Notes on a more rational copyright system
After some discussions last night (on another thread with Ms. Zelda_Pinwheel), my pea brain came up with a different slant on how copyright should be organized. It's guaranteed to annoy everybody involved, so please save you brickbats until I'm finished.
There are two great annoyances of current copyright law (US or the various flavors of Berne). First, the tendency of big corporations to lobby (that's the polite term) to get extensions to the copyright length so they can treat their intellectual property as a perpetual (real) property, rather than as a wasting asset. Second, what to do about "Orphan" copyrights. ("Orphan" copyrights being I.P. that are under copyright, but there is no way to track down the copyright holders.) Could these be fairly fixed, within the conceptual structure of copyright? I think so.
Copyright law has a twin, called patent law (which handles inventions). It started out very similar to copyright law, but the vast changes to copyright law (from the above first reason) has made it very different. Among the major differences, patent is limited to 20 years total (no extensions), and even during the 20 years, the holder must pay fees on a pre-defined, rising schedule to the patent office in order to maintain the validity of the patent.
My idea is to graft the fee structure of the patent system into the copyright system. Grant the initial copyright period of 20 years at the modest fee of today. After the initial 20 years are up, you must pay an addition fee every 3-5 years to maintain the copyright. If you don't pay, it goes into public domain. The fee is <not> fixed, but rises with every renewal period. Once the original copyright owner dies, the fees (and fee increases) go up 10 fold. (Dead people don't create, which is the purpose of copyright in the first place.) If a copyright is owned by a corporation, the fee scale is <much> higher, and rises with every renewal. If a corporation declares bankruptcy, either chapter 7 <or> 11, all copyrights revert to the public domain.
But here's the sweetener. As long as you keep pay the rising schedule, you can keep the copyright. No length cap. But the schedule keep rising to the point where cost of maintaining the copyright stops being economical.
There are no "Orphan" works in this system. Either somebody pays the fee, or the work is in public domain in 3-5 years (after the first 20 years). If you want to contact the copyright holder (say to reprint something), the copyright office has a contact point not more than 3-5 year out of date.
"But this is forcing taxes on creativity!" D__n right! Inventors have been paying it for 200 years, most real property have been paying it for even longer. What makes copyright so special .
"But I want to maintain my copyright, but my works aren't selling!" Shrug. Nothing is stopping you from paying the fee schedule, and maintaining your copyright. You just don't get it free anymore. Your choice. (People lose house for not paying property taxes.)
Copyright become a profit center for goverments, giving them more tax money to spend. (This keeps them interested in keeping those fees up, just like tobacco taxes in the US. Heh, heh, heh)
So ladies, fish, and gentlemen, start your comments.....
Last edited by Ralph Sir Edward; 05-31-2008 at 10:50 AM.