Copyright: Author’s Life plus 70 years


Okay, so I had some amusing conversations about my post on copyright laws; but first..
 
One of the main bits of feedback I received was that if I write about more controversial topics I might gain a greater reader following.  To heck with that, I’m still gonna write about inane topics.. It’s not like I’m making any money out of writing a blog anyway.  Having said that (or typing it anyway), I am going to try and pick a side of the fence on issues I write about to see if I can get some form of dialog going (via COMMENTS).
 
So, back to the first bit.. Following up on the copyright post from earlier.  The current copyright laws give copyright durations of author’s life (however long that may be) plus seventy years. 
 
Thus, should I create an awesome cash cow item of intellectual property or creative design today (say, something to rival "The Simpsons"); I can live happily for the remainder of my life without any cares in the world regarding legal protection (asserting my legal right as the author to receive royalties for my work) and make as much money as I can off my work.  Excellent.  No debate here with that. 
 
Authors deserve to earn a living off their creations.  Now, not only would I make money my whole life this way, but my ancestors or whomever gained the rights to my work after my unforturnate Tony Montana (Scarface) style death, would also be guaranteed the same legal protection and assertion to gain royalties for seventy years after my death.  "Say hello to my leetle friend"..
 
Here is where I take issue.  It’s actually not the duration (although I think seventy years is a bit extreme) – it’s the fact that the duration is extended whenever a coroprate entity is at risk of losing copyright over a cash cow (e.g. Micky Mouse, ala Disney).
 
If ideas and concepts (rightly copyrighted) never get into the public domain it stifles innovation.  Imagine where modern cinema would be if every production had to pay royalties to the estate of William Shakespeare?  Since copyright is a very modern concept (really not more than 200 years old), you won’t see the negative effect it has for a number of years to come – but come it will.  The inability to reuse and improve ideas will start to affect the quality of our movies, TV shows, publications and our social culture.
 
Keep in mind this doesn’t in any way take away an author or artists’ right to profit off their work, nor does it impact the author’s immediate family or potentially their great-grandchildren, either.  This is about the removal of key content from the public domain *forever*.  Should copyright ownership be forever??  I say NO!
 
This is a really crucial issue and it doesn’t get an iota of the attention it deserves.  If you don’t believe me (why not?), listen to copyright specialist and Stanford professor Laurence Lessig.  Here’s a quote from one of his recent books:
 
"As pointed out by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig in ‘Free Culture’ (Penguin Press, 2004) most creative art, as well as technological innovation, has been derivative. (Mickey Mouse, Lessig points out, was based on a Buster Keaton character. For most of U.S. history, this was possible because works entered the public domain quickly and often. Yet during the past 30 years, Congress, under pressure from such lobbying groups as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, has extended copyright protection further and further, to the point that now anything from a piece of software code that could be used to create the next Google to a poem that could be put to music by the next Schubert, would be excluded from the public domain for 70 years plus the life of the author."
 
From an article here
 
I know that I’ve not well constructed an argument against copyright in perpetuity (which, is basically what is happening) – read more about what ‘Public Domain’ constitutes and why this is important by taking a read of the Wikipedia page on it, here.
 
In closing, for god’s sake if you think I’m wrong add a comment.  If you agree with me add a comment.  If you don’t care for the topic at all, add a comment.  Let’s start talking about this topic, even if it’s casual banter.


About Rob Sanders

IT Professional and TOGAF 9 certified architect with nearly two decades of industry experience, 18 years in commercial software development and 11 years in IT consulting. Check out the "About Rob" page for more information.

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