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EU Copyright Reform: Your Input Is Needed! 154

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the public-domain-needs-a-bit-of-help dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The European Commission has finally (as of last month) opened its public consultation on copyright reform. This is the first time the general public can influence EU copyright policy since fifteen years back, and it is likely at least as much time will pass until next time. In order to help you fill out the (English-only, legalese-heavy) questionnaire, some friendly hackers spent some time during the 30c3 to put together a site to help you. Anyone, EU citizen or not, organization or company, is invited to respond (deadline fifth of February). Pirate MEP Amelia Andersdotter has a more in-depth look at the consultation."
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EU Copyright Reform: Your Input Is Needed!

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  • Abolish it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao&hotmail,com> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @12:08AM (#45884917) Homepage

    No, seriously. Copyright does more harm than good. Just get rid of the whole damn thing.

    Obligatory reading. [ucla.edu]

  • by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @01:39AM (#45885269)

    So suggest that the EU should harmonize their nations' laws by using the 50 year TRIPS limit. The EU can do with without renegotiating any external treaties. Few works over 50 years old generate significant revenues, and longer terms just keep many works orphaned and forgotten, rather than in the public domain.

    This is an OK suggestion, with the caveat that the TRIPS limit should be a limit cap, not the actual limit, since the effect of setting it to the TRIPS limit would be immediate and incessant lobbying to raise the TRIPS limit. This is a likely outcome of setting the TRIPS limit as a cap as well, but then there would be no obligation on the part of the EU to raise their limit, should such lobbying be successful.

    Assuming this is done, there should also be a proviso that, should the TRIPS limit be lowered, that the EU limits are also automatically lowered, while any raises in the limit should require explicit EU legislation to match. So if the EU "harmonizes" to 50 years to equal the TRIPS limit, then the TRIPS limit goes down to 40 years, the EU automatically goes down to 40 years, and if the TRIPS limit is then jacked back up to 50 years or higher, the EU remains at 40 years, low watermarking the EU limit.

    This would set a de-facto worldwide standard of 50 years. The US, with its much longer terms, would then be the major exception, and would be under pressure to reduce its copyright term.

    This is highly unlikely; the two California Senators with the most power in regard to U.S. Copyright law are strongly incentivized through campaign contributions from the movie industry bodies (MPAA, et. al.), and, to a lesser extent, since it is less localized to California, the music industry.

    In other words, there would be about as much pressure on the U.S. to lower its limits as there is for Disney to put Mickey Mouse in the public domain, and about as much as there is on the current WIPO to lower the TRIPS limits -- which is to say "effectively none".

  • by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @01:46AM (#45885301)

    Please add these provisos:

    (1) If a work is explicitly placed into the public domain, then it receives indemnity protection equivalent to that provided by the BSD two clause license, so that authors are not *required* to keep a work out of the public domain and place a license on it in order to obtain a legal "hold harmless". Most BSD licensed software, for example, would have been placed in the public domain, rather than licensed at all, if it were not for the need for the author to disclaim legal liability.

    (2) If a work is placed in the public domain, it shall not be legal to place it under other terms; it remains in the public domain in perpetuity. You can't just take a public domain work and slap a license or DRM on it; for example, a book placed in the public domain can not be converted to a DRM protected eBook format which would prevent further dissemination of the work (e.g. no grabbing Joseph Conrad from Project Gutenberg and making it non-redistributable).

  • Re:Abolish it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @02:17AM (#45885391)

    Just because politicians are corrupt asshats doesn't mean that the idea of politics and government is a bad one. Likewise, just because copyright is broken doesn't mean we should get rid of it either.

    We should fix it.

  • by chrismcb (983081) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @03:32AM (#45885605) Homepage
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/07/31/why-does-amazon-have-more-books-from-the-1880s-than-the-1980s-blame-copyright/ [washingtonpost.com] claims there is a SIGNIFICANT drop off of books on amazon after about 20 years. So it appears that something in the range of 25 years (at least for books) is a fine length of time. I don't see why that wouldn't work for any other medium.
    Any period of time that is longer than the average lifetime of a human, isn't really limited.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @04:55AM (#45885847)

    Your numbers sound reasonable, but to me they suggest something more like an upper bound on how long protection should last, not necessarily a target.

    I believe copyright is best treated as a purely economic tool; it may have some desirable side-effects like giving credit to artists or maintaining confidentiality, but these are usually better treated as separate issues IMHO. On that basis, the job of copyright is to provide sufficient economic support to allow reasonable financial returns to be generated from creating and distributing useful works.

    So, if a AAA console game has made 90% of the revenues it will ever generate today after the first few weeks, or a Hollywood blockbuster makes 90% of its revenues within a couple of years because that's when cinema showings, DVD releases and first runs on broadcast TV happen, then a period of perhaps five years from first public performance might be sufficient.

    On the other hand, something like a school textbook can be very labour intensive to produce in good quality, but might bring in substantial revenues over several years if it can be adapted to produce slightly modified editions suitable for different national markets, not all of them necessarily available immediately in the first year of publication. A period as short as five years might cause a sharp reduction in returns in this case, potentially meaning it's no longer worth putting in the effort to produce a good textbook and corners get cut instead. This clearly isn't a desirable outcome if our goal is to promote the creation and distribution of good quality works, so maybe longer protection is needed in such cases to maintain sufficient incentive.

  • Re:Abolish it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @05:04AM (#45885879) Homepage Journal
    Hmm. I copyright my resume to prevent dumbass recruiters from scraping it off the internet and submitting it to companies. So far that seems to be working pretty well (I haven't had to threaten to sue anyone yet.) It makes a difference because companies will typically not consider a direct application if they've already seen the same resume from a recruiter. Having the copyright notice puts recruiters on notice that I will sue the bejsus out of them (at the salary under consideration times the number of years on average I stay with a company times triple damages for intentional copyright infringement.) I think I'd have a pretty good chance of winning that, too.

    I think some tweaks could be made to the legal code without discarding it completely. You could set it back to around the original term -- 10-20 years of a legal monopoly on the work in return for it being released into the public domain at the end of that time would be fine. I'd also set it up so that if you wanted to be eligible for any additional damages for infringement, you'd be required to register a DRM-free version with the Library of Congress, which will be released at the end of the copyright term. And under no circumstances could copyright ever be used to prohibit you from using hardware you purchased and own for whatever purposes you wanted to put it to. Under my regime.

    Since politicians like money and the current copyright holders will deliver large briefcases of cash to them to prevent their little racket from being up-ended I really doubt this is much more than a dog-and-pony show before the back-room fuck-and-suck starts between the politicians and the political donors. By the time they get done I'm sure they'll have dismantled anything contributed by The People.

  • Re:Abolish it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slaSLACKWAR ... com minus distro> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @11:06AM (#45888079) Homepage

    Copyright is supposed to be a contract between the people and those who would produce such works... A contract should have both parties give something in exchange, and a fair exchange is far more likely to be respected by those involved.

    However copyright as it exists today is not a fair exchange. The original concept has become extremely corrupted by the greed of a very small number of large publishers.
    Copyright terms are ridiculously long, to the extent that we will all be dead before any content being made today enters the public domain, and when that eventually does happen most of the content will have long been forgotten, or be unreadable due to drm schemes or degraded/obsolete media.

    Also why should someone be paid for some work they did 50 years ago, or even worse why should someone be paid for work their parents did 20 years before they were born? An honest day's work for an honest day's pay is fair - being continuously paid for the rest of your life and that or your children for work you did years ago is ridiculous. Want to provide for your children? Save or invest your money like everyone else has to.

    Copyright today does not enrich the public domain, it provides no benefit whatsoever for 99% of people which is why people won't respect it.

    Move back to a fair system. Give users the content on reasonable terms without trying to make them pay multiple times for the same thing, release it into the public domain while people are still able to remember it and people might actually respect the system.

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