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Alternative 2009 Copyright Expirations 427

Posted by kdawson
from the world-of-what-if dept.
jrincayc writes "It's nearly the end of 2009. If the 1790 copyright maximum term of 28 years was still in effect, everything that had been published by 1981 would be now be in the public domain — like the original Ultima and God Emperor of Dune — and would be available for remixing and mashing up. If the 1909 copyright maximum term of 56 years (if renewed) were still in force, everything published by 1953 would now be in the public domain, freeing The City and the Stars and Forbidden Planet. If the 1976 copyright act term of 75* years (* it's complicated) still applied, everything published by 1934 would now be in the public domain, including Murder on the Orient Express. But thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, nothing in the US will go free until 2018, when 1923 works expire." Assuming Congress doesn't step in with a Copyright Extension Act of 2017. What are the odds?
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Alternative 2009 Copyright Expirations

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  • Fair Copyright (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bl968 (190792) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:12AM (#30521460) Journal

    Give them 7 years, after 7 years, they have to renew the copyright every year for $50-100. If they fail to renew it it becomes public domain. Prohibit the outsourcing of this process, require the actual copyright holder to submit a signed statement each year with the renewal, change the forms yearly to prevent them from stockpiling 100 years of renewals. This process should have a search-able registry of all active copyrights and who to contact about licensing rights. This would allow economically supported works to continue in copyright as long as it is economically supported, but it would also allow orphan works to enter the public domain much faster. It's called balance, and would be a revenue generator for the Government.

    Also they could require the work to actually be available for purchase during the previous year, or else you can not renew it. This would stop the Disney-ish practice of copyright holders removing their their copyrighted works from the market to generate a artificial demand later on for their product.

  • Mandatory reply (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mdenham (747985) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:19AM (#30521498)

    Melancholy Elephants [spiderrobinson.com] by Spider Robinson. This is the best-written argument I've seen against non-expiring copyrights (and, by extension, copyrights of inanely long duration).

  • by bl968 (190792) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:25AM (#30521520) Journal

    A simple way around this is to allow Disney to keep Mickey, you do this by creating a new class of limited rights for National Icons. This would be similar to copyright but would not expire. These would require a specific act of Congress for a copyrightable work to be awarded this status but would not expire as long as the company in question is still actively using and marketing the iconic item in question.

  • For fuck's sake! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:31AM (#30521550)

    so the original Ultima and God Emperor of Dune and would be available for remixing and mashing up.

    Remixing and mashing up? I like a good remix as much as anybody, but the faddish use of these terms needs to die. Mashup, really? You think you're being edgy, but you're actually being a giant cuntnozzle. Get off my lawn!

  • Re:Fair Copyright (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:36AM (#30521574) Homepage Journal

    Instead of $50-$100, make the copyright holder choose and pay a fee of 1000x the cost of license.
    If you paid $1000, I can have a copy of your work for $1. If you paid $10k, I can have it for $10. If you paid $10, I can get a copy for $0.01. And you're not permitted not to license the work to me for that amount.

  • Re:Fair Copyright (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirix (1649853) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:41AM (#30521586)
    How would this work with legal persons though? They have more resources to renew and such than a single natural person. I suppose only allowing natural persons to have copyright would be a nice start.
  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mpe (36238) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:43AM (#30521592)
    I think this graph in the wiki links sums the problem up nicely.
    These copyright extensions are simply ridiculous.


    The problem actually appears to have started in 1831. Why was nothing done then, since the US Congress dosn't (in theory) have the power to create ipso post facto laws?
  • by neghvar1 (1705616) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @04:59AM (#30521664)
    The EFF and other consumer rights and public domain supports are pushing to ban perpetual copyright extensions which is what will happen as each extension approaches its lifespan. The judges read limited as infinity minus 1 second. They think like a computer or robot. Total lack of commonsense. But as we know, our government does not give a shit about what we, want, believe or think. Their ears are listening to the lobbyists and corporations with deep pockets that hand them a bill with a check attached to it under the table. It's bribery. Pure and simple The purpose of copyright was to promote creativity meaning that when a singer writes a song and copyrights it, they will profit from it, but when it expires, if that singer want to continue getting profits, he must continue to use his creativity. Personally, I believe copyright of movies, music and literature should be 30 years or when the original copyright holder dies. Software should be 10 years. i.e. Micheal Jackson did not create the Beetles music, yet he owned the rights to them. They were never his and never should have been. "Elvis sure makes a lot of money for a dead guy" And nor should the creators heirs and their heirs and there heirs live off the works of someone over a century ago. Along with that, of all copyrights ever filed, these extension acts are only working for the less than 10% which are still commercially exploitable. Thus all those other fall into the abyss of time. In order to preserve great works of the past, the laws must be broken
  • by uglyduckling (103926) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:15AM (#30521742) Homepage

    It's pretty obvious really. The whole point of copyright was to enable the creator to benefit commercially from their artwork for a limited period so that they would have an income and be able to continue producing works that enrich/entertain society. As distribution has become quicker and quicker, the time needed for an artist to commercially exploit their work has decreased and therefore the time period for which copyright applies ought to be shorter, not longer, than in the past.

    What has happened instead is that time periods have been extended, more and more money has been made, which has concentrated the means of distribution into fewer hands, with the net effect of decreasing the amount of art (music, literature etc.) that is widely available. This is now starting to change with digital distribution, although it's quite clear that DRM is not about preventing the pirating of works (because it doesn't stop commercial pirates) but is about maintaining a barrier to entry into the market.

  • The most shameful... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:23AM (#30521784) Journal
    ... is not to keep commercial rights on these known books that we will still be able to buy by 2020. It is the millions of books that did not achieve enough popularity to still be easy to find. Not edited anymore but forbidden to save for posterity. Really, copyright is nothing to respect anymore.
  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:43AM (#30521876) Homepage Journal

    I think I'd rather pay some tax to support retired artists and musicians than to turn the RIAA and MPAA into private vigilante groups.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @06:17AM (#30522038)

    I concur, as long as Disney exists, copyright will continue to get extended. You have no idea how much money they make off of Mickey alone.

  • by silentcoder (1241496) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @08:16AM (#30522452) Homepage

    Jack Valenti during his MPAA reign actually proposed working around the "limited" line by making it "forever minus one day".

  • by plasticsquirrel (637166) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @08:24AM (#30522514)
    I don't know of any big news sites that are blocked in China. I regularly read articles from the NY Times and the LA Times websites, along with a variety of others (including Slashdot). The big blogging sites are blocked, though, as are YouTube, Facebook, etc. The government here really isn't concerned with the established western media, though. Also, it certainly is nice to use BitTorrent without any worries about the MAFIAA sending me scary letters.

    In some ways China is a freer country than the U.S. For example, if I'm sick I can simply visit a doctor and it doesn't cost much. In the U.S., I was afraid to go in for a checkup because I couldn't afford any real treatment. If I want to buy a cell phone, I don't get a monthly bill, I can just go to any store and buy extra minutes to put on it. I can pay $90 per year for a 2M DSL line, and I never see a bill for that either. And besides that, life is so much simpler here that it's really relaxing. Add that to the fact that I'm one of 1.3 billion people in this country, and nobody is going to bother me. Nobody is going to screw with my life, sue me, give me tickets, etc. They have bigger fish to fry, so there is never anything to really worry about. To me, that's the freedom I really care about -- a simple, anonymous, affordable lifestyle.

    There are so many things in the U.S. that people consider to be freedom, like owning a gun, that people just go nuts over. They don't have any bearing in reality, so even though people generally have quite a bit of money, their daily lives still suck and they're still miserable.
  • by brxndxn (461473) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @09:08AM (#30522752)

    It seems to me that copyright is mostly ignored when it gets in the way - especially by the younger generations. The cries that 'copyright is stealing' do not stick to society as a whole in the US.. and the US is behind the rest of the world with copyright piracy.

    The more ridiculous the laws, the more they get ignored.. The government and corporations can do nothing against the majority of the people if they decide to ignore the laws or copyright terms. Corporate lobbying has stacked the cards so far against the consumer that the average consumer can merely ignore them and still feel good about it.

  • by e70838 (976799) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @09:21AM (#30522816)
    I am French. Of course we are slightly better than the Americans, our laws are more fair and our politicians may be less subject to lobbying. We are also notably more pretentious.
    Seriously, this is not important, the differences are narrowing and we are getting so badly that they may outperform us one day.

    About "the spirit of the law", we have lost a lot when the French wording of the laws has been abandoned as reference text in favour of English in European Commission. I think that languages have a lot of influence on how we think about things. English fits very well for technical, German for philosophy, French for diplomacy, Italian for seduction, ...
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @09:26AM (#30522852)

    In the United States, laws, as well as the accused, are on trial in a courtroom. If the people find a law to be unjust, the jury can strike it down with nullification.

    Can be done, I know, however I heard in other /. comments that this is really rare. I'd like to see some examples where this was done. The consequences can be "interesting" I'd say.

    If a judge deems a law contrary to higher law, such as state/federal constitutions, the judge is able to throw the law out.

    That is not specific to common law - and that is indeed how this discussion started: the testing of a law (copyright term) against the constitution. All countries with constitution or something like can subject laws to such tests. In case of the EU, national laws can be tested against EU laws (though I have no idea what would happen if an EU law goes against a member country's constitution). This is similar to the US with states and central government, albeit that there is a central constitution, while in the EU most if not all member states have their own constitution, and there is also that document called EU constitution nowadays. How much that is really a constitution in the traditional sense I don't know. It's a complex mess at best. At that point the US is way ahead of the EU but then the EU is younger and came into existence differently.

  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @09:29AM (#30522878)

    Typically, seizing the assets of the wealthy in order to redistribute them to the masses leads to majority unemployment and hyperinflation. Just like twentieth-century South America.

    Or present-day Zimbabwe. You're right: uncontrolled, ad-hoc, and chaotic confiscation produces economic mayhem. Granted, in all these cases, the economic populism was also coupled with a thoroughly rotten political system (take, say, Peronism) which confuses the analysis somewhat.

    But that's not to say that all wealth redistribution will cause catastrophe. In the 1950s and 60s, we had high top-end income taxes here that worked very well; Europe still does, and they're better off for them, having some of the lowest gini coefficients [wikipedia.org] and the highest standards of living in the world.

    In order to make wealth redistribution work:

    • don't take property directly: instead, put a tax on wealth
    • spend the additional revenue on infrastructure and social development with Keynesian properties (like healthcare and education)
    • make the process fair and transparent: use simple rules that convince everyone the process is happening according to established principles
    • make the maximum wealth level high enough to provide plenty of incentive to work

    (By the way: instead of causing hyperinflation, raising our top-end tax rates would substantially reduce our budget deficit, strengthening the dollar.)

  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @09:44AM (#30522966) Homepage

    Indeed. One of the most disapointing recent decisions. In essence, the court said that the term "for limited times" in practice means nothing whatsoever. Because it means that there must BE some limit, but it doesn't need to be a practical limit. a 100 year copyright on computer-software is in practice aproximately infinite. And the court sees no principal problem with a 999999999 year copyright. That's "limited", right ?

    Way to make a mockery of the constitution !!!

  • Re:Fair Copyright (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ost99 (101831) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @10:19AM (#30523242)

    Interesting idea, but it will only work for mass market works.
    Software if often produced with less than 1000 customers in the target market.
    How will you ever make money if you have to pay 1000 times your license fee, and only sell a handful licenses?
    I've been involved in software production in one form or other for 12 years, and I've yet not seen one project were we could sell more than 1000 licenses.

    Instead of having a system that scales with the license cost, the system should scale with time.
    First 7 years: $0
    Next 7 years: $100
    Next 7 years: $2000
    Next 7 years: $40000
    Next 7 years: $800000
    etc.

    But it's important to remember: The people pushing for extended copyrights are not very concerned with the income from works about to expire; they are more concerned about the effect competition from works with expired copyrights would have on new stuff.

  • by spyfrog (552673) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @10:52AM (#30523602) Homepage

    This is simply untrue.
    Where I live the supreme court can't declare laws that goes against the constitution illegal, so we have some laws that more or less violates the constitution and that the supreme court (they are allowed to make an opinion about the laws) has told the parliament that the law is unconstitutional but the parliament has passed them anyway.

  • by operagost (62405) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:21PM (#30524720) Homepage Journal

    In the 1950s and 60s, we had high top-end income taxes here that worked very well

    Only because the tax code allowed so many loopholes that no one in those upper brackets paid anywhere near what the tax rate would suggest. Most loopholes were closed in the 1980s as the rates fell.

  • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:02PM (#30525978) Homepage

    Congress can (and will) argue all they want. However, if I offer $1000 for a candy bar, I can argue that it was a successful incentive (since surely someone made me one). However I'd have to be stupid to claim that the offered amount HAD to be $1000 and that $5 or $2 wouldn't have sufficed.

    Copyright is meant to be a bargain between the people and creators. It is meant to promote useful works. A work's usefulness is proportional to it's availability. That is, a work locked in a plastic box where we may look but not touch has only a tiny fraction of the usefulness of a work that we may freely use as we see fit.

    Disney actually crows proudly about their defeat of copyright's purpose when they tell us a work is "going back in the vault". Many works have crumbled to dust while still inside the "box" they never saw the majority of their potential usefulness BECAUSE of copyright law. They went from genuine contributions to the progress of the arts to mere baubles to be ooohed and ahhhed over for a brief time and then disappear forever.

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