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Old 05-28-2008, 04:28 PM   #1
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Copyright and orphan works

Interesting article & bills 'in process'.

http://www.cpl.org/?q=node/5197
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Old 05-28-2008, 07:13 PM   #2
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Interesting concept. From my quick reading of the bills introduced, they seem to be akin to the Patent & Trademark Office's "use it or lose it" provisions wherein if you fail to use the mark in commerce or fail to protect it against infringement it reverts to the public domain.

Part of this problem stems from the difference in the US of a copyright and a registered copyright. At one time you could assert your copyright by simply including the line "Copyright (c) 19xx by <some name here>" the "(c)" was required to secure the international benefits of copyright outside the US. If you wished to register that copyright you paid a fee, completed a form, attached a copy of the work, and sent the whole thing to Washington, DC. Some time later they sent you back a certificate good for a while with the right to renew for another period when that expired. If I remember right (and I have been wrong before) the initial period was 28 years. Without registering that was all you could get in in the US. Other than by researching it is impossible to tell if the company or person(s) that published the book registered the work.

Since automation came slowly to the copyright office (late 1950s) and then on a transactional basis only, there was not a push to capture the history until the next renewal. Over the years there have been many conversions from one file type to another, from punch cards to tape to disk, and in access languages and schemes. Therefore many of the copyrights have to be manually researched. This involves a great deal of labor expense. Often the possible value of the work is perceived to be less than the cost of this research.

It is an interesting problem.
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Old 05-29-2008, 09:45 AM   #3
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At one time you could assert your copyright by simply including the line "Copyright (c) 19xx by <some name here>" the "(c)" was required to secure the international benefits of copyright outside the US.
Actually, "(c)" is legally meaningless. The ONLY legally recognised versions are:

1. The word "copyright".
2. The abbreviation "copyr."
3. The correct copyright symbol, ©

"(c)" is very often seen as a "substitute" for "©" but it carries no legal value whatsoever.
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Old 05-29-2008, 11:56 AM   #4
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The situation I find interesting is not necessarily 'orphan' works, where you cannot find the author, but a book that is in copyright but out of print without sufficient demand to reprint it (something similar happens with CDs). For example, I do business with someone in Asia that was very interested when I described the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz CDs, which are well within the copyright period, but have been cut from the catalog.

Copying the CDs for him violates the copyright, but the only other way to legally get this series is to find it used. Somehow copyright law should take into consider availability as a criteria ie, as long as the work is available new or has been in the last x years the copyright is valid and enforceable, otherwise the work falls into the public domain. The 'x' could be, for example, 10 years, or 50% of the initial copyright period. After all, the copyright protects intellectual property but is also in part to protect the profit of the copyright holder, but if the work is out of print that 'protection' is somewhat nebulous at best.
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Old 05-29-2008, 12:25 PM   #5
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if i recall correctly, copyright was originally defined as a period of 14 years, after which the work fell into the public domain. this seems like a completely reasonable system to me and would notably resolve such availability of problems as you describe (which i also have encountered and find highly frustrating), among others (and also significantly reduce problems concerning "orphaned" works, which i *also* have recently been in grips with.
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:41 PM   #6
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Disney has mucked up the copyright laws in USA to a terrible extent, in order to prevent The Rat from ever becoming public domain.
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:52 PM   #7
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yes, exactly ; the current system is completely abusive to the public.
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VillageReader View Post
Somehow copyright law should take into consider availability as a criteria ie, as long as the work is available new or has been in the last x years the copyright is valid and enforceable, otherwise the work falls into the public domain.
That's tricky, because there are too many extenuating circumstances, including the rights of the artist. If I create a novel, copyright it, then decide to sit on it for 20 years, why should you be granted the right to just take it from me?

I can't see how availability can be fairly applied to copyright... copyright gives the owner the right to decide how their product is used (or, by extension, not used). Either it is copywritten for a period of time, or it's not.

Sure, it sucks when a product could be made available and isn't... but within copyright, as all laws governing possession, there's really nothing that can be done about that. If I actually owned the Mona Lisa, I could lock it up in my basement, and no law could make me unlock that room for others to see it.
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:23 PM   #9
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I'm fuzzy on my past research. We're not confusing copyright and patent, are we? I know that patent laws were to allow the original inventor a reasonable period to profit from his ingenuity, put after a certain period the patent would expire to allow an invention to become more widely available, inspire competition, lower costs, etc, all for the common good.

Copyright shouldn't work the same way, or does it? I have mixed feelings about the idea of my copyrights expiring after a duration less than my working lifetime... or ever.

Even though most of my words are so arranged as to be nearly meaningless, some are NOT, and I'm very sensitive to how they are used by others. I don't even like Google Adwords, which uses my words to drive advertising, but I tolerate it because I understand the economics of forums. But I refuse to participate in any way on forums that use IntelliSense, which converts words within the actual post into ads... that crosses a line with me.

There are venues and publications that I would absolutely oppose having any of my poems appear within, 14, 20, 50, or 200 years after I wrote the poem. Doesn't matter, I want my copyright to mean something.

Last edited by Taylor514ce; 05-29-2008 at 03:28 PM.
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Old 05-29-2008, 05:19 PM   #10
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Steve, you're taking the existing law in the US as the description of what copyright should be. Which is quite backwards.

Will more people be encouraged to write if they know that they can go to their grave never having allowed anyone to publish their work? Or will more people write if they know that they have 10 years from publication before copyright lapses? I suspect the latter.

More usefully, will more people do fun remixes of existing work if they gain the right to do so 10 years after first publication of a recording? For that reason alone I am inclined to support a "10 years absolute control, 10 years compulsory license" type model. That prevents unreasonable control while paying artists, and means that in the case where someone wants to reproduce a copyright work in the second period they merely have to pay a license fee, there's no negotiation (unless they want a lower fee that the statutory one).
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Old 05-29-2008, 05:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Steve, you're taking the existing law in the US as the description of what copyright should be. Which is quite backwards.

Will more people be encouraged to write if they know that they can go to their grave never having allowed anyone to publish their work? Or will more people write if they know that they have 10 years from publication before copyright lapses? I suspect the latter.

More usefully, will more people do fun remixes of existing work if they gain the right to do so 10 years after first publication of a recording? For that reason alone I am inclined to support a "10 years absolute control, 10 years compulsory license" type model. That prevents unreasonable control while paying artists, and means that in the case where someone wants to reproduce a copyright work in the second period they merely have to pay a license fee, there's no negotiation (unless they want a lower fee that the statutory one).
yes, excellent points ; culture thrives on culture, and the current copyright system is an abusive degeneration of a system which was originally intended to protect artists AND encourage the proliferation of more art. the current system is stifling to everyone but disney and their ilk, and very clearly in desperate need of urgent reform. moz, your suggestion sounds like a reasonable one ; i would definitely support that if it ever came to a referendum.
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Old 05-29-2008, 05:53 PM   #12
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The Wikipedia on United States copyright law appears to be a good summary. For example it says:
Quote:
The purpose of copyright law is to stimulate the creation of as many works of art, literature, music, and other "works of authorship" as possible, in order to benefit the public. The United States recognizes no absolute, natural right in an author to prevent others from copying or otherwise exploiting his work. The copyright laws give authors limited property rights in their works, but for the ultimate purpose of benefiting the public by encouraging the creation and dissemination of more works. The author's interest is secondary to that of the public.
This seems to have been turned on its head in recent years. I don't personally have a problem with a long period of exclusive rights to authors, but it clearly isn't in the public interest for orphan works to be locked up for decades. The problem is how to free up orphan works without over burdening authors. One possibility is for an interested party (e.g. Project Gutenberg) to register a work as orphaned, and if there is no disagreement within a set time for that to take effect. The copyright holder could assert rights later, but the only remedy would be the take down of the (once again) infringing work. I did not read the proposed bills, anyone know what procedure they are suggesting?
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Old 05-29-2008, 06:07 PM   #13
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Even though most of my words are so arranged as to be nearly meaningless, some are NOT, and I'm very sensitive to how they are used by others. I don't even like Google Adwords, which uses my words to drive advertising, but I tolerate it because I understand the economics of forums. But I refuse to participate in any way on forums that use IntelliSense, which converts words within the actual post into ads... that crosses a line with me.

There are venues and publications that I would absolutely oppose having any of my poems appear within, 14, 20, 50, or 200 years after I wrote the poem. Doesn't matter, I want my copyright to mean something.
i can understand not wanting to see your work adulterated in ways that offend you (and i completely agree with you regarding IntelliSense, although i didn't know the name, i hate that system and i will make efforts not even to *read* sites which use it, much less post to them).

however, honestly, do you really think it's reasonable to expect complete eternal control ? forever, even after you're dead ? to say nothing of the material impossibility of guaranteeing that (Emily Dickinson, anyone ?), if that is what you want, then the best option is to burn everything you write, immediately after you write it, and never show it to anyone.

but how sad that would be, to deprive us of your beautiful and / or silly poems. if you had, we probably would never have seen marc's cinquains, or patricia's haiku. squirrelku and haitech would never have been mozzled. don't you think it's infintiely more rewarding, on the contrary, to know that you are enriching an entire culture by publishing your work (because you really have no way of knowing how far it could go), allowing your words to percolate through consciousnesses, inspire other words, sometimes maybe too similar for your own comfort, sometimes so radically different as to be unrecognizeable to yourself ? it's true, you can't control them indefinitely, but they're a little like children, in that way ; you try to raise them right, and hope they grow up to be fine upstanding partisans of absurdity, but every once in a while one of them turns out to be a CPA and drive a hummer or something. that's just life.
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Old 05-29-2008, 06:16 PM   #14
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I never claimed I was being reasonable, or was even stating a "position". My post was the tortured anguish of a mad, mad poet unsure of his place in this world.
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Old 05-29-2008, 06:18 PM   #15
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I never claimed I was being reasonable, or was even stating a "position". My post was the tortured anguish of a mad, mad poet unsure of his place in this world.
take heart, mad and anguished poet ; your place is a vital one. just don't fight it.
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