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Consumers vs. IP Owners: The Future of Copyright 415

Posted by Zonk
from the time-to-buy-the-white-album-again dept.
conJunk writes "The BBC has a thoughtful article about new challenges in copyright. The problem: The rights to the audio recordings of the Beatles first album will expire in 2013. While consumers stand to benefit from competing releases of the materials, the copyright owners are of course terrified. And the artists? This one doesn't even seem to affect them."
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Consumers vs. IP Owners: The Future of Copyright

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  • Whats the problem? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AuMatar (183847) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:42PM (#14746228)
    Thats the entire point of copyright- a limited monopoly in exchange for greater incentive to produce. It is expected to eventually run out. The problem here isn't that its going to run out, the problem is that its been over 40 years and it hasn't run out already!
    • by Rei (128717) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:50PM (#14746274) Homepage
      Surely you jest. As any child could tell you, it is critically important to the well being of our democracy that songs like The Happy Birthday Song [snopes.com] remain copyrighted until at least 2030.
    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:50PM (#14746279) Homepage Journal
      Thats the entire point of copyright- a limited monopoly in exchange for greater incentive to produce.

      But it's not an incentive to produce. Prior to copyright law content creators had to keep creating to feed themselves, whereas the system we have now says, "Create a winner, milk it for the rest of your life."

      • by AuMatar (183847)
        I don't disagree. I was stating the argument for copyright. I think that a short (2-3 yr) copyriht might work, the current system is ridiculous.
        • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m ail.com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:14PM (#14746430)
          I think a 2 or 3 year copyright is rediculously short.

          If I could freely get any song or movie (and you can be sure that people would post online mirrors of DVDs and CDs) in just 3 years, I don't know if I'd every buy another one during the time of protection.

          The situation with software is different because there are (sometimes) actual productivity gains from newer versions. But you can bet that I wouldn't buy the latest copy of Visual Studio unless I was doing something in C# that needed generics (2003 works well enough), wouldn't buy Office, wouldn't buy Photoshop (not that I have it now), etc. With a 2-3 year span, that's barely the release cycle. You think you see compatibility problems now? Wait until software companies REALLY have to force you to upgrade.

          I *really* don't think I'm in the minority here. I'm perhaps a bit more patient than some would be with regards to the movies and music, but stuff that's more than 3 years old are still big movers in stores.

          The original copyright term was 14 yr, renewable once. I personally think that this is about as short as you should get, and I like the idea of protection for the life of the author or an equivalent term for companies.
          • by ackthpt (218170) *
            I think a 2 or 3 year copyright is rediculously short.

            Rediculously, as opposed to Greendiculously or Bluediculously.

            Let's face it, some films don't even make it to the screen but are marketed straight to DVD. Most popular music is going to see it's highest percentage of payoff in the first year, declining over time with only spurts when it comes back to public conciousness, as an old song in a movie (i.e. Satchmo's It's a Beautiful World, revived in Good Morning Viet Nam)

            Films are in the theater and t

          • by Jason1729 (561790)
            I *really* don't think I'm in the minority here. I'm perhaps a bit more patient than some would be with regards to the movies and music, but stuff that's more than 3 years old are still big movers in stores.

            Actually, you are in the minority. Look how many people see movies in theatres and pay $25+ for 2 people to get a single viewing. They can wait 3 months and buy the DVD for $15 or rent it for $3 (a savings of 88%). Yet millions of people still go to the theatre for most movies, and 10's of millions
          • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:43PM (#14746563) Homepage
            No, not really. It's a bit short, but not ridiculously so.

            Most creative works have no copyright-related economic value at all. Slashdot posts fall into this category; no one is publishing compilations of their best posts and selling them because they'd never make money at it.

            Of the small fraction of works that have such value, the value usually is front-loaded. That is, the vast majority of all the value the work will ever have is realizable right away. For example, a movie makes most of the money it will ever make from theatrical releases on opening weekend. When it hits pay-per-view, it again makes most of its money on the first weekend. Ditto for when it becomes available to rent or buy. The amount of money that can be extracted later on typically declines, and is pretty small compared to the initial amount. We're talking about 70-90% up front, you see.

            Of course there are exceptions, but remember that they are tremendously rare. It is foolish to design copyright policy around aberrations. For an author to make a work like that is on par with winning the lottery. They would make a lot of money even with short terms. We don't need to help them. Rather, help should be tailored around the needs of more common artists. After all, copyright is a subsidy in the form of a monopoly on commodity goods and it's just dumb to give subsidies to the people that need them the least.

            Some studies have been done as to the economic life expectancy of works. IIRC, the number tends to be 10-20 years. For some works, such as software, I can easily imagine the number being a lot shorter.

            Life terms are totally unacceptable. They make the system unpredictable: author A could have a copyright that lasts fifty years, and author B could have a copyright that lasts one. Adding yet more time doesn't help. And as already noted, the economic worth to authors is usually minimal. The CTEA extension was valued on average at about a nickel, IIRC, and that was 20 years more. Better to have a fixed length term (or better still, to make it granular with many short terms that need to be renewed) so that artists know that there is a time limit, and the public can anticipate the regular release of works into the public domain and act accordingly. (E.g. you can run a business when you know that you can reprint a book in 20 years, but you can't when it could be any damn time in the future)

            Long copyrights do not help provide for artists in their old age, or for their families, except in the rare cases mentioned above (in which case it is almost certain that the author already got a lot of money). This is because old copyrights are usually not valuable. If artists want to be secure in the future, they should rely on the same things everyone else relies on: savings, investments, pensions, social security, life insurance, etc. Not only is it more fair, but artists have far, far better odds of being better off with these things than betting that their book will still sell very well decades in the future and against all odds.

            Long copyrights as a widows and orphans fund is as irresponsible as giving them scratch off lottery tickets would be. The only people who do tend to come out well are the ones that got rich right at the beginning, and they don't really need our help to become much more rich, do they? They're not going to be struggling in their old age, unless they're crazy irresponsible, right? Why are we treating them specially then?
            • by bersl2 (689221) on Friday February 17, 2006 @08:09PM (#14746728) Journal
              Of course, when you look at the history of the current copyrights, you'll see that the Berne Convention was written at the behest of one author, Victor Hugo, who was displeased that other people could publish his works outside of France, because copyright was not recognized internationally.

              I agree that copyright should be recognized internationally, and it should be bestowed upon creation of a work, but I also think that the life + 50 was a completely unnecessary unilateral money grab (even then), unopposed by anyone, because no one knew how important this would all become.

              If anybody could give some cited insight into the history of copyright pre-Berne, or even point us to something peer-reviewed, that would be very helpful.
              • Yeah, I know about Hugo.

                It is poorly organized, but there are copies of prior US federal copyright laws (and colonial laws, and the Statute of Anne), here [ipmall.info].

                As for vesting, I think that it should be more like patents. Upon creating a work, you can get a copyright, but that window of opportunity swiftly expires. Thus, authors that don't care (such as most of us here vis-a-vis our posts) can take no action and no copyright will ensue, but authors that do care can engage in a token action so that they are identi
            • Slashdot posts fall into this category; no one is publishing compilations of their best posts and selling them because they'd never make money at it.

              I seem to recall Jon Katz doing just that several years ago, with everyone's posts. I doubt the book sold many copies, but still....

      • Powerball (Score:2, Interesting)

        by shmlco (594907)
        Walk into your local bookstore and look around. Now tell me what percentage of those tens of thousands of titles do you think is a "winner" that will stay in print and that the author will be able to milk for the rest of their lives? (Hint: 5% is way, way too high.)

        And some people can win the lottery too. The vast majority of us, however do not. Most of the authors in that store will do well if they're able to make their car payments. Even when one does hit, such arguments ALWAYS seem to ignore the amount

        • Nice Exaggeration (Score:2, Informative)

          by ackthpt (218170) *
          The bottom line is the for every King or Clancy there are 100,000 other writers who just get by. Same for musicians. But your line is that we need to demolish the system because someone has the potential to hit the Powerball.

          More like there are a few hundred to each big success. I don't see too many Foyles [foyles.co.uk]-sized book shops around the cities I visit most, to accomodate the millions of starving authors to go with Clancy, King, Rowling, Pratchett, Crichton, et al.

          What you rather shamefully overlooked is fo

      • Exclusive right to intelectual work, like copyright and patents, should be gave for just enough time to incentive the creation of the work.

        No one can tell exactly how much time is it, and it may depend of the kind of work are you doing and how you can profit from it. But one thing is sure, with the great improvment of the communication and logistics, that time is much lower than it was when those "50/70 year" laws were created.

        But the law makers still don't want to realize that.

        The problem is that copyrigh
      • by stedo (855834)
        the system we have now says, "Create a winner, milk it for the rest of your life."

        Which amounts to an incentive to create a winner

      • by deblau (68023)
        Prior to copyright law content creators had to keep creating to feed themselves

        Propaganda. Prior to copyright law? You mean, before the Statute of Anne [wikipedia.org] in 1710, when the government was so unable to control the publishing industry that they had to pass a law giving the rights to the authors? At that time, the authors had no real rights. Or do you mean before the monopoly granted to the Stationer's Company [wikipedia.org] in 1556, when older authors could remember a time before the printing press? Before that, the church o

    • Haven't they already extended the limits on copyright to satisfy Disney's desire to retain control over a certain cartoon mouse?

      • by cei (107343)
        The article is on British copyright law regarding audio recordings specifically.
        • by MrPerfekt (414248)
          You can bet US media companies would jump all over this if the UK did extend copyrights. There'd be a "see, another country did it!@#" whine from the industry and of course, the heavily financed politians would bow immediately.

          This is just freaking ridiculous. When will it end if copyright just keeps being extended? It quite frankly never will. It's ludicris to think that the creator of something _needs_ to be able to make profits on that something for over 40 years, even 20 years is pushing it. 40 years is
    • The problem is... I must getting really fricking old since I have a copy of that album....
    • by russ1337 (938915) on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:23PM (#14746476)
      I'd like to see some rich dude state the following in his will:
      - Use all the billions of dollars left in the estate to buy the rights to as much music as possible
      - Re-release all that music under a Creative Commons licence, allowing full use (essentially setting it FREE!!!)
      - Set up a P2P sharing network to allow those CC hits to be shared, and request donations per track (suggesting 5c per song), Also have Google ads embedded in the app (just tiny ones)
      - Use the donations and ad-funds to generate more $$$ to buy the rights to more music
      - Repeat from step 2

      BTW. The above is patent pending...
  • by Matt Perry (793115) <perry.matt54NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:43PM (#14746229)
    It's highly likely that copyright in the USA will be extended again by then. History tells me that much.
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:43PM (#14746230) Homepage Journal
    To get the laws changed. More than enough time. Ask Disney.
    • The problem is, they were so heavy handed recently with the DMCA, and heavy handed action against file sharers, that they've turned a lot of people against copyright. It's a lot harder to justify an extension on the grounds that everyone's for it when you have a lot of people who are reasonably organised and informed telling you that it's a bad idea. The dogmatic matra of the media cartels doesn;t work so well when you have people willing to point out how wrong it is.
  • Who owns the song? (Score:4, Informative)

    by HardCase (14757) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:46PM (#14746249)
    And the artists? This one doesn't even seem to affect them.

    Naturally - they still hold the copyright on the lyrics and music. So the performance moves into the public domain, but that doesn't mean nearly as much as the copyright status of the lyrics and music. Nobody will be performing songs from "Please Please Me" for free. But royalty payments for the album itself will dry up.

    Of course, a lot can happen in seven years.

    -h-
    • Naturally - they still hold the copyright on the lyrics and music.

      Well, actually, Michael Jackson and Sony [snopes.com] own the copyrights on most of the Beatles' music.

      So, when the copyright extension issue comes up, ask this: "Do you want to put more money in the pockets of a man who sleeps with little boys?"

      • Well, actually, Michael Jackson and Sony own the copyrights on most of the Beatles' music.

        They own the copyrights of the performances, not of the lyrics and music.

        And, for what it's worth, it looks like Sony will own MJ's half of the catalog soon.

        -h-
        • No, Michael Jackson and Sony do in fact own the publishing rights to most of the Beatles catalog (aka, music and lyrics). This includes sheet music, printing of lyrics, and royalties for covers performed.
  • by LiftOp (637065) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:47PM (#14746262) Homepage
    ...in 95 years. Or, perhaps, the very selfish assume they will be dead and no longer receiving royalties.

    Just wait. The Bottled Head of Paul McCartney's gonna be pissed!

  • Not "owners" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slavemowgli (585321) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:48PM (#14746263) Homepage
    Please, stop using the words "owner", owns" etc. when you're talking about copyright and similar things. For that matter, please stop talking about "intellectual property", too - there is nothing here that's property or being owned.

    What copyright *is* is a time-limited monopoly granted by the state, with the expectation that you will use this incentive to create stuff that society as a whole benefits from; it's not and never was supposed to be a never-ending money making machine.

    Using words like "property" and "own" to describe copyright just reinforces the (wrong) idea that copyrights should not ever run out in the minds of the general, uninformed public.
    • But "owner", "owns" and "property" are pretty good words to use to describe intellectual property. For example:

      From "I don't own this apple" I can deduce "I don't have the right to give this apple to my friend"

      Similarly from "I don't own this music" I can deduce "I don't have the right to give this music to my friend"

      There is a wide range of analogous statements where ordinary intuitions about your taboo words carry over and give reliable intuitions about IP. Admittedly we have problem cases like:

      "I took th
      • Re:Not "owners" (Score:4, Insightful)

        by egburr (141740) on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:32PM (#14746516) Homepage
        Similarly from "I don't own this music" I can deduce "I don't have the right to give this music to my friend"

        Wrong. From "I don't own this music, but I do own this copy of the music" I can deduce "I have the right to give this copy of the music to my friend, but I do not have the right to copy it and keep a copy when I give it to my friend. I also have the right to let my friend listen to my copy of this music. I also have the right to let my friend borrow my copy of this music. I also have the right to sell my copy of this music for whatever price I set if I can find someone willing to pay that price."

    • Please, stop using the words "owner", owns" etc. when you're talking about copyright and similar things.

      Precise discussion about law uses words defined in the letter of the law. The statute in question, 17 USC 101 [copyright.gov] et seq., defines and uses the phrase "copyright owner".

      • by David Rolfe (38) on Friday February 17, 2006 @08:41PM (#14746880) Homepage Journal
        Precise discussion about law uses words defined in the letter of the law. The statute in question, 17 USC 101 et seq., defines and uses the phrase "copyright owner".

        This important distinction bolsters the grand-parent's point (well regarding the term intellectual property at least). One may own the copyright to a piece of creative work, but one does not own the idea. (Of course one may own any expression fixed in a tangible medium, because then we are talking about property.)

        There is no property in expressions and ideas. The term "intellectual property" is loaded in terms of public debate.

        I'm not debating your valid point that copyrights can be owned and have owners in the same sense that any monopoly may be owned and traded.

        Anyhow, if we're going to go with the language of the statute we're all going to stop saying "IP holders", "IP owners" and "music owners" and start saying "copyright holders" or "monopolists" (or "exclusive, time-limited rights holders"). Well that will never happen, because the moderators of public debate are the monopolists (i.e., corporate media). YAY!
      • by twitter (104583) on Friday February 17, 2006 @08:52PM (#14746931) Homepage Journal
        Quote a little more next time. While he might be confused by the publishing industry, Congress is not. Here's your definition: "Copyright owner, with respect to any one of the exclusive rights comprised in a copyright, refers to the owner of that particular right.

        They own the copy right, not the work. The right is the exclusive ability to duplicate the work. A right is never property, even when it's artificially created by the state and may be traded for real property. People get confused about that, which lends to the disgusting coporate welfare known as perpetual copyright. If you can own a song, like a bag of marbles the ownership should never end. Your government is not yet so asinine as to say a song can be owned.

        Indeed, Congress does not even believe in "Intellectual Property". While the terms occurs some nine times in the definitions and scope you cited mostly referencing a 2002 law which is named that way. There is no definition and, hopefully, never will be.

      • by thisissilly (676875) on Saturday February 18, 2006 @12:23AM (#14747701)
        Which is a sad state of affairs. When I was a kid, people talked and wrote about the "copyright holder", not "copyright owner".

        Copyright is a limitted monopoly, granted by the public. If you are given one, you get to hold it for a number of years, after which, the monopoly is disolved, and the work becomes part of the public domain.

        At least, that is how I remember how things used to be. I am sure whoever sponsored changing the language from "holder" to "owner" was intentionally slanting the language in this war of perception, much like the push to stop calling things "infringement" and instead "theft".
    • Re:Not "owners" (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)
      since it is granted by congress, and congress use the term Intellectual Property to describe Patens, Copyright and trademark, it is in fact, a proper term.
      Point in fact, copyright does state that one owns the rights to that work. So yes, owned and owns are perfectly valid.

      "with the expectation that you will use this incentive to create stuff that society as a whole benefits from;"
      incorrect.
      It is a way for the creater to make money for a limited time. Releasing it back to the public domain is what enhances t
      • Re:Not "owners" (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Karzz1 (306015)
        "OTOH, if it is considered property, should we add a property tax to it?"

        While I think you were being sarcastic, you make a valid point here. Are copyrights/trademarks/patents considered property to the IRS? If not, why not? Why would a company who profits directly from these assets not have to claim them as property when doing their taxes?

        While I realize the implementation of such a system would be difficult at best, how is it that these companies have managed to avoid paying taxes on their "property"?
    • You are entirely right.

      It's amazing how we went from 'holder' to the ivory tower of 'owner'.

      Copyright is not enumerated by the constitution as a permanent property right, though others would like to create one in their minds.

      The other posts above are tools for those who want to endlessly extend copyrights. The public needs to demand that they receive something in return for granting of the *temporary* monopoly, rather than giving a free handout to people who are not even the original artists.

      No matter how m
    • "Intelectual Work" (IW) is a better word than calling it "Intelectual Property".

      Someone may have exclusive rights over a IW, but they don't own it because that rights have, or at least should have, a specific time duration.

      Calling it a property expose (or impose, just depends of how much times you repeate it) and idea that right never expires.
  • Duration (Score:4, Informative)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:48PM (#14746264) Homepage Journal
    While consumers stand to benefit from competing releases of the materials, the copyright owners are of course terrified. And the artists? This one doesn't even seem to affect them."

    Which is one of the reasons Disney was among those who fought tooth and nail to get copyrights extended to 70 years after the creator's death. Now they've re-acquired the rights to the first character Walt created and lost to someone else, back when he was paying his own dues.

    Of course it's rarely the dead guy who cares about making more money, it's those who feel some eternal sense of entitlement.

    Just imagine where we'd be if Mozart's works were still held by his heirs. Back in his day after the initial performance works fell to the public domain, which was to encourage the creator to be more productive. Now we have a system where the same tired crap gets dragged out for years and years and someone build theme parks around it.

    When was the last time Mickey Mouse actually appeared in an original cartoon or film?

  • by Overneath42 (905500) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:50PM (#14746275)

    Limited copyright is an essential element to maintaining a consistent creative human spirit. By allowing works to be protected for a limited amount of time, the artist can comfortably turn some profit on their creation. But by allowing that protection to lapse, another creator can pick up the work of the original artist and manipulate it, turning it into something different. The whole of human creativity depends on building upon the works of others.

    It's pretty frightening to think about the incredible lengths that IP holders are going to these days to increase the length of copyright ever further, all in the name of limited, short-term profits. They represent an immeasurable threat. Think about it: if copyright never expired, where would the motivation to innovate come from? There would be none, if you could indefinitely profit from one or two ideas.

    Free Culture [amazon.com] by Lawrence Lessig has some very enlightened analysis on this subject.
    • phrased another way: extending the length of ip creates a little more financial wealth at the expense of a much greater amount of cultural wealth

      irrationally long terms of copyright extension creates a situation where a company gets a few more bucks, and our entire culture suffers for the sake of that

      common sense copyright periods is a balance between the need to reward innovators, and the need to provide future innovators with material to work with

      the current ip environment is shortsighted in that it destr
    • Although I don't believe in copyright at all, I would like to point out that even if a copyright is given forever it doesn't mean that profit on a single idea would continue indefinitely. The motivation to make a NEW idea is still there, its just going to come from someone else.
    • The whole of human creativity depends on building upon the works of others.

      That may be true to an extent, but I don't necessarily see that it has anything to do with copyright.

      If I wrote a story about two young lovers whose families were feuding and they ended up killing themselves, anybody would recognize that as a take on Shakespeare. The question is: If "Romeo and Juliet" were copyrighted right now, would I be infringing on its copyright?

      Seems to me that a copyright protects a specific expression,

    • Melancholy Elephants (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dcclark (846336) on Friday February 17, 2006 @08:20PM (#14746790) Homepage
      Think about it: if copyright never expired, where would the motivation to innovate come from?

      I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it yet, but Spider Robinson's excellent short story Melancholy Elephants [onthecommons.org] discusses that exact idea. Its point is that, if copyrights are extended indefinitely, we eventually smother our own creativity.
  • This year marks fifty years since Elvis' performance of Heartbreak Hotel [wikipedia.org] was released. It's not like this comes as some sudden surprise, though - recall the dozens of Elvis re-release compilations a few years back? Expect the same treatment for all the sixties classics in the next few years, as every last cent of cash is wrung out of them before they're finally, grudgingly handed over to the public domain.
  • by gvibes (579654)
    Please Please Me was published in 1963 - that would make the expiration of the copyright in 2057 in the States, right?

    OTOH, the point is likely moot anyway, as copyright will be retroactively extended as soon as Mickey Mouse starts getting near entering the public domain again. Damn you Sonny Bono!!! Oh...

  • by TheAxeMaster (762000) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:52PM (#14746292)
    I like how they did that thing that news is supposed to do, you know, where they tell the whole story, without the spin. Anyone in the US remember that? no?

    50 years still seems like a lot to me. I don't see how it would need to extend past maybe 25-30 years. There are very few bands that are still active at that point and even if they are, they make money from concerts still, reguardless of CD sales. If the record label hasn't sucked enough money out of the general public in 30 years, the band wasn't good enough to begin with.
  • According to this [keytlaw.com], pre-1978 works had their copyright extended to 95 years from the date the copyright was first secured. This was done via the 'Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act". Why would works copyrighted in the 1950's or 1960's be expiring in the next decade?
    • The Beatles is a British (ans in England, Europe) and united states law does not (yet) mean anything here.
    • Wow, that makes me feel really, really old! I just barely remember getting a then-current Beatles album as a present as a small child -- Magical Mystery Tour, I think it was. Now, we have Slashdotters who don't even know that the Beatles were British.

      That generation gap is a devil bitch, eh?

  • what about the rights of individuals and citizens to transmit their culture? (aka 'media' or 'IP' - you know, the stuff that gets copyrighted)

    wait ... i'm not a citizen, i'm a consumer/taxpayer

    i exist to provide revenue streams for corporations and governments ... which no longer exist to fulfill social needs like useful goods or services, but to perpetuate their own power

    Damn you Marx !! How could you let us down like this ??!!

    /rant

    long week in the cubicle forest. i'll shut up and go home now ... and

  • Compromise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tlosk (761023) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:56PM (#14746323)
    The most reasonable compromise I've seen suggested is to have them expire by default, but allow extensions for a fee. Making available all the out of print works that would languish in obscurity otherwise, while still allowing the truely valuable properties to continue.

    But I would like to suggest one further refinement that would make it fair, any application for extension would automatically make ownership revert to the original creator or their heirs. Forty or fifty years ago when the rights were signed away it was under a framework that the rights were of limited duration. If they are going to continue in perpetuity, then fair selling price needs to be renegotiated.

    • Re:Compromise (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroillini&gmail,com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:23PM (#14746473)
      The most reasonable compromise I've seen suggested is to have them expire by default, but allow extensions for a fee. Making available all the out of print works that would languish in obscurity otherwise, while still allowing the truely valuable properties to continue.

      I agree, but where do we place the price point? Even if it's a million dollars a year, giant corporations like Disney will gladly pony up.

      I propose that once the copyrights expire (no more than 35 years after initial publication), the fee to renew for one year is $1.00. Then the fee doubles for every year after that.

      So if Disney wanted to extend copyrights an additional 35 years, they would be paying $2^33, or $8.5 billion, for the 35th year. That doesn't even count the $4.3 billion they paid for the 34th year, or the $2.2 billion they paid for the 33rd year, or...

      Nothing like exponential math to "promote productivity." Hey, we might even reduce the national debt!
      • Might just be a low, manditory, derivitive works fee. So I'd do it something like this:

        You create a work, it's automatically copyrighted to you for 10 years. You get complete exclusivity and control as you do now. After 10 years it falls in to public domain unless you register and renew. When you do that you've two choices: Extend it for 10 more years, with the same exclusive control but then no more extensions after that ever. Extend it 25 years with manditory licensing, with another 25 year extension perm
    • I like the idea of a fee. I like the idea of a sliding fee better...

      50% of all revenue made from the work during its copyright to date. And that extends it for 10 years or so, then you have to pay it again, updated for the revenues of the previous ten years, of course.

      It becomes a gamble, then... Can I make more than 50% of what I did in the last 28 years in the next ten years? If not, there is no reason for a company to hoarde what should be considered the pubic's right.

      It gives a financial reason to a
    • The most reasonable compromise I've seen suggested is to have them expire by default, but allow extensions for a fee.

      First, as others have noted, copyright is the compromise, if you can call it that. The default situation is for copyright to not exist at all. Ideally, copyright should be totally one-sided, favoring the public. Artists will tend to benefit as well but that's not the goal (much like a working dairy farm exists to produce milk, and as a secondary benefit the cows get to not get eaten).

      Second,
  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Friday February 17, 2006 @06:56PM (#14746326)
    The Constitution reserves for Congress the power to secure "for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    A lot of copyright problems would obviated if this were enforced as written. The Beatles' works for instance would be controlled by Sir Paul and Ringo. Mickey Mouse would be in the public domain because his inventor and author is dead. Bands, not labels, would control their music. Inventors, not IP holding corporations, would control their inventions.

    You cannot sign away your inherent legal rights--no matter how many contracts I sign with you, it does not allow you to act fraudulently or negligently toward. Imagine if copyright worked the same way--if it were illegal to sign away your copyright. A lot of bullshit would be avoided IMO.
    • Well I'd be out of a job. My employer would see no reason to pay me for something that they have no right to and that I could simply give to a competitor whenever I wanted.
    • But also lots of stuff wouldn't been made either. It would work for things where it's reasonable to assume one person or a very small group of people can create something (like music, books, paintings), but it would be a huge nightmare if this would apply to things where hundreds of people participate. For example a movie like Shrek, imagine if a couple of modellers own the copyright of the Shrek model, but other own the copyright of the Donkey one... it would be a huge legal nightmare trying to negotiate t
    • Why not? In the US we got rid of things like the fee tail in order to ensure that property could be conveyed around freely, and thus reach its greatest potential. If you have property that cannot be transferred then it will only be exploited to the degree that you yourself have the resources to do it. It's unlikely that you can exploit the work for all the possible value, and unlikely that you can convince someone else to help you unless there's something in it for them. If you want me to invest a hundred m
  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnifar i o u s.org> on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:01PM (#14746351) Homepage Journal

    This about those who would treat copyright as a pure property right vs. those who don't. Almost everybody who wants copyright treated as a pure property right doesn't create anything. They are a publisher or corporation who aggregates the copyrights of all its employees, or some other entity concerned with the accumulation of coprights.

    Accumulating an asset that has a built in time when it becomes utterly worthless is a very unpleasant proposition. It is much nicer and more convenient to treat the asset as some sort of durable good like a box of bolts or something. In fact, copyright has the potential for being the perfect asset since it doesn't decay at all!

    But, the people who do create know that being able to create relies on a rich environment of ideas to draw from. Treating copyrights as a pure asset destroys that environment and creates an environment where the only things that get created are those the primary holders of copyrights are willing to allow to be created.

    It really irritates me when I see the word 'consumer' when I hear talk about copyrights. There are no 'consumers', there are people. Everybody writes things and says stuff, and many people sing or dance or make up silly lyrics or any number of things.

    This isn't about 'consumers', those incredibly dumb entities that eat products and shit cash. Casting it as that kind of a fight is inane.

  • Drowning in media (Score:3, Interesting)

    by G4from128k (686170) on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:08PM (#14746391)
    I wonder if short copyright terms hurt other artists (i.e., not those whose copyright has lapsed) in indirect ways.

    To me, the current world is drowning in media and choice. In many ways, media consumption is a zero-sum game. I can only listen for so many hours per day. Current iPods hold upwards of 1,000 hours of music -- you can listen for 8 hours a day and only hear the same song 3 times a year if you want. This massive supply of music makes each track less valuable.

    Think of it this way. When my iPod has 15,000 songs, is the 15,001st song worth that much? For the most part that 15,001st song must be worth far less than $0.99 and maybe less than a penny. Sure, I may have a few hot favs that command a premium but, by and large, an iPod's worth of music provides all the fresh (or relatively fresh to me, that is) music that I could ever hope to listen to.

    Short copyright terms help flood the market with large volumes of cheap music and current recording artists will find themselves competing against inexpensive copies of old, great songs.

    As a consumer, I want music to be plentiful and cheap. In contrast, an artist wants music (including music created by others) to be rare and expensive.
    • Re:Drowning in media (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hyc (241590)
      As an artist, I want music to be *relevant to a listener*. When you have 15,000 songs on your iPod, you're not my audience any more, you really are Just a Consumer.

      There's what, 6 billion people on this planet now? Nobody will ever write a song that all 6 billion people love. There will always be a market for good music of multiple genres, because people are different and have different tastes. The fact that contemporary music today hits Platinum sales records is an extreme anomaly, directly resulting from
    • No, not really.

      Here is a list of bestsellers in the 20th century. I doubt that you'll recognize many works or names that aren't pretty recent. This is because the main thing authors compete with are not old books, they're new books. Everyone wants to read the new Harry Potter, rather than the old Tom Brown. Novelty tends to drive sales. And old works which were quite popular for a time tend to fade not only in the face of newer works but also because they may not have been all that great anyhow.

      I mean hones
  • by blibbler (15793) on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:15PM (#14746436)
    I know that there will be a lot of anti-recording industry comments on here, but it is clear that their main interest in extending the copyright period is to protect us from low quality Beatles compilations. Consider the irreversable damage that could be caused to children if their first experience of the Beatles has the songs in a less than ideal order.
    Please think of the children.
  • He wear no shoeshine he got toe-jam football
    He got monkey finger he shoot coca-cola
    He say I know you, you know me
    One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
    Come together right now over me
  • michael jackson (Score:2, Informative)

    by rjmars97 (946970)
    doesn't Michael Jackson own the publishing rights to the Beatles lyrics? so its not just Paul McCartney that has a stake in trying to extend the copyrights
  • I don't know why it's so hard to conceive of a system wherein a created work is owned by the creator until their death, or ten years, whichever is longer (so that the heirs of an artist who suffers an untimely death less than ten years after releasing a work can still reap some benefit.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:34PM (#14746528)


    In 1790 Congress passed the Copyright Act, which set the period of a copyright at 14 years, with the opportunity for the original author to renew for a second 14 years if he was still alive. This law existed unchanged for the next 100 years. The feeling of the original lawmakers, who were, incidentally, the same people who wrote the Constitution for the most part, was that copyrights and patents encourage authorship, science, and industry by providing a limited monopoly to authors and inventors. This monopoly was required to expire after a short time so that the public could then reap the benefits of these new works in their turn. There was, therefore, a balance between the good of encouraging authorship and invention with a limited monopoly, and the good of public ownership after a short period of time.

    Since 1890 Congress has seen fit to extend the term of a copyright eleven times. It has gone from a maximum of 28 years in 1790 to the life of the author plus 70 years currently, or 95 years if the ownership is corporate. The issue that prompted congress to enact all of these extensions had nothing at all to do with encouraging invention, art, or science, and everything to do with the fact that valuable corporate properties such as the copyright for Micky Mouse were due to expire. The clear and unequivocal result of this Congressional effort is that the public suffers by not being able to freely access and use works that would have long since become public property under the intent of the constitutional framers . . . and the corporate copyright owners maintain their lucrative legal monopolies. There is no question at all of public benefit here, only corporate subsidies at public expense.

    http://breakthelink.org/Costs.php [breakthelink.org]
    • I'm not sure which is more sad - the fact that the copyright has been extended so many times, or that consumers are stupid enough to continue paying for the material (I'm not advocating copyright infringement, I'm merely suggesting that people keep their money, and let the copyright "owners" keep their material).
  • Public Geo Data (Score:3, Informative)

    by NumbThumb (468496) <daniel&brightbyte,de> on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:39PM (#14746546) Homepage Journal
    On a related note: if you are in the EU (and maybe even if you are not), you may want to sign the petition for public geo data [publicgeodata.org]. Apperently, there is a proposal [inspire.jrc.it] considered by the EU that would make geo data collected by public agencies no longer free to use.
  • I don't really see why folks are so bent out of shape about copyright when we already live in a world where all of the decisions regarding producing and consuming copyrighted material are voluntary.

    As a content producer, I am free to waive copyright on anything I produce. As a content consumer, I am free to avoid copyrighted material. Nobody is being compelled to do anything they do not want to do.
  • Yestarday (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gromius (677157) on Friday February 17, 2006 @07:51PM (#14746613)
    Yestarday, all my copyrights expired so far away
    Now* it looks as though they're here to stay
    Oh, I belive in royalty pay


    *thanks to Evil Mega Corp (c) lobbying agency
  • This will scare you all. Currently, due to a bizarre and rather alarming interpretation of copyright law with the common law tradition in New York, it seem that Capitol Records (the holders of the sound-recording copyright to the beatles back catalogue) have won a landmark victory which means that in the US they have copyright FOREVER on the beatles music. Yes Forever. Read more at Groklaw here [groklaw.net]... this has distressing implications and shows that the record labels will do anything to hold onto that monopoly....
    • You're off, by a little bit, anyway.

      First, this lawsuit only has application in the state of New York. Naxos can continue to sell these discs in every other state. Second, Naxos's claim was that because the discs were PD in England, so to were they in the US, which isn't quite correct.

      I understand they found their own, truly PD masters in England, but the performance in the recording is still copyrighted in the US.

      The reason this is even an issue is because congress got a little lazy with copyright rewrites
  • But we had a DEAL! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Artist/vendor gets a government-mandated monopoly for their created work, and it is protected in law, for a limited period of time. It is a grant from the government/people. This protects the effort that went into the work, and lets the creators of it make more money from it than they would have otherwise, giving the incentive to create more.

    Once that time expires, it is time for the artist/vendor to pay up on their half of the bargain: the work passes into the public domain.

    You should not be able to rene
  • by Peaker (72084) <gnupeakerNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @08:05PM (#14746707) Homepage
    As copying becomes easier, copyright becomes a heavier burden on society.

    As copying becomes easier and digital processing becomes more of a commodity, creation of new materials becomes easier, thus requiring less of an incentive.

    So as the years pass by, you would expect copyright terms to shorten and perhaps even disappear (Who knows? Maybe we have already reached a state where an artifical incentive to create is no longer necessary). But for some odd reason, copyright terms get longer and longer. The camel's back is already breaking, and in many countries, copyright lost society's respect entirely.

    Currently, the difficulty in enforcing copyright is a huge release on the stress copyright is forming on the society, but if the new DRM technologies are successful, this release will also be blocked - and I anticipate an explosion. Perhaps a positive one, because it will almost surely result in the abolishment of copyright.
    • wow that sounds cool, there will be no more new music, new software, new movies, new tv shows, ever again. great plan buddy. I spose you assume that creative people dont need to eat?
      get real, the ease of copying creative works means that copyright is MORE important now than before.
      I guess you dont work in a job where you create anything digital or easily copied, because your plan makes you a homeless tramp...
  • by Mistshadow2k4 (748958) on Friday February 17, 2006 @08:23PM (#14746804) Journal

    Copyrights on songs by the Beatles are about to run out but Robert Jonhsnon's lyrics [deltahaze.com] are still copyrighted? Robert Johnson died during the 1930s and his works should be public domain but apparenlty aren't. And who owns the copyright anyhow? It damn well can't be his heirs because he didn't have any (legitimately that is... you know how bluesmen are). Is Robert Johnson's work relevant now? Ask Eric Clapton [ericclapton.com]. And since they aren't RJ's heirs why should they have the copyrights anyway? I mean, I can understand Janie Hendrix having the copyright to Jimi's work but someone unrelated to him decades from now?

    As to the Beatles copyright holder being terrified... too bad. Want to make money? Do something! I haven't been living comfortably off something someone else did for decades, why should you? Why should anyone be able to do something like write a song or a book and live off it their whole lives when the rest of us can't live off a few months of work our whole lives? That's why the entire system is completely screwed. I don't know how many times every day it's pounded into our heads "think of the artists" but if they've made plenty of money off of something already why should I care? Not only that but some corporation can apparently just take the copyright to a dead man's work and keep it out of the public domain decades after it should've passed into that as well. The original 14 years is plenty of time and no one but the heirs of someone should be able to have the copyright after their death. It may be legal but as far as I'm concerned this is just copyright theft.

    Think about that the next time someone calls file-sharers thieves. Legally, a corporation can own the copyright long after the person who made the work is dead. They can legally steal from us, the people, but we can't legally steal anything back.

  • by Megane (129182) on Friday February 17, 2006 @10:49PM (#14747407) Homepage
    I'll still have to buy the White Album again.
  • by greginnj (891863) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:10PM (#14747468) Homepage Journal
    Finally a story that BeatlesBeatles should have submitted, and he's nowhere to be seen.
  • The Horror! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday February 17, 2006 @11:55PM (#14747600) Homepage
    the copyright owners are of course terrified

    Why, yes. And I'm terrified that my subscription to Motorcyclist is going to expire. And I'm terrified that my insurance policy will expire. Don't they realize that now I'm going to have to spend more money to get new magazines and spend more money to get renewed coverage? Shouldn't I just be able to buy some terminal product once and continue to benefit from it forever, even if I know going in that it will expire? The evil insurance company is just trying to get out of their responsibility to cover me forever once I pay them once.

    Evil lying bastards, twisting the soft, smooth brains of our politicians. You know what spurs innovation in music? I mean beyond experience, suffering, love, anger, pain, joy, and a burning need to create that won't let actual musicians not make music? Short-term copyrights that require entertainers and labels to make an ongoing effort in order to earn a living. A couple million dollars for "Oops I Did It Again"? When the money comes that easy, I wouldn't put any more effort into it than she does.

    You want musicians to put blood, sweat, and tears into their music on an ongoing basis? You want them to put the same dedication into their jobs that we do? Make them work for a living. Cut copyright to five years.

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