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Eternal Copyright: a Modest Proposal 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-a-matter-of-time dept.
New submitter SpockLogic writes "The Telegraphs has a tongue in cheek essay in praise of eternal copyright by the founder of an online games company. Quoting: 'Imagine you're a new parent at 30 years old and you've just published a bestselling new novel. Under the current system, if you lived to 70 years old and your descendants all had children at the age of 30, the copyright in your book – and thus the proceeds – would provide for your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. But what, I ask, about your great-great-great-grandchildren? What do they get? How can our laws be so heartless as to deny them the benefit of your hard work in the name of some do-gooding concept as the "public good," simply because they were born a mere century and a half after the book was written? After all, when you wrote your book, it sprung from your mind fully-formed, without requiring any inspiration from other creative works – you owe nothing at all to the public. And what would the public do with your book, even if they had it? Most likely, they'd just make it worse.'"
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Eternal Copyright: a Modest Proposal

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  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:14PM (#39102589)
    You call it sarcasm, they call it talking points. Stop giving them ideas, asshole!!
  • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:18PM (#39102623)

    Copyright technically won't be eternal, but its duration increases linearly over time in a way that it never ends.

  • Oh please let this be satire and not something serious
  • by Master Moose (1243274) on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:19PM (#39102641) Homepage

    I kept waiting for the baby eating, but it never happened.

    • I kept waiting for the baby eating, but it never happened.

      The baby was everyone's "baby", ie the public domain, which is eaten by us all in the form of progress and now shat out as irrelevance.

    • by mounthood (993037) on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:43PM (#39102909)

      I kept waiting for the baby eating, but it never happened.

      Are you suggesting that the author should have copied someone else's work?

      • I do not see why not, after all, he must have obtained the necessary permissions from and paid the appropriate royalties to the Swift family for the use of the title. Surely as a part of the proposed eternal copyright laws, this would extend to Names, Titles and Ideas?

  • by wonderboss (952111) on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:26PM (#39102713)

    What we really need is a special copyright for Mickey and the rest of the Disney characters
    so that The Walt Disney Company can stop lobbying to extend all copyrights.

    • by vlm (69642)

      It would be hard to get away with it due to equal protection etc.

      Could "they" do something like purchase haiti or somalia and change its law to be eternal copyright, then have the US and their newly purchased state form a reciprocal treaty for copyrights, then transfer all their copyrights from the us to haiti, then return our countries laws to something sane for 99.999999% of content?

    • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@NOs ... t-retrograde.com> on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:39PM (#39102847) Homepage

      What we really need is a special copyright for Mickey and the rest of the Disney characters...

      It's called Trademark, and once Disney realised they could have just Trademarked the mouse instead, they laughed about how needless yet simple it was to crush out and poison the public domain from which Walt's famous works initially sprang.

      • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday February 20, 2012 @05:22PM (#39103557)

        They have. The character is protected by trademark, not copyright. Only the films themselves require copyright - and for some reason, Disney wants the original, pre-WW2 cartoons kept out of public domain. It's not like they're making much, if any, money off them right now... I'm not even sure they're not in the Vault.

        • by gknoy (899301)

          I'd rather special-case certain films, than argue that ALL copyrights should last for the duration of the Disney monopoly.

      • by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday February 20, 2012 @06:19PM (#39104221) Homepage Journal

        they laughed about how needless yet simple it was to crush out and poison the public domain from which Walt's famous works initially sprang.

        Incidentally, if you think Disney is done ripping off the public domain, then you've missed John Carter [wikipedia.org]. Wondering why on Earth Disney would create a film about a Civil War vet who is sent to Mars to save the Princess of Helium?

        Because it's based on the now public domain A Princess of Mars [wikipedia.org].

        Disney is, to this day, still profiting off the public domain, while refusing to allow anything they have made to ever enter it.

        I'm sure you're all completely shocked to discover that. Completely.

        • by bane2571 (1024309)
          Man, really? Do disney execs just spend all their time searching project gutenberg for the word princess now?

          Though to be fair, after reading the John carter wikipedia page, it does appear that they actually purchased the rights to this one back in the early 80s.
        • by iceaxe (18903)

          I just finished reading my (free, of course) Gutenberg ebook copy of A Princess of Mars so that I can have it fresh in my mind and be outraged at what Disney has done to a great classic. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Working on Gods of Mars now.

          I have all 11 volumes in paperback, which I read years ago, but those dang paper books are format locked and I can't get them onto my reader. I hope Gutenberg (or someone) finishes publishing the series in electronic format. They only had the first four when I last looked

          • by gmhowell (26755)

            Take another look [gutenberg.org]. They have a few more. If you can access the .au version, I believe they have all 11.

        • by westlake (615356)

          Incidentally, if you think Disney is done ripping off the public domain, then you've missed John Carter. Wondering why on Earth Disney would create a film about a Civil War vet who is sent to Mars to save the Princess of Helium?
          Because it's based on the now public domain A Princess of Mars
          Disney is, to this day, still profiting off the public domain, while refusing to allow anything they have made to ever enter it.

          There was an obscure direct-to-dvd live action adaptation of "The Princess of Mars" released in 2009. Princess of Mars [imdb.com] Disney is the first major studio to take on Burroughs Martian tales in 100 years --- in a high-riisk $250 million dollar production.

          This is why you make the movie:

          The world of Barsoom is a romantic vision of a dying Mars, based on now-outdated scientific ideas made popular by Astronomer Percival Lowell in the early 20th century. While depicting many outlandish inventions, and advanced technology, it is a savage world, of honor, noble sacrifice and constant struggle, where martial prowess is paramount, and where many races fight over dwindling resources. It is filled with lost cities, heroic adventures and forgotten ancient secrets.

          Barsoom [wikipedia.org]

          "A Princess of Mars is singularly important... in that it innovated the grammar for the American version of the lost world romance." --- Junot Diaz

          Edgar Rice Burroughs: Princess of Mars [loa.org]

          MGM in its prime was the home of the prestige big budget production based on works in the public domain.

          Disney was a small independent studio that used animation to remain com

    • by jcrb (187104) <jcrb@NOspAM.yahoo.com> on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:47PM (#39103009) Homepage

      What we really need is a special copyright for Mickey and the rest of the Disney characters
      so that The Walt Disney Company can stop lobbying to extend all copyrights.

      I've said the same thing many times, but sadly it would never happen.

      But suddenly you make me think of something that might work Reset all copyright terms back to something simple like 50 years from publication. BUT, you can extend the copyright for as long as you want for a payment each year of

        $1 Million + $100,000 * years over 50 since publication , (in inflation adjusted dollars)

      so $1M at year 50, $1.5M at 55, $2M at 60, and so on

      If you have Winnie he Pooh, you can pay for as long is it makes sense to do so, if something has little value it will go into the public domain at 50 years.

      The money collected for the copyright extensions can be first directed to scanning everything the Library of Congress or any other library has to be put online so that it really does go to the public domain.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20, 2012 @05:02PM (#39103269)

        Starting from year one the copyright costs $1 and doubles every year. So year 2 is $2, year 3 is $4, etc.

        • by need4mospd (1146215) on Monday February 20, 2012 @05:20PM (#39103519)
          I like this plan. Copyright fees would cross $1,000,000 by 20 years.

          If Disney was to renew their Mickey Mouse copyright this year, it would cost them $19,342,813,113,834,066,795,298,816.

          • by BeerCat (685972)

            I like this plan. Copyright fees would cross $1,000,000 by 20 years.

            If Disney was to renew their Mickey Mouse copyright this year, it would cost them $19,342,813,113,834,066,795,298,816.

            Now you know why they wanted that $45 trillion anti-piracy lawsuit - preparing for the day when they are forced to pay for copyright in those terms

      • by gutnor (872759)
        Awful idea ! That would only exclude author from getting copyright on their work. The big companies will probably be able to get around it using loopholes or bully some politician for exemption. For example Disney would just bully some random community somewhere to foot the bill for them in exchange of creating 5 mac jobs, or other hollywood accounting type stuff
  • simply because they were born a mere century and a half after the book was written?

    How does 120 years equal a century and a half? You have children at 30 when the book was written. Grand-Children 30 years after the book was written, Great-Grand-Children 60 years after, Great-Great-Grand-Children 90 years after, and Great-Great-Great-Grand-Children 120 years after. If you die at 70, copyright would last another 70 years, so your copyright would expire 110 years after the book was written, 10 years before your Great-Great-Great-Grand-Children are born.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:34PM (#39102801)

    There is to much abandonware as there is now and the last thing we need is longer copyrights that will let to most lost software / books / movies that should be in the open but can't be due to copyrights.

  • I'm all for it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20, 2012 @04:35PM (#39102805)

    I'm all for eternal copyright. However, after a certain amount of time (say 20-30 years or so), you would have to start paying a fee to the government to maintain your copyright. This fee would increase at an exponential rate for every year after that. This way companies that have a valuable copyrights could hold on to it for at least some time, but the vast majority of creative works would be converted to public domain within a reasonable time frame.

    (I also think patents could work similarly, except that the exponential fees would start at say 3-5 years and with a fixed timelimit of 20 years after which the patent will expire.)

    • Re:I'm all for it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gman003 (1693318) on Monday February 20, 2012 @05:29PM (#39103637)

      I say start it immediately, at $1. Then double it each year. Math so simple, even Congress can understand it.

      In a decade, it'll cost just over a grand a year. By two decades, it'll be costing over a million. Even 30+-year copyrights would be possible, if they were worth billions of dollars to whoever owned them.

      This would also allow for near-immediate entry into the public domain of works by extinct companies. Abandonware would flourish - when a company goes bankrupt, unless their copyrights get bought up, their products would enter the public domain within a year.

      • by Khashishi (775369)

        I think there should be some grace period, then jump to a larger value. The overhead for the government handling a $1 transaction will exceed $1. I propose it is free for 10 years, then $100 on year 11, doubling per year.

  • And I really hope so. Otherwise, I will have to accept that there are people who truly believe that:

    "it will be difficult to enforce due to the inherently criminal nature of digital technology"

    I didn't know it was inherently criminal until few minutes ago. Someone please save me.

    Its hard not to comment on the entire , prevalent these days, rent seeking behavior from some distant heirs. I do not five a flying rat's ass about descendants of Jane. She wrote the classic. Not the heirs. What did they do

  • Copyright should be 5 years, penalties for violating copyright should be large enough to discourage willful copyright violations (i.e criminal, not civil). After 5 years, copyright is gone, want more money? do more work!

    • Here's the problem I see with that: People like free stuff. If we make copyright terms sufficiently short that people could just wait and get a cheap-ass bootleg copy legally they might just do that.

      Without a major uprising of sorts the media money will buy whatever copyright rules it wants. People won't rise up because they don't think there is a problem while they leech whatever they want for free off the Internet. It's not like most of them could afford the outrageous prices with their minimum wage and e

      • by Golddess (1361003)

        If we make copyright terms sufficiently short that people could just wait and get a cheap-ass bootleg copy legally they might just do that.

        Perhaps. Or perhaps as evidenced by video game sales, people would prefer to get it RITE NAO rather than wait even just a couple months for a guaranteed price reduction.

      • People have shown again and again that they will pay even if they can get it for free. See most of the pay-what-you-want deals or studies like this [guardian.co.uk].

        Yes, plenty of people will get it for free. It's irrelevant. We just need to ensure artists get paid enough to make it reasonable to produce new works, not that they get a cut from each and every single viewer.

        • The fact that some people will never pay for stuff is part of the problem.

          Prices are high because the artist wants to be compensated for their work. I say the artist, but I mean everyone in the chain.

          If more people paid perhaps those legitimate buyers wouldn't have to pay so much to compensate for the sales that never happened. Perhaps it's just that the chain's expectation of fair income is excessive.

          I am, of course, playing Devil's Advocate here. I fully support copyright reform that ensures creators are

          • I forgot to address the pay-what-you-think arrangements. Those work well because they can break down the 'payment barrier'. To most people, spending a few dollars is just like spending nothing. Apple capitalized on that idea with the app store and people are happy to spend heaps on small purchases.

            Pay what you want... I can chip in a few dollars and hardly notice. All those small purchases soon add up to serious income for the artist.

          • That's not how a market works. People will pay what they can or feel it's fair. Sellers will set the prices according to what brings them more revenue. More people willing to buy doesn't drive the price down; in fact, it'll probably increase it.

            Prices are high because people are willing to pay them. Blame the buyers, not the cheapskates.

      • by meerling (1487879)
        People tend to be of the "I WANT IT NOW!" variety. You liked that book? Great, the sequel is available in the stores now for $5. Or you could wait 5 years to get it for free legally and online, assuming you can find it. Yeah, I don't know of anyone with that kind of patience, do you? And that's with a non-existent 5 year limit, what do you think of the current life+70?

        I know 5 years isn't nearly as much to a movie studio. Heck, they tend to take twice that long just to get funding and script approval.
    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      Copyright should be 5 years, penalties for violating copyright should be large enough to discourage willful copyright violations (i.e criminal, not civil). After 5 years, copyright is gone, want more money? do more work!

      Agree for the most part, except about the criminal violations. If an act, after you wait sufficiently long time, is not a criminal act, then it should not be a criminal act if you do not wait sufficient time. But good luck getting the "hang 'em!" legislators to agree.

  • To re-establish the aristocracy and it's permanent claims on resources. Family dynasty money.

    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      To re-establish the aristocracy and it's permanent claims on resources. Family dynasty money.

      Yeah, but which family? That's the sticking point. Once we determine which family, just lob random child porn viruses at their computers and turn them in. (Yes, I wish I was joking. Just as this entire topic was the result of someone thought-experimenting along the lines of Jonathan Swift, so too is my above suggestion; it is not a call to action, nor is it inducement of terrorism, but of course saying that it's not might mean that it is in this newspeak, so double-plus-good to our overlords, or somethi

  • How about we change copyright to being perpetual, but require that all previous public domain goes back to copyright as well. All of the descendents of the authors those public domain stories that Disney used for its movies can sue Disney for royalties.

    If you refuse to give back to the public domain, then the public domain should never be accessible to you.

  • Check your history. This is the way it was in Britain. Until a Judge ruled otherwise.
  • Here was the idea my wife and I came up with: Follow the original terms of copyright (20 years) for exclusive production, then after that time allow derivative works but allow the original to be retained for whatever term is chosen (for example, the current 70 years after death). What does this mean? Star Wars would have been in public domain. Allow Lucas to keep the rights to the original and the manipulation of it, but the setting and characters become public domain. A simple addendum to this: deriva

    • by Thing 1 (178996)
      A question to your proposal: what if I publish a book in the 20-70 years period, which is a direct replica of the book except that I have introduced a single typo? (Or, perhaps, fixed a single typo in the original work.) It would be "derivative", but how would it be considered? I like your thought experiment about corporations as well, but I think the real answer is that we should remove personhood from them, and restrict it solely to those who have a beating heart etc. (Yes, I realize that the precedin
    • by meerling (1487879)
      Corporations with personhood status is something I personally consider utterly evil and corrupt, not to mention demeaning and belittling to actual people.
  • That's it. Long enough to achieve market dominance (if you've got half a brain).

    After that, its fair game.

    I've never had an employer who continues to offer me ongoing royalties for my suggestions on how to improve their business. In fact, they require me to sign away any rights I hold to any ideas I may have.
    • I actually don't think 2 years if fair, you're not going to establish market dominance in the book selling industry in two years based on your novel, even if it's the most groundbreaking piece of literature every written. So at the end of 2 years Amazon can give your novel away as an ebook for free or $.50 for a paperback copy? Yes, most of the profit from a work comes from the first year or two, but I think you'd see prices collapse overnight if everything more than 2 years old was public domain. Actual

      • People will still buy from the author. Paulo Coelho makes a ton of money by giving away his books as free downloads, just because lots of readers buy an hardcover from him afterwards.

  • Imagine you are a kid and in 30 years you have kids yourself. You want to sing them a song your mom sang to you as a kid, but you can't, because there is a copyright on it for 30 years.

    So you wait another 30 and want to sing it to your grand child, but you can't, because there is a copyright on it for 70 years. So you wait another 30 and just before you die, you want to sing it to your great-grand-child, but you can't, because there is a 70+70 year copyright on it.

  • by fish_in_the_c (577259) on Monday February 20, 2012 @05:47PM (#39103855)

    While considering this most modest proposal of 'eternal copy rite' I think we should also take pause to consider another terrible form of piracy so frequent today. That of creating a body of work, that's soul purpose is the critique of an existing piece of work. Obviously any monetary benefit derived from such a work , would not exist without the author of the original work. So much so that such works are derivative works par excellent of the original. Since the comments are bound to do nothing more then make the original less useful and worse then it's initially concise and proper format the author should retain control over Removing or modifying any comments not fully in the spirit of the original.

    After all, all freedoms have limits , and freedom of speech certainly is of a lower value then an authors freedom to create wealth and provide a viable income to her/himself and future descendants.

  • "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."

    So that's how the constitution reads...I was asking one of the younger attorneys at the firm about the "limited time" if the application of the Sonny Bono copyright schmutz didn't make copyright, in effect, unlimited.

    His response, verbatim...and I am not shitting you:

    "Unlimited is a limit."

    The law is whatever they want it to be folks.

  • Imagine being sued for writing something similar to what someone else wrote say, 1000, 4000, or 10,000 years ago. Pick your timeframe, it doesn't matter. It would be impossible for anyone to do enough research to make sure their work hasn't already, at some point in history, been done by someone else. As Soloman said, "Nothing is truly new under the sun."

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Monday February 20, 2012 @07:07PM (#39104753) Homepage Journal

    I've got my own modest proposal;

    If you wish for your creation to provide for your offspring to the fourth and beyond generation, establish a trust or foundation to accept the proceeds from the sale and use of your creation, invest it as necessary to preserve the contributions and what interest is not too risky, and hope that it does indeed provide enough income to fund this before a reasonable copyright runs out.

    Because, it seems to me, the past function of copyright is to protect the interests of the creator, the author, inventor, what have you. NOT their children's children's children's children's.

    Perpetual copyright is the equivalent of perpetual patent. At what point are we no longer protecting the original holder, and are perpetuating a stream of income forever to those whose only interest is in being born of someone born of someone born of someone who was born of the instigator of the whole darned thing?

    And if the initial proposal is acceptable, to perpetuate copyright forever, then clearly it must be assignable, so that one could even grant it in perpetuity to a mere friend. Or their dog. And their offspring. In perpetuity.

    Time to really consider what copyright should be. Notice there are no corporations out there with perpetual licenses to prosper? They have to provide value to survive, even if that value is only to their shareholders or management and employees. So what of value does perpetual copyright provide to anyone other than the spawn of the initial holder?

    I know. Money. Wrong answer. I pay copyright holders liberally for their work. When they are long gone, I just can't summon up a reason to do so.

  • At least to the extent that the work is completely creative and does not rely on prior art.

    So, we must exempt the use of previously used words or phrases. Or, the use of characters or glyphs previously invented. Using those borrowed ideas, which are in the public domain, should place any derivative works also into the public domain.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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