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View Diary: Labor and Copyright Law (71 comments)

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  •  Copyright is necessary (0+ / 0-)

    As a professor of mine pointed out, copyright not only "protects property."  Copyright is what ensures that works actually get distributed.

    Without copyright, what movies would get made? Piracy is bad enough now - can you imagine a studio putting $100 million or more into a movie knowing that anyone could rip it off with impunity?

    For all that I agree that the large players in the music industry have abused and mistreated artists, that's not the fault of copyright. Without some form of copyright protection, we would never see large distribution of music.

    It's all good and well to create some utopian world where artists, actors, musicians, programmers and so on just give their work away for free for the rest of us to enjoy. Let's be clear - those who say that there should be no copyright at all are saying that those who do creative work should be noble and give it all away, or, I suppose, depend on charity to live.

    A lot of the comments I'm reading are upset that some works that don't seem worthy are getting copyright protection. It used to be that the courts were in the business of deciding which works were worthy of protection and which weren't. Now, the rule is that the merits of a work don't matter. How can we, as progressives, not believe in that rule? Do we really want to allow the government to deny protection to "unworthy" works?

    All that said, of course there are problems with copyright law. Terms seem ridiculously long. Life + 50 is more than enough, but we harmonized with Europe and went to life + 70. Fair use needs to be beefed up to cope with the flood of new possibilities for derivative works that computer tools bring. But then again, why should the creator of a work have to allow a work to be defaced? (Did you know that John Huston's family was able to sue under French copyright law to prevent a colorized version of the Asphalt Jungle from being shown on TV? Isn't that a good thing, at least if you love movies?)

    There are plenty of corporate of abuses of copyright law. Get in line - big corporations abuse every aspect of the law. It's their thing, it's what they do.

    To my mind, the biggest problem with copyright law is how little most people understand it. There's this perception that, "I bought this, I can do what I want with it." Or, worse, "I found this, I can do what I want with it." Or, worse still, "I like this, I can do what I want with it."

    There are tradeoffs. If someone can suggest a way to protect individual creators of works while cutting off corporate abuses, I'm all ears.

    •  There's nothing wrong with copyright (0+ / 0-)

      But there does need to be a balance, as the diarist said. The Sonny Bono Copyright Act and the DMCA should be repealed, and Fair Use needs to be clarified to prevent abuse by the incumbent industries. 95 years for Mickey Mouse? Fuck that.

      Another alternative to current copyright law is Creative Commons, which allows you to place "Some Rights Reserved" licenses, and even gives you the option of a "Founders Copyright," which allows you to only keep your license for 14 years with the option of a 14 year extension, which was how copyright law operated in 1790.

      •  to do something that radical (0+ / 0-)

        you should have to prove that the prsent system has not produced a) more information than we have eveer had in human history (and you know e are online based on the present regime so that would be an interesting argument for you to make given the tool you are using to make it) or that b) the present system is so damaging that its irredeemable except for a little tweaking- again given actual facts of what we see having been produced under copyright law, the massive numbers of works, the ability of people to build businesses, fortunes, put their kids through college etc, you again have a tall order. idealogy is nice- but i prefer reality to utopia as th eother poster points out. it's easy to say we can do this and that- but will this and that be better and its up to you who are claiming it will be to prove it rather than merely propose that it will be. And oh- prior to gthe system we have now- there was  feudal system in which the creative professions were at the mercy even more so than they are now of powerfully money classes that controlled all that was considered fit to see. you may ask what's different? well- having a hard time getting through is a better than not getting through at all.

        •  The people who think copyright law created (0+ / 0-)

          the scientific and technological boom we see now are factually off base.

          Most of that is patent law, which protects rights for only a couple of decades.

          All the innovation pre-1976 managed with almost no protection for unpublished works and far less protection for published works.

          The huge boom in intellectual property has far more to do with improvements in the technology that makes it than with anything else.  

          Prior to the 20th century there was no meaningful radio and no television and no movies with sound.  Radio and television relied largely on the give it away for free model and didn't have to worry about consumer copying for many years because the technology to do so was not affordable or compact.  Snail mail or telegrams or low fidelity tape recorders were it until the transistor was invented at the consumer level.  

          Carnegie made the institution of the library widespread two or three generations ago, and that has made almost every book in print available for free to just about anyone for that entire time period.  Yet, somehow, there are numerous succesful book stores still in business.  For all intents and purposes the book industry is like the bottled water industry.  After books have been in print long enough for libraries to get them and have them regularly available, book stores are selling the convenience of the packaging, not the content which is available for free.

          The counterrevolution against digital copyright protections is driven by the fact that it is upsetting the status quo that Carnegie created.

          "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

          by ohwilleke on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 09:48:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Unpublished works were protected pre-1976 (0+ / 0-)

            under state law.

            Prior to the 1976 act, states had their own copyright statutes or common law copyright, which typically covered, among other things, unpublished works.

            I agree that the explosion in technology has created a corresponding explosion in IP, but that's hardly a reason to do away with copyright. Ideally, copyright should provide more and more people the opportunity to benefit personally from their own creativity. (I'm not saying current copyright law achieves that, I'm saying that an ideal copyright law would.)

            Your historical analysis is incomplete. Back around 1900, player pianos were all the rage. The problem was, copyright didn't prevent people from taking songs and putting them on player piano rolls, so the authors got nothing. The 1909 Act brought those in under copyright and created a licensing scheme. (This is the origin of the term "mechanical license.")

            And let's not forget the revolutions in printing presses that created the original need for copyright under Queen Anne, because all of a sudden nearly anyone could publish a work. Publishers wanted exclusive rights to avoid flooding the market with lots of cheap editions.

            Copyright law has always had to struggle to keep up with the technological times, and it is still in the midst of its most recent one. That doesn't mean the concept of copyright is invalid, just that it needs some adjustments to cope with changing realities.

            For the record, I didn't claim that copyright created the current technological and scientific boom. In fact, I wouldn't even claim that patent law created it. Patent law arguably helped it along or hindered it, depending on your point of view.

            •  I'm not for abolishing copyright, just taming it. (0+ / 0-)

              The main abuses are:

              • The duration of a copyright.
              • The scope of the works protected by copyright.
              • The declining scope of fair use particularly in cases where content has already been made available to the public for free.
              • The unreasonably severe penalties for violations such as punitive damages and criminal penalties and liquidated damages.
              • The right of the copyright holder to veto uses for non-commercial reasons.
              • The impact of derivative use rights on creative expression.
              • The impact of limitations on performance rights on public ownership of popular culture which has been made a part of their lives.

              "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

              by ohwilleke on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 02:33:57 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  change the rules changes the rule for all (0+ / 0-)

                thats how the law works. below you dispute even the commone sense aspect of how laws work, how do many of your ideas affect all copyright holders not just te ones you find egregious. as i said to stoller over at mydd before he threatened me- it seems overkill to say all these drastic changes need to occur for a law that works in 95 percernt of the cases in a manner that helps rather than hurts. that is unless you have something else in mind such as redistribution of income which per se makes the whole conversation dishonest becauase you could care less about the harm you are doing.

                •  The law fails in a wide variety of circumstances (0+ / 0-)

                  it is self-destructing in a wide variety of areas.

                  It is not serving the recording industry well.  It is providing a serious barrier to the low budget end of the movie industry.  It is flailing all over when it comes to all online applications from e-books to google to blogging.  It takes common sense situations like buying a book and turns them into confusing technical angel on a pinhead discussions.  It is nonsensical as applied to software protecting the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

                  Not every part of the copyright law is deeply broken, but most of it is seriously out of kilter.

                  It is creating windfall profits for people who don't deserve it, while preventing many creative works that should be encouraged from being produced at all.

                  Weakening copyright law in the respects I suggest protects people who are creating new works to a much greater extent than existing law, while only marginally impacting the economic value of copyright to existing users and impacting disproportionately the people who have already reaped massive gains out of the government created monopoly that they have been granted.

                  One can put 95%+ of works that are now covered by copyright in the public domain, at the expense of probably less than 5% of the aggregate economic value to authors of copyright law.  This is a bargain worth making because it maximizes creation of new works, while minimizing disruption of established industries.

                  "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

                  by ohwilleke on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 03:29:48 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  riiiiight (0+ / 0-)

            I will leave it to dc to argue with you. As I said over at mydd- so much of this is driven less from reality than idealogical zeal.

      •  No one thinks copyright terms are right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Progressive Moderate

        I don't know anyone in copyright law who really thinks life + 70 is necessary. 14 + 14 is a bit short, though. Take the Police, who are just doing a 30 year reunion tour. Under your reasoning, Roxanne would be in the public domain by now. As would every decent song by the Who, the Beatles, every song Elvis recorded, the bulk of the Rolling Stones' catalog, Bob Dylan's hits, and on and on. 2001:A Space Odyssey would be in the public domain, as would The Godfather, Rocky, Annie Hall and Star Wars. So much for DVD releases, or CD reissues of albums that were previously only on LP.

        For the record, it wasn't Disney that pushed the Sonny Bono Act. It was the families of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and other classic songwriters.

        As for the DMCA, again, you're tossing out the baby with the bathwater. DRM is an ongoing debate, no doubt, but do you really want DailyKos to be liable for yours and my copyright infringement? Part of the compromise of the DMCA protects sites like this from copyright infringement liability as long as they take down infringing material.

        With respect to Creative Commons, knock yourself out. There's nothing wrong with creative experiments in licensing, as long as they're voluntary.

        •  I dont think he or she means (0+ / 0-)

          volunteer since up above they were referencing the CATO institute

          •  My limited understanding of Creative Commons (0+ / 0-)

            is that it's a voluntary set of licensing provisions that artists can adopt. I don't have a problem with that or with Open Source as a general principle. (Specific open source licenses have their own problems.)

            There's no reason people can't voluntarily make their works public domain or license them generously.

            I don't know what the Cato Institute is proposing on copyright, but I admit that they rarely make my "must read" list.

            •  I admit- I hear CATO (0+ / 0-)

              and my mute button goes on. I simply do not trust the rationale behind most of what passes for economic libetarianism just because I know what preceeded the modern social demoratic states, and it wasn't pretty for anyone except the most wealthy.

        •  The protection provision of the DMCA (0+ / 0-)

          Can be preserved, as part of broader legislation that repeals the draconian portions.

        •  So what? (0+ / 0-)

          Would the Police, the Who, the Beatles, Elvis, the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan starve because they stopped getting residuals?  They made fortunes beyond any reasonable artists wildest dreams by then.  

          The Police aren't making huge money on their reunion tour because people don't have the choice of listened to old Police CDs of Roxanne for a couple of bucks bought from a used CD store with no additional royalty to the artists (which they can probably legally put on their own MP-3 player).  They are paying the big bucks for the tour because they want to see a live performance.

          Likewise I shed no tears for the makers of 2001:A Space Odyssey, The Godfather, Rocky, Annie Hall and Star Wars.  They have all made hundred of millions of dollars from works that when they made them could easily have washed out and left them with nothing.  And, again, people can buy used copies of the original media without getting another buck to the creators anyway.  Nothing prevents them from releasing new version or sequels by the way, and its is the Lucas name and not the story itself, that makes people want to see Star Wars IV-VI.  The unauthorized remake market is not killing Hollywood.

          This is just limiting the very high end of the scale.

          "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

          by ohwilleke on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 09:55:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The rich artist fallacy (0+ / 0-)

            I only pointed out well known works to make a point. There are plenty of artists on the edge who would starve without their residuals, many more than there are rich ones who don't need them.

            Take folk or jazz musicians as an example. Should Arlo Guthrie, who's hardly rich, be denied whatever he manages to get from Alice's Restaurant? Are you favoring screwing over Sonny Rollins, a brilliant jazz sax player, just to keep George Lucas from getting richer?

            Of course it's not the rich and successful artists who need protection. It's the artists who just get by who need protection. You know, the kind of people we progressives care about?

            I think that what stuns me is the sheer greed, and I don't mean the greed of George Lucas or Sting. I mean the greed of people who want something for nothing. Writers, musicians, filmmakers, and other artists typically slave at their craft. Not all do, and a handful make seemingly disgusting amounts of money. But most do what they do in order to share something with world, and just try to eke out a living. Who are you to tell them they have to give it away?

            •  thank you for this post (0+ / 0-)

              When I said these things are labor right issues- its often glossed over as well Julia Roberts isn't me or Beyonce, etc. They conventiently ignore all the other people impacted by any changes in law.

            •  Not everybody makes it in Hollywood. (0+ / 0-)

              Most people don't.

              And, the economic of jazz is just one more example.  Jazz players, by and large, make their money from gigs and not from massive record sales.

              The point is not to prevent anyone from getting richer, it is to expand the public domain so that other people can build on what came before them without undue regard to the dead hand.

              And, it is worth noting that the vast majority of the benefit of long copyright terms goes to those who are best off, not mostly to those who are struggling.

              "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

              by ohwilleke on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 02:19:46 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  In other words... (0+ / 0-)

                the people who are rich make the most money.

                I'll have to concede that as a tautology.

                Obviously, the people whose works are the most popular will benefit the most. But if you want to clamp down their success, it makes more sense to do that directly with income caps or a more progressive income tax than by going after copyright law.

                Expanding/contracting the public domain is a zero-sum game. Every work you put in the public domain can no longer produce income for its creator/owner.

                Now, rather than simply taking away or severely limiting copyright, why not support more forms of compulsory licensing? If your concern is that people can be blocked from being creative, compulsory licenses would allow the creativity, while still compensating the copyright owner. Doesn't that make more sense than stripping away copyright protections?

                As far as long copyright term goes, I've already posted in several comments that you'll get no argument from me that life + 70 is appropriate. It's absurdly long.

                •  Not a zero sum game. (0+ / 0-)

                  Materials in the public domain are available for other people to use to create new works.  Materials under copyright are much less so.

                  "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

                  by ohwilleke on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 03:09:55 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  incidentally to add to what he is saying (0+ / 0-)

            do you know how many members there are in the Screen Actors Guild? About 65,000. How many of those are big hollywood? Do you know how many members of the WGA there are? One writer can write dozens of scripts for years, and still have only one sold every few years.  This isn't about sweat labor, but it is about giving people a chance to make a living off of what they do without people resorting to 'well but some get wealthy from it." people get wealthy in other industries too- do y ou want to pass a law to cap what people make?

            •  What cap on what they can make (0+ / 0-)

              the only cap is on how long they can make it.

              And, while the Screen Actors Guild has lots of members, very few have meaningful residuals coming in more than 28 years after the works they act in come out.

              "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

              by ohwilleke on Fri Feb 16, 2007 at 02:16:52 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

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