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The Almighty Buck The Media United States

Forbes on Lessig and Eldred 214

scubacuda writes "In the Forbes editorial, Fact and Comment , Steve Forbes voices his support for Lessig and the Eldred case: 'Maybe Congress should just be done with it and declare that a copyright is forever....Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig has proposed a sensible compromise..."[I]f Congress is listening to the frustration that the court's decision has created, [paying to maintain copyright extensions] would be a simple and effective way for the First Branch to respond." He's absolutely right.'"
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Forbes on Lessig and Eldred

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:41PM (#5520131)
    In fact, Lessig was trying to argue the fact that since they keep extending it, it basically it is forever. The reason they can not do this is the Constitution specifically says a "limited time." Forever is not a "limited time" by anyone's definition.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, noone is going to declare it forever because that would cut the revenue stream for the politicians as steady donations from the corporates are given everytime the copyright is exten-dead.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      How about "until hell freezes over"? :)
    • by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:56PM (#5520427) Homepage
      Didn't you hear about the Disney amendment? Congress sold^H^H^H^H passed it last year!

      "Amendment 28: Article one, Section eight shall be amended to read as follows: To promote the profits of corporations, and to fight the evils of terrorism, the exclusive right of authors and inventors to their respective writings, recordings, video and audio discs, and discoveries shall be guaranteed in perpetuity.

      Additionally, article three, section three shall be amended as follows: " Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort, being a terrorist or drug dealer, or by violating the patents and copyrights of any corporation. No person shall be convicted of treason except upon the secret testimony of the Attorney General or his deputies."
    • The Supreme Court also declared that Congress can't just keep extending things in perpetuity by a series of legislation and that a future Court on observing this would have the right to step in. They just said that we haven't got there yet.

      Forever is not a word that has to be used in the legislation for it to run afoul of the 'limited times' clause.
  • Sweet! (Score:2, Informative)

    by KDan ( 90353 )
    Let's hope they actually listen to that. That proposal, to have copyrights expire unless some token amount is paid in (ie someone clearly takes an interest) would put enormous amounts of material into the public domain. It would be brilliant!

    Daniel
    • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evil_mojo_jojo ( 554131 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:45PM (#5520145)
      Yes, but doesn't this spawn yet another "industry" of professional copyright maintainers? Sort of like domain name squatters?
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tony-A ( 29931 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:00PM (#5520219)
        Yep, and you tax the hell out of it.
        There is a fundamental difference between cheap land that you develop and make productive and cheap land that is just left sitting there.
        There is a sort of poetic justice if a book that is out of print is also out of copyright.
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Master Bait ( 115103 )
        Right. And since this plan doesn't put any cash in any Congress Critter's campaign fund coffers, there's no motivation for Congress to make it law.
        • Right. And since this plan doesn't put any cash in any Congress Critter's campaign fund coffers, there's no motivation for Congress to make it law.

          How about extending the compromise a little further then. In order to get your copyright renewed you must get a representitive to champion your work. And with a limit of one work per year per congress woman you effectively will get market adjusted rates for copyright renewal. The "fee" would no longer be cash, but influence. You can buy influence with bribes, b
      • by jms ( 11418 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:24PM (#5520312)
        Yes, but doesn't this spawn yet another "industry" of professional copyright maintainers? Sort of like domain name squatters?

        It wouldn't create freelance copyright squatters. If I were to pay the copyright fee on, for instance, Star Wars, that would not give me the right to the Star Wars copyright. It would merely extend George Lucas' copyright.

        However, it most certainly would create copyright fee maintenance companies, which is a problem.
        People would pay the initial copyright fee, but no one would want to run the risk of forgetting to renew a copyright on any non-trivial published work, so they would look to hire someone to do the job for them.

        For instance, let's say that copyright renewal costs $100 every 20 years, and there's 4 renewal periods. (80 year max) I could easily go into the business of submitting copyright renewals, and I could do it for $100 per copyright for the duration of the copyright (plus my up-front fee)

        I invest the $100 conservatively, and receive 5.75% interest, compounded annually. By the time 20 years rolls around, that $100 has become $205. Now I withdraw $100 of that, and pay the copyright fee to extend the copyright, leaving $105. Repeat every 20 years until the copyright reaches the statutory maximum.

        In other words, the company that produced the work could be out of business, the copyright ownership could be impossible to determine, but so long as the original copyright holder made arrangement with such a copyright renewal processing company, the unknown copyright would continue to be renewed decade after decade.

        The problem is that modern copyright terms are so incredibly long that even a large fee 80 or 100 years in the future translates to a small investment now. For instance, if the fee to renew a copyright will be $1,000 100 years from now, I can cover that now by investing $3.00 at 6%, compounded annually, and placing that investment in the hands of a corporation that contractually agrees to pay the copyright fee for me 100 years from now.

        In other words, regular renewal requirements don't necessarily solve the problem.
        • by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul@@@prescod...net> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @04:49PM (#5520873)

          For instance, let's say that copyright renewal costs $100 every 20 years, and there's 4 renewal periods. (80 year max) I could easily go into the business of submitting copyright renewals, and I could do it for $100 per copyright for the duration of the copyright (plus my up-front fee)

          This is actually a very risky business to be in. Presumably there will be competition in this business so profits will be moderate or slim. The problem is that if a future congress increases the fees, either the copyright holder or the copyright middleman gets screwed. If the middleman lives up to his side of the bargain, he could find himself losing money year after year on twenty year old contracts. If he doesn't renew the copyright then it expires and his whole business concept is useless. Neither party can predict the rates that some future congress will charge...and why wouldn't congress notice the millions or billions of dollars piling up in these services and get a little greedy?

          This all leads to another problem: if you really, really care about your copyright, you would need to really, really trust the company maintaining its copyright. By definition, you would need to trust them more then you trust yourself. It would need to be basically an insurance company or a bank (and even those go out of business sometimes).

          And anyhow, an easy way to prevent the business model you've described from developing is to require the signature of the copyright holder on the copyright renewel.

    • Re:Sweet! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by djradon ( 105400 )
      Seems inherently unfair to me. Unless you are rich, you lose the rights to your work?
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:55PM (#5520195)
        If your work can't bring in enough money to support itself, it might as well be in the public domain, right?
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:04PM (#5520238) Homepage Journal
        Depends upon the cost of maintaining the copyright.

        As a suggestion, an original copyright will last no more than 10 years. If the original copyright holder feels a need to renew the copyright, he must do so before the end of the 10th year. He may renew for no more than 5 years at a time, with renewals happening within the last year.

        The cost of the original copyright is the production of the work. The cost of renewals is 10 cents per megabyte of text, image or minute of music, and 1 dollar per minute of motion picture.

        Works may be retained in a corporate copyright contract, however corporations are going to be interested in reducing their costs over time, so one of three things will happen. The corporation will recognize that the copyright is still earning them money, and renew the copyright, they will see no return on the copyright and will let it lapse, the company will go bust and the copyricht will lapse.

        Personally I do not believe that a copyright should be handed down to heirs. The work will remain under the copyright that the creator maintaines, and the family or other heirs may benifit from that copyright, however they may not renew the copyright.

        Any work for which the copyright has lapsed may not be put back into copyright.

        That's just my opinion.

        -Rusty
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by divide overflow ( 599608 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:28PM (#5520325)
        Seems inherently unfair to me. Unless you are rich, you lose the rights to your work?

        It wasn't particularly fair to YOU when congress increased the copyright protection period. And your comment is particularly ironic, because it is precisely because large corporations (like Disney) ARE rich that you lost YOUR rights...your right to have the material become part of the public domain after a reasonable time to allow the copyright holder to benefit from his work. Isn't THAT unfair?
        • Re:Sweet! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by djradon ( 105400 )

          No, these are two separate issues. Having to pay, even $0.10/MB, to protect my legitimate copyright is totally unfair. I guess I adhere to the "European conception that an artist has a 'moral right' to the work they've produced." (see parent).

          I'm actually not in favor of Disney's "perpetual copyright through lobbying." I feel 76 years is a reasonable length for creative works. But that has nothing to do with the core issue.

          Imagine this: at one of the "renewal periods" for my photo library (which is

          • Re:Sweet! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by puppet10 ( 84610 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @07:33PM (#5521457)
            And what kind of protection do you think you currently get for free?

            If you do register and pay a small filing fee you get some additional protection, because it becomes potentially more expensive to violate your copyright. However for 'free' copyright upon creation any violation is much less expensive for the violator which must simply stop using your copyrighted material and are only liable for actual damages (ie your attorney fees are yours and you only can possibly win the infringers profits and your losses if any).

            Additionally finding infringement of your copyright can be a difficult proposition unless it's being flagrantly violated in a widely read publication.

            So although the small filing fee (not free) provides you with more protection (statutory damages and attorneys fees) there is still the cost of filing and the preparation costs of registering the copyright. Additionally any money you invest in hunting down violators of your copyright. Actively protecting a copyright while not prohibitively expensive does involve some costs even without a small renewal fee.

            Finally the fundamental basis for copyright in the US isn't protection of the artist; it's the promotion of new works. So the pertinent question is, would the additional cost of not allowing your photo library to go to the public domain 20 years from its creation cause you not to publish it now?
        • The point of a copyrighted material going into the public domain after a little while is a very good idea. A company or other copyright holder only needs to have control for a little while to make enough money for it to be worth the cost and time they put into making it. Copyrights were never meant to make people rich, they were put in place in order to encourage people to invent and discover new things. Somehow we have shifted from trying to encourage new ideas to trying to encourage money making. I dont k
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Doomdark ( 136619 )
        First of all, cost of extending copyright need not be huge. I don't think only rich people can register domains, for example, as renewal cost while not negligible, is not huge.

        But more to the point... you can't really even publish your copyrighted work, unless you are rich, or have produced something others (publishing company) thinks can make them rich (companies that are very likely to be "rich" compared to most individuals). Meaning that most publishable works can certainly earn enough money to allow

    • Re:Sweet! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Remik ( 412425 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:11PM (#5520255)
      It is brilliant, and unfortunatly it's also 'illegal' under the terms of the Berne Convention, of which the U.S. is a signatory.

      As part of the treaty, a persons right of copyright may not be put in jeopardy even by small formalities. It is one of the problems that arise from the European conception that an artist has a 'moral right' to the work they've produced.

      -R
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Yokaze ( 70883 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:48PM (#5520401)
        Not necessarily. Please let me emphasise your words:

        As part of the treaty, a persons right of copyright may not be put in jeopardy even by small formalities. It is one of the problems that arise from the European conception that an artist has a 'moral right' to the work they've produced.

        In other words, the artists copyright may not put in jeopardy, but when he passes his rights to a second party (e.g. Disney, Time-Warner, Sony, whatever), he already has willfully relinquished some of his rights in favour of said second party.

        No one says, that the new owners rights to a piece of work have to be of the same quality as the original author had.
      • Re:Sweet! (Score:4, Informative)

        by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre@gee k b i k e r .net> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @03:53PM (#5520671) Homepage Journal
        So what? The Berne Convention may well be contrary to the Constitution, and according to the Supreme Court ...
        Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957). The Court ruled: ...no agreement with a foreign nation can confer on Congress or any other branch of the Government power which is free from the restraints of the Constitution.
        And in case you didn't know, the Constitution is not a small formality.
  • by DragonMagic ( 170846 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:47PM (#5520154) Homepage
    Of course he's right. It seems that the new era, money for lobbying gets you just the right laws if you can pull some wool over the right eyes. Piggyback it onto another bill, say it's to fight a certain crime, or just be one of the top supporters to the right Congressman and you got your bill on its way.

    The only one the long copyrights really benefit are the large corporations. So why not just leave it that these corporations, who are making money off someone else's creative effort, have to pay to keep making money off this long after the creator's death? Makes sense, and it won't put items that need to be in the public domain because no one knows who rightfully owns the rights to it, into an unnecessary protection.
  • The money should go towards enriching the public domain. The priveledge of extending copyright is at the public domain's expense, so that is the only thing that makes sense. I fear the money would just become part of the US military budget the way things are going.
  • by philovivero ( 321158 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:51PM (#5520177) Homepage Journal
    Congress is really between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the Constitution of our United States says copyright can't be forever. On the other hand, Disney is giving many members lots of cash and nubile young fluffers to make their jobs less dreary.

    They have an obligation to pass laws for their paying constituents, but the highest law of the land (Constitution) says they can't do it.

    So they have to play this game whereby they pretend they're doing something good for the people of the United States when in fact they're loser lawmakers taking bribes.

    On top of all that, they have to maintain a thin sense of professionality so people won't just vote someone else in the next election.

    You gotta really feel sorry for those guys. What a tough job. I could never be a bottom-feeding liar for a living, personally.
    • Well, this of it this way.

      Information wants to be free, right? Allinformation, that is, except for personally identifiable information and your personal information. That information doesn't want to be free. It wants to be secret. So, some information wants to be free, but not all of it. Also, not all source code wants to be free. It wants to be free on its own terms, or free to some people and not to others. Also, some source code wants to redefine the word 'free' to mean something else. And then
      • by spitzak ( 4019 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @03:46PM (#5520648) Homepage
        I don't think you quite got the point beind the line "information wants to be free". The joke is *all* information "wants to be free", even top-secret or personal information. That's why you have to work at keeping it secret. It's kind of like a law of thermodynamics, information spreads and is "free" unless you stop it. Just because we build refrigerators does not mean the laws of thermodynamics are false.
      • ...my optimistic side is ever hopeful that we'll someday have a crooked policitian who has the will to stick to his guns on an issue.

        Uhhm, oh shit, a big slow softball, too easy, must resist... :P

      • Information wants to be free, right? All information, that is, except for personally identifiable information and your personal information.

        You seem to be confusing unrelated things. "Information wants to be free" has nothing to do with what I want or what anyone else wants. "Information wants to be free" in much the same way that than object in motion wants to stay in motion. Keeping information from being free is hard. It requires lots of laws and technical measures. In the absense of laws (like co

    • >>>They[congress] have an obligation to pass laws for their paying constituents, but the highest law of the land (Constitution) says they can't do it.

      WTF

      Congress has no obligation to be corrupt and do what "paying constituents" want them to do. Their real obligation is to do what is right for the people of the USA.
      We have this problem with IP law out of control because congress is being corrupt instead of doing what is right.
    • They have an obligation to pass laws for their paying constituents
      Really? And just what is the difference between bribing someone and being a "paying constituent"?
      • whether or not it falls within the yearly monetary limit set for politicians? people may only bribe you for -x- amount during the year, in chunks of up to -y- dollars at a time.

        and bribes imply that they come with a note saying "please do -z-" whereas constituents usually just say "do your job, we elected you to do what you said you'd do." not that they didn't decide what to say based on what would get them elected ...
  • by thinmac ( 98095 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:52PM (#5520180) Homepage
    All a solution like this would do is protect large companies like Disney which have the money to pay for copyright extention. Frankly, Disney can also afford to compete in the public domain, and I don't think they are the people copyright really needs to protect.

    The folks I worry about with copyright are small artists who either themselves make a living off of their work, or who have living relatives who do so. These are the people that copyright needs to protect, and these are the same people who cannot afford to pay to extend that protection.

    Law, in general, should help those who cannot help themselves. In my view, large corporations have the ability to compete successfully in a free, public domain market. Unless the sums required to extend copyright are tiny (and therefore useless), the people who need protection won't be able to get it. For the most part, Forbes' solution would just maintain the status quo.
    • You have to keep in mind that your problems don't matter because you don't have the money to make them matter.

      Oh, and the folks you worry about, they don't matter either, because Disney will just steal thier ideas and sue anyone that tries to steal from them.

      Remember, copyright only exists anymore if you have the money to prove it was yours in the first place.
    • Absolutely (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hollins ( 83264 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:21PM (#5520296) Homepage
      Instead of paying lobbyists for copyright extension for everyone, Disney pays the government to only extend their own. This is stupid.

      How about instead of having time limits, we have profit limits? The copyright expires once your work has turned a 1,000% profit or after 50 years, whichever is less.

      The purpose of intellectual property protection should be to foster creativity, not maximize profit. Disney will still create the next Pocohantas movie if they 'only' expect a 10x return, as opposed to the drag-it-out-for-50-years -get-40x-return thing they've done with Snow White, and the consumers will be far better served.

      Copyright should be viewed as the minimum incentive necessary to maintain a productive, creative environment, no more.
      • Re:Absolutely (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JabberWokky ( 19442 )
        How do you figure profit on an idea? A guy has an idea for a show about a female swordswoman dressed in black, yada yada. What is the cost to figure out profit? (And yes, that's Queen of Swords, which a court determined that the original creator still had copyright on after the network stole it).

        Or the profit on a painting... a woman I've been seeing takes less than $100 of canvas and paint and sells prints at a few thousand dollars a pop. That's her living... you'd kill her living (and the living of m

        • Copyright doesn't protect ideas, it protects works. Patents protect ideas (for far less time than copyrights). The distinction is important.

          Regarding the painter your know: How would this kill her living? The end of copyright does not mean that you can no longer profit from your work. It simply means the work is no longer protected. The value of original artwork is very much a function of the artist who creates it. I doubt the woman you discuss would loose any revenue at all if copyright simply did not exi
      • Re:Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:44PM (#5520377) Homepage
        Instead of paying lobbyists for copyright extension for everyone, Disney pays the government to only extend their own. This is stupid.

        No, this is a work-around to a stupid political system. Currently Disney and AOL/TW and their ilk have enough money and influence to get their copyrights extended perpetually. This system would allow them to buy infinitely long copyrights for their own stuff (which they are doing anyway), but still allow other works to go into the public domain in a reasonable amount of time. Neither of us (or our grandchildren) will likely live long enough to see a Disney movie go into the public domain. With a system like the one proposed here, we might have the *other* 98% of copyrighted material that nobody is really making money from anymore reach the public domain.
      • Re:Absolutely (Score:3, Interesting)

        How about instead of having time limits, we have profit limits? The copyright expires once your work has turned a 1,000% profit or after 50 years, whichever is less.

        You are obviously unfamiliar with accounting for motion pictures. In a nutshell, if you are ever a major motion picture star or agent for one, make sure that you get a piece of the gross and not the net. A system such as you propose would surely degenerate forthwith into something similar. "The Producers" would look innocently naive compared t
        • Re:Absolutely (Score:2, Interesting)

          by 91degrees ( 207121 )
          In a nutshell, if you are ever a major motion picture star or agent for one, make sure that you get a piece of the gross and not the net.

          Wise words. If only Stan Lee had heeded them, he would have been much richer.

          It's true. the majority of movies make a loss on paper. It's an impressive feat that a film that costs $100 million to make, $100 million to market, and makes $500 million in worldwide box office sales can break even, but apparently it does.
    • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:22PM (#5520302) Journal

      The folks I worry about with copyright are small artists who either themselves make a living off of their work, or who have living relatives who do so. These are the people that copyright needs to protect, and these are the same people who cannot afford to pay to extend that protection.

      That's exactly what Lessig' proposal intends to ensure. By charging a nominal fee to renew copyright, it allows artists to retain control over their work for as long as they are making money from it. Once it becomes unprofitable for them (or they die, and their heirs choose not to pay the fee), the work enters the public domain.

      The proposal is intended to allow otherwise unused works to enter the public domain for all to use. It does not address the problem of long-term protection of copyright where the work remains profitable, as in the case of Disney.

      • The folks I worry about with copyright are small artists who either themselves make a living off of their work, or who have living relatives who do so. These are the people that copyright needs to protect, and these are the same people who cannot afford to pay to extend that protection.

        Look, there's no innate right to make money on one idea forever. At any other job you have to keep producing, or you get fired. Why should you be able to make one successful work and expect to be paid forever?

        If you wan

      • I think the proposed solution should involve a requirement that the work remain available.

        I dislike the idea that someone could pay the nominal fee for the next 100 years and stop publishing the work, wanting it to rot away rather than be available for free.

        And, I'd have a requirement that the payments need to be made on a year by year basis, not up front. Otherwise Disney (and such) would simply pay for a thousand years of $1 extensions every time they publish anything.
    • The folks I worry about with copyright are small artists who either themselves make a living off of their work, or who have living relatives who do so. These are the people that copyright needs to protect, and these are the same people who cannot afford to pay to extend that protection.

      Yeah, and from what I understand about the current state of copyright law, it's also pretty hard to write a check when you've been fucking dead for 70 years .

      just my .02
    • Please read the Eric Eldred Act FAQ. [eldred.cc]

      Small artists can afford to pay a dollar every three years. If they can't, then they have nothing to lose from the work falling into PD anyway.

      The only reason there's that dollar charge at all, is to subvert the Berne convention's terms by making it a "tax" instead of "registration."

    • Law, in general, should help those who cannot help themselves.

      This is the only part of what you said that I really disagree with. Laws should apply equally to everyone.

      That said, I think that allowing people or companies to pay to extend copyrights is a bad idea.
    • I believe Lessig's intention was for the extension fee to be something like $1. It's more a gesture of having to go through the motions than someone actually making money off the extension fees.
    • The folks I worry about with copyright are small artists who either themselves make a living off of their work, or who have living relatives who do so.

      If they make a living off of the work, why wouldn't they be able to pay the nominal fee required to maintain its copyright status? Its like saying that people shouldn't have to pay for driver's licenses because this prevents poor people from driving to their jobs. Well, if they are getting paid at their jobs then the driver's license is a small price to

    • The fee would only be for extensions of the original copyright.

      The problem right now is Disney got the copyright extended of not just "Steamboat Willy", but everything else created during that time frame, despite the fact that copyright holders don't have commercial interest in most of it. This means that it cannot legally be preserved by third parties, and things may be lost forever.

      If Disney had the right to just extend the copyright on their own property, people wouldn't be up in arms over all of this
    • It's not meant to be a perfect or complete solution, just a help that is attainable in the current political climate with Disney et al. spending millions on congress critters to make sure Mickey doesn't become public domain. Meanwhile 98 percent of the works from the same time period are completely unavailable. I'm fairly sure many of them would become available from Gutenberg shortly after the change was made since in many cases the copyright holder is either gone or just not interested and won't bother to

    • Law, in general, should help those who cannot help themselves.

      I think you're wrong.

      Society should help those who cannot help themselves. Law should be created without the goal of "helping out" anyone.

      I understand the difficultites with this notion, but in my ideal world of disinterested benevolent legislators, this is what I would want to have.

      GF.
  • Oh, Great. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Euphonious Coward ( 189818 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:52PM (#5520183)
    There's nothing like having another whacko on your side. First Phillis Schlafly, now this?

    If we end up with this deal with the devil, at least we should try to have the monopoly-maintenance fee double on each round.

    • Ah, yes, good ol' Steve has some particularly nauseating ideas about postwar Iraq. Apparently nobody actually read the linked column in its entirety:

      After recommending Newt Gingrich for temporary governor-general of Iraq while it's being rebuilt, he continues:

      Why not bring back to Iraq the Hashemite Monarchy that was murderously ousted in 1958? The Hashemites ruled Iraq well, just as they have Jordan. They could provide the glue to hold together what will be a three-part confederation made up of Kurds, S

  • by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:55PM (#5520197) Homepage
    "[paying to maintain copyright extensions]"

    it's already done. They call it 'lobbying'.
  • dystopia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twitter ( 104583 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:56PM (#5520201) Homepage Journal
    [paying to maintain copyright extensions] would be a simple and effective way for the First Branch to respond

    Too bad it's not a good way to respond. Consolidated publishing will simply pass the cost of renewal to the reading public. Too large a body of information is owned by too few people for too long a time frame. They have the power, thanks to the DMCA, and now the technology to put us on the road to Tycho [gnu.org].

    The only real solution is the original one, reasonably time limited protection of publication 14 to 28 years. The costs of publishing have only decreased since that original deal was made and so the incentives should have decreased since. How absolutly absurd it is that Einstine's orginal papers are still protected by copyright! What use are 100 year old technical publications beside historical research?

  • by nsayer ( 86181 ) <nsayer&kfu,com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @01:58PM (#5520211) Homepage
    Just some tweaks I'd make:
    1. Reduce the basic copyright term to 20 years.
    2. Set the fee to $ k * (2^n - 1) for each desired extension term (n = 0 is the first term, which would be $0). The longer you want to lock up a work, the more it costs you (at an exponential rate). The value of k should be adjusted for inflation.
    3. If a copyright expires and the current rightholder does not wish to extend, then allow the copyright to be auctioned with the minimum bid starting at the renewal price. If no one meets the minimum bid, the work irrevocably enters the public domain.
    4. The money raised should be paid into a fund for public libraries.

  • how about... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jarnies ( 626975 ) <eslivken@y a h o o . com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:02PM (#5520227)
    ...disallowing corporations from holding copyrights of anything. reserve copyright for individuals only. that would protect the small time artist, enrich public domain, and do many other things i cant think of right now. it is four in the morning.
    • Re:how about... (Score:2, Informative)

      by PHP $tud ( 652022 )
      [quote] ...disallowing corporations from holding copyrights of anything. reserve copyright for individuals only. that would protect the small time artist
      [/quote]

      The problem is that a "corporation" is not necessarily a faceless evil entity. Often *individual artists* make a personal choice to license their works to a "corporation" of some form, or make some other more complicated arrangement (artists' deals with record companies are often very complicated). Also, an "individual artist" make actually choose

  • What about (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:03PM (#5520232) Homepage Journal
    I would expect that there are a good number of artists who understand that (essentially) infinite copyright is stupid. I mean, if I were an author, I would like to release my works after say 5-10 years into PD in the hope of increasing hits to my website and get free advertising using something I probably can't sell anyway. Given this, how can we get more authors to adopt this approach?

    IANAL, but here's a suggestion. Consider what happened in the software world. Lot of people wanted to share their code, but for things really took off only due to the ease of adopting the GPL. In a similar vein, perhaps we should have a well-defined legal framework for artists to release their work into the PD after 5 years, and work towards getting it acceptance among publishers? (Essentially, the legal and technical details should be worked out and implemented by someone else instead of forcing the individual artists to deal with it). Sure the *AA can be counted out, but I can imagine several book publishers and smaller music groups being not averse to the idea. If disney wants to keep the mouse, let them, forget it. Let's do the best we can to ensure that content that is yet to be produced comes with a less draconian copyright.

    • Re:What about (Score:3, Informative)

      by Remik ( 412425 )
      Take a look at Creative Commons [creativecommons.org].

      -R
      • Re:What about (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arvindn ( 542080 )

        Take a look at Creative Commons

        It's a start, but it doesn't solve the problem. For two reasons. First, the nature of the author's contract with the publisher/distributor would in many (most?) cases prevent the artist from PD'ing their work. Surely, we want the artist to get royalties for a limited time-period at least, don't we? Second, it is still work for the artist. We don't want the artist to get involved at all after the moment that they first release their work. That's what I was implying by "lega

    • Re:What about (Score:2, Interesting)

      by vudujava ( 614609 )
      if I were an author, I would like to release my works after say 5-10 years into PD in the hope of increasing hits to my website and get free advertising

      Based on the comment, I'd say you're not an author. Writing is a tough market and outside of journalists, only a handful of writers can make a living writing. When there's money involved, you don't turn your back on it and you deal with the terms you are given. You can write the great American novel, the greatest novel ever written and not be able to sell

  • What Lessig Wants (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Remik ( 412425 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:04PM (#5520240)
    Many of you are misguided about what Lessig plans to get out of the Eldred Act. He's given up on Mickey, and rightfully so. There is no way he can fight the money and power that is Disney. He is prepared to ceed the 2% of economically worthwhile copyrights that remain after the current term inorder to get access to the 98% that no longer have any protector. He's decided to compromise and accept the orphans, and that's what the Eldred Act gives him.

    Lessig's motivation has always been the flourishing of the commons, and while a win in Eldred v. Ashcroft would have give him 100% of what he wanted, passing the Eldred Act will still give him 98%...and that's close enough.

    -R
    • Absolutely true, it is a compromise position that is perhaps more politically realistic, but Lessig himself would be the first to acknowledge that it is not the 'ideal'.

      It is similar in some ways to the pragatism RMS showed in devising the GPL - using copyright law to circumvent ... copyright law.

      But would this proposal have the effect of making the last 2% all but impossible to achieve?

  • by Watts Martin ( 3616 ) <layotlNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:09PM (#5520251) Homepage

    Steve Forbes takes a position I agree with.

  • Why a token amount? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by divide overflow ( 599608 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:15PM (#5520269)

    I believe that charging a steadily INCREASING amount would be a better idea. That way there is increasing incentive to allow the copyright to revert to the public domain.

    Recent changes to the timelines are clearly Faustian deals by politicians to sell out to copyright holders. In my mind the public clearly loses. The original idea of limiting the time one can claim intellectual property was sound and still has merit. The notion that ideas and information can permanently be surrounded by barbed wire and denied to all seems intuitively wrong. It should be clear that the institution of a fee to maintain the copyright amounts to another tax. So politicians would treat it as another endless source of funds to be milked to finance their pet projects. Perhaps you can see where this would lead.

    Ultimately, I think the better idea is to put heavy pressure on congress to roll back the copyright protection period. Then we need some working campaign finance reform.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why not make it a constantly increasing amount after 15 years. $1 the first year. $5 the second, and $25 the third. Keep up the multiples by 5 or whatever number you want and eventually everything passes into the public domain when its value is exceeded by the fees.
  • I'm usually not one to question Lessig's ideas, but I do see that this solution can either be 1) exploited by bodies with large amounts of capital (i.e. companies can pay the large continuation fee, whereas smaller fries cannot) or 2) useless if the price to extend copyrights is too low.

    I really feel this is one area where compromise won't cut it - copyrights need to be limited, plain and simple. Sometimes to innovate you need to build on other's works, and Congress' bent to continually extend copyright i
    • It's a compromise, and one that seems to work out in the public domain's best interest. The purpose of the fee is to allow orphaned works to fall into the PD and to create a registry of works that are still protected which drastically cuts the cost of 'clearing rights'.

      You would be right on both points if the purpose was to try to wrest copyrights from those who want to hold on to them...that was Lessig's aim in Eldred v. Ashcroft, but that didn't go his way. This time his goal is slightly shifted.

      -R
  • by Artagel ( 114272 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @02:44PM (#5520380) Homepage
    First, one of the nice things about copyright, for the little guy, is that you do not have to register to be entitled to some copyright protection. You author something, and there is some protection you are entitled to without registration. Copyright registrations are inexpensive, and can usually be done without the assistance of an attorney. Requring a registration after 5, 10, or even 20 years to have a continuing copyright could make good sense -- the author would have a fair chance to assess what needed protecting versus what was not going to be worth paying a fee.

    Second, because of the Berne Convention, we cannot burden copyrights resulting from publications in foreign countries in certain ways. For example, you have to register a domestic work before you file a lawsuit in the U.S., but the foreign work does not have to file a U.S. registration prior to a lawsuit. If done in a way such that the effect were to be to force Disney and Hollywood to move to Canada or Mexico, I can't say it would be a victory.

    Third, is used in a way like present fee systems, the fees would not distinguish between big money works that pay for themselves in a year, and the rest is gravy, versus the smaller circulation works that need 10 or 20 years to gather a good income. In some ways a tax would work better -- it could be proportional to the financial value.

    I think that copyright should be easy and cheap for short periods, cost money to maintain for long periods (although shorter than the current limits), be consistent internationally, and have an easy way for the public to figure out what is or is not copyrighted (E.g. not having to figure out when Joe Obscure Author kicked the bucket).
  • Mr. Forbes at least has a very public forum and it is a pleasure to see him using it to set the horrible patent/trademark situation a bit more aright. But, there are two errors.

    Firstly, Congress has no authority to change the US Constitution. (Even if that does seem to be legislative fashion these days ... pass a law and wait to the cowering American sheep to summon the courage to strike it down in the courts.) Hence, it is silly to see him suggest that the Congress should declare trademarks to be eternal.

    Secondly, Lessig's compromise also violates the US Constitution. According to this link [usconstitution.net], the document says in Article I Section 8:

    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;
    Note it says "for limited Times". Allowing patent, copyright and trademark holders to retain their works as long as they pay for them, is not limited time.

    The only two fixes that are moral and legal are to either amend the Constitution to allow for unlimited works rights, or to never again extend such rights. In fact, the time limits should be reduced ... since life+70 years or 95 years is a long fucking time. I am 35 right now, and if I want to make use of the trademark or copyright of what a 20-year-old neighbor made, I'd have to wait until I was about 35+55+70=160 years old until I could use it legally. It can't be done. Hence, works rights that extend well beyond the Human lifetime seem unreasonable when faced with the word "limited".

    The remaining fix is to lob mortar shells at the US Capitol building until the Congresspeople begin to see the light. Myself, I prefer this option. The US Constitution is a body of rules, not guidelines, but the use of opinion and lassitude are making it a piece of paper. Is there any mystery as to why the populace has so little regard for the rule of law?
    • Wait, I thought the paid renewal thing was still subject to the overall 95-year limit or whatever it is now. So that's not unconstitutional.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      As another AC pointed out, you missed that Forbes was showing some sarcasm, and it was nice to see Forbes Magazine, The Capitalist Tool come out and speak the truth about Disney and the Congress that falls over itself for them.

      But I didn't post to say "me too", I posted because you've mentioned something I personally think should have been the grounds for throwing out not just the DMCA, but most of the extensions.

      The notion that a "limited time" can exceed the human lifespan is a wild, baseless leap the S
    • Um, amendments? (Score:3, Informative)

      by theCoder ( 23772 )
      Congress can't change the constitution?

      Article V [cornell.edu]

      The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths

      • I think what he meant is that Congress can't change to Constitution in spirit as easily as it appears to be doing with the copyright law. By extending the copyright to "death + 95" this is technically a limited time; the letter of the law is preserved, but the spirit of the law is suppressed.

        Congress is changing the spirit of the Constitution with such ludicrous copyright extensions. I would favor reverting back to the Copyright Law of 1790, which limited copyright to 14 years, renewable for fourteen add
  • by seyfarth ( 323827 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @03:12PM (#5520523) Homepage
    The purpose of intellectual property laws should be to encourage innovation, not to protect intellectual property forever. The Mickey Mouse character has been lots of fun for a long time. Disney has earned lots of money from the character. Disney should now create something new rather than trying to protect Mickey forever.

    What would happen to Disney without copyright protection continuing for Mickey? Would someone else start using a mouse character to promote a theme park? I doubt it. Would someone try to make some knock-off cartoons? Maybe, but would Disney suffer? I don't think Disney would lose much.

    20 years is a nice duration for a copyright. An author or artist could live off a creation for about 1/3 of a long adult life-span. During that time the artist could create some more copyrighted material and have a productive life.

    Our country has gone overboard with copyrights and patents. Extending patents and awarding patents for software do not encourage creativity. Instead they encourage defensive copyright/patent claims and litigation. We need to create an environment which encourages creativity rather than stifling it.
  • Copyright HOWTO (Score:4, Interesting)

    by infolib ( 618234 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @03:56PM (#5520677)
    I prefer a 3x5 year copyright duration:

    The first 5 years unconditionally - no fees, no registration.
    The next 5 years require registration of the work.
    The last 5 years the copyright holder should pay 20% of the value of the material every year. The value is determined by the copyright holder himself, but he is required to release the work into public domain if anyone pays him this value.

    If this scheme needs adjustment, I suggest altering the duration or taxation of the last phase.

    Software should be treated differently. Software is obsolete much faster, and will do little good in the public domain without source available. I suggest removing the middle phase in the above scheme with regard to software.
    Software publishers should be obliged to either
    a) deposit the source code in a library. It would remain secret until copyright expires.
    b) offer customers to recieve the source code along with the software. It would be covered by copyright until it expires.

    Any comments?
  • my system (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @04:10PM (#5520723) Homepage
    Here is my proposed system:

    All copyright "terms" are 14 years each, what the founding fathers specified (7 was the original, but they extended it to 14 during the first session of Congress).

    When you first apply for a copyright, you pay the standard filing fee.

    To renew for a second term, you pay $500 or 10% of any profit made during the first term resulting from the copyrighted work, whichever is greater.

    For the third term, you pay $1500 or 25% of any profit resulting from the work during the previous term, whichever is greater.

    Now anyone who still cares about holding on to a copyrighted work should be easily able to meet these fees, and they gain protection for 42 years! Sounds like a reasonable trade to me.

    Now, the goal is to make it such that the vast majority of works aren't worth keeping the copyright on past 42 years.

    For the fourth term, you pay $10,000 or 50% of the profits, whichever is greater.

    For the fifth or greater term, you pay $50,000 or 75% of the profit, whichever is greater.

    Under this system, anyone can copyright something and gain protection for 14 years for very little. Most people can extend that to 28 years if they care about the work at all - its only $35/year if you aren't making any profit on the thing.

    But for the third term, you have to pony up. You are getting a STEAL! 42 years of protection is quite a lot. How many works are still generating income or are worth protecting after 42 years? Not many...

    After that, the fees become so steep that you would have to have a HUGE incentive to keep up with the copyright.
  • Congress will love the pay for copyright solution, since they're always looking for new events that require a tax. It won't be long before the govt. taxes me to use the restroom. Either I own the copyright, or I don't. But I shouldn't have to pay the govt. to keep it. What next? Am I going to have to pay a fee for free speech? If a company can hold a copyright forever, however, by paying fees every so often, that is unconstitutional.
  • Of all the works that might enter the public domain under Lessig's proposal, those works that offer the most value to society are precisely the ones that copyright holders would like to prevent from entering the public domain.

    If there's anything to be learned from corporations and the estates of the famous deceased is that both tend to be very protective of their intellectual "property". You can bet that as long as it is possible for these and other groups to renew the copyright to valuable works, they wil
    • After searching google for the "Eldred Act" it seems that Lessig is not proposing that copyrights be renewable forever, as Forbes' statements seemed to suggest, but rather that copyrights should still be granted for limited times with the added restriction of an extension fee every so-many years. That's not as bad as I thought, although I still think it would do little to free up the most valuable works.
  • by deanc ( 2214 ) on Saturday March 15, 2003 @05:45PM (#5521103) Homepage
    Hm. Suddenly, the fact that Steve Forbes, of all people, supports more limited copyright laws makes me suspect that I might be wrong about my advocacy of Lessig's ideas.

    Kind of like how knowing that Pat Buchanan is against the war in Iraq makes me wonder whether it might actually be a good idea, after all. :)

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