Reductio Ad Absurdum: Eternal Copyright Is Crazy... But What About Today's Copyright Term?

from the where's-the-limit dept

A ton of folks have sent in Adrian Hon's brilliant satirical "modest proposal" for eternal copyright. If you haven't yet read it, you should. Here's a snippet:
But what, I ask, about your great-great-great-grandchildren? What do they get? How can our laws be so heartless as to deny them the benefit of your hard work in the name of some do-gooding concept as the "public good", simply because they were born a mere century and a half after the book was written? After all, when you wrote your book, it sprung from your mind fully-formed, without requiring any inspiration from other creative works – you owe nothing at all to the public. And what would the public do with your book, even if they had it? Most likely, they'd just make it worse.

No, it's clear that our current copyright law is inadequate and unfair. We must move to Eternal Copyright – a system where copyright never expires, and a world in which we no longer snatch food out of the mouths of our creators' descendants. With eternal copyright, the knowledge that our great-great-great-grandchildren and beyond will benefit financially from our efforts will no doubt spur us on to achieve greater creative heights than ever seen before.

However, to make it entirely fair, Eternal Copyright should be retroactively applied so that current generations may benefit from their ancestors' works rather than allowing strangers to rip your inheritance off. Indeed, by what right do Disney and the BBC get to adapt Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, and Sherlock without paying the descendants of Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm, and Arthur Conan Doyle?

Of course, there will be some odd effects. For example, the entire Jewish race will do rather well from their eternal copyright in much of the Bible, and Shakespeare's next of kin will receive quite the windfall from the royalties in the thousands of performances and adaptations of his plays – money well earned, I think we can all agree.
Of course, it's easy to laugh at satire like this... until you remember that some make such arguments seriously. But, similarly, it seems worth recognizing that for most of us, copyright is already effectively eternal. Here in the US nothing has entered the public domain in quite some time and it's questionable if or when anything new will enter the public domain... as most people fully expect Disney to push for another copyright term extension as Mickey Mouse approaches the public domain yet again.

So if you laugh at this kind of satire, remember it's this kind of "satire" that we effectively live under today with the existing copyright regime. That is... until lawmakers finally come to their senses over the ridiculous length of copyright today.

Filed Under: copyright, eternal copyright, life plus, term


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  1. icon
    Watchit (profile), 26 Feb 2012 @ 11:16am

    Re: Lifetime copyright.

    That's kinda how it already "works" copyright is for 70 years or 20 years after the author's death, whichever comes first. After that it goes under the public domain. The problem is every time copyright is about to run out and things are finally about to go into public domain, Disney, Hollywood, and the MAFIAA, raise a shitstrom about how we "need to extend copyright another 10+ years or else we'll all fail, no one will create anything new, the world will end, and we won't be able to bribe- I mean contribute to your campaign anymore!"

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