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Old 08-27-2013, 04:10 PM   #1
arjaybe
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Copyright is too long

Given that the purpose* of copyright is to ensure a good supply of creativity for the public good by giving creators a temporary exclusive right, be it resolved that the term of copyright is presently too long.

* Statute of Anne - Long title: An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.

* The Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution: 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.
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Old 08-27-2013, 05:05 PM   #2
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Preaching to the choir, unfortunately. Even our politicians are aware that copyright is too bloody long. Thing is, they can't shorten it without losing all their precious campaign contributions.
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Old 08-27-2013, 05:25 PM   #3
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What I have never understood is why copyrights can be so long, but patents on inventions are so much shorter.
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:24 AM   #4
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What I have never understood is why copyrights can be so long, but patents on inventions are so much shorter.
Because if you hold the patent on some essential technology you can effectively strangle the market, if you have sole rights to a book or film it's not going to make a blind bit of difference to anything. Same reason there are rules in place saying you have to licence "essential patents" under fair terms, but no one says you have to let them make a film of your book.
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Old 08-28-2013, 07:31 AM   #5
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Because if you hold the patent on some essential technology you can effectively strangle the market, if you have sole rights to a book or film it's not going to make a blind bit of difference to anything. Same reason there are rules in place saying you have to licence "essential patents" under fair terms, but no one says you have to let them make a film of your book.
Materially, yes. Culturally, no.

Culturally, everyone suffers when a book drops out of availability.
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Old 08-28-2013, 07:35 AM   #6
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Materially, yes. Culturally, no.

Culturally, everyone suffers when a book drops out of availability.
Not in every case. Would we suffer culturally if 50 shades became unavailable?
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:23 AM   #7
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Not in every case. Would we suffer culturally if 50 shades became unavailable?
If even a fifth of its copies end up in the secondary market, that's never going to happen.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:33 AM   #8
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I think it is based in the difference between culture and technology.A change in technology affects us all right away, but a change in our culture may take longer. And there is a difference between a book and a new invention. A book is a solo effort by one person (the author) while a new invention is usually a group effort. Even Edison had his helpers when working out the details of his inventions. His wasn't the first electric light, just the first that was practical. Also as far as books are concerned the copyright laws were mostly written long before modern computers were built.
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:04 AM   #9
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A big problem with making a change, is that there is no "right" length of copyright. Reasonable arguments can be made for all sorts of alternative arrangements, as well as for the current scheme. Forcing change from one arbitrary scheme to a different arbitrary scheme is naturally much more difficult than changing from something bad to something good.

In a worldwide economy, there is certainly something to be said for making them consistent between countries, and any changes would likely fly in the face of that.
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Old 08-28-2013, 12:30 PM   #10
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A big problem with making a change, is that there is no "right" length of copyright. Reasonable arguments can be made for all sorts of alternative arrangements, as well as for the current scheme. Forcing change from one arbitrary scheme to a different arbitrary scheme is naturally much more difficult than changing from something bad to something good.

In a worldwide economy, there is certainly something to be said for making them consistent between countries, and any changes would likely fly in the face of that.
Perhaps then, a scheme of copyright shouldn't be arbitrary or based on what sound like good arguments to an uninformed listener.

We've been at the copyright game for quite awhile and there is a big body of research on the economic harm that different lengths of copyright have. A copyright scheme could easily be built that uses that body of research to grant creators the minimal length of time required to encourage them to create (which is the purpose of copyright).

Those saying that it's okay for copyright to be long but patents to be relatively short are missing the point. Copyright isn't a gift from society to creators, it has the functional purpose of benefiting society overall; it doesn't matter that the harm of a long copyright is less obvious, if there is no benefit to the public in having long copyright than it should be shorter as it is not serving its purpose.

Those pointing to 50 Shades of Grey are also missing the point; overly long copyright can limit the dissemination of important works like The Satanic Verses, The Rise and Fall of Civilizations, etc. Just because some books are better off forgotten doesn't mean that we should make all books easier to forget.

Here's an easy example: Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech" is protected jealously by his estate. It's not hard to make the argument that society would be better off in small way if that speech could be disseminated by more people without having to pay a licensing fee.
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Old 08-28-2013, 12:46 PM   #11
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. . . Copyright isn't a gift from society to creators, it has the functional purpose of benefiting society overall; it doesn't matter that the harm of a long copyright is less obvious, if there is no benefit to the public in having long copyright than it should be shorter as it is not serving its purpose . . .
This is what I had in mind. Too often, when I see authors (and other creators) wringing their hands over the abuse of their imaginary property (IP,) I get the impression that they think copyright was created for their benefit.

rjb
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:46 PM   #12
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Perhaps then, a scheme of copyright shouldn't be arbitrary or based on what sound like good arguments to an uninformed listener.

We've been at the copyright game for quite awhile and there is a big body of research on the economic harm that different lengths of copyright have. A copyright scheme could easily be built that uses that body of research to grant creators the minimal length of time required to encourage them to create (which is the purpose of copyright).
A. The purpose of copyright (or expiring them) isn't to minimize economic harm. So while you might be able to come up with a formula that minimizes that value, it is a solution that answers a different question.

B. Again, there is no single answer. The encouragement for creating new works because of the existence of copyright is different for each person, so the benefit is a continuum without a single answer. So any copyright length, as a result, will be arbitrary.

Will a one year copyright encourage me to create? Maybe for me, but not for someone else.

Will a five year copyright encourage more people to create? Sure. Will it encourage me to create? If I'm writing a Harlequin romance, probably yes. If I am spending 10 years to write the next Encyclopedia Brittanica, probably not.

Until you set it out far enough that noone is discouraged from creating, then copyright hasn't completely filled its goal. And where that line is, is unknowable.

C. Just because the U.S. Constitution says "To promote the Progress of Science..." doesn't mean that is the only reason for the existence of copyright. There are plenty of other drivers, both economic and private.

Quote:
Here's an easy example: Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech" is protected jealously by his estate. It's not hard to make the argument that society would be better off in small way if that speech could be disseminated by more people without having to pay a licensing fee.
I'm sure the same could be said about his speech the year after he made it.
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:49 PM   #13
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This is what I had in mind. Too often, when I see authors (and other creators) wringing their hands over the abuse of their imaginary property (IP,) I get the impression that they think copyright was created for their benefit.

rjb
It was. It was created for their benefit, so that we can benefit.
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Old 08-28-2013, 02:36 PM   #14
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I look at this from a completely different perspective. Can anyone name a single important work that copyright prevents me from obtaining in a reasonable amount of time, generally minutes, and at a reasonable cost, generally free?

So the impact is really limited to the legal distribution of works. That's it. Nothing else. So from that perspective, the longer the better; the more incentive it is to create. I personally wouldn't care if copyrights continued in perpetuity, with the stipulation that they must be renewed by interested parties after some reasonable period of time and potentially at some nominal cost.

Orphan works are an issue, but a different one.
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Old 08-28-2013, 02:55 PM   #15
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I look at this from a completely different perspective. Can anyone name a single important work that copyright prevents me from obtaining in a reasonable amount of time, generally minutes, and at a reasonable cost, generally free?
An awful lot, unless you think that the law doesn't apply to you.
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