Another Interesting White House Petition: Reduce The Term Of Copyright

from the let-them-know-that-copyright-policy-is-important dept

The White House's use of its "We The People..." petition system has been interesting to watch over the last few months since it was introduced. While they quickly raised the "threshold" necessary to get a response, lately it's been used in some interesting ways. We've highlighted a few different petitions -- specifically those related to SOPA/PIPA, Chris Dodd and ACTA. In the case of SOPA, it was in finally responding to the two related petitions that the White House finally came out against the approach in SOPA/PIPA.

The latest petition that some have mentioned is one petitioning for copyright terms to be reduced back to 56 years, like it was prior to 1978. Personally, I'd rather than before we pick an arbitrary time frame, that at least some research be done to figure out what might be the optimal time frame. But, clearly, reducing the term makes a lot of sense. Hell, even among many of the strongest copyright system defenders we hear them "admit" that perhaps copyright terms have been extended too far. Of course, if Congress ever did move to reduce the term, you can rest assured that all hell would break loose from the legacy players. They're not giving up any monopoly powers without a fight.

In the end, this petition might be a little pointless. Copyright law is left to Congress to determine, not the President. So petitioning the White House on this may come across as a little misguided. Of course, with the way politics runs these days, the White House often does set the legislative agenda, and under some weird mythical magic future where the President did take up this issue, it could potentially lead to a legislative attempt at reducing copyright term limits -- though, again, the freakout from the legacy players about how "the government is stealing from artists!!!!!@#!@#" would be deafening (of course, the flipside, that whenever Congress extends copyright they're "stealing" from the public, will never be acknowledged).

That said, even though the target here may be a bit misguided, I think it would be good to get this petition up to 25,000 signatures, pushing the White House to respond to it. Post-SOPA/PIPA, it would be nice for the White House to recognize that copyright policy is internet policy, and that the public really does care about this on a widescale basis. If copyright-related petitions keep hitting the 25,000 signature threshold, perhaps they'll realize that this never was about just the SOPA/PIPA bills...


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    ken (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 9:54am

    If we must have copyrights they should not be one size fits all. Not all works have the same life-cycle. For instance a popular novel may have a life-cycle for decades or even centuries while others like news reports have a very short life cycle. Popular works may live to outdo their copyrights but that is actually a rarity. Most works never survive to become public domain which means they are lost forever.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:00am

      Re:

      I tend to agree.

      What about software vs operating systems.

       

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        ken (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:04am

        Re: Re:

        Software will never be public domain because by the time it gets past its copyright term the technology will be so obsolete it will be worthless.

         

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          :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:35am

          Re: Re: Re: Differ

          I must beg to differ...
          Technological progress in industrial fabrication persists for very very very long time periods. Generally, until it can no longer be repaired.

          Couldn't tell you how many times I've had to dig up a 3.5" or 5.25" floppy disk or brush up on my relay-driven logic when working on such systems.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Differ

            How many times have you called up the original software vendor and gotten support for it? I'd bet you could count them on one hand. If software companies end of life a product that should automatically put any copyrights in the public domain. Likewise for out-of-print/production 'orphaned' works.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re:

        What? Operating systems are software.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          True, but even if we ratcheted the terms back to 14 years that means Windows 98 would just be hitting the public domain this year.

          On the other hand, that means we'd have had three years to tinker with Windows 95, too

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That would be horrible. It would only take the open source world a few years to make a more attractive version of windows than MS could ever make. So yeah horrible for everyone who isn't a consumer.

             

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              Anonymoose Custard (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:59pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              But Copyright exists for the benefit of consumers.

              The purpose is to ensure that more works are created, not that authors profit from them. Profit is the means by which the purpose is achieved.

              (Of course, it doesn't actually work, but that's how it's supposed to work.)

               

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              Machin Shin (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:33pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Unless I am greatly mistaken there are quite a few flaws in that logic. Fist being that copyright expireing on software would not mean that the creator would have to release the source code for his program. It just means he no longer has the right to go after others for copying it. So would be a lot of work for people to reverse engineer it. Not impossible but not super easy.

              Also, stop and take a look at 95 and 98. Would you like to jump back to using them? I am willing to bet most people don't want to. Why is that? It is because of the new features found in new versions of windows. These new features would still be under copyright and protected. So someone copying 98 is little threat to microsoft.

               

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                JEDIDIAH, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:12pm

                Liberating 95

                The whole point of liberating something like Windows95 or 98 is the fact that you would not actually have to use it. You would be able to use whatever old software that you happen to have lying around without being subjected to the rest of the crapulence that the Microsoft originals.

                What "new features" would you miss? Do you even have any clue in this regard?

                More likely a Win98 clone would be considered less useful because of it's inability to run newer 3rd party Windows software. That's where all of the value of that platform resides.

                 

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                Rekrul, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 3:29pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Also, stop and take a look at 95 and 98. Would you like to jump back to using them? I am willing to bet most people don't want to. Why is that? It is because of the new features found in new versions of windows.

                Frankly, I find the new features of XP and beyond, annoying. Like insisting on popping up a window every time I insert a disc or USB drive, no matter how many times I tell it to take no action. Or running everything as a 'service'. Or preventing third party file managers from directly accessing certain directories on the drive, even when logged in as administrator.

                As for XP's alleged stability, I once installed a fresh copy of the game Max Payne, directly off factory original discs, patched it to the latest version, went into the tutorial level and the system promptly crashed about 30 seconds later. Not just frozen, but screwed up graphics and looping sound, making the system completely unusable. And since most modern systems no longer include a reset button (you know, since XP never crashes), I had to yank the power cord.

                Windows 98 doesn't have much support today and I admit that it does have stability issues with badly written software, but it feels more responsive than virtually every XP system I've ever used.

                 

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            Hephaestus (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            14 and 14 is the right way to go.

             

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              Greevar (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 7:56pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Zero is better. They don't need it, especially today. It can't be enforced anyway, a call for more enforcement just brings us back to what we're dealing with now. So what good is it to have a law that says you can't do what your computer was designed to do?

              The right thing to do is to yank copyright entirely and tell them "Here's the internet. If amateurs on YouTube can make it work, you can too." We really need to put an end to this mollycoddling of publishing corporations' entitlement to have their profitability protected. They are the only industry that I know of that has special government protections over the way they prefer to transact with the public. It's like giving heroin to a junkie. They won't learn to do without it until you take it away.

               

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      DannyB (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:25am

      Re:

      I assume by live-cycle you mean the lifetime of the work where it is interesting to anyone.

      What does the marketable lifetime of the work have to do with how long copyright should last? If those two things should be connected, they maybe a book or movie really should have infinite copyright.

      Give it a 50 year copyright. Then its public domain. Still marketable? Great. But it's still public domain.

       

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        JEDIDIAH, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:14pm

        A pirate named Lars

        The marketable lifetime matters because people get sued and arrested over this kind of thing. If there is no monetary value to a particular copyright, it should not exist. The public and public domain are being harmed for no net gain on anyone's part.

         

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      Greevar (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      That completely misses the purpose of copyright. It's not meant to protect the income of an author, it's meant to encourage an author to create more and more works for the benefit of expanding the library of culture and knowledge of human kind. Thinking about an author's profits is not what should be the determining factor of what copyright reform we should enact, but what would be the most beneficial for the progress of arts and knowledge.

       

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        Greevar (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:44am

        Re: Re:

        Furthermore, copyright grants the opportunity to profit, but it doesn't promise that you will profit. If granted a copyright and the term expires without the author making any income from the works, copyright is still satisfied. The opportunity was provided and it's up to the author to find a way to make the works profitable, not the government.

         

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      timmaguire42 (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:40pm

      Re:

      That's not the point of copyright. The point is to create a profit motive to encourage new works. Not to keep something private until nobody wants it anymore.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 9:57am

    Lost cause. There's no way Congress has the spine to back out of Berne. It's a nice dream, though.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      Who cares, that's no reason for us not to protest. Our government does what it wants regardless, if we can make it change its mind and opt out I'm all for it. I don't care about any 'sanctions' other countries may impose on us, heck, it was us that probably pushed for these laws the most anyways and forced everyone to adopt them (like with ACTA).

       

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      Tony Sarkees, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:04am

      Re:

      Right. Berne and TRIPS require life plus 50 years. Any less, and we risk sanctions from the WTO.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:16am

        Re: Re:

        It could be done as a two-step process.

        First, make a law saying:

        1. While current treaties are valid, the US still respects them (that is, still life plus fifty years).
        2. If no treaty applies, the copyright term is 56 years.
        3. Forbid signing any new treaty which requires a specific term of copyright.

        The second step then is to work towards new treaties superseding the ones currently requiring a specific term of copyright.

         

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        Hak Foo (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:35am

        Re: Re:

        Err... since when did we care about treaties if we found them inconvenient?

        Maybe, just once, this unilaterial G. W. Bush-esque mindset can do some good in the world?

         

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      Mudlock, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:59pm

      Re:

      The Berne minimum on movies done as works for hire (i.e., the stuff MPAA cares about) is 50 years.

      We can *absolutely* do this. In fact, 56 is too long, it should be 50!

      (Individual works is life of the author plus 50.)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 9:58am

    56 years is still too long, I won't sign it.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      Sign it and then sign the next one to get copyright to an even more reasonable time frame.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:03am

        Re: Re:

        Signing this one may make the government think that I'm somehow acknowledging that this reduced length is somehow short enough. I know that maybe twisted logic but we're talking the government here.

         

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          Machin Shin (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Look at it this way though. While yes 58 years is too long it is at least a step in the right direction. Those who kept pushing the copyright out farther and farther did not go from copyright of 20 years to having the almost infinite copyright they have now.

          You also have to anticipate the fact that the content industry will fight back. So we have to try for something we might can get. Sure it is not as far back as we would like but it is a heck of a lot better than what we have now.

           

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          MrWilson, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          In fighting amongst people who are on the same side but differ regarding the specifics of what should be done has brought down many a good cause (notably the Spanish Civil War).

          Sign it as support for a lower copyright term, rather than for the specific number of years it stipulates. This isn't going to become law just because you sign it and you're not signing away your ability to support an even lower term later.

           

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      Danny (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:45am

      Re:

      56 months is more like it! But I agree with the comment in the other thread that different media or type may merit different copyright lengths. Be aware, though, that type and media boundaries are blurring. And these boundaries will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future.

      This comment (c) Daniel Mittleman, 2012 for way longer than is reasonable.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:06am

    You can make petitions on their for them to declare mars a sovereign part of the US. Creating the petition is nothing. Heck, I could create one to have Mike Masnick declared a public danger. Who cares?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:16am

      Re:

      Yes you can create petition about absolute batshit like a declaration that Mars is sovereign part of the US, however unlike this petition few, if any, people would sign it.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:53pm

        Re: Re:

        The point is only that starting a petition on there requires no more effort than it takes to post here, and if you pick a somewhat popular subject and spew it on 4chan, you can get a bunch of the kids over there to sign it. Big deal. It's not really news, just Masnick once again tossing shit out there to act like there is a grassroots movement. Think of it as Techdirt astroturfing.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:07am

    'perhaps they'll realize that this never was about just the SOPA/PIPA bills...'

    who are you trying to kid? since when has any government realised anything, especially what they dont WANT to realise, that doesn't suit?

     

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    ken (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:07am

    Our founding fathers said 14 years is fine. I agree. Long copyrights tend to make creative people less creative because it allows them to rest on their laurels and live off the royalties of their earlier works. If copyrights were shorter they may need to keep creating to maintain their lifestyle.

    The proof of this is in the fashion industry where there are no copyrights. Designers must constantly create new lines to maintain their income.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:26am

      Re:

      With the pace of technological increases I'd argue copyright should have been shortened, not lengthened. When it sometimes took weeks, often months, just to get from point A to point B, much less to spread creative ideas/works 14 years wasn't all that long.

      Today creative ideas/works can be on the other side of the globe in seconds. I'd argue 7 years, with the ability to renew for a second 7 years, should be more than sufficient for someone to monetize their ideas/works.

       

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        Mike (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 4:50pm

        7 years renewable for 7 more

        That sounds reasonable to me.

        The argument I frequently make when discussing this with friends and family is that the culture of your childhood should be in the public domain for you to use to create new culture when you're in your 20's and most likely to be creating new culture.

         

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        Al Bert (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 5:18pm

        Re: Re:

        this * 10^6
        56 years might be at least in the right direction, but that's like telling an attacker that you would appreciate it if he'd just strangle you half as much as he is now.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:13am

    "Of course, if Congress ever did move to reduce the term, you can rest assured that all hell would break loose from the legacy players. They're not giving up any monopoly powers without a fight.

    though, again, the freakout from the legacy players about how "the government is stealing from artists!!!!!@#!@#" would be deafening"

    A big reason they have managed to extend copy protections for so long is because they have managed to abuse their government established monopoly power over cableco and broadcasting spectra to keep the public ignorant about these extensions and about copy protection lengths. For them to come out onto television and say copy protection lengths are being reduced from 95+ years to 56 + years would be putting their foot in their mouth like Chris Dodd and it would only make more people aware of how ridiculous our current laws are and would get more people to learn more about how bad our current laws are and how much harm they cause (ie: how they make it too legally risky and expensive for restaurants and other venues to host independent performers and how they also make it too legally risky and expensive for bakeries to allow children to draw their own drawings on cakes because kids like to draw cartoon characters which infringe and bakeries have been threatened with lawsuits).

    How would they possibly position this to the public on mainstream television without putting their foot in their mouth and looking even worse? Bringing this issue to the forefront would be a good thing and it would be difficult for the media cartels to defend their indefensible position without making themselves look even worse than they already do.

     

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      Logo, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:45am

      Re:

      There's also a huge hurdle of overcoming/re-educating the mindset of people. So many people think of IP as actual property (beyond just legally). People all over exhibit the conflicting opinion where they don't look down much on piracy (or do it themselves), but they consider it stealing or theft. Rather than thinking that the laws are there to help artists make a living, people think the laws exist because people SHOULD own their ideas.

      Anyways when you try to change this opinion it's incredibly difficult. Your opponents get to call you a thief and anything you do to explain how that's not the case is a lot harder and doesn't go over as well to people who are partially apathetic to the issue.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:14am

    They're not giving up any monopoly powers without a fight.

    i'm curious to know how much they would pay in 'campaign contributions' to keep the monopoly and who the stupid prick would be they used as the 'front man' to object to the reversal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:25am

    I would support aligning it with patent law and limit it to 20 years.

     

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      E. Zachary Knight (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:42am

      Re:

      I like that idea. But it can't be a flat 20 years. It should be 10 years with an optional 10 year renewal. Additionally, if you wish to have ANY copyright protection at all, you must apply for it. not more of this automatic copyright nonsense.

      Of course what the AC above said about a 7+7 copyright is even better.

       

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    DanH, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:27am

    I'd like to see a stepped copyright term...

    I'd like to see a system where a copyright would have a fixed length - say 25 years. After that, the copyright owner could pay to have it extended 5 years at a time, with the cost of each extension growing at some reasonable fixed schedule. That way properties like Mickey Mouse that remain profitable copyrights could be extended indefinately but copyrights on materials that didn't produce sufficient profit would enter the public domain. I think a system like that would serve IP owners and the public best.

     

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      nasch (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 6:13pm

      Re: I'd like to see a stepped copyright term...

      That way properties like Mickey Mouse that remain profitable copyrights could be extended indefinately

      BOOOOOO!!!!!! Terrible idea. The rest is OK, but nothing should be allowed infinite copyright.

       

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    Yartrebo (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:29am

    A Step in the Right Direction

    56 years is still a ridiculously long term, but it's a step in the right direction. There's nothing to say that the term can't be reduced more later.

    I'm sure the copyright corporations weren't thinking that 95 years was the ideal term when they pushed through the Copyright Term Extension Act back in 1998, but they figured in was a step in the direction they wanted (infinite terms).

     

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      ken (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:34am

      Re: A Step in the Right Direction

      The answer is to have no arbitrary date but have anything that is not actively being used go into public domain after a few years. This would require the copyright owner to maintain their work or lose it. It would solve the problem of orphaned works and it would also benefit popular works because the copyright owner could keep it as long as they are using it in some capacity. There could be a maximum copyright of some arbitrary date.

       

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        Machin Shin (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:54am

        Re: Re: A Step in the Right Direction

        Only problem I see with this would be you would be creating a huge home for trolls. People would try and let their works sit idle till someone used it then jump up and sue. It would become really hard to tell what is public domain and what wasn't.

         

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    DannyB (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:30am

    Abandoned Copyrights

    It is also important to address the subject of abandoned copyrights.

    If I can't find the copyright owner of an old work, through diligent effort, then should the work be public domain?

    Maybe copyright owners should be required to be registered at the US Copyright Office? If your copyright is not worth maintaining registration information and contact information for the copyright owner, then your copyrighted work must not be worth much.

    On the flip side maybe the Copyright Office should track requests for searches for the copyright owner of a work. If we're going to somehow allow someone to make use of an old work with an abandoned copyright, then they need to be able to raise an affirmative defense that they did a diligent search for the copyright owner. A record at the copyright office that they tried to identify the owner of a particular copyright work would be evidence to support that affirmative defense if one is later sued for using a work that has an abandoned copyright.

     

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      Joe Publius (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:47am

      Re: Abandoned Copyrights

      Setting up an Opt-in via voluntary registration is way better than this instant copyright with no real opt-out.

      Not to mention nowadays, I'm thinking all of that business could be administred with a minimal amount of fuss through an online database:
      Submit a form to register.
      Get email/text/mail alerts as the term nears it's end.
      Check online through a variety of keywords to find the copyright for a specific work and its lifespan.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 5:21pm

      Re: Abandoned Copyrights

      If you want to collect damages of any kind or have power of injunction you already have to register the work in the copyright office, but is still a mess with outdated and incorrect data.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:30am

    What percentage of infringing content is 56+ years old? About .00001%?

     

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      E. Zachary Knight (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      What does that have to do with anything?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      Doesn't that reinforce how silly it is to have works that are not heavily traded upon still locked up under copyright long after their commercial viability wanes? If they were available for others to build upon freely, they might not be languishing in obscurity and would actually be serving the Copyright Clause's mission to promote progress in the sciences and useful arts.

       

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      Machin Shin (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:59am

      Re:

      I think you just proved how little point there is to copyright past 56+ years. A very small part of infringement is on work that old. Why do you think that is? Is it because the pirates have such respect for old work they won't pirate it?

      No one pirates work that old because there is so little demand for it. If pirates cant even give it away is anyone actually still selling it? If you are not selling your work then why cling to your copyrights? Give it to the public so that those who do want it can enjoy it freely.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:03pm

      Re:

      Quite a bit. You know how hard it is to find a 6 second jingle bell wav file nowadays for a home spun video that is only for fun?

      Or, any .wav file....for that matter....

       

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      Anonymoose Custard (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:43pm

      Re:

      A more interesting question would be this:

      Of the infringing content on 56+-year-old Copyrighted material, how much of it is motivated by the lack of commercial availability of that content?

      I think the answer to that question would be far more telling.

       

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      JEDIDIDAH, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

      Fear the back catalog.

      They show works of that age and older on TV and on cable.

      Last time I was on Amazon is saw that they were advertizing a 70th anniversary edition of some movie.

       

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    s, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:37am

    optimum time must include how a family passes its culture down to its children and that nothing gets in the way of that transfer. twenty five years is generally considered the time span of one generation so if anyone is asking for more than that...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:37am

    Suggestion

    I highly doubt any one in congress will ever - now or in the future - give this even a passing thought.

    So instead of spinning wheels by asking for the moon, let's start with something a bit more pragmatic: Why not ask for legislation that allows a secondary, much shorter, opt-in version of copyright. In the same line of thinking that there are now dozens of Open Source licenses, let's try to create a 14 year copyright that you have to register for. Let the legacy folks keep their eternity-long copyright, and the new media folks can start opting into this new copyright.

    As creators move away from the gatekeeper economy, they can start utilizing more sane copyright. Eventually, I would think that, like Open Source, the new copyright works would start surpassing the old in usage and reference, eventually supplanting them in mainstream culture.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:40am

      Re: Suggestion

      Let's just go for the brass ring!

      We should ask for a Constitutional Amendment which requires all new laws be under 5000 words and written in a manner which any average literate person can comprehend.

       

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        Machin Shin (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re: Suggestion

        The trouble I see with this is that if you just limit it to "manner which any average literate person can comprehend" then the laws will still be above the comprehension of the morons in Washington.

         

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        Anonymoose Custard (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:47pm

        Re: Re: Suggestion

        Part of the reason that laws are so complex and use so many words to say so little is because of the motivation to be specific.

        Laws written with a very specific set of requirements are less likely to be mis-interpreted by a Court.

        On the other hand, Courts have shown a willingness to linguistically contort however necessary to arrive at a foregone conclusion.

        Perhaps they should simply be rewritten in Loglan and that Loglan be a mandatory part of educational curriculum.

         

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    ken (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:42am

    I would also like to see copyrights become non-transferable. Inseparable from the creator. However the creator can licence it to others but cannot sell it or give it away. Once the creator dies the copyright is gone.

     

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      Machin Shin (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:05am

      Re:

      I would alter that just a slightly to say that upon the death of the creator they should be able to give the copyright to someone as part of their will. That way writers and such can still give something to their children.

      This would not extend it though. If their is a year left of the copyright when the creator dies then their family gets the copyright for last year.

       

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        nasch (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 6:16pm

        Re: Re:

        I would alter that just a slightly to say that upon the death of the creator they should be able to give the copyright to someone as part of their will. That way writers and such can still give something to their children.

        That only makes sense if part of the reason people create works is to pass the copyright to their heirs. I don't have any facts, but that doesn't strike me as a very common motivation.

         

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    Violated (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:42am

    Bad Petition

    While I support most petitions this one is a looming total failure when this 56-year copyright term sits down next to Mr Impossible at the table.

    Let me explain when the best people can achieve now is to repeal the "Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act" which would drop the copyright term from the current life plus 70 years down to life plus 50 years.

    All of the copyright term beyond that is set through INTERNATIONAL TREATIES and do you really think that the United States is going to break a major international treaty? The same treaty they bash the rest of the World with to keep the money flowing into Hollywood? How could they then enforce other countries to comply with copyright laws?

    I am sorry to say this but anyone who believes they can cut the copyright term down to 56-years must be smoking something really bizarre they found in their garden.

    I would also say that Mike Masnick should know better than this when if you really want to fight the copyright term then the place to start is certainly to repeal Sonny Bono CTEA.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:53am

      Re: Bad Petition

      ...to repeal Sonny Bono CTEA.

      Unfortunately, repealing the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act will not overthrow Justice Ginsburg's opinions in Eldred v Ashcroft and Golan v Holder. But, otoh, neither will those decisions retain all their present malevolence—should repeal be successful.

       

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        Violated (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:06pm

        Re: Re: Bad Petition

        I don't see a big problem there when "Eldred v Ashcroft" confirmed the power of Congress to extended the term of copyright for as long as they like along as it was not eternal. This is not incompatible with Congress wanting to reduce the term of copyright.

        They did make one logic fault there when they agreed that people live longer now making the extension valid. What they have overlooked is that communication has also got much faster to a much higher degree. This means that media can be consumed by society much faster over a wider area resulting in a much higher reward under copyright. So this highlights that the term of copyright could be reduced to match the same "reward level" as their forefathers. This is why we say 5 to 10 years is not unreasonable when this is where 99% of their sales happen.

        Now "Golan v Holder" is more complex when this confirms Congress's right to drag public domains works back under copyright.

        This is a matter we have to resolve directly in Congress through no longer letting them treat the Publish Domain like a "rubbish bin" to be tossed about or raided for items of value. Instead this media should be treated like a Public Library of free ideas with its own rules and protections.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: Bad Petition

          I don't see a big problem...

          Eldred v Ashcroft and Golan v Holder rest on the premise that “Congress has not altered the traditional contours of copyright protection”. I hate to call Justice Ginsburg a liar, but her mistake is unsupportable.

           

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      nasch (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 6:18pm

      Re: Bad Petition

      All of the copyright term beyond that is set through INTERNATIONAL TREATIES and do you really think that the United States is going to break a major international treaty?

      It wouldn't be the first time.

       

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    somonesomeday, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:47am

    asking for more than that... could be taking from culture instead of adding to the base of knowledge that defines culture as your family sees it.

     

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    tHe unBeliEVer, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:51am

    Tax it

    If big media had to pay taxes every year on all the intellectual "property" they own, you can be damn sure the older stuff would be released into the public domain.

     

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    V (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:04am

    Maybe not

    Perhaps they are right to go to the President. After all... in signing ATCA, we seems to think that copyright is a power of the President.

    Actually... since he made illegal appointments when the Senate was still in session, apparently, he thinks EVERYTHING is a Presidential power. Much like a short guy with a funny moustache thought about...oh...65-70 or so years ago.

     

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    saulgoode (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Revoking the Sonny Bono Act would be a great start.

    While it is my feeling that copyright duration should not be longer than one generation (20 years), the goal of this petition is well chosen and I would encourage anyone who wishes to see shorter terms of copyright (or even elimination of copyright altogether) to sign it as an initial step in the right direction.

    From a political standpoint, the petition is only asking that a single piece of legislation, made more than three decades ago, be reconsidered. This is an entirely reasonable request for any congressional enactment, and especially so for one that has had such a dramatic and detrimental impact upon technology which was at the time all but unimaginable.

    Even though a rollback will "only" liberate works from the current 1923 through the resultant 1952, this will provide modern artists with much needed raw material upon which to base new creations. Perhaps even more importantly, the tech sector will be provided with a wide variety of legally modifiable and distributable content and can start to demonstrate the vast untapped potential that digital media, the Internet, and electronic computing offers.

    Imagine the opportunities: restoration and language translations of historic movies, or new compositions to replace the accompaniment (often low quality) of silent movies, or new animations based on the dialog/soundtracks of classic films, or new music videos being made for our favorite songs, or distribution using new and innovative approaches, or things we have not yet even imagined. Not to mention the full indexing and search capabilities that will be afforded once we are permitted to do so.

    Shorter terms would be more ideal (in my opinion), but the desire to reach that end should not preclude supporting this much more politically feasible goal. After some time under these new shortened terms, we will have built a body of evidence on exactly how detrimental it is to withhold a century's worth of knowledge and culture from full and unhindered access by society. Being able to demonstrate in comprehensible terms the great benefits that are made available from modern technology will afford the best chance, as Mr Masnick suggests, "to figure out what might be the optimal time frame".

     

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    ken (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 11:38am

    Long copyrights = long book burning.

     

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      Violated (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:21pm

      Re:

      That is not actually a bad idea.

      One way to protest about the copyright term is to destroy the media saying "reasonable copyright laws or society will refuse to accept media under copyright".

      You first need someone who has some wide open space far away from freeways and airports. Then everyone who hates the current copyright laws can send them their unwanted books.

      Turn this into a major public campaign involving some big companies, and local collection points, then they can soon amass many millions of books.

      Then on a well published day just add some gas light it up and run like hell as an inferno like never before seen rages away creating a smoke cloud that drifts across the United States.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    Steamboat Willie

    Steamboat Willie
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Steamboat Willie has been close to entering the public domain in the U.S. several times. Each time, copyright protection has been extended. It could have entered public domain in 4 different years; first in 1956, renewed to 1984, then to 2003 by the Copyright Act of 1976, and finally to the current public domain date of 2023 by the Copyright Term Extension Act (also known pejoratively as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act") of 1998. The U.S. copyright on Steamboat Willie will be in effect through 2023 unless there is another extension of the law.


    The year 2023 is not that far away. I know you kids think a decade is an eternity, but when you get older, the years begin to fly by like the butterfly months of summer vacation.

     

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      Violated (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:23pm

      Re: Steamboat Willie

      FREE STEAMBOAT WILLIE!!!!!!!! LOL

       

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      Rikuo (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:00pm

      Re: Steamboat Willie

      Just five years short of a full century...this alone proves how out of control copyright laws are. Under current US law, Disney can sue me for $150,000 statutory damages for distributing something that's almost a century old without their permission.

       

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    mvario, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:22pm

    It's a start

    I'd prefer to see it returned to the original 14 years, with a possible 14 year extension for the original creator. Then again with the fast pace of modern society perhaps half that would be more appropriate.

    Then again I'm inclined to agree with Jefferson's original assessment and think it better for society as a whole if we eliminate copyright and patent altogether.

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:31pm

    That's the Way to Reduce Piracy!

    Shorten the duration of copyright. Originally, it was for 14 years. That would be a good compromise! That would also reduce piracy which the content industry does not seem to like.

     

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      Yartrebo (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:55pm

      Re: That's the Way to Reduce Piracy!

      I do think you're on to something with the reduce piracy angle. There's a lot of people who aren't particularly fond of breaking the law, but live paycheck to paycheck (or are children of such people) and are pushed by income reasons to pirate.

      When even Charlie Chaplin movies are still under copyright, there aren't any reasonable substitutes to works under copyright. 14 years would make 1998 the year of record. That would open up the entire Atari, Nintendo, and Super Nintendo libraries as a source of cheap, readily available entertainment in the game area, and stuff like Star Wars and Star Trek from the TV/movie area.

      PS: From what I've personally seen, the Super Nintendo is actually still in rather widespread use among poorer children, perhaps because both the console and games are pretty darned cheap secondhand.

       

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    mvario (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:31pm

    @Steamboat Willie, do you really think that as 2023 approaches Disney and the MAFIAA won't be directing their Congress for yet another copyright extension?

     

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    Anonymoose Custard (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

    Studies have already been done about the effects of Copyright

    Turns out they're universally bad, no matter how long they last.

    See Against Intellectual Monopoly for discussion and detail with copious references.

    I propose a 5 year limit on Copyrights and Patents, with no opportunity to renew. That way we get that touchy-feely "Artists get compensation" feeling without adversely impacting the economy or the creation of future content.

    After all, what reason is there to create content if you can just spend the next 100 years living off what you've already done?

     

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    RonKaminsky (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:47pm

    Copyright law is left to Congress to determine, not the President. So petitioning the White House on this may come across as a little misguided.
    That's not true --- ACTA has shown us the light! All the President has to do is change the direction of TPP, er, all so slightly.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:56pm

    Young People Track Web Protests Over Online Piracy Bills

    Cruise Ship Accident, Election Top Public's Interest”, Pew Research Center, Jan 24, 2012
    Young People Track Web Protests Over Online Piracy Bills

     . . . But the protest by popular websites against proposed online piracy legislation was a top story for young people. Nearly a quarter (23%) of those younger than 30 say they followed news about the online piracy fight most closely. That is about the same as the percentage following the 2012 elections most closely (21%). Among the public as a whole, just 7% say they followed news about the web protests – which included sites such as Wikipedia going dark for the day – more closely than any other story. . . .

    (Emphasis added.)

    (Via New York Times, H/T Reddit)

     

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    Violated (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Monopoly

    I have been thinking recently about something I often hear media authors and rights holders claim in that they should be allowed when and where their media appears.

    Considering the massive market abuse we see and the natural creation of monopolies per zone, which is directly against the public interest through harming natural market competition and freedom of choice, then I don't believe that is true at all.

    I have long subscribed to the idea of "abuse it, lose it"

    Now I would not go as far to say they should lose their rights to their media but what is certainly true is that they should lose their rights to shape and control the market.

    I say this when I see a very sad situation emerging in the UK now that NetFlix is here. They have directly stated that their main rival is BSkyB operating the "Sky Digital" service.

    Unfortunately these poor Americans in trying to force on Europe the same system they use in the US do not realise what a total butcher job they have done here.

    To begin with then despite the fact that anyone with a satellite dish can receive every service within Europe... but forced to subscribe to their closest... in very anti-competitive zoning, which helps global Internet services none, then the very method by which rights agreements are traded will certainly lead to a bloodbath.

    NetFlix believe it is in their business interests to compete with Sky over media based on who can bid the most. What they do not realise is that Sky is the monopoly of the UK zone who can certainly exert massive resources to win.

    The only way to survive in a monopoly zone is to NOT COMPETE and to instead COOPERATE. If they want to fight Sky over media then this only pushes up the costs of said media for both sides making Hollywood richer.

    If they end up paying more for media then this only harms their service and Sky can withstand losses for much longer than NetFlix can. The battle then continues until death which will most likely allow Sky to merge with NetFlix for BSkyB to seize control.

    The second major copyright problem is "exclusive agreements" which is a key component to fuel this bidding War and to maintain the monopoly. Non-exclusive agreements would be ideal but under Hollywood's bastardship of Europe the best they could possible aim for is to "share media between each other"

    That would certainly be good for the users and to keep prices low but of course Hollywood would fight such a scheme and would much prefer Sky and NetFlix to butcher each other for their own personal enjoyment and profit margin.

    NetFlix only need to research BSB and ITV Digital to see where competition (the ideal of a free market) would land them.

     

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    somonesomeday, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    quote from s and before. (this comment kinda grew. Lemme think about it)

    “Optimum time must include how a family passes its culture down to its children also nothing gets in the way of that (wanna say download here but concept is wider) transfer. twenty five (25) years is generally considered the time span of one generation so if anyone is asking for more than that... could be taking from culture instead of adding to the base of knowledge that defines culture as your family sees it.”

    new comment and apologeticness for having some fun with culture a concept that covers the breadth of humanity. Culture is a vague concept so wide no way to explain ever. Just hoping to have entertaining way to explain what is commonly ignored but is multi-civilizational important. Nobody reads down this far anyway. Ok now... Best explanation of culture transfer to your kids;

    As you grow up your parents explained life to you as you watched TV or played games together in real life or game box fun. Now this is important: While you played together you learned the facts of life (fill in the blank) from them and you might need the same material to help you show your kids how cool the world is in your way when the time is right.

    This media could be as simple as a song you sung together. Some genius artist has phrased some view of life to a catchy tune (all things have been said before) and it would be helpful to use it to express your view to your kids combined with the artists view making sure to explain which parts were knowledge and which parts where crap. Trouble is now where is this media to come from and remember the timing must not be post or premature. (sic)

    In reality the facts of life can be all your business lessons you wanted to pass on to your kid while watching science shows on free TV over the airwaves or a purchased item that has time limits on it possibly a use once thing. (sic DRM ~ use once) This culture might also be a AI program you devised using several other commercial programs with use one DRM clauses to keep your kid in the know about all your life inspiring viewpoints obviously to be trashed when time limits of DRM is up or as soon as legal age comes about which in only that case it might be alright. Is common to splay our dreams onto a spreadsheet or wordprocessor in graphical ways that are better on screen than in print. Thats right your power point presentation to your kid about the important facts on trilobites and dinosaurs or the birds and the bees. Input your favorite media for other example.

    Enough. Culture moment over.

    Lets get real about this copying thing. The stated storage live for a typical recordable DVD is less than 5 years but realistically longer and unless you use redundant storage and frequent backups for hard drives your precious hord of cultural junk (tv shows...) is toast in five years also. Even if the storage life were over a hundred years it wold not be long enough for a funny concept called civilization.

    This is nothing less than a civilizational pivot. How many books/tv-shows/files/rap were metaphorically burned (Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury) when a hosting service dies and the unmeasurable cultural loss. I may not believe in the wholesomeness or permissions of any particular file but the ability to post any file is important. In fact its probably the files deemed sensitive or the ones some agency is overly possessive about that are worth seeing. typically open government accounting and corruption or worse.

    The petition to reduce copyright length is a good distraction for now in the right way as long as at the same time elect responsible officials to carry out that goal and possibly more culturally meaningful legislation. Right now we are asking for the privileged to teach the facts of life to our kids but with all the sensitive material all locked up there is no way to even get them interested in reality at all.

    As stated in earlier works (Gerard Diamond?) Civilization is a choice.

     

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    mischab1, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 3:03pm

    My version of copyright

    Here is my suggestion for fixing copyright.

    + All copyrights must be registered.
    + A copyright term will be for 7 years.
    + To continue following the Berne Convention, copyrights can be renewed to a maximum of life of the artist plus 50 years rounded to the nearest 7.
    + To compensate the public for the continued monopoly on a copyrighted item and to encourage copyright holders to voluntarily give up their copyrights early, it will cost more each time the copyright is renewed.

    An exponential increase in price is actually too slow to be a good encouragement, instead the increase will be logarithmic. Formula for purchasing a copyright should be as follows: [Total Years of Copyright] * [Number of Years in a Term] ^ [Number of Terms]

    So it would cost $49 to register for the initial 7-year term (7*7^1) but approx. $7k to register for 21 years worth of copyright (21*7^3). At the end of the 21 years, if the copyright holder wanted to register for another 7 years it would cost them an additional $60k (for a total of $67k).

    To make it easier for businesses to transition over to this process and to avoid shooting our economy in the foot…
    + There will be a grace period of one term (7 years) for copyright holders to register copyrights on pre-existing stuff.
    + When calculating registration fees, all previously copyrighted items will be treated as is if they were created at the time these changes go into effect. (Max copyright lifetime still applies from original creation date.)

     

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      nasch (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 6:24pm

      Re: My version of copyright

      mischab1's plan is fantastic, as it accomplishes everything without violating treaties.

      Everything except being politically realistic, but among all these beautiful fantasies we're reading about, I really like this one. :-)

       

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    Rekrul, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 3:09pm

    If copyright-related petitions keep hitting the 25,000 signature threshold, perhaps they'll realize that this never was about just the SOPA/PIPA bills...

    It's more likely that they'll say that the threshold is too low and raise it...

     

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    ECA (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 3:59pm

    CR

    for an individual...20 years
    CORP...5 years
    SOFTWARE 5 years..

    NO multi CR..you cant CR the Songs, and the drumming and the Lyrics..
    A movie cant have CR for lighting, music, the movie, the PLOT, the STORY, the director, the script writer...its 1 CR.

    LET things change..Corps dont like CHANGE..every time you turn around, something better is hitting the market(ask sony abut that) They would have to PROVE a product before it HITS market, that it will LAST more then 30 seconds. That it is a VIABLE product. Insted of shoving CRAP out the door.

     

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    LC (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 7:53pm

    Good Luck...

    Never going to happen. The US is never going to violate a treaty that benefits a corporation.

    But it would be interesting to see how the Whitehouse responds...

     

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    LC (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 7:58pm

    Can anyone tell me how many signatures it has so far? The site won't work for me :(

     

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    Richard, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 8:05pm

    Rolling back the Sonny Bono Act and the effectiveness of online petitions

    To be sure, there have been questions about whether online petitions are meaningful in general. Also, extremely long terms may not be the only concern with copyright law. Still, the issue of reducing copyright terms (even by a somewhat limited extent) may be worth looking into.

    In comparison to the petition at hand, a smaller (but by no means worthless) step would be to consider rolling back the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) which extended existing copyrights by 20 years. In 2008 Gigi Sohn wrote about the 10th anniversary of the CTEA and its effect on efforts to reform copyright with regard to public interest. Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today (who is no enemy of copyright) wrote about how copyright term extensions could harm artists and authors by causing other aspects of copyright to be changed. For example, artists have expressed worry over orphan works exceptions being added to copyright, but longer copyright terms could increase the chance of such exceptions being enacted. (Another note from Mr. Bailey was that most modern copyright infringement would be illegal even if copyright terms were limited to say, 7 years.)

     

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    John Bennett, Jan 28th, 2012 @ 8:24am

    Length of copyright

    The constitution proposes granting copyrights in order to encourage innovation. The appropriate estimator for that is the present value of the monopoly to be granted, i.e. the present value of the stream of benefits arising from the monopoly. Assuming an alternative rate of return of 10% (in the stock market?), the present value of the monopoly next year should be discounteded by 10% percent. That from the following year is reduced by 20% and so on. Thus the present value of earnings from beyond 10 years is 0. In other words, the monopoly's value is reduced to nothing after 10 years and is no inducement to innovate. In sum, it violates the constitution and contributes to its opposite--competition-stifling monopolies.
    And the proposed reduced copyright term of 56 years is a joke. It would be a move in the right direction, but totally inadequate to the goal--innovation.

     

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      nasch (profile), Jan 28th, 2012 @ 9:40am

      Re: Length of copyright

      Assuming an alternative rate of return of 10% (in the stock market?), the present value of the monopoly next year should be discounteded by 10% percent. That from the following year is reduced by 20% and so on. Thus the present value of earnings from beyond 10 years is 0.

      You're using the wrong formula. The present value of a future sum never goes to zero no matter how far out you go. I assume as the period increases the present value asymptotically approaches zero, but it will not even get close with such a small period as ten years.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_value_of_money

       

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    John Bennett, Jan 28th, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    Length of copyright

    Nasch is right and I'm wrong. But the burden of my message remains. The present value of future years' income is sharply lower the further out the time period goes. Thus, as an inducement, it diminishes and with it, the justification for copyright under the terms of the constitution. The present term of copyright is absurd and even reducing it to 59 years is too. It simply perpetuates state created monopoly--a bad policy in terms of citizen welfare.

     

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      nasch (profile), Jan 28th, 2012 @ 4:56pm

      Re: Length of copyright

      Thus, as an inducement, it diminishes and with it, the justification for copyright under the terms of the constitution. The present term of copyright is absurd and even reducing it to 59 years is too. It simply perpetuates state created monopoly--a bad policy in terms of citizen welfare.

      I completely agree.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2012 @ 5:09pm

    Decade

    A single decade is the ideal time period.

    even if it expires peope will still make profit off of successor works, etc.

    Since lets face it, Fanfiction and other "not for profits" need to be legally protected, so we know Fanfiction.net, isnt going to disappear one night in some display of MPAA Ego.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jan 28th, 2012 @ 9:06pm

    Copyright, etc.

    First, I would like to do as Mike suggests; find out what makes sense, but 56 years is MUCH better than the present!

    Second, I have written both Feinstein and Boxer on this. Feinstein has responded, has slowly but surely changed her stance toward serving the public, but Boxer has not answered, and supposedly got HUGE payoffs from big entertainment!

    If you care about internet freedom, help Boxer find a new occupation; out of politics. I will.

     

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    Mockingbird (profile), Jan 30th, 2012 @ 9:33pm

    My reasons for not signing are stated here.

     

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    Dan Dobkin, Apr 19th, 2012 @ 10:12pm

    Term of copyright

    It's great to see so many comments, and so many good points. When enough people become aware of the importance of killing the monopolization of thought that excessive IP represents, it might get changed. It may seem hard today, but that's what people thought about repealing Prohibition in the 1920's.

     

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