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The Case For Perpetual Copyright 547

Several readers sent in a link to an op-ed in the NYTimes by novelist Mark Halprin, who lays out the argument for what amounts to perpetual copyright. He says that anything less is essentially an unfair public taking of property: "No good case exists for the inequality of real and intellectual property, because no good case can exist for treating with special disfavor the work of the spirit and the mind." This community can surely supply a plethora of arguments for the public domain, words which don't appear in the op-ed. In a similar vein, reader benesch sends us to the BBC for a tale of aging pop performers (virtually) serenading Parliament in favor of extending copyright for recording artists in the UK. Some performers are likely to outlive the current protections, now fixed at a mere 50 years.
Update: 05/20 22:50 GMT by KD : Podcaster writes to let us know that the copyright reform community is crafting a reply over at Lawrence Lessig's wiki.
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The Case For Perpetual Copyright

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:49PM (#19199745)
    thats the stupidest fucking thing ive heard since i started at microsoft
    • by bsane ( 148894 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:59PM (#19199807)
      Actually, I think I get the joke!

      This guy is known to write biting satire... Either that article is a fine example, or its one of the worst reasoned essays I've ever read.
      • So you're saying he can keep if for perpetuity?
      • by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:23PM (#19200013) Homepage Journal
        Satire needs to portray a specific position or attitude to be effective. This piece is just highly original rambling. No one else wants perpetual copyrights, least of all the biggest supporters of extensions of copyright, Walt Disney. What would they do if they had to start paying H. C. Andersen's family for their use of The Little Mermaid?

        With perpetual copyrights, we would have perpetual heritage disputes (who owns the works of Aristotle these days?), and all important works locked away. This is just stupid.
        • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:13AM (#19205659)
          Dear Mr Helprin,

          In light of a rumored bill before Congress to retroactively extend the limited copyright in the US to 25000 years after the death of the author (or the destruction of the last copy of the work, whichever comes last), we are investigating several potential copyright infringements in your last op-ed entitled "A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn't Its Copyright?".

          Descendants of James Madison request to be compensated for any citation, partial or full, of any of his works. Descendants of Hammurabi (currently estimated at about 127 million) claim copyright on any western law text and discussion thereof, as they are all derivative works of Hammurabi's Code of Law. Finally, there have been claims by descendants of Evander, son of the Sybil, that all Roman letters fall under their copyright, and that therefore any text using them needs to pay them a fair share of proceeds.

          Preliminary calculations put the projected statutory infringement fines at 4.2 trillion dollars. This number may change as more claimants come forward. As it is unknown how much more the US Congress is going to extend copyrights, we suggest to settle sooner rather than later.


          Howard Howe,
          Dewey, Chetham & Howe, LLP

          Please reprint and distribute freely. :)
  • by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:51PM (#19199761)
    They *DO* have a right to paid holidays, paid weekends off, paid sick days, time-and-a-half over 45 hours weekly, free coffee, free Poland Spring Water, a dental plan, a pharmaceuticals plan, and a 401-K plan.

    Don't they...?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:52PM (#19199765)
    ...except for secrets. If you tell me something, it is no longer yours. Everything protection beyond that is a deliberate incentive to create, not a right. Prolonging copyright does not provide a bigger incentive. In my opinion, copyright is already extended too long to work as an incentive: If you can milk old stuff without end, why should you create new stuff?
    • by joe 155 ( 937621 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:32PM (#19200071) Journal
      I agree completely. I would just add a quote I heard some time ago...

      "If I have an apple and and you have an apple and we swap we will each have one apple. If I have an idea and you have an idea and we swap we now each have two ideas."

      Surely this is how intellectual "property" should work.
      • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @05:57PM (#19201607)
        A rather lengthy quote from Jefferson that I think sums up what people on this thread are saying: "If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:33PM (#19200077)

      WHAT if, after you had paid the taxes on earnings with which you built a house, sales taxes on the materials, real estate taxes during your life, and inheritance taxes at your death, the government would eventually commandeer it entirely? This does not happen in our society ... to houses. Or to businesses. Were you to have ushered through the many gates of taxation a flour mill, travel agency or newspaper, they would not suffer total confiscation.

      Go ahead and skip paying the property taxes (unless you're a church) and see how long it takes the government to take those away.

      If you want to treat "intellectual property" the same as physical property, then let's start with taxing it. Even if it doesn't make a profit for you. If you've released it, it goes into Public Domain unless you keep paying the taxes on it.

      I actually believe that this would be the best "middle ground" between the the two sides. 99.999% of the stuff published would NOT be valuable enough to keep paying taxes on, year after year after year. Say $5 per item (single song, single story, single program, etc).

      The items that ARE that valuable are so valuable that the owners (not necessarily the original producers of the work) can BUY legislation that extends copyright indefinitely for EVERYTHING. Even the 99.999% of stuff that isn't worth it.
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <> on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:53PM (#19199769) Journal

    Is this one of the ways a culture can commit suicide?

    • Re:I wonder... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:07PM (#19199869)
      I think it's more than just a culture committing suicide; perhaps all of humanity is trying to destroy its own free will in favor of a strict rulebook governing what happens and when.

      Unlike physical property, "intellectual property" actually infringes upon others' right to think.

      Imagine the future. It is clear that some day, maybe soon or maybe distant, we will know how to interface computers directly with the mind. We will quite literally expand our own minds. What is the difference between a book stored in your digital memory and a book stored in someone's birth-given photographic memory? What is the difference between DRM in a computer and DRM in a mind? How can you have preemptive systems that stop the transfer of information without affecting the computers connected to our brains? This is, literally, the path to third-party mind control.

      Are we going to have "intellectual" laws that make it illegal to remember something for too long, or too precisely? Will we have laws that make it illegal to communicate something you know? Because, at its base, this is what intellectual property is. It will become more and more evident as humans gain physical control over their own minds.
      • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

        Add to all that that genetic sequences have been patented already... just wait until someone is executed for patent violation...

        I do wonder what the next culture will be like... and how long it'll take until it reaches this point again...

  • by bsane ( 148894 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:54PM (#19199771)
    So much insanity in that article I don't know where to start, but lets try:

    "Freeing" a literary work into the public domain is less a public benefit than a transfer of wealth from the families of American writers to the executives and stockholders of various businesses who will continue to profit from, for example, "The Garden Party," while the descendants of Katherine Mansfield will not.

    Has this guy heard of the internet? Where anyone can 'publish' for almost no cost.
    • "So much insanity in that article I don't know where to start"

      The insanity starts where it usually does; the Mr. Helprin confuses a monopoly with property (which, of course, is the entire point of calling it intellectual 'property').

      What if the maker of the chair had the perpetual monopoly right? Nobody else would be allowed to make chairs. What if the maker of the house had a perpetual monopoly on building houses? Well, Mr Helprin wouldn't have a problem with the government taking his house when he died; h
      • Not to mention the virtual impossibility of tracking whose property is in whose in perpetuity. Can you imagine the maker of the chair owning the "intellectual property" for chairs forever? Imagine the legal minefield absolutely everything would become if the estate of the guy who made the first chair started suing eachother. Imagine how ingenuity would grind to a halt as everything become wrapped up in the barbed wire of protection.

        This is why I'm in favour of the public domain, and in favour of it sooner rather than later. When your idea, or you implementation, or your song, or your algorithm, or your sheet music go into the public domain, it fosters innovation. The short-term monopoly you are given fosters the actual creation, but when it enters the public domain the real innovation hits. Look, for instance, how hiphop artists are sampling old public domain records. Look at code that's free to be changed. The examples are endless.

        But at the end of the day the real challenge is not people extending copyright and treating patents like warheads and trademarking the "Apple". The real challenge is, instead, educating the masses why what you create isn't yours naturally. It's ours. It's the way it's always been: what humanity creates belongs to humanity. You can try to stop it, of course. But you'll fail.
    • He has a valid point. Whilst those of us in the "know" could obtain materials for free legally under a short-term copyright system, most of the average-joe consumption of public domain material would be in the form of dodgy chinese pirate copies sold from the back of a van, and for books, publishers like "penguin classics" no longer paying license fees. Make no mistake, many companies would spring up to exploit the hell out of materials people want, which could now be legally bootlegged.

      I had a discussion a
  • I really don't like the idea of a perpetual copyright. Basically, when a an artist creates a song for example, copyright gives them a limited time to commercially exploit their material. That seems fair to me. It rewards their creativity and the fact that they created the material first. However, to say that for example, John Lennon and Paul McCartney "own" forever the exact combination of musical pitches played at a certain rythmn which we recognize when played as "Let it Be," is taking things too far.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Lets continue the argument of perpetual copyright compared to ownership of physical objects... physical objects become damaged, obsolete and eventually disposed of. Works of art aside, physical objects have very much finite existences.

      Also, even if copyrights were perpetual, it is very likely that descendants would eventually get rid or forget about their rights to their ancestors's work.

      IMO, life (up to the last living actor/director/writer/etc. involved in a team production) + 25 years should be plenty su
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        But where are you getting those numbers from? Remember, copyright is a utilitarian system: the length and scope of copyright should be determined by the public benefit of copyright. That is, since it is beneficial to have more works created and published, but detrimental to suffer the scope of a copyright for a given length of time, copyright should be as short-lived and narrow as possible while still causing the most works to be created and published. Basically, you want to get the most bang for your buck,
    • However, to say that for example, John Lennon and Paul McCartney "own" forever the exact combination of musical pitches played at a certain rythmn which we recognize when played as "Let it Be," is taking things too far.

      I don't really see how. At least in McCartney's case. Lennon can't "own" anything at the moment.

      I think that copyright should end when the creator expires. When they can no longer benefit from their work then the work should enter the public domain.

      However, as an artist and software developer
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:24PM (#19200021)
      "Basically, when a an artist creates a song for example, copyright gives them a limited time to commercially exploit their material."

      No, they still have unlimited time to 'commercially exploit their material'. The limit is only on the time that the ability is solely theirs.

      When the copyright expires on Madonna's stupid Bananas song, she doesn't lose the ability to make money from it. She can still sing in it concerts, sell CDs/MP3s/whatever, and anything else she wants. Others will be able to sell CDs/MP3s of it, but they will still be completely unable to BE her and sing it live in concert.

      And for her to stop making money on the CDs requires the assumption that nobody will pay for the official CD. Collectors, fans, and others who simply enjoy the music will continue to buy the original to support the artist.

      What removing lengthy copyrights DOES do it remove the bullshit from the system. No more price-gouging for CDs. They can't pay the artist $.07 a song and sell them for $1.30 anymore. They'll have to actually have reasonable rates because someone else WILL sell it for a reasonable rate.

      (My apologies to those of you who actually like the Bananas song. All 3 of you.)
  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:57PM (#19199783)
    In exchange for you making your creations public. Society has to benefit, but it was also recognized that without copyright there would be less incentive to work on certain things.

    So society promised authors/creators/artist a limited time monopoly as incentive and society gets the benefit of the artwork/creation and later having it in public domain.

    Don't forget, having copyright in the first place causes a strain on society. IP is not a natural right. Copyright is a mutually beneficial contract between creators and society. The article's author wants to subvert the contract completely in the favor of one side. In U.S. contract law, for contracts to be valid, both sides have to have had a clear benefit for the contract to be considered valid.

    Copyright already has been subverted to the one side so often (copyright extensions) without any clear benefits given for the other side, I would have to start arguing that the contract is not valid anymore. I don't believe anybody is owed rights that place an undue burden on society unless society also benefits in some way. This is not the case here.

    If you want your thing protected forever, lock it in a vault, don't let it see the light of day, and don't tell anybody about it. Let it die, along with you eventually.
    • by peripatetic_bum ( 211859 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:02PM (#19199831) Homepage Journal
      Mod the parent up.

      What everyone is forgetting is that society agrees to enforce copyright but it has costs. I agree to let you and only you sell your work (without taking it, just copying it or doing whatever I would wish with it) because then you have an incentive but there is no reason for me to spend lots of resources to ensure that you keep all the gain if there is no give back.

      The cost on enforcing copyright is paid for by society with the idea that it gains. If there is no gain, why spend enormous resources protecting copyright?

      Copyright is not some inherent right and I keep thinking everyone keeps forgetting this.
    • The article's author wants to subvert the contract completely in the favor of one side.

      I had to stop and think about whether this statement referred to the article or the summary. From the summary:

      This community can surely supply a plethora of arguments for the public domain

      I resent the implication that the only alternative to a copyright extension is an outright abolishment of copyright. The biggest piece of common sense I've heard for ages on the subject of copyright reform was from the Gowers

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dvNull ( 235982 )
      Besides, the author considers monetary benefits to be the only real benefits. What he also fails to mention that by giving copyrights a limited term society benefits by helping people build upon the works of others once the legally sanctioned monopoly time is over.

      After all didn't Newton say " If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
  • Strange (Score:5, Insightful)

    by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:58PM (#19199791) Journal

    Strange, in his article Helprin doesn't mention anything about HIM paying royalties to Shakespeare's descendants for his use of the title Winter's Tale [] for his novel (it is the name of, and a reference to a Shakespeare play). Presumably he should cough up something for the use of a similar plot device too.

    No mention either of what he should be paying the descendants of every innovator in printing technology.

    • Titles are not copyrightable [], so he's not a hypocrite in that regard. However, if a writer is indebted to Shakespeare and printing technology, then every writer in the Western hemisphere owes God a pretty penny for the Bible that provided all the moral themes that appear in many stories and being one of the most published book of the ages.
      • to state that the bible is the source source of those moral themes is extremely arrogant.
        • Name one other book with moral themes that has influenced Western literature? Chicken Soup books don't count. :)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Yokaze ( 70883 )
            The ancient greek literature? Grimm's Fairy tales?

            Also, as you state it, one could understand it as if the bible was the source of those moral themes, and not only a fairly known and old writing concerning ethics.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rakishi ( 759894 )
            A lot of books/authors have moral/ethical themes that have influences western society and thus western writing:
            -The Republic
            -Books by John Locke
            -Karl Marx
            -John Stuart Mill
            -Adam Smith
            -Immanuel Kant
            -Niccolò Machiavelli
            -George Orwell

            Since cultures are melding modern western writing is also influenced by all the various religions and writing from other cultures. Buddhism is a good example and one not based on the bible in any way.

            Furthermore god did not write the bible thus it is the jewish people who are
      • Re:Strange (Score:5, Insightful)

        by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @04:26PM (#19200605)
        Titles are not copyrightable

        The author is making a philosophical argument, not a legal one. So the fact that titles happen, currently, not to be copyrightable is irrelevant. If you follow the author's reasoning, then every idea under the sun ought to be indefinitely copyrightable, whether it be a book, a song, a title, a slogan, a recipe, or the barest concept. After all, what is the moral justification for protecting the livelihood of an author and not that of a slogan-maker? Besides which, titles and slogans can to some extent be trademarked [] if defined as part of a brand (e.g. Conan(TM)the Barbarian) and perpetually with the proper forms and fees.

        I suppose under this argument, fair use is likewise an abomination. Why should critics and satirists be allowed an easement over property they can just as easily avoid?
    • In history (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      there are two theories about the alphabet, and alphabets in general. There is the gradual theory, where we assume that it came about gradually, with contributions of many people and time. And there is the theory that one man suddenly made it. Chinese and Japanese Kanji are probably an example of the gradual theory (but they are not really alphabets, like Japanese Katakana/Hiragana can be argued to be).

      But the English Alphabet, or the direct ancestors, there is an argument which theory applies.

      Anyway, I w
  • Authors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by guinsu ( 198732 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:58PM (#19199795)
    Why is it always authors who come down as the hardest advocates of strict copyrights? I'm not trolling, it just seems that among musicians (classical and pop), painters, photographers, etc there is way less of this mentality of locking everything down and severely punishing anyone who steps out of line. It is especially disappointing among sci-fi authors. For instance we had Harlan Ellison suing AOL for the contents of the newsgroups and dragging that out for like 5 years (it could still be going on now for all I know). Then I believe it was SM Stirling (I could have the author wrong) ranting that people who upload his novels to newsgroups deserve to be anally raped in prison. It is sad since these people are supposed to have, you know, a bit of vision. My only guess is authors are so used to getting screwed by their publishers and don't get to interact with their fan base the way a musician might they are led down this RIAA-like path where they feel the only way to protect themselves is to lock things down entirely. Either that or its just all about the money for an author.

    Obviously there are exceptions, people like Neil Stephenson have certainly embraced the future (well more like the present).
    • Out of all content creators (well, with the exception of painters), their work is least susceptible to copying. Don't release your stuff in ebook format if you don't want it to get copied. It's far more convenient to have actual physical books than to sit there and read something on your laptop, so they really shouldn't be worrying that much.
    • It's probably because a famous musician and painter have revenue streams other then the sale of their work and photographers usually get paid without necessarily having to sell their photos. Musicians have concerts. photographers can do weddings, portraits, nudes and sell on internet, and magazines and news papers. Painters can be commissioned by cities to make murals and so on. A writer can just sell his book. His book is likely to take a long time as well. A song can be written in a day, A photography ses
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Think about it for a minute. The vast majority of a musician's work is OUTSIDE the recording studio, performing live. It's easy to be cavalier about the fruits of one afternoon in the studio when you can still go out and make a boatload of money touring. (Remember, as recently as the 70's albums were often considered promotional material for live concerts, the real money-makers.)

      Compare this to a novelist, who often spends YEARS of his life on a single novel. Can't exactly sell out football stadiums full of
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        As a webmaster who runs sites that make money via ad revenue, I've often wondered why authors don't exploit the Internet, and the whole "piracy" thing for that matter, more.

        You could write a novel or an instructional booklet and release the entire thing online for free in HTML format and use adwords on the site that hosts it. You don't need to "sell a single copy". Just put it up, set up an adwords account and then spend a bit of time promoting / advertising it. If it's any good and people like it then the
    • by eht ( 8912 )
      Don't worry, there is at least one publishing house allowing an encouraging its authors to release stuff for free, Baen []. They have their Free Library [] and in a number of their hardbound books they include a CD that states "This disk and its contents may be copied and shared but not sold" , an archive of these CDs may be found here [].
  • by stabiesoft ( 733417 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @02:59PM (#19199805) Homepage
    The author forgets that tangible objects are taxed at their current valuation. Copyrighted objects rarely are. Another minor fact the author missed is even property can be eminent domain'ed away, or if a govt collapses completely, the new govt will likely re-distribute the land. Ask the indians.
    • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:15PM (#19199935) Journal
      You just hit the nail on the head. If they want copyrights in perpetuity, I say we should also tax that property of theirs. Owning a masterpiece of artwork is owning an asset and applicable taxes are then applied. Same should go for copyright holders and patent holders. After a very limited time of tax relief on their 'property' it becomes a taxable asset unless they release it to the public domain. That should balance out the benefit to public vs. royalty issues on things that have gone past any verifiable value of private ownership of such 'intellectual properties' as are currently under debate.
  • The right? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:00PM (#19199813)
    So, they were given this ability by technology now it becomes a right? I rather think what technology giveth, technology taketh away.

    Copyright only exists because technology made it relatively simple to replicate a work and sell it many times over.

  • Its not like the current system is abused at all. Why would extending it hurt any?

  • by cunamara ( 937584 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:02PM (#19199829)

    ... so-called "intellectual property" already is far more protected than real property.

    A few years ago I decided to play devil's advocate in a discussion about copyright and promoted the concept of "permanent copyright" in which the material never passed into the public domain. It was a fascinating thing to try to promote, because quite rapidly it becomes clear that the permanent copyright is simply untenable.

    20 years' copyright protection is enough. I'm not an author or an artist, and like most people I get paid for today's work once rather than getting paid over and over and over for the rest of my life. The position that someone should work once and get paid perpetually for doing so is not workable.

  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:06PM (#19199859) Homepage Journal

    no good case can exist for treating with special disfavor the work of the spirit and the mind

    I agree entirely, there is no good reason to put physical limitations on ideas and doing so degrades them. Good ideas can be immortal, a story is retold, a song is sung, inventions are shared and implemented long after the death of the person who conceived the original. As one candle lights another, ideas flow between people and enrich all. A society that would put unreasonable restrictions on these things will extinguish them. The ultimate reward for any author is recognition and imitation.

    Perpetual copyrights will be used to crush people with new stories, songs and ideas. "What is yours next to our collection, which [contains tens of thousands | spans the entire history of recorded music | includes the work of Einstein]?" they can ask before dismissing you. Every day we come closer to losing the right to read [].

  • It's not a bad idea, really. If I spend my adult life creating a rich fantasy world, my heirs will not see a single cent of profit once I've been dead for seventy years and a day -- even if there's still profit to be had. If on the other hand I spend my adult life making a popular soft drink, my heirs can milk that until the end of time.

    (anyone on /. knows at least one counter-argument to this. Let's assume you've made those already, and move on.)

    The correct answer to these problems is to refine copyrigh
  • by saikou ( 211301 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:07PM (#19199871) Homepage
    If we really want to treat copyright as "physical property" then once you sell me a CD/Book/Movie you can't claim you only sold me "limited license". We're dealing with physical thing now, so I can disassemble, sell and re-sell, rent it out, share it with anybody I want.
    Because if someone tries to sell you a horse that you can ONLY ride on your lawn you call that person nuts.
  • "We have not heard a convincing reason why a composer and his or her heirs should benefit from a term of copyright which extends for lifetime and beyond, but a performer should not," the report said.

    You know, you're right. Reduce the composer's copyright to 50 years as well.

    Also, this is akin to me turning round to an ex employer and saying "you're still using that script I wrote, pay me more money for doing that". It's a bullshit argument, they've had 50 years to rake it in and that should be enough.

  • I think the simplest argument against perpetual copyright runs roughly as follows: ultimately our culture is the sum total of ideas and stories that have been told and retold down through the ages; the very idea that culture is something that should be owned by individuals or companies is bizarre -- it is a recipe for cultural stagnation and failure. Ideas are of limited value when isolated, it is only with other people to understand and share ideas that they begin to take on the true value that has bootstr
  • I've never understood to legal logic behind retroactive copyright extensions. My understanding is that copyright is supposed to grant a limited monopoly to a content creator in order to encourage the creation of content. After the content has been created, extending the monopoly period retroactively does nothing to encourage new content.
  • You have the right to anything you can defend, e.g. your person, your real property, your car, the things you carry around with you. You don't have a right to control something I own, e.g. a CD with your music on it. You have to bargain with me to get that right. In exchange for being allowed to control copying for A LIMITED TIME (that's what the Constitution says, "limited time"), we allow you to control OUR PROPERTY (a CD or book that we own).
  • Disney gets to raid the public domain for material, but nothing ever returns to the public domain?

    And it's not all Disney with Pinnochio. Every author does this. Think: Love Triangle. Fish out of Water. Coming of Age. Ticking Time Bomb. Quest.

    Creativity is not something that springs, like Athena, from the brows of authors. It's more like a conversation they have with the public imagination.

    People who want a strong grounding on these issues should read Macaulay's Second Speech on Copyright Extension to
  • Real property right only lasts until your ruler succumb to the new overlord so you *will* loose your real property.

    The King of England once owned the land now called the US of A.

    Intellectual property is harder to protect and defend, and stand to be lost easier.

    What body should protect the copyright of Publius Vergilius Maro? The roman empire?
    No law can change this.
  • If he really wants to find out what copyright is all about, why we have it, what it was intended to accomplish, and why the current incarnation no longer serves that purpose, he should read some of Thomas Jefferson's writings on the subject. If that is too difficult for him, a quick review of the Constitution might grant him a clue.

    The guy is either ignorant or self-serving (or both), and frankly I don't like either.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <<charleshixsn> <at> <>> on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:24PM (#19200019)
    Greed, however dispicable, is unsurprising.

    The copyright is already too long by about 50 years (in the US). I can imagine detailed arguments over the fine details, but 10-20 years is the right range. And corporations should not be allowed to own copyrights, only to license them from the owners for a limited period of time. Also copyrights should die immediately when the owner of the copyright dies. Families don't have any respect for the artistic integrity of the works of authors, so why should they be allowed to control it. (Sometimes I don't like what an author does, and prefer an earlier version of his work, but I respect his right to alter it. I don't respect the grant of that right to the works of dead authors for people who don't bother to read and understand the original. Here I'm thinking of Eric Flint and the incongruous prequels to the Dune series. E.E. Smith, OTOH, did have the right to write "Skylark DuQuesne", however much it mutilated the world of the previous Skylark books.)

    I will grant that this will mean that families won't be able to protect the integrity of the works of their ancestors. They don't anyway. They usually don't appear to even understand them. (Christopher Tolkien may understand, but he's not the writer his father was.)

    Also, neither Cinderella nor "The Beauty and the Beast" were Walt Disney originals. Finding the original sources, however, has become a challenge. Or try a somewhat tougher one: What were the traditional words and tune to "Geordie" (not the Joan Baez version). The indefinitely extended copyright has caused it to be VERY dangerous to attempt to create music on a traditional basis. Somebody is likely to have copyrighted a part of any variation of it that you can make (which also sounds good). Actually, they're quite likely to have copyrighted the traditional version as their own. Proving this, however, is difficult. A copyright that expires in a reasonable amount of time minimizes this problem (and it's quite reasonable that ressurecting a traditional favorite DOES deserve SOME reward...but not an unending copyright.)

  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:27PM (#19200041)
    Besides the numerous reasons why a permanent copyright is completely untenable, counterproductive and idiotic, I'm always curious why some artists think that they deserve to be paid forever for something they did once. Write Happy Birthday? Get paid forever. Yes, yes, it's a nifty little dilly. But why should that piece of work allow someone to sit on his/her fat ass for the rest of their lives? The reason that everybody else works is that physical stuff is either consumed or breaks down. As a result, if you create some bread, you need to make more, and since it is an arduous process, you're actually doing something that has value. Just copying an idea involves very little work and very little cost these days. Not only that, but the original creator generally is not involved in the copy process.

    So again - why do some artists think they ought to do work once, then collect checks in perpetuity? I have an answer for that, but I would love to hear from someone who thinks it doesn't involve "cheap lazy selfish narcissistic assholes who don't understand that their work is not nearly as original as they think it is."

  • When you transfer assets to your heirs you have to pay a fairly hefty tax, usually in the 10% magnitude. Same for other forms of property tax. And note that these taxes are on the value of the property, not on the revenue you generate with it.

    It could be that equating copyright with property might benefit the IRS the most, and make that perpetual copyright might not be worthwhile because of tax pressure except for the 0.001% of all-time classics.
  • by KwKSilver ( 857599 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:36PM (#19200107)
    I find this suggestion outrageous. My earliest [technical-professional] articles etc came out in 1980, when I was 30. As things stand now, if I die when I'm 70 (i.e. 2020, the copyright won't expire until 2090, 110 years after they were written! That in itself is preposterous. The original term was 17 years with an optional 17 year extension. I have no problem with that stuff being in the public domain now. the purpose of writing it was to communicate information in the first place. If it's not, why bother? Doh.

    I'm inclined to suspect that this is a trial balloon floated by the big publishers & Disney-oids to complete the rape of the pubic domain. How long before things like Shakespeare, the Illiad, the Bible, Darwin's work are auctioned off to big money (in return for big campaign contributions) and stolen from the public. Hey Halprin, if you don't like finite copyright, DON'T PUBLISH! Shove it up your ass, instead. That'll fix us. Who are you, anyway, your stuff seems to be almost invisible to Google. One unrated listing on Amazon. Not the next Shakespeare or Toynbee.
  • I'm so sorry that he feels he doesn't owe society anything for his "great" works. That without a stable society with culture and intelligence, people wouldn't be buying books or listening to music. Does he gather inspiration for his works of the "spirit and mind" from nothingness? What role does society play in the creative arts?

    If you can't stand the thought of society getting something after you are dead, after you so clearly benefited from society. then you are simply an arrogant spoiled human being. Being selfish and having an obsession with ownership are not exactly redeeming qualities.

    Profit from your toil while you are alive, then pass that profit on to your children if you wish. But a baker cannot make a loaf of bread and sell it many times over on into many generations. But she can certainly create wealth around baking and establish a business that can sustain her children into old age as long as her children can be smart enough and work hard enough to maintain this means of production.
    • I'm so sorry that he feels he doesn't owe society anything for his "great" works. That without a stable society with culture and intelligence, people wouldn't be buying books or listening to music. Does he gather inspiration for his works of the "spirit and mind" from nothingness? What role does society play in the creative arts? If you can't stand the thought of society getting something after you are dead, after you so clearly benefited from society. then you are simply an arrogant spoiled human being. Being selfish and having an obsession with ownership are not exactly redeeming qualities. Profit from your toil while you are alive, then pass that profit on to your children if you wish. But a baker cannot make a loaf of bread and sell it many times over on into many generations. But she can certainly create wealth around baking and establish a business that can sustain her children into old age as long as her children can be smart enough and work hard enough to maintain this means of production.

      I'm reminded of the statement from Fogerty v. Fantasy [], recently quoted at page 4 of the April 23, 2007, decision of Judge West in Capitol v. Foster []:

      copyright law ultimately serves the purpose of enriching the general public through access to creative works

      In Fogerty it was held:

      The primary objective of the Copyright Act is to encourage the production of original literary, artistic, and musical expression for the good of the public.... In the copyright context, it has been noted that "[e]ntities which sue for copyright infringement as plaintiffs can run the gamut from corporate behemoths to starving artists; the same is true of prospective copyright infringement defendants." Cohen, supra, at 622-623.

      The Fogerty court went on to say:

      While it is true that one of the goals of the Copyright Act is to discourage infringement, it is by no means the only goal of that Act. In the first place, it is by no means always the case that the plaintiff in an infringement action is the only holder of a copyright; often times, defendants hold copyrights too.....

      More importantly, the policies served by the Copyright Act are more complex, more measured, than simply maximizing the number of meritorious suits for copyright infringement. The Constitution grants to Congress the power "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." U. S. Const., Art. I, 8, cl. 8. We have often recognized the monopoly privileges that Congress has authorized, while "intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors by the provision of a special reward," are limited in nature and must ultimately serve the public good. Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417, 429 (1984). For example, in Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975), we discussed the policies underlying the 1909 Copyright Act as follows:

      "The limited scope of the copyright holder's statutory monopoly . . . reflects a balance of competing claims upon the public interest: Creative work is to be encouraged and rewarded, but private motivation must ultimately serve the cause of promoting broad public availability of literature, music, and the other arts. The immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a fair return for an `author's' creative labor. But the ultimate aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good." .....

      We reiterated this theme in Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340, 349-350 (1991), where we said:

      "The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but `[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.' To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work." .......

      Because copyright law ultimately serves the purpose of enriching the general public through access to creative works, it is peculiarly important that the boundaries of copyright law be demarcated as clearly as possible. To that end, defendants who seek to advance a variety of meritorious copyright defenses should be encouraged to litigate them to the same extent that plaintiffs are encouraged to litigate meritorious claims of infringement. In the case before us, the successful defense of "The Old Man Down the Road" increased public exposure to a musical work that could, as a result, lead to further creative pieces. Thus a successful defense of a copyright infringement action may further the policies of the Copyright Act every bit as much as a successful prosecution of an infringement claim by the holder of a copyright.

  • by FellowConspirator ( 882908 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @03:55PM (#19200241)
    A lot of the comments here presume that the intent of copyright was to provide people the incentive to be creative. Copyright is nothing of the sort. Copyright was intended as a means to prevent monopolies on publication and distribution. Look it up. The presumption has always been that there will always be artists and creativity and that it's not necessary to provide incentives for creativity.

    In fact, in light of the original goals of copyright, it's hard to argue that copyright is even necessasry anymore. Thanks to technology, everyone has the means to publish and distribute their works.

    Personally, what I'd like to see is not longer copyrights, but shorter ones that may extended for a period through a for-fee registration process. If you really believed copyrights are intended to provide incentive to create, then they ought to expire quickly so that people need to create more often to reap the benefits. In a practical sense, it's quite rare that a copyrighted work yields profit. Of those that do, most realize their commercial value within 10 years.

    I'd also like to see copyrights made non-transferrable rights granted to the author(s). "Works for hire" would cease to transfer copyright away from the author, but rather represent a limited-term exclusive license arrangement (for example, a record company would never own an artist's work, they would just receive a limited term exclusive right to marketing and distribution). Group authorship should be treated as each individual as an original author and a licensee of the work (like a work for hire).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sheldon ( 2322 )

      A lot of the comments here presume that the intent of copyright was to provide people the incentive to be creative. Copyright is nothing of the sort. Copyright was intended as a means to prevent monopolies on publication and distribution. Look it up.

      Ok, let's see. I got my Constitution here, and it says in Article I, Section 7...

      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;

      Hmm, it d

    • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @06:26PM (#19201815)
      Copyright was intended as a means to prevent monopolies on publication and distribution.

      I have no idea how you were modded insightful. Explain to me how the granting of monopolies acts to prevent monopolies...

      Copyright in Britain was originally established so that printing houses who'd just bought an author's book wouldn't be undercut by other printing houses who could just run off copies without paying the author's fee (1). Copyright in the US was constitutionally established to promote the progress of science and useful arts (2). Copyright was intended to enforce artificial monopolies, not prevent them.

      If you want people to look it up, maybe you should provide some credible references for your claims.

      1: law#Movable_type []
      2: ticles.html [] (Section 8)
      Look it up.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Sunday May 20, 2007 @05:02PM (#19200955)
    If there was ever a case made for stealing -- excuse me, infringement, since I don't support the removal of physical objects that don't belong to you from book or record stores -- this is it. This is the absolute very thing the Constitution prohibited, after experience with the exact same approach in pre-revolutionary Europe.

    As for file sharing and infringement, I think this is more a lack of respect -- sometimes for the artist, and sometimes for the money grubbing record companies that claim they're only in it for the artists, and known liars for saying so.

    If you respect an artist -- and I respect Paul McCartney, for example -- so if I like his new CD "Memory Almost Full", I'll buy it. From all reviews, it's likely worth it.

    But try and sell me an entire CD for one or two good songs, or resell stuff from the middle of the last century yet again, long after copyright should have expired, or sue people for file sharing when they never stole a single CD from you, and claim bogusly that every download is a lost sale, and I have no respect for you at all.

    And try to go back to the famously non-working system of two and a half centuries ago that stifled creativity since no one could build on anyone else's work without permissions, lots of money changing hands, and copyrights owned by publishing houses rather than authors, and I have less than no respect for you.

    And what might be less than no respect? Active opposition!

  • by CoughDropAddict ( 40792 ) * on Sunday May 20, 2007 @05:57PM (#19201603) Homepage
    Dear Mark,

    Nice article. Here is an invoice for the Intellectual Property fees you owe to the descendents of the many works of art you appropriated.

    - The descendents of James Madison, for your quotation of the Constitution
    - The descendents of Thomas Jefferson, for the quotation attributed to him.
    - The descendents of William Shakespeare, for using the title of his play "Winter's Tale"
    - The descendents of Moses, for the phrase "Does not then the government's giveth support its taketh," which is clearly alluding to the book of Job in the bible ("the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away", Job 1:21).
    - The Chicago University Press, which has appropriated the rights to the ellipsis, a glyph that has remained in Copyright since it was first introduced in 200BC.

    We hope you will be able to secure agreeable licensing terms for all these works. In the case that you cannot, you will naturally need to remove the reference. We look forward to seeing more of your work, and thank you for helping to support a thriving intellectual property market.

    --Intellectual Property Association, Inc.
  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @04:50AM (#19206065)
    "Hello, this is God. Heaven hereby asserts copyright on the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran, etc, including text, plot elements, characters, etc. We expect the traditional tithe of 10% for the use of all of our intellectual property, including exclamations such as 'My God!' or 'Jesus Christ' whenever such expressions appear in published works, including the novels of Mr. Halprin. Copyright tithes should be made to the religious institution of choice. We will prosecute, those who violate our perpetual copyright can expect Eternal Damnation, as well as prosecution in more mundane/profane jurisdictions."

  • idiot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:13AM (#19206477) Homepage Journal

    No good case exists for the inequality of real and intellectual property,
    Except that the first is property and the second isn't. "Intellectual property" is an artificial term created specifically to cause this confusion between real property and ideas. And if you don't realize that your car and an idea in your head aren't the same class of things, then I see you in the "all hope is lost" category.
  • 14 Years (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:34AM (#19206885)
    14 Years. If it is good enough for patents, it is good enough for copyright.

    I think that Mr. Halprin is a strong contender to win the Douglas Feith award for 2007.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10