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The Economist Weighs In For Shorter Copyright Terms 386

Posted by timothy
from the and-that-guy-ought-to-know dept.
lxmota writes "The Economist says that long copyright terms are hindering creativity, and that shortening them is the way to go: 'Largely thanks to the entertainment industry's lawyers and lobbyists, copyright's scope and duration have vastly increased. In America, copyright holders get 95 years' protection as a result of an extension granted in 1998, derided by critics as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act." They are now calling for even greater protection, and there have been efforts to introduce similar terms in Europe. Such arguments should be resisted: it is time to tip the balance back.'"
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The Economist Weighs In For Shorter Copyright Terms

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  • by Cryacin (657549) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:45AM (#31786178)
    Finally some semblance of sanity is returning to the Copyright argument.

    The whole trouble with this is that it provides a completely unfair playing field for inventors, which are the people that the concept of copyright was meant to protect in the first place. Unfortuantely, being right by law is only ever as good as the lawyer that can argue that you are right. Big companies mean more money, which provides better lawyers.
  • by mykos (1627575) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:54AM (#31786238)
    The biggest and most important achievements in science and art happened before the existence of copyright and patent laws.

    To tell people that they cannot freely share the ideas of another person for one hundred years...it just seems to fly in the face of advancement. People act as if not paying money to someone for a hundred years will make art and music disappear.

    If 14 years was considered an adequate amount of time to capitalize on an idea back then, before the days of speedy digital distribution (and speedy analog distribution!), why is it so long now?
  • Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@@@justconnected...net> on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:56AM (#31786248)

    Here's hoping it's indicative - or will lead to - a groundswell of public opinion.

    What us nerds need to do is remind people that copyright is a trade. I've explained to people that Disney nor your favorite band 'deserve' any protection, which they find crazy. But when I explain the idea of copyright is to promote new works by allowing the creative types to make a living - with the understanding that we'll all get it in the end - they start to look at copyright how it was originally intended.

    We would still have books and music and art without copyright - people do those for free all the time - but big movies, etc legitimately take a lot of money to make. So I think copyrights are necessary, but drastically limited in length. It's a travesty that the Beatles' work doesn't belong to the world yet, and it's obscene that Mickey Mouse doesn't.

    Copyrights were much shorter at the founding of our nation - and that was when a significant portion of the time allotted was used in physically moving stuff around. Now that that's almost instantaneous - or perhaps a few days - it should be shorter than that.

  • Here's one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:57AM (#31786252) Homepage

    It's time for the "Everyone who had anything to do with creating the mouse is dead now act". It will revert the term on all existing works to the length it was when the work was created. Last I checked, no amount of retroactive incentive can further encourage the dead.

  • by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:59AM (#31786270)
    The Economist is actually one of the more thoughtful news periodicals, in my opinion. Moreover, having a non-American perspective is very nice for those of us who get a majority of our news from American sources. The political coverage is especially enlightening, as it manages to transcend the Democrat / Republican talking points in a way that not even the New York Times or Wall Street Journal is able to.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:03AM (#31786288)
    It also loses sight of why we grant such protection: To promote the progress of science and useful arts
    Then again, I have heard it argued that indefinite copyright extensions encourage artists to sit on their laurels instead of creating more.
  • by symbolic (11752) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:04AM (#31786290)

    Considering that much of Disney's stuff is a knockoff of earlier works that are out of copyright, I don't see your point of view as having much validity. Second, this whole "lock it up for eons" mentality has spread beyond copyright - there has been talk of incorporating patents on things like plots or the very subject matter of a given story. This whole ownership thing is WAY out of hand.

    Ironically, today's technology offers copyright holders means of distribution (opportunity to make money) that FAR exceed what was available when copyright was first enacted. So to be fair, what do they do...demand longer copyrights? No, they should be feel lucky that the term of a copyright hasn't been reduced. I don't think it was ever the intent of copyright to provide for multi-generational revenue streams.

  • If they are distributing the work, then it is still readily obtainable from them... I have no qualms with copyright holders charging money for their stuff, nor paying fees to access it, what I have a problem with is stuff that the copyright holder abandons, but still holds onto the copyright for and there is NO legal avenue through which to obtain it.
  • by hedwards (940851) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:06AM (#31786306)
    What's wrong with that? Part of the problem has been that these works aren't being distributed at all in any sort of legal sense. Meaning that for a bunch of them, even if one is willing to pay for a copy, one might well be out of luck because they're not being sold.

    Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for this, but there needs to be some balance and if somebody isn't trying to make money off the idea, then perhaps it should go into the public domain.
  • by Wildclaw (15718) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:09AM (#31786324)

    I have a problem with long copyright terms as long as the definition of derivative work is as large as it is. I also have a problem with the preventative scope of copyright in general. Exclusive rights to profit from a specific production used to be the basis of copyright. But nowadays, that is just a minor aspect of copyright.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:16AM (#31786354)
    no one gives a shit about mickey mouse. it's the endless milking of idea's and preventing anything remotely similar that is the issue. thanks for tackling a non issue.
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:26AM (#31786400) Homepage

    I never read anything useful in The Economist.

    There are a number of reasons for this that I find plausible. Here are two:

    1. You are very well-versed on the topics covered by The Economist that you have read. This is very likely true in this specific case, as our community is very sensitive to copyright law and history. The Economist, while targeting a highly educated audience, must sometimes seek common ground even among such heady heights. Copyright is a topic most people have not considered so deeply; so even the brightest of those outside our community are likely to require a more elementary starting point than we.

    2. You have read a few articles here and there in The Economist, but have rarely read entire issues. The Economist covers such a broad range of matters -- so many things touch the global economy -- that it is easy to find many articles which are of little use to any given individual. In my case I find the majority of their articles to be, while well researched and written, relatively uninteresting to me. In such a broad space there is bound to be a great deal of chaff relative to each reader's mind.

    A possibility that I find extremely implausible is that The Economist is, in fact, utterly lacking in significant content. I say this based on the variety of people I know who find it to be one of the few truly substantial periodicals. Off the top of my head, there's a couple Ivy League grads, a PhD computer scientist, a PhD candidate in some field of biology, and three college drop-outs who are nonetheless among the smartest people I know.

    All of which is to say; I can completely understand that you may have found some articles you have read to be shallower than your own knowledge of their topic space (assuming you are fairly astute regarding said space), and others that covered a subject you found inconsequential. I think it is unlikely, however, that the magazine is objectively and entirely mere fluff.

  • by Wildclaw (15718) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:28AM (#31786404)

    The biggest and most important achievements in science and art happened before the existence of copyright and patent laws.

    I disagree. The biggest achievements has happened in the last couple of hundred years. However, I also think that there is a huge difference between correlation and causation.

    To tell people that they cannot freely share the ideas of another person for one hundred years...it just seems to fly in the face of advancement

    Agreed.

    If 14 years was considered an adequate amount of time to capitalize on an idea back then, before the days of speedy digital distribution (and speedy analog distribution!), why is it so long now?

    Because neo-mercantilist companies and individuals have lobbied to extend it so that they can profit more. And don't expect it to change. With an expected resource crisis due to massive consumption and popultion growth on earth, the mercantalist ideas will just grow strong among those in power.

  • by Solarhands (1279802) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:31AM (#31786412)

    The one thing that makes absolutely no sense in all this is that copyright gets extended when new laws come out.

    Suppose that copyright is now 50 years. Now supposing that the government thinks that say 100 years is a more optimal time period for copyright. They write a law which changes the time period for copyright law.

    Why do the copyright end dates for those works already under copyright change? There is no reason for them to. There is no way that the new law is going to affect whether or not people 50 years ago write more books and music. But clearly the government seems to think that if they keep pushing the date back on existing copyright that they will reach some point where the financial incentive of the new law will convince the Beatles to write another album back in the 1960s. Perhaps they believe that we will soon have time traveling agents, who can inform the artists of the past of their rights.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:34AM (#31786424) Journal
    I'm going to tell you why that argument alone will not sway the general public (although it is part of a good argument).

    Most people agree that the original author should have control of his creation. For example, my sister was very upset that someone wrote a sequel to Gone With the Wind, because the original author didn't want a sequel to be written (it was written after her death). That could have been prevented with modern copyright law. A lot of people view the descendants of Tolkien as the official guardians of the lore, and would be annoyed if someone else tried to hijack that (although the result couldn't possibly be worse than the cartoons). People like the feeling of officialness. They want the original author to be able to own the work. I think this is related to the fact that in our culture we really don't like plagiarism.

    In other words, if you want to get political motion behind copyright reform, you are not only going to find the ideal economic balance, you're also going to have to find a way to convince people that giving control to the original author isn't all that important. Otherwise you can forget reforming copyright law. I am not sure of the best argument for this, maybe someone else can think of a convincing one.
  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:38AM (#31786440)

    Actually, a fun and ironic way of handling this issue is extending copyright to 500 years, retroactively. Add a clause that breach of copyright on works where no direct descendent can be found, the infringing party will be subject to a fine equalling 200% of all sales (pre tax) on the items in question AND the infringing work becomes public domain.

    At the very least it'd give Disney such a kick in the balls, that they'd shut up about copyright extensions

  • Easy Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dghcasp (459766) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:40AM (#31786450)

    Simple Solution:

    1. Copyright lasts for some period of time (say 20 years)
    2. An single individual copyright can be extended perpetually by paying an annual fee (say $10,000)

    That way, Disney can keep Mickey Mouse copyrighted forever, but anything that isn't generating more than 10k of revenue a year is cheaper to let lapse. Plus, it's another source of revenue for the government.

    Of course, simple solutions never survive politics.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:40AM (#31786452) Homepage

    If 14 years is optimal, than 7 years would be unreasonable. Not quite as unreasonable as 95 years, but unreasonable nonetheless.

    The basic idea behind copyright (providing security to invest in creating new products) is one I can support, the current implementation of that idea significantly less so. It has come to a point where the copyright itself has become the business model instead of the product.

  • Re:Easy Solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yotto (590067) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:58AM (#31786522) Homepage

    Of course, simple solutions never survive politics.

    It won't even survive Slashdot.

    Is that $10,000 per idea? Per character? Per story? Per song? Album? Lyric?

    Does Disney have to pay $10,000 to copyright Mickey, and another $10,000 to copyright Steamboat Willie? What about that song he sang during the short?

    Not that I'd mind making Disney pay for an infinite amount of $10,000 copyright units... But I'm also curious what I personally can expect to have to pay.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XanC (644172) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:07AM (#31786556)

    A creative work is not something naturally owned. It's not a tangible item that you have. Only a social contract allows you to simulate ownership, and to use words like "my", on something as vaporous as a creative work.

    The default is for creative works to not be ownable.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:11AM (#31786568) Journal
    The pirate party i s abit more extreme than that :
    * Authorization of non-commercial sharing
    * 5 years of commercial exclusivity
    * +5 years if derivative non-commercial work is authorized
    * +10 years if derivative commercial work is authorized (but you still want to get credit)

    I am fine with this position.
  • by Stolovaya (1019922) <skingiii.gmail@com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:13AM (#31786574)
    The thing is that there wouldn't be anything preventing Tolkien's kin from keeping things "official". Anyone could write and add on to the story, but you can't falsely advertise that you're Tolkien himself when writing those stories. It would be pretty much commercialized fanfiction.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:15AM (#31786580)

    So who is the guardian of snow white?
    Jack Horner?
    The 9 tailed demon fox?
    The skin walkers of indian lore?
    Pride and Prejudice?

    "Fables" comic book (which is excellent) wouldn't even exist if all the characters in it were locked up. and it's an excellent *new* creation.

    When did our culture become the exclusive property of "royal" families?

  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:16AM (#31786582)
    All that would do is give Disney and large corporations copyright in perpetuity. That is, forever. They would love this even more. Compare that to an artist who can't afford the filing fees, or simply forgets, or a photographer who isn't going to file extension applications for 10,000 photos. They lose. Disney wins. Corporations are Supercitizens. They live forever. People don't. People have moral and civic obligations. Corporations can instead argue they're "looking after their shareholders." Copyright laws need to be adjusted to recognise that supercitizens don't deserve copyright above and beyond that of normal citizens.
  • by Bemopolis (698691) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:26AM (#31786624)

    Most people agree that the original author should have control of his creation.

    You say this, and then you follow it up with an example of two authors who died, and are thus bereft of all control over their works. Why should people who did NOT write the works (okay, Christopher Tolkien might be given latitude here) ever be given control over the copyrights, especially in an age where that copyright is becoming ever more perpetual?

    Mitchell didn't want a sequel written. Tough. Given her feelings, we can consider her lucky that she didn't live to see it. The Tolkien estate is protecting the legacy of the literature. Good on them. But like the works of literature before them — some of which were the basis of other, later, better works — these works will eventually fall into the public domain, and anyone can do anything with them. I, for one, am not willing to extend copyright until the heat death of the Universe (plus 70 years) to prevent it.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jedi Alec (258881) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:29AM (#31786636)

    Copyright to me is about protecting my ideas, it's not a trade I make, it's about the state protecting my property.

    Awright, fair enough. And since said state is a representative of me, Joe the Voter, what's in it for me?

    So let's make a deal. I agree that you get protection from the law w.r.t. your intellectual property, and you agree that after a set amount of time...say 14 years or so, your work goes into the public domain for the betterment of mankind? Deal?

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:30AM (#31786640) Journal
    You seem to be pretty upset about this idea, but I'm not trying to convince you that it's the way it's supposed to be, I'm just reporting on my attempts to educate people about copyright reform. If you want to make any meaningful progress in changing things, you are going to need a lot of people agreeing with you (if you can't get that, having a lot of money works almost as well). Right now this is a serious obstacle to copyright reform. A lot of people are going to need to understand that having a short copyright isn't the end of the world. Otherwise you can kiss copyright reform goodbye.
  • by tool462 (677306) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:31AM (#31786644)

    It is by far my favorite news publication. It benefits from being a weekly paper, not subject to the constant rush of a daily or hourly news cycle. Their articles tend to be more balanced and more considered, in part I think due to the extra time they have to devote to research and fact-checking.

  • by Bemopolis (698691) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:31AM (#31786646)

    If 14 years was considered an adequate amount of time to capitalize on an idea back then, before the days of speedy digital distribution (and speedy analog distribution!), why is it so long now?

    Because corporations never die and they have a lot of money to spend indirectly on political campaigns. Oh, and now they can spend it *directly* on political campaigns. Let the kleptocracy be complete!

  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moddington (1721244) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:32AM (#31786658)
    We're owed access to other people's work, because they openly published it to the world. The point of copyright isn't to keep your ideas yours; that's easily enough achieved by simply not publishing your ideas. The point is to give you recompense for giving your ideas to the world.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:36AM (#31786682) Journal

    Given her feelings, we can consider her lucky that she didn't live to see it.

    I find your sympathy and compassion admirable, good sir. Basically your argument amounts to, "I don't like it, so she can suck it." Even if you are right, which often isn't the case in political situations, you still aren't going to convince anyone with that argument. You look like a self-centered fool. So the question remains, what argument can we use to help people see that short copyright is good, even though it removes control from the original authors?

  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:38AM (#31786694)

    For example, my sister was very upset that someone wrote a sequel to Gone With the Wind, because the original author didn't want a sequel to be written (it was written after her death).

    That's not a sequel and shouldn't be treated as such. It's fan fiction, and I don't see anything wrong with it as long as it's not marketed as canon. From an "official" point of view, it doesn't exist.

    I think this is related to the fact that in our culture we really don't like plagiarism.

    Plagiarism would be if she wrote a different ending to the story, and published the whole as her own. Meanwhile, did you stop to consider the artistic qualities of the sequel?

    See, that's exactly the problem with copyright debates: you're treating the right to use ideas, the right to modify existing works and the right to distribute existing works as one inseparable topic.

  • by paeanblack (191171) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:40AM (#31786700)

    I think this is related to the fact that in our culture we really don't like plagiarism.

    The continued economic success of Disney makes me inclined to believe otherwise. The vast majority of their content is ripped directly from Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm, and others. Occasionally, they even plagiarize more modern content, like Kimba, the White Lion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimba_the_White_Lion

    Otherwise you can forget reforming copyright law. I am not sure of the best argument for this, maybe someone else can think of a convincing one.

    "The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"

    Why didn't the drafters add in:
    "The Congress shall have Power ... To promote Warmth and Welfare of the Populace, by securing for limited Times to Citizens and Free Peoples the exclusive Right to the Shirts on their Backs"

    The second version sounds absolutely ridiculous, because, unlike ideas, we actually own our clothing. The founding fathers understood that publishing an idea is like pissing in the ocean. Once you decide to do that, you can't get it back...it's not your piss anymore; you don't own it.

    TJ's thoughts on the matter:
    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_8s12.html

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:48AM (#31786732)
    I suggest we drop by the house of everyone that doesn't understand IF YOU DONT LIKE IT DON'T WATCH/READ/LISTEN TO IT, and slap them in the side of the head.

    I don't believe retarded notions such as "offical" keepers of fictional characters eg. tolkien, should be pandered to or encourged.

    this idea that the author some how controls the works from beyond the grave is equally stupid, and deserves a bigger slap in the head.

    20 year copyright terms were more then generous, if you haven't milked every drop of profit from a work in 20 years, your an incompetent fool who deserves to be driven out of business.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:51AM (#31786746) Journal

    I suggest we drop by the house of everyone that doesn't understand IF YOU DONT LIKE IT DON'T WATCH/READ/LISTEN TO IT, and slap them in the side of the head.

    This is the best presentation of an argument I've heard in weeks. I can't imagine why you've never run for public office.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @04:07AM (#31786788)

    The very idea of "owning" something--even something tangible--is, itself, intangible: it is just a social contract that lets you have control over a particular item. This is a very useful contract, but the default really is for nothing to be ownable, with anyone able to take anything they can.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @04:11AM (#31786808)

    "...it provides a completely unfair playing field for inventors, which are the people that the concept of copyright was meant to protect in the first place..."

    Err, no...
    Inventors get Patents, not copyrights.

    Copyrights were for writers and other artists.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sahonen (680948) on Friday April 09, 2010 @04:13AM (#31786818) Homepage Journal
    Because an idea is not property, it is an arrangement of neurons in your head. If one person takes a piece of property, he deprives everyone else of the use of that property... However, the same idea can exist simultaneously in every single mind in existence, and no person is deprived of the ability to hold that idea in their head by the fact that someone else is also holding that idea in their head. The natural, default state of an idea is that it is freely available to *everyone*.

    However, we recognize that certain people have ideas that most people couldn't have by themselves. In general, these ideas are useful to society, so we want these people to keep having them. In order to free these people from the distraction of having to earn a living by conventional means and allow them to spend all of their time coming up with more of their ideas, we create a mechanism by which people can profit from them... A completely artificial concept of imaginary property. We allow these people to be the only ones who may use their idea for profit for enough time to keep checks in their mailbox till they come up with their next idea. After this time passes, the idea reverts to its default state of being available to everyone.

    The reality is, when you come up with a creative work, you do the original work of creating it *once.* Most people have to work continuously to earn a continuous living. What gives a creative person the right to earn a perpetual living off of a single act of creation?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @04:31AM (#31786874)

    A technical answer to that might manifest shortly in the musical scene.

    "Music" follows set mathematical grammars, and as such, has only a finite number of "Pleasant" sounding progressions. It is entirely possible for all possible "Pleasant" musical scores to become copyrighted, and thus, essentially destroy the process of creating "new" musical scores. (Since the only way to make such new scores would be to either radically redefine musical structure (would require rewiring human brains)-- or to utilize the existing progressions in novel configurations.)

    So, you end up with either: All music is copyrighted, so forget about being a musician unless you have deep (DEEEEP!) pockets; Submit to having your brain rewired so you can appreciate "Discordant" "music"; or finally admit that lifetime of creator + 70 years (with option to extend ad infinium) is batshit fucking crazy, and needs to be repealed/reformed.

    Alternatively, you could ask them what they feel about MotherGoose nursery rhymes, and about Brother's Grimm fairytales. (Since BOTH collections would have been impossible to make under existing copyright laws.) Just ask them to imagine a world without those two collections, and how western culture would have been had they never been created.

    Then, remind them that you are not saying that you want to take somebody's novel work, and remove all control from them (the creator); You want to compromise with the creator, and give them a sufficiently large window of time to monetize their work, before it is released for totally unfettered consumption, and want to make sure that the creators are not being the ones who are greedy, by robbing the future of its heritage.

    If confronted by the "What if the author didnt want $ThingAuthorDidntWant to happen?" (Like "Gone with the Wind" sequel); Ask if they enjoyed the Disney versions of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, etc-- because these were only possible because the source material was public domain.

    "Culture" and "heritage" exceed the individual, even though individuals are the source of culture. Excessive copyright exerted by greedy/selfish individuals destroys culture.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Friday April 09, 2010 @05:09AM (#31787038) Journal

    Copyright to me is about protecting my ideas

    If you want to protect your ideas, keep them to yourself as secrets. That way, nobody else can use them. Copyright is not about protecting ideas.
    The purpose of copyright is to encourage sharing of ideas, so that the whole community can use them. To encourage such sharing, a limited period of exclusive control over use was created by copyright law (it does not exist as a natural right). When that period is over, everyone can use them.
    In many jurisdictions, the creator has a perpetual moral right to be identified as the creator. This is why we refer still to Dante's Inferno, even though it is not protected by copyright - nobody else can claim to be creator of that particular work. This right might be considered a natural right, and is distinct from copyright.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Friday April 09, 2010 @05:45AM (#31787212) Journal
    When I first heard "Down Under", that bit reminded me of the kookaburra song. The song's called "Down Under" after all, so I thought the person who came up with the flute part intentionally wanted it to resemble the "kookaburra" song.

    To me copyright and patent terms should be getting shorter and shorter instead of longer and longer since:
    1) We're supposed to be encouraging progress and innovation right?
    2) Marketing, distribution, manufacturing and outsourcing is supposedly easier nowadays right? ( http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/01/ff_newrevolution/ )
    3) So if you create something that people want, getting them to pay for it ASAP shouldn't be so hard.

    Example: the recent Avatar movie did very well - it made 1 billion within one month.

    If you need a 95 or 120 year monopoly to make enough money, IMO you should earn a living some other way. It's just bad economics - you are either not good at what you are doing and should do something else, or you are too greedy.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fryjs (1456943) on Friday April 09, 2010 @05:53AM (#31787250) Homepage

    Because an idea is not property, it is an arrangement of neurons in your head. If one person takes a piece of property, he deprives everyone else of the use of that property... However, the same idea can exist simultaneously in every single mind in existence, and no person is deprived of the ability to hold that idea in their head by the fact that someone else is also holding that idea in their head. The natural, default state of an idea is that it is freely available to *everyone*.

    But copyright doesn't (or at least shouldn't) cover ideas, it covers creative works. Millions of people could have the same idea and still no one would be producing copies of other's creative works. So copyright can't prevent anyone having ideas and producing creative works from them.

    However, we recognize that certain people have ideas that most people couldn't have by themselves. In general, these ideas are useful to society, so we want these people to keep having them. In order to free these people from the distraction of having to earn a living by conventional means and allow them to spend all of their time coming up with more of their ideas, we create a mechanism by which people can profit from them... A completely artificial concept of imaginary property. We allow these people to be the only ones who may use their idea for profit for enough time to keep checks in their mailbox till they come up with their next idea. After this time passes, the idea reverts to its default state of being available to everyone.

    Again, copyright shouldn't be about ideas but creative works. A creative work is neither imaginary or artificial, it's an idea realised by creative expression: the creator's work, so it is in the ownership of the creator by default. And so copyright protects the creator's property. Ideas are never denied to anyone.

    The reality is, when you come up with a creative work, you do the original work of creating it *once.* Most people have to work continuously to earn a continuous living. What gives a creative person the right to earn a perpetual living off of a single act of creation?

    The fact that it's the creative person's creative work. Their work, not anyone elses. Their copyright is not preventing anyone from creating their own creative works, just directly copying the creative works of others.

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Friday April 09, 2010 @06:15AM (#31787356) Homepage Journal

    A piece of music written today may still have relevance 14 years from now, but a piece of software probably won't.

    They're still selling classic video games on the Wii, most of which are older than 1996. I think you'd have to provide a method for extension of copyright by payment of a tax for certain properties (which do remain commercially viable).

  • Mod parent up...

    Commercial interests are often at odds with the greater good or even common sense... They only make sense in certain areas, and even there need to be controlled to prevent them distorting the market and becoming too powerful...

    Look at healthcare, even the US is moving towards non commercial healthcare because the commercial model is simply flawed...
    Consider drug research too...

    It's simply more profitable to keep someone sick and coming back for continued treatments, there is no incentive to provide a cure as then that revenue stream would dry up unless they became sick again. Corporations will always do what's most profitable for themselves, even if that is detrimental to everyone else.

  • by divisionbyzero (300681) on Friday April 09, 2010 @07:56AM (#31787836)

    Traditionally supporters of long copyrights have claimed that unless the copyrights were for substantial amounts of time there would be no incentive to create (a similar arguments is made for patents, etc). Well, the other side of it is that if a company is continually reaping revenue from a copyright what's the motivation to create again? Giving people an opportunity to reap a just reward is one thing but ensuring them an entitlement is quite another. Reward is a great motivator but ruin is as well. Innovate or die.

  • by cheesybagel (670288) on Friday April 09, 2010 @07:59AM (#31787850)
    IMO there should be a fixed copyright term from the time of first publication. Death, no death, whatever. Nothing else matters.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:09AM (#31787892)

    For example, my sister was very upset that someone wrote a sequel to Gone With the Wind, because the original author didn't want a sequel to be written (it was written after her death). That could have been prevented with modern copyright law.

    Your sister didn't have to read it, now did she? She loses absolutely nothing for said sequel existing. On the other hand, the people who did read and enjoy it would lose something had it been prevented from existing.

    You have made an argument against, not for, copyright law.

    A lot of people view the descendants of Tolkien as the official guardians of the lore, and would be annoyed if someone else tried to hijack that (although the result couldn't possibly be worse than the cartoons).

    And a lot of people say screnw that [fanfiction.net] and hijack it anyway. Which is okay, because Tolkien also used elements from common cultural heritage - the works of people who became him - to create his works, so why should it be held more sacred than them?

    People like the feeling of officialness. They want the original author to be able to own the work. I think this is related to the fact that in our culture we really don't like plagiarism.

    I notice a lot of people haven't objected to Disney ripping off everything from Tarzan to Jungle Book to Snow-White and the Seven Dwarves.

    In other words, if you want to get political motion behind copyright reform, you are not only going to find the ideal economic balance, you're also going to have to find a way to convince people that giving control to the original author isn't all that important. Otherwise you can forget reforming copyright law. I am not sure of the best argument for this, maybe someone else can think of a convincing one.

    People are already just fine with this, as proven by the fact that Tolkien-inspired art doesn't seem to draw a negative response, nor do the orcs and elves in pretty much every fantasy work. In fact, they are constantly creating derivative works from everything imaginable. That's not a new phenomenom either, but has been with us ever since stone-age hunter-gatherers told stories around a campfire.

    No, what you have to do is convince politicians that not criminalizing normal human behaviour is more important than bribes from Disney. That's never going to happen, so let's concentrate our efforts on improving various anonymizing networks like Freenet or Tor that make it easier to ignore such laws. That also has the added social benefit of countering censorship in general.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday April 09, 2010 @08:19AM (#31787946) Journal
    And for the EXACT SAME REASON. That is also why ppl like Ben Franklin invented his stove and then left it in public domain. So that an industry could be started from it. In addition, Walt Disney himself made heavy use of works that had gone into public domain. He likely would not have gotten off the ground except for that.
  • by Xtifr (1323) on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:06AM (#31788298) Homepage

    Why should people who did NOT write the works [...] ever be given control over the copyrights [...]?

    (Referring to heirs.)

    Well, for one thing, it greatly reduces the chances that creators will be murdered so that publishers can get access to their works. For another, it increases the motivation for the elderly and the terminally ill to create new works. I'm all for reducing copyright length, but I tend to think a fixed period is best/safest.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday April 09, 2010 @09:09AM (#31788336) Journal

    What I find illuminating is drawing a sharp distinction between copying and plagiarism. Show those people that they've confused and conflated these two concepts, and they often come around.

    No one sharing a few Beatles songs is seriously trying to claim they wrote those songs, they're only making copies. A lot of people object to removing copyright because they're convinced it protects against plagiarism. Copyright can be used toward that end, yes. But we can protect against plagiarism just fine without copyright and all the other bad, monopolistic things copyright does. I think plagiarism is already covered under statutes against fraud and misrepresentation. But if it makes everyone more comfortable, we can have a law specifically against plagiarism.

    Then, what really is wrong with "fanfic"? Nothing. Unless someone is trying to misrepresent their own work as official, and why should anyone do that? Only to cash in in some way on the name recognition and the copyright monopoly that grants far too much control to the author anyway. If there isn't copyright, that incentive is much reduced.

    Some examples. One is this Harry Potter Lexicon that J.K. Rowling squashed. The people who worked on the lexicon put a lot of time into it, and they got screwed thanks to copyright and this idea that somehow they weren't the victims, that instead they were victimizing poor little J.K. Rowling and making it impossible for her to profit from doing her own lexicon her way, when she saw they were right about it being profitable and changed her mind on letting them do it. Obviously, she's no dummy, and so I guess she was pushed and manipulated into this stance by publishers whose opinions she perhaps trusts overmuch. It goes against her own philosophy as revealed in her works, so far as I can tell. That is, what would Harry Potter do in a similar situation?

    Another example is the huge library of CD track information built up by thousands of fans and utilized by ripping software. Thousands of people each contributed a tiny little bit, but the music industry keeps trying to assert control over such efforts out of a misplaced sense that they really do have some right to every possible potential profit such a collection of info might be able to generate, or might hypothetically prevent them from being able to make somehow. That last is one of the most anti-competitive, bad results possible. The controllers deny a good tool to the public so that their much inferior, cruddy workarounds, if any, can maybe generate a profit that is, frankly, not deserved. It's as if they were granted a monopoly on the horse and buggy, then were allowed to interpret that as a monopoly on all forms of transport, and then opted to shut down the airline, auto, railroad, and river shipping industry so that everyone has to buy more buggies, or walk. And if some enterprising person tries to finesse the restrictions by, say, using cows to pull a buggy, they're vilified as cheaters. There are many people who would seriously argue that Wikipedia should be shut down because it harms the print encyclopedia business.

  • Wait what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 09, 2010 @10:30AM (#31789170)

    Simple laws? Ones normal people can understand and obey?

    We simply cannot have that.

    Sincerely,
    Lawyers, Politicians

  • by eth1 (94901) on Friday April 09, 2010 @10:41AM (#31789308)

    Just point out that with a 20 year copyright term, they'd be able to *legally* download a library of any/every song & movie created before 1990. People older than 30 would be signing up in droves. Might as well make greed work *for* us, for once.

  • by NoOneInParticular (221808) on Friday April 09, 2010 @11:14AM (#31789794)
    Why should relevance have any bearing on the length of copyright. The most important works in human history have near infinite relevance, should they have infinite copyright terms? Come to think of it, you can make a good case that relevance should be inversely proportional to length of copyright.

    Remember, copyright is not there to make profit, it is there to encourage progress.

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