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View Poll Results: How long should a copyright last?
Current length is good 9 6.43%
Post-death length should be longer 2 1.43%
Post-death length should be shorter 69 49.29%
Fixed length only (state length in post) 36 25.71%
Lifetime only (state length for organizations in post) 24 17.14%
Voters: 140. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-13-2013, 07:35 PM   #1
calvin-c
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How long should a copyright last?

I've been teaching my kids about copyright & we all agree that the current US copyright it too long (basically life + 70 years). The question we can't seem to agree on is how long it should be. What's your opinion?

We're talking about new creations since the length changed (in the US) in 1978. Also keep in mind that there are basically two lengths:

1) life + 70 years for individually created & acknowledged works and
2) the lesser of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation for anonymous works and those 'made for hire' which I believe means the copyright is owned by the employer, usually an organization.
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Old 09-13-2013, 08:15 PM   #2
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I hit the wrong button. I meant to vote for post death link should be shorter. I suppose that's what I get for not paying proper attention. I'm sorry about that.

Last edited by oddly bodkins; 09-13-2013 at 08:15 PM. Reason: punctuation
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Old 09-13-2013, 08:21 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by calvin-c View Post
US . . . (basically life + 70 years)
There are too many exceptions to say that. The works of F. Scott Fitzgerald all public domain in Life + 70 countries but mostly under copyright in the US.

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Originally Posted by calvin-c View Post
The question we can't seem to agree on is how long it should be.
Given the world as it is, or starting from scratch in a new one?

In a new one, I'd say 28 years. This would incentivize great writers to keep producing without much decreasing their income.

But in our world, half the people live in Life + 50 countries, with the other half divided. And we've got the Berne Convention as widely accepted international law. And, while no copyright system will lack absurdities, the Gutenberg.org vs. Gutenberg.ca US/Canada difference is particularly absurd. So I'd standardize on what's most popular, Life + 50.

Last edited by SteveEisenberg; 09-13-2013 at 08:28 PM.
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Old 09-13-2013, 08:41 PM   #4
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None of the above. Works intended for broadcast, exhibition, and publication should be registered for a nominal fee. It should also be mandatory to renew the copyright periodically, and on an escalating fee scale. Once the economic value of a copywritten work diminishes below its value to society or the social value of a work escalates to exceed its economic value, the work would fall into the public domain.
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Old 09-13-2013, 08:49 PM   #5
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Post-death length should be shorter.

Arts (music, writing, making movies, photography...) are one of the very few types of work in which an individual can create something, and then profit from that without doing anything else for their entire life.

Theoretically, it's possible for a writer to write one (1) book at the age of 25, and then finding that it hits the book market like a bombshell. It's a hit, and it *stays* a hit: an instant classic, selling and selling and selling, making the writer a 5 million each year. He does not have to work, ever again, and he will be able to support even his children and/or his grandchildren. All by writing ONE book. (For the sake of argument, assume that this could possibly happen.)

While "normal" people would need to keep working to keep income, I could accept that a writer who creates a hit that big, would profit from that until his death.

What I cannot accept is that after his death at (let's say, 85), his heirs will not only inherit a vast amount of money built up over the span of 60 years, but they will also inherit the copyright, for 2, maybe even 3 generations to come.

That the writer and his immediate family (children, etc) can live off of his works, even if it's only one book: OK, fine. It's his work after all. That 1-4 generations after him can live off of the same work is (IMHO) unacceptable, because these people didn't do *anything* to warrant that.

Copyright should be life-time + 5 years or so, to be able to arrange formalities where necessary, to get the book into the public domain.

Last edited by Katsunami; 09-13-2013 at 08:54 PM.
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Old 09-13-2013, 08:55 PM   #6
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I'm not bothered by the length (life+50 where I live). I'm also not saying it should stay that way. So I didn't answer
I think even corporate copyrights should have the same terms, (life of creator). Before the internet was developed I had to buy books or borrow them whether the creator was dead or not. Still don't get any discounts if I want to go see a Shakespeare play.

Interesting to hear that children are seeing this as an issue.

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Old 09-13-2013, 08:57 PM   #7
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15 years, renewable only by the creator in 15 year increments. If the copyright is active at death, 15 more years. Humans only, except in the case of a trust.
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Old 09-13-2013, 09:30 PM   #8
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I'll comment on posts here from time to time, more so you know that I'm actually reading what you post than from any disputation with your opinions. (I'm also giving your comments serious thought but I think you'll have to trust me on that.)

@SteveEisenberg, I did say we were talking about new creations. I believe all the current exceptions are grandfathered, i.e. the current law doesn't apply to them.
@BWinMill, that's an absolutely interesting idea!
@Katsunami, you're probably right for 90%+ but there are non-art people who create something once & then profit from it forever. How about building a house I then rent out? Of course that incurs maintenance and my children pay inheritance tax when I die-I wonder how the ongoing sale of a creative work is valued for inheritance?
@speakingtohe, I should have mentioned that my children are adults now. I maybe forget this from time to time but never fear, they remind me.
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Old 09-13-2013, 10:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katsunami View Post
Arts (music, writing, making movies, photography...) are one of the very few types of work in which an individual can create something, and then profit from that without doing anything else for their entire life.
I agree with what you're saying, and I'll add a related flaw: under the current copyright model it is also possible that the creator or publisher will never recover the cost of producing the work.

So on the one hand you have creators and their descendents profiting immensely, and on the other hand you have creators or publishers losing money. That is an inherently unjust system from their perspective too.
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Old 09-13-2013, 10:58 PM   #10
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@SteveEisenberg, I did say we were talking about new creations. I believe all the current exceptions are grandfathered, i.e. the current law doesn't apply to them.
New books, old books, to go below Life + 50 means repudiating a treaty that almost all countries are signed onto. That would be a bad precedent.

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Originally Posted by BWinmill View Post
Works intended for broadcast, exhibition, and publication should be registered for a nominal fee.
As soon as one country adopts this fee scheme, then all the others (207 of them at last count) will feel they have to set up their own fee scheme in retaliation. For movie studios or Random House, the administrative details of paying hundreds of nominal fees may not be overwhelming. But indie authors will have a devil of a time with this.

I don't have a problem with saying that, in an ideal world, this or that is what copyright should be. Just don't think we can get to that ideal world from where we are today.

Last edited by SteveEisenberg; 09-14-2013 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 09-13-2013, 11:14 PM   #11
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15 years, renewable only by the creator in 15 year increments. If the copyright is active at death, 15 more years. Humans only, except in the case of a trust.
I like this a lot. I don't think I would include trusts.
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Old 09-14-2013, 12:53 AM   #12
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50 years from the time the copyright is created.
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Old 09-14-2013, 01:17 AM   #13
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I think it's a very complicated question.

Basically I think it should be something like this:

Artistic works - the copyright should belong to the artist until death. If there was a period with renewal system that would be okay as long as the renewal system was simple and the artist was properly reminded that their copyright was in danger of expiring with ample warning (otherwise people could lose their copyrights due to idiotic red tape). Upon their death I think that that the time of copyright should be fifteen years if the artist specifically leaves the copyright to their work(s) to someone. If the artist dies without their wishes being known, maybe due to accidents or whatnot, the family/significant other should be able to claim it for a maximum of five years if there is no evidence that the artist was estranged from the family (I personally wouldn't want most of my family profitting from anything of mine).

For corporations I think it should be based on their investment and their treatment of the creative types involved. But basically that the length of the copyright should somehow be valid until their profits reach a certain ratio in relation to the investment (i.e. 3:1 or 10:1 or whatnot).
For things which are not artistic and "benefit" society, it should be shorter (although this is more for the field of patents).

I also think that if a charity held the copyright to some work(s) they should be able to keep it as long as the funds made from it were not abused (for example if a charity which helped runaway children had the rights to Peter Pan and the income that that generated was used for the children and not to pay "administrative costs" then they should be able to keep it).

Well, that's what I think in a simplified form.
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Old 09-14-2013, 01:41 AM   #14
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I voted "Fixed Length" as a matter of practicality.

I have a couple of copyrighted works, and I appreciate the fact that they are protected, nominally, by copyright. But I don't see the sense of basing that copyright term on my death. To put it bluntly, the vast majority of people in this world don't know me from Adam and will have no idea when I die, or even if I am already dead.

Base the copyright on a length of time following the year of first publication or copyright. Make the term 50 years -- even for stories published in my 20s that would be good protection -- or make it 70 years, if you want. Anyone who finds one of my stories is pretty likely to see the copyright date -- but I doubt Wikipedia or anyone else will keep track of the day I die.

Anyway, this has been a pet peeve of mine for quite some time. Thanks for letting me vent.

Last edited by cromag; 09-14-2013 at 01:44 AM.
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Old 09-14-2013, 02:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BWinmill View Post
... it is also possible that the creator or publisher will never recover the cost of producing the work.

So on the one hand you have creators and their descendents profiting immensely, and on the other hand you have creators or publishers losing money.
When intellectual property goes public domain, everyone still makes money from that work except the author. Only the advent of ebooks has made (some) books free.

But if you walk into a book store, a copy of Melville still costs you money, meaning the publisher is making money, the retailer is making money, the distributor, the printer, and everyone else along the supply chain, everyone except the family of the author.

What other kind of property disappears like intellectual property. If you put money in a bank, buy a bond or shares in a company, or buy land, houses, or gold, all of that persists. You can leave all of that to your estate for the express purpose of benefiting your family. But you can't leave intellectual property, or rather you can leave it with the understanding that it'll vanish when the clock strikes twelve.

I can appreciate why utility patents expire as society has an interest in spreading innovation throughout society. But novels and plays have a different role in society than patents.
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