Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
News Your Rights Online

Copyright Should Encourage Derivative Works 136

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the greed-is-a-powerful-drug dept.
Techdirt has an interesting look at copyright and the idea that an author is the originator of a new work. Instead, the piece suggests that all works are in some way based on the works of others (even our own copyright law), and the system should be much more encouraging of "remixing" work into new, unique experiences. "Friedman also points back to another recent post where he discusses the nature of content creation, based on a blog post by Rene Kita. In it, she points out that remixing and creating through collaboration and building on the works of others has always been the norm. It's what we do naturally. It's only in the last century or so, when we reached a means of recording, manufacturing and selling music — which was limited to just those with the machinery and capital to do it, that copyright was suddenly brought out to 'protect' such things."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Copyright Should Encourage Derivative Works

Comments Filter:
  • Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily.gmail@com> on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:53PM (#28574477)

    Just look at software. How many developers learn to code without looking at examples? And why does good documentation contain lots of those?

    Face it: once you've seen some code, from that point on everything you write can be considered a remix of all those, coupled with your own ideas.

  • No really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:57PM (#28574511)
    You only need to look at, well anything to see that everything is a derivative work of another thing. That was the point of public domain. Almost all of Shakespeare's work references heavily or is based on another work. Heck, music, movies, etc. Are all based on each other, anyone could tell you that. This is why it is very important to have a limited copyright. Anything more than ~30 years is harmful to the industry.
  • Re:No really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Winckle (870180) <mark@@@winckle...co...uk> on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:02PM (#28574561) Homepage

    Anything more than ~30 years is harmful to the industry.

    Oh no, it helps the industry, it just harms culture.

  • by rm999 (775449) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:08PM (#28574607)

    Maybe I misunderstand what they are saying, but if everything is copied or derived from something else, then I don't see the issue. Want a superhero comic? Just make your own character and Universe that copies the same thing Batman did. There is nothing stopping this type of "innovation".

    But I do not think some two bit hack should be able to just create a Batman comic strip without permission. A lot of copyright holders put effort into creating a consistent Universe with high quality story lines. I think weakening what a copyright means can dilute people's creativity in this way.

    I personally license everything artistic I do under a creative commons license because I am not personally vested in my works. But I know some people devote their lives to their creations, and I know they would not want to see their works getting lost in a pool of comic strips with Calvin peeing on stuff or Billy from Family Circus telling his mom to do obscene things with that carrot on the table.

  • Um, no. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:17PM (#28574685)

    George Lucas okayed derivative works as long as anyone didn't profit off of it. That's one person controlling HIS copyrights. That's his CHOICE.

    For example, do I want people making derivative works of my copyrights (my novels)? No. That's my CHOICE.

  • Re:Remixes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:25PM (#28574741) Homepage Journal

    I'm not so much into music, as I am into books. Over several years, I read almost all of Marion Zimmer Bradley's books. I'm sure I missed some, but I read a LOT. Bradley's Darkover books, especially, inspired a huge fan club. Not only did Bradley tolerate, but she ENCOURAGED new authors to explore her Darkover universe. I would hate to count, but there are probably 5 or more published books about Bradley's Darkover than she ever published.

    If I recall correctly, all of those derivative works pay tribute to Bradley, somewhere within the pages. To my knowledge, Bradley never was paid a cent on any of those derivative works. Bradley DID BENEFIT from them, in that they expanded her sphere of admirers, who in turn bought more of her original works.

    This is the correct and proper way for copyright to work, regarding derivative works. Pay homage to the master who showed you the way, but you really owe him nothing more. Just like education - teachers teach to earn a living, but they HOPE that one or more of their students surpasses them. If/when a student does surpass his/her teachers, he isn't required to come back and pay them again for teaching him so well.

  • by H0p313ss (811249) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:35PM (#28574841)

    If anything, Obama's election proves the current mindset of Americans (social welfare for everyone granted by big government.)

    Odd perspective... I was thinking that it was more of an indication of the rejection of a government by the corporations, of the corporations, for the corporations.

  • Re:Um, no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:35PM (#28574843) Homepage Journal

    It is not properly up to George Lucas to decide that people may or may not profit from such derivative works. All that is required, in a sane world, is that the author acknowledge Lucas as a source of ideas, that the author not plegiarize (copy Lucas' work, then claim to have authored it), and that the new work actually contain substantial new material. If the derivative work is any good, people will want it. If it is trash, people aren't going to bother with it.

    Kinda funny how that works. I mean, how many people are going to watch a completely obvious Starwars ripoff that contributes little or nothing to the storyline of the universe? It would be a total financial loss for the idiot who tried it.

  • by Tweenk (1274968) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:44PM (#28574937)

    But I do not think some two bit hack should be able to just create a Batman comic strip without permission.

    Sorry but this is the purest form of assholery enabled by copyright.

    If someone random releases a Batman comic, then there are three possible outcomes:
    1. It sucks. Nobody cares, the original author does not lose anything. Publisher is annoyed because somebody is using "their" franchise, but since people tend to forget about shitty comics they doesn't care much.
    2. It is acceptable. Some people will buy and enjoy it, but most probably won't consider it canon. The original author is unaffected. Publisher is annoyed because they think that money should belong to them.
    3. It is absolutely great. Readers have a great comic, the "unauthorized" artist has a lot of money. The original artist might have a reduced ability to sell his future works if they aren't as good as the "unauthorized" ones, but most probably his earlier works will sell better because of increased popularity of Batman in general. Publisher gnaws his arms off because they did not make any money from the hit.

    Conclusion: this use of copyright does not benefit the authors or the readers in the slightest. They only benefit the publishers, who can turn the creative arts into a money farm. The effect is a cultural land grab that stifles creativity, and prevents a great many works from being created because they would not be authorized. For example, a movie about the Stalinist terror using Disney characters could become a cultural milestone, and yet there is no chance of that ever being authorized.

  • by gnupun (752725) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:51PM (#28574991)

    A lot of copyright holders put effort into creating a consistent Universe with high quality story lines.

    You nailed it. How many people on YouTube watch Naruto AMVs (just remixed scenes from the anime with their favorite song)? Just a few, because the videos are crap and the remixer is just a hack who lacks the creativity and skill required by true artists. If every wannabe was allowed to create and distribute their own Batman, Superman, Naruto etc. the video content will be the same crap quality as YouTube AMVs. If you force copyright holders to allow derived works, market will be flooded with so many crap Batman comics and movies, nobody will associate Batman with good shows.

    I, for one, am sick of the low-quality reality TV shows, low-quality youtube videos, low quality web blogs -- all free. When you demand free stuff, this is the quality you get.

    Secondly, I don't understand the entitlement attitude most people have towards copyrighted works. The author used his own time and skill to create a work for your enjoyment. He does not owe you any work unless he is your slave. Therefore, he has the right to charge a reasonable price for his work for his own personal benefit. School, religion and OSS type propaganda has brainwashed you into slaving your life away for the benefit of others, when in reality you should be spending your time primarily for your own benefit. Name a single species, on this planet, other than human, that works primarily for the benefit of others -- none.

  • Re:No really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tweenk (1274968) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:56PM (#28575033)

    It helps a few major players, but harms industry on the whole. The same is true for other creative arts. The proponents of restrictive IP rights usually misrepresent the good of those few best known players as the good of the industry, but the reality is that prosperity lies in plurality and "lawless free-for-all", not exclusive deals.

  • by Tweenk (1274968) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:17PM (#28575191)

    Consider a form of art unhindered by copyright: dance.

    The age of Internet is also the golden age of dance. Little known or local styles like Melbourne Shuffle gain worldwide recognition. A plurality of others, like the many variants of Jumpstyle, Tecktonik or Hardstep are created, because the elements from many styles can be combined to form a new mix, while the Internet and Youtube in particular allows easy sharing of demos and tutorial videos that allow anyone to learn a particular move they like. Classical styles are becoming more popular as well. Never before in human history was there such a vibrant dance scene. And even though "anybody" can dance, professional dancers still have jobs (see Riverdance, Stomp, any music video).

    There is a lesson to be learned from this.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:23PM (#28575233) Homepage

    You missed the real case.

    1a. It sucks. People buying it decide that ALL "Batman" stuff sucks. Nobody gets any money for stuff that sucks.

    This is the problem unless you envision a world where everyone hears about everything on an equal basis. Sorry, nobody is that well informed, no matter how much time they spend on the Internet looking around and following links.

    It is perfectly possible to destroy a "brand" with inferior merchandise, just as long as the inferior crap is put in front of people. This is what the battle for "counterfit" goods is all about and "derivative works" as well. If I can take over any brand and distribute my own version of it it cannot help the original brand much. It may not hurt it, or it can destroy it.

    Here is another concept of "unauthorized" works. How about a film about the secret passions of Pol Pot enacted with nothing but Disney characters. I'll bit Minny Mouse would look real cute in the gangbang scene. Do you believe this would encourage more parents to bring their children to the Disney store? Why would you assume that this wouldn't happen?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:31PM (#28575311)
    Cool. That's why trademarks exist.
  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:37PM (#28575351) Homepage

    If you force copyright holders to allow derived works, market will be flooded with so many crap Batman comics and movies, nobody will associate Batman with good shows.

    That's not really correct. All that might happen would be that people wouldn't assume that merely because it was a work about Batman that it was good. Instead, they would look to the author of the particular work. You can see an example of this with classic fairy tales. They're in the public domain, and anyone can publish copies of them or make derivative works based on them. A version of Cinderella by Disney might be good, while a version by Jerry Lewis might be pretty crappy. Rather than just go to anything about the character, the audience will have to check to see which version it is. This is not a tremendous burden.

    When you demand free stuff, this is the quality you get.

    It is inappropriate for copyright law or policy to care about quality. The government shouldn't be the arbiters of taste for everyone. Copyright should look to quantity instead, by encouraging the creation of as many original and derivative works as possible. Given that 90% of everything is crap, more of everything is the only sure way to get more of the good stuff. Since no one is forcing you, or anyone else, to watch bad things, it's easy to ignore it.

    The author used his own time and skill to create a work for your enjoyment. He does not owe you any work unless he is your slave.

    I agree completely.

    Therefore, he has the right to charge a reasonable price for his work for his own personal benefit.

    Provided that you mean he has a right in transactions in which he is a participant, and given that markets tend to dictate prices (would you pay as much for a DVD of Gigli as you would of Citizen Kane?), I'd agree with that too.

    But copyright isn't about either of those things. Even without copyright, both of those would still hold true.

    What copyright does is it prohibits third parties from making copies of the work, distributing them, etc., instead allowing the copyright holder to monopolize the market for the work, so that he can charge above-market prices, since for some reason copyright proponents don't ever think that the market price is ever "reasonable." There's certainly no natural right to a monopoly. It might be sensible to give such a right to a copyright holder, but given that it means a loss of freedom for everyone else, and having to suffer monopoly pricing, there really ought to be a good reason. The mere fact that the author created the work is not a good reason.

  • by Tweenk (1274968) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:39PM (#28575367)

    Copyright is complicated.

    If I change 5 words in somebody else's book and sign it with my name, it's plagarism.
    If I change 5 words and leave the original author's name on it, it's an unauthorized edition.
    If I rewrite a few chapters and sign it with both names, it's a collaboration.
    If I rewrite a few chapters and sign it with my name only, it's a derivative work.
    If I take the idea and characters and write an unrelated story, it's still a derivative work but might not be.
    If I reuse random sentences from someone else's book in my own unrelated one, it's called sampling.
    If I rewrite someone's book in modern slang, it's called a cover.
    If I reuse the store and characters but set it in modern times, it's called a remake.
    If I take the story, trivialize it in the most intellectually offensive way imaginable and show it to millions of people, with the original author maybe receiving lots of money and maybe not*, it's called a Hollywood movie.

    *) see LOTR fiasco. Not an example of offensive trivializing though.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:48PM (#28575433) Journal

    The problem here is more closely related to trademark law than copyright. Imagine you create a new Batman film. You spend a massive amount of money advertising it. Then someone starts selling a comic book using the same characters that isn't very good. Two things will happen here. Firstly, people will buy it because they've seen your adverts and think it will be good. Secondly, they will be disappointed by the story and decide not to go and see the film.

    If you make sure that 'unauthorised' is written very clearly on the cover, I don't see this being a problem, but reusing someone else's setting and characters generally implies some form of endorsement.

  • by Tweenk (1274968) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:51PM (#28575455)

    1a. It sucks. People buying it decide that ALL "Batman" stuff sucks. Nobody gets any money for stuff that sucks.

    There is another mechanism to prevent that, and which is generally agreed upon as positive: trademarks. You are conflating trademarks with derivative works. You can register a trademark for the "leading" Batman comic (e.g. a distinct graphical symbol.. no idea what that could be) to distinguish it from those from competing authors, and only license it to works you approve of. This way you have a way of extracting some revenue from unrelated authors as well as having some grip on what is considered canon, but at the same you can't be an asshole and prevent others from publishing their work at all.

    Here is another concept of "unauthorized" works. How about a film about the secret passions of Pol Pot enacted with nothing but Disney characters.

    Except it wouldn't be marketed as a Disney movie. You might find the idea offensive, but there will be people who won't, and I see no reason to prevent them from making such a movie, as long as they don't misrepresent what it is about (which is an entirely different problem unrelated to copyright).

    When an actor stars in a horror it does not suddenly make a family comedy in which he also appeared unacceptable to the kids. I don't know why it shouldn't be the same with cartoon characters.

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Friday July 03, 2009 @09:09PM (#28576735) Homepage

    It's society who gives and takes "rights". What have you done to deserve freedom of speech, or the right not to be discriminated?

    As for the copy cats, do you think people would choose to buy "BartMan" instead of "Batman"? Art is not an utensil, people don't choose to listen to "Mentallica" just because their albums are somewhat cheaper than Metallica's.

  • Re:Absolutely (Score:1, Insightful)

    by haifastudent (1267488) on Friday July 03, 2009 @09:33PM (#28576873)

    I'll take the analogy further: _don't_ look at software. Because this is what patents have done to software:
    Patents were the reason for the downfall of a standard HTML 5 video codec. [slashdot.org] Not litigation or the threat of litigation, but the existence of patents and the fact that there is no way for a company (Apple, in this case) to check if someone is trolling a patent or three.

    What has this to do with copyright? Should copyright be pulling in one direction while patents are pulling in the other? Haven't the two traditionally gone hand in hand, to the point where laymen cannot distinguish between the two? What is the intent of protections, and who are they protecting?

  • Re:Remixes (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:58AM (#28578783)

    There is a special way of handling it and it is a lot cheaper for them (ie they don't pay the one cent per songwriter that they would usually have to pay, it gets diluted down to deliberately make it affordable).

    I don't know the exact mechanics of it, but the main thing about such remixes and merging of several songs together (like what many rap artists and techno bands do) is getting permission to do so.

    Every so often the artist might run into a song or an artist which won't allow the use of a song/recording etc, but usually they allow it because they get paid for it (it's actually handled through agencies - in Australia it's APRA, I think it's BMI and ASCAP in US etc).

    But the key is PERMISSION, PERMISSION,PERMISSION. The same holds true for when artists do versions of other artists songs. It really doesn't cost too much to re-record another artists song or to remix a song or mix several songs together. The only problems really come when you use them without permission and end up paying 110% of whatever your music earned (as per what happened to one band who used the James Bond theme in a song without permission).

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

Working...