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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."
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Copyright Should Encourage Derivative Works

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  • Remixes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Friday July 03, 2009 @02:47PM (#28574441) Journal

    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."

    Which actually brings me to ask an interesting question; I've always liked remixes of songs and find they're great listening if you like the original song aswell, and sometimes even if you dont. But how do they handle the copyright issues with labels? And how do those professional remixes create them anyways, do they get all the different tracks from labels or what?

  • Re:No really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:06PM (#28574589)
    I don't think it really helps the industry as a whole though. Consider if Shakespeare wasn't allowed to adapt key pieces from The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet into Romeo and Juliet (and if both had been around using the US copyright system, he wouldn't have). Both were part of the same industry (literature and plays), yet I don't think that The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet would have made as much of money and helped the industry compared to Romeo and Juliet. It sure helps a few individuals, but not the industry.
  • Re:Remixes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:11PM (#28574641)

    Perhaps we need to add something that is anathema to most US copyright exercisers, namely mandatory licensing. If you want to create a derivative work, you need to give a percentage of x% of the value based on the x% derivation. Note, it is a portion of the percentage, not equal to the percentage derivation itself. And, this may be only if the parties do not agree to a reasonable royalty on their own.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:31PM (#28574805)

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

    Explain again why I need "permission" to create something? If I use someone else's backstory, it doesn't lessen the amount of creativity I'm putting into my own creation.

    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.

    That seems like a non-sequitur to me. If I write a story about "Flying-mouse-male-offspring", how exactly does that "dilute" the creativity of someone else?

  • Derivative works (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:56PM (#28575037) Homepage

    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.

    AFAICT, the real point of talking about "derivative works" with copyright is just to close a loophole where someone might say, "Oh, I don't have the right to distribute your work? Well no problem, this isn't your work. I changed 5 words in the novel, which makes it a different work. This new work is mine."

    Since then, some people have taken it to mean that all new copyrighted works should be 100% original, not inspired by anything, and not borrowing from anyone's past work. But that's impossible.

  • Re:Remixes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EEBaum (520514) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:20PM (#28575217) Homepage
    IIRC, the labels handle all the busywork for the artists on this. Lawyers and accountants call lawyers and accountants, hammer out agreements, establish a rapport over the years. Might even be some even-trades going on (you can use X of ours if we can use Y of yours). Works all right if you're signed with a label. Sucks majorly for indie artists who can't afford the fees demanded and/or don't have corresponding in-demand works to trade access for, assuming the labels will give them the time of day at all.
  • by westlake (615356) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:57PM (#28575901)

    There is virtually nothing wrong with our copyright law... that our founding fathers wrote for us

    The geek has no sense of history.

    When English authors could be easily and safely pirated there was little chance for an American to make it into print.

    Writers at Emerson's level had to beg friends for the money to self-publish.

    That's possible for the social and economic elite - an Adams or a Parkman - but much harder for the middle or lower class.

    Here is a simple test: "I have a mule, her name is Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal."

    Folk song or the New York stage? 1830 or 1905?

    Now try the same with a fragment of any old American song or story you seem to remember.

    I'm betting you will be wrong about the date and wrong about its origins.

     

  • MOD parent up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mdmkolbe (944892) on Friday July 03, 2009 @06:25PM (#28576105)

    Artistic characters should only be protected by trademark. Artistic works which are covered by copyright should only include actual works (e.g. Steamboat Willie) and not abstractions of those works (e.g. the Mickey Mouse character). Somewhere in between there is a gray area between paraphrase (probably should be protected by copyright) and summary (shouldn't be restricted by copyright).

  • Re:Remixes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday July 03, 2009 @07:59PM (#28576685) Homepage Journal

    MZB's name was on the cover of all the Darkover books published during her lifetime, IIRC; it's a pretty fair bet that she made at least as much money off the anthologies as the individual authors did. Generally the way it works with anthologies is that the authors get a fixed payment, and the editor gets a (small) advance and the royalties.

    You're right, of course, that she encouraged both fanfic and the "official" stories written for the anthologies ... until she didn't, because (apparently, and this is all second- or third-hand information) some nutcase submitted a story for one of the anthologies, got a rejection slip, and then threatened to sue when some idea vaguely similar to the story appeared in one of MZB's own novels a few years later. At that point she felt she had no choice but to shut down the anthology line, and although she didn't tell people to stop writing fanfic, she was no longer able to give it her blessing. And I can't blame her. This isn't the usual pattern of a copyright holder being overly aggressive; it's about someone who had always been very generous with her copyrights defending herself against vicious and unwarranted attack.

    Which is a damned shame, because some of the anthology stories -- and the fanfic, for that matter -- were very very good, and helped launch the careers of some authors who are well-recognized names today. MZB's free-and-easy attitude also, no doubt, had a lot to do with the enduring popularity of the series. But I'm really not sure what else she could have done.

  • by DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) on Friday July 03, 2009 @09:21PM (#28577067)

    Well, no one perspective is the entire picture. Some people voted for him because he wasn't Bush. A lot of people also voted for him because he was saying that he'd enforce all these social programs. I'm all for social programs, but they have to be social programs that work. Almost nothing the government does actually works. (Look at social security, which is supposed to be a holding program. If it's only a holding program, why isn't there any money?)

                I don't want to live in a country where you can sue somebody because you trespassed onto their property, started jumping on their trampoline and broke your neck. I also don't want to live in a country with big government. Or big corporations, which can harness enough economic power to be their own big governments. In order for that to happen, people need to start taking some responsibility. I don't know about the people around you, but when I talk about how the state wants to pass a bill that would allow them to track people without warrants, they ask me to stop talking, because they don't want to worry about it.

  • Re:Remixes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WCLPeter (202497) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:06PM (#28577579) Homepage

    If you want to create a derivative work, you need to give a percentage of x% of the value based on the x% derivation.

    Yes, but how do you determine what the derivative percentage is for a work I've used? Suppose I want to make a Star Trek film? I don't use any of the original characters, I create my own ship, my own crew, even my own sector of space for them to explore. I'd only be using the Star Trek backdrop because its familiar, I'm a Star Trek geek, and I feel there are plenty of quality stories still left to be told in that universe.

    How much Trek did I use to create my derivative work? I won't be able to tell you, I doubt anyone could, but you can bet your last dollar that the lawyers at Paramount would tell you its pretty damn close to 100% and, unless you had access to equally high powered lawyers, there would be no way you'd be able to fight it either.

    No, what we need is targeted, specific, legislation that makes it abundantly clear the copyright holder will receive a percentage of the net profits earned from the derivative work. With the power of Hollywood Accounting [wikipedia.org], they'll get exactly what they deserve.

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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