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Congressional Budget Office Studies Copyrights 117

gorbachev writes "C|Net is reporting that The Congressional Budget Office has published a study on digital copyright issues. The study basically recommends not changing the copyright legislation in favor of any particular stakeholder, including consumers or lobbyists. It's refreshing to see a governmental agency coming out with a study on copyright issues that appears to take consumers' concerns into consideration." Granted, this is merely the CBO, not Congress itself, but it is one of Congress' first places to turn to for information.
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Congressional Budget Office Studies Copyrights

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  • highest bid wins! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by adamshelley ( 441935 )
    The study basically recommends not changing the copyright legislation in favor of any particular stakeholder, including consumers or lobbyists.

    maybe they plan to drive the price tag higher. who ever with the most money wins the law?

    • Table 4-1 titled "Primary Effects of Broad Options for Modifying Digital Copyright Law" is basically the "executive summary". It appears to be very much "in favor of a[ny] particular stakeholder" because of what it does not say. It also seems to think that the market value of an industry should be in steady slow growth in profit. There is less work(cost per unit) in distribution compared to old fashion print & LP's. I would think a slow steady decline in profit would even things out and get a large por
  • That's nice... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:26PM (#9943450)
    ...now how about looking at software patents?
  • duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wyldeone ( 785673 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:26PM (#9943451) Homepage Journal
    The study basically recommends not changing the copyright legislation in favor of any particular stakeholder

    uh, duh? Our government is pretty pathetic if it needs a study to tell it to be fair and balanced.

    • Re:duh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bull999999 ( 652264 )
      I think that the government is a mere reflection of its citizens because it's pretty sad when someone makes a movie about eating at McDonalds and getting fat and the people rave about it.
      • Re:duh? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by xoboots ( 683791 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:17PM (#9943658) Journal
        I think that the government is a mere reflection of its citizens because it's pretty sad when someone makes a movie about eating at McDonalds and getting fat and the people rave about it.

        That's not sad--what's sad is that there is a NEED to make such a movie. Its sad that people can't connect the dots on their own. Its sad how stupid many people are willing to be--even WANT to be. It is also sad that some people truly believe that government is a reflection of its citizens. If that was ever true, it certainly isn't now. For one thing, it assumes that citizens are basically the same and that each wield the same power, which is ludicrous.

      • Re:duh? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by alptraum ( 239135 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @08:22PM (#9944165)
        I never saw the film, however I honestly think it was a good idea, it hopefully awoken atleast a few people to the health risks of eating fast food.

        Now yes, I'm vegetarian and haven't touched burgers and frys and the like in years and you may know better too, but does the general populus know? Obviously not looking at the increasing waist sizes of Americans. Go to sit-down restaurants, the portions have absolutely ballooned in size, most restaurants serve entrees with enough for 2-3 people, and that's just dinner alone, not counting appetizers and desert, I have no idea how people can eat that much.

        To me, it would seem that after a while you would catch yourself, you'd wake up one day and wow, boy am I fat or your health starts to seriously degrade and you'd start thinking about all those Big Macs, but obviously not.

        The obvious, obviously isn't obvious enough for many.
        • Re:duh? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Daniel ( 1678 ) <dburrows@@@debian...org> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @08:48PM (#9944310)
          Go to sit-down restaurants, the portions have absolutely ballooned in size, most restaurants serve entrees with enough for 2-3 people, and that's just dinner alone, not counting appetizers and desert, I have no idea how people can eat that much.

          You're looking at it from the wrong angle. Think "three meals for the price of one". :-)

          Daniel
    • Re:duh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by snarkh ( 118018 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:39PM (#9943507)
      uh, duh? Our government is pretty pathetic if it needs a study to tell it to be fair and balanced.

      I thought fair and balanced was the prerogative of the Fox News channel.

    • Re:duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gid13 ( 620803 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:00PM (#9943589)
      I fail to see how "fair and balanced" equates to "not siding with either consumers or lobbyists".

      As far as I see it, consumers should take precedence in almost all cases, and copyright is no exception.
      • not going to happen, its a capitalist system in place after all. and the old saying that the customer is allways right is no longer valid...
        • The customer isn't right when he's as 16 year old anarchist who likes sticking it to the companies that shell out millions to produce what he likes.
          • Re:duh? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Draknor ( 745036 )
            What's really going to blow your mind is...

            Would he still have liked what he likes if the companies that produced what he likes weren't spending those millions on it?
      • I think that's a scary thought right there. There's far more to this battle than consumers and lobbyists. There are non-consumers, and they deserve just as much governmental protection as consumers.

        If I don't buy a movie, but I want to make use of a short clip of it, I should have just as many rights as a "consumer".

        Then there's that whole "open source" thing, where copyrighted works are produced, but no consumption is involved. There are no consumers, but that doesn't mean open-source copyrights

  • by URSpider ( 242674 ) * on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:30PM (#9943473) Homepage
    The study basically recommends not changing the copyright legislation in favor of any particular stakeholder, including consumers or lobbyists.


    That's not entirely accurate. The preface to the study states that the GAO, by definition, does not make any policy recommendations. Thus, the lack of recommendations in the study does not mean that the data contained in it won't be used by one side or the other to push for change.


    Gotta read those source documents before submitting!

    • by cicadia ( 231571 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:45PM (#9943539)
      To be entirely accurate, the preface doesn't say anything about the GAO. It's the Congressional Budget Office releasing this, not the General Accounting Office.

      Also, regardless of what they claim about making official policy recommendations, they certainly do make recommendations:

      (from the source document)

      Revisions to copyright law should be made without regard to the vested interests of particular business and consumer groups. Instead, they should be assessed with regard to their consequences for efficiency in markets for creative works and other products.

      An inability to make official policy recommendations shouldn't be taken to imply that they can't express any opinion at all.

      • To be entirely accurate, the preface doesn't say anything about the GAO. It's the Congressional Budget Office releasing this, not the General Accounting Office.

        Yeah, my bad. Had a little screw-up with my TLA's.

        An inability to make official policy recommendations shouldn't be taken to imply that they can't express any opinion at all.

        While true, most of the sections in the document say things like, "eliminating fair use could hurt the consumer, but it could also help the consumer by encouraging conte

      • Instead, they should be assessed with regard to their consequences for efficiency in markets for creative works and other products.

        Which says nothing at all.

        One could argue that copyright terms should be reduced to, say, ten years, in order to force distributers of creative works to be as efficient as possible in bringing them to market before the copyright expires, ensuring a broad and rapid distribution.

        Conversely, one could argue that copyrights be extended further so that creators of such work can
  • by rben ( 542324 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:31PM (#9943476) Homepage
    If they had pointed out that copyright terms have been extended to the point where they are ridiculous and that maybe that trend needs to be reversed.
    • If they had pointed out that copyright terms have been extended to the point where they are ridiculous and that maybe that trend needs to be reversed.

      Yes, what 70 years [life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms] after the death of the person who first claimed the copyright?

      Still, it only seems to bother the living, some of whom foolishly allow some great works to go to hell [imdb.com] within years of the creators death.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:32PM (#9943481) Homepage Journal
    CBO examines digital copyright issues:

    Moe: "See anything, boys?"
    Curly: "I don't see nuttin'"
    Larry: "You're supposed to open your eyes."
    Curly: "But if I do, I might see something that upsets me!"
    Larry: "What could upset you?"
    Curly: "Computer mice! Nyuk nyuk nyuk!"
    Moe: "You knucklehead *smek* we're supposed to be finding anything wrong!"
    Larry: "There's nothing wrong with this (holds up fold-out pin-up girl, Miss CBO 2003)"
    All: *wolfwhistle* "There's nothing at all wrong with that!"
    Moe: "Then it's agreed, we find nothing wrong at all wrong with anything, let's leave our findings and get back to painting this room."
    Larry: "Yeah, that committee that left us in charge should be back from their lunch with all those 'good friends' any time now."

    • Three Stooges (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sadly, the Three Stooges are an excellent example about something that should enter the public domain, but never will because of moronic copyright extensions.

      I had a part-time job at Eddie Bauer last Christmas season and worked with 5 or 6 high-schoolers. Whenever I cracked a Stooges joke or quoted one of their famous lines, they would look at me like I had six heads. They all had NO IDEA who the Three Stooges are. Why is that? If you are around my age (mid-30s) your memories of the Stooges are probabl
      • AMC had a couple of Stoog-a-thons during the past couple holidays. I taped them, and have ensured that my kids at least will have had this vital part of their education filled out. ( they loved it! )

        I agree, the copyright extentions and DMCA should be thrown out. But it is more important that Disney keep Mickey

        And who has gone mad with the mod points? Why is the parent at zero? The main point is about copyright, and the parent post is talking about copyright. Its not flamebait. Wassup with this?
  • Good!!! (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by TedTschopp ( 244839 )
    I think that this is a good first step. To be honest, I don't really think that our country is run by a bunch of idiots, I bet they can see the problems they may face no matter which direction they decide to go, this is a good first step in raising the issue to a point for discussion.

    But I probably shouldn't bring all that up, I know the comments people will leave will turn into a anti-political/anti-corporate bashing slugfest. But in the end, I hope people see this as the governments way of starting to
    • Re:Good!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

      They're not idiots- they're just well paid and honest politicians. And we all know what passes for honesty in a politician...
      • Hmmm... No tell me what does pass for honesty amoung politicians?

        If you really think they are dishonest, have you ever voted for any of them? And if so, why would you vote for someone who you find dishonest.

        Ted
        • Re:Good!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

          The only honest politician is the ONE THAT STAYS BOUGHT. Didn't you ever hear that cliche before?

          And the answer to your second question is- because there's nobody else to vote for, at least yet. Eventually there will be- I'm involved in the process of a new political party based on middle class morals and middle class finances- but our website won't be out until November (and our maximum donation limit is $10 per person, $500,000 total for our Presidential Campaign, just to show that we aren't bought and
    • Re:Good!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JOhn-E G ( 643553 )
      I would have to agree that it is a good first step. Let me say that we have a long way to go before we see change, our government isn't exactly fast moving when it comes to structual changes such as this. But if they start looking at it it would be good. In spite of the fact that they decided to recomend no change at least they didn't side with coporations which probably would make it harder for the small developer guy.
  • by harpoon ( 12639 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:33PM (#9943489)
    So what?

    This means nothing, they change nothing and make no concrete recommendations. The merely recommended a "set of principles" with the goal of "avoiding being tied too closely to past practices"

    Speaking of real change check out: On Drawing Lines in Copyright Law [cato.org]
    about copyright, RIAA and the cirsumstances leading to 321 Studio's "Death of a 1000 Paper Cuts"

  • Patents? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaveInAustin ( 549058 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:33PM (#9943491) Homepage
    Can we get a CBO recommendation on patents too? Patents were supposed to give people an incentive to invent. Instead, they are a disincentive. Anyone who actually creates something worthwhile risks being sued for infringement of frivolous patents.
    - Raise the application fee so that the patent office can do a decent job. - Shorten the length of the software / business process patents (better yet, ban them).ation fee so that the patent office can do a decent job.
    - Shorten the length of the software / business process patents (better yet, ban them).
    • Re:Patents? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wyldeone ( 785673 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:46PM (#9943542) Homepage Journal
      <i>- Raise the application fee so that the patent office can do a decent job.</i>
      <p>
      I must dissagree on this count. Raising the application fee puts patenting solely in the domain of the corporate r+d labs. It would keep garage inventors and other small time inventors out of the process.
      • - Raise the application fee so that the patent office can do a decent job.

        I must dissagree on this count. Raising the application fee puts patenting solely in the domain of the corporate r+d labs. It would keep garage inventors and other small time inventors out of the process.

        Well I disagree to your disgreement. Raising patent costs won't stop garage investors from getting a patent on something worth investing in. Say $1,000 to file for a patent. If your idea is worth patenting, it's worht payin

        • Raising patent costs won't stop garage investors from getting a patent on something worth investing in. Say $1,000 to file for a patent.

          Uh, if you actually want that patent granted, it'll take more than $1000, today. The time to get the filing done is worth more than $1000 of labor (and if you don't have and are not an IP lawyer, it'll take longer).

          The fees themselves [uspto.gov]: currently $385 to start and $43 per claim, then $665 when the patent is accepted. Patents can easily have 10+ claims. So we're already
        • It already costs in exceses of $3K, usually very much in excess, to get a patent approved. See this article How Much Does A Patent Cost? [ipwatchdog.com]

          So, lifting the base price from $375 to $1000 isn't that big a deal. Ironically, this supports your original point - garage inventors already need serious investment to get a patent filed. So, patents are pretty much already solely the domain of corporations.

          Furthermore, the problem alluded to in an earlier post in this thread is that all the corporations are patentin
    • I would have to agree, buy raising the application costs, you would start to phase out the garage inventors that our country's technological advances have come from over our country's short history. I'm pretty sure Wilbur and Orville wouldn't have been able to afford tremendous patent application fees, and so some corporation would have stolen their idea and patented it for themselves, reaping all the benefits. Although the patent office wasn't around then, it just shows what type of negative impace that
      • Re:Patents? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Moofie ( 22272 )
        Orville and Wilbur are most emphatically not the poster-children for fair patent practices.

        Their patent on their mechanism for lateral stability (wing warping) was found by a really foolish judge to cover the entire CONCEPT of controlled, powered flight. Glenn Curtiss (who invented ailerons, which is what practically all aircraft use to maintain lateral stability) fought them for years for the right to innovate in the realm of aeronautics.

        The Wrights were greedy, monopolistic hacks. They stood on the sh
        • Glenn Curtiss really doesn't get the credit he deserves for his contributions to flight. It's sad that most school kids know all about Orville and Wilbur (at least the things that make them look good), but none know about Curtiss. Of course, I grew up where he did all of his work, so I could be biased, but not knowing that part of history is disturbing.

          If you get a chance to go on a Finger Lakes wine tour, or any other reason to visit the area, definitely stop by the Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. They
          • You might be interested in a book by Seth Schulmann, called "Unlocking the Skies". It goes into great detail on the Curtiss v. Wright rivalry.

            Basically, the Wrights are buttheads.
        • The Wrights were greedy, monopolistic hacks.

          Greedy, but also overoptimistically pacifist. They tried to prevent the transformation of airplanes into killing machines with their patent.

          They stood on the shoulders of giants, and then presumed to own all the work of those giants. Utterly reprehensible.

          I find the Wright Brothers to be a great example of how patents were often harmful, even 100 years ago. The US government eventually overthrew their patent (by fiat, and without paying them as was legall
          • Err, the first person killed in an aircraft crash was an Army officer the Wrights were showing their aircraft to. They were actively trying to sell it as a military vehicle. This [arlingtoncemetery.net] is the story of Lt. T. E. Selfridge, the first military casualty of an aircraft mishap. Orville was piloting the aircraft, and Selfridge was killed when the wing warped and the propeller broke.

            This article [centennialofflight.gov] talks about the Wrights' courting of the military, without bothering to mention Selfridge's death. Interesting, what? Can
    • Re:Patents? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @09:30PM (#9944572) Homepage
      Raise the application fee so that the patent office can do a decent job.

      No, no need to raise those fees. All you need to do is stop the siphoning off of those fees.

      Polititians found that they could fund unpopular or pork projects without needing to get a new tax passed by skimming "profits" from places like the patent office. Of course any alledged "profits" are then unavailble to pay patent examiners. And of course those "profits" available for skimming can be arbitrarily expanded by reducing the amount paid to examine and process patents. Those "profits" are also expanded by encouraging more patent applications. You can encourage increased applications by increasing the range of what can be patented and by lowering standards to get an application approved.

      -
    • I think people should be required to bid on patents in an auction (including the person submitting the patent).

      Let the market do the due-diligence to determine how much a patent is worth (obviously, an idea with prior art, obviousness, or hard-to-enforce won't be deemed worth much). Patent examiners won't have to be so important using this scheme.

      A few other possible ideas: patents have to be reauctioned every few years of their life, so that each owner has to keep paying for their monopoly, with some kin
  • by thephotoman ( 791574 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:38PM (#9943501) Journal
    There needs to be change. The laws need to be re-evaluated, as they have resulted in eternal copyrights that aim to preserve control over information. This report, however, supports the status quo, which has many issues.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:40PM (#9943513) Homepage Journal
    I would totally agree, if this were published 8 years ago. "Classic" copyright was just fine.

    But I'd recommend rolling back some of the goofy stuff (especially 1201) before I'd call for maintaining the status quo. The status quo is already unbalanced by relatively recent thoughtless meddling.

    • Copyright Classic (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Classic" copyright was just fine

      They coked you.

      In the late 20th century, mankind considered getting rid of copyright, in favor of the "information age." The powers that be, introduce New Copyright (DMCA). Everyone hates it. So a little while later, they can introduce Copyright Classic and totally rake it in, thanks to the nostalgic backlash. Instead of advocating copyright reform or abolishion, you're advocating a return to the old ways. Got you.

  • The only trouble... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:42PM (#9943518) Homepage
    Today's status quo is not good for consumers. Copyright terms are far too long.

    I'd personally like to see a differentiation between corporate copyrights (short) to personal copyrights (longer, but shorter than present).

    Its a sad day when just keeping the current unfavorable copyright laws are considered a "win" by the voters.
    • by adjuster ( 61096 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:29PM (#9943766) Homepage Journal

      Today's status quo is not good for consumers. Copyright terms are far too long.

      I'd personally like to see a differentiation between corporate copyrights (short) to personal copyrights (longer, but shorter than present).

      Copyright takes ideas and works away from general use and duplication by society for the good of the copyright holder-- presumably to the ultimate benefit of society. If we're going to have long terms for copyright, the copyright holder needs to give back to society throughout the term.

      Lots of ideas have been floated-- copyright renewal fees (potentially increasing as the term grows), automatic return to the public domain if works are no longer sold or "maintained", shorter terms for specific types of work, etc. I don't know what the "answer" is, but I think that it's vitally important that these proposals for "revision" to copyright become the fodder of discussion with lawmakers, not just between concerned citizens / geeks on Slashdot .

      Its a sad day when just keeping the current unfavorable copyright laws are considered a "win" by the voters.

      The public needs to be more involved, and better informed. If we, the concerned few, can figure out how to get the strength of public ire behind us-- e.g. if we can really make the public see how evil the copyright cartels are, we might just get somewhere. We need to work to teach the public the truth-- that copyright infringement is not "piracy", that the public's opinion of what copyright should be should define what copyright is, and that there are business models we haven't even thought of yet that can work for compensation content creators w/o requiring the leeches that are the "publishing industry" to exert their "tax" on the system.

    • OT, but how come when you say that, you get modded "intereting", but when I say it, I get modded "troll"?
    • Today's status quo is not good for consumers. Copyright terms are far too long.

      The problem with this reasoning is that almost all copyrighted goods get the vast majority of their sales within a relatively short time. There is actually very little demand for 50 year old information goods, compared to the demand for new and modern content.

      So even if you shortened copyright from 100 to 50 years, it would not add much value to consumers. The vast majority of what people consume is much newer than that. Being
      • However it would also allow creators to use more content freely to create new works based on the old - thus that could affect 'consumers' in general by making more creators able to use material more freely and create more new works - sort of like copyright is intended to work.
      • by Alsee ( 515537 )
        The problem with this reasoning is that almost all copyrighted goods get the vast majority of their sales within a relatively short time.

        No, that is exactly his point. How much profit is there in maintaining a 70 year old work locked under copyright? There just is no justifcation for it. The creation of copyrighted works is funded by profits in the first few years. If it's produced enough profitable within a few years to justify/finance its original creation then it's not likely to ever do so.

        The origina
      • So even if you shortened copyright from 100 to 50 years, it would not add much value to consumers.

        Not to consumers directly. But Artists would benefit. Characters like Superman and Sam Spade would become free, so that new authors can reinterpret the stories they grew up on.

        the value of shortening copyright terms would be minimal.

        That's actually a big part of the argument in favor of shortened terms! Because the creators hardly ever earn much profit past 7-15 years, they won't be losing much to sho
  • by MarsDefenseMinister ( 738128 ) <dallapieta80@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:43PM (#9943526) Homepage Journal
    Given the choices outlined in the news article (do nothing or set government royalty schedules) the current government is going to do nothing, favoring the free market approach. I think that anyone can see that coming.

    I don't think that anyone is afraid of piracy so much that they will accept government royalty schedules.
  • Consumers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:44PM (#9943532)

    It's refreshing to see a governmental agency coming out with a study on copyright issues that appears to take consumers' concerns into consideration."

    It would be more refreshing to be acknowledged by the government as a citizen and not an entity that merely spends money.

    • by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "not an entity that merely spends money."

      Of course you're not! You're also an entity that earns money, which is where the friendly folks at the IRS come in!
  • Just in time, too! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theluckyleper ( 758120 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:45PM (#9943538) Homepage
    So, after Mickey Mouse [findlaw.com] and Sonny Bono [wikipedia.org] have had their pokes, and the DMCA [wikipedia.org] has been enacted... NOW they decide "no more changing the copyright legislation"?!

    Isn't this a little LATE?!
    • by Patrick ( 530 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:15PM (#9943654)
      So, after Mickey Mouse and Sonny Bono have had their pokes, and the DMCA has been enacted... NOW they decide "no more changing the copyright legislation"?!

      Isn't this a little LATE?!

      What, you think Congress was done passing copyright-related legislation? If this recommendation prevents the Hollings bill, the INDUCE Act, Congressional endorsement of the broadcast flag, or any of the other proposals on the table now/recently, it will still be useful.

      I'd love to see the DMCA and the CTEA (the Sonny Bono act) repealed, but stopping future copyright madness is still better than nothing.

      • by adjuster ( 61096 )

        What, you think Congress was done passing copyright-related legislation? If this recommendation prevents the Hollings bill, the INDUCE Act, Congressional endorsement of the broadcast flag, or any of the other proposals on the table now/recently, it will still be useful. I'd love to see the DMCA and the CTEA (the Sonny Bono act) repealed, but stopping future copyright madness is still better than nothing.

        I agree that "stopping madness" is a Good Thing, but we shouldn't be content to "stop madness". We sh

      • I'm just worried people will try to use this report to block the DMCRA.

        -
    • by Aidtopia ( 667351 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:39PM (#9943854) Homepage Journal

      Those of us who are arguing for revisions of copyright law need to stop using Mickey Mouse as the example. Without the Sono Bono copyright extension, Mickey Mouse would not have entered the public domain. The cartoon the Mickey debuted in, Steamboat Willie, would have entered the public domain, not the mouse himself.

      What's the difference? Well, for one, Mickey Mouse is also protected as a trademark. If Steamboat Willie had become public domain, then you could have probably distributed copies of the original cartoon or used small bits of it in a larger work without getting Disney's approval. But you'd quickly be in hot water if you created and distributed a "new" Mickey Mouse cartoon, since Disney could rightly argue that you're infringing their trademark.

      Furthermore, Disney could claim that a new Mickey Mouse cartoon is a derivative of one of their more recent Mickey Mouse cartoons that is still within the copyright period. I suppose this would be a gray area. I've never heard a discussion of how copyright terms apply to a series of works that are derivatives of each other. Certainly the newer works are entitled to their full copyright term even after the original one expires. So unless the hypothetical new cartoon was demonstrably a derivative solely of Steamboat Willie and nothing newer, Disney could make a case.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Having even Steamboat Willie available to freely derive from will be a big help. You can create a piece of art using a trademark so long as you're not using the trademark to sell anything. True, it'd be inviting lawsuits from a known litigious company, but it'd be fun.

        I do think that we focus too much on Mickey Mouse, though. He's not that big a revenue source for Disney. At least not compared to the thousands of other works they are locking up in near-perpetuity that we think of as little more than a
      • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Thursday August 12, 2004 @02:43AM (#9945321)
        Without the Sono Bono copyright extension, Mickey Mouse would not have entered the public domain

        That sentence is incorrect. Words like "Windows" and "Apple" are in the public domain, even though they're also trademarked in some contexts. "Public Domain" is not applicable to trademarks one way or the other.

        you'd quickly be in hot water if you created and distributed a "new" Mickey Mouse cartoon, since Disney could rightly argue that you're infrin

        It's only trademark infringement if you induce consumer confusion as to the provider of a good. Slapping "Not authorized by or affliated with the Walt Disney Corporation" on top will keep you perfectly protected.

        Today unauthorized authors write non-fiction books on TV series like Star Trek or Buffy Vampire Slayer, or software like Oracle and Excel. It's legal for them to use the name of the show/product in their title, as long as purchasers are unconfused as to provenance (and no other copyright infringement is happening, beyond fair use)

        But if the new author refuses to sully his title page like that, then you get into unexplored legal territory. Disney could make the same trademark argument you did, but the author could respond that (a) the company is "Disney", not "Mickey Mouse", and (b) interpreting trademarks that way renders the expiration of copyright meaningless, which was not the intent.

        Back a few centuries when the concepts of copyright and trademark were first created, individual characters of a fictional work weren't trademarked. Now, Mickey Mouse and Luke Skywalker have changed all that (following the lead, actually, of Raggedy Ann)

        I've never heard a discussion of how copyright terms apply to a series of works that are derivatives of each other.

        It's pretty simple, and just as you'd predict. The newer works are fully protected, the older ones are not. For obvious practical examples, look at most any Disney movie. The copyright on Hercules expired 3700 years ago, but that has no effect either on Disney's Hercules or Kevin Sorbo.

        There is a risk, of course. An artist who intends to only derive from the older PD work may inadvertently have taken in concepts from later versions. That could lead to some nasty lawsuits focusing on subtlties. For example, if the Sonny Bono extension hadn't passed, then Superman would be public domain today. But the original Superman couldn't fly (only "leap tall buildings").

        So if the creator of a new Superman story makes him fly, then he's vulnerable... the argument "I decided to add flying to the original version, because it was a sensible change" could work, but it'd enrich both sides' lawyers.
        • Without the Sono Bono copyright extension, Mickey Mouse would not have entered the public domain.

          That sentence is incorrect. Words like "Windows" and "Apple" are in the public domain, even though they're also trademarked in some contexts. "Public Domain" is not applicable to trademarks one way or the other.

          I was referring to a graphical depiction of the character, not his name. His image is trademarked.

          It's only trademark infringement if you induce consumer confusion as to the provider of a good. S

  • by adjuster ( 61096 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:48PM (#9943547) Homepage Journal

    I haven't read the entire paper-- but I did skip right to Section 4 [cbo.gov], to see the "conclusions", and read that in some detail. I love this bit (below), from section 4, describing the "Effects on Equity" in revising copyright law in favor of the copyright holder:

    In the near term, copyright owners would benefit at the expense of consumers. However, if the additional revenues to copyright owners enabled creators to undertake more projects, consumers could also benefit from the greater availability of creative works in the long term.

    Yes-- I'm sure the copyright holders would "undertake more projects". Oh-- and, certainly, those works are going to available in the "long term"-- or at least until they're not so profitable as to be sold anymore, at which time they'll be allowed to "fall out of print", will become unavailable to anyone, and will be "protected" for another 100 years (at which time the media they're stored on, and the compression and encryption algorithms used to encode and encrypt them will probably be vastly outdated and outmodded).

    The public grants copyright as a social contract to the creators of content. It is a CONTRACT, and it "goes both ways"-- or rather, it did, in the United States, under the original terms of copyright set forth in the Constitution. The amalgamation of shit we have today bears little to no resemblence to the "founder's copyright", and is skewed heavily in favor of the copyright holders.

    Copyright is granted BY THE PEOPLE. If we don't like the current copyright system-- if we want to "trade music files", or download movies "P2P"-- if the public really belives that's the right thing, we need to CHANGE THE FUCKING LAW.

    Personally, I believe it's time for the contract to be renegotiated. Public outcry is a good start. Tell your friends, tell your coworkers. Talk to them about the DMCA and the abuses we've all seen. Talk to them about the efforts, past and present, to outlaw digital versions of technologies that are "protected uses" of analog technologies. Talk about "broadcast flags", and "fair use".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sure the copyright holders would "undertake more projects".

      Hell, if anything, overly-long copyrights would *discourage* creators from creating.

      Imagine - you write a one-hit wonder, and know that you will have a steady income from it for the rest of your life.

      Imagine - you write a one-hit wonder, and know that you will have a steady income from it for ten years, but nothing after that.

      Which scenario is more likely to make you create more music?

      • Hell, if anything, overly-long copyrights would *discourage* creators from creating.

        That's what I said. It's called sarcasm... can't you smell it?

      • A friend of mine claims to write music. He has recored about 3 songs a year for the last 5 and he thinks thats a good rate. I looked at how many songs were written by some of the old names in the early days of the record industry and many of them were releaseing as many as 10 week. I'm not sure how the copyright term on songs has had an effect but the early songs were copyright for 27 years and there were more songs produced than now even though its trivial to set up your own recording studio now.
  • by intnsred ( 199771 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @06:55PM (#9943568)
    So the report says do nothing. Ignore the fact that the public domain is slowly drying up as Corporate America constantly lengthens copyrights. Ignore the fact that we have college students getting sued by giant mega-corporations for swapping a song with some friends. Ignore the issues of concern and don't make any major decisions, right?

    So in a nutshell, this report is sort of like the 9/11 Commission's report: "Nothing seriously wrong here, let's just talk about it to placate the public and then the public will go back to debating which Superbowl commercial is better..."
    • by adjuster ( 61096 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:18PM (#9943664) Homepage Journal

      So the report says do nothing. Ignore the fact that the public domain is slowly drying up as Corporate America constantly lengthens copyrights. Ignore the fact that we have college students getting sued by giant mega-corporations for swapping a song with some friends. Ignore the issues of concern and don't make any major decisions, right?

      And that's where we need to come in. If these things really are important to you, talk to other people about them, organize an effort to communicate with your lawmakers, and try to affect some change.

      I speak with anyone who will listen, IRL, about issues of "intellectual property" and copyright. I think we need "Joe Sixpack" to understand that the things he does today, w/ his VCR, aren't going to be possible in just a few years. Cases like the Wisconsin high school 'prom' that gave out burned CD's [usatoday.com] tell me that the public is really under-informed, and there are opportunities for education.

      The RIAA / MPAA / copyright cartels are using this ignorance to brainwash the public into believing that the system as it is today-- the one that force-feeds consumers crap, strips them of their fair use and first sale rights, and defauds artists and creators of their negotiated compensation-- is the only one that can exist. We need to be informing people that current system of copyright isn't "just how it is", and that they have a say in changing it.

    • Ignore the fact that the public domain is slowly drying up as Corporate America constantly lengthens copyrights.

      Corporate America does not lengthen copyrights. *Congress* lengthens copyrights. (ok, often at the behest of Corporate America, but they are two separate entities) Corporate America has, of late, put several proposals on the table for even more egregious grabs of power. This is a report from within *Congress* (remember, the guys who actually have the authority to adjust copyright law) statin
      • within *Congress*

        Hi, pedants. I realize the CBO is not quite Congress, but the point is that this report is a recommendation from within the government to at least temporarily hold up the "copyright über alles" trend in Washington.

        Daniel
  • You can't truss the CBO.

    They come out with numbers that cannot be relied upon.

    Remember Ross Perot's pie charts 12 years ago?
    They were based on CBO numbers and look how wrong they turned out to be.

    They are also behind the myth that the social security trust fund will go bankrupt. A few years ago, they said it would go broke in 2039. Now they say 2047. Next year it will be 2055. It's all based on bogus assumptions of low productivity growth and the senior citizen demographic being completely unwiling/
  • Ok then.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordZardoz ( 155141 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:01PM (#9943591)
    What the study does do is put into reasonably plain english (Or legal jargon that can be translated into reasonably plain english), the likely cause / effect consequences of various legal changes.

    If we do X, then Y is likely to happen, which in turn results in Z.

    Now all we need to do is come up with some sort of copyright scheme that manages to do all of the following:

    1) Provides the best possible benefit for consumers.
    2) Provides the most reasonable compensation for copyright holders.
    3) Causes the least possible harm to copyright holder, consumers, and technology creators.

    The problem with attempts to acheive the above goals, as I see it, is that 'best possible benefit for consumers' and 'least possible harm' is not guaranteed to be something that can be boiled down to a dollar value. Also, ultimately, the reasonable amount of compensation for IP is ultimately determined by the consumers who consume or not consume copyrighted works.

    So while this is far from providing any answers, it does help us arrive at the correct questions.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:04PM (#9943608)
    Found this interesting... the RIAA is the one doing all the suing, legal nastiness, etc... but here's a quote from TFA...

    [i]The gross revenues of the core copyright industries totaled $441.4 billion in 2002 and were distributed as shown in Figure 1-1. Nearly a third of that total ($143.4 billion) came from the newspaper, periodical, and book publishing industries. [b]The music industry[/b], which generated $13.9 billion in gross revenues in 2002, [b]is the smallest segment[/b]. (See Box 1-1 for details on the interpretation of data on gross revenues.) [/i]
    (emphasis mine)
    The "Box 1-1" referred to is here: http://www.cbo.gov/docimages/573801.gif
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:27PM (#9943743)
    They noticed that copyright holders have already gotten "something for nothing" from the consumers with the expansion of copyright terms.

    From the standpoint of equity, the effects of revising copyright law in favor of consumers of creative material would be to transfer control from copyright owners to consumers. However, for some incumbent copyright holders, losses suffered from diminished control over their creative works may already have been compensated, at least in part, by recent legislation that extended the duration of copyright protection.

    --AC
  • by norbert ( 25338 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:31PM (#9943778)
    If you read the article carefully, you'll notice how they stress that the fair use rights aren't really rights and should be decided by courts on case-by-case basis. There is a fairly illuminating analysis of legality of ripping CDs in there for instance. In general the CBO's positions is pretty radical, in my opinion, on the issue of how little is actually protected by the fair use principle (as well as their meandering around the frist sale principle). This goes along the lines of the fair use area of the copyright law being unregulated (as opposed to, say, given by a statute), and while some people think that this is good (say Lessig seems to be of that opinion), CBO, on the other hand, seems to think that this is a good basis to declare these unregulated uses as infringing.

    I think the poster is a little more optimistic about this study than the content actually warrants.

    norbert
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:34PM (#9943816)
    You mean after extending copyright to 70 years past the creator's death, NOW we shouldn't tilt it any more toward particular stakeholders? Gee thanks.
  • by D4C5CE ( 578304 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:39PM (#9943855)
    as copyright has become now that the legal landscape has so brutally been overturned to the detriment of consumers, "The study basically recommends not changing the copyright legislation in favor of any particular stakeholder."
    To put it in other words, "now that the power has been shifted solely to one side, just keep it that way forever."
    Fair and equitable, reasonable and well-balanced, huh?
    Certainly from a pigopolist's point of view, but I'm not so sure about how this status quo is supposed to benefit the rest of "us the people."
  • by TRACK-YOUR-POSITION ( 553878 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @07:40PM (#9943868)
    This totally fails to take into account transaction costs of the legal system and other copyright protections. You can create a legal system that always rules infavor of maximized efficiency--the goal of this paper--but only if you ignore the costs of that system. In reality, the costs of legal representation outweigh the both the value and cost of the vast majority of creative work transactions. If I write a book, and someone sues me for taking ideas from their book, the value of both our books is probably dwarfed by the salaries of the lawyers required to defend our claims. All this talk of "perfect price discrimination" is in economic fantasy land--a world of perfect information and costless legal systems. Indeed, one might wonder if the government economists have a vested interest in ignoring the costs of legal compliance.
    • The transaction costs aren't relevant to the existence of a maxima, only its location. The output of the "maximized efficiency" is decreased by the existence of enforcement mechanisms, but it's still the maximum output. By your logic, legal systems to prevent murder are doomed to failure, too, because lawyers and cops cost too much.

      In any case, the point being made by the report is that maximized economic efficiency should be the goal of copyright law. It makes a good argument that this is so because the

      • The transaction costs aren't relevant to the existence of a maxima, only its location.

        Exactly. And the location of this maxima is "no enforcement at all."

        The output of the "maximized efficiency" is decreased by the existence of enforcement mechanisms, but it's still the maximum output.

        Incorrect, the cost of enforcement mechanisms mean that a different set of rules with fewer enforcement costs could and probably do produce the new maximum output.

        By your logic, legal systems to prevent murder are do

  • by deathcloset ( 626704 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @08:49PM (#9944316) Journal
    Im often guilty of being a bit offtopic, but I'm curious about slashdotters opinions on this.

    Let's say that I create a computer program to compose music.

    Can I copyright the original music it creates? I mean, of course I can, right? - I just submit it as created by me.

    I ask, because it seems to me, theoretically, that I could create every possible permutation of 4 to 8 bar melody (heck lets even go to 16 bar non-repeating). wouldn't that be neat? I could own the copyright to every possible piece of copyrightable music that could be created (well, maybe not EVERY piece, but a whole crapload).

    i suppose my algorithm would need to have the musical notation for every song yet-copyrighted (so as to exclude those possible melodies from generation). But I wouldn't actually need to pay for the copyright on the musical notation for those songs which I am excluding, would I? I mean, it's not a crime to transcribe a song you hear on the radio - so long as you don't preform, distribute or record it. right?

    Imagine a fed ex trailer pulling up to the copyright office with millions of pages of musical score.

    I mean, I could claim me and 10,000 other slashdotters worked together to compose it ;)

    "only 24 hours in a day. only 12 notes a man can play. "

    • I mean, of course I can, right? - I just submit it as created by me.

      It's even easier than that. There's no formal submission process anymore. You just publish it anyplace (maybe to Google Groups or archive.org), so that in the future you can demonstrate the date you did the song.

    • If you program a computer to create a copyrightable work, then yes, you can copyright the results yourself - provided it was your computer, and you wrote the program without infringing any other copyrights.

      However, I don't believe the "infinite monkeys" argument would be upheld by any reasonable judge. Amongst other things, you'd have to get people to listen to all of your generated music, otherwise they'd be able to claim parallel development. Since this would take hours, most people will not be prepare
  • >>The study basically recommends not changing the copyright legislation in favor of any particular stakeholder, including consumers or lobbyists.

    Why should they change a system that already overwhelmingly favors their corporate masters, regardless of the cost from chipping away at the foundations that this country was built on? Besides, the US Constitution is all but dead and forgotten. The US goverment bears almost no resemblance to the founding government, to say nothing of its principles.

    The ide

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