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Copyright Cutback Proposed As RIAA Solution 709

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the things-that-would-help-but-are-impossible dept.
An anonymous reader writes "InfoWeek blogger Alex Wolfe proposes a novel solution to the ongoing spate of RIAA lawsuits over alleged music copying. He suggests legislation which cuts back corporate copyrights from 120 years to 5 years. 'We should do what we do to children who misbehave,' he writes. 'Take away their privileges.' Wolfe says this is regardless of the misunderstanding surrounding the latest case, which apparently isn't about ripping CDs to one's own computer. As to those who say copyrights are a right: "That's simply a misunderstanding of their purpose. Copyrights, like patents, weren't implemented to protect their owners in perpetuity. They are part of a dance which attempts to balance off societal benefits against incentives for writers and inventors. You want to incentivize people to push the state of the creative and technical arts, but you don't want give those folks such overbearing protections that future advances by other innovators are stifled." What do you think; is it time to cut off the record industry?"
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Copyright Cutback Proposed As RIAA Solution

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  • by jon787 (512497) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:03PM (#21882728) Homepage Journal

    What do you think; is it time to cut off the record industry?
    This is /., do you really have to ask that?
    • by fifedrum (611338) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:07PM (#21882784) Journal
      i'm afraid to ask the voting public what they think on the issue, most of them (think boomers) would vote to extend it because that's what Sony Bono would have wanted us to do.
      • by wattrlz (1162603)
        That and they're still hoping to hit it big with their songwriting career, maybe tour the country in a beat up old vanagon... and still be able to provide for the grankids.
      • by rnturn (11092) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:30PM (#21883114)

        "Sony Bono"?

        I think you meant to type "Sonny Bono" but, then again, maybe you really weren't that far from being right.

      • by conlaw (983784) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:32PM (#21883132)
        As one of the early boomers, I respectfully disagree with your analysis. If Sonny Bono--or Elvis or all of the Bobby's--didn't provide for their heirs while they were making the money, too bad, so sad. And, IMHO, calling it the "Sonny Bono Law" was just a way to keep everyone from realizing that the point was really to extend the Disney Corporation's copyrights. In other words, the Congress-critters didn't really care about Chastity, they wanted to protect Mickey Mouse (f/k/a Steamboat Willie).
      • by Gorshkov (932507) <admgorshkov@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:07PM (#21883636)

        most of them (think boomers) would vote to extend it because that's what Sony Bono would have wanted us to do.
        Us "boomers" are old enough to remember hearing him sing. That was NOT music that should be protected ..... trust me on this.
      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @06:51PM (#21888128)

        Actually, I suspect you're wrong on that.

        In the UK, we had the Gowers Review, a government review of the general framework for copyright and other types of IP, conducted a couple of years ago. Needless to say, Big Media were lobbying aggressively for, amongst other things, increases in copyright terms (and retroactively, too). Their efforts were supported by the likes of Sir Cliff Richard. And yet, if you read the submissions from members of the public (which you can do from the Review's web site if you like; just look it up on a search engine) the overwhelming majority of those stating a view on that question opposed the extension of the copyright term.

        The Review came down pretty clearly on the side of the public on that one, or at least, on the side of the public who could be bothered to comment.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:26PM (#21883062) Homepage Journal
      This is just a dumb idea.
      1. It really couldn't happen because it would violate more than a few international agreements.
      2. corporate vs personal copyrights? A lot of artists when they start make money incorperate. Where do there works fit in?

      It is a non solution to a real problem. But lots of people will click on the blog and read the ads and they will make money off it.
      Thank you for playing and paying.

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:53PM (#21883426)

        It really couldn't happen because it would violate more than a few international agreements.

        So what? Answer me this: In America, who has sovereignty? We the actual citizens, or foreigners?

        corporate vs personal copyrights? A lot of artists when they start make money incorperate. Where do there works fit in?

        Obviously, once you eliminate fuzzy measures like "life of the author," corporate and personal copyrights can be exactly the same 5 years.

        • by Sancho (17056) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:17PM (#21883820) Homepage
          There's a pretty good reason to let individuals have longer copyrights--they're less able to make money quickly from their work. Any given production studio probably makes 95% of their profits from a film within the first 5 years of its release (theatrical runs, initial DVD release, special edition DVD release.) An individual who is trying to market it without the help of a corporation will likely need to rely heavily on word-of-mouth advertising, which will be slower than a nationwide advertising campaign.

          I'd be pretty happy with 5 years for corporations, 10 years for individuals, each with the option to renew for one more term. If you can't recoup your investment within this time frame, you don't need to be in this business.

          Of course, I'd also like to see perpetual copyrights for free-as-in-speech works, but that's probably too much to ask.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            I agree. Its sorta like a home based business according to the IRS: If you can't make a profit within a short time, it is referred to as a hobby, not a business and you cannot take business deductions on your taxes.
          • by aztektum (170569) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @02:51PM (#21885188)
            If an individual can't recoup their investment within 5 years, especially with the Internet, they should probably apply at McDonald's. Just because you're a starving artist doesn't mean you should get a guaranteed advantage. That's your choice.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Fastolfe (1470)
            The problem with this approach (different terms for corporations vs. individuals) is that it's easy to work around. Authors working for a corporation will enter into a contract with that corporation to copyright the work as their own, but license it exclusively to the corporation that employs them. Isn't this how patents already work today?
          • by Original Replica (908688) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @04:03PM (#21886252) Journal
            An individual who is trying to market it without the help of a corporation will likely need to rely heavily on word-of-mouth advertising, which will be slower than a nationwide advertising campaign.

            Maybe word of mouth used to be slower, but it doesn't take that long for a new hot clip to rise to the top of the YouTube charts. Try a few weeks. "The Blair Witch Project" is one of the few independent hits it recent history and it didn't take them more than five years from idea to millionaire. Any "artist" who is still trying to hawk 5 year old goods isn't gonna make it anyhow. Yes they might have to try for more than five years to get their break, but if they aren't producing new and better works regularly then their art will never become a livelihood.
        • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:38PM (#21884100) Homepage

          It really couldn't happen because it would violate more than a few international agreements.

          So what? Answer me this: In America, who has sovereignty? We the actual citizens, or foreigners?

          Well first of all international agreements have less to do with 'foreigners' and more to do with one's own government since they had to agree to it (hence the word agreements).

          Secondly, in my experience, in America the cooperations have all the power but allow the citizens to think they have power.

          And Americans have very little right to talk about sovereignty since they have little to no respect for the sovereignty of others.

        • by eclectic4 (665330) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:40PM (#21884120)
          "So what? Answer me this: In America, who has sovereignty? We the actual citizens, or foreigners?"

          Neither, large multi-national corporations do. And they like the 120 year stance, so let's all get used to it... there are too many "critical thought impaired" citizens with voting cards in the country. Sorry.
        • TRIPS (Score:5, Informative)

          by Scrameustache (459504) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @02:30PM (#21884820) Homepage Journal

          It really couldn't happen because it would violate more than a few international agreements.

          So what? Answer me this: In America, who has sovereignty? We the actual citizens, or foreigners?

          Who the hell do you think wrote those agreements in the first place!?

          The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that sets down minimum standards for many forms of intellectual property (IP) regulation. It was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994. Its inclusion was the culmination of a program of intense lobbying by the United States [wikipedia.org].
          The United States strategy of linking trade policy to intellectual property standards can be traced back to the entrepreneurship of senior management at Pfizer in the early 1980s, who mobilized corporations in the United States and made maximizing intellectual property privileges the number one priority of trade policy in the United States (Braithwaite and Drahos, 2000, Chapter 7).
        • by Total_Wimp (564548) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @02:40PM (#21884986)

          So what? Answer me this: In America, who has sovereignty? We the actual citizens, or foreigners?

          I keep hearing this "sovereignty" thing bandied about by (usually conservative) people. They usually say it in the context of "we'll be giving up our sovereignty" with this treaty or that or "we should do [insert treaty-breaking thing we just feel like doing] because we have sovereignty!"

          Here's the thing; Abiding by your agreements IS NOT some sort of weakness where you're somehow giving up your right of self-determination. It's simply keeping your end of a bargain. It's, you know, that honesty thing, where you make a contract, and then do the thing you said you were going to do in the contract.

          But it gets better. We usually get something we want when we make these deals. You got that? It's not just give, give, give, give, give. We actually get something in return. I don't know about you, but it doesn't seem very nice to me when someone takes something from me, then doesn't give me the thing they promised in return. I try to avoid doing business with that guy in the future.

          Sure, I understand that treaties sometimes need to be dissolved. It happens. But it gives me the willys when you sovereignty folks act like it should be done at the drop of a hat. It's serious damn business and should be treated as such. doing it simply "because we can" is not good enough. If it comes to exercising our sovereignty whenever we feel like it or being a good honest neighbor and only breaking treaties unilaterally when there's a very serious reason, well, I value good and honest a hell of a lot more. It just seems like the American way to do things. At least I hope so.
      • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:56PM (#21883468) Journal
        This is just a dumb idea.
        1. It really couldn't happen because it would violate more than a few international agreements.


        Wrong, this is a brilliant idea. It's the international agreements that are dumb.
        • by Raisey-raison (850922) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @02:12PM (#21884532)
          This idea is great. Here are some more:

          1. I think a general copyright of 14 years is the optimum from the time of publication. This study previously appeared on slashdot.
          http://www.rufuspollock.org/economics/papers/optimal_copyright.pdf [rufuspollock.org]

          2. Solve the problem of people using copyright to prevent reproduction especially in small independent films.
          If companies use copyright to deny reproduction at any price or at a price that is so high its absurd, enable people to pay some fixed fee and ignore the wishes of the copyright holder. Copyright shouldn't be a tool to prevent reproduction just a tool to make some money from artistic creativity.

          3. If companies abuse the position by engaging in fraud or anti trust behavior to manipulate prices they lose their copyright.
          http://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/PrRel/prfeb192004.htm [utah.gov]
          http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl-cd-settlement.htm [about.com]

          4. Expand fair use. If I want to use a small portion of a book eg 1000 words from a 50,000 word book its ok even if its for profit. I just can't reproduce lots of 1000 word bit to reproduce the book. If its educational I get to use it unless it literally causes major loss to the company. Eg in a classroom I can make 200 copies of a newspaper article for all the students. I just can't do that for a whole textbook. But I can use it for a figure from a textbook.

          5. No automatic copyright for photos. There has to be some artistic quality to them.

          6. In the U.S., buildings built on or after December 1, 1990 are also eligible for copyright. This is pathetic. Given that creativity was not stifled beforehand this is totally unnecessary. No copyright on buildings.

          7. No frivolous copyright either like on restaurants. Yes someone was sued and lost because one restaurant was too similar to another.

          8. No copyright on 'happy birthday'. If you sing happy birthday in a restaurant you gotta pay a fee to the so called rights holder. The movie 'The Corporation' claims that Warner/Chappell charge up to US$10,000 for the song to appear in a film.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You [wikipedia.org]
      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:03PM (#21883572)
        1. Most (if not all) of those international agreements are at the US's behest, seeing as they're by FAR the biggest exporter of copyrighted material. Besides, when has the US ever cared about international agreements?

        2. You can incorporate and then license your personal copyright to your company. Same with patents. Corporate patents should be shorter than personal patents. If a company owns a patent then it should be capable of developing it quite quickly. An individual who owns a patent likely needs a longer term to develop it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Planesdragon (210349)

        2. corporate vs personal copyrights? A lot of artists when they start make money incorperate. Where do there works fit in?,

        Name one artist who was stupid enough to create a personal corporation. I'll wait.

        A successful artist might produce other artists under a label, or start a production company to finance their side-projects, but unless they're too stupid to hire a lawyer, they won't do anything that isn't THEIR OWN copyright.

        The law is very clear on this already, btw. If you make a work that's yours, it's protected for your entire life, plus (IIRC) 80 years. If you make a work while working for your employer, and it's yo

      • by mmeister (862972) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:25PM (#21883920)
        I disagree. While I think the length is a little on the low side (I'd argue that a 10 year copyright is more reasonable because it offers enough incentive for someone to reap benefits but not so long as to keep it out of the public domain for an entire lifetime -- as in 120 years). But the truth is we have FOUR major record labels and a handful of Movie Studios that are dictating the copyright terms to the people. Copyright in the U.S. Constitution was intended to be very limiting, but Corporatism has taken over -- which is why a Mickey will remain protected in perpetuity. The losers are the people.

        As for violating international agreements. So? Facts change over time and some treaties aren't meant to last forever (esp regarding things like trade). We are not living under the same treaties that governed trade in the 1700s.

        I believe the UK copyrights are(were?) for a much smaller timeframe such that the Beatles will go in the public domain (in the UK) in a few short years. That's not true in the US. The Beatles works are protected here for long, long after I'm dead and that doesn't assume it wouldn't get extended AGAIN.

        Right now the ONLY people benefiting from current copyright laws (and their lengths) are mega corporations. Again, Corporatism in action.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hey! (33014)
        (1) If we can abrogate the ABM treaty, why not pull out of Berne? (I am being ironic here)

        (2) I think we can recognize the difference between an S corporation, which is just a legal shell around an individual, and a joint stock company.

        That said, it is unwarranted to assume we would have to pull out of Berne. We could just announce a new position for new round of international IP treaties, with the subtle hint that if things don't start getting more reasonable, pulling out is an option.

        I also think that fi
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ajs (35943)

          I also think that five years is too short.

          Ok, how about 4? ;-)

          Actually, I'll continue to advocate what I've always advocated:

          1) 10 year copyright by default
          2) Two available extensions for a total of 30 years
          3) Those works that account for the top 1% of copyright-protected gross revenue in each medium in a 10 year period are not eligible for renewal

          That last item is the most important. It allows us to put a metric on what our most culturally significant works are. It's not a perfect metric, but it opens up to the commons the most important cultural

  • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:04PM (#21882738)
    120 years is INSANE.

    Everything should go into the public domain after a period long enough to have allowed the creator to profit under most circumstances.
    Copyright should also last at least long enough that it discourages companies from just waiting it out.

    I figure 10-15 years for most things.
    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:09PM (#21882832) Journal
      For corporate copyrights, 5 years is fine. Maybe a fee to continue the copyright for 5 year increments beyond that (to encourage continue publication of the media as long as it is copyrighted, and public-domaining as soon as it isn't profitable). Corporations are too abusive to give long copyrights too.

      Individual copyrights for 10-20 years are fine, IMO. It forces the corporations to answer to the artists if they want to save on copyright fees, and the artists will probably be more considerate to the consumers.

      • by Cheerio Boy (82178) * on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:14PM (#21882886) Homepage Journal

        For corporate copyrights, 5 years is fine. Maybe a fee to continue the copyright for 5 year increments beyond that (to encourage continue publication of the media as long as it is copyrighted, and public-domaining as soon as it isn't profitable). Corporations are too abusive to give long copyrights too.

        Individual copyrights for 10-20 years are fine, IMO. It forces the corporations to answer to the artists if they want to save on copyright fees, and the artists will probably be more considerate to the consumers.

        I'm all for an extension fee but make it non-trivial in cost for corporations AND make it geometrically progressive so that they can't just keep paying the fee forever.

        Because you know as long as they can pay a small amount to retain their stranglehold they will do so.
        • by Xiaran (836924)
          What if the fee went up geometrically for each five year period :)
        • by Hierarch (466609) <CaptainNeeda.gmail@com> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:46PM (#21883332) Homepage
          Even without the increasing fees, it would be an invaluable change. Remember, we aren't just dealing with the *AA and Disney, we also have the problem of abandoned works. Tons of IP are sitting around with no known owner. We can't touch a single one of them, because if someone does, and starts to make money, 30 different people or corporations will all swoop in claiming ownership through some weird line of descent from the original (bankrupt) owner.

          No, if nobody claims to own the work, it should go into the public domain. Even a $5 filing fee would be enough for this.

          ISTR an article where Disney's mouthpiece admitted that they'd heard about this concept and weren't entirely opposed to it... Anybody remember? Was this one of Lessig's brainchildren?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tepples (727027)

            ISTR an article where Disney's mouthpiece admitted that they'd heard about [periodic maintenance fees for copyright] and weren't entirely opposed to it... Anybody remember? Was this one of Lessig's brainchildren?

            Yes, the (failed) Public Domain Enhancement Act [wikipedia.org] was Dr. Lessig's idea. To qualify under the Berne Convention, it was worded as a property tax [wikipedia.org].

        • by coolGuyZak (844482) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:23PM (#21883902)
          My idea is slightly more complex, but (IMHO) more reasonable logistically:
          1. Everything is automatically copyrighted for X years (my choice for X would be between 10 and 20 years).
          2. Copyright can be extended to Y years (say, 2X or 3X years) by registering the copyright with the copyright office. Registration requires the full text of any copyrighted work to be submitted with the application. Registration may incur a reasonable filing fee.
          3. Registering a copyright grants government institutions the following mandatory licenses to the work:
            • All government institutions (e.g. libraries, schools, public parks) may stock the complete text, royalty free.
            • The government may make an indefinite number of copies for archival and preservation.
            • If the entity that holds a registered copyright ceases distribution of the work, the government may (at its option) distribute the work for the price of reproduction, plus a reasonable and compulsory license fee (paid to the copyright owner).
            • Any trademarks, patents, or other intellectual property rights required to distribute the work are licensed to the government. The terms of this license should be narrow--only those required to enable distribution under the terms previously enumerated.
          4. Additional extension of copyright is not possible. Retroactive extension is explicitly denied.
          5. After the copyright expires, the work passes into the public domain.
          6. Refinements of an existing work may enable additional property rights. However, refinements are treated as derivative of but separate from the original work. Creating a derivative or refined work does not extend the rights or terms granted to previous work.
      • by jcaldwel (935913) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:17PM (#21882924)

        For corporate copyrights, 5 years is fine. Maybe a fee to continue the copyright for 5 year increments beyond that (to encourage continue publication of the media as long as it is copyrighted, and public-domaining as soon as it isn't profitable). Corporations are too abusive to give long copyrights too. Individual copyrights for 10-20 years are fine, IMO. It forces the corporations to answer to the artists if they want to save on copyright fees, and the artists will probably be more considerate to the consumers.

        The distinction between corporate and individuals wouldn't be effective. Some company exec will just hold the copyright personally, and license it exclusively to the corporation for the full 20 years.

        • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:50PM (#21883388) Homepage

          Some company exec will just hold the copyright personally

          That's the heart of the problem. Congress is authorized only to secure copyrights to creators ("Authors and Inventors") - not to employers, assignees, or heirs.

          Recognizing that any copyright claim by someone who didn't create the work is bogus would go a long way to fixing the problem. (And would align copyright law with the Constitution as a bonus.)

    • "I figure 10-15 years for most things."

      The problem is they will always fight for extensions, I think this is where democracy fails big time, there should be an absolute law to prevent infection of greedy capitalists into knowledge that will stifle and hold back innovation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571)
      My proposal would be different than just capping Copyrights at 5 years (or 10, or 120).

      Similar to trademarks, and to a lesser extend patent continuations, I think copyrights should last as long as the work is being actively revised, promoted, and/or otherwise used commercially. But if the work languishes or has had no creative augmentation, the copyright should expire in 5-10 years. That leaves Disney in the clear to keep their copyrights while at the same time allowing the zillions of obscure books, song
  • "What do you think; is it time to cut off the record industry?"

    Yes. And if I might suggest where to cut them; just south of the beltline.
  • Seriously? Follow the money in US politics. This will not happen.
    • by Stripe7 (571267)
      What I find strange, the money for the politicians come from the RIAA suing the people. The people are the ones that vote these politicians in! If we just vote them out, i.e. keep reminding everyone which politicians are RIAA stooges and to remind them that voting for them is voting for the RIAA to sue them it should be a fairly straight forward way of cleaning up the mess.
      • What I find strange, the money for the politicians come from the RIAA suing the people. The people are the ones that vote these politicians in! If we just vote them out, i.e. keep reminding everyone which politicians are RIAA stooges and to remind them that voting for them is voting for the RIAA to sue them it should be a fairly straight forward way of cleaning up the mess.

        From So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams:

        "It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

        "You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

        "No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

        "Odd," said Arthur, "I thought

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:42PM (#21883290)
      I just thought I'd attack the first cynical apologist for no good reason other than I don't like people like you.

      Those who whine and mumble "It will never happen" think they are being 'realists', but they are just dragging everyone
      down with their own depressive lack of vision. Neil, you are as much a part of the problem as the RIAA and other criminals.
      What do you possibly feel you have added to the discussion, other than what we all already know?

      Want to add something other than vague accusations?
      Want to print the names of those you accuse of corruption?
      Want to cite some examples of their criminal behaviour?

      Your hand waving dismissal just insults us all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      I get so sick of reading these pie-in-the-sky types who come out with these preposterous proposals that have no chance in HELL of ever becoming law. With the entertainment/software/media industries controlling the media and bribing Congressmen with millions of dollars (with billions more backing them up in reserve), the idea that this is IN ANY WAY a practical solution to the problem is beyond laughable. You would have just as much luck praying to Zeus for a miraculous solution.

      I'm all for solutions, but

  • corporations abuse the copyrights too much, and they don't do more than distribute really. So, they abuse the people giving them money (the consumer), and the artist as well. Something like this seems more reasonable:

    Corporation owned copyrights should be 5 years (with possibly an expensive continuation fee to add another 5 years).
    Individual copyrights should stay 15-20 years (again with the possibility of a continuation fee). If any of my books get published, I think 75-120 years, whatever it is now, is ab
  • by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:06PM (#21882778)
    Anyone know how this would affect the artists? I mean, I know that most of them make their money off of merch and concerts anyway - but I'm just trying to understand who this would really end up hurting. Obviously older bands that still have reasonably good record sales (Led Zeppelin) aren't going on a lot of tours. I'm all for giving RIAA a good gut punch, I just don't want to screw over the musicians I love in the process. I'm no IP / copyright lawyer so I'm looking for some insight here!
  • by qbzzt (11136) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:07PM (#21882798)
    Corporate Copyrights are not just Music and Videos produced by Evil Inc. They also include a lot of software, which is the livelihood of many slashdot posters. Are you sure we can live without commercial software development?
    • by maz2331 (1104901) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:12PM (#21882864)
      The lifespan of software is pretty short anyway. A 5-year protection cycle is a huge motivator to get a new product out the door on a regular basis and keep the programmers employed.
      • by Quietust (205670)

        The lifespan of software is pretty short anyway. A 5-year protection cycle is a huge motivator to get a new product out the door on a regular basis and keep the programmers employed.
        ...unless it's a 30+ year old COBOL program running on a mainframe - while today's software may not last longer than 5 years, software from many decades ago most certainly did.
        • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:27PM (#21883066) Homepage
          A 30 year old cobol program running on a mainframe is the ABSOLUTE LAST thing that should be entangled in copyright shenanigans. This is THE perfect example of something for which the owner of the copy should have the ability to fix and maintain the program. Quite likely, the individual or company that original wrote or sold the program is gone, LONG GONE.
        • by Xiaran (836924) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:31PM (#21883122)
          Yes but software like that is generally business software that is held internally by some business and hence not copied at all(commercial in confidence protect it etc). The only bits of the industry that would have to worry would be things like games and other shrink wrapped software. Personally Id feel fine is say MS office feel out of copyright every five years as I dont think it would really affect anyone... MS would simply release a new version(Is office 95 really worth anything to anyone these days)?

          Games could be a problem as they seem to like to release platinum editions of older games and I honest have no idea how much that brings in for the games industry... its probably a nice little earner they wouldnt like to lose. But on the other hand it could solve the problem of abandonware... games Id still like to play but cant because I cant physically purchase it anywhere.

          For other sectors like niche vertical market sector software developers(Ive worked in such and industry) they are generally doing pretty bespoke stuff and being used as a service provider to their clients.

          Id be honestly interested if anyone has any examples of really bad things happening in any sector of the software development world. Settop boxes for sat and cable TV perhaps? If you argue that the software on the sim code falls out of copyright every five years then whats to stop you duping a bunch for your friends.
  • What's the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:07PM (#21882800) Homepage
    It's not as if anyone in Congress is inclined to reign in one of their most prolific lobbyists. What is the point of such musings?
  • by overshoot (39700) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:08PM (#21882806)
    Doing so would only, at most, affect the copyrights on future works since reducing the coverage for existing copyright falls afoul of the Constitution's Takings clause.

    In other words, the copyright ratchet is built right into the Constitution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by KoshClassic (325934)
      I just read the wikipedia article on the Takings clause of the Constitution and don't see how it applies, since it seems to be limitted to real property?

      However, I note that somehow it doesn't seem to be illegal to extend copyrights every time some special interest, like Disney [wikipedia.org] wants them extended. How is it that copyright owners get to have their cake and eat it too?
      • The takings clause (Score:3, Informative)

        by overshoot (39700)

        I just read the wikipedia article on the Takings clause of the Constitution and don't see how it applies, since it seems to be limitted to real property?
        I trust you don't mean "real property" in the sense of land.

        However, the USSC has held that the takings clause applies to anything of value, such as water rights, income streams, etc. Copyright is, IIRC, one specific example explicitly addressed.

    • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:45PM (#21884182)
      Lessing argued EXACTLY that before the Supreme Court. That unrestricted additions to copyright length for free, constituted "takings" from the pubic interest. The Supreme Court ruled the public had no case as the Constitution granted the term limits to Congress to do with as they pleased.

      So taking back copyright is perfectly legal, and the argument has ALREADY been argued in court!!! We just have to get Congress to vote to change it!!
  • by Aging_Newbie (16932) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:08PM (#21882818)
    If copyright is limited then every creative product will be accompanied by a license that specifies draconian limitations to be visited on the first and all subsequent buyers. Copyright already has fair use provisions that the media giants wish would disappear. In a contract the media companies can probably visit plagues upon the buyer's progeny unto the seventh generation. The only problem for media companies would be decriminalization of copyright infringements but the RIAA doesn't seem to try to jail people, just destroy their lives. It is better to have the wounded walking around as a reminder to others. If they are jailed, they might be forgotten.

  • A suggestion like this might solve a lot of the *IAA problems that people have been having.

    Maybe if copyright is re-defined as being attributable to individuals only, not corporate entities, as well as reducing the length of the term back to what it originally was, rather than the Mickey Mouse 125 number that it currently is....
  • by Goldenhawk (242867) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:08PM (#21882826) Homepage
    ... but I do write music. Sorry, I have a real problem with Congress taking away my own rights to my own music after just five years. That's a flash in the pan, in terms of my life; for crying out loud, I don't even get some of my own music finished in that short a time. I don't sell my music (or at least, nobody's bothered to buy it yet), but I have a problem with someone saying they can appropriate my own creative works that quickly.

    There are other solutions than this that have NOT been tried yet, because the lobby is too big for Congress to act. And this would suffer the same fate.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fishyfool (854019)
      The media companies should lose all rights after a period of 5 years, then all rights should fall back to the artists themselves for a period of 20 to 25 years, renewable for another 15 by the artists themselves, and only the artists. not the estate of, not another media company.
      if the artist dies during the origninal copyright term, the estate receives the remainder original 20 to 25 years, non-renewable. if the term has been renewed by the artist for the extended term, the estate gets half of tha
    • by maroberts (15852) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:18PM (#21882946) Homepage Journal
      I agree with your statement about 5 years being too short, but your argument is wrong.

      If Congress cut back copyright, it wouldn't be removing your rights, it would be reducing rights that it had granted to you in the first place. It's entirely up to you whether you agree to distribute your music or video based on those rights.

      Even for corporate copyright, I agree 5 years is much too short, but equally the current US period (70 years + life?) is much too long. Some figure around 15-20 years, as for example in patents, would be a much more reasonable balance between making it worth your while to produce and not overly restricting the rights of the general public to enjoy and reuse your concepts after a reasonable time.
    • by jesdynf (42915) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:40PM (#21883250) Homepage
      Yeah, well -- there isn't a really polite way to put this -- suck it up.

      Really, that's all I can tell you. Nobody keeps paying ME for the creative work I did a month ago in my job. Far as I'm concerned, this notion that I should be prevented from saying words because another person owns them is repugnant on its face -- five years is the compromise position, not the extreme.

      There's an outer limit at which copyright becomes a law I'll agree to obey instead of a moral and ethical irrelevancy backed by nothing but powerful men with guns. "Life plus 70" isn't on the map. I seem to recall that the first act of Congress establishing copyright covered it from 17 years; that still seems awful long to me, but it's in the ballpark where we can start trying to cut a deal. Much past 17, though... and it's back to men with guns.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JimDaGeek (983925)
      Dang, I just had to comment on this. I will lose the mods I did, but oh well.

      Why, just because you write music do you feel you should own it for life or many years?

      I am a software developer with more than a 11 years of experience. Writing software is a creative work. However, I do not get to keep my work for 150+ years. I do it as a work for hire. If I do write software on my own, and sell it; should I be able to "own" it for longer than any human can live, even myself? How exactly would I _or_
  • How about two classes of copyright -- because it would be hard to say that anyone but the Disney Corp. should have rights to Mickey Mouse. But that doesn't mean that Disney Corp. should have the right to every last dime from every last project they ever spent a nickel on. Similarly, the creators of content such as music -- why not let them retain copyright on their work for a longer period of time -- but take away the corporate interest in it. Why should the fact that Sony et. al marketed a particular pi
  • by Kelbear (870538) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:17PM (#21882926)
    But are they actually suggesting that they reduce an artist's ownership to just 5 years?

    I'm no fan of the RIAA, but there are plenty of other ways to nail them to the wall with less collateral damage. It's the method of enforcing copyright that's been so despicable, not the duration of the copyright(for music that is).
  • The 120 years only applies to corporate works created more than 25 years prior to first publication.

    An example might be a movie that was made but not published until a generation later.
  • If RIAA knows it can only profit from the first 5 years of a song's existence, it will be even more draconian in protecting that asset for the first few years. To reap all it can before the copyright expires, RIAA will become even more aggressive at fighting unauthorized copying of music. DRM and lawsuits will increase. Moreover, shorter copyright durations will push music publishers/distributors more toward the blockbuster mentality of only signing/marketing/supporting artists that will generate high sa
    • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:50PM (#21884264)
      copyright is an absolute monopoly.. that's the point. At 5-10 years it makes sense to let a company aggressively protect its profit because it's SHORT. Does anybody really care about sharing Beatles on P2P as half the band is DEAD 50 years later? But in legal terms a pre-release leak and sharing 50 year-old songs on P2P is the same thing! That's why nobody respects it. Make the law reasonable and more people will respect it.. strange but it might work.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:20PM (#21882976) Homepage
    In order for Congress to pass such a law, they'd have to be angry at the RIAA for behaving badly.

    In order for them to perceive the RIAA as behaving badly, they'd have to have the same sort of world view as I, Lawrence Lessig, probably most Slashdot readers, and probably most Americans who have any awareness of what's going on with (so-called) intellectual property.

    But if they had that sort of world view, they would never have passed the DMCA and the various copyright extensions in the first place.

    So, what's the point here? Unless it's a tongue-in-cheek Swiftian "modest proposal."

    As a serious proposal, it makes about as much sense as suggesting that Congress pass a law allowing unrestricted legal immigration in order to increase the numbers of young workers and thus solve the demographic problems of Medicare and Social Security.
  • Patents and copyrights are constitutionally defined as...

    "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"

    Securing for LIMITED times is the key. Not "unlimited," which a 120-year copyright effectivly is. Where's the motivation to keep up progress if you can make one work and milk it for 120 years while blocking anyone else from building on it? It's too long by an order of magnitude.

    C
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:24PM (#21883028) Journal
    Do I actually have to RTFA? Congress isn't about to punish any corporation for anything.

    And limiting copyright to half of what it was (IINM) in 1900 is hardly punishment. I think it would be a GOOD thing to limit it to at least 20 years; the present incredibly long copyrights last longer than all non-acid-free paper and longer than any file format or encryption sceme. The present lengths insure that little copyrighted today will ever be seen by anyone after its copyright expires.

    -mcgrew
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @12:44PM (#21883312)
    I agree that copyright terms are insane. One of the things the Founding Fathers specifically put into the Constitution was a ban on perpetual copyrights. They'd seen them in Europe, and weren't going to have them here. Secure for a limited time... is what it says.

    What I would put into law are 2 specific reforms:

    1: Copyright cannot be extended beyond its original term. The reason for this is simple. Copyright exists to encourage creation and publication of the arts. Once that art is created under the copyright terms of the time, copyright has served its entire purpose. Anything beyond that is just giving more unnecessary rewards to a few at the expense of the many.

    2: Copyright is lost to any item not available for new sale in a 3 year period at a fair price. If you're no longer selling it, then you have no right to prevent other people from duplicating it and keeping it available.

    Change on any issue starts when people start talking about it. Let copyright change begin here now!

  • by stickyc (38756) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:10PM (#21883690) Homepage
    The RIAA would never agree to this as the industry is making the bulk of it's profits now off of back-catalog music that's >5 years old (where royalty contracts have been renegotiated lower or expired completely and the cost of creating the content has long since been paid off).
  • Tiered Pricing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:19PM (#21883850) Homepage
    Why does copyright have to have a single fixed period of validity? Why not implement tiered pricing? Have copyrights registered, and allow them to be extended, but charge a greater amount each time to reflect the increasing cost to society of limiting cultural extension. Something like the following (pick whatever times and dollars make you happy):

    First 5 years: Free
    2nd 5 years: 1,000 dollars
    3rd 5 years: 10,000 dollars
    4th 5 years: 100,000 dollars ... and so on.

    The idea being that everyone should get an initial shot at capitalizing on their ideas. After that, you have to either start turning a profit (and sending a piece of the action back to the public coffers), or you let it go. As time goes by, the cost to society of not being allowed to draw on their cultural history increases - and so the cost to the rights holder of maintaining their monopoly should increase. But if they are doing a good job of capitalizing and/or if it is a really valuable idea, they should have the option to continue to renew their monopoly grant.
  • by russbutton (675993) <russ@NOsPAM.russbutton.com> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @01:32PM (#21884012) Homepage
    It's never going to happen because of the "Mickey Mouse" rule. Music copyright in this country goes back to 1925 because the Disney corporation has copyright to Mickey Mouse, who dates back to 1925. If you were to limit copyright to anything any of us considers reasonable, Disney would lose ownership of Mickey Mouse, which would be huge for them. They've been paying Congress for decades to keep moving the copyright window so they could continue to hold Mickey Mouse. We have the best government that money can buy and Disney has been keeping up on their payments.

    Killing off copyright, or at least reducing it to anything less than 80 years isn't going to happen anytime soon.
    • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @02:17PM (#21884600) Homepage

      Disney wouldn't lose ownership of Mickey Mouse. Mickey's distinctive likeness is under trademark, completely different area of law. What they'd lose is copyright on a single very old cartoon "Steamboat Willy" which was the first appearance of a rat that'd eventually morph into Mickey years later. And Disney knows this. Their use of the "We'd lost ownership of Mickey." argument is a smokescreen. What they really want is simple: a one-way door. They want to be able to use older works (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Treasure Island, etc.) as the basis for their works without any strings attached, but they don't want anybody using their works the same way without paying them handsomely for the privilege. That, after all, maximizes profits (for them, at least).

  • by taniwha (70410) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @02:29PM (#21884798) Homepage Journal
    I see lots of ideas here for doing away with or trashing on copyright ..... just remember that it's also the basis of the GPL ..... restrict them to 5 years and M$ can steal your stuff after that ......

    it's a double edged sword, it cuts both ways ....

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by crabpeople (720852)

      "restrict them to 5 years and M$ can steal your stuff after that"
      So the next windows OS might be as stable as GPL'ed software? THE HORROR!

  • by haplo21112 (184264) <{haplo} {at} {epithna.com}> on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @03:34PM (#21885830) Homepage
    How about we just end the copyright on a song or album the moment its no longer on the charts, lets say the Billboard top 200 for example. If its not on the top 200 popular or within its category then its really no longer deriving meaningful value.

    A step further it you can't buy it anywhere because its no longer in print same thing, end of copyright. I have long felt that same rule should apply to books and computer software. If I can't buy it at any price because you longer make it available, then someone else should be able too.
  • and i don't see drug companies starving
  • America: 101 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nick_davison (217681) on Wednesday January 02, 2008 @07:06PM (#21888288)
    How America Works

    In America, this group of people called politicians make these things called laws.

    Traditionally, they answered to the will of the people. If the people didn't like what they did, they got voted out. Therefore they tended to do whatever the people wanted.

    However, people are lazy. People pay no attention to who does what, 99% of the time because it's a hassle.

    Instead, people generally vote for whoever's already in power in the vast majority of cases. This tends to only change when on candidate spends a huge amount of money on advertising, telling the electorate that he did GoodThings(tm) and the other guy did BadThings(tm). This doesn't have to be true, as the electorate's far too lazy to fact check - they'll just believe what they're told.

    So the only really motivating force in politics, so long as you otherwise generally keep your head down, is money.

    And who gives politicians money? Big companies and lobbying organizations. Like the RIAA.

    "We should do what we do to children who misbehave," he writes. "Take away their privileges."
    Two perspectives:

    As the public sees it: The big mean RIAA is misbehaving. Let's take away their privileges.

    As the RIAA sees it: The naughty public are misbehaving. Let's take away their privileges.

    Who makes the decision over whose privileges get taken away? Oh, yeah, that'd be the politicians... who now only care about money thanks to years of voter apathy.

    And who gives money to the politicians? That'd be the RIAA.

    Who do you think is going to convince the politicians that they're right and the other side is wrong and deserves to have their rights taken away?

    And there we have the DMCA, a progressively more conservative supreme court that will back businesses and a media surcharge tax in Canada.

    As requested, the naughty ones are being punished... You just missed that your opinion over who the naughty ones are counts for absolutely nothing unless you can motivate the politicians to enforce it - and they listen to the other side because they give them money and we'll give them votes regardless.

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