Liked Matt Asay’s piece today about how poorly Government is comprehending issues surrounding copyright, especially in moves to extend the times which generally have little of the intended benefits to the artists but inhibit the much more significant process of moving all the world’s information online.
He’s noting that a European Union proposal to extend copyright a whopping 45 years will net artists on average an extra $40. I’m assuming that number does not factor in the potential for those same artists to make money from derivative works that are much less likely to see the light of day under this proposal.
Although I’m not insensitive to the idea that online folks routinely violate copyright rules, and unlike many people I always groan when web 2.0 folks pretend that widespread unfair use is not common, it is also clear that the copycat is out of the bag and the most functional responses now are to develop systems that make sure artists can *track* and *claim ownership* when their works are used to make *other people money*. ie I think we need to move away from models that restrict use into models that *encourage* uses and derivative works but give the original artists powerful tools to claim ownership and claim a piece of the action if their derivative works are used to make money.
Sure, there are pitfalls here but the original idea of copyright is now obsolete, yet we keep trying to fit the new pegs into the old holes.
There is certain oft-used rhetoric in Copyright Law. One common theme is that copyright law exists to increase the quantity of creations that are in the public domain by securing a brief, temporary monopoly as an incentive for the artist who creates the work.
If photocopy machines had to bear such a legend people might more often contemplate whether copyright laws actually have either that effect or that intent.
Extending the time of protection extends short term profits.
Consider Thomas Jefferson. He never believed in patents or copyrights but ofcourse he died broke. The strain of rice he smuggled into this country made fortunes. The invention of the machine that beat hemp into workable fiber made fortunes for traders in Naval Stores and others who used hemp fibres.
We all complain of the vast wasteland that TV has become. Well, copyrights on addle-brained reality shows allow for millions to be made by the producers. It hardly contributes anything of value to the arts. Even staff writers on TV shows make good money as content creators. Copyright laws are always invoked as stimulants to creative expression, but no one really believes it. Or ever will.
Derivative works? Sure. Just create a parody of a treasured trademark and see how much a copyright lawyer really values derivative works.
OK FG, I’m think I’m cool with a test where we eliminate copyright for a year and see what happens. Some of the problems would be self correcting in terms of quality controls – e.g. a company would want official copies so they could get support from vendors, etc. Overall though I think we’d see an acceleration of what’s happening right now in music where an explosion in use and distribution is creating very low price points and helping to reduce the problems record companies have traditionally said would come from widespread copyright abuse. e.g. I can rent a movie down at the Redbox for $1 and they give me a free one on Wednesdays – why would I bother to take time to copy and burn that movie even if it was legal?
Its also a question of why would you make a movie if you are only going to get one dollar rental for it. I agree though, overall more money is made if the item is cheap and readily available. Greedy producers want high prices.
Recording artists don’t really need record companies anymore.
it is also clear that the copycat is out of the bag and the most functional responses now are to develop systems that make sure artists can *track* and *claim ownership* when their works are used to make *other people money*.
Well-stated, yet at the same time, the copyright protects the original writer–though of course clever plagiarists usually develop various cheesy techniques to lift, adapt, and tweak, whether he/she’s tweaking Shakespeare or Bruce Sterling. At least in terms of creative writing, the publishers are at fault for violating intellectual property law–and often the adept “adapter” will get stuff by the company readers, until some film snob catches it. That happens quite a bit in Tinseltown–ie George Lucas ripping off the Seven Samaurai or Jung, or TV hacks ripping off their favorite semi-obscure novelist (hey, sneak West’s Day of the Locust or some PK Dick in here). Or they simply set, and re-set, the History channel.
Muzak’s another matter: who cares about the Stones or most big name Rock Inc mobsters, but the local Steely Dan-that never-was probably needs shekels. Youtube and the YT spinoffs could run like an Ad Sense sort of racket: not that that would generate enough scratch to pay the average musico’s nightly bar tab, but a start. Have like Eric Schmidt or Sergei and whatever kick in, per some Fed regulation.
Horatiox I think you are on to something that should be a key goal as we all build the online world, and that is to find
ways for big players who are rolling in online money to fund, say, the struggling musicians who are getting downloaded but are not compensated. Although you can point to many online success stories in music, blogging, etc, I think we may, ironically, have created a system of winners and losers that in some areas is even more inequitable than the legacy systems online folks are fighting to tear down.
TechCrunch is a blog empire that’s now worth 30-100 million depending on metrics (far lesser blogs recently sold for 25 million). They routinely argue for what many would call very loose interpretations of copyright law but this is not surprising because they are a key beneficiary of, for example, being able to post photos with little or no attribution and creating derivative works from news items. (to their credit they probably break more news than the big guys so maybe this isn’t such a good example…..)
“…Although you can point to many online success stories in music, blogging, etc, I think we may, ironically, have created a system of winners and losers that in some areas is even more inequitable than the legacy systems online folks are fighting to tear down…”
Ofcourse! Craigslist was probably first and got some lucky publicity, but it is not “better” than some competitor. Blogs with a good reputation may be just about as equitable as an actor with a good publicity agent. Aggregators want to be able to copy something freely and add merely organization, brief analysis or central repository values.
Has TechCrunch monetized the content or simply its own reputation? No copyright holder on the content can claim rights to the TechCrunch reputation but that is what will financially reward the creator of that content.