with prohibitive fines and three-strikes legislation?
With the latest copyright extension, the EU may have dealt a deathblow to copyright. Internal enforcers like morals and ethics have been taken out; the only thing that copyright law still has going for it, is the empty threat of dire consequences.
Copyright law has lost its legitimacy; heavy-handed enforcement can only lead to uncomfortable questions about the validity of the underlying laws, and eventually copyright will be become a mere curiosity, not unlike the obligation for males to schedule in two hours of longbow practice each week.