Defending The Indefensible: Hilarious Talking Points On Ridiculous Copyright Terms

from the say-that-again? dept

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held yet another copyright hearing, this one on Moral Rights, Termination Rights, Resale Royalty, and Copyright Term. We've discussed these issues at different times, and the hearing itself didn't break any major ground on anything, really. The artist resale right issue is nothing but a blatant money grab by successful artists, demanding to get paid any time one of their works gets resold. It shafts younger, up-and-coming artists to the benefit of the few, super-successful artists.

However, the tidbit that caught my attention was the copyright term issue. As you know, some are expecting there to be a fight in the near future to extend copyrights yet again. Thanks to repeated copyright extension, brought to you by relentless lobbying from Disney and others, the US hasn't had a previously copyrighted work fall into the public domain in ages. However, there actually has been some inkling that maybe, just maybe, Hollywood had realized this wasn't a fight worth taking on. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised when the head of the Copyright Office, Maria Pallante, presented her (mixed bag) plan for copyright reform, that it actually included a reduction in copyright terms rather than an increase.

And yet... two of the panelists last week laid out arguments for why the currently insane levels of copyright terms are perfectly reasonable. Of course, to do so, both had to totally misrepresent reality, often to levels that one might call disingenuous. Of course, the two individuals who made these arguments have appeared in stories on Techdirt before, so it really wasn't a huge surprise. First up, was Rick Carnes, the head of the Songwriters Guild of America. Carnes is from the old school world where internet hatred is a thing of pride. He seems to think that the internet destroyed songwriting and that no one could possibly write songs without strong copyrights. Carnes also got some attention for demanding extra payment for songwriters when Apple increased iTunes previews from 30 seconds to 90 seconds. That's the kind of person we're dealing with here.

His filing on copyright terms was so ridiculous that the Association of Research Libraries had to step in and correct all the "myths" he stated. Here's a little secret: when unprompted librarians step in to tell you you're totally wrong, you're not going to look very good. The ARL notes that Carnes is simply wrong in saying that the US's copyright term lengths "represent the international standard." They don't. As the ARL notes:
The copyright term in the United States extends well beyond the Berne Convention’s standard and beyond the term of protection in the majority of countries. Many countries’ copyright terms are set by the international agreements to which they are bound. The Berne Convention sets the minimum copyright term as the life of the author plus fifty years. The current term of protection in the United States is set at a period of the life of the author plus an additional seventy years. For corporate works or “works for hire,” the period of protection is set at ninety-five years. These terms far exceed what is required by international law.
As ARL further notes, it's the US that is actually out of step with "international standards":
The vast majority of countries use the Berne standard of life plus fifty years; there are almost twice as many countries with a period of protection shorter than the current term in the United States than there are countries with a period of life plus seventy years or greater
Carnes also totally ignores (as mentioned above) that the Copyright Office boss has, herself, called for shorter terms, instead saying that the Copyright Office believes the current term is proper. And finally, Carnes totally misrepresents the Supreme Court's ruling in the Eldred v. Ashcroft case to mean that the Supreme Court is fine with the current length of copyright. But, as anyone who knows anything about the decision realizes, that's not what the case was actually decided on. Instead, SCOTUS merely said that Congress has the authority to determine the appropriate term, and the Court wasn't going to overrule Congress. As the ARL explains to flunking student Carnes:
The Supreme Court never addressed the question of whether a period of protection of life plus seventy years was appropriate. The Court only upheld the power of Congress to set the term and extend the term retroactively. The majority opinion in Eldred, while upholding the Copyright Term Extension Act, never addressed the propriety or benefits of the extension itself. Instead, the court addressed “the authority the Constitution assigns to Congress to prescribe the duration of copyrights.” As Justice Stevens’ dissent further points out, the question of “whether the extraordinary length of the grants authorized by the 1998 Act are invalid because they are the functional equivalent of perpetual copyrights is a question that need not be answered in this case because the question presented by the certiorari petition merely challenges Congress’ power to extend retroactively the terms of existing copyrights.”
Perhaps even worse than Carnes' filing, however, is that of Tom Sydnor, who currently hangs his hat at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Sydnor is sort of a joke in the copyright world. Once responsible for whatever ridiculous expansion of copyright policy Senator Orin Hatch was pushing out, since leaving his job as a Congressional staffer, Sydnor has bumped around making increasingly ridiculous arguments for stronger and stronger copyright -- while occasionally stooping to take Larry Lessig quotes totally out of context as part of a smear campaign against him. Some of Sydnor's previous hits include claiming that universities who don't turn students over to the RIAA are helping terrorists and pedophiles, that the RIAA getting a jury to award it $1.92 million from Jammie Thomas for sharing 24 songs was a perfectly reasonable outcome and that France's (totally failed) Hadopi policy of kicking file sharers offline represented "consumer relief." So I'm already pre-conditioned to expect arguments that are reality-challenged from Sydnor, and he does not disappoint. His challenge was to try to take the life plus 70 term of today's copyright, and argue that it's completely consistent with the Founding Father's vision, which had copyright set at 14 years, plus a renewal for another 14 years. And rather than just admit this is ridiculous, Sydnor gives it the old Sydnor try and basically makes up a bunch of stuff. First, he states this, which has no basis in reality:
The Framers concluded that copyright term should last during the lifetime of a work’s author, and for a (potentially short) post-mortem-author period in which an author’s copyrights could support his or her spouse and children.
They did no such thing. If they wanted copyright terms to last the lifetime, they had every opportunity to make it so. They did not. The founders were well aware that the initial term of copyright quite frequently resulted in works going into the public domain during the author's lifetime -- and they were actually quite okay with that.
the Framers’ principle of providing at least life-of-the-author copyright protection repeatedly required term to increase. Over time, authors and others simply began living longer than they tended to in 1790. For example, since 1790, the average human lifespan has increased by about 100% – from about 40 years to about 80 years. The Framers’ premise of life-of-the-author copyright term then required increases in copyright term.
So, we've already established that the basis of this point is simply incorrect, but even so, Sydnor is now building an incorrect argument on top of an incorrect argument. The increase in life-expectancy is true, but much of that came from better medical care concerning births and baby care. In other words, if you made it through the early years, you were expected to live much older than 40 years old. And I don't think that the founders were setting the length of copyright terms to encourage infants to write books. By ignoring infant mortality and child deaths, Sydnor is blatantly misleading people to pretend that the life expectancy of authors doubled. It did not.
In the US, legislative calculations of copyright term have always been driven by estimates of how long human authors are likely to live. Human life spans change gradually, but laws that calculate copyright terms by estimating human life spans do not – and that is another reason why changes in copyright term have been applied retroactively, to then-existing works.
Again, that's clearly bogus. The increase in the lifespan of authors has been tiny. Some have basically argued that once you account for infant mortality, there's been very little change in life expectancy over the last few centuries. And yet, copyright terms have gone from a maximum of 28 years to what's now likely to be more like 150 years. I don't care how you calculate life expectancy (even if you include infant mortality rates), things have not changed that much.

Either way, these kinds of blatantly dishonest arguments are likely to become increasingly common as we approach the next round of fights concerning copyright terms. Don't let them get away with it.



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  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 7:36am

    Expect delusional articles about how libraries and librarians promote terrorism and child porn. And more yelling at the cloud.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:05am

    Odd how American copyright laws avoid/ignore the "moral rights" clauses common to European copyright, which give work-for-hire authors royalties for use of characters they create under work for hire (as Terry Nation has with the Daleks he created for Doctor Who) and right of approval for reprints/adaptations of their work for hire material (which Alan Moore has used as a negotiating point with both Marvel and DC Comics)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:06am

    Can someone help clarify?

    > there are almost twice as many countries with a period of protection shorter than the current term in the United States

    This is a confusing statement. First, it is suggested that the "vast majority" of countries use the life plus 50 years Berne standard. But it is also suggested that almost twice as many countries use a term shorter than the US term.

    Another way of stating this is that more than a third of the countries in the world that recognize copyright have terms equal to, or exceeding, the US terms of life plus 70 years. Less than two-thirds is a majority, but I'm not sure I'd call it a "vast" majority.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:12am

    Re:

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:19am

    Re:

    Americans only have morality when it benefits them in some way.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:21am

    Actuarial Science 101

    Life expectancy didn't increase very much at the high end. The number of lives expected to make it to the high end increased. It's not that people live longer, it's that more people live - period. It's a hugely reduced infant mortality rate that has so greatly overhauled the *average* life expectancy.

    Call bullshit on Carnes, et al.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:24am

    Re: Can someone help clarify?

    and if you count the countries that don't recognize copy protection laws the average falls even more.

    Either way even life plus 50 years is way too long. A more reasonable length, if laws weren't corporate written, would be to either abolish IP laws altogether or to limit the length of copy protection laws to about 7 years or so (well past the time most works make almost all of their money back). After about ten years or so the present value of future returns diminishes to the point where present investments would require much disproportionately larger future returns to make them worth the present investment and given that future returns on average almost always diminishes with time it makes sense to substantially shorten copy protection lengths. The corporate purpose of keeping them long, of course, is to prevent public domain works from competing with newly released works and to allow certain business interests to have more control over their historical narrative (which is not the intended purpose of having these laws) and to make useful information more expensive to keep the poor ignorant (because a better informed public is generally not good for business interests).

    Things like newspaper articles should even have a much shorter public domain release date.

     

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    scotts13 (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:26am

    Film at eleven

    People with a vested interest distort facts to their own ends. I'm SO surprised; we have to let everyone know about this new development!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:26am

    Re: Actuarial Science 101

    Please, IP extremists have no concept of logic or common sense. Just short sighted selfish impulses.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    The saddest part is that while my post here is sensible politicians won't even consider it not because they don't know any better but only because they are bought and paid for. IP extremists have no moral conscience whatsoever.

     

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    Squirrels Without Borders, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    Its actually not that odd. U.S. Copyright law is based on a utilitarian concept of copyright, not a "sweat of thy brow" concept as in Europe.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    I think the difference goes back to what the purpose of copyright is supposed to be. It's a bit different in the US: the purpose of copyright is not to recognize some inherent property right, but to encourage the creation of works by preventing others from simply reselling your works (for a limited time). Including moral rights in copyright does not further that goal, and so represents an expansion of the purpose of copyright beyond what the Constitution authorizes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:44am

    Re: Can someone help clarify?

    OP here. My point was that the "almost twice the number of countries" statistic looks deliberately hand-picked, and I don't trust statistics that look deliberately hand-picked without some other numbers backing them. This especially matters because things like a country's population, or a country's GDP, are left out in the "almost twice" statistic.

    I haven't had a chance to read through this yet, but wikipedia has some more info on copyright lengths by country. Enjoy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_lengths

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:45am

    Tom Sydnor is also ignoring the fact that the 1790 Copyright Act did not cover or protect musical compositions.

     

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    saulgoode (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:54am

    From a purely administrative standpoint, the "life of the author plus" formula needs to go. Copyrights should exist for fixed period from the point of registration (and, yes, copyrights should need be registered).

    There needs to be some modicum of sanity in the law such that people can at least know whether or not a work is under copyright.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:54am

    14 years and Eldred

    Founding Father's vision, which had copyright set at 14 years, plus a renewal for another 14 years, was calculated from the date of publication, deposit in the Library of Congress and registration with the copyright office, not from the date of death of the author. The Library of Congress knows who you are, where you live, and what you wrote, if you register a work, and ALL "published" works are required to be registered, even now.

    In Eldred, they didn't address the problem of how to know which items the law applied to, because public domain works can be copied without attribution, so if public domain works without attribution are suddenly copyrighted again, how would anybody know that, if there was no attribution in the first place?

     

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    David, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:56am

    Sydnor is not talking about the life expectancy of authors

    It would be ridiculous to argue for longer copyright protection based on author life expectancy when the current recipe is based on death + x years.

    Instead Sydnor is talking about the life expectancy of the heirs, those whose continued well-being is supposed to be the driving incentive of the author while he is alive.

    Now we all know that most author/composer/artist are totally unproductive until they turn 80, and then the prospect to bang the daylights out of a barely legal muse who is dumb as a rock and could not hope to support kids of his/her own in any other way and whose kids will inherit her/his stupidity and consequently also his/her need for money -- this prospect is which will suddenly ignite a spark of creativity and let the author/composer/artist produce masterworks that just happen to create exactly as much money on a continuing basis as his/her muse and kids will require so that they have to live on this for the rest of their life on a contingency basis.

    Without that young woman/man to bang, the author/composer/artist would likely turn to knitting, Macrame, or depression, depriving society of fabulous works depending on copyright terms and their consequences.

    Are you still with me? Astonishing.

    Now this is a construct that is, if a bit strained, sort of conceivable.

    The problem is that the practical consequences are not as much supporting a generation of gibbering idiots left behind by author/composer/artist but rather feeding a corporate dynasty that exploits other artists by making them part of an entertainment industry that tends to follow successful trends rather than set them.

    It also turns out where the author does not leave behind a bunch of emotionally detached heirs but rather loved ones that those loved ones would be in the position to work for her/his cultural heritage, do memorial concerts and readings and other stuff in order to accompany the passing of his/her work into the Public Domain and keep her/his memory and influence active until and beyond the time where people interested in his work may freely copy and modify it.

    With the current terms, the more prevalent effect of the long terms is not as much catering for those that the author/composer/artist cared for as it is making sure that the author/composer/artist will be forgotten.

    And it's actually rather complicated for heirs to get out of the copyright trap early even if they are willing to do so.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:56am

    Re: Can someone help clarify?

    The next question is clearly, "How many nations have been bullied by the US to have such terms?"

    The answer might surprise you.

     

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    Geno0wl (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 8:57am

    But this makes perfect sense

    28 years is a good chunk of a person's adult life.
    If you are an "adult" at 18 and rough life span of 65...well that 28 years is 2/3 of your adult life.


    But now that corporations are people we have to adjust our thinking!
    Now that corporations are around for hundreds of years we need to make copyright around for just as long! Disney was founded in 1923 so obviously 28 years wouldn't be anywhere near 2/3 of its "life". So the obvious answer is we have to extend copyright!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:01am

    Re:

    Making IP about anything other than the public interest is reason to abolish it. IP is not something authors have a 'moral right' to. Authors have no moral right to anything the government provides them and IP laws and their enforcement are something the government provides and taxpayers fund. They're not something anyone is ever entitled to for you are not entitled to and you have no moral right to anything the government provides. If IP laws are to be about anything other than serving the public interest this will be a very strong reason to abolish them completely.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:02am

    Re: But this makes perfect sense

    There are some companies that don't last 95 years - but their works don't fall into the public domain when they go out of business. They simply languish as orphaned works, with no way to even ask permission to legally use them.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    The problem with the "moral rights" argument is that it's used to defend real "artists", but unfortunately is applied to everything.

    For example, the RIAA claims that remixing an album for release on CD constitutes an entirely new copyright. Seriously, just messing with the bass, treble, and volume, and then putting it in a fixed state, is an entirely new copyright. Does that deserve a moral right to you? Do you feel the need for such a right every time you adjust the tone when you're listening to music?

    And if I set up a camera to randomly take pictures, where does the lifelong "moral" right come from? Randomness, for some bizarre reason, is given a copyright. But seriously, where is the morality?!

    And what about using software, or interns, to collect facts and push out newspaper articles? A collection of facts deserves copyright protection, unfortunately, but do you honestly think there's a moral component to that?

    The purpose of copyright in the US was not to enforce some standard of morality. It was originally to compensate artists and writers to incentivize the continued creation of such works. Nothing more.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:14am

    Re:

    Hear, hear.

    Why does the presumed lifespan of any human have anything to do with the length of copyright?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    No, I'm pretty sure politicians won't even consider it because:

    1) As long as copyright has existed in the USA, it's been a at least a minimum of 14 years, with the option for up to 28 years. As such, abolishing it, or slashing it to 7 years, especially from it's current length, is so radical as to be reflexively rejected.

    2) Many people find it entirely reasonable for authors to retain copyright on their works for the duration of their lives. Many also don't consider it unreasonable for the copyright to remain with an authors estate for a time after their death to account for untimely death. As such suggesting that something should lose it's copyright before the author has even had a chance to finish the series is likewise an extreme reflexively rejected.

    Both of these hold particularly true in the multimedia world of today. Corporations already do as much as they can to grab control of a work from the author. Telling them they just need to wait an additional 3-4 years and they can make an adaption without ever involving the original author or publishing company is something that would delight them.

    The bottom line is that fixing the situation is not as easy as abolishing copyright. Reasonable reductions in length would be a decent start (just reducing it to the standard of the Berne Convention would be an excellent start), but if you want to really fix things, you need to figure out how to strip control of copyright away from the corporations, and keep it that way for any further reductions.

    Ultimately, even in a best case scenario you're unlikely to do better than the original max copyright term the USA had of 28 years, and you'd do well to keep that in mind. Copyright just simply isn't going to go away, and it's for far more reasons than lobbyists bribing politicians.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re:

    It has to do with the idea that the author should retain control over the publishing of their work for the duration of their life. Not a bad thing in many circumstances, even if it raises the administrative burden from "Was it first published before a certain date?" to "What date did the author drop dead?"

    The biggest problem, as I believe has been covered here before, is that determining if something is in the public domain is far more convoluted than even the second question.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    "is so radical as to be reflexively rejected."

    By whom? Those that have subverted the democratic process to get what they want in opposed to what's in the public interest?

    "Many people find it entirely reasonable for authors to retain copyright on their works for the duration of their lives."

    I don't recall ever seeing a politician running for office with the claim that they will expand IP lengths (if such ideas are so popular then why not?). Yet IP lengths continue to be expanded and pro-IP negotiations continue to happen behind closed doors with industry interests invited. Protests against SOPA and other such treaties and negotiations have attracted many people yet the astroturfing attempts to push for these laws have gotten very little attention. Those responsible for pushing for these laws and extensions seem to benefit from revolving door favors and Disney and others seem to spend lots of money towards the campaigns of those pushing for these extensions (money they wouldn't spend if they received nothing back in return). I see little to no evidence that these lengths are democratically passed and most of the evidence suggests that they are pushed by a small minority. So by 'many people' it seems like you mean a very small minority.

    "Many also don't consider it unreasonable for the copyright to remain with an authors estate for a time after their death to account for untimely death."

    [citation needed]

    Who are these people, what percentage of the population are they, and what evidence do you have of this? "Many people" is just a subjective statement.

    "As such suggesting that something should lose it's copyright before the author has even had a chance to finish the series is likewise an extreme reflexively rejected. "

    That's just your subjective opinion.

    "Telling them they just need to wait an additional 3-4 years and they can make an adaption without ever involving the original author or publishing company is something that would delight them."

    and what's wrong with that? I have nothing inherently against corporations. Google, for instance, while not perfect has been pretty good. I do, however, have a problem with corporations and IP trolls and other businesses that try to use the government to limit competition in their favor. My problem isn't with businesses it's with businesses that use government to limit competition.

    "The bottom line is that fixing the situation is not as easy as abolishing copyright. "

    Abolishing copy protection laws would fix the situation for the public. It may not fix the situation for the industry interests that have bought and paid for our laws but they are not my concern.

    This statement makes the assumption that a lack of IP laws is a 'situation that needs to be fixed'. I disagree with this. It's a situation that those that have gamed the system think should be fixed but, as I said, they are none of my concern. The government should serve the public interest.

    "just reducing it to the standard of the Berne Convention would be an excellent start"

    Still way too long.

    "and it's for far more reasons than lobbyists bribing politicians."

    I disagree. Lobbyists bribing politicians is the primary reason it's not going to go away and by far the biggest reason. and I don't necessarily advocate that it go away completely but if they are to remain a more reasonable term, like seven years, should be implemented.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    So, what's the answer?

     

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    Binko Barnes (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:57am

    People rarely even mention that literally millions of literary and scholarly works reside in a state of copyright limbo where the public has no access to them because they are still under copyright while, at the same time, they are not in print or otherwise available because they are no longer profitable.

    The simplest form of copyright reform would allow works that are no longer available for sale in any form to fall into the public domain after the original term of 28 years.

    Of course, there will never be any broad public support for copyright reform of any kind, because 90% of the American public only care about what's popular right now and are conditioned to pay without complaint for everything they watch, read or listen to.

     

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    Chris Brand, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:03am

    One good thing...

    ...is that it seems that the maximalists are defending the current term rather than pushing for yet another extension. The next battle is going to be whether to *reduce* the term, and if so, by how much, rather than over yet another extension. Of course there will be plenty of other sneaky stuff, too - the tried-and-true "international obligations", amendments to unrelated bills, tweaking the text of passed bills, and the like, but the tide *has* turned.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    Ultimately, even in a best case scenario you're unlikely to do better than the original max copyright term the USA had of 28 years, and you'd do well to keep that in mind.

    No - the best case scenario is the one that pertained from the dawn of time until the 16th century - no copyright at all.

    The problem here is that - as a young country - the USA tends to lack a proper sense of historical perspective.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    "Corporations already do as much as they can to grab control of a work from the author. Telling them they just need to wait an additional 3-4 years and they can make an adaption without ever involving the original author or publishing company is something that would delight them."

    Statements like this are arguably the biggest reason copy protection laws should be abolished completely. Copy protection laws should not be about ensuring the 'artist' or 'publishing company' are involved (and really this is about the publishing company and not the artists or the public). They should not be about ensuring that corporations aren't 'delighted'. They should only be about serving the public interest. Misconstruing it into anything other than serving the public is grounds for abolition.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:31am

    This man knows art

    You got to see Rep. Coble's coat (about 52 minutes into the hearing video).

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re:

    LoL! Good memory!

     

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    Groaker (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:35am

    Solution to copyright problem

    Any and all works and copies claiming copyright must first spend a period of public service equal to the authors lifespan plus seventy years burried in a concrete coffer, surrounded by armed guards. This makes far more sense than other service requirements that have been proposed or enacted.

    The only possible exception would be books. Also any diagrams or other illustrative material pertaining to medicine, engineering or the sciences.

    Remakes of movies would require twice the normal span of national service.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "It has to do with the idea that the author should retain control over the publishing of their work for the duration of their life."

    IP laws should not be about the idea that the author should retain control over the publishing of their work for some duration (though these laws are really not about the author and more about the middlemen). IP laws should only be about what best serves the public interest.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 10:57am

    Re: This man knows art

    Coble's mental age is showing. At 1:10:00 he asks the witnesses to rise so that he can administer the "oath of office" to them.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:02am

    Disturbing

    It's disturbing to see so many Reps take this resale right issue seriously ( https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/hr4103 ). This issue is ridiculous. What's next - do we give Tops a royalty when a baseball card is later worth more?

     

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  38.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:04am

    The Court only upheld the power of Congress to set the term and extend the term retroactively.

    As if we needed any further reason to deride the Supreme Court as illegitimate. Before Citizens United and other messes they've made, there was this.

    Let's be nice and clear here, kids. That ruling was completely wrong, completely unjustifiable, and completely beyond the authority of the Supreme Court. The Constitution is crystal-clear on the relevant point: nether Congress nor the States may pass any ex post facto (retroactive) law. Period. End of discussion. Retroactive copyright term extension is illegal, and if anyone should have known it, it's the Supreme Court..

     

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  39.  
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    Karl (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    I haven't had a chance to read through this yet, but wikipedia has some more info on copyright lengths by country. Enjoy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_lengths

    I've looked through this before. And the "almost twice the number of countries" statistic is entirely correct.

    What I find even more interesting is that there are only four countries with a longer copyright term: Columbia, the Ivory Coast, the Grenadines, and Mexico.

    Here's another thing I've always found very interesting. In countries that have "moral rights" ("droit d'auteur"), the lengths for moral rights are almost always longer than the "economic rights" (the rights that we have in the States and Britain). Many of those terms don't expire at all. Of course, those only cover things like the right to attribution.

    Here's another Wikipedia link about that:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights_(copyright_law)#Table

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:14am

    Sensible Arguaments?

    It could be argued that short copyrights would encourage authors to write more books, as they would have to produce new works for income as the older ones fall into the public domain.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:21am

    Reform Copyright

    Most people don't understand that copyright was intended to *force* works into the public domain. The initial term was 14 years, plus an extension of 14 years. If you want a continuing income stream, you produce new works. That's copyright in a nutshell.

    The terms have become excessive, though, when they typically last longer than the lifespan of the majority of the population. I would like to see two things:

    1. If it's life + 70, make it 70 years, period.

    Corporate copyright should not be more than 70 years, and that's probably too long.

    2. Copyright extensions should not be retroactive. You live with what you had when the work was originally published.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:25am

    Why not elimiate copyright

    Occasionally the idea pops up that we should get rid of copyright. If you get rid of copyright, you will have no rights to a work. You might not be able to place it in a library, to resell a work, to have any fair use rights to it. Obnoxious as it has become, authors have to give up some ownership rights with copyrighted works, but it's better than not having it at all.

     

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  43.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:50am

    Re: Why not elimiate copyright

    Your statement seems wrong on the face of it. Can you explain how you arrived at your conclusion? If there were no copyright, then you would have no exclusive rights to the work, but you'd still be able to do anything you want with it -- as could anyone else.

    "You might not be able to place it in a library, to resell a work, to have any fair use rights to it."

    ...including placing it in a library or reselling it. The invocation of fair use rights is an interesting one, as "fair use" is a concept that is only necessary if copyright exists (it's intended to blunt the worst effects of copyright). In the absence of copyright, any use is fair use.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    I'll take a stab

    This piqued my interest to see. A quick google search came up with this site concerning copyright:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_Anne
    The Statute of Anne (c.19), an act of the Parliament of Great Britain, was the first statute to provide for copyright regulated by the government and courts, rather than by private parties.

    Prior to the statute's enactment in 1710, copying restrictions were authorized by the Licensing of the Press Act 1662. These restrictions were enforced by the Stationers' Company, a guild of printers given the exclusive power to print—and the responsibility to censor—literary works. The censorship administered under the Licensing Act led to public protest; as the act had to be renewed at two-year intervals, authors and others sought to prevent its reauthorisation.[1] In 1694, Parliament refused to renew the Licensing Act, ending the Stationers' monopoly and press restrictions.[2]

    So I don't know if @anonymous is right or not.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

    To be fair, current copyright isn't likely to be 150 years since that would assumed that a person lives 80 years from the point of creating the work.

    I would guess that most works are created when a person is at least 20 years old, but many people are prolific into old age. The point is still valid, but 110 years might be a fairer guestimate of what the average current copyright is likely to be.

     

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  46.  
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    Karl (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Why not elimiate copyright

    If you get rid of copyright, you will have no rights to a work.

    This is inaccurate. If you get rid of copyright, the copyright holder will not have the exclusive right to the activities in 17 USC 106. That is, the copyright holder will lose the right to exclude those rights from others.

    But you (and everyone else) would have the right to do all of the things you've just described. We know this to be true, because we can do all of those things with works in the public domain. The public domain is exactly "getting rid of" a copyright on a work.

     

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  47.  
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    Groaker (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:19pm

    Copyright length

    While I can understand the need for the protection of intellectual property, I can think of no rationale basis for copyright being longer than patent. And no reason for corporate copyright or patent to be longer than that for individuals.

    What is so special about a movie, painting or song that makes it more worthwhile than a patent for a machine, electronic device or antibiotic. Or for that matter what makes a novel more valuable than a new printing process used to distribute that novel?

    What did Gutenberg (or any other publisher) print that had more value than his movable type printing press that has made some 200 million titles available to most everyone?

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It has to do with the idea that the author should retain control over the publishing of their work for the duration of their life.

    Except that the transfer of copyright to the publisher means that the author loses control over the work, and these days unless the contract is carefully vetted, may run into problems if they want to take a follow on (derivative) work to a different publisher.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re:

    "It's a bit different in the US: the purpose of copyright is not to recognize some inherent property right, but to encourage the creation of works by preventing others from simply reselling your works (for a limited time)."

    Exactly, the founding fathers recognized that IP laws are not a natural right and that their purpose should strictly be utilitarian in nature because no one has a natural right to protections.

    Laws should be utilitarian with the intent of serving the public interest. This includes physical property laws as well. So why should intellectual property laws be any different from any other law? Why should we make a special exception only for this set of laws?

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 12:53pm

    It seems to me the only people arguing for the extension of copyright terms are those that benefit from those terms being applied retroactively. Make it so the extensions don't apply to any works already created (which seems like common sense) and I'd be surprised if there's a single person left arguing for longer copyright terms. Personally, I can't imagine Disney arguing that the copyright on Star Wars Episode 7 should be greater than 170 odd years, but try to put Mickey Mouse in the public domain and suddenly copyright terms aren't long enough.

     

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  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Disturbing

    Ugg. Ms Claggett, from the copyright office, (around 2:46:10) says that resale rights will be an incentive artists to create more art.

    I disagree. The absence of resale rights is what would encourage more art. If you were an artist and you saw that the art you sold cheaply years ago is now worth lots more, you'd want to make more art to get your piece of that gravy bowl. However, if you're already getting your gravy through royalty payments, there's less need to make more.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:08pm

    Re: Re:

    Much as I hate to admit it, the RIAA is correct. My interpretation of copyright law says a copyright applies to a given REALIZATION of a work, and not to the theory or idea behind it. So, if someone records a version of a Mozart sonata, he gets a copyright for that version. If someone else records a different version of the same sonata, he in NOT in violation of the original copyright, but, instead, gets his own copyright for his version.

    IMHO, this is the main problem. Once a work has been created, the original creator somehow perverts copyright law to mean he has control of ALL versions or realizations of his original work. If the second person tries to sell an identical copy of the original work, then the author is correct. Any change to the original makes it a new work and gets a new copyright.

    Corporate copyright "owners" hate this because they have NO inherent creativity and thus can't create new versions, and it means they don't have total control to everything faintly resembling the original - which they DON'T! That's why copyright law is being distorted and perverted so much - so they can retain control and the profits.

    Copyright should always remain in the control of the author. Copyright should never be sold. License it out, fine. The original author retains ownership and control, not some third party. Once he dies, the copyrighted work SHOULD revert to the public domain, and all usage licenses get cancelled.
    .

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Disturbing

    It goes much further than that. There's no reason to extend resale royalties only to artists. The logic of the resale royalty would also apply to Ford getting a cut when you sell your used car.

    This is all bullshit. They want to make us all serfs who own nothing.

     

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  54.  
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    1st Dread Pirate Roberts (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:28pm

    Public Domain

    Simone Dinnerstein can copyright her interpretation of Bach's Goldberg variations, because it's in the public domain. If I could tell white keys from black keys and record my own version, I could do that as well, but only because it's in the public domain.

    Copyright, thanks to everyone's hero, Sonny Bozo (I mean Bono), goes on far too long.

     

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  55.  
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    1st Dread Pirate Roberts (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, and after that limited time (is life + 70 years really a limited time???) the work transfers into the public domain. What a mess copyright has become.

     

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  56.  
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    1st Dread Pirate Roberts (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Can someone help clarify?

    You don't really mean that they are taking brib- (I mean) campaign contributions, do you?

     

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  57.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Why not elimiate copyright

    Karl beat me to responding, but perhaps you should try to understand what copyright is before making silly statements.

    Copyright is entirely about restricting what others can do with a work. Copyright only gives the holder the ability to legally enforce certain restrictions.

    Without that ability to enforce restrictions anyone - including the author - can do anything they damn well please with the work.

    The works of Shakespeare aren't under copyright. If I want to make my own printing and distribute it, I can. If I want to make a derivative work, I can.

    The idea of abolishing copyright gets traction because many of the reasons why copyright was necessary no longer apply. It used to be hugely expensive to create and distribute content. Those costs have come down to the point where anyone with the talent can make "professional quality" content and distribute it just as widely (if not more so) than major publishers.

    Why not eliminate copyright? Good question. Why not allow the sum total of human knowledge and culture to be shared to nearly everyone in the world practically instantaneously? I have yet to see any good reason not to allow that, so my stance is clear: we *should* eliminate copyright.

     

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  58.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Copyright length

    "I can think of no rationale basis for copyright being longer than patent."

    Be careful with that argument. I could easily see major corporations using that exact argument to press for the extension of the duration of patents.

     

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  59.  
    identicon
    Chris Brand, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Copyright length

    "I can think of no rationale basis for copyright being longer than patent"

    A patent is much more restrictive than a copyright. Patents grant a monopoly on any implementation of an idea. Copyrights (in theory at least) don't restrict the ideas at all, only one particular expression of that idea.

    Your argument is exactly the wrong way round. Yes, a patent is "more valuable" than a copyright, but's because it's a broader monopoly, and that's why it has to last for less time.

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    Stan, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 3:59pm

    Tom Sydnor mis-represented the life expectancy of authors at the time of the creation of the Constitution. So I gathered the following data:

    name of framer born died lived years

    George Washington  1732 1799 67
    Benjamin Franklin 1706 1790 84
    Gouverneur Morris 1752 1816 64
    Rufus King 1755 1827 72
    William S. Johnson 1727 1819 92
    Alexander Hamilton  1755 1804 49
    James Wilson 1742 1798 56
    John Rutledge 1739 1800 61
    Edmund Randolph 1753 1813 60
    Oliver Ellsworth 1745 1807 62
    James Madison 1751 1836 85

    Average age at death = 68

    Can someone point this out to the House Judiciary Committee or any other place where Tom Sydnor reguritates his bad arithmetic?

     

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  61.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 4:20pm

    Re: Re: Why not elimiate copyright

    The cost of distribution has come way down. The cost of creation, not so much.

    There are several authors and webcomic artists I follow who make their living by their creative work. Some of them publish via the Internet, with negligible distribution costs; others sell actual books, which costs a bit more to produce and distribute. But either way, what they're selling is their creativity.

    If anyone - including the author - could redistribute the work freely, however they wanted to, they would not be able to support themselves via their creative work, and would have to seek traditional employment, which would severely limit the amount of time they can put into their creative work, with predictable consequences on their contribution to our culture. So no, eliminating copyright is not a good idea. It was created for a good reason: to stop publishers from doing exactly that. And it still serves a valid purpose, when it's not being abused by the very publishers it's supposed to be keeping in line.

    Copyright needs to be reformed, restored to its original purpose, not abolished. We tried not having any copyright once, in the 18th century. It created an anarchic state that made the need for copyright obvious, and that was when printing presses were rare and expensive. Today, when everyone has a personal computer, it would only be that much worse.

    Remember, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    john walker, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 6:01pm

    Re: Re: Disturbing

    Agree with you, If fact the most recent EC " Report on the Implementation and Effect of the Resale Right Directive (2001/84/EC) ". States that total payments to " Living artists as % of total [value] 18%" .

    I.e %82 of the money (minus the collection societies admin levy) has gone to dead artists.
    Benefit to living artists is not what ARR is about, rather ARR is about compulsory administration payments (and money for dead artists)
    And dead artists by definition, do not make art.

    In France, the home of art resale rights, %80 of all the money goes to a handful of very famous and very dead artists, Picasso , Matisse and the like!

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 6:53pm

    Re: Re: Copyright length

    Rrong. Patent grant a monopoly on a Specific implementation of an idea. (except the new US Software patents which seem to cover the idea and not the implementation.)

     

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  64.  
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    charliebrown (profile), Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 9:26pm

    Television

    Why, for example, is there copyright on old television shows? Specifically black and white television shows. Not many channels seem to play them. Sure, I see "I Love Lucy" all the time, but not many others.

    Take, for example, "The Honemooners", copyrighted to a company that collapsed in 1956, some 58 years ago. What about "Green Acres", yes, in colour, I know, but it is made by Filmways, another company that hasn't existed since 1983, some 31 years.

    Now you can't possibly convince me that these shows (and many others) need to be under copyright. They were going to make any money they were going to make many years ago. A vast majority of the cast are dead and the crew long since retired if still alive.

     

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  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2014 @ 11:12pm

    Re: Sensible Arguaments?

    The flip side of that is that it could be argued that short copyrights would discourage people from becoming authors by making it a less attractive, and less viable career choice.

    Also I don't think people saying "It'll force them to write more!" realize that for many authors, they can't write more. They're already writing as fast as is reasonable for them. If they're releasing 2-3 novels every year, that's their limit. They can't do anymore without sacrificing promotional work, or their personal lives. If they're releasing only one a year, that's too is their limit for similar reasons.

    Very few authors I expect are in a position to sit back and live off of royalties. Either they're doing other work, or they already made their money up front and have been wise with it. That's simply the way the industry is set up right now.

     

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  66.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 23rd, 2014 @ 1:59am

    Re: Television

    Don't forget the usual companion point to that, which is that many shows are simply unable to be released in their original form due to separate copyrights on their music. Not only should these shows probably not be covered by copyright, but its application is preventing new viewers from seeing them as intended.

     

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  67.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2014 @ 2:32am

    Re: Re: Sensible Arguaments?

    The flip side of that is that it could be argued that short copyrights would discourage people from becoming authors by making it a less attractive, and less viable career choice.

    The is over 40,000 years old, while copyright is only 303 years old. It can therefor be reasoned that the major driver of the creative process is not as a means of making money.

     

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  68.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2014 @ 2:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Why not elimiate copyright

    Visit Cory Doctorow's site, where you will find free copies of the works from which he makes his living. He gets enough offers of payment for the ebooks that he has set up a system where people can buy paper copies for a school.

     

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  69.  
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    Groaker (profile), Jul 23rd, 2014 @ 4:49am

    Demonstration

    I think that counts as a demonstration of the fact that the creative process is not necessarily driven by pecuniary interests, rather than just a reasoned argument. Demonstration carries a higher weight than reason.

    It is not that long ago when the copying of a work, and falsely claiming it as one's own was considered the highest of compliments, the greatest possible flattery, to the original artist. Of course that was in the days of patrons, and voluntary payments. Perhaps that would be an interesting system to return to.

    I knew a VP of a major record company. I was quite surprised when she told me that the skill set of many popular musicians of today did not include the ability to write music. And that a transcriptionist had to be hired in order to get a written copy. This is in good part a return to ancient music where there was no standard form of musical notation, so perhaps the economic model should return as well.

    Most musicians I know, even those of symphonic or solo quality, do not do particularly well economically. They live more through teaching and playing at small get togethers than at their putative "real" jobs. Of course their occupations were destroyed by the recording industry, which has created a climate in which there is little call for real musicians.

     

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  70.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2014 @ 5:12am

    If another extension doesn't come to pass i guess artists and creators would sometime in the future be forced into agreements that allow corporations to extend their lifes by force, be it medical procedures or refusing to acknowledge the death of an creator, just so that they can squeeze some more money, or how they call it "improve innovation", well into the next financial century.

     

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  71.  
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    JP Jones (profile), Jul 23rd, 2014 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Why not elimiate copyright

    We tried not having any copyright once, in the 18th century. It created an anarchic state that made the need for copyright obvious, and that was when printing presses were rare and expensive.

    Um, what? Prior to the Statute of Anne (1710) copyright didn't exist. The European Renaissance was generally from the 14th-17th century, and is considered one of the greatest artistic periods in human history. And the entire time, copyright didn't exist. At all. In any form.

    Copyright was created to enforce church (at the time, the government) censorship. The printing press allowed works of dissent and criticism of the government to be distributed rapidly and cheaply. This led to copyright...the right of the government to print Bibles and other works that enforced the status quo. Other works were shut down because they weren't "licensed."

    The Statue of Anne was designed to limit the copyright term to avoid using it as a form of government censorship. Make no mistake, however, copyright has always been designed for two things; the benefit of the publisher and the benefit of the government. It has never been about the artists, and the fact that the greatest artistic period in European history was ended the time copyright started should make that obvious.

    Seriously, I have to throw your own words back at you..."those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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