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. identicon
    ASTROBOI, 25 Feb 2012 @ 5:22am

    So how about this?

    Since so many people are determined to turn imaginary property into real property....how about this? Real property passes from person to person, generation to generation without a problem. That's why your house can be willed to your kids and why somebody else got a house when his parents died. But there is a price. Taxes. If you own real property you must pay real estate taxes. If you don't the state eventually takes your property away. So let all imaginary property owners register their creations as property. Tax them accordingly and sieze their property to be auctioned off if they don't pay their taxes. Now watch how fast the value of a movie or tune plummets. Watch how many old books are abandoned to the public domain. And look! A whole new area of tax revenue for our broke government. So you think your 70 year old movie is worth millions? Great! You can share some of that wealth with the public and the government that protects your so-called property. Just like real estate owners do.

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