German Scriptwriters Attack 'Greens, Pirates, Left-wingers And Internet Community' For Daring To Have Different Views On Copyright

from the yet-more-entitlement dept

The German series "Tatort" ("Crime Scene") has been running since 1970, and remains one of the most popular programs on German television. Given this venerable position, it's perhaps not completely surprising that its scriptwriters -- 51 of them -- have written an open letter complaining about the supposedly negative attitudes of some groups to copyright (German original). But what is noteworthy is the tone and content of the letter.

It's addressed to "Dear Greens, dear Pirates, dear Left-wingers, dear Net community" -- as if these share a common position on copyright reform, which indicates just how little the authors of the letter understand their respective policies. The letter itself is framed in terms of what the scriptwriters term "life lies".

The main "life lie" concerns the idea that the term of copyright needs to be shortened to make it fit for the digital age, where huge numbers of people are creators as well as consumers:

Not only does the author suffer expropriation through a reduction in the copyright term and is thus dramatically worse off, no, this proposal doesn't even change the situation of the supposedly innocent end-user one bit: your illegal downloads or streams concern mostly the absolutely latest films, music, books, photos and designs -- and not works that are, say, 20, 40 or 60 years old. A shortening of the copyright term would change nothing for this problem, and would be purely symbolic: look, we have taken something away from the authors....
This shows an extraordinary lack of understanding on the part of the Tatort scriptwriters. Nobody is suggesting that reducing the term of copyright will "solve" the problem of unauthorized downloads: it addresses a completely different question to do with the re-use of copyright materials, something the signatories of the letter seem unable to grasp.

But more remarkable is the sense of entitlement -- the idea that authors have a right to a copyright term that for practical purposes is typically in excess of one hundred years (life plus 70 years in most jurisdictions.) They call any reduction of copyright "expropriation", and seem blissfully unaware that this necessarily implies that the repeated extension of copyright from the original 14 years of the 1710 Statute of Anne was a similar "expropriation" of the public domain.

The point here is that there is no reason why the term of copyright should only increase, or why it should not be reduced back to its original levels, or even beyond -- it's for society to decide how long the state-backed monopoly ought to be, and how much incentive is needed to encourage creativity. The scriptwriters' view, as laid bare in this open letter, reveals an indifference to the public's thoughts that borders on contempt.

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  1. identicon
    Cowardly Anonymous, 3 Apr 2012 @ 9:12pm

    Re: Re: Germanic logic fail.

    I think end of first release plus five years, with first release to contribute a maximum of two years, would be a reasonable compromise.

    After all, that gives you five years for all your merchandising needs, and even enough time to work on a sequel. After all, copyright is on a specific expression, so you could keep some claim to the material (but not the original work) so long as you are rolling out sequels.

    That would serve as a decent incentive to make sure you have a good sequel, which is painfully missing from the current system.

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